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'IT Chapter Two' (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital)
(Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, et al / 2-Disc + Digital / R / 2019 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Because every 27 years evil revisits the town of Derry, Maine, 'IT Chapter Two' brings the characters back together as adults, nearly three decades after the events of the first film.

Blu-ray Verdict: Warner Bros. is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the stellar follow-up to 2018's 'IT Chapter One,' the brilliant 'IT Chapter Two’ in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this December 10th, 2019.

For my money, this 'IT Chapter Two: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' combo pack's sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.

So, what we have is 'IT Chapter Two' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Upscaled 4K (2160p), HDR: Dolby Vision + HDR10+ and Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1.

Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHD's, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.

Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; like the magnificent, and cinematic widescreen shots of their town, especially when they are mobile, with all the changing leaves and their colors blending magnificently into the skyline. It just all comes more vividly to life, which is amazing to see, in truth.

Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material (notably the scenes where James McAvoy is in the fun house, and the camera focuses directly on his pained, every changing expressions; and when Bill Hader is comically wisecracking with nervousness abounding, his eyes belittling the supposedly calm persona) now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the 1080p Blu-ray accounting.

As for the audio, well we have: English: Dolby Atmos and English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit).

Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.

Phew! OK, so, as for the movie itself, luckily for all us fans, Director Andy Muschietti has retained all the ingredients that made 'IT Chapter One' an absolute delight to watch.

That said, and in total truth, if you're immature, have zero patience, haven't read the book, or have a very short attention span, you'll not only dislike this film, you'll probably hate it!

Starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Isaiah Mustafa, and Bill Skarsgård, 'IT Chapter Two' is a solid follow-up to the original that continues the streak of excellent adaptations of King's work.

Twenty-seven years after the events of 'Chapter One,' the Loser's Club have all grown up and left the town of Derry, Maine, with the sole exception of Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), who chose to remain as the town librarian.

One night, Mike realizes to his horror that IT has returned and has resumed feeding on scared children. Before IT can claim more victims, Mike calls up his childhood friends one by one to reunite them and fulfill the vow they took when they were younger to destroy IT permanently.

Much like its predecessor, 'IT Chapter Two' relies on scaring the audience through building up a creepy atmosphere of uncertainty and inner torment within the main characters, rather than with typical jump scares.

In spite of that, this film was considerably more drama heavy with less horror elements, likely due to the previous film featuring children a great deal more and the protagonists now being mature adults.

The grown-up Loser's Club cast in this film each do a fantastic job mirroring their child counterparts. All of them bring their own uniqueness to their characters, with Bill Hader standing out the most as the grown up Richie; who injects some much needed comic relief into some of the film's more dramatic moments.

However, once again, it is Bill Skarsgård as IT, in particularly his clown form Pennywise, who is truly terrifying as a supernatural force to be reckoned with.

Indeed, the film itself is a little bigger than the last movie. It's longer and a lot more happens with the plot and we get nice back stories of the origins of IT and how they are supposed to stop it. Some past bullies also come back to haunt the Losers Club, but I'm not too sure that needed to happen.

Despite the 170 minute runtime, the film is never boring and is brilliantly paced and edited thanks to the creative direction of Andy Muschietti.

There is also one suspenseful scene with Bill going into a haunted walk through house ride at a fair. Trying to save a kid with mirror maze hallway. Which is thrilling.

The climax of the movie is epic. There fight against Pennywise is insane. Characters are separated and faced with their own fears. The ending is satisfying with a conclusion to the characters and the story itself.

I mean, this really does feels like the conclusion to what could be considered the ultimate Stephen King adaptation, complete with all of the usual tropes and even some surprising references to his other work.

With that said, 'IT Chapter Two' is certainly worth watching, provided 'Chapter One' has already been viewed first, of course.

As for the Special Features included, the stand out for me is the just-under 4 minutes Pennywise Lives Again! (Behind-The-Scenes) where Director Andy Muschietti reintroduces us to the return of Pennywise.

Plus there's insight from Jessica Chastain and others from the cast explaining that their characters collective "super power" was that what they believed they could do, what they could accomplish as children, as adults they needed that very same force free flowing through them to fight Pennywise.

Another good one is the actual Commentary with Director Andy Muschietti who not only calmly guides us through the movie scene by scenes, but includes nice easter egg tidbits for those playing along at home (and also, for the record, makes us aware of easter eggs we might have missed from Chapter One!).

So, with an entire Bonus Disc with the IT Documentary included, this brand new 'IT Chapter Two' (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital) is, by far, one of the best to have come out of Warner Bros. for a long time. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

Documentary: The Summers of IT: Chapter One, You’ll Float Too
Documentary: The Summers of IT: Chapter Two, IT Ends
Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes:
This Meeting of the Losers Club Has Officially Begun
Pennywise Lives Again!
Finding the Deadlights
Commentary with Director Andy Muschietti

Official 'IT Chapter Two' Trailer

'IT Chapter Two: 4K Ultra HD' Amazon Purchase Link

'Hustlers' [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital]
(Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / R / 2019 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: Inspired by a true story, 'Hustlers' follows Destiny (Constance Wu, Crazy Rich Asians), a young stripper struggling to make ends meet.

That is, until she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), the club's savvy top earner, who shows her the way toward making big bucks.

But when the 2008 economic collapse hits their Wall Street clientele hard, Destiny and Ramona concoct a plan with their fellow strippers to turn the tables on these greedy power players.

Blu-ray Verdict: As we are reminded right from the off, 'Hustlers' is "Inspired By a True Story". As the movie opens, it is 2007 and an Asian-American girl named Dorothy is getting ready for work at a strip club.

Then a Latina woman named Ramona makes her grand entrance and does a spectacular pole dance as Fiona Apple's 'Criminal' blasts from the speakers.

Duly impressed, Dorothy reaches out to Ramona for some dancing tips, and the two hit it off. We then move to 2014 where we see Dorothy being interviewed by a journalist (Julia Stiles).

At this point we are still only about ten minutes into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience (you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out).

This the latest movie from writer-director Lorene Scafaria, whose Seeking a Friend For the End of the World some years ago was one of my favorite movies of that year.

Here she takes a New York magazine article and turns it into a wild, wild movie. Beware: not much is left to the imagination. The grand entrance of Jennifer Lopez in that opening scene's pole dance is nothing short of stunning!

In fact, the same can be said about Lopez's overall performance, which should be Oscar nomination-worthy, and certainly is a career-best performance.

I mean, Lopez turned 50 this year and still only looks about 35! She takes control of the movie and in every scene demands your attention (of which you are more than happy to give it to her, of course).

Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, and Lili Reinhardt round out the primary performers. Oh and check out Cardi B and Lizzo as part of the "strip gang"!

When a movie's principal set is a strip club, you can expect a lot of fist-pumping music, and the movie more than delivers on that level. In addition to the aforementioned Fiona Apple track, there are songs from Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, Fat Joe, Queen She, 50 Cent, and many more.

This all said, 'Hustlers' is a film that predominantly centers around the economic collapse of 2008 and the lives it upturned in trickle-down effect. It critiques capitalism brilliantly, as it arguably captures one of the most obvious ways we assign inherent value to individuals; through sex work.

In closing, 'Hustlers' reminds us that we're all the same players in this violent game we call the American dream and that some of us are simply better, smarter, more ruthless players at that game than others; those who learn to work the system. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

Feature Commentary with Director Lorene Scafaria

Official 'Hustlers' Trailer

'Hustlers' Blu-ray Combo Pack Amazon Purchase Link

Official 'Hustlers' Website

Official 'Hustlers' Instagram Page

'Hustlers: 4K Ultra HD' [+ Blu-ray + Digital Code]
(Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, et al / 4K Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: Inspired by a true story, 'Hustlers' follows Destiny (Constance Wu, Crazy Rich Asians), a young stripper struggling to make ends meet.

That is, until she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), the club's savvy top earner, who shows her the way toward making big bucks.

But when the 2008 economic collapse hits their Wall Street clientele hard, Destiny and Ramona concoct a plan with their fellow strippers to turn the tables on these greedy power players.

Blu-ray Verdict: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the wildly entertaining Jennifer Lopez-led 'Hustlers’ in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this December 10th, 2019.

For my money, this 'Hustlers: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' combo pack's sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.

So, what we have is 'Hustlers' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Native 4K (2160p), HDR: HDR10, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 and Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1.

Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHD's, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.

Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; like the pulsating strip club dances performed by all the ladies, but especially the close up shots of J-Lo! It just all comes more vividly to life, which is amazing to see, in truth.

Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material (notably the scenes, again, sorry, where the strip club dances are in full pole effect and the lights are flashing around the ladies and their concentrated expressions, even allowing their tiny "costumes" to sparkle and amazingly quiver enough to seemingly become alive) now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the 1080p Blu-ray accounting.

As for the audio, well we have: English: Dolby Atmos, English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) and Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1.

Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.

Phew! OK, so, as for the movie itself, as we are reminded right from the off, 'Hustlers' is "Inspired By a True Story". As the movie opens, it is 2007 and an Asian-American girl named Dorothy is getting ready for work at a strip club.

Then a Latina woman named Ramona makes her grand entrance and does a spectacular pole dance as Fiona Apple's 'Criminal' blasts from the speakers.

Duly impressed, Dorothy reaches out to Ramona for some dancing tips, and the two hit it off. We then move to 2014 where we see Dorothy being interviewed by a journalist (Julia Stiles).

At this point we are still only about ten minutes into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience (you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out).

This the latest movie from writer-director Lorene Scafaria, whose Seeking a Friend For the End of the World some years ago was one of my favorite movies of that year.

Here she takes a New York magazine article and turns it into a wild, wild movie. Beware: not much is left to the imagination. The grand entrance of Jennifer Lopez in that opening scene's pole dance is nothing short of stunning!

In fact, the same can be said about Lopez's overall performance, which should be Oscar nomination-worthy, and certainly is a career-best performance.

I mean, Lopez turned 50 this year and still only looks about 35! She takes control of the movie and in every scene demands your attention (of which you are more than happy to give it to her, of course).

Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, and Lili Reinhardt round out the primary performers. Oh and check out Cardi B and Lizzo as part of the "strip gang"!

When a movie's principal set is a strip club, you can expect a lot of fist-pumping music, and the movie more than delivers on that level. In addition to the aforementioned Fiona Apple track, there are songs from Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, Fat Joe, Queen She, 50 Cent, and many more.

This all said, 'Hustlers' is a film that predominantly centers around the economic collapse of 2008 and the lives it upturned in trickle-down effect.

It critiques capitalism brilliantly, as it arguably captures one of the most obvious ways we assign inherent value to individuals; through sex work.

Furthermore, 'Hustlers' focuses on a raw look at women living a life that is both hard and reflective of the struggle that every woman faces, including the responsibility of caring for one another and their children.

This amazing and compelling experience of a slice of life is powerful and sensitive portrayal of the connections and the travails of the lives of what seems to amount to be essentially single women living in a high-stakes life in an effort to survive.

The only weaknesses that stand out are the absence of a more descriptive understanding of Wu's interaction with her boyfriend and their evolving relationship and Lopez's apparent willingness to retain a connection with one of her more questionable "hustlers".

In closing, 'Hustlers' reminds us that we're all the same players in this violent game we call the American dream and that some of us are simply better, smarter, more ruthless players at that game than others; those who learn to work the system.

As for the short-in-demand Special Features included, the only real one (aside from two trailers) is a Feature Commentary with Director Lorene Scafaria.

Here she explains why she took the project on whilst scenes play out slowly, which is a nice touch. Like she admits she took the directing gig on because she thought it wasn't a world that we had ever seen before, at least from the dancers perspectives.

Not heavy on any real behind-the-scenes facts or easter eggs and such, Lorene is more about how the movie came to be. Such like how the "value system" (for both men and women) is broken and that a movie like this showcases that perfectly.

She admits she went to a lot of strip clubs and spoke to a lot of strippers (and even former strippers) to make this film as authentic as possible. How they also sat down and talked specifically about the 2008 financial crisis and how it impacted everyone; not only the strippers and those at Wall Street, but what a $20 bill then suddenly meant to the ladies.

Lorene goes on to say in spacious soundbites, especially the moment where Janet Jackson's 'Control' is heard, that Janet was actually written into the script for that moment as a "voice over," and how control is actually the theme for the entire movie. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

Feature Commentary with Director Lorene Scafaria

Official 'Hustlers' Trailer

'Hustlers: 4K Ultra HD' Blu-ray Amazon Purchase Link

Official 'Hustlers' Website

Official 'Hustlers' Instagram Page

'The Goldfinch' [Blu-ray + Digital]
(Ansel Elgort, Oakes Fegley, Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard, Ashleigh Cummings, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Theodore “Theo” Decker (Ansel Elgort) was 13 years old when his mother was killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The tragedy changes the course of his life, sending him on a stirring odyssey of grief and guilt, reinvention and redemption, and even love.

Through it all, he holds on to one tangible piece of hope from that terrible day … a painting of a tiny bird chained to its perch. The Goldfinch.

Blu-ray Verdict: Taking it from the top, and 13 year-old Theo (Oakes Fegley) is visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his mother when a bomb explodes leaving Theo dazed in the rubble and his mother dead.

An encounter with an injured stranger causes Theo to take a painting and flee the museum. Theo proceeds to hide the artwork as the family of one of his schoolmates takes him in.

The painting is "The Goldfinch" by Rembrandt's pupil Carel Fabritius. In the first of many parallels separated by time, we learn Fabritius was killed (and most of his work destroyed) in an explosion.

In fact, it's these parallels and near-mirror-images are what make the story so unique and interesting - and so difficult to fit into a film.

When Theo's long-lost drunken shyster father (Luke Wilson) shows up with his equally smarmy girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson), they head to the recession-riddled suburbs of Las Vegas.

It's here where Theo meets Boris (Finn Wolfhard, from Stranger Things), a Ukranian emigrant living with his dad (yet another parallel). The two boys become friends, partaking in drugs, alcohol, and shoplifting.

Another tragedy puts Theo on the run. He finds himself back in New York, where he takes up with Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), the partner of the stranger from the museum.

All of this is told from the perspective of young adult Theodore Decker, played by Ansel Elgort. We see him bunkered in a hotel room contemplating suicide.

The story we watch shows how his life unfolded and landed him in this particular situation. And it's here where we find the core of the story.

Circumstances in life guide our actions, and in doing so, reveal our true character. Theo carries incredible guilt over his mother, and his actions with Hobie, regardless of the reasons for doing so, lead him to a life that is not so dissimilar to that of adult Boris (Aneurin Barnard, 'Dunkirk') when their paths cross again.

Other supporting work is provided by Ashleigh Cummings as Pippa, the object of Theo's desire, Willa Fitzgerald (played young Claire in 'House of Cards') as Kitsey Barbour, Theo's fiancé, as well as Denis O'Hare ('AHS'), Peter Jacobson, and Luke Kleintank.

As a special treat, Oscar winner Nicole Kidman plays Mrs. Barbour in what feels like two different performances. When Theo is young, she is the cold, standoffish surrogate mother who takes him in; however when older Theo returns, her own personal tragedies have turned her into a warm bundle of emotions in need of pleasantry.

It's quite sterling work from an accomplished actress.

The segments of the film that resonate deepest are those featuring Oakes Fegley as young Theo. Fegley was so good in the criminally underseen 'Wonderstruck' (2017), and here he conveys so much emotion despite maintaining a stoic demeanor.

It's rare to see such a layered performance from a young actor. Of course the film is helped immensely by the unequaled work of cinematographer Roger Deakins (he finally won his first Oscar last year in his 14th nomination).

Trevor Gureckis provides the music to fit the various moods and the two time periods.

All of these elements work to give the film the look of an Oscar contending project; however, we never seem to connect with the older Theo, which leaves a hollow feeling to a story that should be anything but.

Instead we are left to play "spot the parallels"! A fun game, sure, but not engaging like we would hope. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

Featurette: The Goldfinch Unbound
Featurette: The Real Goldfinch
Deleted Scenes (with over 16 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary from Director John Crowley)

Official 'The Goldfinch' Trailer

'The Goldfinch' Blu-ray + Digital Amazon Purchase Link

Official 'The Goldfinch' Movie Facebook Page

'Semper Fi' [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital]
(Leighton Meester, Jai Courtney, Nat Wolff, Arturo Castro, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / R / 2019 / Lionsgate Films)

Overview: A police officer who serves in the Marine Corps Reserves is faced with an ethical dilemma when it comes to helping his brother in prison.

Blu-ray Verdict: Interestingly enough, and just before I was due to watch and review this movie, I was informed that when the project was announced (long title: Semper Fi: Edge Of Dawn'), Sam Claflin was cast in the lead role. He later dropped out due to scheduling conflicts and was replaced by Jai Courtney.

Having now watched it, all I can see in this lead role is Courtney, which proves how seamless of an actor he truly is.

Having been mysteriously panned by a lot of my fellow "journalists," I actually found 'Semper Fi' to be a rather sincere, and at times beautiful film about the strength between a brotherhood of friends and the lengths these characters take to help one of their own in need.

Regardless of the risks and dangers they put their own lives in, watching it all unfold, sitting on the edge of your seat as each character mulls over the pro's and con's of a decision they are about to make, part of you instantly becomes invested in them; always wanting things to turn out right for everyone concerned.

You just can't help but feel emotionally connected to the characters and the troubles they face together. For me that's the sign of an incredible, well balanced and terrifically enthralling movie, of which 'Semper Fi' most assuredly is.

I mean, the film is worth a watch alone just to remind us of our very own brotherhood within our own circle of friends and family. Maybe it might even make us reflect on how lucky we are to have a similar bond (whatever that may be) in our own lives.

As for the inner workings of the actual film, well, Leighton Meester is always good; Finn Wittock shines; and Jai Courtney plays the hard marine brother to absolute perfection.

In closing, the film delivers fast pace action followed by solid drama plots. The actors are convincing throughout, the built upon scenarios are clever and involved, and the directing is top notch. What more could you ask for from a movie of this genre and obvious low end budget? I loved this movie and HIGHLY recommend it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Deleted Scenes
Featurette: Loyalty and Brotherhood: Making Semper Fi
Featurette: A Battle of Honor: Where Devotion Lies
Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Henry-Alex Rubin

Take home 'Semper Fi' and immerse yourself in its action-packed world with two making-of featurettes and an audio commentary with writer-director Henry-Alex Rubin.

The 'Semper Fi' Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $24.99, and $19.98, respectively.

Official 'Semper Fi' Trailer

'Semper Fi' Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Amazon Purchase Link

Official 'Semper Fi' Website

'The Limits of Control: Special Edition'
(Tilda Swinton, Paz de la Huerta, Isaach De Bankolé, Bill Murray, John Hurt, et al / Blu-ray / R / (2009) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: An enigmatic loner arrives in Spain, instructed to make contact with a series of strangers in different locations throughout the country, each of whom provides a cryptic clue which propels him further towards his mysterious goal.

But who is the Lone Man? Why is he here? And how does the recurring figure of an alluring femme fatale fit into the puzzle?

Blu-ray Verdict: 'The Limits of Control' is a film about spies, interchanging notes in matchbooks, and coded phrases and short monologues about art, music, and film, usually in a café on bright afternoons in Spain.

Isaach De Bankolé plays an all but silent nameless protagonist, who wears a series of matching one color suits; blue, brown, and silver, does tai-chi regularly, and always orders two espressos in separate cups.

He goes to art galleries, and may see a painting of a violin, and then a man will sit down next to him at a café, nervously with a violin, and tell him every instrument contains every song it has ever written.

The two exchange matching match books, of separate colors with "Les Boxer" written in French, and then Bankolé is off again. This mechanism repeats for roughly two hours, as phrases and images repeat and proceed each other through each brief encounter.

There is no exposition, we never learn, who he is, what he is thinking, what the messages or conversations mean, or why he is doing what he does.

I use the word "spy" loosely, because the scope of Bankolé's mission is never revealed, and involves diamonds, assassinations, an ancient guitar, mysterious men in black stuffing people into vans, and Bankolé's refusal to use cellular phones.

It's a postmodern espionage film where the characters don't seek out truth, but communicate in deception and deal in relativity.

Simply put, this film could easily have been classified as a modern day 'Blow-Up,' another existential minimalist thriller, steeped in the fashions, and trends of it's day, only with a sense of humor.

Antonini see's his hipster photographer as morally bankrupt, his spiritual emptiness matching the sparse nature of the film, while Jarmusch's Bankolé is calm absorbing the scenery, practicing tai-chi (as all sound drains from the film, putting the viewer in an even calmer stillness inside him than the one we see in the film).

He doesn't have sex on the job, even when the nude Paz De La Huerta makes repeat visits to his apartment(they platonically sleep together; her nude, he in trademark suit) though his job seems to consist of only waiting, talking, trading, and his not concerned neither with taking a side or seeking revenge.

The opposite of Antonini's tortured artist, is Jarmusch's nonchalant mute hero, "Reality is arbitrary" he tells Bill Murray, known as The American.

The conversations are not random, though we cant know what they multiple meanings they may have for Bankolé, they orbit themes of perception and subjectivity.

Some of the first words of instruction he receives are "Everything is subjective", "The universe has no edges and no center", "Use your skills and your imagination", and the ominous "He who thinks he is bigger than the rest must go to the cemetery for there he will learn what life really is dirt."

These words are translated by a third party because as everyone whom he meets asks him upon first meeting, he doesn't speak Spanish.

With exposition erased, we are shown the first of several layers of perceptual limitations. We can't know what Bankolé's character knows beyond the surface level of meaningless gestures and dialog, but we also can't escape the paranoid shadow that everything no matter how minute has a meaning.

There is a black helicopter that precedes and follows Bankolé throughout the film, but its effect is equally a stifled suspense as it is traditional Jarmuschian deadpan.

When Bankolé sits with Tilda Swinton, in platinum white wig and cowboy hat, she tells him she "... likes it in old movies when people just sit quietly without talking", a double jibe, both at Bankolé's character's stoic calm, and the films own absurd preoccupations with the small details of life.

Later he sees a poster of what looks like a gaillo film with a women dressed just like Swinton. Did she dress to match the poster, or was the poster a sign meant only for him?

In closing, 'The Limits Of Control' is a free-form minimalist poem against the shadow of a paranoid espionage thriller.

It most definitely has a 'Rear Window'-like ratio of concept to action, but at least in Hitchcock's masterpiece you could say Dude, call the police or quit peeping! Movie over!

Likewise you could make an empty statement that this was 'Coffee and Cigarettes,' but longer and without the cigarettes. But that would just be to not see the forest through the trees. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentation
Original lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
An American in Europe, a new video interview with Geoff Andrew, author of Stranger Than Paradise: Maverick Film-Makers in Recent American Cinema
The Rituals of Control, a new video essay on the film by author and critic Amy Simmons
Behind Jim Jarmusch, an archival documentary on the making of the film
Untitled Landscapes, an archival featurette showcasing the film's locations
Theatrical trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring two choices of artwork

'The Limits Of Control' Original Movie Trailer

'Melody Makers: The Bible of Rock n' Roll'
(Ian Anderson, Eric Burdon, Dan McCafferty, et al / DVD / NR / (2016) 2019 / MVD Visual)

Overview: Melody Maker Magazine's Chief Contributing Photographer(1965-1975), Barrie Wentzell tells the story of the rise and fall of the magazine, which marked the end to a style of rock n' roll journalism that no longer exists today.

DVD Verdict: Fully entitled 'Melody Makers: Should've Been There,' I have to admit right from the off that I actually WAS there when this wonderous, over-sized music newspaper bible was in its glorious heyday in the UK!

Having grown up in the UK at that time, and already purchasing vinyl records, my go to every Thursday upon their release was, and in this order: NME, Sounds and Melody Maker.

That said, I always, and rather religiously purchased the three of them together, and for the most part, aside from Sounds having more color photos inside, both NME and Melody Maker showcased the same music news.

All that personal stuff aside, the nitty gritty of this expansive, and as a fan, extremely heartwarming documentary is that 'Melody Makers: Should’ve Been There' is a visual showcase about the good old days of the storied British music weekly.

An industry publication that became an essential guide to the explosion of acts and styles in the '60s and '70s, we get to see how – per the title – it was awesome and thrilling and fun to work there.

One of its many dedicated photogs was in-house photographer Barrie Wentzell, whose lustrous black-and-white shots gave the magazine its identity and cutting-edge charge, and who serves as the primary focus of Leslie Ann Coles' documentary.

Furthermore, much of 'Melody Makers' screen time just lets Wentzell – who now lives and works in Toronto – roll out one story after another about this encounter or that experience as he ran around photographing legends like Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Ian Anderson at this pub or that gig.

The stories are fun, and the photos are great and it really showcases brilliantly that Wentzell truly does have an incredible eye; for his hundreds and hundreds of used images were routinely prinmted, week after week, after week.

In conclusion, this welcomed 90 minutes of behind-the-scenes reveals about one of the biggest UK music newspaper bibles of its day is a joy to behold from start to finish.

It's a very cheerful and enlightening jog down memory lane which unveils the history of the British music weekly along with providing some choice tidbits of sound bites from those that were there too. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Theatrical Trailer
Image Slideshow

'Melody Makers: The Bible of Rock n' Roll' Trailer

'Come On Feel The Noize'
(Ozzy Osbourne, Jimmy Page, Gene Simmons, Alice Cooper, James Hetfield, et al / DVD / NR / (2017) 2019 / MVD Visual)

Overview: Featuring exclusive, long-lost live material from rock's most iconic bands and artists, as well as all-new original interviews with the living legends themselves, this documentary is your access-all-areas backstage pass to Heavy Metal and Hard Rock history!

DVD Verdict: Fully entitled as 'Come On Feel The Noize: The Story Of How Rock Became Metal,' this hour and a half documentary is an eye-opening look into the world of Heavy Metal and how artists and fans alike quickly became "possessed with Heavy Metal"!

Directed by Jörg Sonntag and written by Thore Vollert, this German-made documentary isn't all encompassing of the genre, let's get that straight from the off, but it does give a newcomer to the fold a heads up, that's for sure!

Featuring sound bites from rockers such as James Hetfield, Dee Snider, Michael Monroe, Doro Persch, and, for some reason, a LOT of screen time and chat with James Michael (the lead singer of Sixx A.M.), at times it actually comes across like a PBS special!

That said, it does cover a lot of Heavy Metal ground throughout history and brings forth a lot of live performance clips; some of which they claim haven't been seen before!

In closing, this documentary isn't all that bad and has a nice run time, but if you want a more in-depth dive into this genre, check out the brilliant go-to 'Metal: A Headbanger's Journey' (2005) by Banger Films. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Theatrical Trailer
Image Slideshow

'Come On Feel The Noize: The Story Of How Rock Became Metal' Trailer

'Charlie's Angels - The Complete Collection'
(Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, Cheryl Ladd, Shelley Hack, Tanya Roberts, David Doyle, et al / 20-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2019 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Once upon a time ... there were three girls who went to work for Charles Townsend, a mysterious man they never got to see, at his Beverly Hills detective agency.

And they became the sexiest private eyes to ever grace TV!

Enjoy every episode of high-kicking action, glamour, guns, bikinis, and hair here in the just-released 'Charlie's Angels - The Complete Collection,' where each is packed with dangerous intrigue in the Angels' world of money, mystery, and murder.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, I grow up watching the show when it first aired in 1976. I was in the first grade and I LOVED it. I couldn't get enough of it at the time and I had a huge crush on Farrah Fawcett-Majors (maybe because she was a blonde and rather bubbly). Plus the action that took place back in the '70s was always just so wonderfully OTT!

When she left I was terribly upset, but got used to Cheryl Ladd as her replacement. Too bad Kate Jackson didn't take a liking to her, because I thought they had got along off screen (due to Kate knowing Cheryl before Farrah and Jaclyn Smith when they worked on the TV movie 'Satan's School for Girls' (1973).

Here in 'Charlie's Angels,' I love the adventures and the action that centered around them, but I really was not a fan of Sabrina Duncan (or Kate Jackson, sorry), because I always felt she was the less flattering of the trio and therefore the show seemingly strayed and revolved around Sabrina than Jill, Kelly or Kris.

