Video Vault – Dec 5, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!: THE ULTIMATE EDITION (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Although the current animated feature The Grinch, which has gobbled up box-office bucks this holiday season, is undeniably superior to the bloated live-action 2000 film, for many there’s only one Grinch – the animated, award-winning CBS version originally broadcast in 1966.
Based on the 1957 book by Dr. Seuss and narrated by the immortal Boris Karloff (who won a Grammy Award!), the story follows the wicked green Grinch as he schemes to ruin Christmas for the townspeople of Whoville, only to undergo a change of heart at the last minute.
Charmingly directed by the legendary Chuck Jones (with Ben Washam co-directing), little wonder that this has become a small-screen classic since its initial broadcast, delighting audiences of all ages for over 50 years.
Both the DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail) include the Emmy-winning follow-ups Halloween is Grinch Night (1977) narrated by Hans Conreid and The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat (1982) narrated by Mason Adams. ***½
ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING (RLJE Films): The husband-and-wife duo of David Ian McKendry and Rebekah McKendry make their feature debut as co-writers/directors of this brisk but uneven anthology of horrific holiday-themed shorts, with an ensemble cast including Amanda Fuller (in multiple roles), Constance Wu, Jonathan Kite, Jocelin Donahue, Mark Kelly, Matt Long and Ashley Clements, available on DVD ($27.97 retail) featuring audio commentary. **
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY (MVD Entertainment Group): Michael J. Fox stars in director James Bridges’ final film, a well-intentioned but flabby 1988 adaptation of Jay McInerney’s best-seller (scripted by the author), as a disillusioned writer swept up in substance abuse and despair in New York City. The hard-working cast includes Kiefer Sutherland, Dianne Wiest, Phoebe Cates, Frances Sternhagen, Swoosie Kurtz, John Houseman, Tracy Pollan (who later married Fox), William Hickey, Sam Robards, Charlie Schlatter (in his screen debut), David Hyde-Pierce (in his screen debut), Jessica Lundy (in her screen debut), and an unbilled Jason Robards (Sam’s real-life father). The “MVD Marquee” special-edition Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentaries, featurettes, original trailer, and more. Rated R. **
“ELEMENTARY”: THE SIXTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are back on the case as the 21st-century Sherlock Holmes and Dr. (Joan) Watson, in all 21 episodes from the 2018 season of the award-winning CBS mystery series inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters, now available in a six-DVD collection ($44.99 retail), replete with special features.
ELIZABETH I AND HER ENEMIES (Athena): Historians Dan Jones and Suzannah Lipscomb’s three-part 2017 docu-drama mini-series tracing the reign of the titular monarch (played by Lily Cole as the younger and Felicity Dean the older), Audrey L’Ebrellec (as Mary, Queen of Scots), Kate Holderness (reprising her role as Catherine Parr from Henry VIII and His Six Wives), Vincent Kerschbaum, Daisy Ashford and Darren Bransford, available on DVD ($34.99 retail).
FIREWORKS (GKIDS/Shout! Factory): This feature-length anime fantasy extravaganza, subtitled Fireworks, Should We See it from the Side or the Bottom? (and originally titled Uchiage hanabi, shita kara miru ka? Yoko kara miru ka?), this follows an intrepid group of teenagers who discover a device that can turn back time – but not without unforeseen complications. Both the DVD ($16.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($26.99 retail) offer both the original Japanese and dubbed English soundtracks, plus bonus features.
FOREVER MY LOVE (Film Movement): The DVD debut ($24.95 retail) of the 1962 historical epic culled from writer/director Ernst Marischka’s “Sissi” trilogy – Sissi (1955), Sissi: The Young Empress (1956) and Sissi: The Fateful Years of the Empress (1957) – which catapulted Romy Schneider to international stardom in the dramatization of the life of Archduchess Sophie of Austria and her romance with Emperor Franz Joseph (Karlheinz Bohm), replete with bonus features.
THE LADYBUG (LionsGate): YouTube sensation Lisa Schwartz lends her vocal talents to the title character of this PG-rated, family-friendly animated feature, in which she takes flight in search of the mystical Golden Canyon, also featuring voice-over turns by Haylie Duff, Jon Heder, and Norm Macdonald, available on DVD ($19.98 retail).
LEARNING TO SEE: THE WORLD OF INSECTS (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): A special-edition DVD ($24.95 retail) of the award-winning 2016 documentary, in which filmmaker Joel Oelman recounts the work of his father, noted nature photographer Robert Oelman, who traveled to the Colombian rainforests to document the many species of insect life that dwell there. Special features include featurette, music video, original trailer, and more.
MDMA (Shout! Studios): Writer/producer/director Angie Wang’s autobiographical drama (originally titled Angie X) dramatizes the life of a college freshman (Annie Q.) who makes ends meet by selling Ecstasy and ends up one of the West Coast’s most infamous dealers in the 1980s, available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.7 retail), each boasting bonus features including audio commentary, interviews, and more.
