CHOICE OF THE WEEK
VIGILANTE (Blue Underground / MVD Entertainment Group): A late entry into the Death wish sweepstakes, the self-explanatory 1982 melodrama by director William Lustig (actually superior to most of the Death wish sequels) undoubtedly delivers a lot of action in its brisk 90-minute runtime.
In typical knee-jerk fashion, the setup is simple but grossly effective: hard-working workers Eddie Marino (dependable Robert Forster) takes matters into his own hands after his wife (Rutanya Alda) is attacked and their young son (Dante Joseph, in his only film role) murdered by a sadistic street gang that includes Don Blakely and salsa singer Willie Colon (in his film debut).
In a supreme ironic twist, the perpetrators go free as an enraged Eddie is jailed for 30 days for contempt of court. Once back on the street, he joins colleagues Fred Williamson, Joseph Carberry and Richard Bright (Alda’s then husband), who secretly exterminated criminals on their own.
The mean streets of New York have rarely looked meaner, and Jay Chattaway’s convincing score is a plus, while a solid cast of B-movie veterans Carol Lynley, the always-welcome Woody Strode, Steve W. James, Frank Pesce, Vincent Beck includes. (in his last role), real-life New York cop Randy Jurgensen (also an associate producer), and the indomitable Joe Spinell, perfectly cast as a filthy lawyer.
The limited-edition 4K Ultra HD combo ($ 49.95 in store) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, trailers and TV spots, and more. Nominal R. ** ½
AMERICAN PIE PRESENTS: GIRLS RULES (Universal 1440 Entertainment / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): The latest – and least – in the deathless comedy franchise, produced and directed by Mike Elliott, tries to put a new spin on the predictable tacky procedure by the handsome new hunk (lovable Darren Barnet) is coveted by a bunch of high school friends. A total boredom, with Ed Quinn, Barry Bostwick and Danny Trejo wasted in small roles, though Sara Rue gets a few laughs as the cheeky new principal, available on DVD ($ 16.98 in store). Rated R. *
“BUSTER KEATON COLLECTION, VOL. 4” (Cohen Film Collection / Kino Lorber): The title tells it all in the latest twin-bill of classic silent comedies starring the legendary “Old Stone Face”, Buster Keaton (1895-1966): Go west (1925), which Keaton wrote, produced, and directed; and College (1927), which Keaton co-directed with James W. Horne. Both the DVD ($ 19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 29.95 retail) offer bonus features for the Keaton believers.
CRY FROM A PROSTITUTE (Code Red / Kino Lorber): Director Andrea Bianchi’s 1974 R-rated crime drama (originally titled Quelli che contano and also released as Love kills and Guns of the Big Shots) stars Henry Silva as a sadistic assassin who has been ordered to stir up trouble between two rival gangs – only to get involved with hard-drinking ex-whore Barbara Bouchet, now married to one of the warring godfathers, available on Blu-ray ( $ 29.95 retail).
DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (Blue Underground / MVD Entertainment Group): Director / co-writer Harry Kumel puts an unusual spin on the traditional vampire legend in this 1971 chiller (originally titled Les levres rouges) in which bridal couple John Karlen and Danielle Ouimet fall under the spell of the mysterious Countess Elisabeth Bathory (Delphine Seyrig) and her kitten-like companion (Andrea Rau) while staying at a remote inn in Belgium. Elegant and erotic, but emotionally distant. Still, this has a large cult following, among horror and arthouse aficionados alike, and is well worth a look. The limited edition, three-part 4K Ultra HD combo ($ 59.95 in-store) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, compilation booklet, theatrical trailers and the soundtrack of Francois de Roubaix on CD. Nominal R. ** ½
DRAGON SOLDIERS (LionsGate): Director Hank Braxtan’s R-rated creature feature pits Ruben Pla and his awesome squad of mercenaries against a giant fire-breathing dragon terrorizing a small Colorado town, available on DVD ($ 19.98 retail).
IRON MASK (LionsGate): Originally titled Tayna pechati drakona, the sequel to PG-13 from director / co-writer Oleg Stepchenko The Forbidden Kingdom (2014) follows the ongoing adventures of Jason Flemyng as a fearless 18th century cartographer as he becomes embroiled in international intrigue, with Jackie Chan (also a producer), Arnold Schwarzenegger (also an executive producer), Charles Dance and Rutger Hauer (in one of its latest roles) providing star-studded support, available on DVD ($ 19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 16.99 retail).
JIMMY CARTER: ROCK AND ROLL PRESIDENT (Greenwich Entertainment / Kino Lorber): Executive producer / director Mary Wharton’s feaure documentary debut describes the friendships between the 39th President of the United States and such greats as Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett and the late Gregg Allman – many of whom he invited to the White House to perform impromptu concerts. Relaxed and congenial, this also includes Carter’s life and career before and after his presidency in clear, concise fashion, available on DVD ($ 19.95 retail).
