Video Vault – May 8, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
ALIEN (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Director Ridley Scott’s 1979 breakout smash not only spawned one of Twentieth Century Fox’s most durable and profitable franchises, but remains a perfectly executed exercise in science-fiction suspense. It’s simple storytelling at maximum throttle, and remains a landmark in the genre.
En route back to Earth, the commercial space vessel Nostromo answers a distress signal from a distant planet, which proves a fateful – and fatal – move, as an alien creatures accompanies them back. For those few who may not know how it comes aboard, it’s arguably one of the most vivid scenes in motion-picture history.
Repeated attempts to capture or kill the alien fail, and one by one, the crew members are killed off. It’s Agatha Christie with a sci-fi bent, and no less effective as a result. Although the futuristic hardware and Oscar-winning special effects are front and center, the human element is palpably present thanks to a first-rate ensemble cast including Sigourney Weaver (in her first starring role), Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, Ian Holm, John Hurt, and Harry Dean Stanton – all of whom manage to imbue stock characters with distinctive personalities.
The film also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, and let’s not overlook the contribution of composer Jerry Goldsmith, whose evocative score enhances not only the tension but also the desolation of the setting. Remember: “In space, no one can hear you scream.”
The 40th-anniversary 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray combo ($22.68 retail) includes both the 1979 theatrical version and the 2003 director’s cut, audio commentary, and more. Rated R. ****
ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU (Film Movement Classics): Writer/director Shunji Iwai’s award-winning 2001 coming-of-age drama (originally titled Riri Shushu no subete) stars Shugo Oshinari and Hayato Oshinari as bullied Japanese teenagers who find solace in the music of the titular pop singer (played by singer Salyu in her feature debut). In Japanese and Ryukyuan with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail), each with bonus features.
BECOMING ASTRID (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Writer/director Pernille Fischer Christensen’s award-winning biographical drama (originally titled Unga Astrid) offers a bittersweet exploration of the tumultuous early life of Astrid Lindgren, the noted children’s author whose works included Pippi Longstocking, superbly portrayed by Alba August. In Swedish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) replete with bonus features. ***
COLUMBUS (Oscilloscope Laboratories): The titular Indiana town famed for its architecture is the setting for editor/writer/director Kogonada’s award-winning feature debut, which stars Haley Lu Richardson as a troubled teen who befriends John Cho, a Korean businessman whose architect father has been hospitalized. Vaguely reminiscent of Lost in Translation (2003) and featuring star-studded support from Parker Posey, Rory Culkin and Michelle Forbes, this is well-made, well-acted, and painfully slow-moving. Both the DVD ($34.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.99 retail) include bonus features including audio commentary. **
“FINDING JOY” (Acorn TV): Amy Huberman serves as associate producer, writer, creator (with Rebecca O’Flanagan), and leading lady of this Irish comedy series in which she plays the title role of a network vlogger still smarting after her live-in boyfriend (Lochlann O’Mearain) dumps her for another woman (Karen Hassan). All six episodes from the inaugural 2018 season – plus behind-the-scenes featurette – are available on DVD ($34.99 retail).
GOLDEN JOB (Well Go USA Entertainment): A band of mercenaries is reunited for one last heist, only to be double-crossed and forced to exact revenge, in writer/director/co-star Kar Lok Chin’s action extravaganza (originally titled Huang jin xiong di), which boasts Jackie Chan as a producer and an ensemble cast including Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan (no relation to Jackie), Michael Tse, Charmaine Sheh, and Eric Tsang. In English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hungarian and Japanese with English subtitles, available on Blu-ray ($29.98 retail), replete with bonus features.
THE GOLEM (Epic Pictures): The Paz Brothers (Doron and Yoav) produced and co-directed this effective, award-winning chiller about the mythical monster of Hebrew lore, set in plague-stricken 17th-century Lithuania, with Hani Furstenberg (first-rate) as a woman who raises the Golem to vanquish a sadistic band of infidels that have laid siege to her village, only to slowly realize that her creation is far more destructive and out of her control. The requisite gore is here, but so is an interesting moral observation that violence only begets more violence. Tal Yardeni’s evocative score is also an asset. Both the DVD ($13.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($26.99 retail) include audio commentary, theatrical trailer, and more. ***
HAGAZUSSA (Doppelganger Releasing/Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Subtitled A Heathen’s Curse, first-time writer/producer/director Lukas Feigelfeld’s award-winning chiller takes place in 15th-century Austria, as paranoia and superstition grip the populace as a plague ravages the land, with Aleksandra Cwen as a young woman who descends into madness as a result of persecution. In German with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail), each boasting bonus features including select-scene commentary, music video, and more.
