Video Vault – May 15, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE MULE (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): This entertaining, fact-based crime drama is especially noteworthy because it stars Clint Eastwood, in what he has (strongly) hinted will be his final acting role. Yet, not unlike his powerhouse turn in Gran Torino (2009), his performance here was overlooked during awards season.
Still charming and suave in his 80s, Earl Stone (Eastwood) nevertheless faces foreclosure on his botanical business, yet lucks out (?) when offered a considerable amount of cash as a driver. It sounds too good to be true and it is – because he’s carrying cocaine for a Mexican drug cartel.
Eastwood, who also produced and directed, effortlessly and expertly executes the film, which is alternately suspenseful, colorful, and even outrageously funny at times, with Bradley Cooper and Michael Pena in top form as DEA agents on Earl’s trail, and a deftly handled subplot involving Earl’s relationship with ex-wife Dianne Wiest, estranged daughter Alison Eastwood (Clint’s real daughter), and granddaughter Taissa Farmiga. Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia, Ignacio Serricchio, Loren Dean, Clifton Collins Jr., Robert LaSardo, and Richard Herd round out a fine cast.
The DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $35.99, and the 4K Ultra HD combo for $44.95 – each with special features. Rated R. ***½
“AGATHA RAISIN”: SERIES 2 (Acorn TV): Ashley Jensen portrays the title role of the British public-relations wiz-turned-amateur sleuth in all three feature-length episodes – plus bonus features — from the inaugural 2018-’19 season of the popular, light-hearted mystery series based on M.C. Beaton’s best-selling novels and also starring Jason Merrells, Matthew Horne and Katy Wix, available in a three-DVD collection ($59.99 retail).
BANJOS, BLUEGRASS & SQUIRREL BARKERS (Backyard Green Films/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/producer/director Rick Bowman’s 2016 documentary examines the history and impact of bluegrass music in San Diego, home to the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers (Chris Hillman, Bernie Leadon, Kenny Wertz and Larry Murray), Grammy Award winner Nickel Creek (Chrile Thile, Sean and Sara Watkins), and Deering Banjos, the largest banjo company in North America, available on DVD ($11.95 retail).
THE BIG WHITE (MVD Entertainment Group): A case of mistaken identity spells trouble for financially-strapped travel agent Robin Williams and his scheme to collect on an insurance policy in this R-rated 2005 black comedy boasting a star-studded ensemble cast including Holly Hunter, Woody Harrelson, Giovanni Ribisi, Alison Lohman, Tim Blake Nelson, and W. Earl Brown. The “MVD Rewind” special-edition Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) includes featurete, original trailer, and photo gallery.
BLAZE (Sundance Selects/Shout! Factory): Screenwriter/producer/director Ethan Hawke’s flavorful, award-winning adaptation of Sybil Rosen’s non-fiction book Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze chronicles the life and times of singer/songwriter Blaze Foley (1949-’89), as played by singer/songwriter Ben Dickey, with solid support from Alia Shakwat (superb as Rosen), Charlie Sexton, Sam Rockwell, Kris Kristofferson, filmmaker Richard Linklater, Josh Hamilton, and Steve Zahn. Hawke appears as a disc jockey, and Rosen (also a screenwriter) plays her own mother. Both the DVD ($16.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail) include audio commentary, behind-the-scenes featurette, and theatrical trailer. Rated R. ***
CAM GIRL (Omnibus Entertainment): Director/co-screenwriter Mirca Viola’s uneven, episodic drama, produced by Viola’s husband Enzo Gallo, stars Antonia Liskova as a frustrated advertising executive who encourages her friends to join forces in launching a sex-cam website. In Italian with English subtitles. **
FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Eddie Redmayne returns as eager young wizard Newt Scamander in the second big-screen installment of the Harry Potter spin-off penned and produced by J.K. Rowling, based on her 2001 best-seller, in which he squares off against the wicked Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, Carmen Ejogo, and Zoe Kravitz also return under the direction of Potter veteran David Yates, joined this time by Jude Law as the young Albus Dumbledore, available on DVD ($28.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail) and 4K Ultra HD combo ($44.95 retail), each replete with special features.
GOD KNOWS WHERE I AM (Juno Films/MVD Entertainment Group): Producers Todd and Jedd Wider make their feature directorial debut with this mournful, award-winning documentary tracing the tragic life of Linda Bishop, an educated New England mother who suffered from severe bipolar disorder, was released from a psychiatric facility, then broke into an abandoned farmhouse during a particularly harsh winter, and penned a journal detailing her despair before dying of starvation, her body being discovered in 2008. Executive producer Lori Singer provides Bishop’s “narration” as she reads from her journal entries. This makes a subtle but strong case for a better understanding of mental illness, and tends to linger in the memory long after its end. ***
MARILYN (Breaking Glass Pictures): Inspired by the actual case of Marcelo (now Marilyn) Bernasconi, writer/director Martin Rodriguez Redondo’s award-winning Argentinian drama stars newcomer Walter Rodriguez a withdrawn teenager (mockingly nicknamed “Marilyn”) who is forced to confront his sexuality after a brutal assault. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail).
