Video Vault – Feb 27, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
THE WIFE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Seven nominations, but still no Oscar for Glenn Close (as Best Actress) for her persuasive turn as the title character in this well-acted, if highly theatrical, adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s best-selling novel, which languished nearly 15 years before making it to the screen.
Close portrays Joan Castleman, the wife of noted author Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce). When he is selected to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, the trip to Stockholm compels her to look back on their 40-year relationship – sometimes with joy and sometimes with anger. What should be a celebration instead becomes an opportunity to dredge up old memories and recriminations, including the very real possibility that Joan was responsible for much of Joe’s work.
In addition to Close and Pryce, who bring great conviction to their roles and exude crackling screen chemistry, there are solid contributions by Annie Starke (Close’s daughter, in her screen debut) and Harry Lloyd, seen in flashbacks as Joan and Joe; Max Irons as son David, himself an aspiring author who accompanies them to Stockholm; and Christian Slater, in a smart turn as Joe’s would-be biographer, one Nathaniel Bone, forever lurking in the periphery waiting to pounce.
Both the DVD ($25.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($30.99 retail) boast bonus features. Rated R. ***
ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970: SEX FASHION & DISCO (Film Movement): Writer/producer/director James Crump’s self-explanatory, award-winning documentary feature offers a lively and appropriately colorful chronicle of the life of the acclaimed Puerto Rican-born, New York-based fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez (1943-1987), featuring a star-studded array of interviews with, among others, Jessica Lange, Patti D’Arbanville, Pat Cleveland, Michael Chow, Bob Colacello, Joan Juliet Buck, Paul Carinacas, and the final interview with photographer Bill Cunningham (to whom the film is dedicated). ***
“ACQUITTED” (MHz Networks): Nicolai Cleve Brock stars in this popular Norwegian drama series (originally titled “Frikjent”) created by Anna Bache-Wiig and Siv Rajendram Eliassen, in which he plays a high-powered business tycoon who returns to the home town he left years before – after being acquitted of his high-school sweetheart’s murder – in order to save it from financial ruin, only to confront lingering resentment and suspicion. “Season One” ($39.95 retail) contains all 10 episodes from the inaugural 2015 season in a three-DVD collection; “Season Two” ($39.95 retail) all eight episodes from the 2015 season in a three-DVD collection – both in Norwegian and Swedish with English subtitles.
CRIMSON PEAK (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Even great directors have their off days – and off movies – and so it is with Guillermo del Toro’s award-winning 2015 chiller starring Mia Wasikowska as an impressionable innocent enmeshed in dark doings when she marries brooding Tom Hiddleston and is whisked away to a crumbling Victorian mansion to live with him and his equally mysterious sister (Jessica Chastain), at which point things go downhill, although not rapidly enough. This has style to burn but no coherence, and is so steeped in references (H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Roger Corman, Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and countless more) that it collapses under the weight. An unholy mess that nonetheless has its cult following – and they’re welcome to it. The limited-edition Blu-ray ($49.95 retail) includes audio commentary, feature-length documentary, featurettes, and more. Rated R. *
“THE CRITTERS COLLECTION” (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): The title tells all in this four-disc Blu-ray collection ($69.97 retail) of all four films – plus bonus features – from the light-hearted, science-fiction franchise that served New Line Cinema well: The original 1986 sleeper Critters, which marked the feature debut of screenwriter/director Stephen Herek; the 1988 follow-up Critters 2: The Main Course, which marked the feature debut of director (and frequent Stephen King collaborator) Mick Garris; 1991’s Critters 3, which marked Leonardo DiCaprio’s feature debut; and 1992’s Critters 4, which paired series regulars Don Opper and Terrence Mann (a UNCSA graduate) with Angela Bassett and Brad Dourif. Each film is rated PG-13.
ELIZABETH HARVEST (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Writer/producer/director Sebastian Gutierrez’s arch, sleek, kinky sci-fi/psychological thriller stars Abbey Lee in the title role of a young newlywed whose scientist husband (Ciaran Hinds), a literal “lady-killer,” hides a few secrets of his – and her – own. This puts an intriguing spin on the Bluebeard scenario, to say nothing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the P.L. James Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, with Matthew Beard, Dylan Baker, and ever-dishy Carla Gugino rounding out a tight ensemble, available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail). Rated R. ***
THE FIFTH CORD (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A special-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) of director/screenwriter Luigi Bazzoni’s 1971 adaptation of the D.M. Devine novel (originally titled Giornata nera per l’ariete and released as Evil Fingers in the United States in 1975), a typically atmospheric and garish giallo thriller starring Franco Nero as a booze-soaked reporter determined to solve a series of brutal assaults in which he’s implicated, backed by a star-studded cast including Pamela Tiffin, Edmund Purdom, Wolfgang Preiss, Silvia Monti, Rossella Falk, Agostina Belli and Ira von Furstenberg, and accentuated by Ennio Morricone’s score. Special features include retrospective interviews and featurettes, theatrical trailers, and more. **½
GLASTONBURY FAYRE: 1971 THE TRUE SPIRIT OF GLASTONBURY (Odeon Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Peter Neal and an uncredited Nicolas Roeg co-directed this 1972 music documentary about the titular English rock festival that has become an enormously popular annual tradition, featuring such artists as Traffic, Fairport Convention, Arthur Brown, Gong, Melanie, Kingdom Come, Quintessence and many others, available on DVD ($19.95 retail), featuring audio commentary by Roeg (who died last November).