This was way more noticeable after Kate was fired because the show then revolved around Kris, which I myself felt Cheryl was the better actress. Any who, no matter who was in what episode on my screen at any given time, I still loved each and every episode and I also loved watching them in reruns too.

The episodes in the first season were always the best for me, like when they had to go on a cruise to investigate and each of them had a bomb to throw overboard! I mean, when the camera focused in on them at their time of desperation inevitably their hair was NEVER blowing wildly in the wind!

Nope, it never moved a square inch, no matter how much wind, or open sea breezes were coming at them full force! I also liked the comedy Farrah provided for the viewers and the way she delivered her lines.

The second season was good too, but a carbon copy of the first, of course (which, for a dedicated fab, was no big deal). My favorite episode here is 'The Sandcastle Murders,' but it too had its farcical moments ie: when Bosley (David Doyle) shot at the bad guy (Dave Rossiter) and then fell into the ocean, meaning Sabrina had to dive off the pier (fully clothed) to save him and fish him out!

That aside, the third season was grand too and it unveiled a new stance for Kate in that she began to noticeably wear more make-up for some strange reason! Yet more fun and games to be had in this season also, with the best episode in my book being 'Pom Pom Angels.'

Three cheerleaders mysteriously disappear after receiving religious notes from religious fanatics. The Angels go undercover as cheerleaders to find the missing girls who are at a cult where they serve "The Good One" … and end up with their hair cut!

Entering into the fourth season and now Shelley Hack was on board as one of the new Angels (Tiffany Welles). My favorite episode here is, by far, 'Avenging Angel' which was a great showcase for Jaclyn to show her acting skills.

In it, Frank Desmond is released from prison and proceeds to revenge himself on his jailer, Kelly Garrett, by injecting her with heroin. This leads the men he stole the drugs from to think Desmond and Kelly are partners in crime.

Another great one is 'Caged Angel' in which Cheryl is locked up to investigate a case. But even I have to admit that during this fourth season the quality of plots and acting by the new Angel (Tiffany) had noticeably begun to slide.

As it turned out, it was her one and only season as an Angel, but in truth she wasn't all that bad.

The fifth and final season - where I was now a fifth grader - the main thing I can instantly recall is hearing that "Charlie has a new Angel". By then I couldn't keep up with all the changes and I personally thought it was ridiculous that a model left her career behind to now work as a private detective (not to mention any of the other recruits who looked like models than cops!).

But, as it turned out, everything played out just fine. Now with the trio being Kelly, Kris and Julie (Tanya Roberts), my favorite episodes were 'Attack Angels' and the hilarious 'Stuntwomen Angels.'

In the former, when the Angels investigate a couple of suspicious deaths at Western Techtronics, Julie falls under the trance of a hypnotist who specializes in using brainwashed young women as killers.

In the latter, a man dressed as an archer is causing accidents at Mammoth studios. The Angels go undercover as stunt women (after taking a crash course at Big Teddy's stunt school).

But the main target seems to be the stunt coordinator working on 'Lady West' and 'Marian and her Merry Maidens', the latter being a remake of an Errol Flynn classic.

Oh, and I rather enjoyed 'Angels of the Deep' where they had Patti Patti D'Arbanville as a guest. Wow, she had some zest for life, that's for sure in her brilliant acting skills!

But there's more folks, as also included on this magnificent 20-Disc Blu-ray collection of all the original 'Charlie's Angels' TV show episodes (110), is the 8-episode run of the 2011 TV reboot of the same name!

Starring Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly, and Rachael Taylor, the plot was that a cat burglar, a car thief, and a dirty cop get a chance to turn their lives around; fighting crime and working for the mysterious Charlie Townsend.

Sadly though, there's a reason it only lasted 8 episodes, as you can well imagine! This is yet another case of what happens when they take a beautifully scripted series and put in people who are models; but not actors!

Sure they look pretty, but they can't act to save their lives and it shows! Zero emotion and zero attention to the skilled craft of acting. Which brings me to a question: Why do these producers seem to think that you can replace class with youth?!

It's a mistake they keep making over and over again. Other than that though, the show itself wasn't that bad with its set ups and such, but all we see them do over and over (and over) is (and in skirts and high heels, of course) climb walls, chase bad guys, get in shoot-outs and other manner of shouldn't-you-be-in-trainers scenes!

This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Charlie's Angels - The Complete Collection' [20-Blu-ray] is out November 19, 2019, via Mill Creek Entertainment.

'The Hudson River School: Part 2'
(John Wilmerding, Dr. John Driscoll, Kevin Avery, Louis Salerno, Anthony Speiser, Elizabeth Jacks, et al / DVD / G / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: In 19th century, artist Thomas Cole and engraver Asher Durand established an artistic movement that became The Hudson River School.

The next generation expanded their palette with a technique that was immersed in light. This artistic innovation was later hailed as, "The Luminist Movement."

This film tells the story of these artists who became the greatest landscape painters in the world!

DVD Verdict: Simply put, the Hudson River School was America's first fraternity of landscape painters started by Thomas Cole and Asher Durand.

In Part 1, the Hudson River School: Artistic Pioneers focused on the story of these men and their message, its founder Thomas Cole, and other influential celebrants of this movement.

These artistic pioneers and like-minded devotees came to reverently be known as The Hudson River School.

In the vicinity of New York's Hudson River Valley, the Adirondack Mountains, Catskill Mountains, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, a group of American painters led by British born artist Thomas Cole forged an artistic vision of the American wilderness.

Here in Part 2, they focus on the second generation of Hudson River School artists: Sanford Gifford, John Kensett, Fitz Henry Lane, and others, who would challenge traditionalism, and expand their palettes with a sophisticated technique that was reflective, atmospheric and immersed in light.

Much like Part 1, this follow up is a beautifully textured historical account of the Hudson River School painters and the unique and powerful artistic movement they created.

Whether you are new to the work of these artists or a long time fan, these type of shows will provide an insight into the principal figures and truly demonstrate the depth of their genius.

An excellent, if not wholly eye-opening work by creator Vin Tabone, here Bruce Chandler's narration gushes many praises and enthusiasm and is, thankfully, never tedious or overbearing as he does so.

Sure at times the camerawork pans across canvases at a swifter pace than regular gallery showings would, but there are also magnificent slower showcasing too, of course.

As noted, this new artistic innovation would later be hailed as “The Luminist Movement," and we get a sense of that throughout this quite wondrous hour-long documentary.

In closing, 'The Hudson River School: Part 2 - Cultivating A Tradition' is a highly informative and beautifully done work of visual art and features some rather excellent biographies of the principal artists of the Hudson River School. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: Making Mistakes'
(DVD / NR / 2019 / PBS Kids)

Overview: Mister Rogers taught generations of children how to accept and respect others, and how to feel valued and encouraged.

In 'Mister Rogers and Making Mistakes', watch memorable episodes where Mister Rogers helps children understand that everyone makes mistakes from time to time.

World-famous pianist Andre Watts performs for Mister Rogers, and together they talk about learning from mistakes!

DVD Verdict: Just to bring you up to date a wee bit, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was an American half-hour educational children's television series that was created and hosted by Fred Rogers.

The series originated in 1963 as Mister Rogers on CBC Television, and was later re-branded in 1966 as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood on the regional Eastern Educational Network (EEN, a forerunner of today's American Public Television).

The national U.S. debut occurred on February 19, 1968, and it aired on NET and its successor, PBS, until August 31, 2001. The series is aimed primarily at preschool ages 2 to 5, but has been stated by PBS as "appropriate for all ages".

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was produced by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania public broadcaster WQED and Rogers' non-profit production company Family Communications, Inc., previously known as Small World Enterprises prior to 1971; the company was renamed The Fred Rogers Company after Rogers' death.

In May 1997, the series surpassed Captain Kangaroo as the longest-running children's television series, a record the series held until July 2002, when Sesame Street beat Mister Rogers' record.

Here on this brand new 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: Mister Rogers and Making Mistakes', we watch as Mister Rogers helps children learn the importance of actually making mistakes, but more so, how to learn from them.

And episode from the show's seventeenth season, we quickly find that Mister Rogers has forgotten about a meeting and has to find a way to deal with it.

Upon his arrival, Mister Rogers says that "there was a strange smell in here a little while ago" so he freshens the air by using the atomizer he brought with him.

Mister Rogers THEN receives a phone call from Mrs. McFeely who tells him that he needs to be at a meeting in just a few minutes.

Unfortunately, Mister Rogers mistakenly thought that meeting was the next day. Chuck Aber, who is making speedy deliveries, spends time with television viewers while Mister Rogers goes to his meeting.

Interestingly enough, as the actor/character rarely left the set, the time Mister Rogers leaves for the meeting and returns is approximately 3 minutes and 25 seconds. This is the first time Mr. Rogers is absent as he leaves to go to a meeting and so Chuck Aber takes over the episode until Rogers later returns.

Mr. Aber has a conversation with Mr. Skunk about why Mister Rogers had to leave. He also spends some time demonstrating sign language and sings Many Ways to Say I Love You.

In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, Mr. Skunk is visiting and feels embarrassed when he accidentally sprays his scent on Audrey Duck before her poetry reading.

Lady Aberlin uses an atomizer to freshen the air around the Neighborhood before she and Daniel Tiger sings a song about his thoughts of being a mistake.

Of course, this leads Daniel is having his own thoughts of uncertainty because he doesn't look or act like any other tiger he knows! But Lady Aberlin assures him he's fine just as he is.

In what is a highly informative, for any age, in truth, episode, there's even a video of how people make erasers (made in association with Eberhard-Faber, Inc.). This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' [Combo Pack]
(Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / R / 2019 / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: Quentin Tarantino’s 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore.

The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.

Blu-ray Verdict: Hollywood, 1969: Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) had a lead role in a hit TV western in the 1950s and early 1960s. Since leaving that show, he is having a hard time finding decent work. Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is Rick's friend and former stunt double.

He also acts as Rick's chauffeur as Rick has had DUI charges. The fictional element of the time period is mixed with true events: Rick's next-door neighbors are actress Sharon Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski.

Director/writer Quentin Tarantino has done a superb job in recreating the atmosphere of 1969. Those of us who were alive at that time, no matter how young, are left awestruck with sudden memory recall of people, places, and things that seemed completely erased from memory.

The level of detail is praiseworthy enough yet there is also a recall of atmosphere that recreates the era sometimes even better than watching films from that time period.

DiCaprio, always dependable, gives another standout performance easily conveying the insecurities of a "has-been" desperately trying to make a comeback. As DiCaprio is constantly in demand without ever experiencing a lower status, this is true acting.

Much like Tarantino's 'Inglorious Basterds,' this current film mixes fiction with historical events with very surprising results. This adds to the thrilling suspense in the final sequence to those of us aware of history and are led to more than a few shocks and not just the extreme violence (this is a Tarantino film after all).

Fair warning: If you don't love movies for their own sake, you may be tempted to disregard this movie. Anyone who thinks there is some sort of defect or error or problem with identify or politics or historical emphasis has no idea what's going on here.

The sheer orchestration of this construct is a sight to behold that rewards you for paying attention and gives you plenty to pay attention to. Light, sound, action, performances, all delivered in a fine concert.

In truth, Tarantino does not disappoint with the direction or production, but something's missing. The great big denouement feels unusually abrupt and civilized.

There are plenty of punches thrown, but none of the protagonists ever seem to be in any real danger. I'm not one for gritty gore, but I expected them to go on more of a life-changing journey.

The other acting is excellent also from others other than the lead men, showcasing the brilliant talents of Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, Kurt Russell as an aging Stuntman, and the always entertaining Al Pacino as an ambitious Agent, to name but three.

In closing, there are some magnificent sequences in this film, some rather hilarious moments, a really good buddy-movie set up along the way, some great actors with some wonderful tight dialog throughout that doesn't ramble, but gets to the point. I appreciated all this and I'm sure you guys will too. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• Over Twenty Minutes of Additional Scenes
• Five exclusive behind the scenes pieces including:
o Quentin Tarantino’s Love Letter to Hollywood
o Bob Richardson – For the Love of Film
o Shop Talk – The Cars of 1969
o Restoring Hollywood – The Production Design of Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
o The Fashion of 1969

• Over Twenty Minutes of Additional Scenes

Cut a rug with Rick Dalton in this clip from an extended scene!

Official 'Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood' @ Twitter

Official 'Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood' @ Instagram

Official 'Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood' @ Facebook

'Voice of the Eagle: Robbie Basho'
(Pete Townshend, Country Joe McDonald, William Ackerman, Glenn Jones, Henry Kaiser, et al / Blu-ray + 2DVD / NR / (2015) 2019 / MVD Visual)

Overview: 'Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho' is a feature-length documentary on the extraordinary life and visionary music of the American guitarist, singer and mystic Robbie Bashop.

Blu-ray Verdict: Before his bizarre death at the hands of a chiropractor, Robbie Basho was sure that his compositions would not outlast him.

Orphaned during infancy, diagnosed with synesthesia (a union of the senses that caused him to interpret sound as color) and claiming to be the reincarnation of a 17th century poet, the Baltimore-born, Berkeley-based guitarist and singer's musical output was equally as outlandish as his persona.

In his brief and troubled life he laid the foundations for radical changes to the musical landscape of America during the 1960s and '70s but reaped little more than a sparse (if fervent) following during his lifetime.

'Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho' is a journey into the heart of an artist's lifelong struggle: designed to illuminate and satiate existing fans while serving as a perfect starting point for the uninitiated.

Featuring interviews with Basho's former students, contemporaries and few close friends (including Pete Townshend, William Ackerman, Henry Kaiser and Country Joe McDonald), the documentary integrates new information and anecdotes on Basho with previously uncovered archive material and photography of the landscapes and natural phenomena that informed his work.

Watching intently along, for I knew nothing of this man beforehand and wanted to learn everything I could from this highly entertaining 87 minute long now documentary rather than the interweb, the amazing thing that immediately stands out (from the many people interviewed) was that Robbie “never became that famous” during his lifetime.

Like Vincent Van Gogh, he was recognized while he lived, but by the discerning ones. Many speak of him here as "way ahead of his time,” with one of his former colleague's adding that "Sometimes you have to die first”!

A deeper look into the life of Basho reveals he had been an orphan (one of his musical pieces is titled 'Orphan’s Lament') and had been adopted as a young boy by Dr. Donald Robinson and his wife; who lived in the U.S. city of Baltimore, Maryland.

Basho was drawn to music at an early age, his stepsister says in the film, and was always good at it. While attending the University of Maryland in the early ‘60s, still going by the name Robbie Robinson, he began his musical career doing Kingston Trio covers at cafes.

Soon, however, he dove into deeper waters.

'Voice of the Eagle: Robbie Basho' continually showcases the fact that no matter what you thought of him and his opinions and such, Basho was utterly unique.

Indeed, labels such as “new age classical” or “visionary world music” only hint at the depth and breadth of his compositions.

Basho entered the stream of world musical, cultural and spiritual traditions, and in a career spanning two decades, created some 15 albums that embrace Hindu, Japanese, Persian and American Indian styles and values, as well as others. Among his many kinds of instrumentals were pieces in the style of the Indian raga.

Robbie’s rich and resonant voice adds visionary lyrics to many of his songs as well and that is what bleeds through here more than anything.

Unfortunately, as aforementioned, his life ended in a freak accident during a chiropractic treatment in 1986, when he was only 46 years old.

In closing, 'Voice of the Eagle: Robbie Basho' shows us a gifted man, perhaps even beyond his innate talent and passion, with a strong sense of musical interpretation.

I mean, what more would you expect from a man who could “hear colors”? This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Extended & Deleted Interviews
24-Page Booklet

'The Cotton Club Encore: 35th Anniversary'
(Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, James Remar, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital / NR / (1984) 2019 / LGF)

Overview: In this lavish, 1930s-era drama, Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club becomes a hotbed of passion and violence as the lives and loves of entertainers and gangsters collide.

Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s extraordinary film is brought to vivid new life in 'The Cotton Club Encore.'

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, albeit to my mind, of course, 'The Cotton Club' is a dazzling, complex film that attempts so much it would be almost impossible for nearly any director to pull it off.

But Francis Ford Coppola is not any director, so 'The Cotton Club' is not just any movie. Rather, it succeeds at practically all levels and is certainly a film worth coming back to again and again.

Set in Harlem in the late 1920s, we are introduced to a group of Jazz Age-products, people who see themselves exactly as they are but all hope to go somewhere better.

Two story lines occupy the plot; we get a good-looking young musician Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere) who gets involved in the mob after falling for one of the gangster's girlfriends (Diane Lane); and we get the story of a very talented black dancer (Gregory Hines) trying to prove his love to a half-black and half-white chorus girl who seems to struggle with her place in this more or less racist society.

Almost every night, everyone gathers at The Cotton Club, one of the most famous clubs in the city and the blacks entertain while the whites drink and watch. But Coppola gives us a view from all angles so it doesn't feel as if we are missing anything important.

One of the biggest achievements of this film is its staging of the dance sequences, which are to say the least quite exquisite. Filled with colorful costumes and some mind-boggling tap numbers, at times you may forget that this is also a gangster picture.

Indeed, some scenes feel just like Coppola's 'The Godfather' with its quick bursts of violence but also in its tone of sad, elegiac setting. People come and go and some regret the things they do, but the music lives on.

The acting is also very strong as Gere and Lane are quite wonderful in their first of three films together. Both were very good-looking and they do bring out the best in each other.

Two supporting actors that really do steal the show are Bob Hoskins and Fred Gwynne as a mob boss and his head bodyguard. They share a tenacity and ferociousness in their dealings, but also have one really terrific scene involving Gwynne coming to see Hoskins after being kidnapped. A young Nicolas Cage also shows here he had incredible potential.

This Broadway version of the gangster film so familiar in Hollywood refreshes both genres as we see the similarities between the two. Indeed, many of the participators in the entertainment were also involved in the mob and Coppola shows how the two lives intertwine and bring a lot of trouble to everyone.

This may seem as a strange mixing of genres and story lines for some people, but it is well worth the two hours. It is funny, sad, violent, poetic but also enormously entertaining and isn't that what the movies are all about? Coppola seems to think so.

In support of 'The Cotton Club Encore: 35th Anniversary Edition' arriving to Blu-ray™ Combo Pack (plus DVD & Digital), DVD and Digital 4K Ultra HD™ today (December 10th, 2019) from Lionsgate, we have the "Stormy Weather" extended scene clip to share:

Official 'Stormy Weather' Extended Clip

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• Introduction to The Cotton Club Encore by Francis Ford Coppola
• The Cotton Club Encore Q&A

'The Cotton Club Encore: 35th Anniversary Edition' will be available on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack (plus DVD & Digital), DVD, Digital 4K Ultra HD™, and Digital SD/HD for the suggested retail price of $19.99, $14.98, $12.99, and $9.99 respectively.

Official 'The Cotton Club Encore' Trailer

'Acceleration' [Blu-ray]
(Sean Patrick Flanery, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Liddell, Natalia Burn, Quinton Rampage Jackson, et al / Blu-ray / R / 2019 / Cinedigm)

Overview: Vladik Zorich, a villainous crime lord, is double-crossed by his most trusted operative Rhona.

Vladik's propensity for power, control, and violence drives him to kidnap Rhona's son forcing her to participate in a twisted plan to elimination of Vladik's enemies.

To keep her on a short leash, Vladik sets out the 'rules' to his 'game' and overseas Rhona's every move as she navigates the darkened streets of Los Angeles.

Blu-ray Verdict: So, with a story line such as Vladik (Dolph Lundgren) kidnapping the son of Rhona (Natalie Burn) and coercing her into performing various tasks driving around L.A. all night, you know from the off that this B-movie is going to be a low budget work of quick one-liner's and speeding cars (none of wish will show Burn or Lundgren behind the wheel!)

And you would be totally correct on all those points, but with no real back story either (until the very end), 'Acceleration' may well not live up to its name for any car scenes, sure, but the "tic-tok" appeal to the plot does, for sure.

Produced by Burn and executive produced by Paul Hertzberg and Eric Brenner, 'Acceleration' is a VERY colorful and flashy, uber stylized and extraordinarily pacey movie that whizzes by your eyes, but for my money doesn't give us the pounding heart effect that a franchise such as Fast & Furious gives us each time.

That said, and given that this is a low budget film, it does manage to hold our attention and is just perfect for fans of the genre. Also, it's a great film if you are a fan of Burn herself, as wearing tight black leather pants the whole time and high kicking and fist punching her way through the scenes is enough to send any man to an early grave!

Although she wears a wee bit too much heavy black eye liner for my liking (making her look like a drag version of Criss Angel), Burn is the star here, make no mistake about it! While watching her interact with Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Liddell and Danny Trejo is fun, it's obvious that she is the Alpha, even if they themselves have zero idea!

Complete with an unpredictable twist at the end, 'Acceleration' is definitely worth seeing, if only for watching Burn kick ass in order to get what she wants at every turn!

Overlooking the cheesy flying through the air firing two guns simultaneously at targets and hitting them perfectly stunt and trying to erase from your memory the Liddell and Lundgren fight that looks more like two old men grappling over a wayward comment at the Thanksgiving table, and 'Acceleration' is as good as it gets in the genre for this budget. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Cinedigm releases 'Acceleration' in select theatres, on-demand and digital on November 8th, 2019 and on Blu-ray and DVD in December 2019.

Official 'Acceleration' Trailer

'Abominable: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital'
(Chloe Bennet, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Albert Tsai, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, et al / 4K Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital / PG / 2019 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: When mischievous friends Yi (Chloe Bennet), Jin, and Peng discover a young yeti on their roof, they name him Everest and embark on a thrilling adventure to reunite the magical creature with his family.

On the journey of their lifetimes, Everest helps Yi, Jin, and Peng unlock an inner bravery they didn't know they had.

And as they travel across China to return the magical creature to his home, Everest will help them discover where they truly belong, too.

Blu-ray Verdict: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the brilliantly thoughtful, and wonderfully colorful 'Abominable’ in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this December 17th, 2019.

For my money, this 'Abominable: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' combo pack's sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.

So, what we have is 'Abominable' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Upscaled 4K (2160p), HDR: HDR10+ Aspect ratio: 1.85:1, and Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHD's, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.

Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; like the vividly sparkling water scenes and boat rides and the high in the sky purple cloud dips and swirls! It just all comes more vividly to life, which is amazing to see, in truth.

Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material (notably the scenes where the characters are interacting with the "creature" and although they are admittedly "flat faces," somehow they still manage to show depth and changing color surfaces when moving) now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the 1080p Blu-ray accounting.

As for the audio, well we have: English: Dolby Atmos, English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), French: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, and Spanish: Dolby Digital Plus 7.

Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.

Phew! OK, so, as for the movie itself, well, in truth, Dreamworks has been rather hit or miss when it comes to releasing great animated films over the years.

Whether it's 'Shrek' or 'Kung Fu Panda', there some truly great movies out there, but I once 'How to Train Your Dragon' hit theatres, and each of its consecutively great sequels, I found myself wondering if the studio had peaked with that trilogy.

Well, 'Abominable' (from the creators of the aforementioned 'How to Train Your Dragon' series) is their latest release from them, and after seeing it on 4K Ultra HD, I can happily report that this is surprisingly one of the very best animated films that they have released; ever!

Everyone knows that the creature known as the Yeti has been known to be a myth, but in 'Abominable', a young girl (Yi) finds that one actually exists.

Having been experimented on in laboratories until escaping and finding its way onto this girl's roof, she befriends him and makes it her mission, along with two other friends, to return him to his home on mount Everest.

This particular story has been told hundreds of times, but unlike many movies that choose to copy and paste formulas, 'Abominable' is one that truly cares about the characters and the adventure they go on, which had me falling in love with it as it progressed.

Having written the story for 'Monster's Inc.', worked in the animation department at Pixar on 'Toy Story' and 'Toy Story 2', eventually directing her first animated feature in 'Open Season', and now officially writing and directing 'Abominable', completely bringing her full vision to life, Jill Culton is one with a storied career; albeit not massive.

After her outing here, I must admit that I will be following her work for years to come because I believe her vision and how it was showcased, was honestly fantastic.

On top of that, Dreamworks has been on a roll with incredible animation, and this movie is nothing shy of fitting that description.

It should go without saying nowadays that most films released by large studios will probably hire the best of the best to create the most beautiful animation, but I just have to commend them here as well.

The smooth motions of characters and the detail put into the wide landscape shots are all superb, and these elements are only elevated by a very enjoyable cast of characters, on an adventure that eventually had me in tears.

If for nothing else, you'll probably enjoy looking at this movie, but it has much more than that to offer.

In the end, 'Abominable' does admittedly suffer from feeling familiar at first glance, but this movie embraces that and creates a journey that feels fresh.

The themes throughout this film are meant for all ages, which is why I believe this movie will be a hit with families across the world when it comes out on home video.

As for the plethora of Special Features included, I'll do my best to go over a few of the one's that caught my eye.

First up would be a pair of Original Dreamworks Shorts in both 'Marooned' and 'Show & Tell.' 'Marooned' tells the story of a cantankerous and selfish robot named C-0R13. Stranded on an abandoned lunar outpost, C-0R13 longs to return to Earth.

With a partially built ship and his last power source, this determined robot will stop at nothing to achieve his goal.

'Show & Tell' reveals that back home in the Himalayan Mountains, Everest puts on a magical show-and-tell for his fellow yetis after he receives a special care package from Yin, Jing and Peng.

In the highly impressive Animating Abominable,' from production design to storyboarding and animating, the creative team behind 'Abominable' takes us through the design and animation of the film.

In Meet The Cast we get introduced to the cast of 'Abominable' and the characters they play. We also learn first-hand from the actors what their personal inspiration was for the role and how they went about performing the voicework.

Another rather fun one is Your Yeti Care Guide, where Chloe, Albert and Tenzing provide tips and tricks to caring for your newly adopted “Yeti”. In this case YETI stands for pet - dog, kitten and bird!

One last one to check out is the brilliant from start to finish An Abominable Tour with Chloe Bennet, where, and like her father before her, Yi dreams of travelling across China to see the many beautiful, natural and culturally significant locations featured in 'Abominable'.

So, Chloe Bennet, the voice of Yi, takes viewers on their own magical journey and boy, is it breathtaking to say the least! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

• SHOW AND TELL (Original Short)
• DELETED SCENES: with Intros by Writer/Director Jill Culton and Co-Director Todd Wilderman
o Play All
o Spa Day
o Villains at the Map
o Magic Montage
o Yak Attack
• MAKING A MYTH (MOVIE) - Featurette
• MEET THE CAST - Featurette
o Play All o Chloe Bennet as Yi o Tenzing Norgay Trainor as Jin o Albert Tsai as Peng o Tsai Chin as Nai Nai o Joe Izzo as Everest • YOUR YETI CARE GUIDE - Featurette
• COURAGE TO DREAM - Featurette
• EVEREST’S TALK BOX - Featurette
• HOW TO ABOMINABLE - How-To-Draw Featurette
o How to Draw
o Play All
o Intro
o Everest
o Yi
o Jin
o Peng
o Nai Nai
o How to Make a Chinese Lantern
• NAI NAI SAYS - Featurette
• FEATURE COMMENTARY - Writer/Director Jill Culton, Co-Director Todd Wilderman, Producer Suzanne Buirgy, Producer Peilin Chou, Production Designer Max Boas, Visual Effects Supervisor Mark Edwards, and Head of Character Animation John Hill

Official 'Abominable' Trailer

'Abominable: 4K Ultra HD' Blu-ray Amazon Purchase Link

Official 'Abominable' Website!

Official 'Abominable' Facebook Page!

Official 'Abominable' Instagram Page!

'Dry Blood' [Blu-ray]
(Clint Carney, Jaymie Valentine, Kelton Jones, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2019 / Epic Pictures Dread Central)

Overview: In a rural mountain town, an unstable drug addict must unravel a surreal murder mystery as he’s terrorized by malevolent ghosts, a deranged sheriff, and the frightening hallucinations from his withdrawal.

