CHOICE OF THE WEEK
REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS… (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Orion Pictures and executive producer Dick Clark (the one and only) clearly envisioned a franchise with this splashy and entertaining 1985 adaptation of Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir’s bestseller Destructive series of paperback novels.
To that end, director Guy Hamilton and screenwriter Christopher Wood – both veterans of the James Bond series – were tapped to bring the titular hero to the big screen, in the form of Fred Ward, enjoying a solid turn as that New York cop “recruited” by a secret government operation (led by Wilford Brimley) to pursue wrongdoers whose actions go beyond conventional legal parameters.
There was considerable controversy when Joel Gray was signed to play Remo’s eccentric mentor Chiun, a Korean master of “Sinanju,” but the actor (who earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance) plays the character with dignity, humanity and humor. He and Ward have a great relationship, and Gray practically steals the show.
The supporting cast includes stalwarts such as Charles Cioffi (as the sinister arms mogul), JA Preston, George Coe, Michael Pataki, Patrick Kilpatrick, Jon Polito, William Hickey and Kate Mulgrew, adding spice as Remo’s foil and potential romantic interest, Rayner Flamand. Hamilton handles the action skillfully and efficiently – including a stunning Statue of Liberty sequence (which was then being restored) – and Craig Safan’s score could be described as quintessential ’80s.
Even though the envisioned franchise evaporated following a disappointing box office and mixed reviews, Remo Williams is a worthy cult classic and great fun for all ages. The Blu-ray Special Edition ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective featurettes and interviews, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated PG-13. ***
3 TICKETS TO PARADISE (Indican Pictures): Writer Isaac Piche and debutant Dominic Lopez co-directed this routine, a contemporary western starring black-ish, following combat veteran Michelle Manhart accompanying ex-husband Jeff Bentley and treasure hunter Joe Bell on a perilous journey to the titular (and remarkably well-preserved) Mexican ghost town in search of a Federal gold shipment lost in the 1930s, pursued by the Mexican crime cartel and arrogant mercenary Martin Kove. Manhart, the Air Force sergeant who posed for Playboy in 2007, fills out a t-shirt nicely, and brooding Bell looks like Kevin Bacon and Scott Eastwood, but the stylized ’70s grindhouse-style cinematography doesn’t hide the fact that it was done on the cheap, and according to some reports produced nearly a decade ago, to surface now, available on DVD ($24.99 retail). *½
BELFAST (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): One of the best movies of 2021, Kenneth Branagh’s warm, semi-autobiographical drama stars talented newcomer Jude Hill as a bright boy in circa 1969 Belfast, reaching the majority against the backdrop of “The Troubles”, the simmering conflict between Catholics and Protestants, with a delightful cast including Catriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds, Colin Morgan and the incomparable Judi Dench. Nominated for seven Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Hinds), Best Supporting Actress (Dench), Best Sound and Best Original Song (Down to Joy by Van Morrison), available on DVD ($22.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.99 retail), each packed with bonus features including audio commentary, alternate ending and deleted scenes, and featurettes. Rated PG-13. ***½
“BURT REYNOLDS BLU-RAY” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): A pair of big-screen vehicles starring superstar Burt Reynolds (1936-2018): The cuddly R-rated 1969 World War II thriller Dead end, with Anne Francis, Jeff Corey and Lyle Bettger; and the R-rated 1989 caper comedy Breaking inscripted by John Sayles and directed by Bill Forsyth, each available on Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) and loaded with bonus features.
THE CARD PLAYER (Code Red/Kino Lorber): Dario Argento’s typically stylized 2003 thriller (originally titled The cartaio) pairs Stefania Rocca as a tough homicide detective and Liam Cunningham as a troubled Interpol agent tracking down an evil serial killer who lures victims through online card games. Rich with his usual director’s touches, this quintessential giallo is undoubtedly among Argento’s best later films, with solid work from Rocca and Cunningham, while Argento’s daughter Fiore appears in his last feature to date as one of the victims. The Blu-ray Special Edition ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and a theatrical trailer. ***
CHOMPS (Code Red/Kino Lorber): Hanna-Barbera Productions has released its first (and only) live-action comedy, a weak 1979 sci-fi farce about the creation of a robotic dog. It was the last film directed by Don Chaffey, the title is an acronym for Canine Home Protection System, and the cast includes Valerie Bertinelli (in his feature debut), Wesley Eure (fresh from The Toolbox Murders!), Jim Backus, Red Buttons, Conrad Bain, Chuck McCann, Hermione Baddeley, Larry Bishop and Regis Toomey (in his latest feature film). The Blu-ray Special Edition ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary, theatrical trailer and more. Rated PG. *
CHARLI XCX: ALONE TOGETHER (Greenwich Entertainment/Kino Lorber): British-born, Grammy-nominated pop superstar Charli XCX takes center stage in Bradley & Pablo’s feature-length documentary as she strives to create her album 2020 how i feel now while locked in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, seeking help online from fans and collaborators around the world, available on DVD ($19.95 retail).
