Video Vault – Jul 24, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE BRINK’S JOB (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): William Friedkin’s track record with comedies might generously be termed “spotty”: His feature debut Good Times (1967) is a woefully dated Sonny and Cher vehicle that even he dislikes, The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968) is entertaining but flawed, and 1983’s arms satire Deal of the Century a disaster.
This whimsical 1978 dramatization of the infamous 1950 Boston robbery followed in the wake of Friedkin’s box-office flop Sorcerer (1977), and is undoubtedly the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s best comedy, boasting a stellar ensemble cast, wonderful period design (Oscar nomination for Art Direction/Set Decoration), and a fair amount of his customary edginess. Perfect it’s not, but it’s as funny a film as Friedkin ever made.
The irresistible Peter Falk plays mastermind Tony Pino, and his cohorts in crime include Peter Boyle, Warren Oates, Paul Sorvino, Allen Garfield, and Gena Rowlands (as Tony’s stalwart spouse), who stumble their way through committing “the crime of the century” – at least according to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (legendary TV producer Sheldon Leonard, delightfully sending Hoover up in his final acting role).
By the way, less than $60,000 of nearly $3 million was recovered, and in quintessential Damon Runyon fashion, the culprits were hailed as folk heroes. According to this account, they were lovable losers who got lucky – a back-handed yet appealing spin on the American Dream.
The Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary and theatrical trailer. Rated PG. ***
THE ANNIHILATORS (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of the standard-issue 1985 shoot-’em-up pitting a group of Vietnam veterans against crime boss Paul Koslo and his goons, who have taken over a small Georgia town. Typical ’80s action fare with few surprises but a decent cast: Christopher Stone, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Gerrit Graham, Jim Antonio, Dennis Redfield, and Andy Wood (fresh from Rambo: First Blood Part II). Special features include retrospective interviews and theatrical trailer. Rated R. *½
THE BORDER (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of director Tony Richardson’s 1982 drama starring Jack Nicholson as cynical border officer who finally takes a stand against his department’s corruption. Well-made and still-topical, but meandering despite sturdy support from Harvey Keitel, Valerie Perrine, Warren Oates, Lonny Chapman, and Elpidia Carrillo. Special features include audio commentary and trailer. Rated R. **½
BREAKTHROUGH (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Actress-turned-director Roxann Dawson makes her feature debut with this PG-rated adaptation of Joyce Smith’s faith-based book The Impossible, starring Chrissy Metz as Smith, whose religious faith is shaken when her adopted son (Marcel Ruiz in his feature debut) falls into a seemingly irreversible coma after nearly drowning. Josh Lucas, Topher Grace, Mike Colter, Sam Trammell, and Dennis Haysbert round out the cast, available on DVD ($29.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($39.99 retail) – each boasting bonus features including audio commentary, featurettes, and more.
COMBAT OBSCURA (Oscilloscope Laboratories): First-time documentary filmmaker Miles Lagoze produced and directed this sobering, non-linear chronicle of American soldiers in Afghanistan, both in and out of combat, shot while he was a “Combat Camera” assigned to film footage for use in military promotion and recruitment – except he kept his cameras running. Both the DVD ($34.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.99 retail) include bonus features. ***
“CRIMINAL MINDS”: THE FOURTEENTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): A DVD collection ($55.98 retail) of all 15 episodes (plus bonus features) from the 2018′-19 season of the award-winning CBS crime drama dramatizing the activities of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), with Joe Mantegna, A.J. Cook, Matthew Gray Gubler, Kirsten Vangsness, Paget Brewster, and Aisha Tyler on the case.
ESCAPE PLAN: THE EXTRACTORS (LionsGate): With director/screenwriter John Herzfeld at the helm, Sylvester Stallone returns for the third installment of the R-rated action franchise, with Dave Bautista, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and Jaime King encoring from the second film, involved in yet another hi-tech escape from a seemingly impregnable prison, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail), each boasting bonus features.
THE GODDESSES OF FOOD (Kino Lorber): Writer/producer/editor Verane Frediani makes her feature directorial debut with this self-explanatory documentary (originally titled A la recherche des femmes chefs) profiles such acclaimed female chefs as Anne-Sophie Pic, Adeline Grattard, Elena Arzak, Alice Waters, Dominique Crenn, and Jacotte Brazier. In English, French, and Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail), featuring bonus content.
