'Zookeeper's Wife' leads new movies/TV shows on video this week
Posted July 7
“The Zookeeper’s Wife” is on various video platforms this week, and on DVD are the complete TV series “Homicide: Life on the Street” and some never-before-released episodes of “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.”
“The Zookeeper’s Wife” (Universal, 2017, PG-13, deleted scenes, featurettes). In 1939 Poland, a Christian married couple (Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh) with a young son runs the Warsaw Zoo, which is decimated by bombing raids during the German invasion. Things seem to be looking up for the facility when a Nazi zoologist (Daniel Brühl) offers to help, but it isn’t long before his sinister motives are uncovered. The tipping point comes, however, when the zookeepers see how their Jewish neighbors are being treated, so they begin helping the Resistance.
This depiction of a true story benefits from excellent performances by all concerned, as well as vivid re-creations of the period. The drama is low-key and remains a bit at arm’s length, but the story, with which many may be unfamiliar, is inherently chilling, offering another horrifying reminder of a period in history that should never be forgotten.
“Homicide: Life On the Streets: The Complete Series” (Shout!, 1993-99, 35 discs, 122 episodes, TV movie, “Law & Order” crossover episodes, audio commentaries, featurettes). The Baltimore Police Department’s homicide division is the workplace setting for this highly acclaimed police procedural, which earned many awards, including the Peabody, and boasted a large and notable ensemble cast. The show began the same year as the more flashy “NYPD Blue” but never attempted to compete with that show’s level of controversy.
A fictional adaptation of a nonfiction book by Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, with many characters taken directly from that source, “Homicide” was developed by Simon and filmmaker Barry Levinson (“Rain Man,” “Avalon”), with the goal of striving for gritty realism while breaking down myths about detective work. Among the regular cast members are Andre Braugher, Yaphet Kotto, Richard Belzer, Jon Seda and Ned Beatty. Guests include James Earl Jones, Robin Williams, Rosanna Arquette, Julianna Margulies, Paul Giamatti, Jake Gyllenhaal and many more.
“The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends Featuring Steve Martin, Robin Williams & Eddie Murphy” (Time Life, 1976-91, three discs, nine episodes). Fans of Carson or any of the three stars named above will get a kick out of these nine complete shows (including commercials), three each featuring the title comics. Martin, Williams and Murphy are hilarious, doing stand-up comedy early in their careers, and, of course, there are Carson’s opening monologues and skits, and the three stars are also interviewed. Other guests on these episodes include James Stewart, Sylvester Stallone and Jonathan Winters.
“The Strain: The Complete Third Season” (Fox, 2016, three discs, 10 episodes, deleted scenes, webisodes of “The Strain: Under Siege,” music video, bloopers). Vampirelike creatures stalk New York after a mysterious virus has been unleashed, and at the end of the second season it was thought that the CDC’s bioweapon had threatened the creatures, but now we see that it has instead emboldened them. Corey Stoll stars. One of the producers is imaginative filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who came up with the story and co-wrote the books on which this FX horror series is based. (The fourth season, which has been announced as the final season, begins July 16.)
“Bitcoin Heist” (Well Go, 2017, not rated/probable PG-13, in Vietnamese with English subtitles). The Vietnamese film industry is experiencing a growth spurt, as demonstrated by this slick, fast-paced (but overlong) caper flick that aims for a 21st-century twist by having a hacker gang targeting the online bitcoin phenomenon. The heist itself, however, is a run-of-the-mill crime yarn that will be quite familiar to American moviegoers.
“Absolutely Anything” (Fox, 2017, R for language and nudity). An earthling (Simon Pegg) chosen at random is given the power to do anything he wants for 10 days. If he uses the power for good, Earth will be invited to join a galaxy-ruling council, but if not, the planet will be destroyed. Robin Williams, for one of his final roles, voices a dog, and Kate Beckinsale, Eddie Izzard and Joanna Lumley co-star in this cheap, cheesy and sleazy farce, which was co-written and directed by Monty Python member Terry Jones. He also provides a voice for one of the aliens, as do fellow Pythons Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and John Cleese.
“Don’t You Recognize Me?” (MVD, 2017, not rated/probable R for violence and language). Brutal, disturbing torture is at the apex of this variation on documentaries/reality shows as an Irish filmmaker doing a sort of day-in-the-life production is lured by a thug into his criminal element, eventually revealing his true motives about halfway through the film. Hint: The title is a tipoff.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.