Video Vault – Dec 11, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
ROBOCOP (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Acclaimed Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven made a blistering American debut with this high-powered 1987 sci-fi action yarn that became an instant classic and remains a high-water mark of the genre.
In the near future, Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is gunned down in the line of duty. Thanks to the “largesse” of Omni Consumer Products (OCP) – a business consortium that essentially holds sway over the city – Murphy is resurrected as the title character, a hi-tech cyborg dedicated to fighting crime. (As the ads said: “Half man. Half machine. All cop.”)
The film not only delivers non-stop action (enough to originally earn it an X rating for violence) and futuristic thrills, existential undertones, and also a sharp and prescient satire that further elevates the narrative. This is one of those rare instances where all the elements, disparate though they may seem, come together in spectacular fashion.
In addition to Weller, who gives an excellent performance, the first-rate cast includes Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer, Kurtwood Smith, Robert DoQui, Ray Wise, Paul McCrane, Felton Perry, and Daniel O’Herlihy as OCP’s CEO, the “Old Man.”
In addition to kicking off a film and television franchise, RoboCop won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing and nominations for Best Editing and Best Sound.
Both the limited-edition Blu-ray and Steelbook (each $49.95 retail) include both the R-rated theatrical edition and unrated director’s cut, audio commentaries, retrospective interviews and featurettes, deleted scenes, the television version, and more. ****
AT THE DRIVE-IN (MVD Visual/MVD Entertainment Group): Alexander Monelli’s delightful, award-winning documentary feature about the Mahoning Drive-In, located in Pennsylvania, which opened in 1949 and in recent years became a revival theater showing 35mm film prints when studios opted to switch the digital projection. A must for film buffs, the DVD ($19.95 retail) includes audio commentaries, deleted scenes, trailer, and more. ***½
BAND VS. BRAND (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/producer/director Bob Nalbanian’s perceptive, persuasive feature documentary examines that state of the music industry in the 21st century, where commercialism and merchandising have taken precedence over the performers and the product, featuring interviews with musicians, managers, historians, publicists, and record executives. ***
D-DAY: BATTLE OF OMAHA BEACH (Cinedigm): This simple-minded dramatization of Operation Overlord’s massive June 6th invasion that turned the tide of World War II, is hardly a worthy commemoration of the event’s 75th anniversary, a dull compendium of war-movie clichés and dodgy CGI effects, with a cast including former pro wrestlers Randy Liddell (as Gen. Omar Bradley!) and Randy Coutore, and Hollywood offspring Weston Cage Coppola (son of Nicolas) and Jesse Kove (whose real-life dad Martin also appears). ½
THE DEAD CENTER (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/producer/director Billy Senese’s award-winning shocker starring Shane Carruth (also a producer) as a psychiatrist whose perspective is altered when he tends an amnesiac (Jeremy Childs), who claims to have returned from a near-death experience haunted by a supernatural force, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail), each replete with bonus features including audio commentaries, on-set interviews, featurettes, making-of documentary, short films, and more.
“DICK CAVETT: PIONEERS OF NEW YORK RADIO” (Liberation Hall/MVD Entertainment Group): A self-explanatory two-DVD collection ($24.95 retail) that sees the two-time Emmy Award-winning talk show host interviewing such radio personalities as Bob (Elliott) and Ray (Goulding), Don Imus, and the inimitable Howard Stern.
EMANUELLE IN AMERICA (Mondo Macabro/CAV Distributing): The Blu-ray bow ($29.99 retail) of the 1977 softcore sex romp (also released as Brutal Nights) with Laura Gemser reprising her role as the randy, jet-setting photo-journalist, this time uncovering an international political conspiracy when she infiltrates a high-class sex ring, co-starring Gemser’s real-life husband Gabriele Tinti. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interview, documentary about director Joe D’Amato (Aristide Massaccesi), and more.
HARD NIGHT FALLING (LionsGate): Few surprises in producer/director Giorgio Bruno’s sub-standard shoot-’em-up putting Interpol agent Dolph Lundgren (also a producer) against Hal Yamanouchi and his black-clad team of Euro-trash baddies when they attempt to steal treasure buried underneath an Italian villa. Rated R. ½
THE HOMECOMING (Kino Classics): A dysfunctonial British family’s neuroses come to the surface in Peter Hall’s impeccably acted 1973 adaptation of Harold Pinter’s Tony Award-winning stage drama, scripted by the author and produced by the American Film Theatre (AFT), with Paul Rogers as a tyrannical patriarch, Cyril Cusack as his timid brother, and Ian Holm, Terence Rigby, and Michael Jayston as Rogers’s sons, the latter joined by his new wife (Viven Merchant, Pinter’s then-wife) for a family reunion fraught with tension and, ultimately, ambiguity. Hall, Holm, and Rogers also won Tony Awards for the Broadway production. The Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes retrospective interviews and more. Rated PG. ***
“KENNY ROGERS: THE GAMBLER’S LAST DEAL” (Wienerworld/MVD Entertainment Group): The legendary, Grammy-winning singer celebrates his 60-year career as caps off his final world tour at the London Palladium in 2017, performing such chart-topping tunes as “The Gambler,” “Ruby,” “Islands in the Stream,” “Blaze of Glory,” “Lucille,” and many more, with special appearances by Dolly Parton, Allison Krauss, Dottie West, Lionel Richie, and others. The DVD/CD combo retails for $24.99.