Blu-ray Verdict: Epic Pictures’ Dread Central Presents has just released the genius of System Syn’s Clint Carney and his horror-thriller creation, 'Dry Blood.'

Under his moniker, Clint has composed all original music for the film (a lot of it a combination of death metal and black metal) and can even be seen playing a starring role here (as Brian Barnes), but what stands out more to me is just how damn great all the cinematography is throughout the entire film!

Directed by Kelton Jones, who himself also plays the cop, and with a lead actor Carney (who also wrote the screenplay), 'Dry Blood' is an absolutely terrifyingly well shot and pieced together psychological horror film.

Once the build up has subsided, things start to turn dark for Barnes, a man just trying to get on with his life, and stave away from his addictions.

And whether it be the inner turmoil in his head, or the ghastly visions he "runs into," or simply the bitch in the kitchen opening his drawers and brandishing a massive knife, every single shot is peppered with enough reality that it makes you turn away in shock!

That's just how damn good this film is!

Add to that two people who also want into his world whilst he is there at a remote cabin tucked up within an even remoter mountain area, a woman named Anna (Jaymie Valentine) and the aforementioned Jones as a local cop hell bent on harassing him, and suddenly we have more to become invested in.

With the ability to bring us some brilliant death scenes and all-out-shocks (around a lot of dark corners), their use of special effects may well have been limited (due to budget constraints), but what they used, and how they used them was, to my mind, just perfect.

A shout out must also go to their make-up department as whoever created these ghastly figures was on fine form for this shoot. I mean, the horror elements where they were front and center were done so vividly, so gory and gnarly in places you just couldn't help but be, well, repulsed (and yet a little bit enthralled!)

With a tag line such as 'What Dies In The Cabin, Stays In The Cabin,' you sure think you know what you're in for, and for how it will end, but trust me when I say you don't know the half of what to expect!

Clint Carney, who, as mentioned, wrote, starred, and composed the score, says, "It’s been a long and exciting journey to go from writing the script almost four years ago, to now releasing 'Dry Blood' to the world."

"We are beyond excited to work with Dread Presents. They already have number of great films in their catalog and we couldn’t be happier to be a part of their roster, and to be welcomed into the Dread family."

“Clint and I set out to make our favorite horror movie," remarks Kelton Jones, the film's director. "We wanted to make a film that was true to the genre and lived up to the potential of what a great horror film could be. We knew this would be an ambitious task."

"We hold such a great love for the genre and the masters of cinema who had shaped our childhoods. We felt the best way to honor them was to pour our hearts and souls into making 'Dry Blood'."

"We knew our toughest audience would be ourselves and we strived to make a film that we were truly proud of. I feel very grateful to have been able to be a part of such an amazing project, made with love, by people I love."

"I am beyond thrilled to be releasing this film with Dread Presents. We set out to make our favorite film; my hope is that it becomes your favorite film as well.”

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

Audio Commentary with Writer and Director
Remember Not To Kill: The Making of Dry Blood
Collectible Reverse Cover Art

'Dry Blood' from Epic Pictures Releasing is now available nationwide to stream and on DVD and Blu Ray.

Amazon Blu-ray Purchase Link

Official 'Dry Blood' Trailer

'Overcomer' [Blu-ray Combo Pack]
(Alex Kendrick, Priscilla Shirer, Shari Rigby, Cameron Arnett, Aryn Wright-Thompson, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / PG / 2019 / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: Life changes overnight for coach John Harrison (Alex Kendrick) after he loses his basketball team and is challenged by the school's principal, Olivia (Priscilla Shirer), to coach a new sport he doesn't know or like.

As John questions his own worth, he dares to help the least likely runner take on the biggest race of the year.

Filled with a powerful mix of faith, humor and heart, this inspirational story will have you on the edge of your seat.

Blu-ray Verdict: Well, I have to admit right from the off that if you are not connected to any Faith or religion, the message here is most likely going to be lost on you (the message being one of Christianity, which is always nice to get a refresher course in, of course).

'Overcomer' starts off with a high school basketball coach named John Harrison, whose team has high hopes for a championship the following season, but is decimated when their small town's major manufacturing plant shuts down.

John reluctantly agrees to coach cross-country, a sport he knows little about and does not enjoy. The other focal point of the movie is Hannah Scott, the sole student running cross country for the high school, who runs carrying an inhaler to deal with asthma issues, and also engages in compulsive small thefts.

As the movie progresses, John meets a man dying in the hospital who has a surprising link to others in town, and who ends up becoming part of transforming both John and Hannah's lives.

The movie is the sixth one produced by the Kendrick's, but the first of theirs I have seen in many years. The production values have improved greatly and while not up to those of a high budget Hollywood movie, it was amazingly well done given that the budget for the movie was a relatively small five million or so.

Early on some of the acting, particularly one scene between John and his wife Amy (who also teaches in the same school) was a bit distracting, being not quite as well done as I am used to seeing on the big screen.

However, the acting either got better as time went on, or more likely the story gripped me enough that I stopped dwelling on such minor flaws.

Some people who watched it before me actually "complained" that the movie seems to portray the message that drawing near to or praying to God as the answer to every problem.

Knowing that, I was prepared for a movie that was overly simplistic, perhaps portraying faith in Jesus as something that automatically leads to an easy and perfect life, something the Bible itself does not claim, and that real life does not demonstrate.

But instead of the overly simplistic approach I had feared, I found that even after a character had a life changing encounter with God she still struggled, had to work very hard toward her goals, and experienced both joys and sorrows, which is a more realistic take on life.

Yes, there are several scenes that involve Prayer, and people are affected by their beliefs in a loving and forgiving God in a way that motivates them to love and forgive others, but this was done in a way that for the most part was believable.

In closing, and as aforementioned, not everyone will like this movie, but as a father, as well as someone who has watched others, as well as myself, struggle with the consequences of past poor life choices, I found this movie very moving.

I do not often cry during movies, but the last thirty minutes of this one had my eyes moist with tears, trust me! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• The Heart of Overcomer: See how the heart of Overcomer is grounded in personal growth, faith and identity.
• Creating the Opening Drone Shot: See how the stunning opening drone shot of the film was realized with a lot of ingenuity and a well-organized crew.
• Working with the Kendricks: Watch how Alex, Stephen and Shannon Kendrick found their path to filmmaking through authenticity and faith.
• Looks Behind-the-Scenes of: Editing, Composing, Coloring and Sound Design
• “Enough” (Lyric Video) Featuring Koryn Hawthorne
• Don’t Mess with the Editors: Check out what the editors of Overcomer created on the side for a little fun.

• Feature Audio Commentary with Director Alex Kendrick and Producer Stephen Kendrick
• Bloopers & Outtakes
• 10 Minutes of Additional Scenes with an introduction from the Kendrick Brothers.
• The Making of Overcomer: Learn about how the crew worked together with faith and prayer to create this incredible film.
• The Theme of Identity: In this piece the cast and crew discuss what the theme of identity means to them.
• The Power of Forgiveness: Describes why forgiveness is such an important theme of this film.
• “Overcomer” (Lip Sync Music Video) Featuring Mandisa
Overcomer in 60 Seconds: a quick fun film recap.
Overcomer Resources Video: Learn more about accompanying resources to help you grow in faith.

Award-winning director Alex Kendrick (WAR ROOM, COURAGEOUS) delivers an inspirational, edge-of-your-seat experience in the family-friendly sports drama 'Overcomer' debuting on digital November 26th and coming to Blu-ray™ and DVD December 17th, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, AFFIRM Films and Provident Films.

Amazon 'Overcomer' Blu-ray Combo Pack Purchase Link

Official 'Overcomer' Facebook Page!

Official 'Overcomer' Twitter Page!

Official 'Overcomer' Instagram Page!

'The Kill Team' [Blu-ray + Digital]
(Nat Wolff, Alexander Skarsgård, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / LGF)

Overview: Based on a true story, 'The Kill Team' follows Andrew Briggman (Nat Wolff), a young soldier in the US invasion of Afghanistan who witnesses other recruits killing innocent civilians under the direction of a sadistic leader, Sergeant Deeks (Alexander Skarsgård).

Andrew considers reporting them to higher-ups, but the heavily armed, increasingly violent platoon becomes suspicious that someone in their ranks has turned on them — and Andrew begins to fear that he’ll be the next target.

Blu-ray Verdict: 'The Kill Team' is a standard-issue anti-war movie whose hero is faced with becoming a whistle blower and putting an end to the murderous activities of his squad in Afghanistan; or becoming part of the killing team.

As directed by Dan Krauss, who previously treated the same material to a documentary feature, we can identify with the kid put in a tough situation, but the real-life plot twist after the film's climax robs him of choice, making this just another slice-of-life reality downer.

However, there are many important issues raised along the way, especially how the military is designed to dehumanize young recruits in order to get them to carry out dangerous missions, as well as numerous side issues like bullying, indoctrination and even the strong effects of violent videogames on an impressionable youngster's psyche.

But the crisis of conscience at the center of the story is presented more like a rat in a trap than a potential profile in courage. Worse yet, the key scene involving the killing of an innocent old Afghani civilian is staged so poorly that I couldn't follow clearly exactly what happened; only to witness the hero becoming implicated in the evil around him.

Alexander Skarsgård is fine as the nominal villain of a ruthless squad sergeant, while Nat Wolff as the hero remains stoic throughout. It's a role reminiscent of many that Tom Courtenay delivered brilliantly in the '60s and '70s, ranging from 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner' to 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich' (his tortured expressions conveying his situational pain as perhaps no other actor could).

But even though we can vicariously, from the safety of our sofa seating far from war, identify with Wolff's Andrew Briggman, by film's end this is just another piece of escapism, in which the viewer can turn off the small screen, exhale, and thank God that they themselves never find themselves in Briggman's predicament. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• "The Reality of Courage: Making The Kill Team" Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Dan Krauss

A thrilling film, based on a true story, comes home when 'The Kill Team' arrives on Blu-ray™ (plus Digital) and DVD December 24TH, 2019 from Lionsgate.

Official 'The Kill Team' Trailer

'The Curse of Oak Island: The First Six Seasons'
(Rick & Marty Lagina, et al / 23-Disc DVD / TV-PG / 2019 / History Channel)

Overview: It was an article in a 1965 Reader’s Digest about a possible buried treasure on a small Canadian island that fueled the youthful imaginations of two Michigan-born brothers.

Fifty years later, Rick Lagina and his brother Marty were able to purchase most of the island and they now, along with their partners, find themselves at the center of one of the greatest mysteries of all time.

HISTORY®’s long-running hit show, 'The Curse of Oak Island' chronicles every clue, every discovery, and every legend.

DVD Verdict: For those not really in the know, 'The Curse of Oak Island' follows brothers Marty and Rick Lagina, originally from Kingsford, Michigan, through their efforts to find the speculated treasure or historical artifacts believed to be on Oak Island.

The series discusses the history of the island, recent discoveries, theories, and prior attempts to investigate the site with areas of interest including the "Money Pit", "Borehole 10-x", "Smith's Cove", "Nolan's Cross", the "Hatch", and "The Swamp," amongst a slew of others!

Now and before I dissect the seasons below, please let me be clear here: I love this show! The people, the story, the mystery and all that follows with it, but there are things being done about this production and the episodes that destroys almost all the good that 'The Curse of Oak Island' has to offer; and that is a big shame.

I mean, come on now, what can be more intriguing than a possible mystery treasure buried under an intelligent construction on an island hundreds of years ago?

But when we are in 2014, as we were when the first season got under way, and we pretend that we can't analyze a hole in the ground and so stop working on it as soon as we encounter bedrock, whilst at the same time we keep moving away from rather significant clues and indications that we should inspect (as a step to uncover the full story of the mystery on Oak Island), all sanity stops existing, sorry!

For me, and I know I'm not alone here in this, but this is the clearest indicator that 'The Curse of Oak Island' is entertainment, and not an exciting piece of ground-breaking history in the making.

However, that said, the show does attempt to be both, and as such it suffers a severe identity-problem.

Then again, most anyone who has heard of the Oak Island Money Pit, becomes seduced by unraveling the mystery. These to brothers and their team are no exception, having spent millions of dollars and years of their lives in pursuit of the history.

And, of course, the treasure that may or may not be on the island is still an attraction for both the explorers and us viewers.

What I love about this show is it not just about a few guys excavating a pit for they really look at all the mysteries on the island and do their best to learn as much as possible (whilst teaching us along the way too, of course).

It's actually a lot of fun reliving this series from the very off, as the very first episode, What Lies Below has the brothers (having now purchased most of the mysterious island), determined to resurrect the 200 year-old search for treasure whilst beginning with an exploration of an abandoned shaft called 10-X.

Come the fifth and final episode of that first season (The Find) and Rick and Marty finally make one of the biggest discoveries in the 200 year-old search for treasure (but I won't give it away, no worries).

In the season two opener, after dating the item they found last summer to 1652, the brothers return to Oak Island and the strange triangle-shaped swamp to look for more clues.

A few more fun things are discovered along the way, but the tenth and last episode of this second season ends with the brothers now setting up shop alongside a father and son duo, Dan and Dave Blankenship (as well as other important members of this group).

In the season three opener, Bore Hole, Rick and Marty return to Oak Island and quickly discover that not only does borehole 10-X contain even more secrets than previously thought, but a new technology could prove that there are numerous treasure sites lying all over the island!

Come the final episode of this season, Secrets and Revelations, and MASSIVE secrets are indeed revealed leaving the brothers digging even MORE holes!

The fourth season opens with Going For Broke, which showcases Rick and Marty once again returning to Oak Island to prepare for a major excavation of the Money Pit.

The final episode of this series (the fifteenth by now), Blood Is Thicker, has the team finding out what the mysterious metal spike they encountered this season really is. Oh, and they also make new important discoveries while their drill season comes to an end as winter approaches.

Come the fifth season opener, Forever Family, peril strikes during a daring dive; Rick and Marty double down on their efforts to locate the original Money Pit with the most ambitious engineering operation in Oak Island history; and the fellowship of the dig is faced with the tragic loss of Drake.

The season ends on its eighteenth episode, Amazing Discoveries, where the moment of truth for the fellowship of the dig comes to be, as the guys are faced with the burning question as to whether they quit or continue.

In the final season (thus far), Rick's Big Bang Theory, it opens with Rick, Marty and the team returning (as always) to Oak Island to follow up on last seasons amazing discoveries, and double down on their efforts to locate the elusive Oak Island Money Pit.

Come the final episode, it's by-now 22nd, 'Lost and Founding, the team is handed a shocking new theory that may connect the Oak Island treasure to the birth of a nation!

But it's also the moment of truth for the fellowship as the guys are, once again, albeit more monetarily important, faced with the burning question: Quit or continue?

In closing, the only thing that I found annoying about the show us the "Captain Obvious" narration! I mean, he makes the same statement every time something new is found, simply with different words!

It, quite literally, sounds identical each and every time and worse than that is that he also explains what just happened, seconds after watching it ourselves! Like he is speaking to the blind, or some such audience!

Are Marie Antoinette’s jewels hidden in the triangle-shaped swamp? Or could the lost Ark of the Covenant be buried beneath Smith’s Cove? Or is something even more incredible concealed some 200 feet below the surface of the infamous Money Pit?

Now everyone who has dreamed of searching for buried treasure can take part in the quest to solve the mystery that has taken the lives of six men so far and — as the legend goes — must claim a seventh before the island will reveal its secrets! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the bonus of over 45 minutes of Special Features!

Relive every discovery from the very beginning when the smash hit HISTORY® series 'The Curse of Oak Island: The First Six Seasons' arrives on DVD December 10th, 2019 from Lionsgate.

'Judy' [Blu-ray Combo Pack]
(Renée Zellweger, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / PG-13 / 2019 / LGF)

Overview: Thirty years after rising to global stardom in The Wizard of Oz, showbiz legend Judy Garland (Renée Zellweger) arrives in London to perform a five-week sold-out run at The Talk of the Town.

While preparing for the shows, Garland battles with management, reminisces with friends and adoring fans, and embarks on a whirlwind romance with soon-to-be fifth husband Mickey Deans — all while bravely struggling to overcome intensifying anxiety and physical decline.

Featuring some of her best-known songs, the film celebrates the unyielding spirit and matchless talent of “the world’s greatest entertainer."

Blu-ray Verdict: I can remember watching 'The Wizard of Oz' on television once a year when I was a boy, so I have been acquainted with Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger, who did her own singing, and Darci Hall in flashbacks) for almost all my life.

I don't recall ever reading a biography about her, but I have watched at least one TV mini-series about her life. This movie, 'Judy' focuses on the last year of her life before her premature death from a drug overdose at the age of 47.

It starts by showing her reduced to accepting $150 for a live performance featuring her two younger children, Lorna (Bella Ramsey) and Joey Luft (Lewin Lloyd). I should add that Liza Minnelli, played by Gemma-Leah Devereux, was an adult by this time and appears in one scene.

They live in hotels until Garland gets so far behind in their rent that she is forced to apply for help from her second husband Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell), who is fighting for custody of Lorna and Joey.

One of the issues, which the film shows repeatedly, is Garland's alcoholism and addiction to amphetamines and barbiturates. Judy and Sid come to a temporary accord when she travels to London for a five week engagement at the cabaret-restaurant Talk of the Town while the children live with him.

Most of the film concerns her time in London with a few flashbacks to the time when she was filming 'The Wizard of Oz.' During the last year of her life, she met and married her fifth and last husband Mickey Deans (Finn Whitrock), who later wrote a book about their brief time together.

While Garland was in London, she was looked after by Rosalyn Wilder (Jessie Buckley), a long-time employee of the club, where the audience was known for throwing breadsticks at performers who displeased them.

In fact, Wilder is still alive and served as a consultant on the film, talking to Zellweger, Buckley, the film's production designer, and its costumer.

She also provided a tape recording by Deans of one of Garland's performances that the club had confiscated, but even so, I still feel as if the film took a few liberties with what actually happened.

For instance, a scene in which Wilder had to visit Garland's hotel room to help her dress for her performance never happened (from all my knowledge on the subject, so to speak).

But, and on the whole, Wilder has said that the film is a good representation of the time. On the other hand, none of Garland's children were involved with the film, although the filmmaker did read Lorna's book about her mother.

Liza posted on Facebook that she neither approved nor sanctioned the movie, but nonetheless Zellweger is truly excellent, as usual, and there is speculation that her performance will earn her a fourth Oscar nomination (she last won for 'Cold Mountain.').

Before filming began, she trained for one year with a voice coach and then for four months with the film's musical director. Oh, and she is three years older than Garland was at the time this film is set.

The make-up artist extended her nose slightly to match Garland's and she wore contact lenses to match Garland's eye color along with a variety of wigs, of course.

Two of the best performances are provided by Andy Nyman and John Dagleish as a fictional gay couple who invite Garland to their apartment for a late dinner after one of her performances.

One of the funniest scenes in the movie takes place when neither of them can figure out how to make an omelet! Overall, I would say that this is an excellent movie, although I can't vouch for its accuracy, of course.

Ultimately, 'Judy' acts as a melodramatic cautionary tale for aspiring performers and working artists by illuminating the sheer amount of no holds barred sacrifice that is needed to even have a chance at a career.

In truth, Zellweger's real life dysfunction from being failed by the Hollywood machine herself bleeds into her performance and gives it a truly lived-in authenticity that is also rather quite something to see. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• “From the Heart: The Making of Judy
Judy Image Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

Take a peek behind the curtain of one of Hollywood's greatest entertainers, Judy Garland, played by Oscar winner Renée Zellweger.

'Judy' arrives on Digital December 10th, 2019 and on Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus Digital), DVD and On Demand December 24th, 2019 from Lionsgate.

Official 'Becoming Judy' Behind The Scenes Clip

Official 'Celebrating Judy' Behind The Scenes Clip

Official 'Judy' Trailer

Official 'Judy' Website

Official 'Judy' Facebook Page

Official 'Judy' Instagram Page

Official 'Judy' Twitter Page

'The Berenstain Bears: Lend A Helping Hand'
(DVD / NR / 2019 / PBS Kids)

Overview: When Brother and Sister are on their way to a friends house they stop to help the frail and elderly Widder Jones.

When she recruits them to help with other chores they aren't excited to spend their Saturday cleaning out her attic.

Luckily they come to enjoy her company and discover that helping others can be rewarding.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'The Berenstain Bears' began as a children's literature franchise created by Stan and Jan Berenstain and continued by their son, Mike Berenstain; who assumed partial authorship in 2002, and full authorship in 2012 following Jan's death.

The books feature a family of anthropomorphic grizzly bears who generally learn a moral or safety-related lesson in the course of each story.

Indeed, since the 1962 debut of the first Berenstain Bears book, The Big Honey Hunt, the series has grown to over 300 titles, which have sold approximately 260 million copies in 23 languages.

Of course, as we know, 'The Berenstain Bears' franchise has also expanded well beyond the books, encompassing two television series and a wide variety of other products and licenses.

While enjoying decades of popularity and receiving numerous awards, the series has been applauded for portraying many tales of bravery, caring for others, and learning responsibility well beyond The Bears' young years.

Furthermore, 'The Berenstain Bears' is sensibly written to appeal to younger children (preschool and kindergarten age) and teach them values at the same time.

In this age of redundant stupidity in entertainment, parents need a show like this one to help illustrate how fair life should be, and give a firm footing to children, not overwhelm them with glitz, glam and gloss.

By keeping plots simple and allowing children to follow along at their level, this show simply teaches children how to be fair, consider other's feelings and have good sportsmanship.

These are core values which are not being taught to children at daycare dumps or underfunded public schools, in my humble opinion.

Here in 'The Berenstain Bears: Lend A Helping Hand,' when Mama concludes that there's too much "Me, me, me!" in Brother and Sister's behavior, she encourages them to help elderly Widow McGrizz deal with her full and messy attic.

While the cubs are resistant at first, they soon find that there are rewards in giving a helping hand to those less fortunate.

As always, this is yet another Berenstain Bear' story that provides a life lesson at the end. This one teaches about helping others less fortunate, which is always a lovely message to give our young ones around the winter holiday season.

Plus, enjoy five other fun adventures in Bear Country: Think of Those in Need, Hug and Make Up, Moving Day, Big Bear, Small Bear and The Birthday Boy.

These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Martin Barre - Live In NY: Special Edition'
(Martin Barre / DVD+2CD / NR / 2019 / Purple Pyramid - MVD Visual)

Overview: Martin Barre, best-known as guitarist in Jethro Tull - one of the biggest selling prog bands of all time - brings his famous guitar chops to the Big Apple in this rare concert capturing his solo band live as they rock thru the classic hits that earned him a reputation as one of the signature axemen of his era.

This Deluxe Collector's Edition contains a Concert DVD coupled with two Audio CDs of the entire concert, packaged in a gorgeous eight-panel digipak.

DVD Verdict: Containing a wondrous live performance captured in 2016 that takes the listener on a journey through highlights of both Jethro Tull's catalog - such as 'Thick As A Brick,' 'Locomotive Breath' and 'Skating Away' - plus songs from Barre's spectacular solo albums, Live In NY is a quite magnificent DVD+2CD package, that's for darn sure!

1. 'Hammer'
2. 'To Cry You A Song'
3. 'Minstrel In The Gallery'
4. 'Steal Your Heart Away'
5. 'Back To Steel'
6. 'Love Story'
7. 'Misere'
8. 'Eleanor Rigby'
9. 'Sweet Dream'
10. 'Rock Me Baby'
11. 'Thick As A Brick'
12. 'Blackest Eyes'
13. 'Skating Away (On The Thin Ice of a New Day)'
14. 'Crossroads'
15. 'Martin's Jig'
16. 'Hymn 43'
17. 'Bad Man'
18. 'A Song For Jeffrey'
19. 'Moment of Madness'
20. 'Teacher'
21. 'Fatman'
22. 'A New Day Yesterday'
23. 'Locomotive Breath'

Playing on a small stage, lit for the most part by blue and purple spots, Barre and his band bring forth one of the most rivetingly enjoyable live shows that I've seen in many a year.

The show opens with a brilliant, forthright 'Hammer' and then bleeds seamlessly into both 'To Cry You A Song' and the bass-led beauty 'Minstrel In The Gallery.'

The slow poke musical drawl of 'Steal Your Heart Away' is followed by 'Back To Steel,' the mid-tempo storytelling of 'Love Story,' the guitar lushness of 'Misere,' and then comes Barre's rendition of The Beatles' 'Eleanor Rigby.'

The guitar rock of 'Sweet Dream' is another fan favorite and is backed by the low-key blues vibe of 'Rock Me Baby,' a near-ten minute version of 'Thick As A Brick,' and the first CD rounds out with the thunderous 'Blackest Eyes.'

Now midway through the concert and the second CD opens with the melodic bounce of 'Skating Away (On The Thin Ice of a New Day),' the mandolin-led duo of 'Crossroads' and 'Martin's Jig / Hymn 43,' and then comes the warbling blues funk of 'Bad Man' and the low key brilliance of 'A Song For Jeffrey.'

The frenetic 'Moment of Madness' is another rich delight to behold and is followed by the drum-led 'Teacher,' the screamingly-energetic 'Fatman,' and then comes to a close with 'A New Day Yesterday,' and then rounds out on yet another musical high with a powerful 'Locomotive Breath.'

FYI: A superb live album from Jethro Tull guitarist, Martin Barre, sees its first ever vinyl release in a gorgeous 2LP gatefold jacket RED vinyl!

Official Purchase Link

'Martin Barre - Live In NYC' Official Trailer

Bad Company: Official Authorized 40th Anniversary
(Simon Kirke, Jason Bonham, Paul Rodgers, Zoot Money, Ian Hunter / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / MVD Visual - FilmRise)

Overview: Supported by Bad Company's major hit tracks, this candid film celebrates rock's hottest anthems in the company of the group's remaining three members: Paul Rodgers, Simon Kirke and Mick Ralphs, alongside contemporaries Brian May, Zoot Money, Sam Moore, Joe Elliott, Jason Bonham and many more!

Blu-ray Verdict: This is the story of the English rock group Bad Company from their early roots, through the breakup and reuniting and as much as it only runs 84 minutes, you should know that coming complete with the "officially authorized" tagline means that what you get here on this new Blu-ray is the most incredible, revealing and heartfelt look at one of the worlds greatest ever rock bands.

If we were not aware from the off, the documentary takes us by the hand and introduces us to the band formed in Westminster, London, in 1973 by singer Paul Rodgers and guitarist Mick Ralphs (later adding drummer Simon Kirke and bassist Boz Burrell).

We learn that Peter Grant, who managed the rock band Led Zeppelin, also managed Bad Company until 1982, which was news to me, so that was rather interesting to know.

We watch as all the success had by the band throughout the 1970s pours out onto our screens. Indeed, their first three albums, Bad Company (1974), Straight Shooter (1975), and Run with the Pack (1976), reached the top five in the album charts in both the UK and US.

And many of their singles/songs, such as the self-titled 'Bad Company', 'Can't Get Enough', 'Good Lovin' Gone Bad', 'Feel Like Makin' Love', 'Ready for Love', 'Shooting Star', and 'Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy', remain staples of classic rock radio even today.

Having sold 15.5 million RIAA-certified albums in the United States alone, through rare archive and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, Bad Company comes back to life before our very eyes here in this quite wondrous new Blu-ray from MVD Visual / FilmRise.

Furthermore, this first-ever authorized Bad Company documentary film exposes the truth behind the history of the band, including revelations about past management, sell-out stadium tours and the loss of bass player Boz Burrell and so much more.

With the band having "died" along the way due to one thing or another - due to both external and, as we find out here, internal issues - on December 4th, 1995 the four original members of Bad Company managed to come together for the first time in thirteen years to attend the funeral of their former manager, Peter Grant.

This would be a precursor of things to come, of course, and suddenly, slowly but surely, the Bad Company empire began to have new life breathed within it. Which led, as we all now know, to a full on reunion and their subsequent 40th Anniversary Tour.

Director Jon Brewer ('BB King: The Life of Riley') joins Paul Rodgers, Simon Kirks and Mick Ralphs on the road, and for the first time ever has chronicled this story as told by the band themselves, Bad Company.

