CHOICE OF THE WEEK
THE GREAT POSTAL HEIST (Cinema Libre Studio): Something many of us take for granted – the US Postal Service – deserves a revealing examination in this award-winning documentary feature from editor/producer Sheila Dvorak and principal editor/cinematographer/ director Jay Galione.
Galione was inspired to make the film by his father Robert, a 30-year-old postal worker who faced tons and tons of bureaucratic paperwork as he tried to improve the situation in the workplace for him. himself and his colleagues. His experiences are echoed by other postal workers, as they discuss the systematic dismantling and politicization of the Post Office over the past 50 years.
The Great Mail Heist isn’t flashy or slick, but it doesn’t have to be. Respondents discuss their stories and express their opinions clearly and sincerely. They really care about the integrity of the Post, and the film is really a tribute to these workers, who repeatedly faced toxic situations in the workplace. Others giving their opinion include Congressman Stephen Lynch, economist Richard Wolff and legendary consumer advocate Ralph Nader, among others. Looking at this, the term “going through the mail” isn’t so funny.
The Great Mail Heist is available on video-on-demand and DVD ($19.95 retail), the latter featuring a bonus Q&A session with Galione and Dvorak. ***
“BILLIONS”: SEASON FIVE (Showtime Entertainment/CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): The animosity between U.S. attorney Paul Giamatti and quick-fingered financial expert Damian Lewis continues to simmer in the 12 episodes of the award-winning 2020-21 season. Showtime drama, starring Corey Stoll, Roma Maffia, Asia Kate Dillon, Maggie Siff and Jeffrey DeMunn, available in a four-disc DVD collection ($33.99 retail).
DANCE WITH CRIME/THE GREEN COCKATOO (Cohen Media Group/Kino Lorber): A Blu-ray double feature ($29.95 retail) of a British period film.noir Detective novels: Dancing with crime (1947), directed by John Paddy Carstairs, stars Richard Attenborough and his real-life wife Sheila Sim as a couple entangled in London’s black market when investigating the murder of a friend; and The green cockatoo (1937), directed by William Cameron Menzies and based on a story by Graham Greene, stars John Mills as a Soho nightclub entertainer who confronts the racketeers who murdered his brother (Robert Newton).
DEAR EVAN HANSEN (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Ben Platt reprises his Tony-winning role in director Stephen Chbosky’s PG-13 adaptation of the hit Broadway musical (which won six Tonys in all), in the title role of a troubled teenager who comes to terms with a classmate’s suicide, which forces him to face his own demons, with supporting Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg and Colton Ryan, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail), each packed with bonus features.
FINDING ALICE: SERIES 1 (Acorn TV): Creator/executive producer Keeley Hawes stars in this quirky ITV drama series in the title role of a middle-aged woman whose move into her dream home is shattered when his partner (Jason Merrells), who designed the house, dies unexpectedly in a fall. Rounding out the regular cast are Kenneth Cranham, Joanna Lumley, Nigel Havers, Gemma Jones and Isabella Pappas, and all six feature films from the 2021 inaugural season are available on DVD ($39.99 retail).
“GOMORRAH”: THIRD SEASON (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The rise of a Neapolitan crime family is dramatized in this award-winning drama series based on Roberto Saviani’s best-selling non-fiction and the 2008 feature film that followed, starring Marco D’Amore in the central role of an ambitious heir whose reckless actions put him and his family in danger, in all 12 episodes of the 2017 season, each available on DVD ($39.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.95 retail), each filled with Italian (with English subtitles) and English audio option.
THE GROUNDS (Indican Pictures): Producer/director/co-writer Peter O’Melia’s 2018 feature debut details the unlikely friendship that develops between a drunken, gleefully irresponsible gardener (Trevor Morgan) and the reclusive millionaire and suicidal (Michael Welch) whose grounds he tends. This combination of lowbrow comedy and character-driven drama isn’t always stable, but is worth watching for fine performances from Morgan, Ashley Hinshaw (as Welch’s secretary), Allison Paige (as Welch’s sister ) and in particular Welch. The DVD ($24.99 retail) includes a behind-the-scenes featurette. **½
HARD TARGET (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Eastern action maestro John Woo made his American bow with this sleek and stylish 1994 variation of the classic Richard Connell story The most dangerous game, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as a drifter in New Orleans who comes up against a band of sadistic hunters (led by Lance Henriksen and Arnold Vosloo) who target human beings. One of the best vehicles for the ‘Brussels Muscles’, it outplays glamorous but wooden main Yancy Butler, while Henriksen and Vosloo chew up the scenery with aplomb and Wilford Brimley contributes to a cheery late-inning appearance as that Cajun uncle of Van Damme (! ). Biggest Laugh: Van Damme’s character is called “Chance Boudreaux” and when asked why he replies, “My mum took one.” The Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) and 4K Ultra HD ($39.95 retail) combo includes the R-rated theatrical version and an unrated international cut, audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more. **½
IT’S NOTHING MAMA, JUST A GAME (Mondo Macabro/CAV Distributing): Originally titled No es nada, mama, solo un juego and released in the United States as Beyond eroticism, writer/producer/director, Jose Maria Forque’s 1974 R-rated psycho-sexual shocker stars David Hemmings as a debauched plantation owner who indulges his sexual inclinations by stalking young women on his domain, with Andrea Rau, Francisco Rabal and Alida Valli in Support. In English and Spanish with English subtitles, available on Blu-ray ($24.99 retail), packed with bonus features including audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more.
