Video Vault – Nov 13, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): A delicious black comedy of errors, manners and murders, director/screenwriter Robert Hamer’s award-winning 1949 adaptation of Roy Horniman’s 1907 novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal is a quintessential example of the comedies made by Britain’s Ealing Studios.
Dennis Price plays Louis Mazzini (and, in flashbacks, his father), the 10th Duke of Chalfont, whose mother was disowned for marrying beneath her station. In retaliation, he methodically plots to murder the eight members of the D’Ascoyne family to claim his inheritance.
In the film’s most inspired twist, all of the D’Ascoynes – male and female – are played by Alec Guinness, in an uproarious turn that offers irrefutable evidence of his versatility. Despite fine performances by Price, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson, and Hugh Griffith, it’s no surprise that Guinness dominates the proceedings. Reportedly the actor was offered four characters, but liked the script so much he requested to play eight!
Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective featurettes, alternate American ending, and theatrical trailer. ***½
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Garth Stein’s award-winning 2008 best-seller forms the basis for this PG-rated comedy/drama that unfolds from the perspective of a Golden Retriever named Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner), with Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Baker, Martin Donovan, and Gary Cole, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.96 retail) – each replete with bonus features.
A CHAMPION HEART (Monarch Home Entertainment): Mandy Grace (in her screen debut) portrays a troubled teenager who finds solace in caring for a wounded horse in this mild but agreeable melodrama (originally titled A Horse from Heaven) that marks the feature directorial debut of writer/producer David De Vos (who also plays Grace’s father), which he wrote and produced with real-life wife Stephanie De Vos. That Grace’s real name is Amanda De Vos indicates this was a family project, and the faith-based elements are smoothly incorporated into the narrative without becoming preachy. **
CINDERELLA AND THE SECRET PRINCE (Gold Valley Films/Shout! Kids/Shout! Factory): This PG-rated family fantasy stars Cassandra Lee Morris as the voice of Cinderella, who uncovers an insidious plot to replace a prince with an imposter. Chris Niosi, Tony Azzolino, Kirsten Day, Wendee Lee, Stephen Mendel, Terrence Stone, and Stephanie Sanditz (as the wicked stepmother) lend their vocal talents to this animated feature, available on DVD ($14.98 retail).
A CINDERELLA STORY: CHRISTMAS WISH (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The fifth in the family-friendly Cinderella Story franchise combines the beloved fairy tale with the holiday season, writer/director Michelle Johnston’s PG-rated fantasy stars Laura Marano as an aspiring singer/songwriter whose ambitions and aspirations are continually thwarted by wicked stepmother Johanna Newmarch, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.98 retail), each with bonus featurettes.
CLUNY BROWN (The Criterion Collection): Jennifer Jones (in the title role) and Charles Boyer headline producer/director Ernest Lubitsch’s final film, a tangy 1946 adaptation of Margery Sharp’s novel, in which a free-wheeling housekeeper and a dashing Czech refugee wreak havoc at a stuffy English manor as World War II looms. An expertly-made combination of social satire and romantic comedy, tinged with historical reality. A zesty cast includes Peter Lawford, Reginald Gardiner, Reginald Owen, Helen Walker, Richard Haydn, Sara Allgood, Una O’Connor, and Sir C. Aubrey Smith. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include retrospective interviews and the 1950 radio version with Boyer and Dorothy McGuire. ***
COUNTRY CHRISTMAS ALBUM (Monarch Home Entertainment): Romantic sparks fly when country singer Hannah Barefoot collaborates with pop star Evan Gamble on a Christmas project in writer/director Danny Buday’s holiday-themed, tuneful romantic comedy, available on DVD ($19.95 retail).
“DREAMWORKS ULTIMATE HOLIDAY COLLECTION” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): The title tells all in this collection of nine holiday-themed specials from DreamWorks Animation: Trolls Holiday, Shrek the Halls, Donkey’s Caroling Christmas-tacular, Merry Madagascar, Penguins of Madagascar in a Christmas Caper, Dragon Holiday: Gift of the Night Fury, Home for the Holidays, and Rise of the Guardians, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.98 retail), each replete with bonus features.
THE GRINCH (Illumination/Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Benedict Cumberbatch voices the title role, the Christmas-hating green meanie whose attempts to sabotage Whoville’s holiday celebration ultimately lead to his redemption, in this enjoyable, animated feature based on the classic story by Dr. Seuss. The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail) includes three mini-movies, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and more. Rated PG. ***
HESBURGH (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Patrick Creadon directed this thorough, thoughtful, award-winning documentary tracing the life and career of Rev. Theodore M. “Ted” Hesburgh (1917-2015), the esteemed clergyman, political activist, and tireless advocate of human rights who served as president of Notre Dame University for an unprecedented 35 years, augmented by vintage footage and Maurice LaMarche providing the voice of Hesburgh. ***
“HOLIDAY POP-UP COLLECTIBLES” (Acorn TV): Ringing in the yuletide season, Acorn has released three limited-edition, Christmas-themed DVDs (each $24.99 retail) from some of its most popular mystery series’: Neill Rea and Fern Sutherland in The Brokenwood Mysteries (“A Merry Bloody Christmas”), Neil Dudgeon and Gwilym Lee in Midsomer Murders (“The Christmas Haunting”), and Essie Davis in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (“Murder Under the Mistletoe”), each with bonus features.
