Video Vault – Feb 13, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE HATE U GIVE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Producer/director George Tilman Jr.’s award-winning adaptation of the best-selling 2017 Angie Thomas novel conveys a relevant and timely message within the framework of an enlightening and entertaining drama.
Young Amandla Stenberg is first-rate in the pivotal role of Starr Carter, a bright and astute teenager torn between a life of privilege and struggle. Although her family lives in a predominantly black area of town, she attends private school and is a popular student, replete with a handsome, attentive boyfriend, Chris (K.J. Apa) – who happens to be white.
Starr’s two worlds collide when Khalil (Algee Smith), her childhood best friend, is gunned down by police after a routine traffic stop while she watches in horror. The incident makes headlines and threatens to divide the community, with Starr caught in the middle, deciding whether or not to testify before a grand jury.
Although the film occasionally relies too heavily on Stenberg’s narration and intermittently gets tangled up in its good intentions, The Hate U Give is a powerful portrait of contemporary society, encompassing more themes and idea beyond just the obvious ones, with each character – black and white — undergoing a measure of personal realization or transformation over the course of the narrative.
A terrific ensemble cast includes Regina King and Russell Hornsby (especially good) as Starr’s parents, Lamar Johnson as her older half-brother, hip-hop icon Common as her uncle (and a local police officer), and Anthony Mackie as the neighborhood crime lord, whose own agenda threatens further upheaval and destruction. Sadly, the film marks the cinematic swan song of producer/screenwriter Audrey Wells, who died on the eve of its release.
The DVD ($29.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($39.99 retail) each include bonus features. Rated PG-13. ***½
COBRA (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) of the slick, violent and nasty 1986 Sylvester Stallone vehicle, produced by the inimitable Golan/Globus duo and adapted from Paula Gosling’s novel Fair Game by Stallone himself, in which he plays the title role of a hard-bitten, relentless Los Angeles detective who battles psychotic, serial-killing, neo-Nazi bikers (led by Brian Thompson) who have targeted fashion model Brigitte Nielsen (then Mrs. Stallone) for extermination. Directed with characteristic bluntness and bluster by George P. Cosmatos (who helmed Rambo: First Blood Part II the year before), although Stallone reportedly had a (major) hand in directing this. Reni Santoni, Andrew Robinson, Art LaFleur, Val Avery, Lee Garlington and David Rasche round out a competent but untaxed cast. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, vintage featurette, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated R. **
GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Jack Black (briefly) reprises his role as author R.L. Stine in this PG-rated, family-friendly follow-up to the 2015 box-office hit, in which teenager Madison Iseman, younger brother Jeremy Ray Taylor, and his best friend Caleel Harris battle supernatural forces unleashed by one of Stine’s books, while Wendi McClendon-Covey, Chris Parnell, Greensboro’s own Ken Jeong, Shari Headley, and the actual Stine (in a cameo) round out the adult contingent, available on DVD ($30.99 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($45.99 retail) – each replete with special features.
GRAND-DADDY DAY CARE (Revolution Studios/Universal 1440 Entertainment/Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): This belated, self-explanatory, and fairly feeble follow-up to Daddy Day Care (2003) stars Reno Wilson as a struggling writer who opens his house to his ex-con father-in-law (Danny Trejo) and decides to make ends meet by having local senior citizens also gather there. A one-joke concept, sprinkled with maudlin sentiment, which squanders a likable cast that includes Barry Bostwick, Hal Linden, George Wendt, Julia Duffy, Linda Gray, Margaret Avery, James Hong, Garrett Morris, Clint Howard and Ed Quinn. Rated PG-13. *
HOT TO TROT (First Run Features): Producer/director Gail Freedman’s feature documentary debut examines the phenomenon of same-sex ballroom dancing, following four different men and women as they strive to participate in the quadrennial Gay Games competition – while also contending with discrimination and personal hardships, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
I AM NOT A WITCH (Film Movement): Writer/director Rungaro Nyoni’s award-winning drama examines the superstitions of modern-day Zambia, with newcomer Maggie Mulubwa as a child accused of witchcraft imprisoned in a state-run camp run by a corrupt government official (Henry B.J. Phiri), where she becomes an unlikely celebrity. In English and Nyanja with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail), replete with bonus features.
