Video Vault – Sep 19, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
BAT-21 (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The success of Platoon (1986) kicked off a spate Vietnam War movies – including this fact-based 1988 saga that got lost in the box-office shuffle but remains an absorbing, intense, and rousing story of courage. Besides, this critic’s favorite actor – Gene Hackman – plays the (code-named) title role.
Adapted from William C. Anderson’s book by Anderson and George Gordon, the film stars Hackman (in top form) as Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton, a top strategist whose reconnaissance plane is shot down. With zero combat experience, Hambleton is forced to rely on spotter pilot Capt. “Birddog” Clark (Danny Glover) to help him navigate his way from behind enemy lines – and the symbiotic relationship between the two characters (who have never met) forms the dramatic backbone of the narrative.
Peter Markle, whose best-known films at that point were the sex romp Hot Dog: The Movie (1984) and the Rob Lowe vehicle Youngblood (1986), proves his directorial mettle and prowess here, crafting a suspenseful yarn that never descends into heavy-handedness, bolstered by a strong cast including Clayton Rohner, David Marshall Grant, Erich Anderson, Joe Dorsey, and especially Jerry Reed, doing a lot with the stock role of Birddog’s gruff but sympathetic superior. Reed, the film’s executive producer, really got the ball rolling to make it.
Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary and bonus trailers. Rated R. ***½
BLOODY SPEAR AT MOUNT FUJI (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): A special-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) of director Tomu Uchida’s award-winning 1955 adventure (originally titled Chiyari Fuji), which follows the perilous journey to Edo undertaken by a fearless samurai (Eijiro Kataoka) and his loyal servants (Chiezo Kataoka and Daisuke Kato). In Japanese with English subtitles, special features include audio commentary and more.
COUNTRY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Director Richard Pearce’s eloquent, beautifully acted – and still topical – 1984 drama examines the financial hardships faced by contemporary farmer, as personified by Jessica Lange (also a producer, and Oscar nominee as Best Actress) and Sam Shepard, with excellent support from Wilford Brimley as Lange’s father and Matt Clark as a duty-bound but conscience-stricken loan officer. The first film to bear the Touchstone Pictures moniker, and one of 1984’s best films. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary. Rated PG. ***½
FOUND FOOTAGE 3-D (Shudder): The title tells all in producer Steven Gennaro’s award-winning, R-rated debut as writer/director, in which the makers of the low-budget shocker Spectre of Death unwittingly unleash an evil presence that permeates the film itself, available on DVD ($26.98 retail), Blu-ray ($29.98 retail), and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($32.98 retail).
“MADAM SECRETARY”: SEASON FOUR (CBS DVD/Paramount): Tea Leoni returns as Elizabeth McCord, the hard-driving U.S. Secretary of State struggling to balance career and family, in all 23 episodes from the 2017-’18 season of the CBS political drama, created by Barbara Hall and featuring Tim Daly, Sebastian Arcelus, Sara Ramirez, Patina Miller, Zeljko Ivanek, Geoffrey Arand and Keith Carradine (as the President) in support, available on DVD ($45.98 retail) – replete with bonus features.
“MURDOCH MYSTERIES: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS” (Acorn TV): Yannick Bisson’s back on the case as early 20th-century Toronto detective William Murdoch in this feature-length, holiday-themed episode from the 11th season of the award-winning Canadian mystery series (also known as The Artful Detective), based on Maureen Jennings’ best-selling novels, in which Murdoch and his wife (Helene Joy) see their Christmas vacation interrupted by a murder on an archaeological dig in British Columbia, available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $24.99 retail).
“PAW PATROL: MIGHTY PUPS” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): An all-new animated movie spun off from creator Keith Chapman’s award-winning Nickelodeon children’s series, which sees the courageous canines attempting to save Adventure Bay after being receiving super powers from a fallen meteor, available on DVD ($17.99 retail).
