Along with the beginning of summer generally comes lists of titles to entertain while on vacation or at the shore. Reviews—Video Edition is taking a turn with 15 DVDs worthy of the best of summer viewing. Sit back, cool off, and dive in to these well-recommended films.
The Blob. color. 82 min. Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr., dist. by Criterion Collection, www.criterion.com. 2013. Blu-ray ISBN 9781604656992. $39.95. HORROR
After a meteor crash-lands in a small Pennsylvania town, an elderly curmudgeon (Olin Howland) investigates, only to be consumed by the dollop of red jelly contained therein. Before the unfortunate fellow can be completely digested, he is rescued by two teens (“Steven” McQueen in a career-launching role and Aneta Corsaut, the future Helen Crump on The Andy Griffith Show) who transport him to a doctor (Stephen Chase). The viscous villain proceeds to ingest not only the elderly man but the doctor and his nurse (Lee Payton), then goes on a rampage in the town, devouring everything in its path. Extras on this Blu-ray edition of the glorious and gooey 1958 cult classic include a terrific essay by critic Kim Newman and “Blobabilia!,” an extensive compilation of Blob-related stills, posters, and behind-the-scenes photographs gathered by Blobophile Wes Swank.
Verdict From the insanely cheerful theme song (composed by Burt Bacharach and sung over a cartoon of joyfully expanding baby blobs) to its amorphous, question mark “End,” this film is a delightful trip down B movie memory lane. A must-see for all horror fans. [LJ 6/15/13]—Jeanne Bogino, New Lebanon Lib., NY
Copper: Season One. 3 discs. color. 440+ min. BBC America, dist. by BBC Home Entertainment, www.bbcdvd.com. 2012. DVD UPC 883929264285. $49.98; Blu-ray UPC 883929264278. $59.98. SDH subtitles. F
When Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones) finishes his second tour of duty with the Union army, he returns home to find his young daughter dead and his wife missing. As a New York City metropolitan police detective, his attention is soon diverted by other violent crimes and punishments. Moving back and forth between the mean streets of Five Points and affluent Fifth Avenue in the waning days of the Civil War, Corcoran finds only deceit and lies. He may be the last honorable man in this debauched, lawless, and corrupt city. This gripping BBC America original production features an ensemble cast of actors relatively unknown to U.S. audiences, excellent writing, and outstanding set design and wardrobe. Unlike many other British period pieces that have come to our shores, there is nothing genteel about these characters, the stories, or the setting; a second season is already in production.
Verdict A brutal, raw, and compelling cop show set in New York City, with a historical twist. Viewers who enjoy adult police dramas will want to seek out this one. [LJ 5/15/13]—Linda Frederiksen, Washington State Univ. Lib., Vancouver
Duke. color. 87 min. Mark Jean, Vet Street Prod. for Hallmark Movie Channel, dist. by Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment, 800-869-3603; Amazon.com. 2013. DVD UPC 883476092188. $14.93. Closed-captioned. F/TV
Inspired by a true story, this heart-warming and gut-wrenching film recounts the experience of U.S. Marine sergeant Terry Pulaski (played with understated grace by TV veteran Steven Weber), who returns from a tour of Afghanistan disabled from shrapnel in his back and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The combination ruins his marriage, his relationship with his daughter, and his ability to hold down a job and cope with life in general. Duke is a stray border collie who wanders into the Pulaski family’s life and provides the comfort and companionship for Terry that he doesn’t find with humans. Feeling overwhelmed and alone, Terry and Duke take to the road and live as vagabonds for ten years. When Duke falls seriously ill, a penniless Terry leaves his canine friend at a vet’s office to be euthanized. In true Hallmark fashion, miracles happen and a heartbreaking event becomes a means for reconciliation, illumination, and renewed spirit. The fast pace of this story doesn’t leave much opportunity for either character or plot development, yet it by no means spoils this joyful viewing experience. According to the Nielsen Ratings, Duke received the second-highest rating for an HMC premier film.
