Video Vault – Nov 6, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
THE BLOB (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): One of the few remakes superior to the original film, director Chuck Russell’s 1988 update of the 1958 B-movie classic (which introduced Steve McQueen) was an undeserved flop at the box-office that summer, bested by the likes of Nightmare on Elm Street 4, but found a following on cable and home-video.
The basic narrative is the same: A meteorite lands near a small town, unleashing a gelatinous creature that absorbs its victims, growing bigger – and badder – all the while. Kevin Dillon (resident bad-boy biker) and Shawnee Smoth (all-American cheerleader) are the first to realize the enormity of the threat, but have a tough time convincing the authorities … until, of course, it’s too late.
Gooier and gorier than the original film, this Blob boasts eye-popping special effects, relentless momentum, and a solid cast including Jeffrey DeMunn, Candy Clark, Donovan Leitch, Art LaFleur, Paul McCrane, Del Close, and Joe Seneca, the latter in particularly good form as the seemingly benevolent scientist charged with containing the threat – by any means necessary.
The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective featurettes and interviews, theatrical trailers, and more. Rated R. ***½
10 MINUTES GONE (LionsGate): Director Brian A. Miller’s R-rated shoot-’em-up reunites him with Bruce Willis, cast as a ruthess crime boss gunning for thief Michael Chiklis after a botched jewel heist, which the latter can’t remember after suffering a blow to the head. Both the DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.99 retail) include bonus features.
AMBITION (Unique Features/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Bob Shaye produced and directed this mystery/thriller starring Katherine Hughes as an ambitious violin prodigy whose competitors – and friends – beginning falling prey to a mysterious and elusive killer, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.99 retail).
FIREFLIES (TLA Releasing): Writer/producer/director Bani Khoshnoudi’s award-winning drama (originally titled Luciernagas) stars Arash Marandi as an expatriate who fled Iran after being persecuted as a homosexual and finds a haven in the port town of Veracruz, Mexico. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
“HUMBLE PIE: LIFE AND TIMES OF STEVE MARRIOTT + 1973 COMPLETE WINTERLAND SHOW” (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): A self-explanatory DVD/Blu-ray/CD combo ($29.95 retail) that includes the feature-length documentary tracing the life and meteoric career of rock legend Steve Marriott (1941-’91), featuring interviews with Humble Pie’s Peter Frampton, Jerry Shirley, and Greg Ridley, as well as Chris Robinson, John Waite, Rick Nielsen, Bun E. Carlos, Kevin Dubrow, Simon Kirke, and others, plus the entire Winterland concert, boasting such chart-topping tunes as “Itchycoo Park,” “Lazy Sunday,” “Paradise Lost,” “Tin Soldier,” and many more.
INTIMACY (IndiePix Films): Director Yichun Jiang’s feature debut details the relationship that develops between Jinguan Huang and Xipeng Zhang, two people from disparate backgrounds who encounter each other in Shanghai. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
JAY MYSELF (Oscilloscope Laboratories): Executive producer/director Stephen Wilkes’s engaging, enjoyable feature-documentary debut follows his mentor, acclaimed photographer Jay Maisel, as he undertakes an arduous process of moving from his home and studio at the New York landmark “The Bank” after living there for nearly 50 years, augmented by Maisel’s photographs and his inimitable personality. Both the DVD ($34.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.99 retail) boast bonus features. ***
JIRGA (Lightyear Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/producer/cinematographer/director Benjamin Gilmour’s award-winning drama stars Sam Smith as an Australian combat veteran who returns to Afghanistan to atone for his war crimes. In English and Pashto with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail), each boasting bonus features.
THE KITCHEN (New Line Cinema/BRON Creative/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss star in screenwriter Andrea Berloff’s feature directorial debut, a well-made but disappointing adaptation of the DC Vertigo comic-book series wherein they play three New Yorkers who pick up where their incarcerated husbands left off by taking assuming control over their criminal enterprise, available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($35.99 retail), each boasting bonus features. Rated R. *½
LEGEND OF THE DEMON CAT (Well Go USA Entertainment): Chen Kaige’s award-winning martial-arts fantasy (originally titled Kukai) pits Xuan Huang and Shota Sometami (as “Kukai”) against a demonic force that threatens the population Chang’an City during the Tang Dynasty. In Japanese and Mandarin with English subtitles, or an English-dubbed audio option, available on Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
MADNESS IN THE METHOD (Cinedigm): Echoing Robert Altman’s The Player (1992), producer Jason Mewes makes his feature directorial debut with this knockabout Hollywood satire in which his attempts to establish himself as a serious, dramatic leading man are hampered both by his image and his increasing insanity. Loaded with in-jokes, the star-studded, cult-friendly cast includes Kevin Smith, Smith’s real-life wife Jennifer Schwalbach Smith and daughter Harley Quinn Smith, Vinnie Jones, Gina Carano, the Lois and Clark duo of Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain, Brian O’Halloran, Judd Nelson, Stan Lee (in his final appearance), Jaime Camil, Casper Van Dien, Zach Galligan, and Danny Trejo (adorned with a pink feathered boa!), available on DVD ($19.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.99 retail). **½
MATEWAN (The Criterion Collection): John Sayles wrote and directed this evocative, fact-based 1987 drama about an impoverished West Virginia coal town whose struggle to form a labor union explodes into a violent clash with the mining corporation. Exquisite period detail, highlighted by Haskell Wexler’s Oscar-nominated cinematography, helps overcome an occasionally preachy tone, as does a fine ensemble cast including Chris Cooper (in his screen debut), James Earl Jones, David Strathairn, Mary McDonnell, Kevin Tighe, Gordon Clapp, Will Oldham (in his screen debut), Joe Grifasi, Bob Gunton, Josh Mostel, and Sayles himself. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective documentaries, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated PG-13. ***
NEKROMATIX – 3 DECADES OF DARKLE (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Director Vicente Cordero turns his cameras on bassist/vocalist Kim Nekroman, guitarist Franciso Mesa, and new percussionist Rene De La Murete for this concert documentary celebrating the 30th anniversary of the hard-rocking Danish-American “psychobilly” band as they perform at the Observatory Theater in Santa Ana, CA, available in a limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray/CD combo ($24.95 retail).
