Video Vault – Jun 12, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
BACKBEAT (Shout! Factory): A great rock ‘n’ roll movie that happens to be rooted in fact, director Iain Softley’s award-winning 1994 drama offers a glimpse into the early Beatles – and a belated tribute to its bass guitarist Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff), who left the band for love then tragically died just as the Beatles were ascending to stardom.
Along with best friend John Lennon (Ian Hart) and bandmates Paul McCartney (Gary Bakewell, in his screen debut), George Harrison (Chris O’Neill, in his screen debut), drummer Pete Best (Scot Williams, in his screen debut), Sutcliffe and the Beatles appear poised to take Hamburg by storm, but instead he falls for German photographer Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee) and opts to pursue his career as an artist.
This causes a potential rift in his friendship with Lennon, but Sutcliffe is determined to follow his heart, forgoing potential stardom for his muse – only to suffer a fatal cerebral hemorrhage at age 21.
Despite the tragic outcome, Backbeat is a celebration of a time, a place, and an attitude. It’s a film brimming with energy and life. Softley expertly captures the aura of the early 1960s, when anything seemed possible and rock ‘n’ roll was king. Dorff and Lee are excellent as the ill-fated lovers, and – let’s face it – you can’t beat those Beatles tunes!
The “Shout! Select” Blu-ray ($22.97) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, TV featurette, and more. Rated R. ***½
THE CLEANING LADY (RLJE Films): Writer/producer/director Jon Knautz’s award-winning expansion of his 2016 short film stars writer/producer Alexis Kendra as a lovelorn beautician who befriends the title character (Rachel Alig), a physically scarred social outcast who turns out to be a dangerous psychopath. Any film that opens with rats being put in a blender certainly knows its intended audience, but this repetitious (although admittedly well-made) shocker ultimately comes to an unsatisfying conclusion. **
“DELICIOUS”: SERIES 3 (Acorn TV): Master chef and entrepreneur Iain Glen may be dead, but he’s still keeping an eye on ex-wife Dawn French and widow Emilia Fox as they manage to keep the Penrose Hotel afloat … and then handsome celebrity chef Vincent Regan appears on the scene. Aaron Anthony, Tanya Reynolds, and Sheila Hancock round out the regular cast of this comedy/drama created by Dan Sefton. All four feature-length episodes from the 2018-’19 season are available on DVD ($34.99 retail).
FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (Shout! Factory): Delightful chemistry between Hugh Grant (in the role that made him an international star) and Andie MacDowell enlivens this unexpectedly popular, award-winning 1994 romantic comedy — set over a time period encompassing the film’s title – detailing the romance between a carefree bachelor and an American tourist – and a bride at one of the weddings. Kristin Scott Thomas, Simon Callow, Corin Redgrave, James Fleet, John Hannah, Jeremy Kemp, Robert Lang, and Rowan Atkinson (in a side-splitting cameo) round out a polished cast. Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay (Richard Curtis). The “Shout! Select” Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes audio commentary, documentary, featurettes, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated R. ***
THE GRAND DUEL (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Lee Van Cleef headlines this 1972 spaghetti Western that marked the feature debut of Giancarlo Santi (formerly Sergio Leone’s assistant director) as a ruthless ex-lawman who aids fugitive Peter O’Brien (nee Alberto Dentice, in his final feature to date), pursued by three brothers (Horst Frank, Klaus Grunberg and Marc Mazza) who blame him for the murder of their father. Vaguely reminiscent of King Lear and occasionally slow-moving, but plenty of action for fans. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more. Rated R. **½
HOW TO GET FROM HERE TO THERE (TLA Releasing): Kevin James Thornton makes his feature debut as writer, producer, director and star of this low-budget sci-fi drama, as a gay man who returns home after his mother’s death, discovers the time machine he constructed as a child, and uses it to peer into his future, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: THE MOVIE (Shout! Factory): Those tenacious teenagers take the big screen by storm in this splashy but empty-headed 1995 big-screen adaptation of the popular TV series, in which they battle the nefarious Ivan Ooze (Paul Freeman). Fans of the series have a big head start, others tread carefully. The stand-alone Blu-ray ($19.99 retail) includes a retrospective documentary, theatrical trailer, and original featurette. Rated PG. *½
“MISS FRIMAN’S WAR” (MHz Networks): A DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of all 12 feature-length episodes from the entire 2013-’17 run of the award-winning Swedish drama series (inspired by actual events and originally titled Froken Frimans krug) set in 1905 Stockholm and starring Sissela Kyle in the title role of a visionary social activist who establishes Swedish Homes, the first grocery store operated by women in an effort to provide affordable, uncontaminated food for all classes – which, naturally, riles the (male-dominated) political establishment. Freda Hallgren, Lena T. Hansson, Gustaf Hammarstan, Ulla Skoog, and Maria Kulle round out the regular cast. In Swedish with English subtitles.
