Video Vault – Apr 17, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE LITTLE MERMAID (Disney): The resurgence of Disney’s animation division can be directly traced to this animated 1989 musical fantasy that ranked as an instant classic and worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of the studio’s greatest animated features.
Looely based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the story follows Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson), a restless mermaid princess who wishes to become human after falling in love with a prince named Eric (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes). To this end, she makes an illicit pact with the sea witch Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll), who has her own nefarious agenda to rule the oceans.
The first-rate voice-over cast includes Buddy Hackett, Kenneth Mars, Rene Auberjonois, Paddi Edwards, Edie McClurg, and Samuel E. Wright, whose delightful turn as Sebastian the sea crab reaches its zenith with the show-stopping, Oscar-winning number “Under the Sea.” Loaded with charm, energy, and spectacle, The Little Mermaid also won the Oscar for Best Musical Score and earned a second Best Song nomination for “Kiss the Girl.”
The 30th Anniversary “Walt Disney Signature Collection” DVD ($29.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($49.98 retail) each boast a bevy of bonus features for Mermaid mavens. Rated G. ****
AQUAMAN (DC/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Jason Momoa dives into the deep end of the DC Universe in the title role of director/story writer James Wan’s PG-13-rated adaptation of the DC Comics superhero, on a desperate mission to save his underwater kingdom of Atlantis, backed by a star-studded cast including Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Temuera Morrison, Michael Beach, John Rhys-Davies, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Graham McTavish. The DVD ($28.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($44.95 retail) each boast bonus features for Aquaman aficionados.
“AVATAR – THE LAST AIRBENDER”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Nickelodeon/Paramount): A self-explanatory nine-disc Blu-ray collection ($44.99 retail) of all 65 episodes – plus bonus features – from the entire 2003-’08 run of the Emmy-winning, animated fantasy series created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, detailing the adventures of a young boy (voiced by Zach Tyler) who possesses mystical powers.
“BAD BANKS”: SEASON ONE (Kino Lorber): Ambitious young investment banker Paula Beer confronts widespread corruption and moral turpitude within the world of international finance as she attempts to establish a successful career, in all six episodes from the inaugural 2018 season of the award-winning German-language drama series created by Oliver Kienle, available in a two-DVD collection ($29.95 retail).
BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS (Shout! Factory): The “Shout Select” Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of the 1986 adaptation of Neil Simon’s autobiographical 1983 Broadway smash starring Jonathan Silverman (reprising his stage role) as Simon’s alter-ego, the observant and precocious teenager Eugene Jerome, and his day-to-day life in 1930s’ Brooklyn. Simon and director Gene Saks (who won a Tony for the play) reprise their duties here, but despite the period detail, Simon’s trademark dialogue, and an appealing cast (including Blythe Danner, Bob Dishy, and Judith Ivey), this is pleasant but unremarkable fare. Rated PG. **½
BUMBLEBEE (Paramount Home Media Distribution): Hailee Steinfeld hops aboard the long-running Transformers franchise in this PG-13-rated sci-fi adventure in which she joins forces with a damaged automaton (disguised as a Volkswagen Beetle) to protect the world from diabolical forces, available on DVD ($29.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($37.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($27.95 retail).
“CRAIG OF THE CREEK: ITCH TO EXPLORE!” (Cartoon Network/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): A DVD selection ($14.97 retail) of 13 episodes from the inaugural 2017 season of the popular, animated Cartoon Network adventure series following the exploits of the title character (voiced by Philip Solomon) and his best friends (voiced by Michael Croner and Noel Wells) as they explore the wilderness of a nearby creek.
“THE DICK CAVETT SHOW: INSIDE THE MINDS OF …” – VOL. 3 (S’MORE Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): A two-DVD compilation ($24.95 retail) featuring the two-time Emmy Award-winning talk show host interviewing such renowned comedians as Redd Foxx, Dick Gregory, Eddie Murphy, and Richard Pryor.
DOMINIQUE (Vinegar Syndrome): Potential suspects and red herrings abound in director Michael Anderson’s 1978 adaptation of a Harold Lawlor novel’s What Beckoning Ghost? (also released as Dominique is Dead) starring Cliff Robertson as an American businessman in London tormented by visions his dead wife, the titular Dominique (Jean Simmons), after he’s driven her to suicide for her inheritance. Atmospheric but stodgy, this Hitchcockian knock-off seemed dated even when it was made, and was barely released in the United States. A good supporting cast includes Simon Ward, Jenny Agutter, Ron Moody, David Tomlinson, Flora Robson, Judy Geeson, Michael Jayston, and Jack Warner (in his final film) – although some have precious little to do. The collector’s-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($32.98 retail) includes original trailer and audio interviews. Rated PG. **
LIZ AND THE BLUE BIRD (ELEVEN ARTS Anime Studio/Shout! Factory): Director Naoko Yamada’s feature-length anime fantasy (originally titled Rizu to aoi tori), based on Ayano Takenda’s best-selling series of Sound! Eupohonium novels, is a coming-of-age fable about the friendship between two teenagers (voiced by Atsume Tanezaki and Nao Toyama) in the Kita Uji High School Band as they prepare for their final duet before graduation. Both the DVD ($16.99 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($26.99 retail) include both the original Japanese version (with English subtitles) and the English-dubbed version.
