Video Vault – Dec 20, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
THE WHALES OF AUGUST (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The chief pleasure of Lindsay Anderson’s award-winning 1987 adaptation of David Berry’s play (adapted by the author) is savoring the venerable all-star cast: Bette Davis, Lillian Gish (in her final film), Vincent Price, Harry Carey Jr., and Ann Sothern (in her final film), who bring an unmistakable grace to the proceedings.
Libby (Davis) and Sarah (Gish) are widowed sisters spending what may be their final summer at a cottage on the coast of Maine. Libby, the elder, is blind and embittered; Sarah, the younger, is compassionate and dutiful to her sister’s needs. Sothern plays their childhood friend and neighbor, Tisha, Price a charming Russian expatriate, and Carey the local handyman.
As Libby, Sarah and Tisha recall their early lives, they’re played in flashbacks by Margaret Ladd, Mary Steenburgen and Tisha Sterling (Sothern’s real-life daughter). Beautifully photographed by Mike Fash, the story is simple yet elegant, eloquent, and sublime – and beautifully played by all concerned, with Sothern receiving an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress.
Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, vintage and retrospective interviews and documentaries, collectible booklet, and more. Rated PG. ***½
“THE 2017 WORLD SERIES” (Major League Baseball/Shout! Factory): The Houston Astros won their first World Series, but it took seven games – and some measure of controversy – for them to best the Los Angeles Dodgers. The “2017 World Series Film” is available on DVD ($24.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.93 retail); the “2017 World Series Collector’s Edition: Houston Astros,” which includes the full broadcasts of all seven games (plus bonus features) is available on DVD ($59.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($79.97 retail).
ANIMAL FACTORY (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Steve Buscemi produced, directed and co-stars in this raw, hard-hitting 2000 adaptation of co-star/producer/screenwriter Edward Bunker’s novel about life in San Quentin, with Eddie Furlong as a young inmate mentored by cell-block king Willem Dafoe, backed by a star-studded cast including Mickey Rourke, Danny Trejo (who actually served in San Quentin), Mark Boone Junior, John Heard, Seymour Cassel, and Tom Arnold – astonishingly effective as a pedophile. The special-edition Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) includes audio commentary, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated R. ***
COPS AND ROBBERS (LionsGate): Police negotiator Michael Jai White is called to the scene of a bank robbery – masterminded by his very own brother (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) – in this routine shoot-’em-up, hamstrung by writer Scott Windhauser’s direction, which is strictly by the numbers. Jackson and White are superior to the material, while Tom Berenger shows up as the obligatory hard-boiled top cop. Rated R. *½
“CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION” – THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): The title tells all in this massive 93-DVD collection ($199.99 retail) of all 337 episodes – plus bonus features – from the entire 2000-’15 run of the Emmy-winning CBS mystery series, which spawned numerous spin-offs (and imitations), dramatizing the efforts of forensic investigators to solve difficult crimes, with a star-studded cast of regulars that included, at various points, William Petersen, Marg Helgenberger, Laurence Fishburne, Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue.
DEATH LAID AN EGG (Cult Epics): Giulio Questi’s heady, highly stylized and wildly off-balance 1968 giallo (originally titled La more ha fatto l’uovo) stars Gina Lollobrigida and Jean-Louis Trintignant as owners of a high-tech poultry farm (hence the title) whose troubled marriage is exacerbated by his womanizing (he’s also possibly a serial killer), and Ewa Aulin as their tempestuous assistant, in a pseudo-reprise of Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques (1955). Originally rated X (!) in the United States, this mash-up of art-house and exploitation elements doesn’t really work but is interesting nonetheless – as well as something of a cult classic. The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.95 retail) includes theatrical trailer, isolated score by Bruna Maderna, and lobby-card photo gallery. In Italian with English subtitles. **
“THE FALL”: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (Acorn): Relentless police inspector Gillian Anderson’s on the trail of methodical Belfast serial killer Jamie Dornan, in all 18 episodes from the 2013-’16 seasons of the award-winning BBC Two crime series written and created by Allan Cubit, with Archie Punjabi, John Lynch and Colin Morgan rounding out the regular cast, available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $69.99 retail), each replete with bonus features.
“FARGO”: SEASON THREE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A DVD collection ($39.98 retail) of all 10 episodes – plus bonus features — from the 2017 season of the fact-based black-comedy/crime drama anthology series, aired on FX, set in and around the titular North Dakota town, and inspired by Joel and Ethan Coen’s acclaimed 1996 film, with the Coens serving as executive producers. The ensemble cast includes Ewan McGregor (as twin brothers), Carrie Coon, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Goran Bogdan, Mary McDonnell, Shea Whigham, Hamish Linklater, and David Thewlis. Emmy winner for Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special (Original Dramatic Score), with an additional 13 nominations including Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Mini-Series or Movie (McGregor), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie (Coon), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (Thewlis), Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special, and Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special.