KALIFORNIA (Shout! Factory): Director Dominic Sena’s award-winning 1993 debut feature stars David Duchovny and Michelle Forbes as journalists whose cross-country trip to research the habits of serial killers takes a turn – for the worse – when they hook up with grizzled psychopath Brad Pitt and trampy girlfriend Juliette Lewis. Sleek and stylish, but the characters tend to be unlikable ciphers, thereby limiting audience identification. Pitt and Lewis were romantically linked at the time, and this was their only big-screen pairing. The “Shout Select” Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes both the theatrical version and director’s cut, retrospective interview with Sena, original featurette, and more. Rated R. **½
KIDNAPPED (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Michael Caine’s robust turn as buccaneer Alan Breck is the best thing about director Delbert Mann’s picturesque but uneven 1971 adaptation of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novels Kidnapped and (in part) Catriona, with pallid performances by newcomers Lawrence Douglas and Vivien Heilbron in pivotal roles, and seasoned veterans Trevor Howard, Jack Hawkins, Gordon Jackson, Freddie Jones, Jack Watson, Peter Jeffrey, and the ever-delightful Donald Pleasence. Reportedly, Caine and Mann were never compensated for their efforts – as both told me in interviews! The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95 retail. Rated G. **
LOVE BLOOMS (TLA Releasing): Michael Dacheux’s romantic drama (originally titled L’amour debut) stars Paul Debreil (in his screen debut) as an aspiring filmmaker coming to terms with his sexuality when he fails to win back former lover Adele Csech. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
MODEST HEROES (Studio Ponoc/GKIDS/Shout! Factory): Japanese animation masters Hiromasa Yonebayashi (Kanini & Kanino), Yoshiyuki Momose (Life Ain’t Gonna Lose), and Akihiko Yamashita (Invisible) teamed up to write and direct this three-part anthology of animated shorts (originally titled Chiisana eiyu: Kani to tamago to tomei ningen) to launch Studio Ponoc, the new animation studio founded by Yoshiaki Nishimura, available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.97 retail) that includes English-language and Japanese-language (with English subtitles) audio options and bonus features.
MUMFORD (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Loren Dean plays the title role in Lawrence Kasdan’s award-winning but disappointing 1999 comedy, a bogus psychiatrist who sets up practice in a suburban town (also named “Mumford”) and gets mixed up in the lives of its eccentric citizens. A misguided attempt at contemporary screwball farce, further hampered by Dean’s ineffectual turn and Kasdan’s smug screenplay, thus stranding a star-studded cast including Hope Davis, Martin Short, Mary McDonnell, Jason Lee, Pruitt Taylor Vince, David Paymer, Alfre Woodard, Dana Ivey, Ted Danson, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Ritter, Jane Adams, Kevin Tighe, Priscilla Barnes, Robert Stack (as himself), and Zooey Deschanel (in her feature debut). Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include retrospective interview with Kasdan, vintage featurette, and theatrical trailer. Rated R. *½
OBSESSION (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Brian De Palma’s award-winning 1976 thriller stars Cliff Robertson as a wealthy New Orleans businessman who encounters Genevieve Bujold in Rome, an exactly lookalike for the wife who perished with their daughter during a botched kidnapping years before. Per De Palma, this is very much in the Hitchcock vein (particularly Vertigo) and a classic case of style over substance, but graced by Bernard Herrmann’s Oscar-nominated score, superb cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond, and first-rate performances by Robertson, Bujold, and John Lithgow (as Robertson’s business partner). The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, vintage featurette, and more. Rated PG. ***
PUPPY SWAP: LOVE UNLEASHED (LionsGate): A pair of Pomeranian puppies trade places in an effort to reunite their estranged owners (Sara Fletcher and Rib Hillis) in this family-friendly, PG-rated romantic comedy, available on DVD ($14.98 retail).
RELAXER (Oscilloscope Laboratories): Joel Portrykus wrote, directed, and edited this award-winning but grueling black comedy starring Joseph Burge as a misanthropic slacker who, on the eve of Y2K, refuses to leave his couch until he reaches the highest level of Pac-Man. A character study about an unlikable character, this may well achieve cult status – for those who can take it. Both the DVD ($34.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.99 retail) include audio commentary, behind-the-scenes featurette, theatrical trailer, and more. **
SOUTH PACIFIC (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Richard Pearce directed this 2001 ABC-TV adaptation of the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning Rodgers and Hammerstein musical set during World War II, based on James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Tales of the South Pacific, which details the budding romance between nurse Glenn Close (also an executive producer) and French landowner Rade Sherbedgia, and that of lonely Marine Harry Connick Jr. and island girl Natalie Mendoza, while the threat of battle looms in their midst. Colorful and lush, and unlike earlier film and stage versions, this addresses the racial and social prejudices head-on. Emmy nominations for Outstanding Musical Direction and Outstanding Single Camera Sound Mixing for a Mini-Series or Movie. The DVD ($14.95 retail) includes audio commentary and more. ***
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)