THE MAGIC FLUTE (The Criterion Collection): Ingmar Bergman’s lavish, award-winning 1975 adaptation of Mozart’s classic opera (originally titled Trollflotjen), originally made for Swedish television, is as much a celebration of theater as in interpretation of the fairy tale, to say nothing of a spectacular showcase for some of Europe’s most acclaimed soloists, among them Josef Kostlinger, Birgit Norden, Ulrik Cold and Hakan Hagegard, and the Oscar-nominated costume design. In Swedish with English subtitles, both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include vintage and retrospective interviews, as well as the feature-length 1975 documentary Tystnad! Tagning! Trollflojten! detailing the production. Rated G. ***
“PAW PATROL: ULTIMATE RESCUE” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): A DVD collection ($10.99 retail) of five action-packed episodes from the award-winning animated Nickelodeon children’s series, created by Keith Chapman, detailing the adventures of a group of courageous canines.
PET SHOP (Full Moon Features/MVD Entertainment Group): The Blu-ray bow ($19.95 retail) of executive producer Charles Band’s low-budget, PG-rated 1994 sci-fi farce in which alien beings descend upon a sleepy Arizona town and populate the local pet shop with strange animals.
“RAKE”: SERIES 5, THE FINAL SEASON (Acorn TV): Richard Roxburgh (also a series creator) takes his bows as Cleaver Greene, the sharp but self-destructive lawyer who tackles seemingly impossible cases – and has now been elected to the Australian Senate – in all eight episodes from 2018 season of the award-winning courtroom comedy/drama series, with Matt Day, Sara Wiseman, Jacek Koman, Erroll Shand, Anthony LaPaglia, and Jane Turner rounding out the regular cast. The three-DVD collection, which includes featurette, retails for $39.99.
“STEVEN UNIVERSE: THE HEART OF THE CRYSTAL GEMS” (Cartoon Network): A DVD selection ($14.97 retail) of 10 episodes from the Emmy-winning animated sci-fi adventure series created by Rebecca Sugar, following the misadventures of the title character (voiced by Zach Callison) and his Crystal Gems team, dedicated to battling the forces of evil.
SUPPOSE THEY GAVE A WAR AND NOBODY CAME? (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): This uneven but interesting 1970 curio attempts – not always successfully – to combine Vietnam-era satire with sitcom-level comedy in detailing simmering tensions between a U.S. Army base and a nearby Southern town, although made very watchable by a star-studded cast: Brian Keith, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine (as a stereotypical redneck sheriff), Don Ameche, Suzanne Pleshette, Bradford Dillman, Arthur O’Connell, Ivan Dixon, Tom Ewell, John Fiedler, Christopher Mitchum, Robert Emhardt, and Grady Sutton. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary. Rated PG. **½
UNSTRUNG HEROES (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Director Diane Keaton’s cloying, disappointing 1995 adaptation of Franz Lidz’s best-selling memoir stars Nathan Watt (in his only feature to date) as a lonely youngster (based on Lidz) who opts to live with his eccentric uncles (Michael Richards and Maury Chaykin) when his mother (Andie MacDowell) falls ill and his father (John Turturro) too consumed with grief to raise him. Despite an Oscar-nominated score by Thomas Newman and a supporting cast including Celia Weston, Anne DeSalvo, Candy Azzara and Jack McGee, this quickly falls prey to quirky sentiment and never recovers. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.95 retail) include retrospective interview and trailer. Rated PG. *
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (Disney): John C. Reilly reprises his titular voice-over role in this zippy, zany, self-explanatory follow-up to Wreck-It Ralph (2012), in which the good-natured but bumbling, reformed video-game bad guy wreaks (further) havoc when he enters the Internet. Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer, Alan Tudyk, and Ed O’Neill reprise their voice-over roles, joined this time by Taraji P. Henson, Alfred Molina, and Gal Gadot. Dazzling visuals augment this spoof of pop culture, computer technology, video games, and even the Disney empire. Almost overwhelming but impossible to resist. This received an Oscar nomination as Best Animated Feature Film, and is available on DVD ($28.89 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($44.50 retail) – each replete with bonus features. Rated PG. ***
ZACHARIAH (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Producer/director George Englund puts a spin on the genre with this PG-rated 1971 “psychedelic” Western, loosely inspired by Hermann Hesse’s Sidhartha, following the misadventures of cowpokes Zachariah (John Rubinstein) and Matthew (Don Johnson), accompanied by the music of Country Joe and the Fish, The James Gang, The New York Rock Ensemble, White Lightnin’, Jimmie Haskell and others. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, theatrical trailer, and more.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)