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Official Purchase Link

'Bluebird' [Blu-ray]
(Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / MVD Visual - Cleopatra Entertainment)

Overview: Discover the origins of megastars like Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift while following emerging singer-songwriters as they chase their dreams inside The Bluebird Cafe, Nashville's accidental landmark that has altered the course of music history.

It's 35 year history is revealed thru never-before-told stories from those that have worked, played, been discovered and helped preserve this unassuming strip-mall haunt that is the bedrock of American songwriting.

Blu-ray Verdict: In what has turned out to be a massive Festival fan favorite - Official Selection: SXSW (2019), Nashville Film Festival (2019), Newport Beach Film Festival (2019) and more! - 'Bluebird' (or as it might well go by on the circuit, 'The Bluebird Cafe') is, quite easily one of the most heartfelt and revealing looks behind the curtain of country music brought out for many a decade.

In what is, without question, a most beautiful filmed documentary about the famed and historic Bluebird Cafe, and having never been fortunate enough to visit myself, watching it through the eyes of the filmmakers, it immediately draws you in and begs for you to come and see it in person.

Watching it now, and with a healthy 90 minute run time, 'Bluebird' (directed and produced by Brian Loschiavo with added production from Erika Wollam Nichols), the production is simply gorgeous throughout.

A mesmerizing documentary about the Holy Grail of country music, it lovingly showcases the careers that have begun there and, of course, follows them through to who they became within the music world today.

Combining behind the scenes footage with a generous mix of established and aspiring singer/songwriters, featuring now-known stars such as Taylor Swift, Sam Hunt, Maren Morris, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Trish Yearwood, Vince Gill along with the stars of the hit TV series Nashville, we get to hear their individual stories.

Just imagining how many great songs the walls of the Bluebird have heard over the decades is amazing enough in its own right, but to watch someone like Taylor Swift go back to those roots, sit alongside an accompanying guitarist and just acoustically sing songs to her fans there in the audience - both young and slightly older - is enough to bring tears to your eyes (which it will, trust me!).

Entertaining and rightfully already critically acclaimed, 'Bluebird' is not just the most perfect documentary for country music fans, but fans of all genres of music and film fans too!

Bonus Features: Interviews, Theatrical Trailer and Image Slideshow.

Official Purchase Link

'Bluebird' Official Trailer

'Monochrome: Black White & Blue'
(Morgan Freeman, Chuck Berry, Bill Wyman, B.B. King, Jake Bugg, et al / DVD / NR / 2019 / MVD Visual)

Overview: Director Jon Brewer ('B.B. King: The Life of Riley') lovingly defragments the history of not only blues music but also the plight of the people in America's deep south, bringing the story of blues of life through powerful interviews, live musical performances and sweeping landscapes.

DVD Verdict: Featuring a remarkable list of renowned artists and luminaries such as Morgan Freeman, Chuck Berry, Bill Wyman, B.B. King, Jake Bugg, Carlos Santana, Ronnie Wood Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and many more, the 90 minutes that 'Monochrome: Black White & Blue' runs for is chock full of revealing, eye opening and at times unbelieve stories from some of the worlds greatest ever blues originators.

Indeed, this quite wondrous 3 part series re-sets trends of thinking about blues music and its roots for there have been, and will continue to be, documentation on Blues music long after we have gone.

However, what Brewer discovers here in his extended encounters in America's Deep South is that there was no music called 'blues' when the original creators stepped into a new feel of musical expressionism.

No, there was simply pain and oppression and plenty of it, and the music was the salve that, if only momentarily, set them free.

Starting in the early 1800's Louisiana, slave trading and transportation of slaves from Haiti and Africa, bring with them a drum beat musical style and a destiny carved out of oppression thereafter.

Ergo, music, rhythm and dance soon became ways for people to communicate and so the blues came from pain and despair. And over the years, the blues has grown to feature as a more joyous expression within genres such as Gospel and Jazz. Indeed, and as one person puts it, "Blues is to jazz as blood is to the body."

From America's deep South, to Detroit and New York this captivating and enlightening documentary 'Monochrome: Black White & Blue' traces the evolution of blues through pivotal moments in American history.

Official Purchase Link

'Monochrome: Black White & Blue' Official Trailer

'Nighthawks: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Janet Montgomery, Kevin Zegers, Chace Crawford, Michele Weaver, Lola Bessis, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2019 / FilmRise - MVD Visual)

Overview: Wide-eyed Midwest transplant Stan (Chace Crawford) agrees to play wingman to his calculating and privileged roommate Chad (Kevin Zegers) as they embark upon an exploration of glittering New York nightlife, whose darkest secrets are held captive by an elite band of millennials known as Nighthawks.

Blu-ray Verdict: Chock full of smart writing, an (at times) engrossing style of cinematography, and rummaging through some rather heavy subject matters and human emotions, 'Nighthawks' may miss the bigger point sometimes, but overall it's definitely a film to invite friends around to watch, that's for sure.

Surprising subversive, especially with tone, style, and structure, the film is a rather fascinating thriller, whilst taking a smart look at the mindset of the millennial generation; in a different, albeit also stylized way.

Worth a watch as it expertly delivers moments of fun and fascinating conversations, some of already said that the writing is "... overly verbose, narcissistic, and incredibly distracting in the same way an overacted play might be," personally I didn't find it to be so.

In fact, to my mind, 'Nighthawks' is an intriguing and compelling film with a lot going for it. The hip ensemble cast knows their collective marks, the glitzy, haunting visuals are spot on most of the time, and the sharp, audacious script enables the actors to bring their characters to life wonderfully.

Complete with a stylized, confident direction from writer/director Grant S. Johnson, one that forces you to enter a darkly-colored otherworld, come in in, take a look around, and decide for yourself, my friends. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 and comes with the Special Features of:

Theatrical Trailer
Photo Gallery

'Nighthawks' Movie Trailer

'Black Angel: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Dan Duryea, June Vincent, Peter Lorre, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1946) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: When the beautiful singer Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling) is slain in her chic apartment, the men in her life become suspects.

There is Martin Blair (Dan Duryea, Scarlet Street), her alcoholic musician ex-husband, nursing a broken heart; there is the shady nightclub owner Marko (Peter Lorre, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon) who has been sneaking around her place, and there is Kirk Bennett (John Phillips), the adulterer who found his mistress's dead body and fled the scene.

When Bennett is convicted and sentenced to death, his long-suffering wife Catherine (June Vincent) joins forces with the heartbroken pianist Martin Blair to uncover the truth.

Blu-ray Verdict: Elegantly directed by Hollywood veteran Roy William Neill (best known for his 11 Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone), 'Black Angel' is an underappreciated film noir treasure, adapted from a novel by the acclaimed crime writer Cornell Woolrich (Phantom Lady).

Kirk Bennett (Phillips) is convicted of a singer's murder, but his wife Catherine (Vincent) tries to prove him innocent with the help of the victim's estranged husband, Martin Blair (Duryea).

However, we first meet him at his worst, drunk and disorderly, a man drowning his sorrows after being dumped by his gorgeous, nasty wife, who has since been murdered.

But when Duryea meets June Vincent, he shapes up and love blooms. We root for Vincent and Duryea to find the murderer so Vincent can divorce her cheating husband, marry Duryea, and live happily ever after in her cozy home in the suburbs of L.A.

How very likable and nice are Vincent and Duryea. And how nice it is that neither of these likable people, mutually attracted as they are, acted on their feelings which, kept in check by the demands of sleuthing, are simmering just beneath the surface.

For a mid 1940s film noir entry 'Black Angel' is modest in terms of visuals and a general noir vibe, but with strong casting, intelligent scripting and a genuinely interesting mystery driving the story forward, it proves to be an enjoyable who done it?

Director Neill, in spite of some gaping plot questions that surface, does a fine job of dangling carrots to keep us guessing on how this will eventually pan out.

He also ensures that the principal players are given room to breath, with Duryea repaying the director's approach with a great, and rare, sympathetic performance.

A couple of technical flourishes hint at what a better film it could have been in terms of atmosphere and darkening of the mood, such as the re-creation of the murder in a swirling expressionistic haze.

Broderick Crawford plays Captain Flood, who is really not totally concerned either way in innocence or guilt, because his squad is three months behind solving cases.

Former Goldwyn girl Dowling is a knockout and looks like someone would want to kill her throughout! It's all held together nicely by the likes of Peter Lorre, who plays a somewhat-decent club owner instead of the usual bad guy; and other somewhat-less-known character actors of the 1940's.

That all said, 'Black Angel' - complete with some deft observations on emotionally charged characters shaded in grey - still holds enough interest to entice the film noir fan, that's for sure. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new restoration from original film elements by Arrow Films
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary by the writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode
A Fitting End, a new video appreciation by the film historian Neil Sinyard
Original trailer
Gallery of original stills and promotional materials
Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Philip Kemp

'Black Angel' Original Movie Trailer

'Edge of the Axe: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Barton Faulks, Christina Marie Lane, Page Mosely, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1988) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: The rural community of Paddock County is being rocked by the crazed exploits of an axe-wielding psychopath, who stalks the night in a black trenchcoat and mask.

As the victims pile up, the authorities attempt to keep a lid on the situation, whilst computer whizz-kid Gerald and girlfriend Lillian seek to unmask the killer before the town population reaches zero.

Blu-ray Verdict: Whilst Spain's contribution to the slasher genre has not been by any means prolific, they have made a few noteworthy inclusions.

Admittedly, the lackluster 'El Cepo' was not the most memorable of titles, but Jesus Franco's 'Colegialas violadas' and Juan Piquer's 'Mil gritos tiene la noche' gained notoriety by joining the lengthy DPP list in the United Kingdom and spawning a legion of admirers.

Jose Ramon Larraz, the Catalonian born filmmaker, first sprang to public attention with the outstanding thriller 'Síntomas', which earned him a Golden Palm nomination in 1974.

Many regard his greatest cinematic project to be 'El Mirón' from 1977. The movie was impressively visual and had very little dialogue, which meant that everything was suggested with body language and eye contact and it made Héctor Alterio's award winning lead-performance much more of an outstanding achievement.

Throughout the majority of his career, Larraz has demonstrated an ability to convey a cohesive and fluid plot without depending on gratuitous shock tactics.

He continued to work steadily in cinema, travelling from his home in the United Kingdom to shoot pictures across Europe. In 1987 he directed the ambitious 'Descanse en Piezas', which was the first of two American-Spanish produced direct-to-video splatter flicks.

Piezas boasted a creative synopsis but was plagued by a collectively inept cast and struggled to find a sizeable audience.

Released in 1988, 'Edge of the Axe' (or, as it was named in Spain, 'Al filo del hacha' was Larraz's first slasher movie, although it wouldn't be his last.

He returned to the category in 1990 with Deadly Manor, which signaled his exit from horror pictures. After the uninspiring comedy 'Sevilla Connection' in 1992, Larraz has remained anonymous in cinema, briefly resurfacing to direct a TV movie at the turn of the century.

Shot on location in Mexico, 'Edge of the Axe' tells the tale of a masked maniac stalking a small Northern Californian suburb. In the opening, a woman is brutally murdered in a car wash, which is the first of many successfully conveyed set pieces.

We are later introduced to a likable cast, including Page Mosley playing a technically gifted drifter called Gerald Martin. After relocating to Paddock County, he meets with Lillian Nebbs (Christina Marie Lane), and the couple begin a romantic liaison.

Meanwhile, as the psychopathic killer continues his rampage across the county, Gerald uses his online resources to find a link between the victims. Could his girlfriend be the killer's intended target?

Whereas 'Descanse en Piezas' boasted a logically creative plot, which mixed everything from suicide and reanimation to Dead and Buried-alike hostile small-townsfolk, 'Edge of the Axe' is a typical slasher-whodunit that swims comfortably in the ocean of genre trappings.

But unlike the huge majority of category inhabitants that relied so heavily on their heritage, Larraz's opus makes excellent use of the standard format to deliver an atmospheric and impressively dark environment.

Despite a lack of gratuitous gore, the murders are impressively realistic and at times it feels almost like we are watching a snuff movie. The opening killing has become something of a favorite amongst collectors, although personally I found much more creativity in some of the later slaughters.

Larraz is an experienced director and it shows consistently throughout the runtime. In places he manages to build some credible suspense and the tense final is competently handled. Javier Elorrieta's simple but unsettling score creates a harrowing mood and Tote Trenas' cinematography is visibly crisp.

Whilst the cast of 'Descanse en piezas' were incredibly poor to the extent that they ruined the feature in places, 'Edge of the Axe' marks a significant improvement in terms of dramatics.

Semi-prolific slasher star Page Mosley (Open House, Girl's Nite Out) delivers a career best performance as a likable lead, whilst the majority of cast members are approachable in supporting roles.

Suspicion points at almost every character and Larraz wraps the plot neatly with an ambitious conclusion. Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that Hacha is a slasher movie devoid of stereotypes.

You'll find no horny beer-swigging teenagers here. John Carpenter spoke elegantly of his decision to set 'Halloween' in a normal everyday neighborhood, in order to distance his movie from the haunted houses and dilapidated castles that have signified the genre.

By doing so, he brought terror into our front rooms and reminded us that horror can strike in any place at any time. Giving us ordinary victims in ordinary environments, Larraz incorporated Carpenter's philosophy and avoided the platitudes so commonly linked with the slasher cycle.

The killer looks creepy in Michael Myers-like blank mask and rain slicker, and the movie transcends its budget. There are numerous flaws throughout the runtime, but they never detract from the overall enjoyment, and the flick excels far more than it disappoints.

In closing, 'Edge of the Axe' may have been released too late to make an impact on the category, but reflection proves that its one of the best late entries to the cycle.

Finally after a few attempts, the Spaniards have a slasher movie to be proud of. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
English and Spanish language versions of the feature
Original uncompressed mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
Newly translated English subtitles for the Spanish soundtrack
Brand new audio commentary with actor Barton Faulks
Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
Newly-filmed interview with actor Barton Faulks
The Pain in Spain - a newly-filmed interview with special effects and make-up artist Colin Arthur
Image Gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing by Amanda Reyes

'Edge of the Axe' Original Movie Trailer

'Joker: 4K Ultra HD+ Blu-ray + Digital'
(Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, et al / 4K Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Forever alone in a crowd, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) longs for any light to shine on him.

Trying his hand as a stand-up comic, he finds the joke always seems to be on him.

Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty and, ultimately, betrayal, Arthur makes one bad decision after another that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events.

Blu-ray Verdict: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the simply majestical 'Joker’ in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this January 7th, 2020.

For my money, this 'Joker: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' combo pack's sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.

So, what we have is 'Joker' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Native 4K (2160p), HDR: Dolby Vision + HDR10, Aspect ratio: 1.85:1, and Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHD's, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.

Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; such as the streets of Gotham coming alive behind Joaquin as he gets beaten by the thugs, or even the subway train scene where he finally loses control. It just all comes more vividly to life, which is amazing to see, in truth.

Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material (notably the scenes where the camera pans on a vividly disturbing close up of Joaquin's face once he has the clown paint on; and of the madness bubbling under the surface) now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the 1080p Blu-ray accounting.

As for the audio, well we have: English: Dolby Atmos, English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), English: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps), Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps), French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps), Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1, Hindi: Dolby Digital 5.1, Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1, Tamil: Dolby Digital 5.1, and Telugu: Dolby Digital 5.1.

Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.

Phew! OK, so, as for the movie itself, well, in truth, while the trailers for this movie have may seemed like there was potential for an action packed movie, this movie, clearly (and even before it came to theaters) was intended to be a progressive character study.

Indeed, you shouldn't go into this movie expecting intense action or the joker we know of the past. This is a movie about how Arthur Fleck becomes the Joker. Simple as.

I have seen so many bad reviews about how boring or slow the movie is, but I believe it was utter perfection.

Furthermore, Todd Phillips' direction and script are masterstrokes. If it were a painting it would be a Turner, with bright violent skies, and dark sad landscapes.

His beautiful melting pot of inspiration features large doses of Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver, alongside the physiological battery acid from more recent pictures such as Fight Club and Black Swan.

It swirls together to birth this bitter, gritty, dark, mesmerizing masterpiece, that both requires and demands, multiple, in-depth viewings.

The first part of the movie we begin to understand Arthur as a person. All of his interactions with everyone in his life, be it good or bad. The whole point of a character study is evolution. And this is far and away one of the greatest evolutions of a character I have ever seen in a movie.

Joaquin Phoenix's performance is by far the best acting I have seen in a movie possibly in the last few decades. We see a challenged person be challenged by society and it completely breaks him down over time.

And Joaquin isn't acting, he is evolving all throughout the movie. If anyone thinks he doesn't put on an Oscar winning performance, they're out of their effing mind!

Yes, the movie is slow to start, but it has to be. We couldn't just jump into the Joker and all the chaos. We need to know where it came from to begin with.

The whole compilation of the movie is amazing. The complete Oscar deserving performance of Joaquin, the choreography, the cinematography, the score. Everything is in perfect harmony.

While there may have been a lot of controversy surrounding this movie, the team put together a perfect movie and I pity those who can't appreciate the tears and sweat and emotion that went into making it.

I have always been so one-sided in my movie preferences between Marvel and DC. I feel like Marvel is so much better overall and most movies DC puts out are trash!

But Joker is far and away my favorite comic movie. Even though it takes a completely different spin on comic movies it allows you to appreciate the evolution to appreciate this movie.

It's not an action movie, but it's really rips and tears at all the emotions in one movie while adding a wild suspenseful kick. No other comic book movie has done that before. Maybe none ever will.

The cinematography is astounding, and MUST be in contention for an Academy Award, alongside Best Lead, Best Direction and best Sound Mixing. Some of the shots could have been lifted from a Time Magazine piece on 'City Life' they're that artistically powerful.

Whole, dialogue-free sequences that say far more with silence and sounds of a city teetering on the brink of oblivion in the background than anyone could ever say.

The sound mixing to have conversations, telephones, car horns, shouting, trains prevalent in the background audio leaking into the foreground does what Nolan did in Dunkirk and pushes further the feeling of strain.

The idea that even noise is seeping in from the city and soon the barricade will break and it'll drown us all in it's filth, corruption and decadence.

In closing, and simply put, 'Joker' is a true, unabashed masterpiece. So dark, so dirty, so vindictive of a modern flawed and broken societal system, but it always reminds you: Put on a happy face.

As for the special features included here on this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition, the stand out for me has to be The Making of: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Creation of the Film, for with people such as Cinematographer Lawrence Sher, ASC telling us that as much as the film's title might sway you to believe, 'Joker; was all about the cinema and not the jokes.

Explaining that they set out from the off to tell a cinematic story that brought the origin of The Joker to the viewers via hued scenes and heavily detailed and story boarded vignettes, the comedy was always put to the side.

He goes on to actually connect movies such as Old School and The Hangover as films that showcased a lot of the same cinematic beliefs, whether you saw or noticed it yourselves at the time.

Sher, who has worked with director Todd Phillips many times, further explains that they wanted to make this movie better than anything they had ever done before and knew that they HAD to make the most uncompromised film they had made together to date.

Interestingly enough, given that most movies like this are shot at 2:35, Sher explains that both he and Phillips agreed on 1:85 from the start which was great as they then wanted to shoot the movie in 65mm film.

This would have meant that it became a movie of extremes, where in wide shots Joaquin was small cutting against extreme close ups that showed an anamorphic depth, but that they went down that path, but just couldn't afford it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

• The Making Of: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Creation of the Film
• Joaquin Phoenix Alternate Takes
• Costume Tests
• Joker: Vision & Fury
• Becoming Joker
• Please Welcome… Joker!
• Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos

On December 17th, 2019, 'Joker' will be available to own in high definition and standard definition from select digital retailers including Amazon, FandangoNOW, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, Xbox and others.

On January 7th, 2020, 'Joker' will be made available digitally on Video On Demand services from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles, along with being released on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD too.

Official 'Joker' Trailer

'Joker: 4K Ultra HD' Blu-ray Amazon Purchase Link

Official 'Joker' Facebook Page!

Official 'Joker' Twitter Page!

'The Lighthouse' [Blu-ray + Digital]
(Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / LGF)

Overview: From Robert Eggers, the visionary filmmaker behind the modern horror masterpiece The Witch, comes this hypnotic and hallucinatory tale of two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.

As an approaching storm threatens to sweep them from the rock and strange apparitions emerge from the fog, each man begins to suspect that the other has become dangerously unmoored.

Blu-ray Verdict: The opening sequence plays like something from 1920's era cinema. The chug-chug-chug of a boat slamming against the waves of an angry sea while birds flap and chirp alongside. We hear the wind and "feel" the severe ocean spray.

Several minutes elapse before any word is spoken. Immediately noticeable is the nearly square aspect ratio; the rarely (these days) seen 1.19:1 frame, making the black and white images appear both surreal and ominous.

All of the above makes perfect sense when we realize this is writer-director Robert Eggers' first feature film since his 2015 indie horror gem The Witch won dozens of festival awards.

Mr. Eggers obviously has his own vision for projects, and his approach borders on experimental, eschewing conventional. He co-wrote this script with his brother Max, and evidently much was drawn from the actual journals of lighthouse keepers; something that is evident in the vocabulary and the effects of solitude.

4-time Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe stars alongside Robert Pattison as the two men charged with a 4 week assignment of tending to a lighthouse. The film is set in 1890, and Dafoe plays Thomas Wake, the epitome of a salty old sea dog, replete with bad leg, hardcore Atlantic accent, and upside down pipe.

Pattinson is Ephraim Winslow, the assistant Wickie, who faces non-stop demands from Wake, and initially maintains a quietness as he goes about his duties; what Wake calls the 'doldrums.'

We learn little about either man's past. For Wake, other than knowing his previous assistant went mad, the clue is when he mentions "13 Christmases spent at sea" costing him a family. For Ephraim, when Wake asks, "Tell me what's a timberman want with being a Wickie?" we get some insight into Ephraim's desired future.

Eggers has delivered the anti-buddy movie. It's a bleak, slow-motion race to insanity caused by being isolated with only one other person; a person you aren't fond of.

Only this is not a director or a film content with showing two men stuck on a storm-battered rock, as they slip towards insanity. No, we viewers are forced to experience some of these same feelings - how much of what we see is actually happening?

It's mesmerizing and hypnotic, and the above-mentioned narrow screen aspect purposefully emphasizes the sense of confinement and claustrophobia.

With no color and only a couple of characters, well, ok, actually 3 if you count the mermaid (!), and, ok, well, 4 if you count the seagull (!), the film still manages to pound us with sensory overload.

We can barely process all we are seeing, despite relatively minimal 'typical' action. The black and white images are mostly just various shades of gray, and sunshine is non-existent. Cinematographer Jarin Blaschke (The Witch) embraces the dreariness by allowing the fog, lanterns, candles, wind, rain, and harsh elements to become characters unto themselves.

However, nothing is in sync with our two leads. Composer Mark Korven fills the many lapses in dialogue with sounds and tones we haven't heard before, yet they fit perfectly here. (This is also quite likely the first film to utilize farts and foghorns in harmony).

Director Eggers filmed this on Cape Forchu in Nova Scotia, and the extreme weather and less-than-welcoming terrain create quite the visuals - as do the faces of our two lead actors.

Dafoe may never have chewed scenery so delightfully as he does here, and Pattinson starts slowly before delivering his best work - including a ferocious rant that is fascinating to watch and contrast to his character's first meal with Dafoe.

Is this a horror film? A fantasy? Macabre comedy? There is simply no way to describe this other than bizarre. It's truly miserable cinema, and I loved every minute of it. This is a Pillar Box Presentation (1.19:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• “The Lighthouse: A Dark & Stormy Tale” Featurette
• Audio Commentary with Co-Writer & Director Robert Eggers
• Deleted Scenes

'The Lighthouse' will be available on Blu-ray™ plus Digital and DVD for the suggested retail price of $24.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Official 'The Lighthouse' Trailer

'MacGyver: Season 3'
(Lucas Till, George Eads, Tristin Mays, Justin Hires, Meredith Eaton, et al / 5-Disc DVD / NR / 2019 / LGF)

Overview: In this third action-packed season, MacGyver leads his crack team on one high-risk mission after another, crisscrossing the globe to keep the world safe from harm – while using little more than bubble gum, a paper clip, and his unending supply of resourcefulness.

DVD Verdict: Sometimes we can get stuck on a self righteous path guided by sentimentality. Shows like Knight Rider, Street Hawk, Airwolf, Manimal, The A-Team were great when we were kids because of our ability to suspend disbelief, but none of them have stood up to the test of time!

Dare I say it, they are actually pretty awful. Weak plots, over acting, standard fight choreography, and far too much reliance on the show's unique gimmick.

Luckily for all of us, 'MacGyver' is not one of those shows! Yes, sure, plots can be a wee bit too thin, but they are highly entertaining! The show is also chock full of impossibly beautiful people, which to be fair who doesn't like looking at, and they are all great at their day jobs; which is rather nice!

There is plenty of action, as expected, and all are helped along by modern SFX and thus the "gimmick" of the '80s Macgyver (he being Richard Dean Anderson back then) is still alive and kicking (now within Lucas Till), that's for sure!

For those not in the know, the show is a classic action packed weekly adventure based around a secret organization. The only difference is that the protagonist uses his brain and logic instead of brawn when in tight spots.

It's a refreshing take on a secret agent and his team with the cast diverse and every one having their own skill set nicely tucked away! The weekly plots are filled with adventure, humor, friendship, explosions, and heartbreak galore!

Not to mention the plot twists that rewrite the very essence of the show! Ergo, it's these intriguing plots that kept me anticipating the next episode and the adventure waiting therein.

In this third action-packed season, MacGyver leads his crack team on one high-risk mission after another, crisscrossing the globe to keep the world safe from harm – while using little more than bubble gum, a paper clip, and his unending supply of resourcefulness.

Personally, I like the cast, and the light-hearted jokes are fun to bounce off one another and the different captions they put up on screen for the various locations are inspired!

In truth, a lot of the original plots simply would not work nowadays. A lot of old school MacGyver plots could be solved by having a smartphone, or simply by googling!

Indeed, the original MacGyver was in a completely different time (literally) where simply cutting a phone line meant you had no communication whatsoever! Pagers were cutting edge technology and cell phones cost $10 a minute to use (oh, and if you can recall, they were also bigger and heavier than your typical cinder block!)

These reimagined shows are great and worth a watch with some new school MacGyver "tricks" lovingly just as unrealistic as the original; but still fun all the same, of course.

In closing, Lucas Till has the MacGyver torch passed to him and he fits the role brilliantly. I grew up loving the classic series with Richard Dean Anderson but this fresh, modern reboot has my happy approval!

It's a show the whole family can watch together, emphasizing intelligence, optimism and practical science instead of guns and gratuitous violence. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

The third season of CBS’s hit reboot of the ‘80s classic comes home when 'MacGyver: Season 3' arrives on DVD January 14th, 2020 from Lionsgate.

The 'MacGyver: Season 3' DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $29.98.

'Primal' [Blu-ray + Digital]
(Nicolas Cage, Famke Janssen, Kevin Durand, Michael Imperioli, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / LGF)

Overview: When Frank Walsh (Nicolas Cage), a hunter and collector of rare and exotic animals, bags a priceless white jaguar for a zoo, he figures it’ll be smooth sailing to a big payday.

But the ship bearing Frank’s precious cargo has two predators caged in its hold: the cat, and a political assassin being extradited to the U.S.

After the assassin breaks free – and then frees the jaguar – Frank feverishly stalks the ship’s cramped corridors in hot pursuit of his prey, right up until the thrilling, unpredictable climax.

Blu-ray Verdict: Come on now, before you even press play you know what you're in for here re: Nicolas Cage + a B-Movie = tremendous, unadulterated fun and nonsense on the most highest of cheesiest levels!

Never failing to entertain within this genre that he is so accustomed to undertaking, setting your expectations ahead of time for this latest piece seems justified, sure, I'll give you that, but weirdly, 'Primal' does actually have some quite breathtakingly wonderful moments!

