Video Vault – Jan 3, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
LUCKY (Magnolia Home Entertainment): In his final big-screen lead, the late Harry Dean Stanton goes out on a very high note in the title role of actor-turned-director John Carroll Lynch’s endearingly quirky character study.
Having outlived most of his contemporaries, Stanton’s Lucky is a laconic, eccentric curmudgeon who continues to learn and grow as a person at his advanced age – a nice theme rarely explored in contemporary American movies. Each day is a journey, and Lucky learns to savor each and every one, albeit in his own unique way. Like its title character, this is a film that moves at its own pace and in its own way, but in an entirely satisfying and entertaining fashion.
The excellent cast includes filmmaker and long-time Stanton collaborator David Lynch (in an amusing turn), Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., Beth Grant, Yvonne Huff, Barry Shabaka Henley, and James Darren (channeling Harvey Keitel). There’s a particularly nice scene between Stanton and Tom Skerritt, a fond reminder of their previous teaming in the sci-fi classic Alien (1979) – which, admittedly, is a very different kind of film!
The DVD ($26.98 retail) includes interviews and more. ***½
“ACCEPTABLE RISK” (Acorn TV): This six-part 2017 ITV/Acorn TV Original Series stars Elaine Cassidy as a woman determined to solve her husband’s murder, aided by dogged detective Angeline Ball – only to confront a high-level international conspiracy that threatens them both. The two-disc DVD and two-disc Blu-ray each retail for $39.99 and boast bonus features.
AFTERIMAGE (Film Movement): Andrzej Wajda’s award-winning final feature (originally titled Powidoki) stars Boguslaw Linda as the noted Polish-born, avant-garde artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski (1893-1952), who struggled against political persecution and oppression throughout his career. In Polish with English subtitles, available on DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) – with bonus features including audio commentary and the feature documentary Wajda by Wajda.
THE BAD KIDS (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Producer Keith Fulton and cinematographer Lou Pepe co-directed this award-winning documentary feature about Black Rock High School, located in the Mojave Desert, which tends at-risk and troubled teens. Hopeful and sympathetic without losing focus of the realities facing both faculty and students. ***
BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (RLJE Films): Writer/director/composer S. Craig Zahler’s appropriately hard-hitting melodrama affords Vince Vaughn a startling (and effective) change of pace as an ex-boxer forced to pummel his way through prison, lest his pregnant wife (Jennifer Carpenter) be murdered. Astonishingly brutal and not for the squeamish, but undeniably well-done, with good support from Udo Kier, Marc Blucas, Rob Morgan, Tom Guiry, Clark Johnson and Don Johnson, the latter having a hoot as the corrupt warden – available on DVD ($29.96 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.97 retail), and Blu-ray/4K Ultra HD ($35.97 retail). ***
DETROIT (Annapurna Pictures/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The terrible events of what transpired at the Algiers Motel on July 25, 1967 during the Detroit riots are dramatized in Kathryn Bigelow’s award-winning saga, with John Boyega and Will Poulter heading an ensemble cast including Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Nathan Davis Jr., Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever and John Krasinski. The first half is sweeping and incendiary, but the second half – detailing the subsequent court case – feels truncated and incomplete. Still, there’s enough here that’s worthy of discussion. The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98 – each replete with special features. Rated R. **½
ENGLAND IS MINE (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/director Mark Gill’s debut feature dramatizes the early years of aspiring singer/songwriter Steven Patrick Morrissey (played by Jack Lowden), later to achieve worldwide stardom as the lead singer of The Smiths, available on Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
ESSEX SPACEBIN (Troma Entertainment/CAV Distributing): David Hollinshead and Philip Thompson’s debut feature is a quirky sci-fi send-up starring Lorraine Malby as an average woman obsessed with the notion that there’s a secret portal to another dimension located in the English city of Essex, available on Blu-ray ($19.98 retail).
FRANK ZAPPA – SUMMER ’82: WHEN ZAPPA CAME TO SICILY (MVD Visual/MVD Entertainment Group): The title tells all in writer/director Salvo Cuccia’s documentary feature looking back at Frank Zappa’s European tour, which culminated in a raucous and controversial concert in Palermo, Sicily – where Zappa’s family originally hailed from, available on Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
HELL NIGHT (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Linda Blair leads a group of campus pledges whose hazing consists of spending the night in a haunted mansion … which, as you might guess, proves a dire decision. This silly but watchable (and award-winning!) 1981 shocker marked the final release from Compass International Pictures and became a cult favorite thanks to countless cable-TV showings. The collector’s-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.93 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more. Rated R. **
KILLING GUNTHER (LionsGate): Writer/co-star Taram Killam’s R-rated feature directorial debut stars Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role of the world’s greatest assassin, who deftly turns the tables on a group of contract killers who engage in a reality-TV competition to kill him, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($21.99 retail)
L.A.M.F. – LIVE AT THE BOWERY ELECTRIC (Jungle Records/MVD Entertainment Group): To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreaker’s legendary punk album, Walter Lure (the last surviving Heartbreaker) was joined by Clem Burke (of Blondie), Tommy Stinston (of The Replacements) and Wayne Kramer (of MC5) to perform in concert for two nights in November 2016 at the Bowery Electric in New York City, with special guests Liza Colby, Jesse Malin (of D-Generate), and Cheetah Chrome (of the Dead Boys). The DVD ($19.95 retail) also includes bonus interviews.