THE MOLE PEOPLE (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): The title tells all in this low-budget 1956 sci-fi fantasy, one of Universal’s seemingly inexhaustible series of cult classics, in which John Agar (who else?) leads fellow archaeologists High Beaumont (pre-Leave it to Beaver) and Nestor Paiva to an underground Sumerian kingdom beneath Mesopotamia. This marked the debut feature for prolific television director Virgil Vogel and ingenue Cynthia Patrick (her only starring role), while a pre-Batman Alan Napier chews the (underground) scenery as a wicked high priest. The special-edition Blu-ray ($27.99 retail) includes audio commentary, two aspects ratios, retrospective featurette, and even the 1997 episode of Mystery Science Theatre 2000 devoted to the film. **½
MONEY FOR NOTHING (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Director/screenwriter Ramon Menendez’s fact-based, Damon Runyon-esque 1993 comedy stars John Cusack as an unemployed Philadelphia dockworker who finds $1.2 million in cash after it falls off an armored car – but soon discovers that keeping it will be harder. A good cast includes Michael Madsen (as a tenacious detective), Debi Mazar, James Gandolfini, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Rapaport, Fionulla Flanagan, Frankie Faison, Maury Chaykin, and Elizabeth Bracco. Joey Coyle, the actual character Cusack plays, committed suicide shortly before the film opened. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.95 retail) include theatrical trailer. Rated R. **½
THE SKIN OF THE TEETH (TLA Releasing): Producer Matthew Wollin makes his feature debut as writer/director of this psychological head trip/black comedy, starring Pascal Arquimedes (in his feature debut) as a gay man whose first date with Donal Brophy goes haywire when he ingests an experimental drug … or does he? Self-indulgent, uneven, and occasionally hindered by a low budget, this is still an encouraging first feature, with delirious Kafka-esque overtones and fine support from Chuja Seo (in a dual role) and especially Tom Rizzuto (as a bemused detective … or is he?), augmented by Todd Moki’s eerie, sometimes jarring, score. **½
TO WONG FOO THANKS FOR EVERYTHING, JULIE NEWMAR (Shout! Factory): Director Beeban Kidron’s 1995 comedy stars Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo as drag queens on a road trip to Hollywood whose car breaks down in a sleepy Midwestern town. Not many surprises but pleasant enough, with a star-studded supporting cast including Stockard Channing, Blythe Danner, Arliss Howard, Chris Penn, Jason London, Melinda Dillon, Beth Grant, and an unbilled Robin Williams. The “Shout! Select” Blu-ray ($24.99 retail) includes retrospective documentary, deleted scenes, theatrical trailers, and TV spots. Rated PG-13. **½
“TRIAL & RETRIBUTION”: COMPLETE COLLECTION (Acorn TV): The title tells all in this 18-DVD collection ($99.99 retail) of all 22 feature-length episodes – plus bonus features – from the entire 1997-2009 run of the ITV crime series created by Lynda La Plante as a spin-off of “Prime Suspect,” following David Hayman’s DCS Mike Walker from criminal investigation to courtroom, with Kate Buffery (Series 1-6) and Victoria Smurfit (Series 7-12) as his sidekick, with guest appearances by Charles Dance, Michael Fassbender, Simon Callow, Hugh Dancy, Iain Glen, Rosamund Pike, Greg Wise, Gemma Jones, and Corin Redgrave.
THE VENGEANCE OF SHE (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Having scored at the box-office with the 1965 adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s She, Hammer Films whipped up this enjoyably goofy 1968 follow-up with John Richardson encoring as the eternal Killikrates and gorgeous Olinka Berova (nee Olga Schoberova) as the reincarnation of his beloved Ayesha, with Edward Judd, Colin Blakely, Noel Willman, and Andre Morell (in a different role than he played in the first film) in support. As unnecessary sequels go, this is at least entertaining camp, with everyone playing it perfectly straight. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated G. **½
VERONICA GUERIN (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Cate Blanchett’s fine performance in the title role of the crusading Irish journalist (1958-’96) gunned down by drug lords is the best thing about director Joel Schumacher’s award-winning but melodramatic 2003 biographical drama, with Gerald McSorley, Ciaran Hinds, Brenda Fricker, and Colin Farrell (briefly) on hand. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) include audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated R. **
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)