Video Vault – Aug 28, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
BUTLEY (Kino Classics): Renowned playwright Harold Pinter made a sparkling directorial debut with this smashing 1974 adaptation of Simon Gray’s play, produced as part of the American Film Theatre (AFT) program, which unfortunately limited its exposure.
Alan Bates, expertly reprising his Tony Award-winning stage role, essays the title role of the boorish, bisexual, booze-soaked professor of English literature who is having a very bad day – but battles back with scathing candor and bitter wit. His estranged wife (Susan Engel) wants a divorce, his protege (Richard O’Callaghan, also reprising his stage role) has left him for another man, and his career appears to be imploding right before his very eyes – all of it due to his (mis)behavior. Not that he’d ever accept blame for his own faults.
The film never quite transcends its theatrical origins, nor was it really designed to, with most of the action taking place in Butley’s office. This is an actor’s showcase, with Bates front and center, given sturdy support by Engel, Michael Byrne (also encoring from the original stage production), Georgina Hale, and especially Jessica Tandy, who enjoys some deliciously sharp banter with Bates as his caustic colleague.
The Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes retrospective interviews, trailers, and more. Rated R. ***½
A.I. RISING (LionsGate): Visual artist Zoran Neskovic makes an award-winning feature debut with this sci-fi drama based on stories by Dimitrije Vojnov, detailing the complex relationship that develops between a lone scientist (Sebastian Cabazza) on a long journey Alpha Centauri, and the female cyborg (Jessica Stoyadinovich, better known as adult film star “Stoya”) who accompanies him and is programmed to serve his every whim. Originally titled Ederlezi Rising (after the corporation sponsoring the mission), this is an interesting (if bumpy) combination of existentialism and exploitation, and perhaps the only film to invite comparisons to both Andrei Tarkovsky and Zalman King. The DVD ($19.98 retail) includes behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, and more. Rated R. **½
ANIARA (Magnet Label/Magnolia Home Entertainment): Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja co-produced, co-wrote, and co-directed this award-winning, R-rated screen adaptation of Harry Martinson’s renowned science-fiction poem, an existential allegory in which the inhabitants of the titular spacecraft, en route to Mars following Earth’s destruction, regress to their worst selves after a mishap throws them of course and into limbo, available on DVD ($26.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail) – each boasting bonus features.
ANOTHER STAKEOUT (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The title tells all in this innocuous, unnecessary 1993 sequel to the 1987 hit, reuniting executive producer/director John Badham with Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez, as undercover cops paired with aggressive assistant district attorney Rosie O’Donnell on a witness-protection case. Also back: Dan Lauria as their predictably gruff boss and Madeleine Stowe (unbilled) as Dreyfuss’s estranged girlfriend, with Cathy Moriarty, Dennis Farina, Marcia Strassman, John Rubinstein, and Miguel Ferrer also on hand, available on DVD ($11.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($14.95 retail). Rated PG-13. **
“ARROW”: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Stephen Amell’s back in action as billionaire playboy Oliver Queen and his crime-fighting alter-ego in all 22 episodes from the 2018-’19 season of the award-winning CW superhero series based on DC Comics’ “Green Arrow” character, with Katie Cassidy, Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, Echo Kellum, and Sea Shimooka in support, available on DVD ($39.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($51.99 retail) – both with special features for Arrow aficionados.
ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS (Redemption/Kino Lorber): Producer/director Jess Franco’s last black and white film (originally titled Cartes sur table) is a light-hearted 1966 sci-fi thriller starring Eddie Constantine as a fedora-clad, wisecracking secret agent on the trail of an international assassination syndicate headed by femme fatale Francoise Brion and mad scientist Fernando Rey, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail), each boasting such bonus features as audio commentary, theatrical trailer, and both English and French (with English subtitles) audio options.
BABYLON (Kino Classics): Writer/director Franco Rosso’s controversial 1980 feature debut follows Brinsley Forde’s ambitious reggae disc jockey as he wends his way through the mean streets of Brixton, attempting to forge a life despite political, racial, and social obstacles at every turn. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, trailers, and more.
