Video Vault – Jan 30, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
GET SHORTY (Shout! Factory): Despite having retired from acting 15 years ago, Gene Hackman remains the all-time favorite actor of yours truly – and this snappy, award-winning 1996 adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s best-seller offers the two-time Oscar winner one of his best comedic showcases.
The main character is John Travolta’s Chili Palmer, a self-assured loan shark tapped to collect a debt from hack producer Harry Zimm (Hackman). Instead, he becomes besotted with the show-biz milieu – and attracted to Harry’s sometime-mistress, struggling actress Karen Flores (Rene Russo) – and decides to apply his strong-arm skills to make a name for himself in Hollywood.
Under executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld’s assured direction, the film is both funny and knowing – and perhaps a touch on the smug side – but is populated with an irresistible rogues’ gallery including producer Danny DeVito as a self-centered superstar, Dennis Farina as Chili’s determined but dim-witted nemesis, Delroy Lindo, James Gandolfini, David Paymer, Martin Ferrero, Miguel Sandoval, Jon Gries, and Vito Scotti (in his final film). Bette Midler, Harvey Keitel, Penny Marshall, Alex Rocco, and Sonnenfeld (as a doorman) also make unbilled appearances.
The collector’s-edition “Shout Select” Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes audio commentary, featurettes, vignettes, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated R. ***
ADONIS (Breaking Glass Pictures): Adonis He portrays the titular character in this intimate, award-winning drama (originally titled Thirty Years of Adonis) from writer/producer/director Scud (nee Danny Cheng Wan-Cheung), an ambitious young actor with the Beijing Opera who turns tricks to make ends meet and is swept up in a sordid lifestyle that forces him to rethink his priorities. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail).
THE APPALOOSA (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of director Sidney J. Furie’s award-winning 1966 Western, a literal “horse opera” in which brooding cowpoke Marlon Brando and Mexican bandit John Saxon vie for possession of the titular stallion. Standard-issue material boosted by nice scenery, Russell Metty’s cinematography, and Frank Skinner’s penultimate score. Brando and Furie reportedly had problems, but Saxon imbues what could have been a stereotypical “bandito” role with menacing charisma and even some social commentary. Special features include audio commentary and trailers. **½
“BEST F(R)IENDS” – VOLUME 1 & VOLUME 2 (LionsGate): Following their cult “triumph” with The Room (2003), collaborators Tommy Wiseau and writer/producer Greg Sestero reunite for director Justin MacGregor’s award-winning, two-part, R-rated comedy/thriller detailing the unlikely partnership between homeless drifter Sestero and oddball mortician Wiseau, and their subsequent misadventures, available on Blu-ray ($21.99 retail), replete with bonus features.
THE BREAST ARCHIVES (First Run Features): Filmmaker Meagan Murphy’s low-key documentary feature debut focuses on nine different women as they discuss their lives and their bodies, and how their perceptions of themselves have changed over the years. **½
“DE PALMA & DE NIRO: THE EARLY FILMS” (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment): A self-explanatory, limited-edition Blu-ray collection ($69.95 retail) of the earliest collaborations between a fledgling filmmaker named Brian De Palma and an aspiring actor named Robert De Niro: The Wedding Party, which introduced De Niro and Jill Clayburgh, was begun in 1963 but not released until 1969; the award-winning satire Greetings (1968), which was originally rated X (!) but later amended to an R, starred De Niro as an ambitious young filmmaker named Jon Rubin, a role he would recreate in Hi, Mom! (1969), the R-rated follow-up. Special features include audio commentary (on Greetings), retrospective interviews, collectible booklet, and more.
“THE DICK CAVETT SHOW: INSIDE THE MINDS OF …” – VOL. 2 (S’MORE Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): A DVD compilation ($14.95 retail) featuring the two-time Emmy Award-winning talk show host interviewing such renowned comedians as Steve Martin, George Carlin (twice) and Martin Mull.
DICK DICKSTER (Indican Pictures): Producer/director Christopher Ray’s clumsy mock documentary stars writer/producer Bobby Ray Shafer in the title role of the aptly-named, boorish, booze-soaked hack filmmaker as he embarks on directing his first porn film. Also on hand: Tim Russ (also a producer and composer), Richard Grieco (also a producer), Gerald Webb (also a producer), Tim Abell, Melanie Good, Bonnie Rotten, Richard Gabai, Caleb Thomas, Jared Cohn, and Ray’s real-life dad, filmmaker Fred Olen Ray (billed as making a special “apperance,” according to the misspelled credits). Shafer gives it his all, but the film isn’t particularly funny and the documentary send-up uninspired. *½
“FAMILY GUY: 20 GREATEST HITS” (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The title tells all in this three-DVD compilation ($29.98 retail) of 20 episodes – plus bonus features – from the animated, Emmy-winning Fox Network comedy series created by Seth MacFarlane and David Zuckerman, detailing the day-to-day misadventures of a dysfunctional suburban family in Rhode Island, which celebrated its 20th year on the air on 2018.
