Raro Video

Raro Video

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Discs Section: Pick of the Week

DEATH OCCURRED LAST NIGHTDeath Occurred Last Night

A young woman has gone missing, and while that’s distressing enough for her father it’s made worse by the fact that she’s mentally challenged and has the awareness of a child. Her concerned father pressures the police to step up their search, but as he and the detectives narrow in on the truth it becomes clear that they may be too late.

This dark, violent Italian thriller was a bit rough upon its release, and the years since haven’t made it any softer. Part procedural, part suspense, the film doesn’t shy away from the sex or violence and is most definitely not for the PC crowd. If the scene where good old dad helps his gorgeous adult daughter put on her bra doesn’t stop some people the idea of a handicapped woman being put to use as prostitute just might, but Duccio Tessari‘s film moves beyond its exploitation tease to become a solid adult thriller unafraid to head in some truly dark directions. Raro Video’s new Blu-ray isn’t loaded with extras, but the film looks and sounds fantastic.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Booklet, interview, trailer]

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ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW 1The Andy Griffith Show: Season 1

Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) is a widower who rules the town of Mayberry with an iron fist. I kid. He’s actually the kindest, most understanding cop you could ever hope to run into, and that gentle persona carries over into his personal life too. He’s raising a son named Opie (Ron Howard), and we also spend time with his friends and co-workers including Don Knotts as his deputy sidekick.

Am I getting old? I never used to care about shows like this and the two immediately below when I was younger — they felt old-fashioned and possibly boring — but now I can’t get enough of them. Like with Little House on the Prairie, I’ve found a new appreciation for the integrity, intelligence and [yuck] family values on display in just about every episode. The characters grow into real people and manage both personality and a sense of humor across episodes that deal with issues both goofy and sincere. It finds morality without ever descending into preachiness. It’s a cliche, but they truly don’t make shows like this anymore.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, home movies, original sponsor spots, TV movie]

I LOVE LUCY 1I Love Lucy: Season 1

The setup is simplicity itself. Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) is married to a popular bandleader named Ricky (real life husband of twenty years, Desi Arnez), but while he’s paid for his showy antics she can’t help but stumble into one ridiculous adventure after the another. She’s goofy in the best possible way, less air-headed than she is unfortunately-minded, and life with her is a constant stream of zaniness.

Ball gets all the credit for the show’s success, and while it’s greatly deserved Arnez carries his own weight through each episode too. He’s saddled with being the constant straight man, but the chemistry he shares with Ball is undeniable, and the role never prevents him from having obvious fun. But yes, Ball is undeniably the star, and it’s due to her mastery of comedic delivery and physical comedy. The show’s Blu-ray debut is loaded with extras including the option to watch episodes with either the traditional “heart on satin” openings and closings or as they were originally broadcast with stick figure credits and original commercials.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Makeup tests, special episode, commentaries, alternate elements, home movies, radio episodes, flubs, photo galleries]

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE 2Little House on the Prairie: Season Two

The Ingalls family continue their adventure in the great American west, and the only constant are drama, love and nightgowns. Season two sees Pa once again dealing with employment issues, the kids continue to struggle against close-minded bullies like the hateful Nellie and various adventures with hermits, recording devices, herbal medicines and orphans. There’s even an episode inspired by Wages of Fear!

As with my recent watch of season one, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that this is a damn fine show. Pa Ingalls isa bit more religiously-minded than Andy Taylor above, but he’s still most interested in doing right by his family, something he accomplishes through integrity and hard work. These traits just aren’t common in prime-time anymore let alone in the real world, and it continues to be a refreshing change of pace from more current entertainment.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]

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7 Boxes

Victor is a young Paraguayan trying to make a living as a delivery boy in a crowded marketplace, but his latest job may also be his last. Tasked with carting seven mysterious boxes across town he soon discovers a whole host of troubles are hot on his tail. This little indie aims for a Danny Boyle-like vibe. It doesn’t fully work due in part to its lackluster visuals, but its energy carries you along to the end all the same.

[DVD extras: None]

Amistad

A slave ship heading for America devolves into mutiny, but instead of freedom the man (Djimon Hounsou) behind the outrage finds himself on trial once he arrives on solid ground. Steven Spielberg‘s film predates the McConaissance by several years, but there’s still a strong performance here by Matthew McConaughey. The two leads are joined by Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins and a dozen other familiar faces, but the performances aren’t enough to lift the film above being simply good and a bit dry.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, trailer]

The Art of the Steal

Crunch Calhoun (Kurt Russell) is out of the thievery game after a stint in a Polish prison scared him straight. But then a golden opportunity to make easy money comes along… and who can say no to a sure thing? He pulls his old team together and sets out for a score, but cops and fellow criminals are often one step ahead. This is a slight heist comedy to be sure, but it’s enjoyable enough to warrant a watch thanks to a fun cast and some twisty plot turns. Russell in particular is always fantastic, and he gets great support from Jay Baruchel, Matt Dillon, Jason Jones and others.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, commentary]