Verdict A comment from Terry while he’s repairing a young girl’s bike sums up the movie: “everything is worth fixing.” That couldn’t be truer. Highly recommended. [LJ 5/15/13]—Edell M. Schaefer, Brookfield P.L., WI
Foyle’s War: The Home Front Files; Sets 1-6. 22 discs. color & b/w. 37 hrs. Jeremy Silberston & others, Greenlit Rights Limited, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781598286007. $149.99. F
This mystery series is set in the southern English coastal town of Hastings during World War II. Michael Kitchen plays the title role of Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle. He is assisted by his plucky female driver Samantha “Sam” Stewart (played by Honeysuckle Weeks) and his war-injured but capable sergeant (played by Anthony Howell). The highly observant Foyle thoroughly supports the war effort but not at the expense of justice being served. Sam’s chatty, ever optimistic “can do” personality contrasts well with Foyle’s formal and often taciturn demeanor. Each 100-minute episode revolves around a murder or other serious crime and aspects of the war such as profiteering, German bombardments, or the assimilation of American GIs. The early episodes exude an undercurrent of trepidation about an imminent German invasion. Long time jumps between some episodes are reportedly owing to scripts dropped when the series, which premiered in 2002, was canceled in 2008. Production has resumed, and the seventh season will be broadcast on PBS this fall. Though the price is dear, the collection is a bargain over buying individual sets at $50–$60 each.
Verdict Well acted with nicely paced plots and fine attention to historical accuracy, Foyle’s War is highly recommended to fans of traditional British mysteries or World War II dramas. [LJ 6/15/13]—Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA
Indiscreet. color. 100 min. Stanley Donen, Melange Pictures, dist. by Olive Films, www.olivefilms.com. 2013. DVD UPC 887090052504. $19.95; Blu-ray UPC 887090052603. $29.95. F
In this charming 1958 romantic comedy, Cary Grant mines his suave persona as an international financier who passes himself off as a married man to deter potential love interests from any hope of commitment. “How dare he make love to me and not be a married man!” huffs the rich London stage actress embodied by Ingrid Bergman upon learning the truth after eagerly pursuing an affair. But the romance turns out to be no casual fling, and following the obligatory witty complications both parties cease playing games and get down to proposals.
Verdict While a tad racy for its era, this charming rom-com seems like a model of discretion, with its hanky-panky implied, not even coyly depicted. For viewers who appreciate the virtues of an earlier movie-going age. [LJ 6/1/13]—Jeff T. Dick, Davenport, IA
Just Henry. color. 100 min. David Moore, ITV Studios, dist. by BFS Entertainment, www.bfsent.com. 2012. DVD UPC 066805311451. $24.98. F
Fifteen-year-old Henry (Josh Bolt) faces a dreary world in post–World War II England having lost his soldier father, Joey, and acquired a disliked stepfather, Bill, who married his mother, Maureen. Ignorant of the details of his father’s death, Henry and his paternal Gran (Sheila Hancock) worship the dead hero, posthumously awarded a medal for bravery. At school, Henry is assigned to a three-person team with Grace, a pretty, smart new girl he admires, and Paul, a boy he hates, as Henry believes Paul’s father is a deserter. Henry has recurring nightmares, and he thinks he sees Joey’s image in a snapshot of his school team taken at the local cinema. Then Joey returns, claiming amnesia as the reason behind his decade-long disappearance. Furious that the now-pregnant Maureen won’t return to him, Joey kidnaps her and Henry, and Henry must decide whom to help and how, simultaneously learning much more about his father. The moral and ethical dilemmas here are real and difficult; the denouement exciting and satisfying.
Verdict Based on the 2008 novel by Michelle Magorian, this video is highly recommended for public library youth collections but would be most enjoyable as family fare.[LJ 4/15/13]—Sheila S. Intner, Prof. Emerita, Simmons GSLIS at Mt. Holyoke Coll., South Hadley, MA
The Loved Ones. color. 84+ min. Sean Bryne, Paramount Home Entertainment, www.paramount.com. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781415767535. $19.99. HORROR
High school student Brent (Xavier Samuel) has had a terrible senior year. Since his father’s death in an accident for which Brent feels responsible, his guilt has driven him to drugs and self-mutilation, although he finds some peace in the arms of his girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine). Prom night is fast approaching, and Brent is naturally planning to escort Holly, so he must decline an invitation from the mousy Lola (Robin McLeavy). But Lola will have her date, after all, when her deranged daddy (John Brumpton) drugs and abducts Brent for a demented dance party he’ll never forget. This Aussie offering from first-time writer-director Bryne takes the past-its-prime torture-porn genre and turns it on its severed ear by injecting pretty pastels and a streak of wicked black humor into what is traditionally a bleak, grim subcategory of horror. McLeavy (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) is absolutely sensational as the postal-in-pink Lola, and Samuel (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) gives an impressive performance as well, considering that he spends most of the film muted in a most unpleasant manner.