OK, sure, the film is obviously flawed and sometimes quite silly on oh so many levels once it gets going, but it's also chock full of good and light-hearted fun that sets Cage up nicely to battle the now-uncaged wild!

We begin deep in the jungle where Frank Walsh (Cage) is shown to us as being a thick-skinned, smart-mouthed, secretly-actually-a-good-guy hunter who's on a mission of getting his freshest catches (including a vicious one of a kind jaguar) shipped to the American zoo's.

In other words, characteristically, it's the type of character Cage enjoys and that we enjoy watching and routing for just as much; if not more. So, everybody gets on the ship, including an armada with a big time prisoner and so yeah, within a couple of days everything all goes to hell!

Now it's Cage vs. the uncaged, which now happens to be animals and the main villain himself! Yep, the story is pretty straight forward from that point on, but moving at a rather sprightly pace it lovingly never crosses the line into dull or boring, trust me!

Featuring some classic action sequences, some creature feature thrills and even some Cage one-liner quips that are pretty funny at times, most of the characters are, well, clichéd and most times dumb, but the quantity of easily expendable characters compensates nicely!

Kevin Durand as the villain is ok, fort he most part, but Famke Janssen as Dr. Ellen Taylor is just, well, distracting throughout re: her obvious facial plastic surgery work. Sorry, but it really is distracting on some many levels as no matter what her expression is, her face doesn't move a jot!

Regardless, 'Primal' (together with Cage's latter line "I've got a real nice cage for you" to the villain of the piece) is well above average and will satiate all the Cage fans out there just nicely. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

• The Making of Primal

A thrilling and action-packed film that Nicolas Cage fans will love, 'Primal' will be available on Blu-ray and DVD for the suggested retail price of $22.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Official 'Primal' Trailer

'Jexi' [Blu-ray + Digital]
(Adam Devine, Rose Byrne, Wanda Sykes, Alexandra Shipp, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / LGF)

Overview: To Phil (Adam Devine), a hot Saturday night is binge-watching reality shows and ordering takeout. Phil needs to get a life.

What Phil gets is a new phone with an unexpected feature: Jexi (Rose Byrne), a badass A.I. life coach determined to make a man out of him.

With Jexi’s help, Phil attracts his dream job, fun friends, and a beautiful girl.

But when Phil grows less dependent on Jexi, she morphs into a tech nightmare determined to keep Phil all to herself in this star-studded comedy from the writers of The Hangover and Bad Moms.

Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the know, 'Jexi' is about the titular Siri/Alexa-like phone program (voiced by Rose Byrne) with a mind of her own who ends up wreaking havoc with the life of an introverted phone addict played by Adam Devine.

In truth, Jexi makes this film. Her smack talking brings the biggest laughs. I also appreciated that this avoids some of the clichés you usually get with AI-run-amok films.

Jexi lets you know what she is from the get-go. There's no slow burn of her pretending to act regularly or slowly gaining sentience. However, her arc does become more predictable in the second half.

They really didn't have to hire a known actor to do this. Plenty of people could've easily spoken in a phone-like voice without vocal change. Still, I do admit that Byrne does a good job.

I also liked the usually more over-the-top Devine who does a good job with a more subdued role. (This is especially a relief because I didn't think he did a great job in his last straight man role in Isn't it Romantic.)

That all said, please understand that this movie works more on a feel-good level than a laugh-a-minute one. Jexi is in about every other scene and when she isn't there, some people may find some of the scenes; many of them involving Devine's character predictably growing as a person, too leisurely for their taste.

In closing, if you have ever owned a smart phone / device, this is a movie for you! What would you do when your phone knows better then you do (or thinks it does?)

Ergo, 'Jexi' is enjoyable viewing for anyone who has experience with smart devices and wants a laugh at the struggles of life and what joys might be experienced when you allow yourself to live. It's worth giving a chance to sometime, trust me. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• “Jexi: Making Life Better” Featurette
• “Unboxing Jexi” Featurette
• “Filming in Fog City” Featurette
• “Tech Bros” Featurette
• “Phone Fixation” Featurette

The 'Jexi' Blu-ray and DVD will include brand-new making-of featurettes, including “Jexi: Making Life Better” and “Unboxing Jexi,” and will be available for the suggested retail price of $24.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Official 'Jexi' Trailer

'The Turkey Bowl'
(Ryan Hansen, Kristen Hager, Alan Ritchson, et al / DVD / R / 2019 / Lionsgate Films)

Overview: Patrick Hodges, a former small-town high school quarterback—now a high-powered Chicago businessman engaged to a politician’s daughter—hasn’t returned to his tiny Midwestern town in years.

But his old friends have lured him back for Thanksgiving to force him to finish the legendary Turkey Bowl—a football game that was snowed out 15 years ago.

Patrick must risk his future to lead his ragtag team against their bitter crosstown rivals, ultimately realizing how much he misses the simpler life and the girl that got away.

DVD Verdict: Interestingly enough, the exact same premise outline of this movie has been done before, but that doesn't stop it from still being a heartwarming, and at times heart pleasing little movie that could.

In 1999 a school football team had a chance to break a 50 year old drought and win the Turkey Bowl. But it snowed and the game never got finished. Why it didn't get rescheduled is a reality point the movie ignores for the team's to reunite in 2019 and finish what they started.

Anyway, the only thing is the star player has run off to be a big shot in Chicago and is about to be engaged to a presidential campaigners daughter.

Thus, he is tricked into returning home to play the game he has no interest in, nor wants to return home, and rekindled with his buddies, teammates and old girlfriend.

As for what follows, well, to be honest, I'm sure you have already filled in how it all ends.

That said, 'The Turkey Bowl' - which at times tries to be a bit like Animal House that also leans into and sneakily borrows from The Waterboy - may well just be yet another underdogs football movie, but the plot pacing and actors behind the central character bring it together rather nicely.

In short, 'The Turkey Bowl' combines small town, high school memories and experiences that many viewers can attest to.

Furthermore, it is situated around a holiday and sport that many of us have grown to love.

Great cast, with some pockets of wonderful comedic writing, and a soundtrack that will bring back fond memories to many, this is a timeless movie that will definitely be enjoyable to watch year after year. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• Audio Commentary with Director Greg Coolidge and Co-Writer Kirk Ward
• Deleted Scenes Plus Commentary

'The Turkey Bowl' DVD will include an audio commentary with director Greg Coolidge & co-writer Kirk Ward and additional deleted scenes with commentary, and will be available on DVD for the suggested retail price of $19.98.

'The Turkey Bowl' DVD Amazon Purchase Link

Official 'The Turkey Bowl' Trailer

'Betty Davis: They Say I'm Different'
(Betty Davis, Fred Mills, Greg Errico, Tamar-Kali, Militia Vox, et al / DVD / NR / (2017) 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: Before Beyoncé, Madonna and Prince - there was Betty Davis.

Funk Queen Betty Davis changed the landscape for female artists in America. She "was the first..." as former husband Miles Davis said. "Madonna before Madonna, Prince before Prince."

DVD Verdict: An aspiring songwriter from a small steel town, Betty Davis arrived on the '70s scene to break boundaries for women with her daring personality, iconic fashion and outrageous funk music.

She befriended Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, wrote songs for the Chambers Brothers and the Commodores, and married Miles - startlingly turning him from jazz to funk on the album she named Bitches Brew.

She then, despite being banned and boycotted, went on to become the first black woman to perform, write and manage herself. Betty was a feminist pioneer, inspiring and intimidating in a manner like no woman before. Then suddenly - she vanished.

Along the way we discover that Davis briefly dated musician Eric Clapton although she refused to collaborate with him. And in 1975, Davis' lover Robert Palmer helped her facilitate a deal with Island Records (she subsequently released her album Nasty Gal).

To say she "vanished" might actually sound too ominous as Davis remained a cult figure thereafter as a singer, due in part to her open sexual attitude, which was controversial for the time, without even having to release anything.

She had success in Europe, but in the U.S. she was barred from performing on television because of her sexually aggressive stage persona!

Furthermore, some of her shows were boycotted, and her songs were not played on the radio due to pressure by religious groups and the NAACP.

Carlos Santana recalls Betty as "indomitable – she couldn't be tamed. Musically, philosophically and physically, she was extreme and attractive," which is one of the best descriptions of a human that I've come across in a long time.

That aside, after some recording sessions in 1979, as noted, Davis stopped making music and returned to Pittsburgh, where she's lived quietly ever since.

'Betty Davis: They Say I'm Different' is a highly creative, and absorbingly crafted 53 minute documentary that, along with moments of animation, traces the path of Betty's life: How she grew from humble upbringings to become a fully self-realized black female pioneer the world failed to understand or appreciate.

After years of trying, the elusive Betty, forever the free-spirited Black Power Goddess, finally allowed the filmmakers to creatively tell her story based on their conversations. Watch. Look. Listen. Learn, my friends. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Director Interview: Phil Cox on the making of Betty - They Say I'm Different
Interview Extract with Betty Davis

'Mrs. Lowry & Son'
(Vanessa Redgrave, Timothy Spall, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: Beloved British artist L.S. Lowry (Timothy Spall) lived all his life with his over-bearing mother Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave).

Bed-ridden and bitter, Elizabeth actively tried to dissuade her bachelor son from pursuing his artistic ambitions, whilst never failing to voice her opinion at what a disappointment he was to her.

DVD Verdict: A beautifully measured, understated yet poignant film centered on the confused and fraught relationship between Lowry and his domineering, judgmental mother.

Vanessa Redgrave, despite being elderly and bedridden gives a fearsome performance as a woman despairing of her sons preoccupation with art and obsessed by her fall in social status caused by the failings of her long gone husband.

Lowry played enigmatically and hauntingly by Spall is like a ghost within the family home, a virtual prisoner of his controlling mother yet somehow still managing to stay faithful to his calling as a great and groundbreaking artist.

The film is theatrical and none the worse for it, even here on the small screen via DVD from MVD Visual. The direction is subtle and nuanced allowing the two actors to really show their abilities.

For a film that fundamentally takes place in one room it never feels labored or too claustrophobic and outside of Redgrave and Spall's stand out performances credit should also go to the beautiful musical score which somehow binds the picture together.

Some wonderful interaction between Spall and Redgrave is punctuated with some splendid trick photography as we see scenes of people and places through the artists eyes.

Again, it's a not a showy overblown film, but an introverted one that shows how poorly the artist was perceived at the time but with a glimmer of hope that better times lay ahead.

The scene where time stops and Lowry walks between workers leaving a factory is particularly memorable.

In closing, 'Mrs Lowry & Son' s the most delightfully perfect antidote to the smash, bashy, crashy big budget action films of the summer. A wonderful character driven story with two great actors who bring pathos to the story. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Susskind Archive: Interview With Nikita Khrushchev
(David Susskind, Nikita Khrushchev, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: October 1960. The Cold War was at it's zenith. Nikita Khrushchev visited the United Nations NY. David Susskind announces that he would appear on his show 'Open End'.

Negative reaction from both press and public followed. No Soviet leader had been interviewed by an American, much less live on TV.

DVD Verdict: As we all know now, the interview, which has not been seen in full since its original air date, went forward and the timing was impeccable.

It took place just after the infamous U-2 spy plane incident when tensions between the Soviet Union and the U.S. were at their height.

What resulted was a contentious, but open discussion comparing Soviet communism with American capitalism.

Setting the scene, in October 1960, Eisenhower was President and the election that put John F. Kennedy into the White House was less than a month away.

The Cold War was at its zenith. Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier was visiting the United Nations headquarters in New York City. No Soviet leader had ever been interviewed by an American, yet Khrushchev agreed to appear live on David Susskind's 'Open End'.

There was an immediate negative reaction to the announcement, even causing then F.B.I. director Hoover to ask What do our files show on Susskind? The program aired live on Sunday, October 9th on New York television station WNTA.

The two-hour conversation (through an interpreter) was very spirited and focused on two main topics: First, the virtues of Soviet styled communism versus American style capitalism, and second, would Khrushchev give his assurance that he would never initiate a nuclear war.

As Susskind reveals at the beginning of the show, none of the questions had been submitted in advance, nor the answers having been previously rehearsed. It's an honest, cold opening and one that, I must assume, still had the viewing public of the day (let alone today) questioning the complete validity behind it.

It's been said that Susskind had written more than a hundred questions for Khrushchev. While Ambassador Mikhail Menshikov indicated that Khrushchev was usually in bed by 10:45 p.m., Susskind was prepared if the premier felt the need to extend the dialogue into the early-morning hours.

Funnily enough, just before Susskind was out the door to head over to the United Nations for the program, he got some advice from his son, Andrew, then 6 years old. “Dad, whatever you do, don’t let Nikita Khrushchev declare war on your show,” he said.

Once the interview began, Susskind’s tone immediately took a confrontational tack. He became an advocate for America rather than a civilized interlocutor.

He was no match for the crafty Khrushchev, who barreled along with his standard bromides about how if people truly understood communism and socialism, they would embrace them.

At one point after a commercial break, Khrushchev is informed that one of the commercials during the break was for Radio Free Europe. The commercial depicted a communist soldier smashing a radio set with an axe.

Initially, this set Khrushchev off, but after a moment he said Well, alright, let them screen it. We are not afraid. This will only make us stronger. Let them do it.

When the program resumed, Khrushchev eventually calmed down and answered a few more questions. But with no prompting from Susskind, the premier stood up from his chair and appeared ready to leave.

Susskind stood to remove the microphone cord from around Khrushchev’s neck. As he reached for it, the feared Soviet leader gave Susskind a playful bear hug. (The embrace caused Susskind to stiffen up “like an unwilling virgin,” he later said.)

But there was also a bit of panic on Susskind’s face as he realized the interview was ending without generating any real news. He kept the discussion going, pressing the premier to categorically state he would never start a war.

As Khrushchev went on about how the Russians wanted friendship and peace with the United States, he noticed he was no longer wearing his microphone and wondered out loud if viewers were hearing his remarks.

“How tricky you Americans are,” he said. Susskind assured Khrushchev he could be heard as they continued to talk for nearly another half-hour more.

Sukhodrev, eager for the night to end, removed his microphone and nervously rubbed his fingers over the top of it. It made a scrapping sound that viewers heard at home. “I felt this could go on forever,” he recalled.

Running at a stunning 215 minutes and filmed, obviously in black and white, complete with the aforementioned English and Russian translator present, the show is followed by an extensive panel discussion that includes people such as: Dean Edward Barrett of Columbia School of Journalism, Henry Shapiro, James Wechsler, Max Lerner of New York Post, Marguerite Higins and Joe Newman of New York Herald Tribune, Eugene Lyons of Reader's Digest, Blair Fraser of McLean's Magazine & CBC, Harry Schwartz of New York Times, Frank Kanif of Hearst Newspapers and More!

This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Dark Encounter'
(Laura Fraser, Alice Lowe, Mel Raido, Vincent Regan, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / 4Digital)

Overview: A year after the mysterious disappearance of an 8 year-old girl, her grieving family return home from her memorial service in their small town.

Later that evening, strange lights appear in the nearby forest and the family is exposed to a strange, inexplicable phenomenon that rattles them to the core.

DVD: Combining a truly atmospheric, and at times achingly orchestral backbeat to each scene along with panoramic landscape shots and acting (most times without saying a word) that is top notch, everything about 'Dark Encounter' is a blessing to behold for us fans of the genre.

Writer/Director Carl Strathie brings us a marvelous sci-fi adventure that features Laura Fraser (Breaking Bad) at its helm along with a whole host of other fine actors.

The no frills storyline revolves around a family returning home from a memorial service in their small town a year after their 8 year-old girl, Massie has gone missing.

Still deep in mourning, they are suddenly faced with strange sights and strange encounters, all seemingly punctuated and brought forth by some very strange lights in the sky.

What Strathie manages to do here is steer the premise and visuals away from a latter day 'Close Encounters Of The Third Kind' and toward a fresh take on the sci-fi genre via adept, and focused storytelling from the off.

For 'Dark Encounter' is not just only about this particular day of remembrance, and the fight for survival that comes a'calling thereafter, but constructed around that aforementioned sense of style and nurtured visual effects, the film also manages to rise up out of the B-movie stockades into one that masterfully belies its monetary constraints.

Containing many surprises, jump starts and even an embedded message for those watching, it's also important you know that the horror element of 'Dark Encounter' is strictly limited to being of the human emotion side of things. So those seeking blood, guts and more blood, well, this most certainly isn't the movie for you!

Complete with a side step plot twist that you will never see coming, I was personally so mesmerized by this film that I couldn't even pause it to answer my phone (I just let it ring out!).

The special effects are really rather good for what is obviously being presented as a B-movie, but what is way more intrguing to me about it all is how your mind starts to second guess all you know, all you believe as the movie reveals itself.

I mean, just when you think it couldn't get any more intruiging, something comes along, sometimes something so dark that it has you reeling, both mentally and physically.

In closing, 'Dark Encounter' is a movie that deserves to find a wide audience and given that it pays a loving homage along the way to previous "encounter" movies, I would hope that those that enjoyed them will lovingly feast on this one also. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Sprinter: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Dale Elliott, Shantol Jackson, Kadeem Wilson, Dennis Titus, Bryshere Y.Gray, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2018) 2020 / Film Rise - MVD Visual)

Overview: A Jamaican teen who is burdened by an unstable father and an unruly older brother hopes a meteoric rise in track-and-field can reunite him with his mother, who has lived illegally in the U.S. for over a decade.

Blu-ray Verdict: Having watched this incredible movie twice now in two days, I can honestly say that at the very heart of it is an empowering and inspirational story that echoes the very essence of what it means to be a Jamaican.

It is so much more than just a "story" for when watched with an open heart and free mind, it most assuredly stirs up a whirlwind within us that soon becomes the desire to endure and overcome anything that life may throw us.

What 'Sprinter' quickly informs us of, is that despite the many struggles that the Jamaican people face, whether it be because of socio economic status or family ties, there is this unrelenting resilience in Jamaican citizens that propels them to overcome, no matter what.

For me, the film captured that perfectly, especially by showcasing the standpoint of Akeem, a youth who is struggling to keep focused despite all the chaos around him.

We watch as Akeem goes through what he does on screen and after a fashion, and some missteps, embraces all the uplifting and inspirational well beings that he so richly deserved.

In closing, 'Sprinter' also showcases a definitive, and positive male relationship that can be had with those around them, if only trust and hope and a willing to rise above can be mustered.

We're shown that in Jamaican society it is actually hard to find a positive male influence and although Germaine, Akeem and their father indeed had their struggles in the beginning, it is beautiful, and fulfilling as a viewer to she how it all turned around for the better. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Sprinter Premiere at The Grove
Theatrical Trailer
Photo Gallery

'Line Of Duty' [Blu-ray + Digital]
(Aaron Eckhart, Dina Meyer, Ben McKenzie, Giancarlo Esposito, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2020 / LGF)

Overview: Aaron Eckhart (Olympus Has Fallen) stars as Frank Penny, a disgraced cop looking for a shot at redemption.

When the police chief’s 11-year-old daughter is abducted, Frank goes rogue to try and save her.

But to find the girl, Frank will need the help of Ava Brooks (Courtney Eaton), whose live-streaming news channel is broadcasting Frank’s every move.

While a city watches, Frank and Ava race against time in this explosive action-thriller.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, Steven C. Miller has been pumping out thrillers for a few years now which means going in I kinda sorta already knew what his latest, the colorful 'Line Of Duty' would hold for me.

And I was right, all the way down the line (no pun intended), but also have to say that aside from 'Line Of Duty' being neither his best or worst, it most definitely is well above average.

A somewhat, at times, light and breezy watch, we get lots of action, an eventful albeit oversimplified plot, recognizable actors and even some mild comedy (consisting of overly familiar jokes) scattered throughout.

Aaron Eckhart does what he does best in these films, and although he doesn't have a big amount of screen time, the always brilliant Giancarlo Esposito does everything with it that he possibly can.

It was also, especially as a 'Gotham' fan, great to Ben McKenzie in a movie for the first time (and as a villain, nonetheless) and then there's one of my all-time fav actors, the winning Dina Meyer getting herself knee deep in the action too.

Sure the story is rather simple and sure it plays out as the usual police thriller-type of ride, but here in 'Line Of Duty' it has become infused with a lead character who brings millennial vibes and culture into the script.

In closing, the action is entertaining and the story exists only to facilitate the action and the bond that forms between the two main characters.

But, that said, and at a time when its highly profitable to help everyone hate each other, these filmmaker took a risk and I respect them for it. The movie was a breath of fresh air for me in this genre and I'm sure you'll agree once you have watched it too. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

• Audio Commentary with Director Steven C. Miller
• “Meaningful Action: Making Line of Duty” Featurette

A pulse-pounding race against time action-thriller with incredible high-end set pieces and stunts, the 'Line Of Duty' Blu-ray and DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $21.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Official 'Line Of Duty' Trailer

Terry Pratchett's The Color of Magic & Hogfather
(Michelle Dockery, Sean Astin, Tim Curry, Jeremy Irons, Sir David Jason, et al / 2-Disc Blu-ray + Digital HD / NR / 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: In 'The Color of Magic,' a cowardly wizard is roped into a life of adventure. In 'Hogfather,' it's Hogswatch (equivalent to Christmas) on the Discworld and the Hogfather has gone missing, requiring Death to take his place while his granddaughter Susan endeavors to find out what has happened.

Blu ray Verdict: Set on Discworld, Terry Pratchett's 'Hogfather' novel is brought to life here in 2006. Deranged Assassin Mr Teatime (with a bunch of thieves and a failed apprentice wizard) wants to "inhumme" the Hogfather (Discworld's equivalent of Santa Claus) by destroying children's belief in him.

By kidnapping and holding hostage the tooth fairy in order to use children's teeth to control their belief, the only being that can take his place? Death, a depressant anthropomorphic personification too caught up with humanity for his own good, of course!

Assisted by his foul servant Albert and his half-human (because some talents, like walking through walls or freezing time, are inherited "in the bone" rather than genetically), and adoptive granddaughter Susan, 'The Hogfather' is a rather fantastic mash up of magic, monsters and fantasy!

Vadim Jean's second adaptation of Terry Pratchett's long running Discworld series of comedic fantasy novels cannot compare to the first, though it is not really his fault.

The series adapts Pratchtt's first two novels, 'The Color of Magic' and The Light Fantastic, which together form a loose single narrative here.

Set on a typical fantasy realm, replete with trolls, dwarfs and demons, they are, effectively, a parody of the hero's quest, in that the hero, an untalented wizard named Rincewind, has no intention either of being heroic or of going on a quest, but ends up fighting monsters, riding dragons and trying to save the world anyway!

He is assisted by his "sidekick" Twoflower, who seems only simply aware that he isn't on a package holiday. And that, without mentioning specifics, is the entire plot.

However, along the way, several fantasy (or perhaps D&D) conventions, such as talking swords, scantily-clad, heavy metal-style warrior women, and raging loin-clothed barbarians, are duly referenced and equally, and lovingly lambasted! These are both Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Reservation Road & Return to Paradise'
(Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: In 'Reservation Road,' a powerful human story of anger, revenge and great courage comes forth and takes you on an intense journey that follows two fathers as their families and lives converge after the events of one fateful night.

In 'Return To Paradise,' Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix), Sheriff (Vince Vaughn) and Tony (David Conrad) are three friends vacationing in Malaysia. Sheriff and Tony eventually leave to pursue careers in New York, but Lewis stays behind to work with orangutans.

Two years later, Sheriff and Tony learn that, because of their past actions, Lewis has been arrested for drug possession. With Lewis facing a death sentence, the friends are left with a difficult decision: return to Malaysia and split Lewis' sentence, or let him die.

Blu ray Verdict: Simply put, 'Reservation Road' (2007) is an astounding, impeccably crafted drama. The story is sad and very serious, but this is one of the most perfect examples of the art of simple dramatic film-making that exists.

This is a story of regular people (regular, middle class white people, that is) who experience a personal tragedy. How do they each handle the tragedy? What do they become in its wake?

This is the role of a lifetime for Mark Ruffalo, and he shows us what dramatic acting is at its finest. The rest of the cast is superb, too - from the other leads to the bit players.

Even the kid actors are incredibly good here. Joaquin Phoenix also gives a performance of a lifetime, Jennifer Connelly is brilliantly superb, and Elle Fanning is haunting.

Every actor, down to the minor parts, does a fantastic job which lets you know the director made this possible.

The direction is also perfect and unobtrusive. This movie is directed so flawlessly that the viewer never notices a shot. It is just so perfect that there is only this on-screen reality; no presence whatever of a camera or even of a movie.

Again, it was directing such as this that obviously gave the actors what they needed to fully realize their characters.

In 'Return To Paradise' (1998), we come across a film with a poignant tale about moral decisions and the value of a single life - testing the ethic fiber of two men.

This movie makes you pause and ask yourself if you would make the right decision and if you would be strong enough to make such a sacrifice.

The movie doesn't immediately assume that all people are good and morally sound, would give up themselves for the good of another.

It introduces the character Sheriff (captivatingly portrayed by Vince Vaughn), a man who doesn't immediately jump at the chance to save a friend. The Sheriff must overcome himself, his own personal flaws to make a decision to give up years of his own life to save another.

The man with his head literally on the chopping block, Lewis, is played by Joaquin Phoenix a brilliant actor who finally had the chance to show his amazing talent back in 1998. These are both Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Dad & I'm Not Rappaport - Double Feature'
(Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ted Danson, Ethan Hawke, Ossie Davis, et al / Blu-ray / PG-13 / 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: In 'Dad,' when workaholic John Tremont's (Ted Danson) mother (Olympia Dukakis) is unexpectedly hospitalized, he returns home to care for his aging father (Lemmon).

As John teaches his father to regain his independence, the two of them form a friendship and John realizes what's missing from his own life. Dad reminds us all of the importance of family in this moving story.

In 'I'm Not Rappaport,' eighty-one-year-old Nat Moyer (Walter Matthau) is a compulsive and fanciful talker, a feisty philosopher, and a troublemaker given to assuming personalities.

His daily companion on a bench in New York's Central Park is Midge Carter (Ossie Davis), a half-blind apartment superintendent. Midge's approach to life is realistic and down-to-earth, making him the perfect foil for Nat.

With vaudevillian flair, these appealing oldsters outrageously take on the world and its multiple threats - drug dealers and muggers, enlightened children, forced retirement, and the specter of the old folk's home.

Blu ray Verdict: When watching 'Dad' (1989) it instantly brought me back to the good old '80s. This is really not a comedy, but a very serious family drama and for that alone I love it.

Ergo, 'Dad' is a very touching, and purely family-oriented movie that I'm sure was very popular with a specific audience back in the day (as I'm sure it will be now, fresh out on Blu-ray.

Watching the movie allows it to touch a very deep part of our souls, of our spent lives as all of us have to face the fact that our parents are growing old, and one day they will leave us forever.

It is quite emotional throughout here, but in reality, how many of the people living in the USA now have the courage, time and money to actually live with their older parents till the day they depart?

That said, 'Dad' lovingly brings three generations all together and shows us how to do a well-done drama. It does not have a happy ending, but that said, it gives us a very realistic feeling that we all have, or will have to face, that's for sure.

In 'I'm Not Rappaort' (1996), Walter Matthau is just great as an aging man who lives to hang out in Central Park and tells outrageous lies!

He strikes up a relationship with a man whom he drives nuts with his outlandish yarns and at the same time Matthau tries a con on several people trying to help them and himself out, but they all backfire!

This film had a story that had me riveted to my sofa as not only is it, at times, slapstick funny, but at its core is a message to be heard and understood and cherished, if possible (I won't tell you what it is, you'll have to watch the movie and figure it out for yourselves).

The entire production was filmed in Central Park, the scenery is beautiful, and many shots of the surrounding buildings are a delight to behold now as some have actually either gone or been modernized.

A wonderful movie from joyous start to finish, to me, the strongest sections of the film are those that ignore the adventures but concentrate on the two men and the dynamics between them - for it is here we get to the core of the characters (or at least as close as we can ever get). These are both Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Maid in Manhattan' [Blu-ray + DVD]
(Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Stanley Tucci, Bob Hoskins, et al / Blu-ray + DVD / PG-13 / (2002) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Marisa Ventura (Jennifer Lopez) is a struggling single mom who works at a posh Manhattan hotel and dreams of a better life for her and her young son (Tyler Posey).

