Video Vault – Sep 5, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
BOUND (Olive Films): Before scoring with The Matrix (1999) – and before transitioning into Lana and Lilly – the Wachowski screenwriter siblings (then known as Larry and Andy) made their directorial debut with this scintillating, award-winning 1996 thriller.
Jennifer Tilly plays Violet, the comely and mysterious mistress of mid-level mafioso Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), who catches the eye of sultry ex-con Corky (Gina Gershon). Not only are Violet and Corky irresistibly drawn into an illicit lesbian romance, but they also cook up a crafty scheme to “relieve” Caesar of $2 million in laundered money.
There’s no question Tilly and Gershon – both in top form – bring the heat, and although now regarded as a breakthrough in LGBTQ cinema, Bound is first and foremost a crackling film noir, among the best the genre had to offer during its ’80s-’90s resurgence. Indeed, the sexuality of the characters is secondary to the suspenseful twists and turns the story takes.
Pantoliano (in one of his best roles) and character actor extraordinaire John P. Ryan (in his final feature) lend stellar support, the latter as a steely mob enforcer with a soft spot for Violet. This remains the Wachowskis’ most satisfying and best film to date.
The “Olive Signature” Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, theatrical and unrated versions, retrospective interviews, and more. Rated R. ***½
BROTHERLY LOVE (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/executive producer/editor/director Anthony J. Caruso’s topical, award-winning debut feature, adapted from Salvatore Sapienza’s novel Seventy Times Seven, casts him as a seminarian torn between his calling and his attraction for local landscaper Derek Babb, available on DVD ($24.99 retail), replete with bonus features including audio commentary.
BROTHERS (Well Go USA Entertainment): Billed as a true story, this highly (and wildly) stylized, operatic action drama, set against the backdrop of the 1936 Chinese civil war, stars Ethan Li and Peter Ho in the title roles as siblings unexpectedly reunited on the field of battle – fighting on opposite sides. The showy effects (reminiscent Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City films) are impressive, but frequently overwhelm the performances and narrative. In Chinese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail), replete with bonus features. **
“BULL”: SEASON TWO (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 2017-’18 season, plus bonus features.
COLOR OF NIGHT (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): After best friend and colleague Scott Bakula is brutally murdered, psychologist Bruce Willis takes over his group-therapy group while he simultaneously seeks the killer and woos mysterious Jane March in this slick, steamy, and shallow 1994 whodunit (and camp favorite), which marks director Richard Rush’s last feature to date. Overheated, under-baked, and unintentionally humorous at times, with Lesley Ann Warren, Ruben Blades, Brad Dourif, Lance Henriksen, Kevin J. O’Connor, Shirley Knight, Eriq LaSalle, Kathleen Wilhoite, and Jeff Corey rounding out a star-studded cast. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include both the theatrical version and director’s cut, audio commentaries, and more. Rated R. *½
“THE GOOD KARMA HOSPITAL”: SERIES 2 (Acorn TV): Amrita Ancharia stars as a feisty physician who brings her expertise and energy to ministering patients at an under-funded hospital on the coast of southern India run by imperious Amanda Redman, in all six episodes from the 2018 season of the ITV 1 medical drama created by Dan Sefton and featuring Neil Morrissey, Philip Jackson and James Krishna Floyd, available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $39.99 retail) – each boasting a behind-the-scenes featurette.
HIGHER POWER (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Visual effects artist Matthew Charles Santoro’s makes his feature debut as writer/editor/director of this R-rated sci-fi blow-out starring Ron Eldard as an everyman subjected to bizarre experiments by mad scientist Colm Feore that give him super powers, available on DVD ($26.98 retail), Blu-ray ($29.98 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($34.98 retail)
“NCIS: LOS ANGELES” – SEASON 9 (CBS DVD/Paramount): Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J are back in action, pursuing evildoers in the City of Angels, in all 24 episodes from the 2017-’18 season of the award-winning CBS crime series (the first “NCIS” spin-off series), with Eric Christian Olsen, Barrett Foa, Renee Felice Smith, and Linda Hunt rounding out the regular cast, available on DVD ($59.99 retail) – replete with bonus features.
