Video Vault – Sep 4, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): As “unnecessary” sequels go, this 1993 sequel to the 1979 sleeper hit When a Stranger Calls qualifies as among the best, because it’s made with respect and even ingenuity by the original team – including writer/director Fred Walton, composer Dana Kaproff, and stars Carol Kane and Charles Durning.
Originally airing on Showtime, the story introduces Julia Jenz (Jill Schoelen), who survived a baby-sitting ordeal and is haunted not only by the memory but also mounting fears that the fiend, who was never caught, is still at large – and eager for a rematch.
Enter Jill Johnson (Kane), the first film’s heroine, now a college counselor and Julia’s potential savior. She believes the girl’s traumatic stories, and taps retired detective John Clifford (the always-welcome Durning), who saved her life years before, to investigate. Durning and Kane, who shared but one scene in the original film, exhibit wonderful chemistry here, and despite an unflattering hairstyle Schoelen brings depth to her “scream queen” character.
The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($26.99 retail) includes both the original television and theatrical formats, retrospective interviews, and more. Rated R. ***
THE BRINK (Well Go USA Entertainment): Max Jin Zhang headlines director Jonathan Li’s feature debut (originally titled Kuang shou) as a hard-bitten police inspector bent on bringing down an international smuggling ring run by criminal mastermind Shawn Yue. In Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail).
“BULL”: SEASON THREE (CBS DVD/Paramount): NCIS alumnus Michael Weatherly trades forensics for psychology in the title role of Dr. Jason Bull, who forms the jury-consultation firm Trial Analysis Corporation, in this CBS drama series created by executive producers Paul Attanasio and Dr. Phil McGraw, based on the latter’s early career. This six-DVD collection ($49.99 retail) includes all 22 episodes from the 2018-’19 season, plus bonus features.
DEATH IN THE GARDEN (Kino Classics): Luis Bunuel’s 1956 adaptation of Jose-Andre Lacour’s novel (originally titled La Mort en ce jardin) is set against the backdrop of political turmoil in South America, as a group of fugitives flee into the jungle in a desperate attempt to find salvation. The ensemble cast includes Simone Signoret, Charles Vanel, Michel Piccoli, Georges Marchal, Jorge Martinez de Hoyos, and Michele Girardon (in her screen debut). In French with English subtitles, both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, booklet essay, trailers, and more.
EUROPA EUROPA (The Criterion Collection): Agniezska Holland’s fascinating, award-winning 1990 adaptation of Solomon Perel’s autobiography (originally titled Hitlerjunge Salomon) stars Marco Hofschneider (in an impressive screen debut) as Perel, a Jewish teenager in Nazi Germany who assumes various identities – and even joins the Hitler Youth movement — to avoid capture and persecution. Holland earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more. Rated R. ***½
INTO THE ASHES (RLJE Films): Writer/producer/director Aaron Harvey’s shoot-’em-up stars Luke Grimes as a reformed criminal who goes into revenge mode when paroled crime boss Frank Grillo comes gunning for him, with Marguerite Moreau, Robert Taylor, Brady Smith, and James Badge Dale caught in the crossfire, available on DVD ($29.96 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.97 retail), each boasting bonus features.
INVISIBLE HANDS (First Run Features): Journalist-turned-filmmaker Shraysi Tandon’s absorbing, award-winning feature documentary debut examines the impact of child labor and trafficking throughout the world, as well as its direct ties to some extremely well-known corporations. Timely, relevant, and sobering. ***
“NCIS”: THE SIXTEENTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Mark Harmon and his crack team from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are back in action in all 24 episodes from the 2018-’17 season of the award-winning CBS mystery series which spawned a spate of spin-offs in its wake (see below), now available on DVD ($55.98 retail) – replete with special features.
“NCIS: LOS ANGELES” – THE TENTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J are back on the case in the City of Angels, in all 24 episodes from the 2018-’19 season of the award-winning CBS crime series (the first NCIS spin-off), with Eric Christian Olsen, Barrett Foa, Daniela Ruah, Renee Felice Smith, and Linda Hunt rounding out the regular cast, and guest appearances by Pamela Reed, Jeff Kober, Erik Palladino, Max Martini, and Bill Goldberg. The six-DVD collection ($55.98 retail) also includes bonus features.
“NCIS: NEW ORLEANS” — THE FIFTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Scott Bakula and his crack team of crime-solvers from the Big Easy are back on the case in all 24 episodes from the 2015-’16 season of the award-winning CBS mystery series, spun off from the wildly popular NCIS franchise, with series regulars Lucas Black, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, Vanessa Ferlito, Rob Kerkovich, and CCH Pounder, and guests stints by Stacy Keach, LeVar Burton, and NCIS alumnus Mark Harmon, available in a six-DVD collection ($55.98 retail), replete with special features.
