Video Vault – May 2, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
JOE (Olive Films): Director John G. Avildsen and screenwriter Norman Wexler nailed the zeitgeist in this powerful, controversial 1970 drama that catapulted Peter Boyle (in the title role) to stardom, earned Wexler an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and became a sleeper hit for the (then-)New York-based independent Cannon Group.
A chance meeting in a bar brings together Bill Compton (Dennis Patrick), a Manhattan advertising executive who has just killed the hippie boyfriend (Patrick McDermott) of his daughter Melissa (Susan Sarandon in her screen debut), and Boyle’s Joe Curran, a bellicose blue-collar working stuff and true-blue bigot. Compton is mortified by his crime, but Joe is thrilled. To him, Compton has struck a blow for the Establishment.
When Melissa goes missing after learning of her father’s crime, Bill and Joe team up to track her down, embarking on an odyssey into the underground culture of the era, a world they have no connection to – culminating in a shattering and ultimately inevitable climax.
This is very much a portrait of its time, yet its themes resonate – perhaps just as loudly, and with no small irony – today. Boyle deservedly earned the lion’s share of attention for his unforgettable portrayal, but the performances of Patrick, Sarandon, K Callan (as Joe’s clueless wife) and Audrey Caire (as Compton’s sharp spouse) are equally first-rate. After all these years, Joe remains one of the most important films of the ’70s, its power undiminished by time.
The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. ****
12 STRONG (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Liam Hemsworth, Michael Shannon and Michael Pena star in this R-rated adaptation of Doug Stanton’s non-fiction best-seller Horse Soldiers, as members of an elite military unit assigned to Afghanistan in the days following Sept. 11, 2001, available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail).
ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Ridley Scott’s episodic but engrossing dramatization of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) in Rome 1973, based on John Pearson’s non-fiction best-seller, stars Michelle Williams as the teen’s bereaved but resilient mother, Mark Wahlberg as a security expert aiding her, and Christopher Plummer as oil baron J. Paul Getty, who initially refuses to pay any ransom. Christopher Plummer (no relation to Charlie) famously replaced a disgraced Kevin Spacey a mere six weeks before the film’s release, earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor, and his towering presence dominates the narrative, even when he’s not on-camera. The DVD retails for $30.99, the Blu-ray for $34.99 — each replete with special features. Rated R. ***
CAS (Dekkoo Films/TLA Releasing): A DVD collection ($24.99 retail) of three acclaimed, gay-themed short films: Writer/director Reid Waterer’s Bed Buddies, writer/director Matt Guerin’s Tri-Curious, and director Joris van den Berg’s titular, award-winning Dutch-language short.
“DEAR MURDERER”: SERIES 1 (Acorn TV): Mark Mitchinson portrays the controversial real-life New Zealand attorney Mike Bingay (1934-’93), whose hedonistic tendencies sometimes clashed with – and sometimes fueled – his unorthodox courtroom tactics, in all five feature-length episodes from the inaugural 2017 season of the drama series based on the non-fiction book Dear Murderer: Mike Bungay’s Life on Trial, written by Bungay’s former colleague and second wife Rhonda Wealleans available in a two-DVD collection ($39.99 retail).
FOLLOWERS (Synkronized): Writer/producer/editor/director Ryan Justice’s inauspicious debut feature stars Amanda Delaney and Justin Maina as social-media stars who celebrate their anniversary camping in the woods, surreptitiously followed by a pair of documentary filmmakers (Sean Michael Gloria and Nishant Gogna) – and then all hell breaks loose. Like so many found-footage chillers, no matter how dire their circumstances the characters are always filming. *
IN THE FADE (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Fatih Akin’s award-winning, fact-inspired, R-rated political thriller (originally titled Aus dem Nichts) stars Diane Kruger as a woman bent on vengeance after her husband and son are killed by neo-Nazi terrorists in modern-day Germany. In German and Greek with English subtitles, available on DVD ($26.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail), each replete with special features.
JASMINE (Indican Pictures): Set in Hong Kong, producer Dax Phelan’s award-winning debut as screenwriter/director is a crisp, cool exercise in a Christopher Nolan/M. Night Shyamalan fashion, as tormented Jason Tobin obsessively seeks his wife’s murderer … although some viewers may figure out the major plot twist along the way. **½
KALEIDOSCOPE (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Toby Jones toplines writer/director Rupert Jones’ award-winning debut as an ex-con contending with the unexpected reappearance of his domineering mother (Anne Reid), which ultimately builds to a boiling point. The DVD retails for $16.97, the Blu-ray for $22.97 – each replete with bonus features.