One fateful day, hotel guest and senatorial candidate Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes) meets Marisa and mistakes her for a wealthy socialite.

After an enchanting evening together, the two fall madly in love. But when Marisa's true identity is revealed, issues of class and social status threaten to separate them.

Blu ray Verdict: The surprising thing is that Wayne Wang directed this; the unsurprising thing is that it's from a John Hughes story.

Also unsurprising is pretty much everything in the movie, with the sole exception of Bob Hoskins.

It was impossible to miss the fact that J'Lo and Ralph Fiennes were the leads in this Cinderella-type romantic comedy, but none of the previews I saw indicated the involvement of Hoskins, an excellent actor, too often overlooked.

Lopez and Fiennes are attractive and competent and both are able to carry this off well enough. The supporting cast is spotty, though. Hoskins shines the brightest and it's a shame that he didn't get to lead more films before his untimely passing.

For me, his Iago in the BBC production of Othello, co-starring with Anthony Hopkins was simply phenomenal. Anyway, back on track and Stanley Tucci is very good, as always, but the rest of the cast varies from good to weak.

Simply put, J'Lo is just trying to make a decent living and a better life for herself and her son, and she is in the room of a socialite and trying on the lady's clothes when the Senator (Fiennes) walks in.

Of course he thinks she is the socialite, falls in love with her, and starts taking her out to a whole bunch of important parties and functions, while chaos ensues at her real job and life.

Ergo, for everything that it strives to me, 'Maid In Manhattan' is a very funny and refreshing movie that you will thoroughly enjoy. Lopez and Fiennes are perfectly cast and you will not regret seeing it once again (especially now in the wondrous Blu-ray + DVD set from Mill Creek Entertainment). This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

The Pathfinder & Song of Hiawatha (Double Feature)
(Graham Greene, Michael Rooker, David Stratharin, Adam Beach, Russell Means, et al / DVD / PG & PG-13 / 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: In 'The Pathfinder,' based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans), this adventure follows a mid-18th-century British scout through the wilderness on a mission to sneak into a French fortress.

In 'Song of Hiawatha,' this screen adaptation of the epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow tells the tale of Hiawatha (Litefoot), a Native American brave, and his great love for the beautiful Minnehaha (Irene Bedard).

DVD Verdict: Ok, well, starting off with 'The Pathfinder' (1996), and, personally, although I found the film to be historically accurate, I found it a bit odd that the British captain was so friendly with the French Compte.

Me being quite the North and South American history buff, I have never heard of such "personal alliances" between one British captain and the aforementioned French Compte.

Both nations were at war and they both were only interested in using the First Nations for their own selfish, evil gains! It was bad enough that both sides just overlooked the fact that it was Native land they were fighting on!

But they both forced the Natives to join either side so that they could defeat the other, and that's all that was!

Anyway, back to the film and, in general, the whole production has the air of a reenactment, which is actually in its favor. Of course, this might also be an insult to the good folk who take pride in their amateur productions, but that aside the character displays make 'The Pathfinder' a rather interesting, and at times engrossing film.

With regard 'The Song of Hiawatha' (1997) I personally thoroughly enjoyed this presentation of an epic poem.

The actors were well-chosen and presented the characters in a believable manner and each of the characters were portrayed with realism and first-class acting skill.

The photography was outstanding and added quality and realism to the movie and the scenery was spectacular and added so much more to the presentation.

Furthermore, I actually recognized many of the actors and appreciated their cultural background being used in a favorable manner. Indeed, I would like to see more movies of this quality being produced instead of what is being offered in the current market.

The important thing is that it's not just another Hollywoodish kind of film where you see the romanticized "noble savage" garbage in the way that Hollywood has pretty much always seen them. It has so much more to offer and thus I hope you can spend some time with it also. These are both Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Savage Creatures' [DVD + Digital]
(Kelly Brown, Victoria Steadman, Ryan Quinn Adams, et al / DVD + Digital / NR / 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Two vampires realize their food source is in jeopardy when alien creatures land on earth causing humans to become rabid zombies.

They must battle cannibals, gun toting nuns, aliens and the undead if they want to save the world.

DVD Verdict: Featuring a superb blend of both practical FX alongside (seamlessly, at some moments) modern day digital enhancements, 'Savage Creatures' not only shocks and rocks you, but comes complete with some humor to tickle your horror bones too!

On the eve of Judgement Day, predatory cannibals abduct two young vagabond women harboring a shocking secret - they are ancient Vampires.

Following a bloody clash, the Vampires are suddenly confronted with an apocalyptic crisis as soul-stealing alien creatures invade and attack humanity, turning their victims into flesh eating Zombies!

The forces of evil collide in a cataclysmic battle for dominance here in 'Savage Creatures' and with a juicy plot like that, what else could you possibly hope for? Oh, you want a double fisted, gun-toting Nun shooting at anything that comes her way? Sure, ok, they throw that in too!

I lost count of the number of shots that were fired throughout the film, of how many heads got capped, of how many necks got bitten, but that's because I wasn't bored and focused on them!

Guts are pulled, aforementioned necks are bitten, shots are fired off like party poppers and yes, for all you horrorphiles out there, the blood spurts and flows in an overwhelming amount! This is a Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Director Commentary
Behind The Scenes
VFX Breakdown

'Gracie's Choice' [DVD + Digital]
(Kristen Bell, Diane Ladd, Anne Heche, et al / DVD + Digital / TV-PG / (2004) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: A desperate war between generations of women sets the stage for an unprecedented legal battle as a young girl challenges her mother and fights the system to gain legal custody of her own siblings.

'Gracie's Choice,' starring Kristen Bell is an important and provocative true drama that will open your eyes and your heart.

DVD Verdict: Wow! 'Grace's Choice' is one of the most inspiring movies I've seen. A true story of a teenager who takes on the responsibility of raising her three brothers due to their drunken mother's absence, she changes her life and gives up a lot to care for her brothers, keep them together and create a stable, loving home.

In the process, through very hard times she manages to work full-time and finish school amongst other things. The story is initially sad, showing Anne Heche as an irresponsible, possibly disturbed woman. She has many children, does not know who their fathers are, and manipulates her elderly mother (Diane Ladd) into supporting all of them - she basically collects welfare support for each child and squanders it.

As Gracie matures, she sees her mother for what she truly is, and decides she must adopt the younger children. Her sister becomes pregnant at 16 to escape the situation, and goes off to live with a different boyfriend.

Gracie emerges stronger and with the help of social services and her counselor she finds an apartment, a job, and attends school and graduates as well.

Kristen Bell does a wonderful job in this movie. The thing I love about this movie is that Gracie isn't going to let anything come between her and her little brothers, which are now her own "children," of course.

In closing, I highly recommend this movie to everyone. It is well worth your time and it shows people anything is possible if you put your heart into it.

Sure, it's a little bit of a chick flick, but very much worth watching for people of all ages, trust me. This is a Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'A Psycho's Path' [DVD + Digital]
(Quinton Rampage Jackson, Noel Gugliemi, et al / DVD + Digital / NR / 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: A small California desert town is being stalked by a motiveless psychopath who roams the streets killing at random.

Captain Peters and his small police force are on the case, searching for his whereabouts before he kills again.

DVD Verdict: Unwittingly to me, much like the residents of Brownsville, it's 1967 (ok, I'll grant you they probably know that!) and a psychotic killer is about to turn this sleepy town on its head!

After apprehending a drifter for brutally killing a young woman in nearby Brookdale, Captain Peters receives orders to transport the man to a mental institution.

Now, if you're anything like me for detail, well, you have to leave all that at the door here as 'A Psycho's Path' is one that follows so many horror "best bits" that you'll be shouting aloud each movie referenced like it's a shot drinking game!

That said, it's rather refreshing that this horror is indeed sent in the late '60s as it gives the overall look, its Californian cinematic ambiance a defining sepia tweak, which I found very pleasing to the eye.

The trouble is the biggest come-on-now moment is one that gets reverted back to time and time again and it still bugs the crap out of me today! When you're told to transport a convict to another place, let alone St. Joseph Psychiatric Hospital (as is the case here), WHY do it in the darkest part of the night and on unlit country roads?!

Anyhoo, the use of old rotary phones let alone the classic cars and outfits these character have to wear is worth the price of admission alone for me! With the bulk of the story centering around the police department, and each officer's personal quirks and such (we'll leave it at that, for now), whilst you're watching why not also play a game of Spot Todd Bridges! This is a Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

The Addams Family (2019) [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital]
(Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / PG / 2020 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: Get ready to snap your fingers! The Addams Family is back in their first animated comedy about the kookiest family on the block.

Funny, outlandish, and completely iconic, 'The Addams Family' redefines what it means to be a good neighbor.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, 'The Addams Family' knows how to have fun! The new animated film delivers what you want from the titular family: spades of dark humor jokes!

The movie successfully delivers when it comes to the four main family members. (Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) and Granny (Bette Midler) are just okay.)

Gomez (Oscar Isaacs) is the congenial family man with a zest for life. Morticia is the over-protective mother whose viewpoint you understand.

Though the movie does have the parents be a little more sentimental than some portrayals, I do think it still captured the core of the characters.

More effort is put into characterization for Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) than a lot of previous versions. Let's be honest, Wednesday is usually the sibling that pulls focus.

Speaking of which, this version is not much different. This Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) gives the Christina Ricci version a run for her money.

This is by far the most unnervingly emotionless one, and the animated format is able to do things to increase her creepiness that you couldn't do in animation.

The story, though, is very basic. It is the trope of the "normies" vs. the misunderstood monsters with predictable parent-child rifts.

The normal people, especially villainous home renovator Margaux Needler (Allison Janney), are pretty predictable and uninteresting.

I've seen Janney do good voice work before but here it feels like she's trying for a vocal quality she is never able to quite capture.

This appears to be a modestly budgeted film so don't expect Pixar, Disney, or Dreamworks-quality animation. I found the character design for a lot of the townsfolk to be disappointing.

Though I did eventually get accustomed to it, the decision to make Morticia's face look like a skull wasn't what I felt to be the best option for the character.

It felt a little at odds with the original New Yorker cartoon and previous animated versions. I think it's the chin that's the main issue. It was a little too long. I did like the decoration of the Addams Family house.

I do prefer the two '90s live-action versions over this. This one is more of a children's movie, and the original ones being for an older audience were able to go darker and more-over-the-top.

This movie also has less of a distinct identity than its predecessors. (Though in fairness, what can you expect with any Addams Family movie without Raoul Julia?)

I can't say this is the greatest animated kids film, either. However, it is a highly enjoyable rainy Sunday afternoon movie for the entire family to come together with. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• Deleted and Extended Scenes*
• Welcome to the Family* – In this combined Making of/Character Profiles, we hear from the filmmakers and stars of The Addams Family about how the film came about, the animation process and insight into the characters.

• Life of a Scene* – From black & white storyboards and layouts to animation and lighting, follow along with filmmakers as they bring to life a scene from the movie.
• Charades with Thing* – There’s nothing quite like a game of Charades with your friends. But what happens when the person giving the clues isn’t exactly a person? What if he’s just… a hand? On talent day, stars of the film are invited to play Charades with Thing. Talent goes head-to-head, competing to see who can guess Thing’s clues. Graphics reveal the answers and keep score for each player.
• Addams Family Throwback
• “Haunted Heart” Lyric Video – performed by Christina Aguilera
• “My Family” Lyric Video – performed by Migos, Karol G, Rock Mafia & Snoop Dogg

* Never-before-seen bonus content.

Everyone’s favorite creepy and kooky family is back in the “frighteningly funny and fresh” (Rosie Knight, IGN) animated feature film, 'The Addams Family,' arriving on Digital December 24th, 2019 and on Blu-ray™️, DVD and On Demand January 21st, 2020 from Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios (MGM) and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

'The Addams Family' Movie Trailer

Official 'The Addams Family' Website

Official 'The Addams Family' Facebook Page!

Official 'The Addams Family' Instagram Page!

Official 'The Addams Family' Twitter Page!

'Motherless Brooklyn'
(Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton), a lonely private detective living with Tourette Syndrome, ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Bruce Willis).

Armed only with a few clues and the engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely guarded secrets that hold the fate of New York in the balance.

In a mystery that carries him from gin-soaked jazz clubs in Harlem to the hard-edged slums of Brooklyn and, finally, into the gilded halls of New York's power brokers, Lionel contends with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city to honor his friend and save the woman who might be his own salvation.

Blu-ray Verdict: As I think we can all now attest to, employing at least half a dozen incidentals and characters from 'Chinatown' (1973), Ed Norton saddled with a case of Tourettes channels Jack Nicholson's Jake Gittes in this at times sluggish detective film that takes place in the late '50s - while borrowing liberally from other periods.

Wearing many hats, both literally and figuratively, the auteur/director draws a split decision with his excellent choice in hats here, but that's only a small part of the ongoing, unfolding story, of course.

Sam Spade's partner is whacked by triggermen who may be in the employ of legendary NY planning commissioner Robert Moses (Alec Baldwin), who is himself destroying black neighborhoods.

But then Miles Davis (Michael Williams) comes to the rescue - kind of, sort of - but as the players are all very reasonable facsimiles of characters gone by, it's a wonder that the movie wasn't buried under a weight of journalistic "How'd they get away with this?" long before it came to get talked about for an Oscar!

In truth, and as much as I enjoyed this noir film (I did, honestly!), Norton's direction is slow paced as the film creeps with overlong scenes at clubs and a pace-killing heart to heart with the female lead.

He even seems to sabotage his suspenseful moments by being repetitive in situations while his vintage autos convey an artificial look with their with "showroom glow" still in tact as they tool around Queens and Brooklyn.

Also, and whilst this postmodern film noir goes to great lengths to set up and execute a somewhat over complicated mystery plot it really is not so hard to foresee most of the twists and turns.

Again, much as if this film had been made before, minus a Tourette's ridden protagonist. the multiple, and wayward murders aside, the overall art direction is beautifully photographed and its fun to see Norton and an entourage of a few more movie stars appearing together in one film, if truth be told.

Simply put, 'Homeless Brooklyn' is (if you allow it to be) highly entertaining, although a mishmash of themes that are loose threads of a sprawling story are found to come forth most times.

Told through the eyes of Ed Norton as Lionel Essrog, a flawed hero with Tourette's, yet endowed with perfect pitch of a memory that forget nothing, his overly restless mind stitches together a murder with mumbled clues.

Also, something I think you should know is that 'Motherless Brooklyn' was a true labor of love from Norton, who directed, produced, wrote the script (based on Jonathan Lethem's book).

The movie was in development hell for, quite literally, many years and that Norton finally was able to make it, and make of it what he has, is a genuine tribute to his persistence and patience.

Bruce Willis, who gets second billing, has less than ten minutes of screen time and whereas Alec Baldwin, Leslie Mann and Willem Dafoe also have small roles and small screen time, Baldwin's especially is as menacingly astute as they come.

One of the very best aspects of the movie is the score, courtesy of versatile and rapidly up-and-coming composer Daniel Pemberton. On top of that, Thom Yorke contributes a new song ("Daily Battles"), which also plays prominently in the movie's trailer.

In closing, Edward Norton's passion project is well worth watching for anyone who counts themselves as an "intelligent audience member." Also, there is quite a lot of vulgar language, and some blood, but other than that, the movie should be fine for teens and up. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

“Motherless Brooklyn” Blu-ray contains the following special features: • Making-Of: Edward Norton’s Methodical Process • Commentary with Director Edward Norton • Deleted Scenes “Motherless Brooklyn” DVD contains the following special feature: • Making-Of: Edward Norton’s Methodical Process

On January 14, “Motherless Brooklyn” will be available to own in high definition and standard definition from select digital retailers including Amazon, FandangoNOW, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, Xbox and others. On January 28, “Motherless Brooklyn” will be made available digitally on Video On Demand services from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles..

Official 'Motherless Brooklyn' Trailer

'Motherless Brooklyn' Blu-ray + Digital Amazon Purchase Link

Official 'Motherless Brooklyn' Facebook Page!

'High Strung: Free Dance' [Blu-ray]
(Thomas Doherty, Harry Jarvis, Juliet Doherty, Jane Seymour, Ace Bhatti, et al / Blu-ray / PG / 2020 / GVN Releasing)

Overview: The sequel to the first High Strung movie, 'High Strung: Free Dance', tells the story of Zander Raines, a dazzling and tempestuous young choreographer (Thomas Doherty) who gives the break of a lifetime to two hopeful artists when he casts a stunning contemporary dancer, Barlow (Juliet Doherty) and innovative pianist, Charlie (Harry Jarvis) in New York’s most-anticipated new Broadway show: Free Dance.

But the move throws off the show’s delicate creative balance when Charlie falls hard for Barlow while Zander embraces her as his muse.

Blu-ray Verdict: Not without its flaws, 'High Strung: Free Dance' features beautiful dancers, quite wondrous dance routines and will leave you feeling like you have just witnessed a great Broadway show live.

Personally, I actually liked the original 'High Strung' a wee bit more, but this follow up sure knows how to not only continue a story, but expand upon it beautifully.

Chock full of breathless and highly entertaining dancing, therein is why I say this sequel had flaws to contend with also. For I would have liked to have seen more quiet time conversations within the cast about certain aspects that they were going through and such.

As for stand out moments, well, and aside from maybe nearly all the dance choreography, I personally enjoyed the contact between the elderly lady and the pianist, because it gave the movie some genuine heart.

The Doherty's (Thomas and Juliet, although not related, weirdly enough) are stand out dancers for all to see, that's for sure, and the older generation layer sewn of having the evergreen Jane Seymour in the cast just makes it all the more enticing.

Sure, the final show they perform is a little, well, ungrounded, for want of a better word, but it still remains fun and very stylish at all times. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:

Behind the Scenes
Interview with Composer Nathan Lanier
"Masterpiece" (Music Video)
"Liar" (Music Video)

GVN Releasing releases 'High Strung: Free Dance' February 4th, 2020 on Blu-ray and DVD.

Official 'High Strung: Free Dance' Trailer

Amazon 'High Strung: Free Dance' Purchase Link

'Doctor Sleep' (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital)
(Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Years following the events of 'The Shining,' a now-adult Dan Torrance must protect a young girl with similar powers from a cult known as The True Knot, who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.

Blu-ray Verdict: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the simply breathtaking 'Doctor Sleep’ in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this February 4th, 2020.

For my money, this 'Doctor Sleep: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' combo pack's sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.

So, what we have is 'Doctor Sleep' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265 (63.78 Mbps), Resolution: Native 4K (2160p), HDR: Dolby Vision + HDR10+, Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 and Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHD's, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.

Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; such as the scenes in the woods, where all the foliage is now immensely green and, at times, vibratingly shiny and alive. It just all comes more vividly to life, which is amazing to see, in truth.

Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material (notably the scenes back in the hotel where the tricycle still gets ridden up and down the carpeted hallway by a young boy; and the scenes set in the attic with McGregor fighting the evil forces) now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the 1080p Blu-ray accounting.

As for the audio, well we have: English: Dolby Atmos, English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), English: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps), Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps), and French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1.

Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.

Phew! OK, so, as for the movie itself, well, as aforementioned, 'Doctor Sleep' is the decades-later sequel to the Jack Nicolson horror classic, 'The Shining,' set primarily many years after the events at the Outlook Hotel that left young Danny Torrance scarred for life.

Danny (Ewan McGregor) is now an alcoholic adult who battles with inner demons who manifest because of his "shine." He also faces real-world demons of sort in the form of vampire-like creatures who steal the souls of children who "shine".

Dan and a particularly powerful young girl cross paths and team up to battle a group of the creatures, who call themselves the True Knot.

In the film's best moments, it really shines (sorry). Mike Flanagan (who has steadily been building his reputation as the most reliable working horror director) performs a challenging dance of honoring both Stanley Kubrick's film and Stephen King's novel sequel.

This task becomes all the more difficult when we realize that the follow-up novel paid no mind to the changes between the first book and movie. Certain characters are in different places and key landmarks, like the hotel, faced different fates. Fortunately, Flanagan pulls it off.

At times we can also sense a struggle between calling back to the original and pushing forward with a new vision. Fortunately, Flanagan pulls that off too.

One scene in particular that displays Flanagan skill and vision features True Knot leader, Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), leaving her body and floating across the country in search of the powerful young girl.

I would've enjoyed seeing more moments like this and fewer obvious homages to the original movie. There's plenty to this story to more than stand on its own.

For, in my humble journalistic opinion, the film would have benefitted from further breaking away from 'The Shining'.'

Blood and violence are kept relatively tame aside from one brutally unsettling scene that gives a sense of how vicious and unfeeling the True Knot group members truly are.

Ferguson owns this scene, displaying equal parts menace and alluring charisma. Her performance is the best in the film, with respect to McGregor, who does fine work as well.

Ultimately, the film works well thanks to the strong performances and skill of Flanagan, remaining entertaining throughout the lengthy 152-minute runtime.

As for the special features included here on this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition, the stand out for me has to be From Shining to Sleep (4:56). Here Director Mike Flanagan and author Stephen King talk about the challenges of continuing a modern classic, the obvious differences between the two novels, Stanley Kubrick's movie, ending with fire and ice, resurrecting some of the original book's themes, and the merging of two or three worlds.

Another decent one, if not all too short, is The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision (13:57) where Flanagan and King (along with actor Ewan McGregor, producer Trevor Macy, actresses Kyliegh Curran and Rachel Ferguson, costume designer Terry Anderson, and others) return to speak about the film's development, sending the script to King, continuing Danny Torrance's story, bringing literary characters to life, casting Abra, finding Rose's hat, The True Knot, and much more (albeit it somewhat crammed into just 15 minutes, of course).

The last one is Return to The Overlook (14:59) where Mike Flanagan (with more of his friends surrounding his thoughts and comments) talks more about his first exposure to Kubrick's film on VHS, rebuilding and tearing down the iconic Overlook Hotel, production design highlights, hunting down a few vintage props, a quick set tour, casting familiar characters with different actors, makeup effects, frivolous nudity, and even imitation vs. homage.

The included Director’s Cut features nearly 30 minutes of new, alternate and extended scenes, selected by director Mike Flanagan, not seen in theaters.

The Director’s Cut will be available on the Blu-ray disc and Digital in the 4K UHD Blu-ray Combo Pack and the Blu-ray editions come February 4th, 2020.

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

• From Shining to Sleep
• The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision
• Return to The Overlook

Official 'Doctor Sleep' Trailer

'Doctor Sleep: 4K Ultra HD' Blu-ray Amazon Purchase Link

Official 'Doctor Sleep' Facebook Page!

'Deadly Manor: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Clark Tufts, Greg Rhodes, Claudia Franjul, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1990) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: A group of teenagers take refuge in an old, deserted mansion. Soon the members of the group start turning up dead, and the teenagers realize that they're not alone in the mansion.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, 'Deadly Manor' is a strange slasher flick directed by Joseph Larraz. Other Larraz films I've seen took place either in England or in Spain ('Deviation', 'Vampyres' and 'Black Candles') and featured sophisticated, and yet delightfully ambiguous characters. But 'Deadly Manor' was filmed in the USA and its characters are a bunch of stereotyped American teenagers!

The story plays out like this: A group of teenagers are heading for a place situated by a lake with a strange name, but they don't know its exact location.

On their way they pick up a hitcher that seems to know the area. But the lake they are going to is still hours away and they take refuge in a seemingly abandoned old mansion.

Once there, the mansion oozes something sinister within it, they can all feel it, and so by dusk, and as it looms there menacingly before them, they all feel like they've been there before! Nevertheless, they decide to remain there for the night. (and so begins the "fun"!)

Larraz's first venture into the slasher genre was 'Edge of The Axe,' which was a fairly decent attempt with an interesting premise. Thus, I think that 'Deadly Manor' was made with an eye for the American market, but it still has that distinctive Larraz touch (like, it still maintains that zen vibe that pervades all his films.

The sex has been toned down and there's not much gore to speak of, and the film may feel kind of slow for the usual slasher film fans, but the strange atmosphere, the beautiful and minimalistic soundtrack, may well keep his horror fans tuned in.

Indeed, the ending twist which gives us all clarification of the manors history and what was indeed "lurking" there is rather reasonably, original and effective. So, yeah, the last ten minutes form a worthwhile swan song to Larraz' career, in my humble opinion.

In closing, those that like Larraz' films should give this one a try. Even if the characters may seem shallow when compared to those of his other films, 'Deadly Manor' is still interesting; if you like films for their atmosphere. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary with Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan
Newly-filmed interview with actress Jennifer Delora
Making a Killing - a newly-filmed interview with producer Brian Smedley-Aston
Extract from an archival interview with Jose Larraz
Original Savage Lust VHS trailer
Image Gallery
Original Script and Shooting Schedule (BD-ROM content)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by author John Martin

Official 'Deadly Manor: Special Edition' Blu-ray Purchase Link

'16 Bars'
(Speech Thomas (Arrested Development), Teddy Kane, Garland Carr, Anthony Johnston, Devonte James, et al / DVD / NR / (2018) 2020 / Lightyear Entertainment)

Overview: '16 Bars' offers a rare glimpse at the human stories and songs locked away in our nation's jails and prisons.

The documentary follows a unique rehabilitation effort in a Virginia jail that encourages inmates to write and record original music.

DVD Verdict: In the jail's makeshift recording studio, four men collaborate to produce an album with Grammy-winner Todd Speech Thomas of Arrested Development.

But, and before anything else, we listen to this quartet of heartbreaking stories from the incarcerated men: Garland, De’vonte, Anthony, and Teddy. The four come from all walks of life–from crippling poverty and homelessness to a decent family life.

As the creative process unfolds, these incarcerated artists must confront the traumas of their past, and music becomes the key to unlocking a new chapter in their lives.

That said, one very important thing to know going in was this was nothing more than an experiment. Not that listening to the quartet and their sad stories isn't going to make you care for them, but you will definitely lean in more and listen to their collective words: both spoken about life and through their lyrics.

What they end up singing about is their lives on the street, drug addictions, drug epidemics, and feeling as if having free time could get them deeper into trouble. In short, they sing about being trapped inside the system.

Two-time Grammy-winner Speech Thomas is widely considered one of the godfathers of conscious hip-hop. His band Arrested Development's 1993 debut album 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of... went quadruple platinum and achieved what few thought was possible at the time; establishing an Afrocentric alternative to gangster rap that was commercially viable.

25 years later, Speech continues to tour the world with his band and seek out opportunities to use music to address issues of social and racial justice.

Starting in 2017, he set out on a journey to the Richmond City Jail, where he conducted music workshops with inmates. His goal was to shed light on the complex issues in our criminal justice system by bringing the voices and stories of incarcerated people to a larger audience.

And so here in '16 Bars' we get a most beautifully, dedicated and simply inner-driven film that shines a light on a system that needs to change and the hidden talent within that system.

Everyone from the staff to the inmates as well as the producers of this gem of a film prove that change is possible and go further as to offer suggestions for the future. This is a Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the extras of:

4 Individual Music Videos For Songs Created Inside The Prison Recording Studio
Full Q&A After The World Premiere Screening of DocLands Film Festival at Smith Rafael Film Center, Courtesy of California Film Institute
Theatrical Trailer

'The Mindy Project - The Complete Series'
(Mindy Kaling, Chris Messina, Ike Barinholtz, et al / 10-Disc DVD / NR / 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Kaling) is a talented obstetrician navigating the tricky waters of her chaotic personal life as she pursues her dreams of becoming the perfect woman, finding happiness and getting her perfect romantic comedy ending.

DVD Verdict: For those completely uninitiated about this show, it's about, well, ... Mindy! She's an OB/Gyn living in New York City and works at a practice with Danny and Jeremy, who are also OB/Gyns.

She also works with Morgan and Tamra, nurses and Beverly, the person who you really don't know what she does there. They all have fun adventures together whilst finding love, but she must balance her personal and professional life whilst being surrounded by her quirky friends in the small office.