PENGUIN HIGHWAY (Eleven Arts Anime Studio/Shout! Factory): Director Hiroyasi Ishida’s award-winning debut feature, based on Tomihoki Morimi’s fantasy novel, follows an inquisitive young boy (voiced by Kana Kita) as he attempts to ascertain why his suburban town is suddenly overrun by penguins. Both the DVD ($16.97 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($26.99 retail) include both English and Japanese (with English subtitles) audio options, interviews, and more.
“POLDARK”: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (Acorn): The title tells all in this eight-DVD collection ($79.99 retail) boasting all 29 episodes – plus bonus features – from the entire 1975-’78 run of the award-winning BBC drama series (aired in America on Masterpiece Theatre) based on Winston Graham’s best-selling series of historical novels, following the adventures of the title character (Robin Ellis), a dashing 18th-century British soldier as he attempts to rebuild his life after returning home following the Revolutionary War, with Angharad Rees, Ralph Bates, Judy Geeson, Jill Townsend, Jane Wymark, Paul Curran, Kevin McNally, and newcomer Trudie Styler in support. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Special Musical Material.
RAFIKI (Film Movement): Writer/producer/director Wanuri Kahiu’s timely, award-winning,quietly groundbreaking drama is set against the political backdrop of Kenya, as the illicit lesbian romance between two young women (talented newcomers Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva) is jeopardized by prejudice and social tradition. Given Kenya’s anti-LGBTQ legislation, this was banned in its own homeland. The DVD ($24.95 retail) also includes Shae Xu’s 2018 short film Hudson. In English and Swahili with English subtitles. ***
THE REFLECTING SKIN (Film Movement Classics): Writer Philip Ridley’s award-winning directorial debut is a dark, evocative 1990 psychological thriller set in the American Heartland of the 1950s, with Jeremy Cooper (in an impressive feature debut) as a disturbed youngster who becomes convinced that widowed neighbor Lindsay Duncan is a vampire. Sheila Moore and Duncan Fraser play Cooper’s equally troubled parents, and Viggo Mortensen his ailing older brother. Not for all tastes but an instant cult classic. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective documentary, and more. Rated R. ***
“SANTANA LIVE AT US FESTIVAL” (Shout! Factory): The title tells all in executive producer/director Glenn Aveni’s rock documentary, highlighting legendary guitarist Carlos Santana at the US Festival in San Bernardino, CA, on Sept. 4, 1982, performing such chart-topping tunes as “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va,” “Nowhere to Run,” “Hold On,” “Open Invitation,” “Incident at Neshabur” (featuring guest keyboardist Herbie Hancock), and others. Both the DVD ($16.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.98 retail) include bonus interviews.
“SUPERNATURAL”: THE COMPLETE FOURTEENTH SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The Brothers Winchester (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) continue to wage war against the forces of evil in all 20 episodes from the 2018-’19 season of the award-winning, long-running CW fantasy series created by Eric Kripke, which sees the return of the brothers’ father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in the 300th episode, available on DVD ($44.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.99 retail) – both replete with special features including audio commentaries and featurettes.
THE VANISHING SHADOW (VCI Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Lew Landers (AKA Louis Friedlander) directed this 12-part 1934 Universal Pictures serial stars Onslow Stevens as an inventor who uses his devices to exact revenge on the corrupt tycoon (Walter Miller) responsible for his father’s death, with Ada Ince, James Durkin (in his final film), Edmund Cobb, Richard Cramer, and Lee J. Cobb (in his screen debut) on hand. The Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) includes original trailer and more.
THE WITCHES (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Joan Fontaine (in her final feature) plays the traumatized headmistress of a British boarding school enmeshed in diabolical doings in this 1966 Hammer Films chiller based on the novel The Devil’s Own (the film’s American title) by Peter Curtis (AKA Norah Lofts). Directed in workmanlike fashion by Cyril Frankel, the end result displeased screenwriter Nigel Kneale. Fontaine seems a little tentative, but there’s good work from Kay Walsh, Alec McCowen, Ann Bell, Leonard Rossiter, Gwen Ffrangcon Davies, Duncan Lamont, Michele Dotrice (in her screen debut), and Martin Stephens (in his final film). The special-edition Blu-ray ($27.99 retail) includes audio commentary with filmmaker/historian Ted Newsom (hey, I know him!), trailers, and more. **½
“WOKE”: SEASON TWO (Dekkoo Films/TLA Releasing): A DVD collection ($24.99 retail) of all 10 episodes from the 2018 season of the award-winning French-language drama series (originally titled Les Engages), created by Sullivan Le Postec, focusing on the day-to-day activities of the staff of a LGBTQ support center, with an ensemble cast including Mehdi Meskar, Eric Pucheau, Denis D’Arcangelo, Claudine Charreyre, and Romain Ogerau.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)