Video Vault – Feb 7, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Screenwriter Abby Mann’s fictionalized (but fact-inspired) dramatization of the Nuremberg trials had previously been made for television’s “Playhouse 90” in 1959, before producer/director Stanley Kramer mounted this powerhouse production for the big screen in 1961.
The year is 1948, Germany is rebuilding, and the world is recovering from World War II. Spencer Tracy portrays Dan Haywood, the chief justice in a military tribunal that has charged four powerful German judges for crimes against humanity under the Nazi regime, among them the once-esteemed legal scholar Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster).
For the prosecution, Richard Widmark as the steely Col. Tad Lawson. For the prosecution, Maximilian Schell as the wily Hans Rolfe. And thus begins an intense, thought-provoking treatise on the impact of man’s inhumanity to man, played beautifully by a stellar cast that also includes Marlene Dietrich, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland, and young William Shatner, as Haywood’s military adjutant.
Long but strong (and never dull), Judgment at Nuremberg was the first film to show actual footage of the concentration camps. That still packs a wallop, as does the film as a whole. Its meaning and message remain as potent and powerful as ever. Schell won the Oscar as Best Actor, Mann won for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Kramer received the Irving G. Thalberg Award, with the film receiving nine additional nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Tracy), Best Supporting Actor (Clift), Best Supporting Actress (Garland), Best Cinematography (black-and-white), Best Editing, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (black-and-white), and Best Costume Design (black-and-white).
The Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes retrospective featurettes and theatrical trailer. ****
ANGST (Cult Epics/CAV Distributing): A special-edition Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) of Gerald Kargl’s controversial 1983 debut feature (his only), starring Erwin Leder as a sadistic serial killer at large in the Viennese countryside, based on actual murderer Werner Kniesek. In German with English subtitles, special features include audio commentary, interviews, featurettes, and more.
THE APARTMENT (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): A limited-edition Blu-ray ($49.95 retail) of Billy Wilder’s biting, brash (and then-controversial) 1960 corporate satire, starring Jack Lemmon as an ambitious young office clerk who loans his apartment to higher-ups so they can indulge in adulterous trysts – until he becomes besotted with the unstable mistress (Shirley MacLaine) of his boss (Fred MacMurray). The supporting cast includes Ray Walston, Edie Adams, Jack Kruschen, and Hope Holiday. This cleaned up at the Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay (Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond), Best Editing and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (black-and-white), with nominations for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor (Kruschen), Best Cinematography (black-and-white), and Best Sound. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, featurettes, and more. ***½
BLADE RUNNER 2049 (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Ryan Gosling pursues Replicants in director Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited – and woefully overlong – follow-up to the 1982 sci-fi classic based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, with the first film’s director Ridley Scott aboard as executive producer. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard, with brief appearances by Edward James Olmos and Sean Young, and Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Hiam Abbass, Mackenzie Davis, Dave Bautista, and Jared Leto. Stunning visuals, but the narrative takes forever to unfold. Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Sound Effects, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects, available on DVD ($28.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail), 3-D Blu-ray combo ($44.95 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($44.95 retail) – each replete with special features. Rated R. **
CHASING THE DRAGON (Well Go USA Entertainment): Donnie Yen and Andy Lau team up for this fact-based action drama (originally titled Chui lung) set in 1960s Hong Kong, with Yen as a ruthless crime boss and Lau (reprising his titular role from the Lee Rock franchise) as a corrupt cop he tangles with. In English, Cantonese, Thai and Teochew with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
“EAST WEST 101”: SERIES 1 (Acorn TV): Don Hany stars as a Muslim police detective navigating the treacherous waters of crime and cultural bias in modern-day Sydney, in all six feature-length episodes from the inaugural 2007-’08 season of the award-winning Australian series created by Steve Knapman and Kris Wyld, available on DVD ($39.99 retail).
THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Tommy Lee Jones’ riveting, Emmy-winning performance as convicted murderer Gary Gilmore dominates producer/director Lawrence Schiller’s forceful 1982 adaptation of Norman Mailer’s Pultizer Prize-winning novel (scripted by the author), with sterling support from Rosanna Arquette (Emmy nominee as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Special), Eli Wallach, Christine Lahti, Steven Keats, Jenny Wright, Grace Zabriskie, Jordan Clarke, Walter Olkewicz and Richard Venture, to say nothing of Freddie Francis’ customarily excellent cinematography. Emmy winner for Outstanding Film Sound Editing for a Limited Series or Special, with additional nominations for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series or Special and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or Special. The special-edition Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) includes both the director’s cut and the original version, and bonus interview with Arquette. ***½
INOPERABLE (Zorya Films/Millman Productions/ITN Distribution): Director/producer/co-writer Christopher Lawrence Chapman’s award-winning (!) psycho-shocker stars Danielle Harris as a patient trapped in a time loop in a creepy Florida hospital during a hurricane. Twisty but underwhelming, despite splashes of gore and Harris’ hard-working performance. “Insufferable” is more like it. *
JAMON, JAMON (Olive Films): Bigas Luna’s award-winning 1992 comedy/drama pairs Penelope Cruz (in her screen debut) with future husband Javier Bardem in this romantic parable. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
JOJO SIWA: MY WORLD (Nickelodeon/Paramount): The youthful YouTube pop sensation and actress performs live in concert at Mall of America in this DVD documentary ($9.96 retail),replete with bonus features.
KILL ORDER (RLJE Films): Writer/editor/co-producer/executive producer/director James Mark’s slick but empty-headed debut feature is a sci-fi blowout starring Chris Mark as a tormented teenager whose superpowers are unleashed. The fight sequences are adeptly handled, but the mythology is mighty muddled indeed … with a strong indication of more to come. *½
OLD STONE (Zeitgeist Films/Kino Lorber): Writer/director Johnny Wa’s award-winning feature debut (originally titled Lao shi) stars Gang Chen as a cabbie confronted with bureaucratic corruption and hypocrisy after a traffic accident. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail), each replete with bonus features.
RESET (Well Go USA Entertainment): Yang Mi headlines this futuristic thriller (produced by Jackie Chan) as a scientist whose experiments in time-travel draws her into a web of danger and deception. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
“RUGRATS” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): Those tempestuous toddlers are back in action – and up to mischief – in the award-winning, animated Nickelodeon comedy series. The “Season Three” DVD ($16.99 retail) includes all 52 episodes from the 1993-’95 season, the “Season Four” DVD ($10.99 retail) includes all 17 episodes from the 1996-’97 season.
SEAT IN SHADOW (TLA Releasing): Artist Henry Coombes makes his feature debut as director/production designer/co-writer/co-star of this award-winning drama exploring the relationship that develops between artist/therapist David Sillars (making his debut as co-writer and actor) and withdrawn teenager Jonathan Leslie (in his screen debut), available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
SHOCKWAVE: COUNTDOWN TO DISASTER (Monarch Home Entertainment): Sub-par disaster saga in which a terrorist device called “Hellstone” causes seismic disturbances throughout the world. Cardboard characters and chintzy CGI effects dominate, although comic-relief computer geek Evan Sloane Weinstein is a scene-stealer (and throws in a Gene Hackman mention). *½
“STEVEN UNIVERSE”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Cartoon Network): A DVD collection ($24.98 retail) of all 52 episodes – plus special features – from the inaugural 2013-’15 season of the Emmy-nominated, animated Carton Network fantasy series detailing the misadventures of the title character (voiced by Zach Callison), a bumbling boy who possesses remarkable alien powers.
TIERRA (Olive Films): Writer/director Julio Medem’s award-winning 1996 drama (also released as Earth) stars Carmelo Gomez as an eccentric exterminator, recently released from a mental institution, who aids a wine-making community eradicate a onslaught of grubs while unexpectedly romancing two local women (Emma Suarez and Silke). In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
TOM OF FINLAND (Kino Lorber): Director Dome Karukoski’s award-winning, fact-based drama depicts the life of controversial Finnish artist and gay-rights activist Touko Laaksonen (1920-’91), as played by Pekka Strang. In Finnish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) – both replete with special features.
WALKING OUT (IFC Films/Shout! Factory): Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins star in sibling filmmakers Alex and Andrew J. Smith’s award-winning, PG-13-rated adaptation of David Quammen’s short story, playing an estranged father and son whose annual hunting trip in the wilds of Montana becomes a battle for survival, available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail).
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)