Video Vault – June 14, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
RUNAWAY TRAIN (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Director Andrei Konchalovsky’s riveting, richly textured 1985 action thriller is one of the best films produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus for Cannon Films, which specialized in lowbrow, low-budget action fare.
Jon Voight and Eric Roberts earned Oscar nominations (Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively) as Manny and Buck, a pair of prison inmates whose desperate break-out goes awry when they hop aboard a train whose engineer promptly suffers a heart attack.
The train is now out of control, hurtling across the Alaskan countryside – clearly a metaphor for the recklessness of the convicts, who are joined in jeopardy by Sara (Rebecca De Mornay), who also happened to be aboard.
Kyle T. Heffner, T.K. Carter and the always-welcome Kenneth McMillan play the railroad dispatchers seeking a solution to the impending disaster, and John P. Ryan (never better) plays the assistant prison warden, hell-bent on bringing Buck and particularly Manny to justice.
Runaway Train is bleak, powerful, and loaded with suspense, with the actors in top form throughout. Henry Richardson’s editing was also Oscar-nominated, and the film also marked the screen debuts of Danny Trejo and “Tiny” Lister. The DVD retails for $19.95. Rated R. ***½
3 GENERATIONS (LionsGate): Director Gaby Dellal’s feature producting/screenwriting debut, this topical, PG-13-rated drama (originally titled Three Generations and then About Ray)stars Elle Fanning as a teenager determined to undergo gender reassignment, with executive producer Naomi Watts (mother), Susan Sarandon (grandmother), and Tate Donovan (biological father) in support, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail).
CHEECH AND CHONG’S NEXT MOVIE (Shout! Factory): A “Shout Select” Blu-ray ($27.99 retail) of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong’s second feature, released in 1980 and marking Chong’s feature directorial debut. Lots of familiar faces in early screen roles: Phil Hartman, Cassandra (“Elvira”) Peterson, Edie McClurg, Rita Wilson, Jake Steinfeld, Michael Winslow, and Paul Reubens (as “Pee-Wee Herman”). The scattershot “high-jinks” yield some laughs. Rated R. **
THE CHEF’S WIFE (Icarus Films Home Video): Writer/director/actor Anne Le Ny’s comedy (originally titled On a failli etre amies and also known as Almost Friends) stars Emmanuelle Devos as the unfulfilled wife of a noted chef (Roschdy Zem) who seeks assistance from a career counselor (Karin Viard) – who is attracted to her husband. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($26.98 retail).
“HEE HAW: PFFT! YOU WAS GONE!” (Time Life): A two-DVD collection ($19.95 retail) of four vintage episodes (originally broadcast 1969-’73) from the long-running comedy/variety series hosted by Roy Clark and Buck Owens, featuring guest stars Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard and more.
IN THE STEPS OF TRISHA BROWN (Icarus Films Home Video): Writer/director Marie-Helene Rebois’ award-winning feature documentary debut (originally titled Dans les pas de Trisha Brown) is an informal but informative look at the dance techniques taught by legendary choreographer and teacher Trisha Brown (1936-2017). Dance devotees have a head start. In English and French with English subtitles. The DVD ($29.98 retail) also includes the Jonathan Demme/Trisha Brown short film Accumulation and Talking plus Watermotor (1979) **½
JUICE (Paramount): Cinematographer Ernest R. Dickerson made his feature debut as director/story writer for this R-rated 1992 box-office hit about life on the mean streets of Harlem, as experienced by a group of close-knit friends who find themselves in the line of fire, notable for the screen debuts of Omar Epps, Tupac Shakur and Khalil Kain, as well as early appearances by Jermaine Hopkins, Samuel L. Jackson and Queen Latifah. The special-edition DVD ($15.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($16.99 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective interviews and more.
“KUU KUU HARAJUKU: MUSIC, BABY!” (Shout! Kids Factory/Shout! Factory): A DVD collection ($14.98 retail) of 14 episodes from the inaugural 2015 season of the animated Nickelodeon series, for which Gwen Stefani serves as executive producer, about the musical misadventures of a girl group called HJ5.