JIU JITSU (The Avenue / Paramount Home Entertainment): Dimitri Longothetis wrote, produced and directed this frantic, silly sci-fi / action blast pitting an ancient clan of mystical martial artists against alien invaders. There are plenty of comic books and video games, but not enough to qualify for cult status, despite a high-profile cast that includes Alain Moussi, Frank Grillo, Tony Jaa, Rick Yune, Marie Avgeropoulous, Juju Chan and the ever-animated Nicolas Cage, available on DVD ($ 19.98 retail). Nominal R. * ½
LORD LOVES A DUCK (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): George Axelrod’s 1966 adaptation of Al Hine’s best-selling novel spawns 1960s teen comedies and the generation gap in eccentric (but not unattractive) fashion, starring Roddy McDowall as a devious high school prodigy (! ) in love with dreamy classmate Tuesday Weld, whose every wish he promises to fulfill. Lola Albright (in an award-winning rendition), Harvey Korman, Martin West and the inimitable Ruth Gordon also appear in this cult classic that doesn’t always get in touch but keeps waving further and further, available on DVD ($ 14.95 in stores) and Blu-ray ($ 29.95 retail). ** ½
LOVE AND MONSTERS (Paramount Home Entertainment): Dylan O’Brien stars in this PG-13 rated monster mash as an all-American teen braving a dangerous, post-apocalyptic landscape to reunite with high school student Jessica Henwick, with Dan Ewing, Ariana Greenblatt, and genre favorite Michael Rooker for the ride, available on DVD ($ 17.96 retail), Blu-ray ($ 22.96 retail) and 4K Ultra HD combo ($ 34.99 retail).
AVERAGE MAN: THE STORY OF CHRIS HOLMES (Cleopatra Entertainment / MVD Entertainment Group): Writer / producer / cinematographer / director Antoine De Montremy’s feature film debut offers a self-explanatory chronicle of Chris Holmes, the California-born lead guitarist of popular heavy-metal rock group WASP, as he rebuilds his life and career in Cannes, France, available on Blu-ray ($ 29.95 retail), packed with bonus features.
BEWARE THE GAP (The Criterion Collection): Bing Liu makes his feature film debut as producer, director and cinematographer on this award-winning 2018 coming-of-age documentary film in which he filmed himself and his childhood friends Keire Johnson and Zack Mulligan for 12 years. skateboarding enthusiasts who grew up in the blue collar castle of Rockford, Illinois, and how their friendship is tested as their lives fall apart. Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary. Both the DVD ($ 29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 39.95 retail) include bonus features such as audio commentary, Liu’s 2010 short documentary Nuoc, outtakes and more.
NASRIN (Virgil Films / Kino Lorber): Olivia Colman talks about writer / producer / director Jeff Kaufman’s timely documentary about the life and career of Iranian lawyer and human rights criminal Nasrin Sotoudeh, whose own freedom is threatened when held by the government . Secretly filmed on location, this offers both a hard-hitting look at an oppressive regime and a tribute to the courage and resilience of Sotoudeh, who has become an international symbol of hope and freedom. In English and Farsi with English subtitles, available on DVD ($ 19.95 retail).
THE SHADOW OF VIOLENCE (LionsGate): Director Nick Rowland’s debut film, adapted from Colin Barrett’s short story Quiet with horses, Cosmo Jarvis stars as a brutal ex-boxer whose loyalty is tested when he is ordered to commit murder by demented crime boss Ned Dennehy. A familiar storyline is enhanced by a gritty atmosphere and solid acting, especially by Barry Keoghan as Jarvis’ volatile best friend. Nominal R. ** ½
SPELL (Paramount Home Entertainment): Omari Hardwick headlines this R-rated chiller in which he’s held captive by Loretta Devine, a Hoodoo priestess with devilish designs on his soul, available on DVD ($ 17.96 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 19.96 retail), the latter offering bonus features.
SUDDEN FEAR (Cohen Film Collection / Kino Lorber): Few performers have more fun on-screen cracking than Joan Crawford, who has plenty of opportunities in this adaptation of Edna Sherry’s 1952 novel, starring Crawford, a successful playwright who discovers her actor husband (Jack Palance) is planning to kill her in cahoots with his mistress (Gloria Grahame) – and decides to turn their roles on them. Over the top but great fun, backed up by Elmer Bernstein’s score and the Charles Lang nominated Oscar, fittingly noir-like cinematography. Additional nominations for Crawford as Best Actress, Palance as Best Supporting Actor and Best Costume Design (black and white). The special edition DVD ($ 19.95 retail) includes audio commentary.
SYNCHRONIC (Well Go USA Entertainment): Writer / producer / editor Justin Benson and producer / editor Aaron Moorhead co-directed this R-rated science fiction thriller, starring Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan as a pair of New Orleans paramedics who Get caught up in a bizarre series of deaths caused by a mysterious designer drug with unexpected side effects, available on DVD ($ 24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 29.98 retail), each packed with bonus features.
TOYS OF HORROR (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The title tells it all in this expertly crafted but empty-headed Christmas shocker in which a family’s attempt to renovate an abandoned mansion is (seriously) complicated by supernatural toys experiencing a murderous eruption. Charles Band did things like this better, if not much, with his Demonic toys franchise. The DVD ($ 19.98 retail) features bonus featurettes. Rated R. *
YELLOW ROSE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer / Executive Producer / Director Diane Paragas makes her narrative feature film debut with this award-winning, PG-13-rated coming-of-age drama, expanded from her 2017 short film, starring Eva Noblezada as a teenage Filipino immigrant to Texas struggling to pursue her dreams as a country singer, available on DVD ($ 19.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 24.99 retail).
(Copyright 2021, Mark Burger)