Video Vault – Nov 27, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
ROAD GAMES (Scream Facory/Shout! Factory): An acknowledged devotee of Alfred Hitchcock, filmmaker Richard Franklin’s 1981 thriller is very much in the Hitchcockian mode – and none the worse for it.
Shot on location in Australia, the story follows Pat Quid (Stacy Keach), an expatriate American now working as an independent trucker, traveling through the Outback with his pet dingo (“Boswell”) and killing time by quoting Chaucer and occasionally giving a lift to hitchhikers – among them a runaway American heiress named Pamela (Jamie Lee Curtis), whom he affectionately nicknames “Hitch.”
Someone else is picking up hitchhikers, too – a shadowy serial killer who’s been leaving parts of his victims strewn in various places along the route. The eccentric Quid falls under suspicion, but with Pamela’s help he’s determined to track down the culprit. This, naturally, puts both of them in considerable jeopardy …
Augmented by Brian May’s effective score and Vincent Monton’s sweeping cinematography, Road Games is great fun throughout, especially for genre fans. Keach, who looks as if he’s having a ball, is in top form, and Curtis adds smart shading to what could have been yet another “Scream Queen” role.
The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) include audio commentaries, retrospective interviews and featurettes, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated PG. ***
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Producer/director/screenwriter Gurinder Chadha’s award-winning, PG-13-rated adaptation of Sarfraz Manzoor’s best-selling memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion, and Rock N’ Roll stars Viveik Kalra (in his screen debut) as a British Pakistani teenager in the late 1980s who finds inspiration when he discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen, available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($35.99 retail), each boasting bonus features.
THE BLONDE ONE (TLA Releasing): Writer/producer/editor/director Marco Berger’s award-winning drama (originally titled Un rubio) details the growing attraction between roommates Gaston Re (also a producer) and Alfonso Baron in modern-day Buenos Aires. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
CHUCK BERRY: HAIL! HAIL! ROCK ‘N’ ROLL (Shout! Factory): Taylor Hackford’s insightful and award-winning 1987 concert documentary highlights the career of rock pioneer (and producer) Chuck Berry as he performs at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis to celebrate his 60th birthday, joined by such luminaries as Keith Richards, Robert Cray, Etta James, Julian Lennon, Linda Ronstadt, and Eric Clapton. The “Shout Select” Blu-ray ($24.97 retail) includes documentaries, rehearsal footage, trailer, and more. Rated PG. ***
CONFLICT OF WINGS (Juno Films Selects/MVD Entertainment Group): Director John Eldridge’s final feature, this mild but appealing 1954 adaptation of future filmmaker Don Sharp’s first novel The Norfolk Story, adapted by Sharp and John Pudney, sees the residents of a bucolic Norfolk village join forces to protect the nearby bird sanctuary called the “Island of Children,” when it’s requisitioned by the military. Also released as Fuss Over Feathers, this has a nice environmental bent and a pleasant ensemble cast including John Gregson, Kieron Moore, Muriel Pavlow, Niall MacGinnis, Harry Fowler, Russell Napier, and George Woodbridge. **½
FOOD COOP (Bullfrog Films/Icarus Films Home Video): Writer/director Thomas Boothe and co-director Marcellane Bonnicel’s 2015 documentary feature debut explores the inner workings of the 16,000-member Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn, which has been in business since 1973. The DVD ($24.98 retail) includes bonus features. **½
THE HOURS AND TIMES (Oscilloscope Laboratories): Filmmaker Christopher Munch’s award-winning 1991 debut feature offers a speculative – and highly suggestive – account of what transpired during the April 1963 trip to Barcelona by John Lennon (Ian Hart, who later played Lennon in 1994’s Backbeat) and Beatles manager Brian Epstein (David Angus in his screen debut). Both the limited-edition DVD ($27.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($32.99 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, bonus shorts, and more. **½
“LINE OF DUTY”: SERIES 5 (Acorn TV): A DVD collection ($39.99 retail) of all six feature-length episodes from the 2019 season of creator/executive producer Jed Mercurio’s award-winning BBC crime series (aired by Hulu in the US), with Martin Compston and Vicky McClure back on the case, investigating police corruption in contemporary London, with Adrian Dunbar, Maya Sondhi, Rochenda Sandall, Aiysha Hart, Tony Pitts, and Polly Walker in support.
“LONDON KILLS”: SERIES 2 (Acorn TV): Executive producer Paul Marquess created this crime series dramatizing the efforts of an elite police unit headed by Hugo Speer and Sharon Speer as they tackle the toughest cases in the titular city, with Bailey Patrick and Tori Allen-Martin as fellow detectives. All five feature-length episodes from the 2019 season – plus behind-the-scenes featurette – are available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $39.99 retail).