THE LION KING (Walt Disney Studios): Producer/director Jon Favreau’s award-winning, PG-rated musical remake of the 1994 animated blockbuster follows the adventures of the lion cub Simba (voiced by J.D. McCrary as a boy and Donald Glover as an adult) as he grows to maturity and realizes his rightful place in the animal kingdom, with an all-star voice-over cast: James Earl Jones (encoring from the original film), Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, John Kani, John Oliver, Keegan-Michael Key, Billy Eichner, Amy Sedaris, Chance the Rapper, and Beyonce Knowles-Carter. The DVD ($22.99 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($29.99 retail) each boast bonus features.
THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Director/co-writer Alexander Mackendrick’s fast-paced 1951 adaptation of co-writer Roger MacDougall’s satirical play stars Alec Guinness (in top form) as an eccentric but brilliant chemist whose creation of an indestructible fiber that resists stains sends shockwaves through the garment industry. Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker, Michael Gough, Howard Marion Crawford, and Ernest Thesiger round out a polished cast, and the final twist is a delight. Mackendrick, MacDougall, and John Dighton received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective discussion, and theatrical trailer. ***
OUR HOSPITALITY (Kino Classics): Buster Keaton, the “Great Stone Face” himself, co-directed (with Jack Blystone) and stars in this 1923 silent comedy as a guileless everyman whose attempt to claim his birthright is complicated when he falls for a woman (Keaton’s then-wife Natalie Talmadage) whose family has long waged a feud against his. Yes, it’s the “Hatfields vs. the McCoys,” Keaton-style, and a true family affair, featuring father Joe Keaton and son Buster Jr. (in his only film), and marked the final film of co-star Joe Roberts. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) include audio commentary, bonus shorts, and more. ***
REAP THE WILD WIND (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Spectacle supersedes storytelling in Cecil B. DeMille’s grand-scale, star-studded 1942 sea-faring saga set in Key West, adapted from the Saturday Evening Post serial by Thelma Strabel, with John Wayne, Ray Milland, Paulette Goddard, Susan Hayward, Robert Preston, Charles Bickford, Milburn Stone, Louise Beavers, Raymond Hatton, Hedda Hopper (in her final film before becoming one of Tinseltown’s most infamous gossip columnists) and an eminently hissable Raymond Massey as the heavy. Oscar winner for Best Visual Effects, with additional nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, available on Blu-ray ($29.95 retail). ***
“SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: THE BEST 200 EPISODES EVER!” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): The title tells all in this DVD selection ($76.99 retail) boasting “SpongeBob SquarePants: The First 100 Episodes” and “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Next 100 Episodes” from the award-winning, animated Nickelodeon series that celebrates its 20th season on the air this year.
THE SWAN PRINCESS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): A 25th-anniversary Blu-ray ($24.99 retail), replete with bonus features, of the award-winning, G-rated 1994 animated fantasy based on the classic fairy tale Swan Lake, in which a plucky young princess (voiced by newcomer Adrian Zahiri as a girl, Michelle Nicastro as an adult, and Liz Callaway doing the singing) is transformed into a swan, with star-studded voice-over support from Jack Palance, John Cleese, Sandy Duncan, Howard McGillin, Steven Wright, Dakin Matthews, and screenwriter Brian Nissen (as the narrator).
TOY STORY 4 (Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney Studios): A quarter-century since the release of the original film, which has spanned two generations of fans, sees the beloved toys back in action in this fun-filled, award-winning animated extravaganza that marks the directorial debut of under the direction of first-timer Josh Cooley, with Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Estelle Harris, John Cusack, Laurie Metcalf and the late Don Rickles reprising their earlier voice-over roles, joined this time by Keanu Reeves, Carl Weathers, Timothy Dalton, Jordan Peele, Keegan Michael-Key, Christina Hendricks, Tony Hale, Bonnie Hunt, Jeff Garlin, Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Betty White, Carl Reiner, Kristin Schaal, Alan Oppenheimer, and the late Don Rickles. This doesn’t quite reach the heights of hilarity of the second and third films but is still irresistible entertainment for all ages, filled with visual splendor and inspired comic moments. Dedicated to Rickles and animator Adam Burke, both of whom died prior to its release. The DVD ($24.96 retail), Blu-ray ($29.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD ($29.96 retail) each boast bonus features. Rated G. ***½
“VEGGIETALES: THE BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT” (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): The title tells all in this animated, holiday-themed outing featuring the beloved Veggietales characters ringing in the holidays with a special Christmas show in which everything seems to go wrong, available on DVD ($19.98 retail), replete with bonus features.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)