LA LA LAND (LionsGate): The star-crossed romance between jazz musician Ryan Gosling and aspiring actress Emma Stone forms the backdrop for writer/director Damien Chazelle’s deliriously entertaining modern musical extravaganza that celebrates love as affectionately as it does Hollywood history. One of 2016’s best films. Winner of six Academy Awards: Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design and Best Song (“City of Stars”), with an additional eight nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Song (“Audition – The Fools Who Dream”). The DVD retails for $29.95, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $39.99, and the 4K Ultra HD Combo ($42.99 retail) – each replete with special features. Rated PG-13. ***½
LUDWIG (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($49.95 retail) of Luchino Visconti’s award-winning, R-rated historical epic detailing the final days in the life of Bavaria’s King Ludwig II (Helmut Berger), with Romy Schneider, Silvana Mangano, Gert Frobe. Helmut Griem, Umberto Orsini, and Trevor Howard (as Richard Wagner). Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design. In Italian and French with English subtitles (or you can watch the English-language version). Special features include Visconti’s original director’s cut (the film was produced as a TV mini-series), documentary, retrospective interviews and trailer.
MADHOUSE (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Having made several derivative ’70s horror shockers (Beyond the Door, Tentacles, The Visitor), filmmaker Ovidio Assonitis (under his usual pseudonym “Oliver Hellman”) jumped onto the slasher bandwagon with this twisted but tacky low-budget 1981 thriller (also known as There Was a Little Girl and When She Was Bad) starring Trish Everly (in her first and only film to date) as a teacher terrified that her disfigured, deranged twin sister is stalking her. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews and more. *
ON THE ROAD, SOMEWHERE (IndiePix Films): Writer/producer/director Guillermo Zouain’s award-winning debut feature (originally titled Algun Lugar) follows three teenagers (Victor Alfonso, Javier Grullon and newcomer Arnold Martinez) on a coming-of-age road trip through the Dominican Republic. Rambling but likable, and at 71 minutes it hardly overstays its welcome. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). **½
SPLIT (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): M. Night Shyamalan’s comeback thriller stars James McAvoy as a schizophrenic (with multiple personalities) who abducts and imprisons three teenagers (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula). Claustrophophic and intense, with McAvoy giving a tour-de-force performance, but Shyamalan is unable to restrain himself from dragging out the narrative. Shorter would have been better, and although Betty Buckley enjoys her biggest screen role in years as McAvoy’s psychiatrist, the character lacks common sense given the circumstances. A sequel’s in the works. The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98 – both replete with special features. Rated R. **
“STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE: DANCE BERRY DANCE” (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The title tells all in this feature-length animated musical showcasing the title character and her dance-happy friends, available on DVD ($14.99 retail).
THREE SISTERS (Kino Classics): Laurence Olivier’s acclaimed Royal National Theatre production of the Anton Chekhov classic was preserved for posterity in this well-acted 1970 screen adaptation later released by the American Film Theatre, starring Louise Purnell, Jeanne Watts and Olivier’s wife Joan Plowright as the titular siblings, with Alan Bates, Derek Jacobi and Ronald Pickup sharing in the misery. This marked Olivier’s final directorial effort, and he portrays Dr. Chebutikin. A class act, to be sure, but at 170 minutes it’s sometimes a long haul. The Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes retrospective interviews. Rated G. ***
THREE SISTERS (Icarus Films Home Video): Not to be confused with Chekhov (see above), Wang Bing’s award-winning documentary feature (originally titled San zimei) follows three young siblings (YingYing, Zhenzhen and Fenfen) and their struggle to survive in a tiny village high in the mountains of China. In Mandarin in English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.98 retail).
WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM (Shout! Factory): Producer Art Linson made his directorial debut with this messy but interesting 1980 farce based on the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, with Bill Murray as Thompson and Peter Boyle as his best bud Lazlo, set against the backdrop of the 1972 Presidential election. Lots of familiar faces on hand: Bruno Kirby, Rene Auberjonois, R.G. Armstrong, Craig T. Nelson, Leonard Frey and Rafael Campos. The “Shout Select” Blu-ray ($34.99 retail) includes an interview with screenwriter John Kaye and original theatrical trailer. Rated R. **
YOUTH IN OREGON (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Good performances elevate this contrived but bittersweet comedy/drama starring Frank Langella (also an executive producer) as an ailing curmudgeon who embarks on a road trip to Oregon, ostensibly because assisted suicide is legal there. Josh Lucas, Christina Applegate, Nicola Peltz, James Murtaugh and the indispensable Mary Kay Place round out the cast. **½
(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2017, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”email@example.com