Video Vault – Nov 7, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
THE HIRED HAND (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): Following the mammoth success of Easy Rider (1969), Peter Fonda put a distinctive stamp on the Western genre with this lyrical 1971 oater that marked the actor/producer’s impressive (and overlooked) debut as director.
Harry (Fonda) and Arch (the immortal Warren Oates) are saddle tramps who, at Harry’s direction, return to the farm – and Hannah (Verna Bloom), the wife – he left years before. Theirs is a prickly, tense reunion, made more so by Hannah’s demand that Harry atone for his absence by being a hired hand, both on the farm and, at her discretion, in her bed.
Although the customary theme of retribution is present, with Severn Darden at his oily best as the corrupt land baron McVey, The Hired Hand is as much about reconciliation and redemption. Fonda’s taciturn performance as Harry allows Oates and Bloom to almost dominate the story as more empathetic characters.
The film’s leisurely pace occasionally borders on the pretentious, but Fonda is to be lauded for trying something different, not only in a Western but as a follow-up to Easy Rider, and there’s no denying the strength of Vilmos Zsigmond’s gorgeous cinematography and Bruce Langhorne’s evocative score. It’s a rough around the edges, but The Hired Hand is a little gem.
The special-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective and vintage interviews, 2003 documentary, deleted scenes, trailers, and TV spots. Rated R. ***
“800 WORDS”: SEASON 3, PART 1 (Acorn TV): Widowed newspaperman Erik Thomson relocates his family from Sydney, Australia to the seaside village in New Zealand where he spent summers as a boy. This two-DVD collection ($49.99 retail) includes the first eight episodes from the 2017-’18 season of the award-winning comedy/drama series created by James Griffin and Maxine Fleming, with Melina Vidler, Bridie Carter, Benson Jack Anthony, Emma Leonard, Michelle Langstone, Rick Donald, and Jonny Brugh rounding out the regular cast.
“9-1-1”: THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The perils of first-response emergency workers are dramatized in all 10 episodes from the inaugural 2018 season of the Fox Network drama series, boasting an ensemble cast including Angela Bassett, Connie Britton, Peter Krause, Oliver Stark, Aisha Hinds, Rockmond Dunbar and Kenneth Choi, available in a three-DVD collection ($29.98 retail).
“THE AFFAIR”: SEASON FOUR (Showtime Entertainment/CBS DVD/Paramount): A DVD collection ($33.99 retail) of all 10 episodes (plus bonus features) from the 2018 season of the award-winning Showtime series dramatizing the repercussions of an extra-marital affair – and a murder – on a suburban community, with an ensemble cast headed by Dominic West, Joshua Jackson, Ruth Wilson and Maura Tierney, joined by series newcomer Sanaa Lathan and guest stars Amy Irving, Christopher Meyer, Russell Hornsby, and Phoebe Tonkin.
“THE AMERICANS”: THE COMPLETE FINAL SEASON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A three-DVD collection ($29.98 retail) of all 10 episodes (plus bonus features) from the 2018 season of the critically acclaimed FX espionage series, created by executive producer (and ex-CIA agent) Joe Weisberg, starring Keri Russell (Emmy nominee as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series) and Matthew Rhys (Emmy winner as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series) as undercover KGB agents posing as an average, all-American family during the Reagan administration. The episode “Start” won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, and the series earned a nomination as Outstanding Drama Series.
ANNA KARENINA (Acorn TV): Helen McCrory portrays the tragic title character in this award-winning, four-part 2000 mini-series (aired by “Masterpiece Theatre” in the U.S.) adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel by Allan Cubitt, featuring Kevin McKidd (as Count Vronsky), Stephen Dillane, Douglas Henshall, Paloma Baeza, Amanda Root and Mark Strong, available on DVD ($34.99 retail).
ARIZONA (Imperative Entertainment/RLJE Films): A good cast is stranded in director Jonathan Watson’s feature debut, a misfired black comedy set against the backdrop of the 2009 housing crisis, with Rosemarie DeWitt as a stressed real-estate agent taken hostage by disgruntled, deranged client Danny McBride, with Luke Wilson, David Alan Grier, Elizabeth Gillies, Kaitlin Olson, and an unbilled Seth Rogen caught in the line of fire. McBride and fellow UNCSA graduates David Gordon Green and Jody Hill were executive producers, available on DVD ($29.96 retail), Blu-ray ($29.97 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($35.97 retail), each replete with bonus features. *½
ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL (MVD Entertainment Group): Director Terry Zwigoff’s well-made but uneven 2006 adaptation of writer/producer Daniel Clowes’s semi-autobiographical comic story stars Max Minghella as an aspiring artist who makes waves after being accepted to a tony East Coast art academy. John Malkovich (also a producer), Sophia Myles, Anjelica Huston, Jim Broadbent, Ethan Suplee, Matt Keeslar, Nick Swardson, Adam Scott, Scoot McNairy, Joel David Moore, Katherine Moennig, Lauren Lee Smith, Marshall Bell, Michael Lerner, Roxanne Hart, and Dick Bakalyan (in his final film) round out a fine cast, but only intermittently does the film hit the target. The “MVD Marquee Collection” Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) includes featurettes, deleted scenes, blooper reel, and original trailer. Rated R. **
“BARRY”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): Executive producers Bill Hader and Alec Berg created this HBO comedy series starring Hader in the title role of a disillusioned ex-Marine-turned-hitman who unexpectedly finds satisfaction and solace in the Los Angeles theater community. Emmy winner for Hader as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and Henry Winkler as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, with eight additional nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series (Hader) and two for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. All eight episodes from the inaugural 2018 season are available on DVD ($19.98 retail), replete with bonus features.
