Video Vault – Aug 29, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Although not a box-office hit, Return of the Living Dead (1985) was a home-video and cable smash and became an instant cult classic … hence this 1988 follow-up, which likewise found its audience on the small screen after a brief theatrical run.
Once again, it’s a canister of that nasty government gas Trioxin to blame, when it bounces from a military transport truck into a sewer near a spooky cemetery. Care to guess what happens next?
James Karen and Thom Mathews encore from the original film but in different roles, this time as local gravediggers who meet much the same fate as before. Also representing the human contingent are Dana Ashbrook, Suzanne Snyder, Michael Kenworthy, Marsha Dietlein (in her feature debut), and scene-stealer Philip Bruns, as the unflappable town physician, Doc Mandel. Nostalgia fans will also glimpse Forrest J. Ackerman (editor of the much-beloved Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine) in a cameo.
The narrative definitely leans more toward humor than horror, but won’t disappoint gorehounds, and the high-spirited cast (especially Bruns) brings a fun vibe to the proceedings, silly though they may be.
The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective and vintage featurettes and interviews, and more. Rated R. **½
ALONE ON THE ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS (First Run Features): Paul Goldsmith’s picturesque documentary explores the factual elements of in Scott O’Dell’s enduring adventure novel Island of the Blue Dolphins, particularly the actual woman who inspired the main character. The DVD ($19.95 retail) also includes bonus short films. **½
AUTUMN IN NEW YORK (MVD Entertainment Group): Changwei Gu’s cinematography is among the few attributes of actress-turned-director Joan Chen’s last feature to date, a leaden, lifeless 2000 tearjerker detailing the star-crossed romance between hotshot New York restaurateur Richard Gere and much younger (and terminally ill) Winona Ryder. Anthony LaPaglia, Elaine Stritch, J.K. Simmons, Vera Farmiga, Sherry Stringfield, Mary Beth Hurt, and Jill Hennessy co-star, to no avail. MGM opted not to pre-screen this for critics, which is always a solid indicator of studio faith. The “MVD Marquee Collection” Blu-ray retails for $29.95. Rated PG-13. *
BLEEDING STEEL (LionsGate): Jackie Chan’s back in action in this R-rated espionage thriller in which he plays a fearless super-cop on the trail of techno-terrorists. In English and Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.99 retail).
BRAINSCAN (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Director John Flynn’s potentially intriguing but empty-headed 1994 shocker stars Edward Furlong as a withdrawn teenager whose darker impulses are unleashed when conjures a malevolent being known as “The Trickster” (T. Ryder Smith) from an interactive computer program, while dogged detective Frank Langella skulks around. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, original teaser and trailer, and more. Rated R. *
BRAM STOKER’S SHADOWBUILDER (MVD Entertainment Group): Director Jamie Dixon’s award-winning R-rated 1998 feature debut, based on Bram Stoker’s short story, stars Michael Rooker as a gun-toting priest pursuing a demon (Andrew Jackson) that has nefarious designs on a youngster (Kevin Zegers) who was born without sin, with Leslie Hope, Tony Todd, and Shawn Thompson also caught up in the Satanic shenanigans. The special-edition “MVD Rewind” Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, original trailer, collectible poster, and more.
BYE BYE GERMANY (Film Movement): Writer/director Sam Garbarski’s award-winning comedy/drama (originally titled Es war einmal in Deustchland …) is set in 1946 Frankfurt, with Mauritz Bleibtreu as the leader of a group of Holocaust survivors determined, by means fair or foul, to raise enough money to emigrate to America. In German with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
“THE FLASH: THECOMPLETE FOURTH SEASON” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Grant Gustin returns as scientist Barry Allen and his fleet-footed superhero alter-ego in all 23 episodes from the 2017-’18 season of the popular, award-winning CW fantasy/action series based on the DC Comics character, with Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Jesse L. Martin, Carlos Valdes, Keiynan Lonsdale, Tom Felton and Tom Cavanagh rounding out the regular cast. Both the DVD ($49.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($54.97 retail) boast special features.
“HOSTAGES”: SEASON 2 (Kino Lorber) A three-DVD collection ($29.95 retail) of all 12 episodes from the 2016 season of the award-winning Israeli suspense series (originally titled Bnei Aruba), created by Omri Givon and Roteem Shamir, in which the family of a noted surgeon (Ayelet Zurer) is taken captive by political extremists who demand that she carry out a political assassination lest her family be murdered – but that’s just the beginning of the story. This was later remade as an American series. In Hebrew with English subtitles.