But over the 117 episodes and six (6) seasons, was it any good? The short answer to that is that the scripts were, for the most part, usually all very good.

The jokes and most all one-liners make you laugh effortlessly and the additional bouts of physical humor also made it a fun watch. So, yeah, overall, 'The Mindy Project' was a comedy that was highly enjoyable and fresh.

With Mindy Kaling coming off of her memorable role in The Office, I was really looking forward to some good stuff from her. She most certainly adds some rather interesting takes to stuff here in this, for the most part, single-gal-in-the-city show, but by far the most "outrageous" thing here is that she's a minority actor in the lead of a regular show.

That said, as it was a big deal back then, Mindy doesn't really play up that fact for other than a brother, her family aspect isn't used much.

Funnily enough, she plays up her chubbiness more than her ethnicity and as much as there are admittedly times where Mindy does struggle to find the natural flow of headlining a comedy, her revolving door of relationships does at least give you high levels of amusement.

Along with Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks) and later Peter Prentice (Adam Pally), Morgan Tookers (Ike Barinholtz), Beverly (Beth Grant), Betsy Putch (Zoe Jarman) and Tamra (Xosha Roquemore) - as the nurses - 'The Mindy Project' showcases the fact Mindy Kaling is indeed a smart cookie.

Furthermore, it shows in her character, the writing, and the dynamic of the show as someone confident within themselves and willing to take chances out there alone on the comedic edge.

I actually started watching 'The Mindy Project' because it aired after 'New Girl' and honestly as the episodes went by I found myself liking Mindy's show more and more.

In truth, I have also over the years garnered quite a distaste for 'New Girl,' but that's neither here nor there! The difference for me is in the strength of the female characters. Mindy does an amazing job portraying a smart, successful, self-possessed woman who is still charming, quirky, and sometimes neurotic.

You won't find that combination in 'New Girl,' at least not in the two female leads. Yes, I'm well aware that after three (3) season on Fox they cancelled it, and that it was picked up by Hulu and given a new lease of life for the remaining three (3) years, but that shouldn't distract from the fact that the show was genuinely funny and achingly heartfelt in all it attempted to portray and do.

In closing, and if I haven't made it clear enough already, the fact that Mindy also takes part in the writing process explains why her character is always just so convincing.

There hasn't been a moment of doubt or inconsistency about her character. It has been said that 'The Mindy Project' is a "girly show" because Mindy herself is the quintessence of romance, but being a man, I have to say that never stopped me enjoying it!

Sure, yeah, the male characters are there to make fun of it along the way so I don't really understand why guys wouldn't love it too!

'The Mindy Project' is just so well written with an incredible cast and with each episode running about 22 minutes each, you feel like you've just had a welcomed comedic mini-break afterward! This is an Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:

Deleted Scenes
Gag Reels

'El esqueleto de la señora Morales' [Blu-ray]
(Arturo De Córdova, Amparo Rivelles, Elda Peralta, Guillermo Orea, Rosenda Monteros, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1960) 2020 / VCI Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: A taxidermist decides to murder his wife after having to put up with her after twenty years of hellish marriage.

Blu-ray Verdict: Funnily enough, I used to have tape of this movie I made when it appeared on TV down in Mexico City during one of my visits there years ago.

I only saw it a couple of times and don't have the tape anymore, but I've always hoped it would come out on DVD/Blu-ray.

And now it has, via the wonderful MVD Visual and the first thing I can say about it is that seeing it today through "new eyes" the film could easily be compared to some of Alfred Hitchcock's more macabre and darkly humorous films.

This was made towards the end of the golden period in Mexican cinema. In the 1960's things took a turn towards the cheesy side and only within the past several years has Mexican cinema seen a bit of a turnaround; with some world-class productions, in my humble opinion.

The black and white photography is excellent and the acting is superb in this film about a man who stuffs animals for a living and has a wife who is even colder than the dead creatures in his workshop.

I won't say more so as not to have any spoilers, but suffice to say that 'The Skeleton of Mrs. Morales' (which it is better known as here in the US and around the world) is a cult film that sadly caused no big impression in 1960.

The style was too conventional, but there is a playful fluctuation between extremes that moves the story, and makes the film an attractive, enjoyable and enduring production even today. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'El esqueleto de la señora Morales' Trailer

'Una Familia De Tantas' [Blu-ray]
(Fernando Soler, David Silva, Martha Roth, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1949) 2020 / VCI Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: 'Una Familia De Tantas' (aka 'A Family Like Many Others') is not only the most popular and beloved family melodrama of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, it's also an intelligent, subtle cinematic dialogue with the audience.

Widely considered a masterpiece, the film reflects the morals of the urban middle class and questions the authoritarian logic of family structure.

Blu-ray Verdict: In the beginning of the 20th century, Mexicans were influenced in their daily lives by the exquisiteness of France's elegant and traditional culture. France combined perfectly with Spain's heritage in their family values.

Mexican family members were very close and their Religious beliefs allowed them to see the family as the center of their lives. Pretty soon this changed.

After the end of World War II the European influence gave way to the one from the United States, which was totally different. The upper and middle classes younger generations, in a desire of new guidelines looked to the North to adopt what that Country had to offer.

Families were never the same since then. The control that the Father used to have over his family members diminished abruptly, kids wanted to live their own lives even if this meant not to accept what till then had been the Patriarch's decision.

This is exactly what 'Una Familia De Tantas' is all about: The initiation of lost family traditions, which through the beginning of the 21st Century has disintegrated many families in Mexico.

Rodrigo Catano seeks to impose in his family a Porfirian order. One day a door to door salesman, Roberto del Hierro, comes into the house to sell an American vacuum cleaner from the "Bright O'Home" company.

Maru, Mr. Catano's daughter, watches Roberto while he demostrates the new machine. Roberto leaves and says he will come back to explain Mr. Catano about the vacuum cleaner.

Mr. Catano is very upset because a man has been in his house without him been present. Nevertheless, with fast and intelligent talk, Roberto sells him the vacuum cleaner and, later on, a refrigerator!

Maru is captivated by Roberto and they fall in love. Mr. Catano is furious when Roberto announces to him he will marry Maru.

In closing, and furthermore, 'Una Familia De Tantas' is a movie that allows many of us to meditate about traditions and modernity and is still as pertinent to our human society today as it ever was. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Una Familia De Tantas' Trailer

'La Barraca' [Blu-ray]
(Domingo Soler, Anita Blanch, Amparo Morillo, José Baviera, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1945) 2020 / VCI Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: In rural Spain, a new family arrives in town to work a parcel (barraca), the townsfolk are very hostile to the idea of "another" working the land that once belonged to one of them.

Blu-ray Verdict: This classic, now for the very first time on Blu-ray and produced from a new 4K restoration, is recognized as one of Mexico's Top 20 movies of all time!

'La Barraca' is a rather successful adaptation of a novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (the man who wrote "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", "Blood and Sand" and "Beyond All Limits") and has been, for many, many years lauded as being a highlight of Mexican cinema.

Roberto Gavaldón's 'La Barraca' even won all the top Ariel's (Mexican National Film Prizes) awarded to the 1945 production, including Best Film, Direction, Screenplay, Cinematography, Actor, Supporting Actor, Film Editor, Music, Art Direction and Sound!

The production is lavish and the intentions are good here and with a lot obviously invested in special effects and the casting of the many Spanish actors who were refugees from the Civil War, and to make Mexican locales pass for Sevilla, the results are phenomenal for the day.

Filmmaker Tito Davison's (a frequent collaborator of Gavaldón) script is just magnificent and provides us with a first hour or so dedicated to illustrating all the hardships of a foreign family that arrives in town.

They occupy an abandoned "barraca" (a cabin) to work the land nearby, property of the family responsible for the tragedy of the first occupants, but soon discover that the community considers the cabin and land to be haunted.

But everybody is so mean (except for an old shepherd) that it seems it is the people who are really possessed by evil spirits for all they spitefully do many wrong things to the family members; including bringing about the death of the youngest child.

The script is a amazing and accumulates tragedy after tragedy seamlessly and yet thoughtfully. We get moments of happy times with folk music, dances and serenades, but ultimately return to tragedy for the last fifteen minutes or so,

In closing, 'La Barraca' reminded me a bit of Thomas Vinterberg's 'The Hunt,' although 'La Barraca' was made 67 years before, and its characters are more rebellious and confront the mean characters. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'La Barraca' Trailer

The Hudson River Massacre: MVD Classics [Blu-ray]
(George Martin, Luis Marin, Pamela Tudor, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1965) 2020 / VCI Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: Victor, chief of the fur hunters rebels, kidnaps Ann from the ruthless landowner as a bartering tool.

Blu-ray Verdict: Canada, Nineteenth century. The Hudson Bay Company, with James Sullivan (Santiago Rivero) at the helm and supported by the British Mounted Police, impose unacceptable conditions on native trappers.

A group led by Leo Limoux (Franco Fantasia), rebel in retaliation. Victor DeFrois (George Martin), a trapper who, until the execution his brother by the British soldiers had remained neutral, kidnaps Ann Sullivan (Giulia Rubini), daughter of the ruthless owner of the Hudson Bay Company, to use as a bartering tool while the rebels seek to disrupt and gain control of the company's business.

George Martin stars as a beefy frontiersman who joins up with a rabble of hunter/prospector types operating along the US/Canadian border and running afoul of the Royal Mounties for some reason that escaped my high school textbook German.

Things come to a head when they kidnap the only blond haired woman within a thousand miles as a bartering tool, who it turns out is all too happy to be removed from the clutches of the local land baron that paid good money to have a trophy wife sent up north to him.

In this classic spaghetti western written and directed by Amando de Ossorio (Tombs of the Blind Dead), Martin makes an appealing if somewhat ordinary he-man sort of lead, and more enjoyment is found watching the contributions of cult movie icons Franco Fantasia and Raf Baldessare as two of the frontiersmen.

The costuming and equipment carried by the players is also amusingly odd: Nobody seems to be wearing any clothes more than a week old, and modern day police special pistols are used alongside of prop-ish looking firearms with little or no concern about authenticity.

Characters use knives that are brand new, reflectively shiny and don't appear to be sharpened. The main point of the costuming and props seems to be to set the two societies apart: The Mounties wear funny Mountie hats, the frontiersmen wear fur hats fashioned from raccoons and leather vests.

That all aside, and more interestingly is the location work, probably filming in the mountains of northern Spain as a substitute for Canada, and fans of the 1974 Peter Fonda movie 'Open Season' will recognize the lake that much of the action is set around as being the location used for that movie's exteriors as well.

In closing, 'The Hudson River Massacre' is an incredibly obscure movie that has probably never gotten more than Cowboy Matinée showings on cable in it's English language form, if even then.

But it would be right at home alongside such fare, sort of cunningly disguised as a cheapo 83 minute Western with lots of gunplay, dopey frontier romance and a musical interlude to get things going! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Hudson River Massacre' Trailer

'Manon: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Serge Reggiani, Michel Auclair, Cécile Aubry, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1949) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: A classical tragic romance transposed to a World War II setting, Clouzot's film follows the travails of Manon (Cécile Aubry), a village girl accused of collaborating with the Nazis who is rescued from imminent execution by a former French Resistance fighter (Michel Auclair).

The couple move to Paris, but their relationship turns stormy as they struggle to survive, resorting to profiteering, prostitution and even murder.

Eventually escaping to Palestine, the pair attempt a treacherous desert crossing in search of the happiness which seems to forever elude them.

Blu-ray Verdict: Personally, I can imagine that Clouzot took on the task of filming this classic with a lot of trepidation: it's just not his kind of story.

A picaresque novel of 1734, with aristocratic ideals in conflict with a sordid story was not going to be well-handled by a director who pioneered the noir form in France.

His forte was telling a gritty story with characters stretched to the breaking point (as Montand and Vanel were in 'Wages of Fear'). It required a great deal of updating and tinkering with the basic story before Clouzot could feel comfortable with it.

The central narrative concerns Robert Dégrieux (Auclair, a splendid dope) and Manon Lescaut (Aubry, cunningly adorable), where the former quickly falls in love with the latter and finds himself spun into a vortex of mistrust and misjudgements, becoming more compulsive and foolish by the day.

The pursuit of a dream life by both Robert and Manon, runs concurrently with that of the Jewish people attempting to reach Israel, it is here where Clouzot is building towards a quite outstanding last quarter of film.

In truth, Cecile Aubry does not impress me with her acting skills; she mainly pouts and sighs her way through the picture. How much more could Danielle Darrieux or Micheline Presle have brought to the film!

Michel Auclair was a superb leading man who made many films, this is one of his best (see him also in 'Maigret et l'affaire Saint-Fiacre'). Here he manages to convey desire, murderous rage and exasperation with Manon's whims.

Dora Doll and her big toothy grin, as well as Gabrielle Dorziat as the prim madam of Manon's brothel were good, but Serge Reggiani as Manon's brother stole every scene he was in. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original 1.0 mono audio
Optional English subtitles
Bibliothèque de poche: H.G. Clouzot, an archival documentary from 1970 in which Clouzot talks of his love of literature and the relationship between the page and the screen
Woman in the Dunes, a newly filmed video appreciation by film critic Geoff Andrew
Image Gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options

'Manon: Special Edition' Blu-ray Purchase Link

One Missed Call Trilogy: Special Edition [Blu-ray]
(Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Hisashi Yoshizawa, Renji Ishibashi, Maki Horikita, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: An iconic trilogy of J-horror films comes to Blu-ray for the first time!

Tapping into the same brand of terror as the Ring and Grudge movies, visionary director Takashi Miike (Audition, Blade of the Immortal) presents a modern, high-tech twist on that mainstay of Japanese folklore, the yurei or vengeful spirit, in the form of its own iconic antihero the terrifying Mimiko.

Blu-ray Verdict: In the original 'One Missed Call' (2003), people mysteriously start receiving voicemail messages from their future selves, foretelling their deaths.

Student Yoko (Anna Nagata, 'Battle Royale') receives a phone message from her future self, ending with her own death scream. Two days later, she dies in a horrific rail collision.

As the mysterious phone curse spreads, claiming more young lives, Yoko's friend Yumi (Ko Shibasaki, 'Battle Royale,' '47 Ronin') joins forces with detective Hiroshi (Shinichi Tsutsumi, 'Space Battleship Yamato'), whose sister met the same gruesome fate.

But can they unravel the mystery before the clock runs out on the next victim Yumi herself?

Now, and despite being more than a shade 'Ringu'-clone-esquire, I heartily enjoyed this film. It has some great set-pieces (including a memorable death), some spooky moments, a few "jump" sequences, etc.

What the film didn't deliver, though, was any real fear. It was a case of "seen it all before" (a criticism that some levelled at "Ju-On").

The plot unravels in a logical manner and there's a decent pay off. It may not be a future classic, but this is a very well made example of Asian horror cinema.

In 'One Missed Call 2' (2005), a Japanese restaurant cook/owner dies after answering his daughter's cellphone. Other people are getting strange, same ringtone calls as well and dying painfully.

It happened in Taiwan as well so can the police stop it if it's a ghost?!

Since one of the deaths in the original film occurred on television, both our central characters Kyoko and Naoto are familiar with the urban legend and find themselves at a loss as to how to solve the problem.

Luckily for them, a plucky journalist named Takako is on the case, enlisting the help of Detective Motomiya (a returning Renji Ishibashi) who's pieced together quite a bit about how the curse works by now.

For me, 'One Missed Call 2' (aka 'Chakushin Ari 2') is scary like most of the Asian horror movies, and has a promising beginning supported by a good body of a storyline.

In the last of the trilogy, 'One Missed Call 3: Final' (2006), the timid, young Asuka is bullied by her classmates. When they embark on a class field trip to Korea, Asuka plans revenge by sending them a cursed phone message they can either pass on or die.

Not as good as the first two, but still a great joy to behold, this film has got nine death scenes (seven of them were done very well and two of them too funny to comment on!).

Every death scene is sort of unique from one another which is one of the reasons it still manages to be a strong entity in the trilogy. So, yeah, I still found this film to be very scary; especially the washing machine scene and the last death scene which the victim actually vomited blood!

This film is good because you can actually sense the fear on the teenagers faces when they receive the death messages. They desperately do whatever it takes to save their own lives. These are all Wide Screen Presentations (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentations
Lossless Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 soundtracks
Optional English subtitles
New audio commentary on One Missed Call by Miike biographer Tom Mes
The Making of One Missed Call, an hour-long archival documentary on the film's production
Archival interviews on One Missed Call with actors Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi and Kazue Fukiishi, and director Takashi Miike
Archival interview on One Missed Call with director Takashi Miike
Archival footage from the One Missed Call premiere
Live or Die TV special
A Day with the Mizunuma Family
One Missed Call alternate ending
The Making of One Missed Call 2, a half-hour archival documentary on the film s production
Gomu, a short film by One Missed Call 2 director Renpei Tsukamoto
One Missed Call 2 Deleted Scenes
One Missed Call 2 Music Video
The Making of One Missed Call 3: Final, an hour-long archival documentary on the film's production
Maki and Meisa, an archival behind-the-scenes featurette on One Missed Call 3: Final with actresses Maki Horikita and Meisa Kuroki
Behind the Scenes with Keun-Suk Jang, an archival featurette with One Missed Call 3: Final's South Korean star
The Love Story, a short film tie-in for One Missed Call 3: Final
Candid Mimiko, an archival location tour with the series iconic villain
Theatrical trailers and TV Spots
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin

'One Missed Call Trilogy: Special Edition' Blu-ray Purchase Link

'American Masters: Rothko'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Mark Rothko is considered one of the most renowned figures of the Abstract Expressionists, though he refused to adhere to any art movement.

For Rothko, both painting viewing of his work was considered a spiritual experience.

This documentary profiles the life and work of a man who often wrestled with great sadness even as he transformed the course of American art with his uncompromising vision.

DVD Verdict: Celebrated painter Mark Rothko (born Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz), was an American painter of Lithuanian Jewish descent.

Although Rothko himself refused to adhere to any art movement, he is generally identified as an abstract expressionist.

Furthermore, he is considered one of the most renowned figures of the Abstract Expressionist movement and transformed the world of art beginning in the 1940s.

In 'Rothko: Pictures Must Be Miraculous' PBS explores the artist's tumultuous journey and includes interviews with Rothko's daughter Kate and son Christopher, Academy Award-nominated writer John Logan, and scenes from the Tony Award-winning play "Red," with Alfred Molina in the role of Mark Rothko.

We also learn some rather interesting facts about Rothko, such as like in 1936, he began writing a book, never completed, about similarities in the art of children and the work of modern painters.

According to Rothko, the work of modernists, influenced by primitive art, could be compared to that of children in that "child art transforms itself into primitivism, which is only the child producing a mimicry of himself."

We also learn that fearing that modern American painting had reached a conceptual dead end, Rothko was intent upon exploring subjects other than urban and nature scenes.

He sought subjects that would complement his growing interest with form, space, and color. The world crisis of war gave this search a sense of immediacy.

Indeed, he insisted that the new subject matter have a social impact, yet be able to transcend the confines of current political symbols and values.

In his essay "The Romantics Were Prompted," published in 1948, Rothko argued that the "archaic artist ... found it necessary to create a group of intermediaries, monsters, hybrids, gods and demigods," in much the same way that modern man found intermediaries in Fascism and the Communist Party.

For Rothko, and simply put, "without monsters and gods, art cannot enact a drama." Learn more about these musings along with a whole host more in this quite magnificent new documentary from PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Material of 6 Features!

'FRONTLINE: In the Age of AI'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: FRONTLINE examines the promise and perils of artificial intelligence (AI) -- from fears about work and privacy to rivalry between the US and China.

DVD Verdict: Under President Donald Trump, great power competition has become the organizing principle of American foreign policy.

This has led to near-daily invocations of the Cold War to describe the intensifying rivalry between the United States and China, and to frequent analogies to an “arms race” to describe bilateral competition in advanced technologies, including quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI).

Public statements and national plans from both governments have reinforced this zero-sum dynamic. Such framing has done more to conceal than clarify and, if taken to its logical end-point, will do more harm than good for the United States.

This, it's been called "The New Space Race," but this time it's China taking on the United States, and the race is to seize control of a technology with the potential to change everything -- the way we work; how we play; how our democracy functions; how the world could be realigned.

The US and Soviet Union went through many crises during the cold war, some threatening to doom mankind, before arriving at an arrangement for self-constraint and coexistence.

The world today is more complicated and there is more at stake. Do we need a bigger crisis to help us find the right path?

Can China and the US resolve their differences and coexist peacefully, or decouple, as some in Washington seek, and therefore tear the world apart?

FRONTLINE explores some of the ways in which our world is being re-shaped and reimagined by the technology of artificial intelligence, whose development has been compared to the industrial revolution and the discovery of electricity as an epochal event in human history.

The film explores both the peril and the promise of this ascendant technology -- tracing the battle between the U.S. and China to harness its power; examining fears about what AI advances mean for the future of work; and revealing how AI algorithms are ushering in an age of both great problem-solving potential, and of new and troubling threats to privacy and democracy.

Ergo, 'In the Age of AI' is a powerful and telling journey into how this new technology will transform our world -- and some of the ways it already has. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NATURE: Nature's Biggest Beasts'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Being big can have its advantages, but it also comes with sizeable challenges.

Take the world's largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, whose huge appetite means it must take on prey ten times its weight, or the tallest of them all, the giraffe, who with such a long neck must control immense blood pressure.

Natures biggest beasts must go to extraordinary lengths to thrive. For them, size does matter.

DVD Verdict: Also inclusive of the 150-ton blue whale who can suck up four tons of krill a day, to Japan's finger-length giant hornets that can decimate a hive of 30,000 bees to feed on their larvae, nature's biggest beasts are not only put front and center here in PBS's new 'NATURE: Nature's Biggest Beasts,' but their epic survival stories are told too.

Take the Komodo dragon, the largest living lizard in the world. These wild dragons typically weigh about 154 pounds (70 kilograms), but the largest verified specimen reached a length of 10.3 feet (3.13 meters) and weighed 366 pounds (166 kilograms).

Also known as the Komodo monitor, it's a species of lizard found in the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Motang and as we see, as a result of their size, these lizards dominate the ecosystems in which they live.

Komodo dragons hunt and ambush prey including invertebrates, birds, and mammals. It has been claimed that they have a venomous bite; there are two glands in the lower jaw which secrete several toxic proteins.

Another animal on display here for its size is the adorable giraffe (quite like the cute one found on the cover art). We learn that the tallest giraffe ever recorded was a Masai bull named George.

George stood at 19ft and his horns almost grazed the roof of the 20ft high Giraffe House when he was nine years old. He arrived at Chester Zoo from Kenya in January 1959 and sadly died in July 1969.

It is the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant and it is traditionally considered to be one species, Giraffa camelopardalis, with nine subspecies.

Facts like this and oh-so much more are exactly what 'NATURE: Nature's Biggest Beasts' brings to the fore and trust me when I say that it's 55 minutes that you'll never want back! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'FRONTLINE: Fire in Paradise'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: A year after the devastating Camp Fire, who's to blame and why was it so catastrophic?

DVD Verdict: The Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history and the most expensive natural disaster in the world in 2018 in terms of insured losses.

Named after Camp Creek Road, its place of origin, the fire started on November 8th, 2018, in Northern California's Butte County. Ignited by a faulty electric transmission line, the fire originated above several communities and an east wind drove the fire downhill through developed areas.

After exhibiting extreme fire spread, fireline intensity, and spotting behaviors through the rural community of Concow, an urban firestorm formed in the foothill town of Paradise.

With the arrival of the first winter rainstorm of the season, the fire reached 100 percent containment after seventeen days on November 25th, 2018.

The fire caused at least 85 civilian fatalities, with one person still missing, and injured 12 civilians, two prison inmate firefighters, and three other firefighters.

It covered an area of 153,336 acres (62,053 ha) (almost 240 sq. miles), and destroyed 18,804 structures, with most of the damage occurring within the first four hours.

The towns of Paradise and Concow were almost completely destroyed, each losing about 95% of structures in town. The town of Magalia also suffered damage, with roughly half of the structures in town destroyed.

By January 2019, the total damage was estimated at $16.5 billion; one-quarter of the damage, $4 billion, was not insured; disproportionately represented by exceptionally low cost uninsured residences versus high cost insured commercial structures.

The same month, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the utility company responsible for the faulty power line, filed for bankruptcy, citing expected wildfire liabilities of $30 billion.

To prevent bankruptcy, on December 7th, 2019, the utility made a settlement offer for $13.6 billion; the offer covered the four devastating fires caused by the utility, including the Camp Fire.

Drought was a factor: Paradise, which typically received five inches of autumn rain by November 12th, got only one-seventh of an inch. The drought was possibly intensified by climate change.

As this brand new documentary from PBS informs us, the Camp Fire is the deadliest wildfire in the United States since the Cloquet fire in 1918, and is high on the list of the world's deadliest wildfires; it is also the sixth-deadliest U.S. wildfire overall.

With accounts from survivors and first responders, the inside story of the most destructive fire in California history, its causes and the impact of climate change are revealed here within the quite mesmerizing 'FRONTLINE: Fire in Paradise.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NATURE: Bears'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: From the mighty grizzly, to the bamboo eating panda, and the bizarre looking sloth bear, this special animal family must use all of their skills, brawn, and brains to get what they need.

Whether it's raiding beehives for honey, standing up to their rivals, or raising cubs, PBS's Nature program follows the adventures of bears across the globe as they draw on their unique adaptations to survive in an ever-changing world.

DVD Verdict: Primarily focusing on the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), also known as the "North American brown bear" or simply grizzly, we soon discover that it is a large population or subspecies of the brown bear inhabiting North America.

Funnily enough, and revealing something I actually never even considered knowing before, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first described it as "grisley," which could be interpreted as either "grizzly" (i.e., "grizzled" — that is, with golden and grey tips of the hair) or "grisly" ("fear - inspiring", now usually "gruesome")!

The modern spelling supposes the former meaning; even so, naturalist George Ord formally classified it in 1815 as U. horribilis, not for its hair, but for its character.

The spectacled bear (the real-life "Paddington Bear") is the only bear native to South America, and is the largest land carnivoran on that part of the continent, although as little as 5% of its diet is composed of meat.

Another bear we delve into is the sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) which is a myrmecophagous bear species native to the Indian subcontinent.

It feeds on fruits, ants and termites and is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, mainly because of habitat loss and degradation.

It has also been called "labiated bear" because of its long lower lip and palate used for sucking insects. It has a long, shaggy fur, a mane around the face, and long, sickle-shaped claws.

It is lankier than brown and Asian black bears and it shares features of insectivorous mammals and evolved during the Pleistocene from the ancestral brown bear through convergent evolution.

So, come on into 55 minute bear adventure, safely in the hands of PBS, as it will not only entertain you, but educate you also. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NATURE: Okavango - River of Dreams'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Experience the wildlife of the Okavango Delta, an oasis and lush paradise in Southern Africa that connects a wide array of creatures. Lions chase elephants, who chase hippos, who chase crocodiles.

DVD Verdict: Watching this enthralling new documentary from PBS, we learn that the Okavango River, also called Kubango River, is the fourth longest river system in southern Africa, running basically southeastward for 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from central Angola, where it is known as the Kubango, to the Kalahari (desert) in northern Botswana, and where the river terminates in an immense inland delta known as the Okavango Swamp.

The river—formerly sometimes called the Okovango—takes its name from the Okavango (Kavango) people of northern Namibia. David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, and the first European known to have seen the Okavango, reached its swampy delta in 1849.

The Okavango River rises as the Kubango just south of Vila Nova, Angola, on the Bié Plateau, at an elevation of 5,840 feet (1,780 m). It flows south and then southeastward through Angola in a course that is initially broken by rapids.

Along its middle course the Okavango forms part of the Angola-Namibia border. After being joined by its largest tributary, the Kwito River, the Okavango River then crosses Namibia’s narrow Caprivi Strip to enter Botswana.

