Video Vault – Nov 14, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
THE BIG LEBOWSKI (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): The Dude endures …
Following the Oscar-winning triumph of Fargo (1996), Joel and Ethan Coen followed up with this imaginative, indulgent, award-winning 1998 comedy that didn’t equal Fargo‘s acclaim or financial success but has since become the Coens’ most beloved film.
To delve into the plot would be impossible, so it’s best to sit just back and enjoy the ride, which is plenty wild and plenty funny – and centers around a case of mistaken identity between a belligerent millionaire named Jeff Lebowski (David Huddleston) and a shaggy, shuffling, perennially stoned local bowler, also named Jeff Lebowski (Jeff Bridges). The former is known as “the Big Lebowski” and the latter simply as “the Dude” – providing Bridges with one of his most iconic roles.
There’s a stellar supporting cast on hand: John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare (encoring from Fargo), Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ben Gazzara, John Turturro, David Thewlis, Tara Reid, and Sam Elliott, whose laconic narration is among the film’s many highlights, and Roger Deakins provides his customarily superb cinematography, capturing well the hazy highlights of life in Los Angeles.
The limited-edition “20th Anniversary” 4K Ultra HD combo ($59.98 retail) includes retrospective featurettes, photo gallery, theatrical trailers, and more, to say nothing of a slew of collectibles. Rated R. ***½
THE 12TH MAN (IFC Midnight/Shout! Factory): Director Harald Zwart’s award-winning, fact-based World War II saga (originally titled Den 12, mann) is set in 1943 Norway, as resistance fighter and saboteur Thomas Gullestad tries to elude the Gestapo (led by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) after a mission gone wrong. In German, Norwegian, and Saami with subtitles, available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail).
BEYOND THE SKY (RLJE Films): Director/story writer Fulvio Sestito’s crisply made, earnest conspiracy thriller examines the UFO-abduction phenomenon, with Ryan Carnes as a documentary filmmaker determined to expose it as a hoax, and Jordan Hinson as a young woman whose claims of abduction begin to sway him. Martin Sensmeier, Don Stark, Peter Stormare and Dee Wallace also appear in this intriguing film that has its flaws but is well worth a look. Both the DVD ($27.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.97 retail) include bonus interviews. **½
BOYS (TLA Releasing): Writer/director Christophe Charrier’s drama (originally titled Jonas and produced for French television), stars Felix Maritaud as a gay man reflecting on his teen years (with newcomer Nicolas Bauwens assuming the role), when he first came to terms with his sexuality. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
LA FAMILIA (Film Movement): Gustavo Rondon Cordova’s award-winning debut feature (also released as The Family) is set on the mean streets of Caracas, as an impoverished father (Giovanni Garcia) and son (newcomer Reggie Reyes) take flight after the latter accidentally kills another boy. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
FISHY STONES (IndiePix Films): Tonie vam der Merwe’s knockabout 1990 farce stars Innocent “Popo” Gumede and Hector Manthanda as bumbling robbers trying to retrieve stolen diamonds after escaping from prison. One of many films made in South Africa during the apartheid era that were produced exclusively for black audiences, this is fast and cheap and aims to please. In English and Zulu with English subtitles. **
GIRLS VS. GANGSTERS (Well Go USA Entertainment): The title tells all in director Barbara Wong’s sequel (originally titled Gui mi 2) to the 2014 hit comedy, starring Fiona Sit, Yihan Chen, and Ning Chang as a trio of hard-partying friends mixed up with the mob – and Mike Tyson! – after a wild bachelorette party. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail).
HOLY HELL (Indican Pictures): Ryan LaPlante’s giddy, grisly, award-winning debut feature stars the filmmaker as a pious priest who forsakes his vows and takes up arms after being subjected to various forms of degradation and humiliation. This low-budget spaghetti-Western spoof, seasoned with a Troma flavoring, is clearly not for all tastes, but is a surefire cult contender. **½
IN ECHO PARK (Indican Pictures): Writer/director/executive producer/editor Nathaniel Lezra’s rambling, bittersweet feature debut offers a low-key, slice-of-life exploration of aimless souls in Los Angeles who congregate in and around the titular location, with newcomer Jared Brown a standout as a struggling stand-up comic whose marriage is disintegrating before his very eyes. **½
“JOAQUIM PEDRO DE ANDRADE: THE COMPLETE FILMS” (Kino Classics): A self-explanatory Blu-ray collection ($59.95 retail) of the works of the acclaimed, award-winning Brazilian filmmaker Joaquim Pedro de Andrade (1932-’88), boasting the feature films Garrincha: Joy of the People (1963), The Priest and the Girl (1965), Macunaima (1969), The Conspirators (1972), Conjugal Warfare (1975) and The Brazilwood Man (1981) plus the short films The Poet of Castelo (1959), The Master of Apipucos (1959), Cat Skin (1960), Cinema Nova (1967), Brasilia: Contradictions of a New City (1967), The Language of Persuasion (1970), Tropical Lane (1977) and O Aleijadinho (1978), and a collectible booklet essay about de Andrade’s career.