GENERAL IDI AMIN DADA: A SELF PORTRAIT (The Criterion Collection): Barbet Schroder’s fascinating 1974 documentary sheds a light on the notorious Ugandan dictator at the height of his power, produced (at the time) with the full cooperation of Amin himself. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include retrospective interviews and more. ***
GUN RUNNERS (Bond 360/Film Movement): Writer/director Anjali Nayar’s feature documentary debut focuses on Kenyans Julius Arile and Robert Matanda, childhood friends-turned-warriors who opted to leave their pasts behind to become marathon runners, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
HANA-BI (Film Movement): A special collector’s-edition of Takeshi “Beat” Kitano’s award-winning 1997 action thriller (released in the US as Fireworks), in which he portrays a disillusioned detective whose dealings with the yakuza underworld lead him into trouble. In Japanese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) – each replete with bonus features including audio commentary, collectible booklet and more.
THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD (LionsGate): Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds team up for action in this raucous, R-rated shoot-’em up in which Reynolds plays a secret agent assigned to protect assassin-for-hire (and longtime nemesis) Jackson so he can testify against Euro-trash baddie Gary Oldman, with Salma Hayek, Richard E. Grant, Elodie Young and Joaquim De Almeida in the line of fire, available on DVD ($29.95 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD ($42.99 retail) – each replete with bonus features.
ON WINGS OF EAGLES (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Joseph Fiennes plays real-life Olympic champion Eric Liddell (one of the main characters in 1981’s Oscar winner Chariots of Fire) in this fact- and faith-based dramatization of his years incarcerated in a Japanese prison camp during World War II, co-directed by producers Stephen Shin and Michael Parker (also a screenwriter). Fiennes suffers nobly onscreen, but like many faith-based films this tends toward the heavy-handed and melodramatic. Rated PG-13. *½
PATTI CAKE$ (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Writer/director Geremy Jasper’s brash, bittersweet, award-winning comedy/drama offers a star-making turn by Danielle Macdonald in the title role, a working-class Jersey girl whose dreams of hip-hop stardom prove an arduous test of her mettle and resilience. Both the DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail) include bonus features. Rated R. ***
THE RIFT: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Reportedly the first science-fiction film made in Serbia, this dire and dreary melodrama stars Ken Foree (also a co-producer), Katarina Cas, Dragan Micanovic and Monte Markham as members of a top-secret military team that encounters bizarre and deadly phenomena when investigating the crash of a satellite near a remote farm. This doesn’t add up to much, despite an intriguing concept and the efforts of Foree, Cas and Markham – then ultimately (and predictably) culminates in a third-act bloodbath. *½
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A two-disc collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) of the 1984 yuletide shocker starring Robert Brian Wilson (in his screen debut) as a demented teenager who dons a Santa Claus suit and goes on a violent rampage on Christmas Eve. Wildly controversial – enough to compel original distributor Tri-Star Pictures to dump the film – but pretty standard schlock, despite a sizable cult following. Special features include audio commentaries, retrospective documentary and interviews, and the extended unrated version. Rated R. *½
“A TOWN CALLED PANIC: THE COLLECTION” (GKIDS/Shout! Factory): A self-explanatory Blu-ray collection ($24.97 retail) of the award-winning 2009 animated feature (originally titled Panique au village), plus the award-winning shorts Christmas Panic and Back to School Panic, the new short The Sound of the Grey, and 20 episodes from the subsequent children’s television series.
VICTORIA & ABDUL (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): The inimitable Judi Dench reprises her role as Queen Victoria (from 1997’s Mrs. Brown, for which she earned her first Oscar nomination) in Stephen Frears’ elegant, irresistible, award-winning adaptation of Sharbani Basu’s non-fiction best-seller, dramatizing the friendship between the venerable British monarch and an Indian clerk (Ali Fazal), which served to reinvigorate her – but sent shock waves through the corridors of power. An appealing cast includes Eddie Izzard (a particularly snide Edward VII), Michael Gambon, Olivia Williams, Adeel Akhtar, Julian Wadham, Fenella Woolgar, Paul Higgins, Simon Callow (as Giacomo Puccini), and the late Tim Pigott-Smith (in his final onscreen role). Frears delights in poking fun at the “pomp-and-circumstance” of the monarchy, yet there’s also a relevant and emotionally affecting subtext. The film, which is dedicated to Pigott-Smith and production designer Alan MacDonald, is available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail). Rated PG-13. ***
“ZOO”: SEASON THREE (CBS DVD/Paramount): A DVD collection ($39.98 retail) of all 13 episodes – and bonus features — from the 2017 (and final) season of the CBS science-fiction series based on James Patterson’s best-selling novel, starring James Wolk as a zoologist investigating a spate of animal attacks throughout the world in the near future. The regular cast also includes Kristen Connolly, Nonso Anozie, Alyssa Diaz, Josh Salatin, and Billy Burke.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2017, Mark Burger)