Video Vault – Apr 3, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE ICEMAN COMETH (Kino Classics): John Frankenheimer’s 1973 adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s 1939 play, produced under the auspices of the AFT (American Film Theatre), ranks as a major accomplishment and a superb rendering of a classic drama. There are those who will label this a “filmed play” – but what a play and what a film!
The action takes place in entirely within the confines of Harry Hope’s rundown bar in New York City, circa 1912 – a haven for alcoholics, hard-luck cases, and those whose dreams were dashed long ago. They drink, they reminisce, they argue, they boast, they lament … but they never leave the bar, and anxiously await the visit of the garrulous salesman Hickey (Lee Marvin), who makes it a point to drop by periodically to regale the masses with his tales of fun and frivolity.
The ensemble cast could hardly be bettered: Fredric March (in his final role) as Harry Hope, Jeff Bridges, Bradford Dillman, Moses Gunn, George Voskovec, Sorrell Booke, Martyn Green, Tom Pedi, John McLiam, and particularly Robert Ryan (who died before the film’s release), who is the heart and soul of the story as the embittered former anarchist Larry Slade. If you’re looking for perfect acting in a great film, look no further – the Iceman has cometh.
The two-disc Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes both the theatrical version and director’s cut, retrospective interview, trailers, and more. Rated PG. ****
BEFORE AND AFTER (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Director Barbet Schroeder’s 1996 adaptation of Rosellen Brown’s best-selling novel stars Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson as parents whose world is shattered when son Edward Furlong is accused of murdering his girlfriend (Alison Folland). This atmospheric but murky melodrama benefits from the gravitas that Streep, Neeson, Alfred Molina (as their son’s lawyer) and Daniel von Bargen (as the local lawman) bring to the proceedings, with John Heard, Ann Magnuson, Larry Pine, Julia Weldon, Kaiulani Lee and Wesley Addy (in his final film) in support. Both the DVD ($11.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.95 retail) include audio commentary. Rated PG-13. **½
CHEF FLYNN (Kino Lorber): Director Cameron Yates makes his feature producing debut with this documentary exploring the life of wunderkind Flynn McGarry, whose culinary wizardry has made him a sensation in the restaurant field before he was old enough to drive, and how he and his family have dealt with his fame. The DVD ($29.95 retail) includes deleted scenes, original trailer, and more.
DESERT FURY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): In this 1947 film noir produced by Hal B. Wallis and based on Ramona Stewart’s novel Desert Town, John Hodiak and Wendell Corey (in his screen debut) play racketeers who attempt to muscle in on a Reno casino, with Burt Lancaster, Lizabeth Scott, Mary Astor, James Flavin and William Harrigan caught in the crossfire. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) boast bonus features including audio commentary.
THE DOCTOR (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Five years after Children of a Lesser God (1986), William Hurt and director Randa Haines reunited for this 1991 adaptation of Ed Rosenbaum’s non-fiction best-seller A Taste of My Own Medicine, in which Hurt plays a glib surgeon subjected to the impersonal machinations of the medical profession when he is himself diagnosed with cancer. Earnest and well-intentioned, yet predictable and formulaic. The polished cast includes Christine Lahti (as Hurt’s wife), Mandy Patinkin, Adam Arkin, Wendy Crewson, and Elizabeth Perkins, who steals the show as a fellow patient who inspires Hurt. Both the DVD ($11.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.95 retail) include audio commentary. Rated PG-13. **½
THE FAVOURITE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Olivia Colman won the Academy Award as Best Actress for her portrayal of Queen Anne, the ailing but still-powerful monarch torn between the affections and influence of Rachel Weisz’s Sarah Churchill and Emma Stone’s Abigail Masham, while England wages a futile (and expensive) war against France in the early 18th century. Producer/director Yorgo Lanthimos’s grand, stylish saga is successful as both a sly political satire and a historical melodrama, and ranks as one of 2018’s best films, earning nine additional Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (both Weisz and Stone), Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and Best Editing, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.99 retail). Rated R. ***½
“THE HEART GUY”: SERIES 3 (Acorn TV): Rodger Corser returns as Hugh Knight, the brilliant but arrogant physician forced to start over in his rural hometown of Whyhope after his personal life collapses, in all 10 episodes from the 2018 season of the popular Australian comedy/drama (originally titled “Doctor, Doctor”), co-starring Hayley McElhinney, Ryan Johnson, Tina Bursill and Nicole da Silva, available in a three-DVD collection ($59.99 retail).
