Video Vault – Jan 31, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Liam Neeson plays the man who was “Deep Throat” in writer/producer/director Peter Landesman’s engrossing, fact-based political drama, based on the books by Mark Felt and John O’Connor.
Although his Irish accent occasionally comes to the fore, Neeson brings considerable conviction to the role of the deputy FBI director who became a covert informant to the Washington Post in the wake of the Watergate scandal, which led to the downfall of President Richard M. Nixon’s administration.
The story also offers an insight into Felt’s personal life, including his relationship with troubled wife Audrey (Diane Lane) and estrangement from daughter Joan (Maika Monroe), but the political aspects are more interesting, with Felt torn between obligation to the FBI and the mounting meddling of the White House into the investigation.
A sturdy supporting cast includes Josh Lucas, Tony Goldwyn, Michael C. Hall, Bruce Greenwood, Kate Walsh, Noah Wyle, Brian D’Arcy James, Ike Barinholtz, Eddie Marsan, Julian Morris (as reporter Bob Woodward), a wonderfully slimy Tom Sizemore, and particularly Martin Csokas, the very image of bureaucratic cynicism as FBI director L. Patrick Gray.
Both the DVD ($25.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($30.99 retail) include audio commentary, featurette, and deleted and extended scenes. Rated PG-13. ***
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (Paramount): A 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray combo ($31.99 retail) of director Dan Trachtenberg’s award-winning debut feature, the 2016 spin-off of Cloverfield (see below), with John Goodman vividly cast as a survivalist who holds Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. captive in an underground bunker, where paranoia ultimately reigns supreme. This is actually more entertaining than its predecessor. Rated PG-13. **½
CLOVERFIELD (Paramount): A 10th-anniversary 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray combo ($31.99 retail) of director Matt Reeves’ award-winning 2008 found-footage sci-fi blow-out, in which the Big Apple is the target of a massive alien invasion. Extremely well-made, with eye-popping special effects, but the gimmick stays fresh only so long. Rated PG-13. **
A DOG AND PONY SHOW (LionsGate): Mira Sorvino, Ralph Macchio and James Russo head the human contingent in this family-friendly, PG-rated fable about a performing circus dog (voiced by Mae Whitman) struggling to adapt to life on a farm, available on DVD ($19.98 retail).
FROM CALIGARI TO HITLER: GERMAN CINEMA IN THE AGE OF MASSES (Kino Classics): Writer/director Rudiger Suchsland’s award-winning 2014 documentary (originally titled Von Caligari zu Hitler: Das deutsche Kino im Zeitalter der Massen) offers a fascinating and persuasive case for Siegfried Kracauer’s 1947 thesis that the silent cinema revolution of 1920s Germany (commonly known as “the Weimar era”) prefigured and predicted the rise of the Third Reich, as discussed by historians and contemporary filmmakers. A must for movie mavens. In German with English subtitles. ***½
“INDIEPIX FESTIVAL FAVORITES, VOLUME 2” (IndiePix Films): The title tells all in this three-DVD collection ($59.95 retail) of critically acclaimed music documentaries: 2009’s Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense, producer/director Nathan Christ’s feature-length debut Echotone (2010), and producer/director/editor Quino Pinero’s 2015 feature-length debut Roaring Abyss.