LAST SEEN IN IDAHO (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/producer/editor Hallie Shepherd plays an amnesiac struggling to recall a murder she witnessed while dealing with sudden psychic flashes in producer/director/editor/co-star Eric Colley’s gimmicky thriller, with Casper Van Dien (also a co-producer) as a steely-eyed killer, Wes Ramsey, Shawn Christian, and scene-stealer Ted Rooney as the canny cop on the case. Not bad, but slow pacing is a hindrance. **
MAFIA! (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Writer/director Jim Abrahams’ scattershot 1998 Godfather/Goodfellas send-up (originally titled Jane Austen’s Mafia!) marked Lloyd Bridges’ big-screen swan song as an ailing crime boss whose sons (Jay Mohr and Billy Burke) vie for control of his empire. Some gags hit, others miss, but this kills time easily enough. Lots of familiar faces on hand: Olympia Dukakis, Christina Applegate, Tony Lo Bianco, Joe Viterelli, Vincent Pastore, Pamela Gidley and Gregory Sierra. Both the DVD ($11.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.95 retail) include audio commentary and theatrical trailers. Rated PG-13. **
MAN UNDERGROUND (Indican Pictures): Writer/producer/editor/directors Michael Borowiec and Sam Marine’s award-winning debut feature is a quirky character study focusing on George Basil, a misanthropic alien-conspiracy theorist who impetuously decides to make a film about his life, aided and abetted by best (and only) friend Andy Rocco and neighborhood waitress Pamela Fila. A very pleasant surprise, with an unexpected – and effective — amount of pathos incorporated into the mix. A little gem, well worth a look. Rated R. ***
MAYA THE BEE 2: THE HONEY GAMES (Shout! Kids Factory): The title character (voiced again by Coco Jack Gillies) buzzes back into action in this animated, feature-length follow-up to the award-winning 2014 animated feature, based on the popular television series (broadcast on PBS Kids Sprout) and adapted from Waldemar Bonsels’ much-beloved 1912 children’s novel, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail).
MERMAIDS (Olive Films): This 1990 adaptation of Patty Dann’s best-selling novel is a standard-issue, coming-of-age comedy/drama starring Cher as an eccentric ’60s matriarch, Winona Ryder as her rebellious older daughter, and Christina Ricci (in her screen debut) as her guileless younger daughter, with the always welcome Bob Hoskins adding some charm as Cher’s beau. Cher reportedly threw her weight around during production, having Emily Lloyd (who won a court settlement) replaced by Ryder, and original directors Lasse Hallstrom and Frank Oz by Richard Benjamin, available on DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail). Rated PG-13. **
ONCE UPON A TIME (Well Go USA Entertainment): First-timers Zhao Xiaoding and Anthony LaMolinara co-directed this award-winning adaptation of Qi Tang’s international best-seller Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, starring Yifei Lu as a goddess who unexpectedly falls for a mortal (Yang Yang) – which thrusts them both in jeopardy. In Chinese with English subtitles, available on Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
“PAW PATROL: SUMMER RESCUES” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): The tenacious team of rescue pups returns in this DVD collection ($10.99 retail) of eight episodes from the popular, award-winning animated Nickelodeon children’s series.
PLAY IT TO THE BONE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Writer/director Ron Shelton’s disappointing, overlong 1999 comedy stars Woody Harrelson and Antonio Banderas as best friends and has-been boxers who get a last shot at glory by fighting each other in Las Vegas. The star-studded cast includes Lolita Davidovich (Mrs. Shelton), Lucy Liu, Robert Wagner, Tom Sizemore, Richard Masur, Jack Carter and Aida Turturro, but this never connects. Both the DVD ($11.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.95 retail) include audio commentary and theatrical trailer. Rated R. *
TREMORS: A COLD DAY IN HELL (Universal 1440 Entertainment/Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): The sixth in the long-running sci-fi/comedy franchise reunites Michael Gross (a veteran of all six films) and Jamie Kennedy (from the last) as they battle the latest spate of subterranean “Graboid” monsters, this time in the Canadian Arctic – although the film was shot in Capetown, South Africa (!). It’s hard to top the 1990 original, but this ranks as a fast-paced, agreeable time-killer that should please the fans, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($22.98 retail), both with bonus features. Rated PG-13. **½
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)