A KID (Distrib Films/Icarus Films Home Video): Pierre Deladonchamps stars in screenwriter/producer/director Phillipe Lioret’s existential drama (originally titled Le fils de Jean) as an illegitimate son who attends his biological father’s funeral and is forced to reassess his own identity when he is summarily ignored by the family. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($26.98 retail).
LA MADRE, EL HIJO Y LA ABUELA (THE MOTHER, THE SON, AND THE GRANDMOTHER) (IndiePix Films): Writer/director Benjamin Brunet’s acclaimed, Spanish-language debut feature drama takes place in Chile following a cataclysmic volcanic eruption, with filmmaker Gonzalo Aburto forming an unlikely bond with strong-willed local merchant Ana Gallegos and equally willful mother Maria Munoz, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
LONGING (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/director Savi Gabizon’s award-winning Israeli black comedy (originally titled Ga’agua) stars Shai Avivi as a middle-aged bachelor forced to confront the past – and what might have been – when he learns he had a 20-year-son from a previous relationship who recently died in an accident. In French and Hebrew with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail).
MALILA: THE FAREWELL FLOWER (TLA Releasing): Writer/director Anucha Boonyawatana’s award-winning, Thai-language drama stars Sukollawat Kanarot and Anuchit Sapanpong as former lovers who reunite when the latter falls ill, forcing them to come to terms with their lives together and apart, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
NO POSTAGE NECESSARY (Two Roads Picture Company): Writer/producer/director Jeremy Culver’s PG-13-rated romantic comedy depicts the tentative relationship between computer hacker George Blagden and military widow Charleene Closshey, available on DVD ($14.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.99 retail).
“THE ORIGINALS”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): This award-winning, prime-time CW prequel to “The Vampire Diaries,” created by executive producer Julie Plec, chronicled the “first” vampire family and their bloodthirsty doings in the steamy French Quarter of New Orleans, in all 92 episodes from the entire 2013-’18 series run, with an ensemble cast including Joseph Morgan (double trouble as a hybrid vampire/werewolf), Daniel Gillies, Claire Holt, Phoebe Tonkin, Charles Michael Davis and Danielle Campbell, available in a DVD collection ($89.98 retail), replete with special features.
PAINLESS (Indican Pictures): Director Justin Horowitz makes his feature debut as writer/producer with this intriguing, award-winning, low-budget psycho-drama starring Joey Klein as a disaffected misfit with a rare condition that prevents him from feeling pain. More character study than science-fiction or thriller, but worth a look. **½
REPRISAL (LionsGate): Ex-cop Bruce Willis teams up with bank manager Frank Grillo to track down the thief (Johnathon Schaech) who killed one of the latter’s co-workers during a bank robbery in this R-rated shoot-’em-up reuniting Willis with director Brian A. Miller, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.99 retail), each featuring bonus content.
SABLE (Indican Pictures): First time producer Ayla Kell portrays the title character in writer/producer/director Michael Matteo Rossi’s well-intentioned crime drama/morality play, a young woman drawn into a convoluted, ultimately contrived odyssey of deception after her alcoholic boyfriend Jon Bridell accidentally commits a murder. **
SCARLET DIVA (Film Movement): Never a stranger to controversy, Asia Argento’s award-winning, semi-autobiographical, and extremely self-indulgent 2002 writing/directorial feature debut casts her as an oversexed, drug-addled Italian starlet struggling in both her life and career. Produced by Asia’s father Dario and uncle Salvatore, with her mother Daria Nicolodi essaying the same role in the narrative. In English, French and Italian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail), both replete with special features including archival and retrospective commentaries, vintage interview and featurette, collectible 20-page booklet, and more. Rated R. **
WINDTALKERS (MVD Entertainment Group): A two-disc “MVD Marquee Collection” Blu-ray “ultimate edition” ($39.95 retail) of John Woo’s award-winning, fact-based, and all-too-formulaic 2002 World War II epic dramatizing the service of Native Americans during the conflict, whose expertise in the Navajo Code made them invaluable in intelligence. Despite an intriguing storyline and Woo’s trademark expertise in action, this proved both a critical and financial disappointment. A stalwart cast includes Nicolas Cage, Christian Slater, Adam Beach, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Stormare, Frances O’Connor, Jason Isaacs, Noah Emmerich, Brian Van Holt, Martin Henderson, and Roger Willie (in his screen debut). Special features include both the theatrical version and the longer director’s cut, audio commentaries, vintage featurettes, deleted scenes, original trailer, and more. Rated R. **
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)