Video Vault – Aug 15, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
THE CHANGELING (Synapse Films/CAV Distributing): In the early heyday of the slasher era, director Peter Medak scored one for the good, old-fashioned haunted-house saga with this richly atmospheric, neatly layered, and consistently absorbing 1980 scare-fest – a class act in a much-maligned genre.
In an era when such Hollywood legends as Gregory Peck (The Omen), Kirk Douglas (The Fury), Tony Curtis (The Manitou) and William Holden (Damien – Omen II) were testing the waters of the genre, George C. Scott brings considerable stature to the role of John Russell, a recently widowed composer who moves into an enormous Seattle mansion, only to discover that another, unseen force is also present.
With the assistance of helpful Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere, the off-screen Mrs. Scott), Russell delves into the house’s history and discovers a long-forgotten cover-up that involves no less than the area’s most illustrious citizen, Senator Joseph Carmichael (Melvyn Douglas, fresh from his Oscar-winning turn in Being There).
Refreshingly, The Changeling forsakes blood and gore for suspense, with some genuine jolts and scares along the way, succeeding as a mystery and a morality play as well as a chilling ghost story.
Scott is entirely credible as the tortured Russell, incorporating some of the trademark George C. Scott bombast in a few scenes. Van Devere is sympathetic and warm, to say nothing of a first-rate screamer, and Douglas brings shading to a man of power and influence who is nevertheless wracked with hidden guilt. Although prominently billed, John Colicos (as an imposing police captain) and Jean Marsh (as Russell’s ill-fated wife) likely filmed their scenes in a single day.
The DVD ($19.98 retail), Blu-ray ($29.98 retail), and limited-edition Blu-ray/CD combo ($34.98 retail) each boast bonus features including audio commentary, retrospective documentaries and interviews, original trailer, and more. Rated R. ***
AFFAIRS OF STATE (LionsGate): In his feature debut, David Corenswet headlines this R-rated political thriller as a ruthless political aide whose ambitions prove his undoing, with Thora Birch, Mimi Rogers, David James Elliott, Adrian Grenier, Faye Grant, and Grace Victoria Cox also enmeshed in the skullduggery, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.99 retail), each boasting bonus features.
“ARROW”: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Stephen Amell’s back in action as billionaire playboy Oliver Queen and his crime-fighting alter-ego in all 23 episodes from the 2017-’18 season of the award-winning CW superhero series based on DC Comics’ “Green Arrow” character, available on DVD ($44.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.99 retail) – both boasting special features for “Arrow” aficionados.
BREAKING IN (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Returning to her late father’s remote, hi-tech house after years away, Gabrielle Union (also a producer) battles a quartet of thieves (led by Billy Burke) and defends her children (Ajiona Alexus and Seth Carr) in this slick, fast-moving, effectively knee-jerk box-office sleeper, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail), each replete with special features. Rated PG-13 (also available in an unrated director’s cut). **½
BULL DURHAM (The Criterion Collection): Two immortal pastimes – baseball and love – collide in screenwriter Ron Shelton’s award-winning but overrated 1988 directorial debut, starring Kevin Costner as a veteran minor-league pitcher who mentors wild and woolly pitching phenom Tim Robbins in the ways of the game – until both fall for the same groupie (Susan Sarandon). Well-acted and entertaining, but frequently smug. Still, a lot of people love this film, which brought Robbins and Sarandon together as a couple, and Shelton earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include audio commentaries, retrospective and vintage interviews, and more. Rated R. **½
DEAD SHACK (Shudder): Writer/director Peter Ricq’s feature debut is an award-winning horror send-up pitting a group of goofy teenagers pitted against zombies during a weekend in the woods, available on DVD ($26.98 retail), Blu-ray ($29.98 retail), and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($32.98 retail).
FINAL PORTRAIT (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer/director Stanley Tucci’s mildly diverting, fact-based comedy stars Armie Hammer as art aficionado James Lord, who in 1964 sat for artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) in Paris – and quickly found himself at the whim of an egocentric eccentric, although it inspired his memoir A Giacometti Portrait, upon which this film is based. Danny Cohen’s cinematography is first-rate, and the supporting cast includes Tony Shalhoub, Clemence Poesy, and Sylvie Testud. Rated R. **½
IRMA LA DOUCE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Billy Wilder’s elaborate, ornate, and overlong 1963 adaptation of Alexandre Breffort’s stage musical stars Shirley MacLaine (Oscar nominee as Best Actress) in the title role of a free-spirited Parisian prostitute who catches the eye of bumbling gendarme Jack Lemmon. Lou Jacobi, Herschel Bernardi, Hope Holiday, and Howard McNear also appear, and look fast for Bill Bixby and James Caan in early roles. Andre Previn’s score won an Oscar, and Joseph LaShelle’s (color) cinematography earned a nomination. The special-edition Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentaries and original trailer. **½
JOHN FROM (Altered Innocence/CAV Distributing): Writer/director Joao Nicolau’s award-winning, Portuguese-language, coming-of-age drama stars newcomer Julia Palha as a lonely teenager caught up in her adolescent fantasies, available on DVD ($21.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.99 retail).
