Video Vault – Nov 20, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
CHARLEY VARRICK (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): “Clever” is the perfect description of Don Siegel’s cool, crisp, award-winning 1973 heist thriller based on John Reese’s novel The Looters, highlighted by one of Walter Matthau’s best performances in the title role.
The methodical and meticulous Varrick attempts to outfox both the police and the mob after he pulls off a daring daylight robbery at the Western Fidelity Bank – unaware that the loot is actually laundered mob money.
Siegel, a clever filmmaker if ever there was one, brings the same no-nonsense, unsentimental approach that he did to his other great movies (including Dirty Harry, Escape from Alcatraz, and the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers), and the Howard Rodman/Dean Riesner screenplay is loaded with twists and turns.
A superior cast includes Joe Don Baker, in one of his best performances as the ruthless mob enforcer “Molly,” Andrew Robinson (“Scorpio” from Dirty Harry), John Vernon, Felicia Farr, Sheree North, Norman Fell, Woodrow Parfrey, William Schallert, and Tom Tully.
Despite solid reviews, Charley Varrick was a box-office disappointment. Reportedly, Matthau himself didn’t care for the film, and likely hurt its prospects when he said as much on The Tonight Show, but a fervent following quickly established its status as a near-classic of the genre.
Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, behind-the-scenes featurette, theatrical trailer, TV spots and more. Rated PG. ***½
THE BLOODY BROOD (Kino Classics): An early example of “Canuxploitation,” producer/director Julian Roffman’s 1959 debut feature is set against the backdrop of Canada’s beatnik culture, following Jack Betts (in his screen debut) as investigates his brother’s murder, which ultimately leads him to philosophical but psychopathic drug dealer Peter Falk (in his screen debut). Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective featurette, bonus shorts, and theatrical trailer.
THE CORPORATE COUP D’ETAT (First Run Features): Executive producer/director Fred Peabody’s documentary feature provides an in-depth examination of the corporatization of American politics and its impact on the economy and the population. Occasionally repetitious, and it overreaches from time to time, but still persuasive – and depressing. ***
GO FISH (LionsGate): Sean Patrick O’Reilly wrote, produced, directed, and lends his voice to this family-friendly, PG-rated animated adventure about the efforts to save a coral reef from destruction, featuring the vocal talents of Mark Hamill, Ron Perlman, Alison Wandzura, and Justine “iJustine” Ezarik, available on DVD ($14.98 retail).
GONE FISHIN’ (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Joe Pesci and Danny Glover star in this dismal 1997 farce as buddies whose fishing trip goes haywire, with Rosanna Arquette, Lynn Whitfield, Carol Kane, Gary Grubbs, Nick Brimble, and Willie Nelson wasted in support. An early writing credit for J.J. (billed as “Jeffrey”) Abrams, this seemed a jinxed production: Original director John G. Avildsen (an Oscar winner) was replaced during production, a stuntwoman was killed on set, and the film sat on the shelf for the better part of a year. Maybe it should have stayed there. The DVD retails for $11.95, the Blu-ray for $14.95. Rated PG. *
HYPNOSIS TO BE HAPPY (IndiePix Films): Victor Audiffred makes his feature debut as writer/editor/cinematographer/producer/director for this highly theatrical two-hander (originally titled Hipnosis para ser Feliz) detailing the relationship between lonely souls Anton Araiza and Ericka Ramirez (in her screen debut) in Mexico City. Divided into chapters, this is a good-looking but ultimately bland character study. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). **
OCTAV (First Run Features): Writer/director Serge Ioan Celebidachi’s award-winning narrative feature debut stars Marcel Iure in the title role as an elderly man who returns to the Romanian village where he spent his childhood to revisit his past and make amends for the mistakes he’s made over the years. In Romanian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
OUT OF OMAHA (Imperative Entertainment/Firefly Theatre & Films/Dreamville): Clay Tweel’s timely, well-rounded, award-winning documentary feature follows twin brothers Darcell and Darrell Trotter from ages 17 to 24, as they struggle against the criminal, racial, and social strife of the titular Nebraska city to make lives for themselves. ***
PIXELIA (IndiePix Films): Writer/director Ratheeth Ravindran’s debut feature stars Sanal Aman as a lonely Uber driver and aspiring cartoonist who forms a relationship with transgender woman Gowri Savithri. This well-intentioned, bittersweet drama doesn’t quite succeed, but is an admirable attempt nonetheless. In Malayalam with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). **½
POLYESTER (The Criterion Collection): John Waters wrote, produced, and directed this typically zany 1981 suburban satire starring the inimitable Divine as a beleaguered, all-American Baltimore housewife whose world comes unglued then meets the man of her dreams in handsome Tab Hunter … or so she thinks. Inspired by the films of Douglas Sirk and filmed in “Odorama,” (a scratch-and-sniff card for ticket buyers), this marked Waters’s first comparatively mainstream production, with punk rocker Stiv Bators (in his screen debut) and Waters regulars Mink Stole, Mary Vivian Pearce, Cookie Mueller (her last collaboration with Waters), and the uproarious Edith Massey (in her final film) on hand. Personal note: Massey’s scene in the dress parlor slays me every time. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective and vintage interviews, deleted scenes and alternate takes, an “Odorama” card, and more. Rated R. ***