HENRI (Monarch Home Entertainment): The auteur known as Octavian O. takes credit as writer/director/cinematographer/editor of this woefully low-budget, one-note action melodrama starring Eli Jeffree Zen in the title role of a Hindu monk in Florida whose martial-arts mastery comes in handy when redneck siblings assault and rape his new girlfriend (Lori Katz). The “name” actors are wasted: Robert LaSardo as a heavily-inked sheriff, a bored-looking Burt Reynolds (in one of his last roles) as LaSardo’s estranged father, and Eric Roberts as the disinterested redneck patriarch. ½
“HEY ARNOLD!”: THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION (Nickelodeon/Paramount): A self-explanatory 18-DVD collection ($50.99 retail) of all 100 episodes – plus bonus features (including the PG-rated 2002 feature spin-off Hey Arnold! The Movie and the 2017 TV movie Hey Arnold: The Jungle Adventure) – from the entire 1994-2004 run of the award-winning, animated Nickelodeon comedy series following the misadventures of the title character as he navigates childhood in the big city.
MONDO FREUDO/MONDO BIZARRO (Severin Films/CAV Distributing): Filmmaker/distributors Bob Cresse and Lee Frost unleashed this pair of sexploitation documentaries – Mondo Freudo and Mondo Bizarro (both released in 1966) – which attempted to replicate the success of the controversial international smash Mondo Cane by exploring various customs, practices and fetishes throughout the world. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98) include audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, and trailers.
POETIC JUSTICE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): The Blu-ray bow ($19.99 retail) of writer/producer/director John Singleton’s award-winning 1993 follow-up to his Oscar-nominated debut Boyz N the Hood (1991), with Janet Jackson (making a very respectable feature debut) as a feisty hairdresser and aspiring poet who encounters a kindred spirit (Tupac Shakur, also fine) during a road trip to Oakland. A bit on the talky side, but aided by a spirited cast that includes Regina King, Joe Torry, Tone Loc, Jenifer Lewis, Tyra Ferrell, Q-Tip (in his screen debut), and Maya Angelou (as Jackson’s aunt and mentor), whose poetry is prominently featured. Billy Zane and Lori Petty contribute amusing cameos as actors in a drive-in movie, and Jackson’s song “Again” earned an Academy Award nomination. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interview, theatrical trailer, deleted and extended scenes, and more. Rated R. **½
SKINNER (Severin Films/CAV Distributing): Director Ivan Nagy’s slow-moving shocker stars Ted Raimi in the title role (“Dennis Skinner”) of a psychotic drifter who lives up to his name by flaying his victims and donning their skin, with Ricki Lake the unsuspecting housewife whose room he rents and Traci Lords a junkie prostitute bent on avenging her disfigurement at Skinner’s hands. Made in 1993 but not released until 1995, by which time Nagy had been caught up in the sex scandal involving Hollywood madam (and his consort) Heidi Fleiss, which might explain why Lords’ character is named “Heidi.” Typical schlock, although Raimi’s performance is better than the material and KBB’s special effects suitably grisly, and both the DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail) boast bonus features including retrospective interviews. Rated R. *½
UN TRADUCTOR (Film Movement): Sibling filmmakers Rodrigo and Sabastian Barriuso’s award-winning, fact-based feature debut (also released as A Translator) stars Rodrigo Santoro as a professor of Russian literature in Havana who is sent to translate for Soviet children brought to Cuba for treatment following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which becomes more complicated when the Berlin Wall falls and the Cuban economy falters – leaving the children stranded. In Russian and Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
WHITE BOY RICK (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Newcomer Richie Merritt plays the title role in this meandering true-crime drama, as a teenager who becomes an informant for the FBI in the 1980s, then subsequently a drug kingpin when the system betrays him. Top-billed Matthew McConaughey plays his stalwart father, with star-studded support from Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie, Bev Powley, Rory Cochrane, Brian Tyree Henry, and Eddie Marsan. Stylish and gritty, but meandering and bereft of true resonance. This tries to cover too much and ends up not covering enough, although not for lack of trying, available on DVD ($30.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.99 retail), each replete with bonus features. Rated R. **
WRONGED (Indican Pictures): Writer/editor/director/co-star Nicholas Holland’s pretentious, one-note thriller sees thugs menacing a grief-stricken family on a camping trip, until one member (Shaun O’Malley) snaps and exacts violent vengeance. Slight and trite even by low-budget standards. ½
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)