THE PEOPLE SPEAK (Kino Lorber): Anthony Arnove, Chris Moore, and Howard Zinn produced and co-directed this 2009 documentary based on Zinn and Arnove’s best-selling books A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History of the United States and the subsequent, star-studded performance tour featuring such luminaries as Matt Damon (also a producer), Josh Brolin (also a producer), Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover, Marisa Tomei, Rosario Dawson, Jasmine Guy, John Legend, Viggo Mortensen, Don Cheadle, David Strathairn, Kerry Washington, Sean Penn and many others, which was mounted shortly before Zinn’s 2010 death. The historical passages they speak still retain their power and relevance. The DVD ($24.99 retail) includes behind-the-scenes footage, bonus interviews, and more. ***
THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/director Flavio Morgherini’s fact-based 1977 giallo thriller (originally titled, appropriately enough, La ragazza dal pigiama giallo and also released as The Girl in the Yellow Pajamas) stars Ray Milland as a retired police inspector investigating a brutal murder in Australia, with Mel Ferrer, Howard Ross, Michele Placido, Rod Mullinar, and Dalila Di Lazzaro also on hand. Despite moody visuals and some unexpected plot twists – including a real bummer – this ranks as an interesting failure, but it has its fans. The special-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective and archival interviews, and more. **
RETROACTIVE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of director Louis Morneau’s award-winning, R-rated 1997 sci-fi/film noir mash-up starring Kylie Travis as a disillusioned hostage negotiator who crosses paths with murderous James Belushi … more than once — thanks to a time-travel device. Frank Whaley, Shannon Whirry, Guy Boyd, reliable M. Emmet Walsh, and Roger Clinton (!) also appear.
“SCORPION”: THE FINAL SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): The timely topic of hi-tech espionage comes to the fore of this CBS espionage series created by Nick Santora, with Elyes Gabel, Katharine McPhee, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jadyn Wong, Ari Stidham, and Robert Patrick heading the regular cast, with guest appearances by Penn Jillette, Austin Basis, Shantel VanSanten, and Joshua Leonard (as Team Scorpion’s recurring nemesis). All 22 episodes from the 2017-’18 season are available on DVD ($49.98 retail), replete with special features.
SODOM (TLA Releasing): Writer/director Mark Wilshin’s debut feature stars Pip Brignall (in his screen debut) as a young athlete whose chance encounter with former pianist Jo Weil in an unnamed European metropolis forces them to confront a growing attraction to each other, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
THE SOURCE: THE STORY OF THE BEATS AND THE BEAT GENERATION (Kino Lorber): The title tells all in Chuck Workman’s entertaining, informative, and unpretentious 1999 documentary feature tracing the rise of the Beat Movement and the lives of principal figures Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, with selections of their work read by Johnny Depp, Dennis Hopper, and John Turturro. Workman’s expertise at piecing together vintage clips and footage is well-utilized here. ***
SUPERFLY (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Trevor Jackson steps into the shoes – and threads – of Ron O’Neal in Director X’s R-rated remake of Gordon Parks’s notorious 1972 urban classic, playing a slick, self-assured young drug kingpin whose chance for a last big score goes haywire, available on DVD ($25.86 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.99 retail) – each replete with bonus features.
TAG (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Adapted from a Wall Street Journal article (“It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being It”), this fact-based R-rated comedy follows a group of friends whose childhood game of “tag” becomes more elaborate and expansive in their adulthood, with a star-studded ensemble cast including Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Isla Fisher, Jake Johnson, Jon Hamm, Annabelle Wallis, Hannibal Buress, Leslie Bibb, Rashida Jones, Nora Dunn and Brian Dennehy, available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail), each boasting bonus features.
WOMEN WHO KILL (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): In writer/producer/director Ingrid Jungermann’s award-winning feature debut, she plays the host of a podcast devoted to female serial killers whose attraction to mysterious co-worker Sheila Vand turns to paranoia when she suspects she may be a murderer. Jungermann coaxes good performances from all concerned, including Ann Carr as Jungermann’s ex-girlfriend/podcast partner and Annette O’Toole (deliciously channeling Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter) as an imprisoned serial killer, with fine contributions from composer Ivan Howard and cinematographer Rob Leitzell. This edgy, sparkling little black comedy makes fine use of its Brooklyn locations and deftly incorporates the LGBT backdrop into the narrative. A definite cult contender. ***
THE YEAR I LOST MY MIND (Dekkoo Films/TLA Releasing): Writer/producer/director Tor Iben’s voyeuristic, psycho-sexual thriller (originally titled Jahr des Tigers) stars newcomer Alexander Tsypilev as a burglar who becomes obsessed with college lecturer Julien Lickert after robbing his apartment. Strange, stylish, and laden with symbolic touches (such as Tsypilev’s penchant for wearing masks). Not for all tastes but a potential cult classic, despite a meandering third act. In German with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail). **½
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)