DUST 2 GLORY (Magnet/Magnolia Home Entertainment): Filmmaker Dana Brown revisits his 2005 documentary feature Dust to Glory with this follow-up that chronicles the running of the arduous SCORE Baja 1000 desert race held each year on the California Peninsula, available on DVD ($26.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail), both with bonus features.
“DYNASTY”: SEASON ONE (CBS DVD/Paramount): Grant Show is the “new” Blake Carrington, powerful patriarch of the Carrington clan, in all 22 episodes from the inaugural 2017-’18 season of the CW reboot of the popular ’80s prime-time soap opera, with Elizabeth Gillies, Nathalie Kelley, James Mackay, Alan Dale, and Nicollette Sheridan rounding out an appropriately glamorous supporting cast. The six-DVD set ($39.98 retails) includes bonus features.
MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): This PG-13-rated follow-up to the award-winning 2008 musical comedy (based on the hit Broadway play) brings back Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski, and Dominic Cooper to the magical Greek island of Kalokairi, while introducing Lily James, Andy Garcia, and Cher to the mirthful mix of bittersweet whimsy and the songs of ABBA, available on DVD ($29.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($39.98 retail), each replete with bonus features.
MELANIE – FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY (Screenbound International/MVD Entertainment Group): The title tells all in this concert documentary showcasing the award-winning singer/songwriter (AKA Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk) as she performs at Jarvis Cocker’s Meltdown Festival, held in June 2007 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, marking a return to England after 20 years, where she performs such favorites as “Brand New Key,” “Peace Will Come,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Carolina in My Mind,” “Hush-A-Bye,” “Beautiful People” and many more, available on DVD ($19.95 retail).
OUT OF TIME (MVD Entertainment Group): Denzel Washington (at his most charismatic) headlines director Carl Franklin’s award-winning 2003 film-noir potboiler, as a small-town Florida police chief enmeshed in deception and murder, backed by Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Nora Dunn, John Billingsley, and Dean Cain (effectively cast against type as a heavy). A twisty, atmospheric yarn. The “MVD Marquee Collection” Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary, screen tests, outtakes, original trailer, and more. Rated PG-13. ***
“SOUL FOOD”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): A 19-DVD collection ($49.98 retail) of all 74 episodes from the entire 2000-’04 run of the award-winning Showtime drama series based on the hit 1997 film, which follows the trials and tribulations of the Joseph family in Chicago, featuring an ensemble cast including Nicole Ari Parker, Vanessa A. Williams, Malinda Williams, Boris Kodjoe (who married Parker in real life), Rockmond Dunbar, Darrin Dewitt Henson and Aaron Meeks, plus guest appearances by Faye Dunaway, Jim Brown, Idris Elba, Terrence Howard, Usher Raymond, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds (also an executive producer), Tyra Banks, Diahann Carroll, Kimberly Elise, Debbi Morgan, Djimon Hounsou, Drake, and Irma P. Hall (reprising her screen role).
“TESTOSTERONE”: VOLUME ONE (Dekkoo Shorts/TLA Releasing): A DVD selection ($24.99 retail) of four critically acclaimed gay-themed short films from around the world: Kamil Krawczycki’s Polish-language End of My World (Moj koniec swiata), Zach Noe Toers and Tina Carbone’s award-winning Killer Friends, Courtney Powell’s The Surf Report, and Stephen Riscica’s award-winning It Gets Better?.
“THIS IS US”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A five-DVD collection ($39.98 retail) of all 18 episodes from the 2017-’18 season of the critically acclaimed NBC comedy/drama series created by Dan Fogelman, following the history of a family in the past and present, with onscreen parents Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia heading an ensemble cast including Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Chris Sullivan. Ron Cephas Jones won the Emmy Award as Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, with additional nominations for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series (both Ventimiglia and Brown), Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Gerald McRaney), and Outstanding Contemporary Costumes.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)