BE NATURAL: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ALICE GUY -BLACHE (Zeitgeist Films/Kino Lorber): Executive producer Jodie Foster narrates filmmaker Pamela B. Green’s feature documentary debut, a nimble and engaging chronicle of the titular French filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché (1873-1968), a pioneer of early cinema and in the role of women filmmakers who work was recognized by the likes of Sergei Eisenstein and Alfred Hitchcock. Based on Alison McMahan’s biography Alice Guy-Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema and presented almost as a mystery, this makes a very persuasive claim in restoring Guy-Blaché’s rightful position in the pantheon of noteworthy filmmakers. Rated G. ***
BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Talk about “high concept,” this 1966 horror Western, the second-to-last feature helmed by veteran director William “One-Shot” Beaudine, pits the titular outlaw (Chuck Courtney) against the titular Transylvanian bloodsucker (a wide-eyed John Carradine), who’s set his sights – and fangs – on Billy’s beloved (Melinda Plowman). Western veterans Virginia Christine, Harry Carey Jr., Marjorie Bennett, Roy Barcroft, Bing Russell (Kurt’s real-life dad), and Carey’s real-life mother Olive (in her final film) also turn up. Sheer absurdity, reportedly filmed in eight days on a shoestring budget, Carradine considered this his worst film … which is saying something, given the schlock he appeared in. Needless to say, it boasts a following of bad-movie mavens. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) include audio commentary and trailers. *
“BLUE BLOODS”: THE NINTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Standing tall for law and order in New York City, the Reagan family’s back in action in all 22 episodes from the 2018-’19 season of the award-winning CBS crime series, created by Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green, starring Tom Selleck, Bridget Moynihan, Donnie Wahlberg, Will Estes and Len Cariou, with guest stars Lou Diamond Phollips, Christine Ebersole, Aasif Mandvi, and Joshua Harto, available in a six-DVD collection ($55.98 retail) replete with bonus features.
“THE FLASH: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Grant Gustin returns as scientist Barry Allen and his fleet-footed superhero alter-ego in all 22 episodes from the 2018-’19 season of the award-winning CW fantasy series based on the DC Comics character, with Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Jesse L. Martin, Carlos Valdes, Keiynan Lonsdale, Tom Felton, Tom Cavanagh, and Chris Klein (as the nefarious super-villain Cicada) rounding out the regular cast. Both the DVD ($39.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($44.98 retail) boast special features including deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and more.
HAIL SATAN? (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Director Penny Lane’s eye-opening documentary follows the members of the Satanic Temple as they gleefully manipulate the media as they advocate religious freedom. Both timely and subversive, one is never sure whether it’s all a put-on or not – which is part of the film’s appeal. The DVD ($26.98 retail) includes additional scenes and interviews, and theatrical trailer. Rated R. ***
“HOMELAND”: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Former CIA operative Claire Danes matches wits with U.S. President Elizabeth Marvel over intelligence operatives detained under the latter’s orders, in all 12 episodes from the 2018 season of the critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning Showtime series, based on the Israeli series Hatufim, with Linus Roache, Jake Weber, Maury Sterling, Morgan Spector, and Mandy Patinkin in support. Three Emmy nominations: Patinkin as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, F. Murray Abraham as Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, and Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour). The three-disc DVD collection retails for $29.98.
THE HUSTLE (Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Anne Hathaway and executive producer Rebel Wilson spar as rival con artists on the French Riviera in this feeble reworking of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), which was itself a remake of Bedtime Story (1964). In this case, the third time is not the charm. Both the DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail) boast bonus features including audio commentary and behind-the-scenes featurettes. Rated PG-13.*
KILLERS ANONYMOUS (LionsGate): Writer/director Martin Owen’s self-explanatory, R-rated thriller focuses on a support group for hired killers whose cover is threatened when one of them attempts to assassinate a United States senator. The ensemble cast includes Gary Oldman, Jessica Alba, Tommy Flanagan, Suki Waterhouse, Rhyon Nicole Brown, MyAnna Buring, Tim McInnerny, and Sadie Frost. Both the DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.99 retail) include audio commentary, deleted scenes, and alternate ending.
THE MARRYING MAN (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Millionaire playboy Alec Baldwin embarks on a whirlwind romance with Las Vegas songbird Kim Basinger in this uneven 1991 screwball comedy penned by Neil Simon and marking the feature debut of director Jerry Rees, with star-studded support from Armand Assante, Elisabeth Shue, Paul Reiser, Fisher Stevens, and the always-welcome Robert Loggia. A notoriously troubled production, for a variety of reasons including the on-set romance between Baldwin and Basinger (who married and later divorced), their respective and collective demands, and post-production delays. Nice period detail, however. The DVD retails for $11.95, the Blu-ray for $14.95. Rated R. **
SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN (Oscilloscope Laboratories): Filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta’s self-explanatory, feature documentary (originally titled Auf der Suche nach Ingmar Bergman) is an enjoyable, unabashedly admiring portrait of the legendary Swedish filmmaker and analysis of his career, augmented by interviews with friends, family members, colleagues, and other filmmakers inspired by his work. In English, French, German, Spanish, and Swedish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($27.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($32.99 retail), each boasting bonus features. ***
TOLKIEN (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Nicholas Hoult plays the young author J.R.R.Tolkien (1892-1973) in this PG-13-rated biographical drama that explores his early years before achieving literary immortality with The Lord of the Rings, with Lily Collins as his beloved muse Edith Bratt, Colm Meaney, Anthony Boyle, Tom Glynn-Carney, and the always-welcome Derek Jacobi in support. Both the DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.99 retail) include bonus features.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)