Video Vault – Nov 22, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM (RLJ Entertainment): Taking a page (or two) from the legend of Jack the Ripper, director Juan Carlos Medina’s appropriately lurid adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s best-seller Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem combines fact and fiction in its twisty narrative.
Bill Nighy puts his grim visage to stellar use as John Kildare, a cynical Scotland Yard inspector investigating a series of sadistic murders in the Limehouse district of London, which some believe to be the work of the ancient Jewish demon known as “the Golem.” Aided by dutiful constable George Flood (Daniel Mays), Kildare sifts through clues (some bogus) and leads (some false), becoming more and more invested in the case’s outcome as panic grips the city.
There’s no shortage of suspects, including music-hall star Dan Leno (Douglas Booth), mysterious maid Aveline Ortega (Maria Valverde), seedy impresario “Uncle” (Eddie Marsan), and actress Lizzie Cree (Olivia Cooke), accused of murdering husband John (Sam Reid) – himself a suspect. Shifting back and forth in the story’s chronology keeps the mystery potent, with the wickedest twist saved for last.
The Victorian is rendered in sumptuous style by cinematographer Simon Dennis, and Johan Soderqvist’s score adds the proper flavor and menace to the proceedings. Both the DVD ($27.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.97 retail) boast behind-the-scenes interviews and more. ***
“19-2”: SEASON 4 (THE FINAL SEASON) (Acorn TV): Based on a French-language series, this award-winning Canadian-made crime series stars Adrian Holmes and Jared Keeso as partners in the Montreal Police Department’s “Station 19,” in all eight episodes from the 2017 (and last) season, available on DVD ($49.99 retail).
AGE OF KILL (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Producer/director Neil Jones’ topical but confused political shoot-’em-up stars Martin Kemp as a sniper racing against the clock to kill six strangers in London, lest his kidnapped daughter (Dani Dyer) be executed. A talented cast – including Patrick Bergin, Bruce Payne, April Pearson, Dexter Fletcher, Philip Davis and Nick Moran – is mostly squandered. The DVD retails for $14.99. *½
ATOMIC BLONDE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Charlize Theron (also a producer) is unleashed in this sleek, stylish adaptation of Antony Johnson’s graphic novel The Coldest City, as a lethal but luscious British agent on assignment in late-’80s just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, with James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella and Toby Jones along for the ride. The solo directorial debut of David Leitch delivers the action goods but becomes unduly convoluted in the second half. The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98, and the 4K Ultra HD for $37.98 – each replete with special features. Rated R. **½
A CINDERELLA CHRISTMAS (Monarch Home Entertainment): Event planner Emma Rigby meets the man of her dreams (Peter Porte) at a Christmas masquerade party, only to be undercut by jealous cousin Sarah Stouffer in this yuletide fable that begins well but settles into contrived triteness until the expected finale, despite a friendly cast including Lucy DeVito, Lesley-Anne Down, and Mindy Cohn (with a purple hairdo!). *½
“THE CROWN”: SEASON ONE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Claire Foy plays Queen Elizabeth II in all 10 episodes from the inaugural 2016 season of the acclaimed Netflix drama series, created by Peter Morgan and based on the life of the English monarch, with Matt Smith as the Duke of Edinburgh, Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret, Jared Harris as George VI, and John Lithgow as Winston Churchill. Winner of three Emmy Awards including Lithgow for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, with nine additional nominations including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Foy), Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, available on DVD ($45.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($55.99 retail)
DARKNESS RISING (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): High-pitched but low-impact scare fare with Tara Holt returning to her family’s abandoned home with boyfriend Bryce Johnson and cousin Katrina Law in tow, only to encounter supernatural forces. Ted Raimi turns up briefly, and the gore effects past muster, but otherwise a bust. The DVD retails for $14.93, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $22.97. *
A DATE FOR MAD MARY (Wolfe Video): Producer/director Darren Thornton’s award-winning debut feature stars Seana Kerslake in the title role of a small-town girl desperately seeking a date for the wedding of her best friend (Charleigh Bailey) – only to become attracted to the wedding photographer (Tara Lee). Modest but well-acted and compassionately handled. **½
DESERT HEARTS (The Criterion Collection): Producer/director Donna Deitch’s award-winning 1985 feature debut, based on Jane Rule’s novel Desert of the Heart, stars Helen Shaver as a woman seeking a quickie divorce in 1959 Nevada – only to find herself drawn to free spirit Patricia Charbonneau (in her screen debut). Romantic and sensuous, with first-rate performances and excellent cinematography by Robert Elswit. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more. Rated R. ***
THE DEVIL’S RAIN (Severin Films/CAV Distributing): Satanic panic grips the Southwest in director Robert Fuest’s award-winning (!), star-studded shocker, which includes the memorable sight of villain Ernest Borgnine (in full, fabulous rant) as a goat-horned demon, and the climactic sequence in which the coven melts. William Shatner, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino, Tom Skerritt, Keenan Wynn, Joan Prather and John Travolta (in his screen debut) round out a cast that brings a measure of polish to the goofy proceedings. One of the last films released by Bryanston Pictures, which reportedly had ties to organized crime – and, to be sure, a cult classic. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective and vintage interviews, theatrical trailer, TV spots and more. Rated PG. **½
“HARRY POTTER” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The first four blockbuster films starring Daniel Radcliffe in the title role and based on J.K. Rowling’s best-selling fantasy novels – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) – make their debuts in 4K Ultra HD combos (each $44.95 retail). In addition, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has released the self-explanatory “Harry Potter 8-Film Collection” in a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo ($178.99 retail).