MANIAC (Blue Underground/MVD Entertainment Group): Producer/director William Lustig’s notorious 1980 shocker stars the inimitable Joe Spinell (also executive producer and co-screenwriter) in his signature role as Frank Zito, a psychotic New Yorker who stalks, slays and scalps his female victims – when he’s not blowing their boyfriends’ heads off with a shotgun. Caroline Munro adds some class (and a breath of fresh air) as the fashion photographer whom Zito becomes infatuated with. Relentlessly cruel and violent, yet undeniably effective as an exploitation film, with Tom Savini’s gruesome makeup effects a standout (he’s the one whose head gets blown off, too). The firestorm of controversy that surrounded this film only served to increase its popularity over the years and ensure its status as a cult classic … but it’s definitely not for all tastes. The limited-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, David Gregory’s wonderful 2001 documentary The Joe Spinell Story, vintage featurettes and advertising, theatrical trailers, TV and radio spots, and much more. **
MERMAID, LAKE OF THE DEAD (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): As the title indicates, writer/director Svytoslav Podgaevsky’s ethereal shocker (originally titled Rusalka: Ozero myortvykh) puts a monstrous spin on the mermaid myth, with newcomer Sofia Shidlovskaya as the seductive but savage siren of the seas. Both the DVD ($16.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail) include the original Russian soundtrack (with subtitles) and English-dubbed soundtrack.
THE NIGHT IS SHORT, WALK ON GIRL (GKIDS/Shout! Factory): Director Masaaki Yuasa’s award-winning, animated, PG-13-rated adaptation of Tomihiko Morimi’s novel (originally titled Yoru wa mijikashi aruke yo otome) follows a group of teenagers as they roam the streets of Kyoto looking for fun and adventure. In Japanese with English subtitles, available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($26.99 retail) boasting bonus features.
NUDE AREA (Omnibus Entertainment): Writer/director Urszula Antoniak’s award-winning, dialogue-free 2014 two-hander details the romance between Dutch teenager Sammy Boonstra and Arab immigrant Imaan Hammam (both making their screen debuts) after they encounter one another in an Amsterdam sauna. An exercise in style graced by Piotr Sobocinski Jr.’s sensuous cinematography. **½
“PEPPA PIG: WHEN I GROW UP” (Entertainment One/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A DVD compilation ($14.98 retail) of 12 “piggy tales” from the award-winning, animated Nick Jr. children’s series, created by Neville Astley and Mark Baker and narrated by John Sparkes, following the misadventures of the title character (voiced first by Cecily Bloom and then by Harley Bird) as she navigates childhood.
PLANETARY (Bullfrog Films): Filmmaker Guy Reid follows his 2012 documentary short Overview with this 2015 feature-length documentary that examines various observations and perspectives of Earth by astronauts, historians, scientists, religious pundits – while encompassing their concerns about the environmental fragility that threatens the planet’s ecosystem, to say nothing of its inhabitants. The DVD ($24.95 retail) includes Overview, theatrical trailer, and a condensed version of this film.
“TESTOSTERONE”: VOLUME TWO (Dekkoo Shorts/TLA Releasing): The second in an ongoing series of critically acclaimed, gay-themed short films in a DVD compilation ($24.99 retail): Writer/producer/director Joseph A. Adensunloye’s Beyond Plain Sight (2014), director/executive producer/star Jason Stuart’s Like Father (2017), writer/producer/director Alejandro Beltran’s Lost Years (2016), director Diego Freitas’s award-winning, Portuguese-language Sal. (2016), actor-turned-producer/director Andrew Keenan-Bolger’s award-winning debut Sign (2016), and director Niels Bourgonje’s award-winning, Dutch-language Turn It Around (2017).
THIS IS OUR LAND (Icarus Films Home Video): Emilie Dequenne stars in director/screenwriter Lucas Belvaux’s timely, persuasive, award-winning political parable (originally titled Chez Nous) as a divorced nurse tapped to run for office by a reactionary right-wing party, unaware that she is merely a cog in a powerful machine that makes and breaks its own rules. Dequenne and Philippe Berthier (as the doctor who recruits her) are entirely credible in their roles. In French with English subtitles. Rated PG. ***
VALENTINE (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) of director Jamie Blanks’s trite, ham-fisted 2001 adaptation of Tom Savage’s best-seller, in which glamorous women are stalked and slain by an unknown assailant. An attractive, star-studded cast includes Denise Richards, David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Katherine Heigl, Jessica Capshaw, Jessica Cauffiel and Hedy Burress, but they have precious little to work with – and it’s hardly a surprise whodunit. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, vintage featurettes, music video, and more. Rated R. *
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY … (Shout! Factory): Producer/director Rob Reiner’s breezy, award-winning 1989 romantic comedy stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in the title roles of long-time friends unprepared when their relationship turns romantic, while respective best friends Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher hover on the sidelines. This surprise box-office sleeper has sustained 30 years, but it’s pretty predictable and often smacks of “Woody Allen Lite.” A classic? Hardly. Nora Ephron’s original screenplay earned an Oscar nomination. The “Shout Select” 30th-anniversary collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, vintage featurette, music video, and more. Rated R. **½
WINTER BROTHERS (Icarus Films Home Video): Writer/producer/director Hlynur Palmason’s award-winning debut feature (originally titled Vinterbrodre) stars Elliott Crosset Hove and Simon Sears as siblings living in a remote mining town whose already tenuous relationship is further strained when they become embroiled in a violent feud within the community and find themselves competing for the same woman (Victoria Carmen Sonne). In Danish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail)
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)