MR. LEATHER (TLA Releasing): Writer/producer/director Daniel Nolasco’s documentary feature delves into the leather sub-culture of modern-day Brazil as it follows five contestants vying for title honors in the second annual Brazilian Mr. Leather competition, to be crowned by the first festival’s winner, Dom Barbudo. In Portuguese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
“MS. FISHER’S MODERN MURDER MYSTERIES” (Acorn TV): Geraldine Hakewell essays the title role in this Australian mystery series created by Fiona Eagger and Deb Cox and spun off from their award-winning series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, set in Melbourne during the swinging ’60s as she follows in the sleuthing footsteps of her missing aunt, with Joel Jackson, Toby Truslove, Louisa Mignone, Greg Stone, Katie Robertson, and Catherine McClements rounding out the regular cast. All four feature-length episodes from the inaugural 2019 season – plus behind-the-scenes featurette – are available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $49.99 retail).
MY SAMURAI (MVD Entertainment Group): John Kallo (in his only screen role to date) plays a teenager who turns to martial-arts master Julian Lee when he is pursued by both the police and gangsters after witnessing a gangland murder in this R-rated 1992 action melodrama, co-starring Terry O’Quinn, Bubba Smith, Mako, Lynne Hart, Jim Turner, and UNCSA faculty member Dale Girard (in his screen debut). The collector’s-edition “MVD Rewind” Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes retrospective interviews, theatrical trailer, collectible mini-poster, and more.
OLIVIA (Icarus Films Home Video): Jacqueline Audry’s 1951 adaptation of Dorothy Bussy’s semi-autobiographical novel (also known as The Pit of Happiness) starring Claire Olivia (in her screen debut) as the titular British teenager who attends a French boarding school and becomes embroiled in a battle of wills between the headmistress (Edwige Feuillere) and a invalid teacher (Simone Simon) who is obsessed with her. Widely considered a landmark in lesbian cinema. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.98 retail), each replete with bonus features.
THE PROPOSAL (Oscilloscope Laboratories): Noted artist Jill Magid makes her award-winning feature-documentary debut, detailing her efforts to liberate the legacy of acclaimed Mexican architect Luis Barragan 30 years after his death, during which time 14,000 items of his were stored in Switzerland, ultimately compelling her to take controversial measures. It’s always iffy when a filmmaker acts as their film’s protagonist, but Jarred Alterman’s cinematography is dazzling. Both the DVD ($27.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($32.99 retail) include audio commentary, theatrical trailer, and more. **½
SCREAMERS (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Director Christian Duguay’s 1995 adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story Second Variety) sees Peter Weller leading a military contingent to a remote planet, where they encounter the titular menace, mechanized monstrosities that have evolved into human form. Despite a customarily solid turn by Weller and some tantalizing themes and ideas, this comes up short in the end – but absolutely delivers slam-bang action for adrenaline junkies. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes retrospective interviews and theatrical trailer. Rated R. **
“SESAME STREET: 50 YEARS AND COUNTING!” (Sesame Workshop/Shout! Kids/Shout! Factory): The title tells all in this two-DVD collection ($16.97 retail) that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the beloved, long-running, award-winning children’s television series, featuring classic episodes, memorable moments, guest stars, and more.
SHAFT (New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The ever-cool Samuel L. Jackson reprises his 2000 role as New York private eye John Shaft in Tim Story’s follow-up, which emphasizes comedy more than urban grit, much to the overall film’s detriment, despite a zealous cast including Jessie T. Usher, Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp, Titus Welliver, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Matt Lauria, and the original John Shaft himself, the always-welcome Richard Roundtree. Both the DVD ($28.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($35.99 retail) include bonus features. Rated R. **
SINATRA IN PALM SPRINGS: THE PLACE HE CALLED HOME (Shout! Factory): Director/editor/cinematographer Leo Zahn’s self-explanatory feature documentary examines the titular California town, where legendary entertainer Frank Sinatra built his home, the Rancho Mirage compound, located (appropriately enough) on Frank Sinatra Drive, featuring interviews with Trini Lopez, Mel Haber, Tom Dreesen, and Sinatra’s widow Barbara Marx (in her final appearance), while David Cohen provides the voice of Sinatra, available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail).
“THE THIRD” (Dekkoo Films/TLA Releasing): Filmmaker Matthew Lynn created this drama series (originally titled The Triads) starring Corey Page and Ryland Shelton as a gay couple in Palm Springs who try to spice up their faltering marriage by inviting another man (Sean McBride) to move in with them, which further complicates their relationship. The DVD ($24.99 retail) includes all six episodes from the inaugural 2017 season.
THEY ARE WE (Icarus Films Home Video): Emma Christopher makes her debut as writer, producer, director, and narrator of this award-winning documentary feature celebrating the culture of the Ganga-Longoba, an Afro-Cuban ethnic group who kept their heritage alive with dancing and songs, and their eventual reunion with the people of Sierra Leone, from whom they were separated by the slave trade nearly two centuries before. It’s hard not to be caught up in the mounting anticipation and expectation as the reunion draws near in this colorful celebration of cultural pride. The DVD ($29.98 retail) includes bonus footage. ***
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)