HOLIDAY (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/director Isabella Ekhof’s award-winning drama stars Victoria Carmen Sonne as the plaything of drug kingpin Lai Yde, who becomes jealous when she strikes up a friendship with a local yachtsman (Thijs Romer) during a sojourn on the Turkish Riviera. Picturesque, suspenseful, and absolutely cold-blooded, with a graphic sexual assault at mid-point that will undoubtedly shock some viewers. In English and Danish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail). **½
MISS BALA (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Director Catherine Hardwicke’s PG-13-rated shoot-’em-up, a remake of the 2011 Mexican film of the same name, stars Gina Rodriguez as a makeup artist who wages a one-woman war against the Mexican drug cartel that kidnapped her best friend (Cristina Rodlo). Both the DVD ($30.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.99 retail) boast bonus features including audio commentary, production featurettes, deleted and extended scenes, and more.
MISSION OF HONOR (Cinedigm): This fact-based World War II drama (originally titled Hurricane) follows the heroic exploits of the Royal Air Force’s Squadron 303, a unit primarily comprised of Polish pilots who had fled their country under Nazi occupation and were determined to repay the “favor” on behalf of their conquered countrymen. Iwan Rheon, Milo Gibson, Marcin Dorocinski, Krystof Hadek, and Stephanie Martini head the ensemble cast. In English, German and Polish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($16.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.94 retail)
“NO OFFENCE”: SERIES 3 (Acorn TV): A two-DVD collection ($49.99 retail) of all six feature-length episodes from the inaugural 2018 season of the award-winning, offbeat police procedural created by Paul Abbott, following a group of officers working the mean streets of Manchester, with an ensemble cast including Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy, Sharon Rooney, Will Mellor, Paul Ritter, Claire Rushbrook, and Lisa McGrillis.
PINSKY (Breaking Glass Pictures): Rebecca Karpovsky, making her feature debut as executive producer/producer/co-writer, stars in the title role of a Boston-based lesbian and aspiring stand-up comedienne attempting to recover from a break-up while contending with her neurotic Russian Jewish family in director/co-writer Amanda Lundquist’s breezy, award-winning debut feature, available on DVD ($19.99 retail), with bonus features. **½
“A PLACE TO CALL HOME”: SEASON 6 – THE FINAL CHAPTER (Acorn TV): Marta Dusseldorp’s final turn as Sarah Nordmann, the passionate and resilient nurse who has returned home to New South Wales following World War II, in all 10 episodes from the 2018 (and final) season of the award-winning Australian drama series created by Bevan Lee, co-starring Noni Hazlehurst, Brett Climo, David Berry, Abby Earl, Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood and Frankie J. Holden, available in a three-DVD collection ($59.99 retail). Acorn is also releasing the self-explanatory “A Place to Call Home: The Complete Collection,” a limited-edition 20-DVD colllection ($299.99 retail) including all 67 episodes – plus bonus features – from the entire 2013-’18 series run.
“SESAME STREET: AWESOME ALPHABET COLLECTION” (Sesame Workshop/Shout! Kids/Shout! Factory): Celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Sesame Street,” this self-explanatory DVD ($14.98 retail) features the popular Muppet characters as they explore every letter of the alphabet, with guest appearances by Ricky Gervais, Sheryl Crow, Pharrell Williams, Tori Kelly and Maya Angelou, plus the bonus feature Elmo’s Amazing Alphabet Race.
“STEVEN UNIVERSE: SEASON TWO” (Cartoon Network): A DVD collection ($34.98 retail) of 25 episodes – plus bonus features and collectible keychain – from the 2015-’16 season of the Emmy-winning, animated Cartoon Network sci-fi adventure series created by Rebecca Sugar, following the misadventures of the title character (voiced by Zach Callison) and his team of Crystal Gems warriors, dedicated to battling the forces of evil. That season, the series earned an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Short Form Animated Program.
SUNBURN (TLA Releasing): Writer/director Vicente Alves Do O’s drama (originally titled Golpe del Sol) follows a group of gay friends whose weekend idyll is shattered by the unexpected arrival of a friend whom they haven’t seen in 10 years. The ensemble cast includes Ricardo Pereira, Oceana Basilio, Nuno Pardal, Ricardo Barbosa, and Rafael Gomes. In Portuguese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
TARANTULA (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): An oversized arachnid terrorizes an Arizona town in this self-explanatory but highly effective 1955 sci-fi shocker, well-directed by genre favorite Jack Arnold and featuring a stalwart cast including John Agar, Leo G. Carroll, Mara Corday, Nestor Paiva, Ross Elliott, and Raymond Bailey. The special effects remain impressive, and look fast for Clint Eastwood as a fighter pilot in the film’s climax. The special-edition Blu-ray ($27.99 retail) includes audio commentary, theatrical trailer, and more. ***
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)