NUMBER ONE FAN (Distrib Films/Icarus Films Home Video): Director/screenwriter Jeanne Henry’s award-winning 2014 debut feature (originally titled Elle l’adore) stars Laurent Lafitte as a legendary pop star who engages obsessed fan Sandrine Kiberlain to hide the body of girlfriend Lou Lesage after accidentally killing her. This slow-simmering suspense yarn methodically ratchets up the tension during Kiberlain’s interrogation by detectives Pascal Demolun and Olivia Cote, whose off-hours relationship further complicates the case. In French with English subtitles. Rated PG. ***
OCEAN’S EIGHT (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): As Danny Ocean’s equally ingenious sibling, Sandra Bullock headlines this Ocean’s Eleven spin-off, in which she masterminds a meticulous heist at New York’s annual Met Gala to relieve Hollywood star Anne Hathaway of a priceless diamond necklace, aided and abetted by Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Rhianna, and Awkwafina, with Dakota Fanning, James Corden, Marlo Thomas, Dana Ivey, Elizabeth Ashley, Elliott Gould (reprising his role as Reuben), and a slew of celebrities on hand, available on DVD ($28.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($44.95 retail), each replete with special features.
THE OWL’S LEGACY (Icarus Films Home Video): A two-DVD collection ($34.98 retail) of all 13 episodes from Chris Marker’s 1990 documentary mini-series (originally titled L’heritage de la choulette) detailing the widespread impact of ancient Greek culture upon contemporary society, narrated by Andre Dussollier. In English, French, and Greek with English subtitles.
RIDE (RLJE Films): Writer/director Jeremy Ungar’s slick debut feature is a three-hander set during a single night in Los Angeles, with executive producer Jesse T. Usher as a struggling actor and ride-share driver, executive producer Bella Thorne as the comely passenger he picks up, and Will Brill as the chatty psychopath who proceeds to terrorize them both. Great cinematography by UNCSA School of Filmmaking graduate Rob C. Givens, but the twist ending is too ambiguous. Both the DVD ($29.96 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.97 retail) include Ungar’s original short Ride. **½
“SCORPION”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): The timely topic of hi-tech espionage is dramatized in this CBS series created by Nick Santora, with an ensemble cast including Elyes Gabel, Katharine McPhee, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jadyn Wong, Ari Stidham and Robert Patrick, available in a 24-DVD collection ($79.99 retail) boasting all 94 episodes from the entire 2014-’18 run plus bonus features.
“SINGLE-HANDED”: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION” (Acorn TV): A self-explanatory six-DVD collection ($64.99 retail) of all six episodes and three feature-length episodes from the entire 2007-’10 run of the award-winning crime series, created by Barry Simner and Rob Pursey, starring Owen McConnell as a tenacious detective sergeant who returns to his hometown on the west coast of Ireland to take over the position vacated by his retired father (Ian McElhinney). Stephen Rea, David Herlihy, Ruth McCabe, Sean McGinley, Caroline Katz, Simone Lahbib, and Matthew McNulty also appear.
SINGLE WHITE FEMALE (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) of director Barbet Schroeder’s glossy and award-winning — but fatally one-dimensional – 1992 adaptation of John Lutz’s best-selling novel SWF Seeks Same, with Jennifer Jason Leigh the obsessive, ultimately psychotic, tenant who makes Bridget Fonda’s life a living hell. Despite a good cast including Steven Weber, Peter Friedman, Jessica Lundy, Kenneth Tobey and reliable Stephen Tobolowsky, this holds few surprises. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and theatrical trailer. Rated R. *½
SK8 DAWG (LionsGate): Timid teen J.D. Hoppe picks up some skateboarding pointers from his pet pooch (voiced by David Arquette) in this family-friendly, G-rated comedy featuring Joey Lawrence, Sara Fletcher and real-life skateboard legend Tony Hawk, available on DVD ($14.98 retail).
“SUCCESSION”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (HBO): Brian Cox portrays the patriarch of a powerful media family whose empire is threatened by internal strife, in all 11 episodes from the inaugural 2018 season of the HBO drama series created by executive producer Jesse Armstrong, featuring an ensemble cast including Nicholas Hoult, Hiam Abbass, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin, Peter Friedman, Matthew Macfadyen, Natalie Gold, and Alan Ruck, available on DVD ($29.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($37.99 retail) — both with bonus content.
“VERA”: SETS 1-7 COLLECTION (Acorn TV): A self-explanatory, 28-DVD collection ($219.99 retail) of all 28 feature-length episodes from the 2011-’17 seasons of the award-winning ITV Studios mystery series inspired by the best-selling novels by Ann Cleeves, with Brenda Blethyn in the title role of the brilliantly eccentric detective who delves into seemingly insurmountable cases in the northeast of England, aided and abetted by detective sergeants David Leon (Seasons 1-5) and Kenny Doughty (currently), featuring guest appearances by Liam Cunningham, John Lynch, Phyllis Logan, Judy Parfitt, Rose Leslier, Gina McKee, Julie Graham, and others.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)