Video Vault – Aug 14, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE BELIEVERS (Olive Films): Oscar-winning director John Schlesinger’s one and only horror film was this stylish, well-mounted 1987 adaptation of Mark Conde’s novel The Religion, which had a mixed critical and financial reception, but amid the schlock of that era it stands as a class act in the genre.
Recently widowed psychologist Cal Jamison (Martin Sheen) and son Chris (Harley Cross) relocate to New York City to start afresh, only to soon find themselves enmeshed in a series of gruesome murders somehow linked to the religious practices of Santeria – and possibly linked to mysterious real-estate tycoon Robert Calder (Harris Yulin).
With a big assist from cinematographer Robby Muller, Schlesinger creates a mounting atmosphere of fear and terror, even within the modern Manhattan metropolis, where danger seems to lurk in the shadows. There are some gruesome moments in The Believers, yet the foreboding tone is more akin to the works of ’40s producer Val Lewton (The Cat People, The Body Snatcher).
Always an “actor’s director,” Schlesinger coaxes fine work out of his cast: Helen Shaver, Jimmy Smits, Lee Richardson, Elizabeth Wilson, Richard Masur, menacing Malick Bowens, and especially Robert Loggia, in top form as a tough veteran cop whose belief in a rational world costs him dearly.
The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. ***
ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Director Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of the 1990s Japanese manga series Battle Angel Alita stars Rosa Salazar in the title role of a hi-tech cyborg who seeks answers from her past in order to forge her destiny. Terrific special effects are offset by cardboard characters and a lame screenplay by producer James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis, thereby stranding a capable cast including Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Jackie Earle Haley, Ed Skrein, and Mahershala Ali. The DVD ($29.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($19.96 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($49.98) each boast bonus features. Rated PG-13. *½
CRYPTO (LionsGate): Beau Knapp toplines executive producer/director John Stalberg Jr.’s R-rated cyber-thriller as a banker who uncovers international financial corruption engineered by the Russian mafia and (naturally) soon finds himself in danger, with Kurt Russell, Alexis Bledel, Luke Hemsworth, Vincent Kartheiser, and Jill Hennessy in support, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.98 retail).
THE FATE OF LEE KHAN (Film Movement Classics): Writer/director King Hu’s 1973 martial-arts spectacle (originally titled Ying chun ge zhi Fengbo) is set during the Yuan Dynasty and stars Feng Tien in the title role as a government official who is cornered in a remote inn by Chinese resistance fighters. In Mandarin with English subtitles, both the special-edition DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include bonus features.
GRACE QUIGLEY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Katharine Hepburn (in the title role) and Nick Nolte team up in director Anthony Harvey’s uneven 1985 black comedy (originally titled The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley) about a depressed senior citizen who taps a neurotic hit man to put her and her friends out of their misery. Long a cherished project for Hepburn, this fell into the hands of the Golan-Globus duo at Cannon Films, attempting to upgrade their image, but their re-editing of the film displeased her and Harvey, both of whom essentially disowned it. Not without interest, with Hepburn and Nolte an unlikely but appealing duo, and nice bits by Elizabeth Wilson and Walter Abel (in his final film), but in the end a misfired curio. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary and theatrical trailer. Rated PG-13. **
HELLO AGAIN (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Shelley Long headlines director Frank Perry’s flimsy, featherweight 1987 comedy/fantasy as a housewife who dies but is brought back by her psychic sister (Judith Ivey), only to discover her previous life in complete disarray. Essentially a one-joke movie, despite a good cast including Gabriel Byrne, Corbin Bernsen, Sela Ward, Carrie Nye, Austin Pendleton, and Madeleine Potter. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) include audio commentary and trailers. Rated PG-13. *½
HOW LONG WILL I LOVE U (Well Go USA Entertainment): Writer/director Lun Su’s award-winning fantasy/romantic comedy (originally titled Chao shi kong tong ju) stars Jia Ying Lei and Li Ya Tong as residents of the same apartment – 20 years apart – who find themselves caught in a time warp, each attempting to return their own time. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
“I LOVE LUCY”: COLORIZED COLLECTION (CBS DVD/Paramount): A self-explanatory DVD collection ($29.98 retail) of 16 full-length, uncut, colorized episodes – plus bonus features – from the much-beloved, Emmy-winning comedy series starring the husband-and-wife team of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, which aired on CBS from 1951-’57.