MAGNUS (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): One needn’t be a chess buff to be entertained by writer/cinematographer/director Benjamin Ree’s feature documentary about the meteoric rise of Norwegian chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen and his rise to international fame as the highest-ranked player in the world. In English and Norwegian with English subtitles. ***
NATIONAL BIRD (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): The controversial use of drones is explored in producer/director Sonia Kennbeck’s sobering, thoughtful documentary feature following three veterans-turned-whistle-blowers. ***
“ONE DAY AT A TIME”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Shout! Factory): A self-explanatory 27-disc DVD collection ($129.99 retail) of all 209 episodes from the entire 1975-’84 run of the award-winning CBS comedy series starring Bonnie Franklin (who earned an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1982) as a divorced woman who moves to Indianapolis with her daughters (Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli), with Pat Harrington (who won the Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1984) as the nosy but lovable building superintendent Schneider. Bonus features include retrospective interviews and documentary.
ONE MILLION B.C. (VCI Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Romeo and Juliet, prehistoric-style, in Hal Roach’s 1940 fantasy saga starring Victor Mature and Carole Landis as members from rival tribes who find romance while dodging dinosaurs and volcanic eruptions at the dawn of civilization. Hokey but enjoyable, this was a big box-office hit and earned Oscar nominations for Best Original Score and Best Special Effects (snippets of which appeared in countless subsequent films), available on Blu-ray ($29.95 retail). **½
ONE OF US (Monarch Home Entertainment): This uneven but award-winning thriller stars Christa B. Allen as a reporter who infiltrates a Northern California cult headed by a charismatic psychopath (well-played by Derek Smith) – which promptly puts her life in danger. **
PULP (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): The Get Carter (1971) triumvirate of producer Michael Klinger, writer/director Mike Hodges, and Michael Caine reunited for this off-kilter 1972 pastiche starring Caine as an unflappable pulp novelist tapped to ghost-write the autobiography of retired star Mickey Rooney, whose specialty – playing gangsters – was gleaned from actual experience, which resurfaces in strange ways. Lionel Stander, Dennis Price, Al Lettieri, Nadia Cassini and Lizabeth Scott (in her final film) round out the cast of this cult favorite, available on special-edition DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) – each replete with special features. Rated PG. **½
SHATTERED (VMI Worldwide): Director Natasha Kermani’s underwhelming debut feature, based on actual events and inspired by T.T. Johnson’s best-selling novel The Shattered Faberge Egg, stars Molly Burnett as a woman whose marriage into a wealthy family has unexpected consequences. Despite Burnett’s hard-working performance and reliable Ray Wise (as the imperious patriarch), this plays like a low-budget, knock-kneed Lifetime TV movie. *
“THE SISSI COLLECTION” (Film Movement): A five-disc, special-edition Blu-ray collection ($74.95 retail) celebrating the cinematic legacy of international siren Romy Schneider (1938-1982), who achieved fame playing the Empress Elisabeth (“Sissi”) of Austria in the 1955 German-language biographical drama Sissi (1955), followed by Sissi: The Young Empress (1956) and Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress (1957), all of which were written, produced and directed by Ernst Marischka. A bonus DVD boasts the 1962 release Forever My Love, which combined all three films, collectible booklet, and retrospective documentaries.
TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (LionsGate): The 4K Ultra HD debut ($22.99 retail) of James Cameron’s 1991 blockbuster follow-up to his 1984 breakthrough, with Arnold Schwarzenegger returning as a “good” Terminator to protect John Connor (Edward Furlong in his screen debut) from the shape-shifting T-1000 (Robert Patrick), with a buff Linda Hamilton back as Sarah Connor and Earl Boen as the bumbling psychiatrist Dr. Silberman. Spectacular and exciting, but the first film’s still got the edge. Academy Award winner for Best Makeup, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects, with additional nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. Special features include retrospective documentary, audio commentaries, three different versions of the film, and more. Rated R. ***
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)