Video Vault: New Releases

Before we hit the fresh new foam of new arrivals this week, I’d like to take a few minutes to mention a couple films that really need your attention.

“The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” tops our list this week. Julianne Moore stars as the long suffering 50’s housewife, Evelyn Ryan, who kept her family of ten kids afloat by constantly winning contests. Based on the memoir of the same name by Terry Ryan, the film is a pithy look at a big family struggling to make ends meet. Woody Harrelson portrays Mr. Ryan as a good man bitter about his bad luck and his inability to provide for his family. His unrelenting wife, however, compensates with an uncanny ability, driven by desperation, to win all manner of contests.

It is a good look at the man’s world that was 1950s America and a family that hung together by the good graces of proofs of purchase and catchy jingles. We’ll have a full review later this week, but for now, we give it our strongest rating of the week. PG-13 – 99 minutes – Vault Rating: 8

Next up we’ve got a dandy little foreign item, “Schultze Gets the Blues.” I’m sure nobody is renting this film because I’ve had the only copy for two weeks and probably nobody has missed it over at Adventure Video.
Click on DVD cover

Video Vault exists to bring you these neat little films. Schultze is a round man who is approaching life as a pensioner from a German salt mine. He is a big, stubby fingered man who plays accordion, especially the traditional polkas beloved by his community. But as a retiree, Schultze begins, despite his nature, to branch out and grow, especially where it concerns music. He hears a jumpy zydeco tune on the radio one day that becomes a comic theme running under the whole film. He then begins to study on all things Cajun before deciding to go to America to experience the culture for himself.

We’ll bring you a full review in the coming days. All you need to know for now is that “Schultze Gets the Blues” is a pleasantly amusing surprise. 2003 – Germany – PG – 114 minutes – Vault Rating: 7.5

On to the new releases.

New to video this week we’ve got a bevy of pirates and comedians, but your best bet for an A-title is probably “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.”

“Shandy,” which got generally good reviews, is director Michael Winterbottom’s adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s “unfilmable” novel where the author so digresses (one of vault’s favorite pastimes) that his protagonist isn’t even born until the closing pages. A number of actors, including Gillian Anderson, portray themselves in what is sure to be a curious pick of the week.

A couple selections aimed at the funny bone might be more mainstream for you. “Grilled” stars Ray Romano and Kevin James as two meat salesmen (insert tasteless joke here) on the verge of losing their jobs. And comedians travel from comedy clubs to the front lines in “Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie.” The documentary centers on a recent U.S.O. tour in Iraq and also stars Drew Carey.

And while Johnny Depp is wreaking havoc at the box office with the second installment of his “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, a franchise, by the way, that the jurors here at the vault are saying might better have been left alone, there are some other buccaneers to consider.

“Blackbeard” is a two part TV miniseries by Kevin Connor on the infamous 18th century pirate. Rachel Ward, Stacy Keach and Richard Chamberlain costar.

“Pirates,” another kind of swashbuckler, gets a warning label, being the sanitized version of last year’s X-rated version. I suppose anything that stars Jesse Jane and Carmen Luvana and is directed by someone called only “Joone” could only be a classic, right?

And while we’re on the topic of naughtiness, “Basic Instinct 2” arrives on video shelves 15 years after Sharon Stone first gave us a peak at greatness. This one got uniformly bad press, so beware. But if you really want to see a great thriller, go on back into the drama section and pick up an old dusty videotape copy of “Basic Instinct” and you’ll be much further ahead.

Also out this week is “On a Clear Day.” This 2005 film from the United Kingdom observes a man determined to tackle his demons by swimming the English Channel.

Hey! You’re welcome. And so are your comments. Drop us a line at and let us know what it is you’ve been watching lately. Responsible comments – and some irresponsible ones – will be published in the Vault Mail.

Before we head off this week, Vault would love to recommend two fine films loosely based on the topic of war. First and foremost is “Syriana,” an important movie starring George Clooney and Matt Damon based on the real life experiences of a CIA spook in the middle east. The second stars Nicolas Cage as a world class gun runner in “Lord of War.” Both films are eye opening accounts of the state of world conflict today and are thoroughly entertaining.

And until the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council quit selling weapons of mass destruction to everybody else… Enjoy!

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