ONE BEDROOM (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/producer/director Darien Sills-Evans’s winning – and award-winning – romantic comedy details the complicated, sometimes humorous, dissolution of a five-year romance between a Brooklyn barber and part-time dee-jay (Sills-Evans) and a schoolteacher (Devin Nelson) who wants something more … but isn’t quite sure what. Vaguely (but nicely) reminiscent of Spike Lee’s 1986 debut She’s Gotta Have It, this likewise has a fresh, funny vibe. The DVD ($24.99 retail) includes audio commentary and more. ***
THE OUTSIDER (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Jean-Paul Belmondo produced and stars in Jacques Deray’s 1983 crime thriller (originally titled Le marginal) as a rogue police commissioner who infiltrates drug lord Henry Silva’s operation in Marseilles. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary and theatrical trailer.
PLUS ONE (RLJE Films): Writer/producer/directors Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer (of PEN15 fame) make their feature debuts with this winning crowd-pleaser starring Maya Erskine (also of PEN15) and Jack Quaid (son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan) as long-time friends who agree to accompany each other to a series of weddings throughout the year, until their inevitable attraction to each other comes to the fore. Touted as this generation’s heir apparent to When Harry Met Sally … (1989) – which starred Ryan – this benefits particularly from Erskine’s winsome turn, and a fun cast including Ed Begley Jr., Perrey Reeves, Finn Wittrock, Ben Bennett, Brianne Howey, Jon Bass, and Rosalind Chao. Both the DVD ($27.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($28.97 retail) include bonus features. ***
ROCK PAPER SCISSORS (LionsGate): Tom Holland directed this gimmicky shocker starring Luke Macfarlane as a serial killer who is released from a mental institution (?), returns to the home where he killed his victims (!), and begins re-living traumatic childhood memories. Guess what happens next? The title refers to the game Macfarlane plays with his victims. Holland, who scripted the similar Psycho II (1983) and makes a cameo appearance, adds some directorial flourishes, but it’s not enough. Michael Madsen, Jennifer Titus, Ari Lehman, and Tatum O’Neal round out the cast, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.99 retail). Rated R. *½
THE SWAN PRINCESS: KINGDOM OF MUSIC (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Nina Herzog reprises her voice-over role as Princess Odette in producer/director/story writer Robert Rich’s animated, G-rated fantasy musical, a follow-up to his 2018 animated feature The Swan Princess: A Royal Myztery, which details another melodious misadventure, available on DVD ($20.99 retail).
THE SWINDLERS (Well Go USA Entertainment): The con is on for Yoo Ji-tae, Hyun Bin, Bae Seong-woo, Park Sung-woong, and Nana (nee Im Jin-Ah) as they team up to take down corrupt tycoon Heo Sung-tae in writer/director Chang Won Jang’s award-winning action caper (originally titled Kkun). In Korean with English subtitles, available on Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
TARGET: HARRY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Vic Morrow plays the title role in this R-rated 1969 thriller (also released as What’s in It for Harry?), as a globe-trotting pilot enmeshed in an international counterfeiting scheme, with all-star support from Suzanne Pleshette, Charlotte Rampling, Victor Buono, Cesar Romero, Stanley Holloway, and Michael Ansara. Originally an ABC-TV pilot, this was instead released to theaters, prompting producer/director Roger Corman to adopt the pseudonym “Henry Neill.” Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary and trailers.
TUFF TURF (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of director Fritz Kiersch’s 1985 teen melodrama starring James Spader as a newcomer to a Los Angeles high school who runs afoul of resident gang leader Paul Mones after falling for his ex-girlfriend (sultry Kim Richards). Predictable but slick, efficient, and well-acted by a cast that also includes Robert Downey Jr. (as Spader’s best bud), Matt Clark, Olivia Barash, Claudette Nevins, and Art Evans. Special features include audio commentary and theatrical trailer. Rated R. **½
UNION (Indican Pictures): Filmmaker Whitney Hamilton follows her 2005 feature debut My Brother’s War and her 2011 short Union with this sluggish Civil War soap opera in which she plays a woman who disguises herself as her dead brother to survive the conflict and ends up marrying young widow Virginia Newcomb to protect her secret. Awkwardly structured and woefully overlong, with endless flashbacks – and flashbacks-within-flashbacks – and heavy reliance on slow motion, this repeatedly goes off on tangents regarding Native American mysticism and a plea for same-sex relationships, but the end result is a crushing bore. Clearly a labor of love, for the viewer this is a labor of patience. *
WILDLAND (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Editor/producer Alex Jablonski makes his feature directorial debut with this documentary (originally titled Young Men and Fire) following firefighters in the American West and the risks they face on an almost daily basis. The special-edition Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) includes deletes scenes, theatrical trailer, stills gallery, and more.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)