Fresh on Blu-ray: ‘SAVANNAH SMILES’ and ‘WENT TO CONEY ISLAND…” enter the MVD Rewind Collection

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

WENT TO CONEY ISLAND ON A MISSION FROM GOD… BE BACK BY FIVE

Rated R, 94 minutes.
Director: Richard Schenkman
Starring: Jon CryerRick StearRafael BáezIone SkyeFrank Whaley and Peter Gerety

This 1998 film, co-written by and starring Jon Cryer, is getting a special collector’s release and HD upgrade through the MVD Rewind Collection. If you haven’t seen this long-titled film about three friends (Cryer, Rick Stear and Rafael Baez) who grew up together in their youth and grow apart during their adult life, you’ll be surprised by how true it is to the human experience.

I’m a nostalgic person who often thinks about memories of my youth, so this film hit pretty close to home, because it’s all about friends trying to reconnect and reflecting on the past. It’s beautifully melancholic (like a Richard Linklater or Andrew Haigh film), especially when the film reaches a point when the characters realize that sometimes the people you want to save don’t want to be saved. It’s a hard realization, and the actors illustrate that feeling organically and remarkably.

The best thing about this particular release, aside from it including a quality film, is the package it comes in. The MVD Rewind Collection incorporates the love of video cassettes into its Blu-ray packaging. The cover includes a sticker to remind you to rewind or a clearance sale price, with some edge wear to complete the dated look. It’s really one of a kind and something that makes a great conversation piece when you show off your movie collection to guests.

Grade: A-

Purchase the film here through mvdshop.com.

Extras: A new introduction from director Richard Schenkman and co-writer/star Cryer (who’s now rocking a bald head and a beard), an audio commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a short film directed by Schenkman (“The Producer”), a photo gallery, original theatrical trailer and a collectible mini-poster.

SAVANNAH SMILES

Rated PG, 105 minutes.
Director: Pierre De Moro
Cast: Mark MillerDonovan ScottBridgette AndersenChris RobinsonMichael Parks and Peter Graves

Who would’ve thought a film about a little girl (Bridgette Andersen) running away from home and crossing paths with two escaped convicts (Mark Miller and Donovan Scott) would be so zany and heartwarming?

Somehow SAVANNAH SMILES succeeds.

While the 1982 film (restored through the MVD Rewind Collection) doesn’t exactly stand the test of time (it treats the subject of child abduction rather lightly), there’s a period charm and a sweet message about love conquering greed that gives it some staying power. Complete with a look and feel that resembles WHERE THE RED FERN GROW meets THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG, and some likable performances, SAVANNAH SMILES makes for a nice pick-me-up.

Grade: B-

Purchase the film here through mvdshop.com.

Extras: The MVD Rewind Collection’s release includes a comical “please rewind me when I’m done” sticker and a worn edge made to look as though a VHS tape is poking out of the packaging. The special features contain a brand new making-of documentary (very enjoyable), a featurette about the memories of Anderson (who passed away at 21), an interview with the film’s composer, the original theatrical trailer and a collectible mini-poster.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.