Verdict Horror fans are in for a bloody-good, cotton candy–colored treat. [LJ 6/1/13]—Jeanne Bogino, New Lebanon Lib., NY
Masterpiece: Mr Selfridge. 3 discs. color. 480+ min. Jon Jones & others, ITV Studios, dist. by PBS, shoppbs.org. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781608838608. $49.99; Blu-ray ISBN 9781608838615. $54.99. SDH subtitles. F/TV
Harry Gordon Selfridge (1858–1947), though born in the United States, changed the way the English shopped. With the opening of his Oxford Street department store in 1909, Selfridge created a new shopping culture. Inspired by Lindy Woodhead’s 2007 book, Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge, this series recounts the story of a complicated man: a risk-taker, an innovator, a philanderer, a generous father, a loving son, and a man who knew how to motivate others and inspire loyalty. Actor Jeremy Piven (Entourage) is electric as Harry. A terrific supporting cast includes Zoë Tapper, Frances O’Connor, Katherine Kelly, and Aisling Loftus, among others. The lives and loves of the Selfridge staff as well as the intrigue surrounding the employees—and the Selfridge marriage—provide a window on a vibrant period in English history. Bonus features include a “behind-the-scenes” documentary on the making of this first season.
Verdict Viewers may not love Harry Selfridge—he is, in fact, a little overwhelming—but there’s still much to know about him. Thankfully, there will be another season of this terrific series. For all public libraries. [LJ 6/1/13]—Joan Greenberg, Warminster, PA
The Quiet Man: 60th Anniversary Special Edition. color. 129 min. John Ford, Argosy Prod., dist. by Olive Films, www.olivefilms.com. 2013. DVD UPC 887090048309. $24.95; Blu-ray UPC 887090048408. $29.95. F
Perhaps the best collaboration between director Ford and his frequent star John Wayne, this 1952 classic finds the iconic Duke swaggering a wee bit less than usual as Sean Thornton, a boxer who retires following a tragedy and returns to Ireland, settling into his boyhood cottage. From the initial looks traded between Sean and fiery lass Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), their romantic fate is sealed, though her pigheaded brother (Victor McLaglen) and Irish courtship tradition prove hard obstacles to overcome. A colorful bunch of supporting characters (Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, et al.) lend appeal to this quaintly charming romantic comedy.
Verdict Remastered in high-definition from a scan of the original 35mm negative, this 60th-anniversary edition shows the verdant Irish countryside in all its Technicolor glory and should replace previous disc releases. And that’s no blarney.[LJ 5/1/13]—Jeff T. Dick, Davenport. IA
Sleep Tight. color. 102+ min. In Spanish w/English subtitles. Jaume Balagueró, Castelano Pictures, dist. by Dark Sky Films, www.darkskyfilms.com. 2013. DVD UPC 030306820392. $24.98; Blu-ray UPC 030306186092. $29.98. HORROR
César (Luis Tosar) is the concierge of an elegant Barcelona apartment building. His tenants are a merry lot, especially the lovely Clara (Marta Etura), a cheerful beauty whose sunny smile lights up a room. César is not a fan of light, however, as we learn when he tells his comatose mother that he has never felt happiness. His mission, therefore, is to destroy the happiness of others, a goal that he accomplishes in a variety of ways: by sending anonymous hate mail, killing the building’s plants, and inflicting one elderly tenant’s dog with diarrhea. He is especially focused on Clara, and as César’s attempts to torment her fail, his fixation swells into full-fledged obsession.
Verdict Spanish director Balagueró ([Rec]) has crafted an impeccably paced, almost unbearably suspenseful excursion into psychological terror. It preys upon childhood fears of the monster under the bed and does it with a distinctly Hitchcockian flavor in what is one of the most engrossing horror films to come along in years. [LJ 4/15/13]—Jeanne Bogino, New Lebanon Lib., NY
Special Branch: Set 1. 4 discs. color. 662+ min. William Brayne & others, Euston Films, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781598288421. $59.99. SDH subtitles. F/TV
The original Special Branch series ran in the UK from 1969 to 1974; these 13 episodes, from 1973 to 1974, comprise Series 3. George Sewell, Patrick Mower, Roger Rowland, and Richard Leech star as investigators in London’s Metropolitan Police Special Branch unit, tasked with thwarting espionage, international intrigue, and terrorism. Though the series is a bit uneven, the drama is solid and enjoyable throughout; as the episodes progress, the stories become more intense and suspenseful. The setting is definitely the 1970s: everyone smokes, the Cold War rages, and the police are burdened with analog telephones or red telephone booths, crude police radio systems, and absolutely awful compact cars. Cops get physical and threatening—Miranda-style rights seem to have come later to Britain. Acorn Media’s addition of SDH subtitles is especially valuable to viewers with hearing impairments as it eliminates problems understanding the characters’ British or other foreign accents.
