Video Vault – Dec 12, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
LONG STRANGE TRIP: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE GRATEFUL DEAD (Amazon Prime): Director Amir Bar-Lev’s self-explanatory, award-winning documentary certainly lives up to its title, running nearly four hours, yet it’s as thorough and comprehensive a chronicle of the history of the Grateful Dead as any Deadhead, music maven, or documentary devotee could wish for.
Featuring extensive interviews with friends, former members, record executives and fans, the film is almost overpowering in its scope, yet Bar-Lev completely removes himself from the narrative, the tone being set by the history and its principal (and peripheral) personalities. There’s also a treasure trove of rare footage never seen before. Even Bob Weir, the band’s historian, is surprised by what he discovers in his own archives.
Emerging from the social and political upheaval of the 1960s – although the Dead’s songs very rarely veered into that territory – here was a group of disparate personalities, hailing from vastly different backgrounds. They weren’t the strongest singers or the best lyricists, and their musical influences ranged far and wide, but when they took the stage something magic happened. Theirs was a distinctly, and unique, American sound – and in their own way, they created an empire that still boasts millions of fans the world over.
Long Strange Trip is available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($27.98 retail), and the deluxe-edition DVD ($26.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($30.98 retail) – containing additional bonus features – are available exclusively through HYPERLINK “http://www.dead.net/home”http://www.dead.net/home, the official website of the Grateful Dead. Rated R. ***½
AGONY (IndiePix Films): Producer/director/screenwriter David Clay Diaz’s debut feature (originally titled Agonie) follows two young men – a brooding law student (Samuel Schneider) and a rebellious would-be rapper (newcomer Alexander Srtschin) – one of whom will eventually commit a brutal murder in modern-day Vienna. A mournful meditation on morality and mortality, told in coolly controlled and credible terms. In German with English subtitles. ***
ANTHROPOPHAGOUS (Severin Films/CAV Distributing): A special-edition Blu-ray ($29.98 retail) of producer/director/co-screenwriter Joe D’Amato’s (AKA Aristide Massaccesi) gruesome 1980 shocker (released in the United States as The Grim Reaper and also known as The Savage Island, this version’s onscreen title), in which unwary tourists (including Tisa Farrow) are stalked on a deserted Greek island by a cannibalistic killer (co-writer/producer George Eastman, AKA Luigi Montefiori). An occasionally spooky atmosphere and some solid jolts are compromised by the sheer tackiness (and tastelessness) of the endeavor – which nevertheless ensured cult status. One thing’s for sure: The film has never looked better than in this transfer. Special features include retrospective interviews, trailers, and more. Rated R. *½
BLOODLINES: THE ART AND LIFE OF VINCENT CASTIGLIA (Waterfront Productions): Filmmaker John Borowski’s self-explanatory, award-winning documentary focuses on the controversial artist who paints in human blood, and how his extremely dysfunctional upbringing fueled his work. Devotees of Castiglia’s work will doubtless revel in this profile, which pulls no punches and is surprisingly moving at times – but is not for all tastes. ***
BOUNDARIES (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Single mother Vera Farmiga and troubled son Lewis MacDougall embark on an eventful road trip with her estranged father (Chrstopher Plummer) when he is kicked out of a nursing home in writer/director Shana Feste’s shrill, strident comedy/drama that is aided enormously by an appealing cast that includes Christopher Lloyd, Kristen Schaal, Bobby Cannavale, and Peter Fonda. Rated R. **
THE BOY DOWNSTAIRS (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/director Sophie Brooks’ award-winning, romantic-comedy, PG-13-rated feature debut stars Zosia Mamet and Matthew Shear as a former couple unexpectedly reunited when they becomes neighbors in the same New York City apartment building, available on special-edition Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) including original trailer and photo gallery.
CABIN BOY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Chris Elliott and screenwriter fashioned the story for Resnick’s 1994 feature directorial debut, a scattershot absurdist farce in which Elliott plays the title role of a self-absorbed snob who embarks on a bizarre voyage at sea, with Andy Richter, James Gammon, Brion James, Brian Doyle-Murray, Ann Magnuson, Andy Richter, Melora Walters, Mike Starr, Ritch Brinkley, Russ Tamblyn, Bob Elliott (Chris’ real-life dad), and David Letterman (billed as “Earl Hofert”) on board. A box-office flop that found its following on home-video and cable. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective and vintage interviews, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated PG-13. **
COLA DE MONO (TLA Releasing): Writer/producer/director Alberto Fuguet’s LGBT-themed drama is set on Christmas Eve 1986 in Santiago, Chile, as precocious teenager Cristobal Rodriguez-Costabal (in his screen debut) and his family confront hidden secrets that have long lurked under the surface. In English and Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
THE FAMILY I HAD (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Producer/directors Katie Green and Carlye Rubin’s award-winning feature documentary follows Charity Bennett, a single mother whose 13-year-old son Paris murdered her four-year-old daughter Ella in February 2007, and how she’s dealt with the ensuing grief and notoriety surrounding the case. A harrowing, haunting cautionary tale whose use of home movies adds to the heartbreak. The special-edition Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) includes deleted scenes and theatrical trailer. ***
HEAVY TRIP (Doppelganger Releasing): Writer/director Juuso Laatio and Judda Vidgren’s award-winning, knockabout comedy (originally titled Hevi reissu) details the misadventures of a Finnish heavy-metal band – newly christened “Impaled Rektum” – as they embark on a journey to the Northern Damnation festival in Norway. Hit-or-miss at times, but at its best inspired, to say nothing of a surefire cult contender. In English and Finnish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) replete with special features. **½
“HIDDEN” (Acorn TV): Sian Reese-Williams toplines this eight-part, award-winning 2018 mini-series as a detective who returns home to care for her family and teams up with local cop Sion Alun Davies to investigate a suspicious drowning, featuring Rhodri Meilir, Gwyneth Keyworth, Gillian Elisa, Mark Lewis Jones and Ian Saynor, originally broadcast in both English and Welch. The three-DVD collection ($49.99 retail) also includes behind-the-scenes featurette.