Countess Dracula

The Countess Bathory legend comes to luscious life in this Hammer film from the early ’70s featuring Ingrid Pitt as a royal who discovers the restorative power of bathing in the blood of young women. It’s a solidly produced and atmospheric chiller elevated by the copious amount of bare boobs they’ve packed into a PG-rated film. And to that I say bravo.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, interview, trailer]

Gregory’s Girl (UK)

Gregory is a gawky teen interested in the usual things, but life takes a turn when he becomes infatuated with the feathery-haired new girl at school. This early ’80s Scottish coming of age comedy doesn’t hold up as well as I recalled, but there are still plenty of oddball laughs and honest observations to be found here.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, interview]

The Honeymooners: Classic 39 Episodes

Ralph (Jackie Gleason) is a bus driver who spends a lot of time complaining to his wife (Audrey Meadows) and friend (Art Carney). While I’ve discovered a new love for plenty of older shows recently (see above) this one remains outside my interest and appreciation. I just don’t see the humor in it, and I’m not talking about Ralph’s hilarious threats of spousal abuse either. The show and characters just do nothing for me. When Cedric the Entertainer remakes something and it *isn’t* less entertaining than the original… you know there’s a problem.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Promos, 60 Minutes profiles, two anniversary specials, additional interview segments]

Jungle Blue

A trio heads into the Peruvian jungle for various reasons, and sex and violence soon follows with them. Two of the travelers are murderous thieves looking for a valuable gem, the other for her lost father, and together they accept the help of a local vine-swinging Tarzan wannabe named Evor and his gorilla friend. It’s a softcore adventure, but it’s loaded with insert shots of hardcore action including a hotel room orgy that the film returns to repeatedly throughout its running time. Vinegar Syndrome have once again reached deep into the forgotten past for this oddly endearing, terribly edited “classic.” There are lots of highlights, but surely the opening credits consisting mostly of slow pans over the poster’s credits is the first among them.

[DVD extras: Trailer]

Laverne & Shirley: Eighth and Final Season

Milwaukee’s seventh most popular export are in Los Angeles in the early ’60s, so you can imagine the zany hijinks they get into. This feels like later seasons of Scrubs, another show that worked well with its core cast and sharp writing but went on far too long and grew too thin.

[DVD extras: Original promos, gag reel]

Mr. Jones

A young couple head to a remote cabin for peace and quiet and discover they’re living near a famed but elusive artist. It’s all well and good until the secret behind his mystery. This horror flick has a cool concept at its core, but its inconsistent adherence to POV filming and a final thirty minutes of utter (and highly annoying) noise kill any chance of it being enjoyable.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Separate but Equal

Brown vs Board of Education is the Supreme Court case that squashed the legal standing of racial segregation in the United States, and this is a TV movie about that landmark decision. Sidney Poitier and Burt Lancaster lead the cast in this dramatization, and while it’s a solid, well-acted affair it’s a bit of a one-time watch (unless you’re a teacher of course).

[DVD extras: Edward R. Murrow news special]

Simon and the Oaks

Simon is a teenager in 1940’s Sweden, but his carefree youth gets a smackdown in the form of the discovery that not only is he adopted but he’s also Jewish. His journey to explore the truth about his family leads instead to truths about us all. Bill Skarsgård gives a strong and affecting lead performance in what amounts to a quiet tale about a very bombastic time.

[DVD extras: None]

Still Mine

Craig and Irene (James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold) are happily married and have been for years, but as she begins showing signs of dementia he decides to build her a new, more suitable home. His simple aim is challenged and hampered every step along the way by a bureaucracy untethered by sentimentality. More of an engaging character piece than an engaging film, this is a simple drama offering a rare lead performance from the always wonderful Cromwell.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

Survival Code

“In 2045, a former MMA fighter turned government agent, runs a bar in the tiny town of Borealis…” Can you really go wrong with that log-line? Probably, but while the DVD cover wants you to believe this is a generic action flick the reality is that it’s a TV movie with a little bit of personality. It’s goofy more often than not, obviously, but a sense of fun goes a long way in a movie like this.

[DVD extras: None]

Veronica Mars

Veronica (Kristen Bell) left the private eye world far behind, but one her ex is accused of murder she returns to the town of Neptune to discover the truth. I never watched the show so maybe this is par for the course, but good golly is the script for this film all kinds of lame. It feels like bad TV. If nothing else it’s fun watching as the movie tries not to make Bell’s pregnancy too obvious from scene to scene. Skip it and watch a far, far better Kickstarter-funded film like Blue Ruin instead.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurettes, deleted scenes]

Discs Section: Also

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:

After the Dark
Blood Shed
Countess Dracula
Generation War
Hot Guys with Guns
Johnny Come Lately
Josh (Against the Grain)
Making the Rules
Rookie Blue: The Complete Fourth Season
Transformers: Energon – The Complete Series


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