LADY STREET FIGHTER (AGFA/Something Weird Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A special-edition Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) of the 1981 vengeance melodrama (originally filmed in 1975 as Deadly Games) starring writer/producer Renee Harmon as a comely cop bent on avenging her sister’s murder in Los Angeles, with Jody McCrea (in his final feature), Trace Carradine (in his only feature), and Liz Renay on hand. Special features include audio commentary, bonus trailers, and the unreleased sequel, Revenge of Lady Street Fighter.
THE MIRACLE SEASON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): This fact-based tearjerker dramatizes the efforts of the Iowa City West High School girls’ volleyball team after star player Danika Yarosh perishes in a tragic auto accident, which compels best friend Erin Moriarty to step up in her place. Earnest and sincere, but not terribly surprising, although Helen Hunt (as the recently divorced coach) and William Hurt (as Yarosh’s grieving, recently widowed father) add star power. Rated PG. **
MODERN LIFE IS RUBBISH (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Director Daniel Gill expands his 2009 short into his debut feature, inspired by the album by Blur, detailing the 10-year relationship between aspiring musician Josh Whitehouse and live-in girlfriend Freya Mavor, who wants to advance her career, as they consider splitting up. Well-made and sometimes insightful, but the narrative moves in fits and starts. **
“NCIS: NEW ORLEANS”: THE FOURTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Scott Bakula and his crack team of crime-solvers are back on the case in all 24 episodes from the 2017-’18 season of the CBS crime series, spun off from the wildly popular “CSI” franchise, with series regulars Lucas Black, Vanessa Ferlito, Daryl Mitchell, and CCH Pounder joined by guest stars Stacy Keach, Jimmy Buffett, Steven Weber, Tim Russ, Mackenzie Astin, and Bakula’s real-life wife Chelsea Field, available on DVD ($49.98 retail), replete with special features.
“NO OFFENCE”: SERIES 1 (Acorn TV): A three-DVD collection ($49.99 retail) of all eight feature-length episodes – plus bonus features – from the inaugural 2015 season of the award-winning, offbeat police procedural created by Paul Abbott, following a group of officers working
the mean streets of Manchester, with an ensemble cast including Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy, Alexandra Roach, Will Mellor, Paul Ritter, and Colin Salmon.
RAZZIA (First Run Features): Writer/director Nabil Ayouch’s contemporary drama follows a group of disparate characters in contemporary Casablanca whose paths unexpectedly intersect. In Arabic, Berber, and French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
SHERLOCK GNOMES (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Paramount): Johnny Depp provides the voice of the titular sleuth in this animated, PG-rated comedy/mystery follow-up to 2011’s Gnomeo & Juliet, with James McAvoy and Emily Blunt encoring in those roles, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Stephen Merchant, Julie Walters, Ozzy Osbourne, Ashley Jenson, Matt Lucas, and Richard Benson joined here by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mary J. Blige, and Jamie Demetriou, available on DVD ($29.99 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.99 retail).
SUFFERING OF NINKO (IndiePix Films): Norihiro Niwatsukino’s award-winning debut feature (originally titled Ninko no junan) stars Masato Tsujioka in the title role of a devout Buddhist monk who is inexplicably irresistible to men and women, which comes in handy – sort of – when he teams up with samurai Hideti Iwahashi (in his screen debut) to vanquish spectral seductress Miho Wakabayashi. A colorful, quirky, heady, and sometimes uneven combination of mysticism and sensuality, highlighted by evocative animation and a brilliant sequence set to Ravel’s “Bolero.” Not for all tastes, but Niwatsukino is a talent to watch. In Japanese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). **½
THE US FESTIVAL: 1982 THE US GENERATION (MVD Visual/MVD Entertainment Group): The title tells all in director Glenn Aveni’s rock documentary revisiting the star-studded, three-day Us Festival in San Bernardino, CA, showcasing such music luminaries as Fleetwood Mac, The Police, The B-52s, The Cars, Carlos Santana and many others, available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail) including audio commentary and interview outtakes.
WILDLING (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Liv Tyler and Brad Dourif star in writer/director Fritz Bohm’s R-rated debut feature, which puts a spin on lycanthropic lore as it focuses on a young girl (Bel Powley) who may or not be a werewolf, available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail), each boasting bonus features.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)