J.D.’S REVENGE (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Glynn Turman’s terrific turn elevates this low-budget 1976 “blaxploitation” chiller, as a Louisiana law student possessed by the vengeful spirit of a ’40s gangster, bent on killing those who betrayed him – including radio preacher Louis Gossett, Jr. The special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) includes retrospective interviews and more. Rated R. **½
PALACE OF FUN (TLA Releasing): Writer/producer/director Eadward Stocks’ atmospheric, slow-simmering psychological drama (reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith’s works) stars Andrew Mullan as a mysterious drifter who insinuates himself into the lives of a young woman (newcomer Phoebe Naughton) and her jealous brother (Stocks’ real-life brother George, also a writer/producer) during a hazy summer in Brighton. Points of interest throughout, but ultimately unsatisfying. The DVD retails for $24.99. **
PLANETARIUM (Vision Films): Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp star as psychic siblings who transfix filmmaker Emmanuel Salinger in in writer/director Rebecca Zlotowski’s ethereal drama set in pre-World War II Paris. Evocative and beautifully shot by Georges Lechaptois, but arch and sometimes off-putting. Still, worth a look. In English and French with English subtitles. **½
A PUPPY FOR CHRISTMAS (Monarch Home Entertainment): Agreeable holiday fluff with Cindy Busby as a magazine writer whose life comes undone when she adopts a dog – only to find potential romance with hunky colleague Greyston Holt at his family’s Christmas-tree farm. **
RESTLESS CREATURE: WENDY WHELAN (Kino Lorber): Producer/directors Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger’s feature documentary explores the life and career of renowned American dancer Wendy Whelan, the principal ballerina of the New York City Ballet for three decades, as she faces the prospect of impending retirement, available on DVD ($29.95 retail).
THE SETTLERS (Film Movement): Shimon Dotan’s feature documentary examines the contemporary, day-to-day lives of the Israeli settlers of the West Bank. In English, Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
THE SHOW (LionsGate): Reality-TV takes a dark turn in this R-rated thriller (originally titled This is Your Death) starring Josh Duhamel as the host of a popular series in which contestants kill themselves live on the air, with Famke Janssen, Sarah Wayne Callies, Caitlin FitzGerald, Chris Ellis and producer/director Giancarlo Esposito along for the ride, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.98 retail), each replete with special features.
TALON FALLS (Lost Empire/MVD Entertainment Group): Director/editor Josh Shreve makes his feature writing/producing bow with this grimy, grisly shocker about a group of friends terrorized at the titular Halloween theme park in Kentucky. Predictable but competent, this won’t disappoint genre fans, and newcomers Morgan Wiggins and Jordyn Randolph are first-rate screamers as the resident damsels in distress. **
THE TORMENTING (Breaking Glass Pictures): Producer/director/story writer Jaspreet Kaur’s inauspicious feature debut stars Laura Mitchell (in an equally inauspicious screen bow) as a woman who begins experiencing supernatural phenomena. Originally titled Poignant, the current moniker is more appropriate. Poorly conceived and acted, this is a bore and a snore. Zero stars.
UNLOCKED (LionsGate): Noomi Rapace headlines director Michael Apted’s R-rated action thriller as an ex-CIA agent drawn back into the fold in an attempt to prevent an impending terrorist attack, with Michael Douglas, John Malkovich, Orlando Bloom and Toni Collette providing star-powered support, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.99 retail).
WHOSE STREETS? (Magnolia Home Entertainment): First-time producer/director Sabaah Folayan and producer/co-director Damon Davis’ award-winning documentary feature takes a hard, heartbreaking look at the residents of Ferguson, MO, where Michael Brown was shot by police in 2014, and the tensions and resentment that linger to this day. The DVD ($26.98 retail) includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, additional interviews, and more. Rated R. ***
ZOOLOGY (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/director Ivan I. Tverdovskiy’s award-winning existential drama (originally titled Zoologiy) stars Masha Tokareva as a lonely, middle-aged zoo worker who undergoes a strange physical transformation that forces her to re-examine her life and her very existence. In Ryssuab with English subtitles, available on Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) – replete with special features.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2017, Mark Burger)