THE LATEST TYCOONS (Distrib Films/Icarus Films Home Video): Florence Strauss directed this eight-episode 2019 documentary mini-series (originally titled The time of the nabobs) explores the renaissance of French cinema from 1945 to 1980, highlighting the producers who made the films that have endured ever since. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail).
NATIONAL LAMPOON FILM MADNESS (Code Red/Kino Lorber): The Blu-ray arc ($29.95 retail) of the flimsy and fatally unfunny three-part comedy anthology (originally titled National Lampoon goes to the cinema) directed by Henry Jaglom and debutant Bob Giraldi, completely wasting an all-star cast including Robby Benson, Richard Widmark, Diane Lane, Candy Clark, Peter Riegert, Christopher Lloyd, Ann Dusenberry, Robert Culp, Olympia Dukakis, Bobby DiCicco, Joe Spinell , Elisha Cook, Fred Willard, Teresa Ganzel, Margaret Whitton, Mary Woronov, Dick Miller, Henny Youngman, Rhea Perlman and Julie Kavner (in her feature debut). Originally filmed in 1981, this limped into (a few) theaters in 1983 before being relegated to late-night cable…where it belongs. To note. *
“BLU-RAY PARAMOUNT” (Paramount Home Entertainment): The latest Blu-ray movies released by Paramount Pictures, each packed with bonus features: The 25and-anniversary edition of the award-winning animated feature rated PG-13 Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996), based on the popular TV series by Mike Judge, retails for $17.99; the 50and-anniversary edition of Hal Ashby’s award-winning, PG-rated cult classic Harold and Maud (1971), featuring Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon as the titular duo, which retails for $25.99; the award-winning 1978 romantic/fantasy comedy Heaven can wait (1981), co-directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry, which won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration and nominations for Best Picture, Best Director(s), Best Actor (Beatty), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Warden), Best Supporting Actress (Dyan Cannon), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Original Score, which retails for $17.99; the Blu-ray Steelbook ($17.99 retail) of John Hughes’ hit 1987 comedy Planes, trains and automobiles, teaming up with Steve Martin and John Candy; and the 40and-anniversary edition of the fact-based, PG-rated historical epic Reds (1981), which won Academy Awards for Best Director (Warren Beatty), Best Supporting Actress (Maureen Stapleton) and Best Cinematography, with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Beatty), Best Actress (Diane Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Editing, Best Costume Design and Best Sound, which costs $17.99.
“RICK & MORTY”: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON (Adult Swim/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The misadventures of mad scientist Rick and his shy grandson (both voiced by Justin Roiland) continue in the 10 episodes – plus bonus features – of the 2021 season of the ‘Emmy-winning, Adult Swim animated fantasy series created by executive producers Dan Harmon and Roiland, available on DVD ($24.98 retail), Blu-ray ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray Steelbook (39 $.99 retail).
“ROY ROGERS: HIS FIRST AND LAST DOUBLE FILM” (Verdugo Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): An explicit double Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) featuring the first and last star vehicles of legendary cowboy star Roy Rogers (1911-1998): Under the western stars (1938), which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song (“Dust”); and PG rating Mackintosh and TJ (1975). Each film offers bonuses.
“1970S Sylvia Kristel Collection” (Cult Epics/CAV Distributing): The title says it all in this selection of four limited-edition films featuring sex siren Sylvia Kristel (1952-2002), each packed with bonus features: Alain Robbe-Grillet’s 1975 drama Playing with fire (The game with fire), in French with English subtitles; Wim Verstappen’s 1978 World War II drama Pastoral 1943, in Dutch with English subtitles; 1978 Mysteries, with Rutger Hauer and Rita Tushingham, in Dutch with English subtitles; and Sigi Rothemond’s 1974 comedy Juliain English and German with English subtitles, available on DVD ($79.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($99.95 retail).
TO HELL AND BACK (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Audie Murphy plays himself in this well-rendered 1955 adaptation of his best-selling autobiography, dramatizing his service in World War II, in which he was America’s most decorated soldier. Easily the best film directed by Jesse Hibbs, it was a huge box office success and emphasizes realism over melodrama, although Murphy (who is very good at it) was understandably hesitant to revisit his past. Also starring are Marshall Thompson, Charles Drake, Jack Kelly, Paul Picerni, Gregg Palmer, Susan Kohner (in her feature debut), and David Janssen, available on Blu-ray ($24.95 retail), with commentary audio and theatrical trailer. ***
(Copyright 2022, Mark Burger)