“THE GAME”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): A self-explanatory 20-DVD collection ($55.98 retail) of all 147 episodes – plus bonus features – from the entire 2006-’15 run of the award-winning CW Network series (spun off from “Girlfriends”) that examines the lives of women involved with or married to professional football players, featuring an ensemble cast including Tia Mowry-Hardict, Pooch Hall, Coby Bell, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Hosea Chanchez, Barry Floyd, Brandy Norwood and Brittany Daniel, with guest appearances by Rocky Carroll, Meagan Good, Stacey Dash, and Ciara.
HOBBYHORSE REVOLUTION (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Selma Vilhunen’s award-winning documentary feature profiles three teen-aged girls who share a common love for the toy horses of the title, available on Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) replete with bonus features.
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CLASS REUNION (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): John Hughes earned his first feature screenwriting credit on this self-explanatory, scattershot 1982 slasher send-up, in which the students of Lizzie Borden High reunite after 10 years and are stalked by a classmate (Blackie Dammett) whom they humiliated in a sadistic prank their senior year. A real mess, but not without its funny moments, and helped immeasurably by an infectious Gary U.S. Bonds theme song and a zealous cast including Gerrit Graham, Michael Lerner, Stephen Furst, Fred McCarren, Miriam Flynn, Shelley Smith (in her feature debut), Zane Buzby, Art Evans, Jacklyn Zeman, Anne Ramsey, Marya Small, Barry Diamond, Misty Rowe and Randolph Powell, while guest artist Chuck Berry struts his stuff. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) boast bonus features including audio commentary. Rated R. **
SEARCHING (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): For their award-winning debut feature, director/co-writer Aneesh Chaganty and producer/co-writer Sev Ohanian put an interesting spin on the “found-footage” genre, with John Cho as a widowed father whose teenaged daughter (newcomer Michelle La) abruptly vanishes, forcing him to scour her computer for clues as the days and weeks mount. Debra Messing plays the cop on the case. Gimmicky, but assured and effective – at least until a climactic twist and abrupt wrap-up nearly ruin everything. Both the DVD ($30.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.96 retail) boast bonus features. Rated PG-13. **½
TELL THEM WILLIE BOY IS HERE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Acclaimed filmmaker and Hollywood Blacklist survivor Abraham Polonsky directed and scripted this 1969 adaptation of Harry Lawton’s 1960 best-seller, set in 1909 California, in which the titular Paiute Indian (Robert Blake) and his lover (Katharine Ross) take flight after he kills her father in self-defense, pursued by a posse (led by Robert Redford). Well-intentioned and loaded with irony, the film (very dated in retrospect) struggles to find momentum, despite a cast of such familiar folk as Susan Clark, Barry Sullivan, John Vernon, Charles Aidman, and Charles McGraw. Blake is convincing as a Native American, but Ross is woefully miscast, and the strained romance between Redford and Clark is a further distraction. Redford, Ross, and cinematographer Conrad Hall (who soon wed Ross) would reunite shortly for the blockbuster Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary and trailers. Rated PG. **
THE WANDERING MUSE (IndiePix Films): Filmmaker Tamas Wormser spent seven years on a globetrotting odyssey to create this 2014 documentary feature that explores the history, diversity, and legacy of the music that represents the Jewish identity, featuring such notables as Basya Schechter, Cesar Lerner, Daniel Kahn, Jeremiah Lockwood, Rabbi Enosh Keki Mainah and many others, available on DVD ($24.95 retail)
WASHINGTON SQUARE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Agnieszka Holland’s 1997 adaptation of the classic 1880 Henry James novel (previously staged and filmed as The Heiress) stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as a dowdy spinster whose potentially last chance for love is opposed by her domineering father (Albert Finney), convinced that her beau (Ben Chaplin) is a greedy opportunist. The ever-delightful Maggie Smith, Judith Ivey, Betsy Brantley, Peter Maloney, and Jennifer Garner (in an early screen role) also appear in this well-acted, well-mounted, and slightly arch melodrama that never found its audience. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary. Rated PG-13. **½
WILD AT HEART (Shout! Factory): David Lynch’s aptly-titled, award-winning 1990 adaptation of Barry Gifford’s novel stars Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern as star-crossed lovers who embark on a journey into the heart of darkness when they flee from her deranged mother (Dern’s real-life mother Diane Ladd, who earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress) across the American Southwest, encountering the likes of Willem Dafoe (whose unforgettably sleazy character comes to an equally unforgettable end), Harry Dean Stanton, Isabella Rossellini, Crispin Glover, Sheryl Lee, Calvin Lockhart, Grace Zabriskie, J.E. Freeman, Sherilyn Fenn, David Patrick Kelly and Freddie Jones. The collector’s-edition “Shout Select” Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes interviews, extended and deleted scenes, original trailer, TV spots and more. Rated R. ***
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)