LEONARD SOLOWAY’S BROADWAY (Hawk House Productions): Campbell Scott narrates Jeff Wolk’s enjoyable documentary feature tracing the life and career of legendary Broadway stage manager and producer Leonard Soloway, as he attempts to mount a Broadway production of Maurice Hines’s show Tappin’ Thru Life (for which Wolk was an investor). Both an affectionate portrait of a resilient impresario and an incisive look at the hurdles that face Broadway producers in the 21st century, available on DVD ($19.99 retail). ***
LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE (Kino Lorber): Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman produced and directed this award-winning, PG-13-rated documentary feature tracing the life and career of 10-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Linda Ronstadt, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail), each boasting bonus features.
LUCKY DAY (LionsGate): Roger Avary wrote and directed this R-rated thriller starring Luke Bracey as a recently paroled safecracker pursued by vengeful assassin Crispin Glover, with Nina Dobrev, Mark Dacascos, David Hewlett, and Clifton Collins Jr. caught in the crossfire, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.99 retail).
MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): James Cagney stars in this engrossing 1957 biographical drama tracing the life and career of screen legend Lon Chaney (1883-1930). Despite an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, this takes considerable factual liberties but hard-working Cagney holds it together, with Dorothy Malone, Jane Greer, Marjorie Rambeau, Jim Backus, Celia Lovsky, Jack Albertson, sister Jeanne Cagney, and future studio head/producer Robert Evans (in his screen debut) as Irving Thalberg, in support. The special-edition Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) includes audio commentary, original trailer, and more. ***
MARY (RLJE Films): Struggling sailor Gary Oldman purchases the title ship, unaware of its haunted history, in director/cinematographer Michael Goi’s sea-faring shocker. An interesting premise is poorly developed, wasting the talents of Oldman and onscreen spouse Emily Mortimer. Both the DVD ($29.96 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.97 retail) boast bonus features. *
“ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME: IN CONCERT” (Time Life): The title tells all in this 11-DVD collection ($99.99 retail) of over 100 performances from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies from 2010-’17, featuring such luminaries as U2, Chicago, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Simon & Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Ringo Starr, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Mick Jagger, Journey, James Taylor, and many others, as well as induction speeches and collectible booklets.
SAVAGE (Well Go USA Entertainment): Writer Cui Siwei makes his feature directorial debut with this award-winning action thriller (originally titled Xue bao) pitting hard-boiled cop Chang Chen against a gang of thieves during a raging blizzard atop Mout Baekdu. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
SOMEONE BEHIND THE DOOR (Kino Lorber Studios Classics): Director/screenwriter/associate producer Nicolas Gessner’s 1971 adaptation of screenwriter Jacques Robert’s novel (originally titled Quelqu’un derrière la porte) stars the ever-twitchy Anthony Perkins as a devious surgeon who manipulates amnesiac Charles Bronson to kill his unfaithful wife (Jill Ireland, Bronson’s real-life wife). Bronson and Perkins are nothing if not an interesting screen duo, but it’s not enough to save this murky psycho-thriller. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, theatrical trailer, radio spots, and more. Rated PG. **
THREE PEAKS (Greenwich Entertainment/Kino Lorber): Jan Zabeil’s award-winning drama (originally titled Drei Zinnen) is essentially a three-hander, detailing the emotionally and physically fraught vacation of an architect (Alexander Fehling), his girlfriend (Berenice Bejo), and her troubled young son (screen newcomer Arian Montgomery) in the Italian Dolomites. Visually impressive yet emotionally detached. In English, French, and German with English subtitles. Rated PG-13. **½
THE WHITE CROW (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Ralph Fiennes produced, directed, and co-stars (as ballet instructor Aleksandr Pushkin) in this adaptation of Julie Kavangh’s biography Rudolf Nureyev: The Life, scripted by David Hare, dramatizing the early years of superstar Soviet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko) until his 1961 defection to the East. Elegant and ornate, but long and fragmented, and heavy on symbolism, but Ivenko (in his screen debut) shines as a dancer and captures well the complexities of the young Nureyev. The DVD ($19.98 retail) includes bonus features. Rated R. **
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)