“ROBIN WILLIAMS: COMIC GENIUS” (Time Life): The title tells all in this five-DVD collector’s set ($54.98 retail) boasting all five of the beloved, award-winning comedian’s HBO stand-up specials: Off the Wall (1978), An Evening with Robin Williams (1983), An Evening at the Met (1986), Live on Broadway (2002), and Weapons of Self Destruction (2009) – plus a bevy of bonus features including interviews, featurettes, archival footage, and more.
THE SENTENCE (Kino Lorber): Executive producer/cinematographer Rudy Valdez makes his directorial debut as of this Emmy-winning feature documentary, in which he examines the decade-long plight of his older sister Cindy Shank, who was incarcerated after a drug-dealing ex-boyfriend was murdered, and the efforts of their family to hold things together while campaigning for her clemency. A little shaky at the outset, but by the third act it hammers home its message. The DVD ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary. ***½
SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS (Shout! Factory): Ethan Hawke stars in screenwriter/director Scott Hicks’s 1999 adaptation of David Guterson’s acclaimed 1994 best-seller, as a disillusioned World War II veteran and reporter whose investigation into a local murder forces him to confront his past. Despite a star-studded cast (Max Von Sydow, Sam Shepard, James Cromwell, Richard Jenkins, James Rebhorn, Rick Yune, Youki Kudoh, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, and Salem College and UNCSA graduate Celia Westeon) and Robert Richardson’s Oscar-nominated cinematography, this falls far short of the novel, veering too quickly from brooding to dreary, and ultimately becoming a big-screen soap opera. The “Shout Select” Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective featurettes, deleted scenes, and more. Rated PG-13. *½
STUBER (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista team up in this R-rated comedy about a timid driver and a hard-boiled detective (guess who’s who?) thrown together in pursuit of a Los Angeles drug cartel headed by cop killer Iko Uwais, with Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan, Natalie Morales, Jimmy Tatto, and Betty Gilpin along for the ride, available on DVD ($14.96 retail), Blu-ray ($19.96 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($32.99 retail), each with bonus features.
“VERONICA MARS (2019)”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Kristen Bell returns as the title character, re-joined by Enrico Colantini and Jason Dohring, in all eight episodes from the 2019 season of the Hulu mystery series, following the 2004-’07 run of the award-winning UPN/CW series and 2014 feature film, in which she tracks down a killer in the seaside resort of Neptune, available on DVD ($24.98 retail).
WATCH ME WHEN I KILL (Synapse Films/CAV Distributing): Director/co-writer Antonio Bido’s late-entry, appropriately stylized 1977 giallo thriller (originally titled Il gatto dagli occhi di giada and also released as That Cat With the Jade Eyes and The Cat’s Victims) stars Paola Tedesco as a glamorous dancer who witnesses a murder, then teams with boyfriend Corrado Pani to track down the killer. Producer Herman Cohen and his Cobra Media distribution company released this in the United States in 1982, touting it as a slasher film. Derivative and not entirely successful, but worth a look for genre enthusiasts. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray/CD combo ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, optional English-language and Italian (with English subtitles) audio, a trio of Bido’s short films, and more. Rated R. **
“YELLOWSTONE”: SEASON 2 (Paramount Home Entertainment): Executive producer Kevin Costner portrays the proud patriarch of modern-day Montana ranching dynasty in all 10 episodes from the 2019 season of the award-winning Paramount Network drama series, featuring a star-studded ensemble cast including Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, Kelly Reilly, Luke Grimes, Danny Huston, Gil Birmingham, Kelsey Asbille, Brecken Merrill, and Jefferson White, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.99 retail), each boasting bonus features.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)