THE HOUSE THAT NEVER DIES: REAWAKENING (Well Go USA Entertainment): This follow-up to the 2014 horror hit sees relic restorer Julian Cheung unearthing supernatural phenomena at 81 Chaoyangmennei Street in Beijing, a century after the entire household was mysteriously murdered. Joan Chen, Mei Ting, Gillian Chung, and Vivian Wu also appear in this purportedly fact-based chiller. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail).
“JACK IRISH”: SEASON 2 (Acorn TV): Guy Pearce returns in the title role of the former laywer-turned-debt collector with an unerring penchant for getting into trouble, in all six feature-length episodes from the 2018 season of the mystery series based on Peter Temple’s award-winning best-sellers, with Marta Dusseldorp, Aaron Pederson, Kate Atkinson, and Roy Billing in support. Both the two-disc DVD and two-disc Blu-ray (each $39.99 retail) include bonus features.
THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Robert Aldrich’s controversial 1968 adaptation of the Frank Marcus play – stars Beryl Reid (first-rate) as a conflicted soap-opera star gripped by paranoia that her character is to be killed off, which complicates her relationship with comely lover Susannah York. Originally rated X (!), this still-potent character study is leavened with cruel humor and a solid cast including Coral Browne, Ronald Fraser, Cyril Delevanti and Patricia Medina. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, and more. Rated R. ***
THE LITTLE WITCH (Breaking Glass Pictures): This award-winning adaptation of Otfried Preussler’s classic children’s tale (originally titled Die kleine Hexe) follows the misadventures of the title character (played by Karoline Herfurth), a good-hearted young witch who uses her magic powers for good – and to battle evil, available on DVD ($14.67 retail).
M/M (TLA Releasing): Writer/producer/director Drew Lint’s award-winning psychological thriller starring Nicolas Maxim Endlicher as a Canadian teenager newly arrived in Berlin so obsessed with new friend Antoine Lahaie (in his screen debut) that he begins to assume his identity. In English, French and German with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
THE MEG (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Jason Statham goes “mano a Megalodon” as he battles a gigantic prehistoric shark unleashed off the coast of China in this adaptation of Steve Alten’s best-seller MEG. Well-made but silly and predictable, often laughably so – but it was a box-office hit. The DVD ($28.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($44.95 retail) each boast bonus features. Rated PG-13. *½
MY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDING (Breaking Glass Pictures): Alessandro Genovesi’s self-explanatory, award-winning adaptation of Anthony J. Wilkinson’s off-Broadway play (here titled Puoi baciare lo sposo) stars Diego Abatantuono and Salvatore Esposito as a happy couple who decide to spring their engagement on the former’s family during his family reunion at Easter. In Italian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail), replete with bonus features.
“NO OFFENCE”: SERIES 2 (Acorn TV): A two-DVD collection ($49.99 retail) of all seven feature-length episodes from the inaugural 2017 season of the award-winning, offbeat police procedural created by Paul Abbott, following an unorthodox group of officers working the mean streets of Manchester, with an ensemble cast including Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy, Sarah Solemani, Alexandra Roach, Will Mellor, Paul Ritter, Felix Scott and Rakie Ayola.
NOTHING SACRED (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Produced by David O. Selznick and penned by Ben Hecht, director William A. Wellman’s still-potent 1937 screwball comedy stars Fredric March as an ambitious reporter determined to exploit the radium poisoning of interview subject Carole Lombard – unaware that she faked the whole thing for a free trip to New York. A fun supporting cast includes Charles Winninger, Walter Connolly, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Fay, Sig Rumann, and “Slapsie” Maxie Rosenbloom. Long available on various public-domain labels, both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) have been digitally restored and include audio commentary and theatrical trailer. ***
THE NUN (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Demian Bichir and Taissa Farmiga team up to battle supernatural forces in a remote Romanian abbey in this derivative, risible Conjuring spin-off that ranks as one of the year’s biggest hits – and one of its worst movies. Both the DVD ($28.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail) boast bonus features. Rated R. ½
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)