JET TRASH (Indican Pictures): This flashy, choppy, uneven adaptation of Simon Lewis’s 1998 best-seller Go stars Robert Sheehan as a small-town con artist whose idyllic reverie in Southern India is interrupted by an unexpected reunion with old flame Sofia Boutella, the mistress of British gangster Craig Parkinson – who also shows up, bent on revenge. Occasionally inspired, but the characters aren’t necessarily likable or smart. **
“LUCIFER”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Tom Ellis returns as that handsome devil, who forsakes Hell to spend time in Los Angeles, in all 26 episodes from the 2017-’18 season of the Fox fantasy series created by Tom Kapinos and based on DC Entertainment’s Vertigo comic franchise, with Jerry Bruckheimer and Len Wiseman among the executive producers. Tom Welling joins the regular cast, which also includes Lauren German, D.B. Woodside, Tricia Helfer, Kevin Alejandro, and Rachael Harris, available on DVD ($39.99 retail) replete with bonus features for “Lucifer” lovers.
MOBSTER (Indican Pictures): Writer/producer/director Brian Eric Johnson’s low-budget 2013 crime drama stars Michel Wakim (in his screen debut) as an undercover FBI agent who infiltrates the inner circle of Israeli crime lord Meni Aga (in a showy screen debut) in Los Angeles. An interesting twist on the “found-footage” format, with the perspective always shown from surveillance cameras and video footage, including the hidden camera Wakim has in his tie. Gimmicky but worth watching, with Hamzah Saman (also making his screen debut) impressive as Aga’s increasingly concerned right-hand man. **½
PATHS (TLA Releasing): Director/cinematographer Chris Miera makes his feature debut as writer/producer of this German-language drama (originally titled Ein Weg) starring Mike Hoffmann and Mathis Reinhardt as long-term partners who reflect back on their relationship while assessing its current status, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
STRAIT-JACKET (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): William Castle’s lurid 1964 thriller, penned by Robert Bloch, stars a full-tilt John Crawford as a woman whose release after a 20-year institutionalization is followed by a series of brutal ax murders. One of many late-entry Crawford vehicles in which even her eyebrows did their share of emoting, lending it considerable camp appeal. George Kennedy, Diane Baker, Leif Erickson, Howard St. John, Rochelle Hudson, Edith Atwater, and an unbilled Lee Majors (in his screen debut) round out the cast, many playing red herrings. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($22.99 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, theatrical trailers, and more. **½
A THOUSAND ACRES (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Director Jocelyn Moorhouse’s award-winning 1997 adaptation of Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel transposes William Shakespeare’s King Lear to the Iowa prairie, with Michelle Pfeiffer (also an uncredited producer), Jessica Lange, and Jennifer Jason Leigh as the daughters of ailing farm patriarch Jason Robards. Despite a powerhouse cast that also includes Colin Firth, Keith Carradine, Kevin Anderson, John Carroll Lynch, Elisabeth Moss, Michelle Williams and the always-welcome Pat Hingle, this is a pretentious, ungainly misfire that doesn’t do the performers – or the source material – justice by any means. A critical and box-office misfire and a major disappointment. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.95 retail) include audio commentary and bonus trailers. Rated R. *½
TIDELAND (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A special-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) of Terry Gilliam’s controversial, award-winning, and often-divisive 2005 fantasy/drama, with Jodelle Ferland as a lonely young girl who conjures up a fantasy world in her imagination as a way of dealing with her irresponsible junkie parents (Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Tilly). Special features include audio commentary, retrospective featurettes and interviews, deleted scenes, Vincenzo Natali’s documentary Getting Gilliam, and more.
“UNIKITTY: SPARKLE PARTY SEASON ONE”: PART 1 (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The beloved titular character (voiced by Tara Strong) introduced in the 2014 blockbuster The LEGO Movie takes center stage in the popular, animated Cartoon Network series in which she tries to rid her kingdom of all negativity – sometimes with uproarious results. This two-DVD collection ($18.94 retail) includes 20 episodes from the inaugural 2017-’18 season.
WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Massimo Dallamano’s 1974 giallo thriller (originally titled La polizia chiede aiuto and released as The Co-Ed Murders in the U.S.) pits hot-tempered detective Claudio Cassinelli and attractive D.A. Giovanni Ralli against a murderous prostitution ring, with Mario Adorf, Marina Berti, Franco Fabrizi, Sherry Buchanan (in her screen debut), and American expatriate Farley Granger (whose billing was more prominent in the U.S. promotion) in support, available in a collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) that includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and both English- and original Italian-language tracks.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)