INTERMEZZO (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Ingrid Bergman made her English-speaking screen debut in this 1939 remake of the 1936 Swedish film of the same name (which also starred Bergman), as a piano teacher who catches the eye of concert violinist Leslie Howard, which has serious consequences for both. A florid but irresistible tearjerker of golden vintage, with Bergman and Howard in fine form. Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Score. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary. ***
JAWBONE (LionsGate): Johnny Harris makes his feature writing/producing debut with this appropriately punchy, award-winning melodrama in which he plays a hard-drinking, hard-luck ex-boxer trying to turn his life around by participating in an unlicensed match. Somewhat predictable but put across with gritty panache, aided by the supporting performances of Ray Winstone, Michael Smiley, and reliable Ray Winstone. Rated R. **½
LEGEND OF THE NAGA PEARLS (Well Go USA Entertainment): Director Yang Lei’s debut feature (originally titled Jiao zhu zhuan) stars Darren Wang as a crafty punk who comes into possession of the title gems, which are coveted by descendants of the Winged Tribe – who need them to conquer humanity. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The big-screen “LEGO” Universe expands with this family-friendly send-up of the martial-arts genre, boasting a star-studded voice-over cast including Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Fred Armisen, Olivia Munn, Michael Pena, Kumail Nanjiani, Abbi Jacobson, and Zach Woods. Colorful and splashy, but the screenplay doesn’t measure up to the visual panache, 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 ($44.9 retail) – each replete with special features. Rated PG. **
MOTHER! (Paramount): Jennifer Lawrence headlines Darren Aronofsky’s controversial, polarizing psycho-thriller in the title role of a young wife overwhelmed by strange events and strange characters, not the least being her writer husband (Javier Bardem) and a mysterious older couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer). Kristen Wiig, Domhnall Gleeson and real-life brother Brian, Jovan Adepo, and Stephen McHattie also appear in this schizophrenic but stylish award-winner, featuring nods to Polanski, Argento, del Toro, and oblique Biblical references. Acted with total conviction, but the end result disappoints. The DVD retails for $25.99, DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($31.99 retail). Rated R. **
MY ART (Film Movement): Artist Laurie Simmons makes her writing/directing feature debut with this agreeably, wistfully indulgent character study in which she plays an artist who spends her summer recreating classic movie scenes for a video project. Also on hand: Simmons’ real-life daughters Lena and Grace Dunham, Blair Brown, Robert Clohessy, Barbara Sukowa, Josh Safdie, John Rothman, and Parker Posey. The DVD ($24.95 retail) includes audio commentary. **½
NASSER’S REPUBLIC: THE MAKING OF MODERN EGYPT (Icarus Films Home Video): Hiam Abbass narrates writer/producer/director Michel Goldman’s even-handed, well-made documentary feature tracing the career of Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-’70), the second president of Egypt, whose career was marked by towering triumphs (the Suez Canal) and calamitous failures (the Six Day War), but is still considered a major architect of 20th-century Middle Eastern politics, available on DVD ($29.98 retail). ***
“NELLA THE PRINCESS KNIGHT” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): A DVD compilation ($10.99 retail) of eight episodes from the inaugural 2017 season of the animated Nick Jr. children’s fantasy series created by actress Christina Ricci, with Akira Golz providing the voice for the title character.
“RAY DONOVAN”: THE FIFTH SEASON (Showtime Entertainment/CBS DVD/Paramount): Producer Liev Schreiber (Emmy nominee as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series) returns in the title role of L.A.’s preeminent “fixer” in all 12 episodes from the 2017 season of the award-winning Showtime drama created by Ann Biderman. Jon Voight, Paula Malcomson, Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, Steven Bauer, Pooch Hall, Kerris Dorsey, Devon Bagby, and Katherine Moennig round out the regular cast, joined by guest stars Susan Sarandon, C. Thomas Howell, Lili Simmons, Donald Faison, and Hank Azaria (Emmy nominee as Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series), available in a four-DVD collection ($33.99 retail), replete with bonus features.
RENDEL (Shout! Factory): Writer/producer/director Jesse Haaja’s award-winning debut is a sci-fi fantasy introducing the titular character (Kris Gummerus) – the first Finnish superhero – as he squares off against the minions of a corrupt global consortium known as VALA. In English and Finnish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($14.93 retail) and 3-D Blu-ray ($19.97 retail) – both replete with special features.
THE REVIVAL (Breaking Glass Pictures): Director Jennifer Geber makes her feature debut with this adaptation of Samuel Brett Williams’ stage drama (scripted by the author) about the illicit relationship that develops between married Baptist clergyman David Rysdahl and drifter Zachary Booth, available on DVD ($19.99 retail), replete with bonus features including audio commentary.
VIVA L’ITALIA (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): Roberto Rossellini’s 1963 historical spectacle (also released as Garibaldi) stars Renzo Ricci as the legendary 19th-century Italian military hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, who led the Expedition of the Thousand and conquered Sicily and Naples. Both the DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail), which mark the film’s US home-video debut, include the edited US version, retrospective interview, and more.
THE WITCHES (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): The inimitable Dino De Laurentiis produced this award-winning 1967 Italian-language anthology (originally titled Le streghe) teaming actress wife Silvana Mangano with esteemed directors Mario Bolognini, Vittorio De Sica, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Franco Rossi and Luchino Visconti to create five vignettes with the actress portraying a witch in each, with star-studded support from Alberto Sordi, Annie Girardot, Francisco Rabal, Toto, Marilu Tolo, and Clint Eastwood. The special-edition Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interview, and more.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)