OVER THE LIMIT (Film Movement): Former gymnast and writer/director Marta Prus brings a keen insight to this award-winning, tension-filled documentary that follows renowned young Russian gymnast Margarita “Rita” Mamun as she contends with both her dying father and the unceasing demands of coach Irina Viner-Usmanova as she trains to win an Olympic gold medal. It’s impossible not to be moved by Mamun’s determination and resilience, as well as her mounting frustration. In Russian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). ***
PATRIMONIO (First Run Features): Lisa F. Jackson and Sarah Teale produced and co-directed this engaging feature documentary, a quintessential underdog story pitting the American developers of a lush hotel/condo complex called Tres Santos against the local workers and fishermen on the Mexican coast upon whose land – and livelihoods – the development infringes upon. In English and Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). ***
PERMANENT GREEN LIGHT (Altered Innocence/CAV Distributing): Cult novelist Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley co-wrote and co-directed this drama starring Theo Cholbi as a teenager in Paris determined to blow himself up in public. In English and French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($21.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.99 retail), each boasting bonus features including filmmaker interviews and trailers.
THE STRANGE DOOR (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of director Joseph Pevney’s watchable 1951 adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Sire de Maletroit’s Door, dominated by Charles Laughton’s florid turn as a wicked French nobleman who imprisons his brother (Paul Cavanagh) in the dungeon and scehemes to ruin the life of niece Sally Forrest, while Boris Karloff suffers nobly as his abused servant. Less a horror film than a noir-ish melodrama, with Alan Napier, Richard Stapley, and Michael Pate in support. Special features include audio commentary. **½
TOMMY BATTLES THE SILVER SEA DRAGON (Random Media): In his feature debut as writer/director/composer/star, Luke Shirock plays the title role in this surreal, Kafka-esque musical fantasy as a disillusioned writer who finds himself on trial for his life and his very soul following the death of his mother, the loss of his cat, and the devastating break-up with girlfriend Celine Held. Indulgent, overlong, overripe and audacious, this isn’t for all tastes but most certainly is original. Shirock is nothing if not ambitious. Rated R. **½
TORMENT (Juno Films Selects/MVD Entertainment Group): John Guillermin wrote, produced, and directed this creaky, unconvincing 1950 mystery (originally titled The Paper Gallows, the onscreen title) starring Dermot Walsh and John Bentley as sibling crime writers whose competitiveness increases when both fall for faithful secretary Rona Anderson. Never released on home-video in the United States, the DVD retails for $19.95. *
VIRGINIA MINNESOTA (Indican Pictures): Writer/producer/director/co-star Daniel Stine’s agreeable, award-winning comedy/drama stars Rachel Hendrix and Aurora Perrineau as childhood friends who embark on an eventful road trip when their foster mother dies. Jessica Meisel, Susan Walters, Julia Keefe (in her feature debut), and Aurora’s real-life dad Harold Perrineau (as the voice of a travel computer) round out the cast. Terrific Great Lakes flavor, too. **½
WE ARE BOATS (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/producer/director James Bird’s episodic, ethereal drama resembles a latter-day version of Death Takes a Holiday (1934) – or its remake Meet Joe Black (1999) – in which murdered prostitute Angela Sarafyan returns to Earth to counsel those approaching the end of their lives. A sincere but overly rambling tearjerker with a hard-working ensemble cast: Luke Hemsworth, Amanda Plummer, Graham Greene, Booboo Stewart, Uzo Aduba, Adriana Mather (also a producer), Kristin Minter, Justin Cornwell, and Clayton Rohner. **
“WIRE IN THE BLOOD”: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (Acorn TV): A self-explanatory, 13-DVD collection ($89.99 retail) of all 23 episodes – plus bonus features – from the entire 2002-’09 run of the award-winning ITV crime series based on Val McDermid’s best-selling novels, starring Robson Green as a clinical psychologist called upon by the police to build profiles of serial killers in Northern England, partnered first with Hermione Norris and then Simone Lahbib, with Emma Handy, Mark Letheren, and Mark Penfold rounding out the regular cast.
ZOMBIE (Blue Underground/MVD Entertainment Group): “We are going to eat you!” Lucio Fulci attained instant notoriety with this grisly, self-explanatory, and highly controversial 1979 shocker in which unwary travelers to a tropical island encounter a rapidly-increasing, increasingly hungry contingent of the living dead. Crude and grim, but undeniably effective, with a stalwart cast headed by Tisa Farrow (Mia’s sister), Ian McCulloch, Olga Karlatos, Al Cliver, and Richard Johnson. Definitely not for the squeamish – even after all these years – but like the zombies this film’s cult status seems to increase with each passing year. The limited-edition three-disc collection ($49.95 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, original CD of Fabio Frizzi’s (excellent) score, collectible booklet, theatrical trailers, TV and radio spots, and more. **½
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)