20 Hidden DVD Gems to Seek Out: Vol. 2: Part Five

Over the course of this week, we will uncover twenty titles you need to seek out at your local DVD store. Here is Part 5.

The list is laid out something like this. The title, year it was made, genre, synopsis and finally my rating. I hope to do more of these lists as I uncover some of the treasures hidden at the local videostore.

17. Murder 101 (1991-TV)

(Mystery): Pierce Brosnan stars as Charles Lattimore, an author and lecturer of the mystery novel.

Lattimore begins the new school year at the same institution where his ex-wife (Dey Young) teaches. Lattimore’s life is turned upside down when a student of his is found dead and he becomes the prime suspect.

“Murder 101” is surprisingly a solid and involving mystery for a television film. It is probably the best television film Brosnan ever made.

The twists and turns are frequent and Brosnan is stoic as he always was before Bond finally lassoed him. I am a strong fan of the pre-Bond Brosnan.

What I liked is that the film starts off with a sort of “Dead Poet’s Society” styled movie then begins to fracture and evolve into a mystery with the death of a student. It is very solid and worth a look for mystery buffs.

(100 mins) (3.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

18. Point of Origin (2002-TV)

(Crime-Drama): In this fact-based film, arsonist investigator John Orr (Ray Liotta) is forced to hunt down a serial arsonist on a fire-spree in 1980s Los Angeles. This will be the hardest case of Orr’s career.

Shortly after Liotta struck gold with his performance in “Narc”, Liotta took on the role of John Orr. The fireworks he delivered in “Narc” are amplified with his portrayal of Orr. This is Liotta at his finest.

This film is yet another great mystery with oodles of twists and turns. What is probably the most surprising about it is the film’s rookie director, cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel.

With every carefully placed shot you can really see there is a cinematographer directing the film. Sigel uses a lot of interesting and aspiring camera movements, editing and effects to make this drama addictive. This is probably the best movie of its kind since “Backdraft”. The fire in this film is more alive than ever before.

(89 mins) (4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

19. Restoration (1995)

(Historical Drama): Robert Downey Jr. stars as Robert Merivel, an aspiring doctor who finds himself in the service of King Charles II (Sam Neill) after he saves the life of a friend close to the King. Merivel joins the King’s court and lives the luxurious life. A twist in Merivel’s life occurs when he is ordered to marry his King’s mistress (Polly Walker).

The situation becomes worse when Merivel finds himself falling in love with his new wife. How will this controversial turn of events affect the young doctor and his status with the king?

“Restoration” is a brilliant look at England when she was in the grips of the Black Death. Downey and Neill are stalwart in their performances as the films main characters.

The cinematography and sets of this film are breathless as we do become enveloped in the noble world. We can see Merivel’s allure to it.

There is so much to cherish when Downey is at his finest. “Restoration” was lost in the shuffle but should still go down as a great film for both history buffs and Downey himself.

(117 mins) (4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

20. The Thirteenth Floor (1999)

(Sci-Fi Thriller): Computer genius Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl) has made the discovery of his career. While on his way to tell his friend and colleague Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko), Fuller is murdered. Douglas becomes the prime suspect and must piece together the legacy of his dead friend or find himself doomed. What he discovers is shocking and a twist most of us won’t see coming.

In the wake of 1999s “The Matrix”, “The Thirteenth Floor” got lost. While others were learning about Neo and his cyber-buddies a select few found “13th Floor” in a multiplex. It is a shame since “13th Floor” is a great little sci-fi movie that has found a lot of cult success on DVD.

The film itself is a hodge-podge of the “Twilight Zone”, “Outer Limits” and film noir with a computer edge. I really enjoyed Bierko as a leading man and it is too bad we haven’t seen more of him in the spotlight. I have also spoken highly of co-star Gretchen Mol (“Rounders”) and she is also quite intriguing here as well. This film is finely crafted and the ending is a great one.

(100 mins) (3.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

Just in conclusion to my second Hidden Gems, two of my favorite guilty pleasure films are also on DVD. (still waiting for Blu-Ray though) “Young Sherlock Holmes” and “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins” are some long forgotten films that a lot of people probably don’t remember. I have always had a soft spot for these two films when I was a teenager. I originally saw “Young Sherlock Holmes” under it’s international title “Pyramid of Fear”. If you are due for a guilty pleasure check out these titles, I know I will be. Cheers, the Soothsayer.

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