LIFE AFTER FLASH (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Lisa Downs produced, edited, and directed this entertaining, even uplifting, documentary feature detailing the life of actor/executive producer Sam J. Jones, who won the title role in the big-budget 1980 Dino De Laurentiis production of Flash Gordon but made some mistakes and missteps during and after, only to later emerge as both a cult icon and a fulfilled person. This is as much about the fervent Flash Gordon fanbase as the man who played him (working on both levels), featuring interviews with Jones’s friends and family, as well as Gordon colleagues Melody Anderson, Topol, Brian Blessed, Richard O’Brien, Deep Roy, Dino’s widow Martha De Laurentiis, the late Peter Wyngarde (in his final appearance), and composers Howard Blake and Brian May. Regarding the latter, Queen’s contribution to the film is explored in detail, whereas it was completely ignored in the recent Bohemian Rhapsody. Dare it be said, but this movie is better – and more accurate! The Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) boasts a myriad of bonus features. ***½
“THE LAST SHIP”: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON (TNT/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The five-year voyage of the U.S.S. Nathan James comes to a close, in all 10 episodes from the 2018 (and final) season of the TNT adventure series based on William Brinkley’s best-selling 1988 novel and inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey, with Eric Dane, Adam Baldwin, Bridget Regan, Charles Parnell, Marissa Neitling, Christina Elmore, Jocko Sims, and Travis Van Winkle among the regular cast. The DVD retails for $22.98, the Blu-ray for $39.99 – both with bonus features.
THE LONG GOODBYE: THE KARA TIPPETTS STORY (Ocean Avenue Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Jay Lyons makes his feature documentary debut with this chronicle detailing Christian author Kara Tippetts and her courageous struggle against breast cancer, available on DVD ($19.95 retail), replete with bonus features.
“MYSTERY ROAD”: SERIES 1 (Acorn TV): Judy Davis and Aaron Pedersen pair up as police detectives investigating the disappearance of two men in the Australian Outback, in all six feature-length episodes from the inaugural 2018 season of the award-winning mystery series, based on the award-winning 2013 film of the same name and its equally acclaimed 2016 sequel Goldstone, both of which starred Pedersen. Deborah Mailman, Madeleine Madden, Tasia Zalar, Wayne Blair, Ernie Dingo, Aaron McGrath, and Colin Friels (Davis’s real-life husband) round out the regular cast, available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $39.99 retail).
NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Sophia Lillis brings the beloved teen sleuth into the 21st century in this updated, PG-rated adaptation of Carolyn Keene’s best-selling mystery novel, in which she delves into the mystery surrounding the supposedly supernatural goings-on at Twin Elms mansion, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($28.98 retail), each boasting bonus content.
SGT. WILL GARDNER (Cinedigm): Max Martini wrote, produced, directed and stars (in the title role) of this sincere but slow-moving character study of a traumatized combat veteran who embarks on a cross-country journey of self-discovery, confronting his past while contemplating his future. Episodic but sometimes very powerful, with a strong supporting cast including Omari Hardwick, Lily Rabe, Gary Sinise, JoBeth Williams, Elisabeth Rohm, Dermot Mulroney, Robert Patrick, Holt McCallany, Luis Bordonada, and Martini’s son Max (in his screen debut) as Gardner’s son. The DVD retails for $16.99, the Blu-ray for $19.99. **½
THE SIEGE AT RUBY RIDGE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Randy Quaid and Laura Dern give intense performances as religious zealot and white supremacist Randy Weaver and his devoted wife Vicki in this engrossing 1996 mini-series (originally broadcast on CBS as Ruby Ridge: An American Tragedy) dramatizing the deadly government siege that transpired around their remote Idaho home in 1992. A strong supporting cast includes Kirsten Dunst as daughter Sara, Diane Ladd (Dern’s real-life mother) and G.W. Bailey as Vicki’s parents, Bob Gunton as Col. Bo Gritz, Joe Don Baker as attorney Gerry Spence, Darren E. Burrows, Nicholas Pryor, Bradley Pierce, John Dennis Johnston, Gary Graham, August Schellenberg, Chris Curry, Lyman Ward, Frederick Coffin, Robert Harper, and Tracy Griffith. Lionel Chetwynd’s teleplay, based on the Jess Walters best-seller Every Knee Shall Bow, doesn’t demonize the Weavers – nor does it glamorize the FBI, especially when it comes to the discrepancies in the case that led to a controversial verdict. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Cinematography for a Mini-Series or Special. ***
“THOSE WHO KILL” (MHz Networks): Headstrong police inspector Laura Bach and eccentric psychiatrist/profiler Jakob Cedergren join forces to track down a diabolical serial killer at large in Copenhagen in all 12 episodes from the inaugural 2011 season of the Danish mystery series (originally titled “Den som draeber”), which was later adapted for a 2014 American series, available in a three-DVD collection ($39.95 retail).
UNKNOWN SOLDIER (Kino Lorber): Writer/producer/director Aku Louhimies’ epic, award-winning adaptation of Vaino Linna’s 1954 best-seller (originally titled Tuntemahon sotilas) follows a Finnish platoon of soldiers during World War II, featuring an ensemble cast including Eero Aho, Johannes Holopainen, Jussi Vatanen, Aku Hirviniemi, Hannes Souminen and Arttu Kapulanien. In Finnish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail), each boasting bonus features.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)