PICKINGS (Digital Magic Entertainment): Usher Morgan’s award-winning, R-rated, latter-day film noir sees Michigan crime boss Emil Ferzola trying to muscle in on single mother and bar owner Elyse Price (in her feature debut), only to discover that hell hath no woman – period. Both the DVD ($15.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($23.99 retail), each replete with bonus features.
R.B.G. (Participant Media/CNN Films/Magnolia Home Entertainment): Betsy West and Julie Cohen directed this nimble, award-winning feature documentary that explores the (still-vibrant) life and career of Supreme Court justice – and unlikely pop-culture icon – Ruth Bader Ginsberg, as told by friends, admirers, family members, and the lady herself. Both the DVD ($26.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail) include bonus features. Rated PG. ***
READY PLAYER ONE (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Steven Spielberg’s award-winning, PG-13-rated science-fiction epic, adapted from Ernest Cline’s 2010 best-seller by Zak Penn and the author, sees orphaned teenager Tye Sheridan embarking on a perilous journey through virtual reality to save the world, with Mark Rylance, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Lena Waithe along for the ride, available on DVD ($28.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail), 3-D Blu-ray combo ($34.99 retail) and 4K Ultra HD combo ($44.95 retail), each replete with special features.
“ROWAN & MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN”: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON (Time Life): “Sock it to me!” A six-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of all 24 episodes from the 1972-’73 (and final) season of the ground-breaking NBC comedy/variety series hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, featuring regulars Lily Tomlin (Emmy nominee for Outstanding Achievement by a Supporting Performer in Music or Variety), Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson, Dennis Allen, Willie Tyler & Lester and Gary Owens, as well as guest appearances by John Wayne, Robert Goulet, Jack Klugman, Carol Burnett, Jack Benny, Steve Allen, Angie Dickinson, James Farentino, Don Rickles, Rich Little, Johnny Carson, and many others.
SPEED WALKING (Breaking Glass Pictures): Director Niels Arden Oplev’s award-winning adaptation of Morten Kirkskov’s acclaimed coming-of-age novel Kapgang (the film’s original title) stars Villads Boye (in his feature debut) as an adolescent coming to terms with his sexuality and the unexpected death of his mother in 1976 Denmark. In Danish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
TO AUSCHWITZ AND BACK: THE JOE ENGEL STORY (Holocaust Education Film Foundation/Dreamscape Media): Writer/producer/director Ron Small’s feature self-explanatory documentary feature follows the life-time journey of Joe Engel, a Polish Jew who suffered through the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto, Birkenau, and Auschwitz, later fought for the underground until the end of World War II, emigrated to the United States and became a teacher and community leader, then returned to Europe – at age 90 – to revisit his past, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
VENUS (Wolfe Video): Writer/director Eisha Marjara’s award-winning debut feature stars Debargo Sanyal as an Indian immigrant whose preparations for transitioning into a woman are complicated by coming out to his unsuspecting parents (Gordon Warnecke and Zena Darawalla), an unexpected reunion with a former – and closeted – lover (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), and an even more unexpected introduction to a neighborhood teenager (newcomer Jamie Mayers) who claims to be his biological son. Occasionally meandering but always sympathetic, both to its complicated characters and LGBTQ issues, and a first-rate showcase for Sanyal, whose performance is heartbreaking. ***
WHO’S JENNA …? (Indican Pictures): Writer/producer/director Tom Baldinger’s debut debut feature is a flimsy romantic farce with Bill Sorvino as a New Jersey financial adviser whose buxom blonde girlfriend Jenna (Tracey Birdsall) reminds people of porn star Jenna Jameson. Likably played but forgettable. *½
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)