Verdict This fine early British police drama is highly recommended for adult video collections. [LJ 6/1/13]—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH
Stella Days. color. 90+ min. Thaddeus O’Sullivan, Irish Film Board & Newgrange Pictures, dist by Tribecca Film c/o Cinedigm/New Video, 800-314-8822; www.newvideo.com. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781422921999. $26.95. Closed-captioned. F
Rural Ireland in the 1950s is the beautiful setting for this charming movie based on Michael Doorley’s 2011 memoir of the same name. This small town is going to change as electricity is introduced and the modern world approaches. Father Daniel Barry (Martin Sheen), an educated priest who has spent time in America and Rome as a Vatican scholar, finds himself banished to the village of Tipperary. Father Barry’s superior, Bishop Hegerty (Tom Hickey), gives the order to raise money for a new church. However, Father Barry believes a better use of the funds would be to construct a community cinema. He is met with opposition from the bishop and local politician Brendan McSweeney (Stephen Rea) as they battle for control of the “hearts and minds” of the people. The struggle for power is central to the plot, but the moments when we are invited into the townspeople’s lives and Father Barry’s relationships with them are what make this video shine.
Verdict With solid production values, this film is recommended for most library collections. [LJ 4/15/13]—Krissy Cwengros, Scottsdale P.L., AZ
Still the Drums. color & b/w. 80+ min. Talbot Perry Simons, American Patriot Pictures, LLC, www.stillthedrums.com. 2012. DVD UPC 634479998478. $24.99. F/VIETNAM
The remains of marine lieutenant Jack Buchannon, MIA in Vietnam for nearly 40 years, are buried with honors on October 31, 2007. Jack’s childhood pals Tom, Mike, and Al, also veterans, meet for a final toast to Jack’s memory, presumably ending a series of annual toasts they’ve held to commemorate Jack’s going missing. But something is wrong this time. Tom and Al, who served with Jack, are less enthusiastic about Jack’s hero status than is their buddy Mike. Tom needs to tell Mike something about Jack that he has kept from him since the war, but Mike isn’t interested in hearing anything negative about his missing friend. It’s a tough situation and a huge secret.
Verdict This film asks big questions about the morality of war and the limits of loyalty, friendship, and responsibility. The dialog contains strong language appropriate to the situations depicted. Highly recommended for adult audiences. [LJ 4/1/15]—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH
Vera: Set 2. 4 discs. color. 370 min. Peter Hoar & others, ITV Studios, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781598288209. $59.99. SDH subtitles. F
Award-winning actress Brenda Blethyn returns for a second season as DCI Vera Stanhope in this popular police procedural. Based on the crime novels of British author Ann Cleeves, the series is set in the exceptionally beautiful but often bleak northern England countryside surrounding Northumbria. Each of the 90-minute episodes included here begins with a violent and apparently motiveless murder, and it’s up to the bristly and brusque chief inspector and her team to identify the victims and find the culprits. The story lines and dialog are contemporary, and the production is first-rate. Yet the real delight here is the slow and measured backstory development, as each episode reveals a bit of additional information about the characters, and viewers are drawn in for more. Not surprisingly, the series was recently renewed for a third season.
Verdict Recommended for viewers who enjoy British crime dramas with a strong female lead. Vera solves the case; Blethyn steals the show.[LJ 4/15/13]—Linda Frederiksen, Washington State Univ. Lib., Vancouver
The White Meadows (Keshtzar Haye Sepid). color. 93+ min. In Farsi/Persian w/English subtitles. Mohammad Rasoulof, Sharz Tamasha Media, dist. by Global Film Initiative, www.globalfilm.org. 2013. DVD UPC 844667027280. $24.95. F
For 30 years, Rahmat has rowed his boat from island to island to learn of the heartache and collect the tears of people on Iran’s remote salt formations as they try to overcome life’s sorrows and injustices. The reverence with which Rahmat treats the tears he collects is evident, so much so that their ultimate destination will shock viewers. Iranian filmmaker Rasoulof’s 2009 allegorical movie cost him his freedom, as he was charged with creating propaganda against the regime and is currently serving a six-year prison sentence. When released, he will be banned from making films in that country for 20 years.
Verdict The grim mood of this movie realistically reflects the condition of life for many people in Iran. The film’s desolate tone and stark and haunting quality are truly unforgettable. An important piece of art that would be an excellent addition to any banned-materials display and should be considered for libraries with serious foreign film collections. [LJ 6/1/13]—Krissy Cwengros, Scottsdale P.L., AZ