COSMIC DAWN (Cranked Up Films/Kino Lorber): The Blu-ray arc ($29.95 retail) of writer/director Jefferson Moneo’s contemporary sci-fi parable focusing on the tribulations of a young woman (Camille Rowe ) who as a child saw his mother being abducted by aliens and later joined the titular cult (led by Antonia Zegers), which was apparently dedicated to the cause of communicating with aliens.
“DALGLIESH”: SERIES 1 (Acorn): Bertie Carvel takes on the role of widowed British police inspector and poetry writer Adam Dalgliesh in all six features of the inaugural 2021 season of the mystery series based on PD James’ best-selling crime novels. Jeremy Irvine portrays his cop partner, with guest appearances from Fenella Woolgar, Amanda Root, Shannon Murray and Steven Mackintosh, available on DVD ($49.99 retail).
“DC’S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW”: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The superheroes immortalized by DC Comics continue their ongoing conflict against the forces of evil in the 15-episode 2021 season of the award-winning CW fantasy/adventure series, featuring a cast of set including Caity Lotz, Tala Ashe, Jes Macallan, Olivia Swann, Amy Louise Pemberton and Shayan Sobhian joined by new cast member Lisseth Chavez, with appearances from former regulars Dominic Purcell, Nick Zano and Matt Ryan, available on DVD ( $24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail), each offering bonus features.
“GOMORRAH”: FOURTH 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 2019 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.
HALLOWEEN KILLS (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): The UNCSA School of Filmmaking duo of David Gordon Green (writer/executive producer/director) and Danny McBride (writer/executive producer) reunites with executive producer John Carpenter and executive producer /lead actress Jamie Lee Curtis for this R-rated sequel to their 2018 box office hit, again pitting Laurie Strode (Curtis), her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) against the unstoppable Michael Myers. In addition to Will Patton (also from 2018) and Anthony Michael Hall, the film includes appearances from original cast members Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens and Nick Castle (as Myers), available at DVD ($29.98 retail), Blu-ray ($34.98 retail) and 4K Ultra HD combo ($44.98 retail), each packed with bonus features with audio commentary, deleted and extended scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, a gag reel, and more.
“SUPERGIRL”: THE SIXTH AND FINAL SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Melissa Benoist takes her final flight as Kara Deavers and her heroic Kryptonian alter-ego, in all 20 episodes of the 2021 (and final) season of CBS’ award-winning fantasy/adventure series based on the popular DC Comics character, with Chyler Leigh, Katie McGrath, Jesse Rath, Nicole Maines and David Harewood rounding out the regular cast, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail) , each filled with bonuses.
A WRITER’S ODYSSEY (Shout! Studios/Shout! Factory): Writer/director Lu Yang’s award-winning fantasy (originally titled Ci sha xiao shuo jia), based on the short story by Shuang Xuetao, starring Jiayin Lei as a man whose obsession with his missing daughter drives him to kill a best-selling author (Zijian Dong) whose works tend to come true – which he quickly discovers on his own. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.98 retail).
“YELLOWSTONE”: SEASON 4 (Paramount Home Entertainment): Executive producer Kevin Costner returns as the patriarch of a Montana ranching family, in all 10 episodes of the 2021-22 season of the popular award-winning Paramount Network drama series created by executive producers Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, with series regulars Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser, Gil Birmingham, Kelsey Asbille and Will Patton joined by guest stars Jacki Weaver, Piper Perabo and Kathryn Kelly, available on DVD ($25.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($33.99 retail), each offering behind-the-scenes features.
(Copyright 2022, Mark Burger)