POMS (STXFilms/Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Documentary filmmaker Zara Hayes makes her feature debut as storywriter and makes her narrative directorial debut with this predictable, terminally cutesy comedy starring Diane Keaton (also an executive producer) as the latest resident at a retirement community finds friendship and inspiration when she forms a cheerleading squad. Despite nice cinematography (by UNCSA School of Filmmaking alumnus Tim Orr) and an appealing cast including Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, Rhea Perlman, Phyllis Somerville, Charlie Tahan, reliable Bruce McGill, and Salem College and UNCSA School of Drama alumnus Celia Weston, this is strictly paint-by-numbers. Both the DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail) boast bonus features. Rated PG-13. *½
PREY (Cinedigm): While on an “Outward Bound”-type excursion, Logan Miller is stranded on a remote Malaysian island where he encounters both a feral girl (Kristine Froseth) and a ravenous inhuman creature in director/co-writer Franck Khalfoun’s well-made but cluttered, confusing shocker. Rated PG-13. *½
SCARED OF REVOLUTION (Film Movement): Director Daniel Krikke’s feature documentary, adapted from Christine Otten’s book The Last Poets, profiles Umar Bin Hassan (born Jerome Huling), a principal member of the Last Poets, a black activist group born in the 1960s whose performances and poems reflected the political and social strife of the times, and how the struggles in his own life continue to inform his art today. Enlightening, hopeful, and still relevant today. ***
SISTERS OF THE WILDERNESS (IndiePix Films): Karin Slater’s award-winning documentary feature, boasting an all-female cast and crew, follows five young Zulu women who embark on a journey of self-discovery when they visit the iMfolozi wilderness, the oldest game park in South Africa, accompanied by Lihle Mbokazi, the first black South African wilderness guide. In English and Zulu with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
“STAR TREK: DISCOVERY” – SEASON TWO (CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): The immortal science-fiction franchise soars once more in all 14 episodes from the 2019 season of the Emmy-winning prime-time CBS series created by executive producers Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtman, based (naturally) on Gene Roddenberry’s original vision and set a decade before the events of the original series, featuring an ensemble cast including Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Mary Wiseman, Shazad Latif, Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz, Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn, Tig Notaro, and Michelle Yeoh. Both the four-disc DVD ($49.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($55.98 retail) boast bonus features.
TOM SACHS: A SPACE PROGRAM (Zeitgeist Films/Kino Lorber): The director’s cut of Van Neistat’s 2015 documentary, in which acclaimed artist Tom Sachs (also a writer/producer) and his team created Space Program 2.0: MARS, their own space program for their own “mission” to Mars, available on Blu-ray ($29.95 retail), with special features including audio commentary, the theatrical cut of the film, theatrical trailer, and more.
UNDERTAKER (Synapse Films/CAV Distributing): Writer/producer Naoyoshi Kawamatsu’s 2012 shocker (originally titled Soginin – andateika) sees Japan ravaged by a virus that turns its victims into flesh-eating zombies, as seen through the eyes of a young boy (Yoshito Kobashigawa) who does his part to rid the world of the rampaging fiends. In Japanese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail), each boasting bonus features.
VAULT (LionsGate): Writer/director Tom DeNucci’s episodic, fact-based crime saga stars Theo Rossi and Clive Standen as small-time crooks who commit a $30 million robbery in 1975 Providence, Rhode Island, only to learn they’ve stolen the mob’s money … which, understandably, causes problems. The star-studded cast includes Don Johnson (also an executive producer), Chazz Palminteri (also an executive producer), Samira Wiley, William Forsythe, Dorothy Lyman, Eric Lutes, Andrew Divoff, Vincent Pastore, and Burt Young. Appropriately gritty, with political undertones, but overly familiar, and populated by unlikable characters. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $21.99. Rated R. **
THE WAVY GRAVY MOVIE: SAINT MISBEHAVIN’ (Kino Lorber): 10th-anniversary special-edition DVD ($19.95 retail) of producer/director Michelle Esrick’s self-explanatory, award-winning 2009 feature documentary tracing the life, career, and misadventures of the titular entertainer and social activist (born Hugh Nanton Romney). Special featurs include new audio commentary and interview, and nearly an hour’s worth of additional scenes.
THE WEEKEND (LionsGate): Writer/producer/director Stella Meghie’s R-rated farce stars Saturday Night Live alumnus Sasheer Zamala as a brassy comedienne who accompanies ex-boyfriend Tone Bell and his new girlfriend DeWanda Wise on a weekend getaway that quickly goes haywire. Both the DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.99 retail) include audio commentary and trailer gallery.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)