Soon after entering Botswana the Okavango begins to widen as it enters the flat, swampy tract in which it terminates. About 70 miles inside Botswana, the river spreads out to form a triangular-shaped delta, the base of which extends for about 150 miles (240 km).

This delta region, less than half of which is swamp year-round, covers an area of about 6,500 square miles (16,800 square km). Most of the delta’s area is inundated during the rainy season.

The river is subject to drastic changes in flow along its length because of seasonal variations, the reception of tributaries, evaporation, and absorption into the riverbed.

In its uppermost course, the Okavango flows through woodland country that becomes less densely forested as the river progresses southward. Further to the southeast, the river passes through areas occupied by dry savanna, i.e., grassland with scattered acacia trees.

In the Okavango Swamp itself, the vegetation falls into two main types—dense clumps of papyrus reeds and other aquatic plants in the river and floodplain channels; and patches of woodland and savanna occupying the slightly higher parts of the delta.

In the delta the dense growth of papyrus reeds is continually blocking the river’s channels, thus changing the pattern of flow.

Although the Okavango brings water to a parched land, the river’s resources remain largely unused, and its banks are only sparsely settled. Except for small craft, the Okavango is virtually unnavigable.

A major problem for the Tswana (Batswana) people, the main inhabitants of the Okavango delta, has been control of the tsetse fly.

The Moremi Wildlife Reserve covers 1,463 sq mi (3,788 sq km) of the northeastern corner of the Okavango Swamp. Its teeming wildlife includes lions, cheetahs, buffalo, wildebeests, hippopotamuses, zebras, wild dogs, crocodiles, and other species.

Birds include storks, ibis, herons, egrets, cranes, and weaver birds. There are also numbers of ducks, geese, and quail. Varieties of fish include bream, pike, barbels, and tiger fish.

In short, the Okavango in Southern Africa is a one of a kind river. As detailed, it starts in the mountains of Angola but instead of running to an ocean, it flows inland through Botswana before disappearing in the Kalahari desert.

This delightful three-part mini-series follows the three distinct stages of the Okavango, as this river of dreams creates a unique ecosystem where lions chase elephants, who chase hippos, who chase crocodiles.

See for yourself in this brand new documentary 'NATURE: Okavango - River of Dreams' from PBS! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NOVA: Rise of the Mammals'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: An asteroid blasted Earth 66 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs. How did life recover?

Now a massive discovery a trove of fossils from the key first million years after the cataclysm tells the story.

With exclusive access, this documentary recounts a rare find of animals, plants, and precise dates. Together, they reveal how a new living world one that came to include us rose from the ashes.

DVD Verdict: Watching this enthralling new documentary from PBS, we learn that life came back surprisingly quickly to the site of the impact that killed the dinosaurs.

When a 6-mile (10 kilometers) asteroid slammed into the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago, causing the demise of the dinosaurs as part of the largest mass extinction event in the last 100 million years, it took life on the planet at least 30,000 years to bounce back.

The space rock also melted the crust and mantle at the point of impact, making modern scientists suspect that life would have had a particularly challenging time recovering at that location.

Yet a core sample from the crater rim has revealed that, even at ground zero, life managed to bounce back rapidly, closely matching the resurgence of life around the globe.

Beneath the tropical Gulf of Mexico, near the Yucatan Peninsula, lurks the crater known as Chicxulub. This indent in the Earth is the tombstone of the rock most famous for killing off the dinosaurs.

The asteroid impact also triggered acid rain and forest fires around the globe, and blasted sulfur and other rock into the air in quantities large enough to block the sun.

The collision vaporized the kamikaze asteroid and put a significant dent in the number of species alive on Earth. It also scattered the dust around the world to create what scientists call the K-T boundary, a layer that includes bits of the asteroid itself sandwiched between the rock layers that formed before and after.

However, these traces of the asteroid alone weren't convincing enough to attribute the extinction to the space rock's collision with Earth. Then, in the late 1970s, geophysicists searching for petroleum found the 110-mile-wide (180 km) crater beneath the ocean.

It took more than a decade to find a substantial link between that crater and the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs.

In 2016, a team of scientists headed to the gulf to take a core sample from the crater rim. Drilling into the ocean floor from a ship on the surface, they excavated a half-mile-long (800 meters), pillar-like core that revealed the geologic history of the region.

The task required specialized drilling equipment, but the challenge paid off: The underwater location managed to preserve the crater far more than happens with land-based craters.

Its subsurface placement makes Chicxulub "the most well-preserved crater" known to date, said David Kring, an impact petrologist on the excavation team who has studied the crater for decades.

The extinction event at the end of the Mesozoic era caused by the asteroid is the only such event to have occurred suddenly, thanks to its external origin.

According to some of the people who are interviewed here, other massive extinctions occurred gradually, caused by volcanic events and climate change. Under those circumstances, other life-forms filled the niches cleared by their doomed neighbors.

But when the asteroid slammed into the Earth, it almost immediately created a 150-km-wide (90 miles) sterile region where no life could survive. Measurements of the seafloor taken in the 1970s revealed this dead zone, Lowery said, though its source was then unknown.

There is oh-so much more to be discovered about this event and how we got our "life" back together again thereafter, so come check it all out in the truly eye-opening 'NOVA: Rise of the Mammals' from PBS! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and it comes with the Bonus Videos of:

Concretions: Fossils In Plain Sight
Paleontologist On The Bluffs
A Paleobotanist's Dream

'NOVA: Dead Sea Scroll Detectives'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Since the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, these fragile parchment relics have intrigued scholars, religious leaders, and profiteers alike.

The 2,000-year-old scrolls include the oldest-known versions of the Hebrew Bible and hold vital clues about the birth of Christianity. While certain scrolls have survived intact, others have been ravaged by time - burnt, decayed, or torn to pieces - and remain an enigma.

Now, scientists are using new technologies to read the unreadable, solve mysteries that have endured for millennia, and even discover million-dollar fakes.

DVD Verdict: Taking it from the top, which is where I myself had to begin this new 60 minute journey, the Dead Sea Scrolls (also Qumran Caves Scrolls) are ancient Jewish religious manuscripts found in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert, near Ein Feshkha on the northern shore of the Dead Sea.

Scholarly consensus dates these scrolls from the last three centuries BCE and the first century CE. The texts have great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with deuterocanonical and extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism.

Almost all of the Dead Sea Scrolls are currently in the collection of the Government of the State of Israel, with ownership disputed with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, and they are housed in the Shrine of the Book on the grounds of the Israel Museum.

Many thousands of written fragments have been discovered in the Dead Sea area. They represent the remnants of larger manuscripts damaged by natural causes or through human interference, with the vast majority holding only small scraps of text.

However, a small number of well-preserved, almost intact manuscripts have survived – fewer than a dozen among those from the Qumran Caves.

Researchers have assembled a collection of 981 different manuscripts – discovered in 1946/47 and in 1956 – from 11 caves. The 11 Qumran Caves lie in the immediate vicinity of the Hellenistic-period Jewish settlement at Khirbet Qumran in the eastern Judaean Desert, in the West Bank.

The caves are located about one mile (1.6 kilometres) west of the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, whence they derive their name. Scholarly consensus dates the Qumran Caves Scrolls from the last three centuries BCE and the first century CE.

Bronze coins found at the same sites form a series beginning with John Hyrcanus (in office 135–104 BCE) and continuing until the period of the First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE), supporting the radiocarbon and paleographic dating of the scrolls.

In the larger sense, the Dead Sea Scrolls include manuscripts from additional Judaean Desert sites, dated as early as the 8th century BCE and as late as the 11th century CE.

The Dead Sea scrolls have given up fresh secrets, with researchers saying they have identified a previously unknown technique used to prepare one of the most remarkable scrolls of the collection.

Scientists say the study poses a puzzle, as the salts used on the writing layer of the Temple scroll are not common to the Dead Sea region.

“This inorganic layer that is really clearly visible on the Temple scroll surprised us and induced us to look more in detail how this scroll was prepared, and it turns out to be quite unique,” said Assistant Professor Admir Masic, co-author of the research from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.

“These salts are not typical for anything we knew about associated with this period and parchment making,” he added.

Learn more about these fascinating items and how scientists are using new technologies to read the unreadable, solving mysteries along the way that have endured for millennia, here in PBS's new 'NOVA: Dead Sea Scroll Detectives.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NOVA: Why Bridges Collapse'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: In 2018, Italy's Morandi Bridge collapsed, killing 43 people.

For 50 years, the iconic bridge had withstood the elements and stress from ever-increasing traffic.

NOVA investigates what went wrong and explores other bridge collapses across the United States.

How can new engineering techniques make bridges safer and prevent such tragedies?

DVD Verdict: Focusing primarily on August 14th, 2018 when the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed, sending vehicles and tons of rubble to the ground 150 feet below and killing 43 people, 'NOVA: Why Bridges Collapse' is a very compelling investigation into a phenomenon that happens all around the world.

Witnesses said the bridge was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm before it crumbled, though lighting alone should not have felled the bridge. Preliminary investigation points to a combination of poor design, questionable building practices and insufficient maintenance.

The Morandi Bridge, finished in 1967, is named after the civil engineer who designed it: Riccardo Morandi, who died in 1989. Before its collapse, it stretched 3,878ft, connecting the A10 motorway toward France and A7 to Milan. Popular for both commercial traffic and local vacationers, the bridge formed an arterial connection between France and Italy.

The bridge was very much a signature Morandi piece. The cable-stayed bridge deck was made from reinforced concrete. The cables linking the towers to the deck were covered in concrete.

Like Morandi’s 1957 design for the General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge in Venezuela, the trestles of the bridge formed a double V: one of the Vs carried the roadway beam, while another one, upside-down, supported the upper tie rods.

On the morning of the incident, Genoa was hit by a fierce thunderstorm. Just before noon, a 300ft section of the highway collapsed, falling almost 150ft to the ground.

“I saw the bridge collapse in front of my eyes; the debris from the collapse landed 20 meters away from my car,” Davide Ricci, who was driving nearby at the time, told Genoese newspaper Il Secolo XIX. “It felt as if electricity was traveling from above downward, as if one of the beams had been struck by lightning.”

According to Angelo Borrelli, Civil Protection Department chief, the collapse took approximately 36 cars and three trucks down with it. Motorists on the bridge weren’t the only ones at risk; apartments and houses built under the bridge were crushed or had to be evacuated.

As hundreds of volunteers and professional emergency workers searched the wreckage for people, still-hanging sections of the bridge creaked ominously overhead.

The death toll stands at 43. In the days after the tragedy, mounting public anger has led to a search for causes: Was neglectful maintenance, shoddy workmanship or poor design to blame for the collapse?

For those seeking answers, the problem isn’t finding one possible solution. It’s determining which of the bridge’s many faults finally caused it to collapse.

Find out more about how further investigations have revealed more thoughts about the bridge's collapse, and how other bridges have suffered the same fate in this brand new PBS documentary 'NOVA: Why Bridges Collapse.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NOVA: Look Who's Driving'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Tech giants and car manufacturers alike are developing self-driving cars - and some of them are already on public roads.

But what must computers be capable of to truly take the wheel? And could they eventually be safer than human drivers?

DVD Verdict: After years of anticipation, autonomous vehicles are now being tested on public roads around the world. Dozens of startups have sprung up alongside established auto and tech giants - which are also testing the waters - to form what many hope will be a transformative new industry.

So, basically put, a self-driving car, also known as an autonomous vehicle, connected and autonomous vehicle, driverless car, robo-car, or robotic car, is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and moving safely with little or no human input.

But as innovators rush to cash in on what they see as the next high-tech pot of gold, some experts warn there are still daunting challenges to overcome - like how to train computers to make life-and-death decisions as well as humans can.

As we watch and learn for 60 minutes, the development and mass production of self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles, has the potential to revolutionize transportation mobility and safety.

Currently, motor vehicle operating laws, impaired driving laws, insurance laws and most other laws addressing the operation of vehicles in every state are premised on a significant assumption—that a human is behind the wheel, operating the vehicle.

State lawmakers around the country are considering the ramifications of driverless cars, including how existing laws and systems may need to be modified in order to facilitate the implementation of this new technology.

NCSL compiles and develops up-to-date information of interest to state legislators related to autonomous vehicle policy.

The information includes articles, databases and research studies with a focus on compelling issues facing state policymakers related to autonomous vehicles.

That all said, 'NOVA: Look Who's Driving' decides to check things out for themselves and peers under the hood of the autonomous vehicle industry to investigate how driverless cars work, how they may change the way we live, and whether we will ever be able to entrust them with our lives. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Pinkalicious & Peterrific: A Pinkatastic Valentine
(DVD / G / 2020 / PBS Kids)

Overview: Join Pinkalicious and her brother Peter for five pinkatastic adventures in Pinkville!

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'Pinkalicious & Peterrific' is an American half-hour children's television program based on the Pinkalicious books by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann.

The program premiered on PBS Kids on February 19th, 2018 and the animated series is designed to encourage preschool-age children to explore the arts and develop their creativity.

The show's story follows Pinkalicious and her brother Peter as they imagine how the world looks through her artful eye. Each episode will include two 11 minute stories and live action. Indeed, WGBH is working with Sixteen South to produce 38 episodes in 2019.

Ok, so, let's get this straight from the start - for all the people I've encountered complaining about the pink laden throughout the show, come on now ... the title of the show should have clued you into what to expect!

Sure it can be a bit much, especially if young boys are watching, but at least you know full well that the girls in your family will love it, trust me.

That said, Peter also likes the color pink which is important in showing that colors are just colors and there’s no need to bring gender into it.

Due to one of the DVD releases prior to this one ('Pinkalicious & Peterrific: Pinkamagine It!'), my young daughter knows all of her letters, numbers (up to 10), many animals and shapes and plenty of other things far ahead of schedule. Equally important, she knows how to share and use problem solving skills.

Now we have this new PBS Kids release, 'Pinkalicious & Peterrific: A Pinkatastic Valentine's Day!' and she might as well have assumed it was Christmas Day! Seriously, she almost bit my hand off to get it out of its factory-seal and into the DVD player!

Now that's just how much kids these days love Pinkalicious series!

It's Valentine's Day in Pinkville! Pinkalicious can't wait to show her classmates just how much she loves them by making homemade collage valentines out of their favorite things.

But what will Pinkalicious do when the valentines are accidently destroyed? She must come up with a creative solution fast!

Here on this new DVD we get five (5) Pinkalicious adventures:

Pink Love
That Unicorn Feeling
Star Light, Star Not So Bright
Mother's Day Surprise
Whale of a Song

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Official PBS DVD Purchase Link

Berenstain Bears: Tales From the Tree House, Vol 2
(2-Disc DVD / G / 2020 / PBS Kids)

Overview: It's time for Bear Country adventures with Brother and Sister Bear and 'Tree House Tales, Volume 2' contains 26 more stories from the beloved animated series.

In this value packed DVD collection, watch what happens when sister is picked to represent her school in the upcoming jump rope contest, when Papas longstanding friendship with Farmer Ben is strained due to a pumpkin growing contest, and when Brother and Freddy team up to create an innovative flying device!

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'The Berenstain Bears' began as a children's literature franchise created by Stan and Jan Berenstain and continued by their son, Mike Berenstain; who assumed partial authorship in 2002, and full authorship in 2012 following Jan's death.

The books feature a family of anthropomorphic grizzly bears who generally learn a moral or safety-related lesson in the course of each story.

Indeed, since the 1962 debut of the first Berenstain Bears book, The Big Honey Hunt, the series has grown to over 300 titles, which have sold approximately 260 million copies in 23 languages.

Of course, as we know, 'The Berenstain Bears' franchise has also expanded well beyond the books, encompassing two television series and a wide variety of other products and licenses.

While enjoying decades of popularity and receiving numerous awards, the series has been applauded for portraying many tales of bravery, caring for others, and learning responsibility well beyond The Bears' young years.

Furthermore, 'The Berenstain Bears' is sensibly written to appeal to younger children (preschool and kindergarten age) and teach them values at the same time.

In this age of redundant stupidity in entertainment, parents need a show like this one to help illustrate how fair life should be, and give a firm footing to children, not overwhelm them with glitz, glam and gloss.

By keeping plots simple and allowing children to follow along at their level, this show simply teaches children how to be fair, consider other's feelings and have good sportsmanship.

These are core values which are not being taught to children at daycare dumps or underfunded public schools, in my humble opinion.

Here in 'The Berenstain Bears: Tales From the Tree House, Volume 2' we get an incredible 5+ hours of more tales encompassing 26 singular episodes!

And because these fun-filled tales straight from the family tree house cover important topics including patience, making new friends, and being unique, they are good, honest and solid viewing for all your children. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'No Passport Required: Season Two'
(Marcus Samuelsson, et al / 2-DVD / G / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Hosted by renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson, 'No Passport Required: Season 2' takes viewers on another inspiring journey across the U.S. to explore and celebrate the wide-ranging diversity of immigrant traditions and cuisine woven into American food and culture.

Each week Marcus visits a new city to learn about the dynamic and creative ways a particular community has made its mark.

DVD Verdict: Hosted by renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson, No Passport Required is a six-part PBS/Eater series that takes viewers on an inspiring journey across the U.S. to explore and celebrate the wide-ranging diversity of immigrant traditions and cuisine woven into American food and culture.

Each week Marcus — an immigrant himself — visits a new city to learn about the dynamic and creative ways a particular community has made its mark.

A vibrant portrait of America today, 'No Passport Required' features chefs, entrepreneurs, artists, community leaders, and home cooks who have enhanced the nation’s culture and cuisine.

Here in the second season, from Seattle, where Marcus cooks with a Filipino community eager to create new traditions for a new generation, to Houston, where West African immigrants create their own brand of soul food, 'No Passport Required' showcases how food brings Americans — new and old — together around the table.

In Philadelphia, Marcus learns more about the genesis of the Italian-American cuisine that’s such a staple in the United States today. In Boston, the chef tracks food traditions through the Portuguese-speaking world while on a whirlwind tour of the city that includes fish stews, indigenous superfoods, and even some jiu jitsu.

In Southern California, the widespread Armenian community in LA and Glendale comes together to create a new home through shared food and culture.

And in glitzy Las Vegas, Marcus leaves the strip to dive into the Chinese culinary traditions now revered in the city. Explore the wonders of the world’s global food traditions right here in the United States — all with, yep, you guessed it, no passport ever being required! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and runs for 5 and a half hours.

'No Mercy - Retro VHS Style' [Blu-ray]
(Richard Gene, Kim Basinger, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1986) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: A Chicago detective, seeking to avenge his partner's death, travels to New Orleans, where he unexpectedly becomes involved in a cat and mouse game of survival.

Blu-ray Verdict: In 1986, when 'No Mercy' was released, two names that would be near the top of any "World's Sexiest Man" and "World's Sexiest Woman" lists would have been Richard Gere and Kim Basinger.

In getting these two gorgeous people together, the makers of 'No Mercy' knew they had hit cinematic gold, but what they forgot to do was create a fantastic blockbuster script to go along with their talents!

Gere stars as a Chicago cop who travels to New Orleans to track down a blond (Basinger) who is linked to the murderer of his beloved partner. The film features a great love-to-hate villain, Losado, played by Jeroen Krabbé; a notable survival-in-the-swamp sequence wherein Gere and Basinger are handcuffed to each other; and an action-packed showdown in an old city hotel.

In truth, this is a passionate drama that keeps heating up right to the interesting, but over blown finale!

That said, Gere and Basinger are outstanding together. Just the eye contact can speed up your breathing. George Dzundza plays a cautious police captain. Ray Sharkey has a small role as does Gary Basaraba. Jeroen Krabbe is one fearsome villain that deserves his demise.

You can also see from the off that 'No Mercy' is riddled with stale plot devices - cop avenging the death of his friend; hero stealing a lover from the villain; usual fish-out-of-water ideas (this time a Chicago cop working in New Orleans); even the swamp sequence has a whiff of 'The Defiant Ones' and 'The 39 Steps' about it - but it really does work when it actually tries.

The film is also excessively grim and nasty, with Krabbe in particular struggling to do anything as a one-dimensional, knife-wielding sadist. The alluded to action high-spots, including a climactic shootout in a burning hotel, are quite expensive-looking sequences but, like the rest of the film, are only oddly interesting and, in some cases, wholly unoriginal.

In closing, and given that Gere was only 36 years-old at the time, he does makes a stylish hero, but he is perhaps rather too laid back; lacking the sort of intensity that the likes of Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis and Gene Hackman brought to their tough cop heroes.

Basinger, however, is excellent and of all her performances that I have seen I would rank this one second only to the one she gave in an even better neo-noir, 'L.A. Confidential.' This film is definitely one for a rainy/snowy Sunday afternoon with nothing better to do to keep yourselves entertained! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'No Mercy: Retro VHS Style' (Blu-Ray) is out February 11th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.

'Vibes - Retro VHS Style' [Blu-ray]
(Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Falk, et al / Blu-ray / PG / (1988) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Psychics Sylvia Pickel (Cyndi Lauper) and Nick Deezy (Jeff Goldblum) are hired by a mysterious man (Peter Falk) to find an ancient treasure in South America.

As they trek through Ecuador, their supernatural skills lead them straight into danger, disaster and romance. When the ancient ruins unleash an evil paranormal power, Sylvia and Nick must join psychic forces to save the world.

Blu-ray Verdict: For my money, 'Vibes' is an overlooked gem, waiting to be discovered! It's faults (weak special effects, and underdeveloped script) are swamped by the enthusiastic performances of Cyndi Lauper and Jeff Goldblum.

There are so many quick one liners that could easily be missed, multiple viewings are almost mandatory. Peter Falk delivers some real gems too.

I can see why the film never found an audience back in the day, because it is very silly in parts and dark in others re: knives in the back are nothing to laugh at!

I can say this, go in expecting some dark humor along with endearing acting from Lauper and Goldblum and you will not be disappointed!

Jeff Goldblum and Cyndi Lauper are a comedic smash together and I honestly believe that people would go see this film if it were released today. Googie Gress is impressive in his role as the nemesis of our heroes, with some truly witty lines of his own too.

Peter Faulk plays a con man who entices Goldblum and Lauper to travel with him to Ecuador and use their psychic gifts to find his missing son. The son doesn't really exist, and we discover that he is really hunting for a lost Incan city fabled to have a "room of gold"!

To his last line in the film, Falk plays somebody who's always trying to find an edge that will bring him some extra benefit. His character was a good addition, to leaven some of the more serious stuff.

Simply put, it's all about the vibes! An endearingly quirky late '80s adventure comedy with a bit of romance on the side, sees Jeff Goldblum and Cindy Lauper as psychics hired on to head to Ecuador to find a treasure of a lost Aztec civilization. Watch it tonight on Blu-ray and be glad you did! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Vibes: Retro VHS Style' (Blu-Ray) is out February 11th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.

'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: The Complete Series'
(Ellie Kemper, Jane Krakowski, Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane, et al / 8-Disc Blu-ray / NR / (2015-2019) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Rescued after 15 years in a cult, Kimmy Schmidt decides to reclaim her life by venturing to New York, where she experiences everyday life with wide-eyed enthusiasm.

On a whim, she rents a room from Titus, a gay wannabe Broadway actor, who makes ends meet as a street performer in Times Square.

The unlikely pair find they're well-suited to help each other out, with Titus reintroducing Kimmy to modern life, and her providing him with the inspiration that you should never give up.

Together they'll make it through whatever life throws at them.

Now all 51 episodes across all 4 seasons are available for the first time in a single complete series collection!

Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the full know, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) was in the 8th grade when she was kidnapped by Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm).

She spends the next 15 years in an underground bunker in Indiana with the Reverend and his other captive wives. They are rescued by the police and become media sensations known collectively as the Indiana Mole Women.

While doing media in New York, Kimmy leaves the group to strike out on her own. Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane) rents her a basement apartment which she shares with Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess).

She starts working for rich Jacqueline White (Jane Krakowski) to care for her step kids. Krakowski is as super talented at comedy as she is being a fashionista, and she KNOWS fashion. Also, given that she is plagued with first world problems, she will make you laugh out loud too!

For my money (and a hell of a lot of other people's, of course) 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' is a laugh out loud, funny, ridiculous and surreal sitcom that works on almost every level.

Personally, I like Ellie Kemper's style here of unhinged comedy, but Titus is the breakout character (although he's a bit annoying in places and definitely tries to steal the show!).

As with all new relationships, he's actually mean to Kimmy at first, but that all calms down once their friendship truly blossoms. Have to also say that I was never in love with the introduction of Jacqueline White although I really like Kimmy's chemistry with the spoiled stepdaughter Xan!

It's too bad that Dylan Gelula didn't become a main cast member because the whole serial aspect rambles in places and could really do with a couple more in and out characters to freshen a scene.

However, there is something to be said about the catchy opening theme which always sets a good mood. And so with 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' you get a comedic sitcom that is, for the most part, cloaked in long bouts of randomness -- which can be funny, but it's also random!

For the first couple of seasons, I felt like 'Kimmy Schmidt' was essential viewing. Shorn of the restrictions of Network TV, Tina Fey created a warm but hilarious series with characters specifically written for most of the lead actors, but also able to use her star power to pull in some dynamite guest stars.

However, and in truth, the final (fourth) season of this implausible juggernaut is a slight improvement over its inconsistent third season, but it's not particularly cohesive, either.

The multiple plot threads that carry through the season are often difficult to follow because there's so much happening at once, and the writing isn't particularly funny or strong, sadly.

What mostly works this time are the characters, who are thankfully less loopy this time around, and the show manages to guide them along to conclusive narrative arcs.

Ellie Kemper's performance is still as charming and energetic, but at this point the character has become reductive and limiting for the talented performer.

In short, this is an awesome show that actually makes you laugh out loud with its quirky sense of humor and outstanding one liners. The plot of the show is unique and very interesting. I had low expectations from this show but ended up loving it.

Acting is top-notch and the way characters grow and become knitted with each other is also great. Sometimes the nonsense is a bit dragged out and you want someone to make the right decision, but it's the anticipation that keeps you getting hooked!

And so, and with all that said, Kimmy (the character) herself is cute, strong, and compassionate; a great blend. She is gullible, but she is also wise and vigilant. Tina Fey's touch of intelligent and strikingly blunt comedy shines through and that's what makes 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' the kind of show you NEED to binge watch! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: The Complete Series' (8-Disc Blu-Ray) is out February 18th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.

'What the Night Can Do'
(Peyton Kennedy, JoBeth Williams, Stuart Margolin, Mercedes Mason, et al / DVD / NR / (2017) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Luana is a 12-year-old girl struggling to grasp the world collapsing around her, as her parents separate and her estranged Grandfather falls ill. It takes one unlikely person to help her find her way.

DVD: Simply put, this movie is a quite endearing film that, at its heart, is a story about family values, reconciliation, and coming of age -- all through the eyes, and heart of a 12-year-old girl.

Directed by Christopher Martini and produced by Michael Hagerty, with Margolin and Tanya Hill serving as executive producers, the story is also a love letter to West Virginia.

Written by, and starring renowned two-time Emmy Award winner Stuart Margolin, with Max Martini, JoBeth Williams, Paul Sorvino, Mercedes Mason and Peyton Kennedy, touchingly, the film production also includes Margolin’s sons Chris and Max.

So this is a real family coming together to tell what will certainly be an engrossing story about a fictional one.

The story centers on three generations of family upheaval, with Margolin playing an ailing grandfather, who tries to explain to his granddaughter (played by Peyton Kennedy) that there are no guarantees with love.

She wants her grandparents to reunite after their divorce. But, he tells her, in the real world, things don’t always work out. He helps guide the young girl through the trials of love, loss and reconnection.

So, if you are looking for meaning in your life, or wondering where you went wrong, 'What the Night Can Do' may not have all the answers, but it sure does have some empathy and love for your situation. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Girl in the Crawlspace'
(Erin R. Ryan, Tom Cherry, Joni Durian, et al / DVD / NR / (2018) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: A young woman escapes from a notorious serial killer, who has kept her prisoner in a crawlspace.

She tries to work her way back to normal with the help of a therapist but becomes inserted into the therapist's strained marriage with a failing screenwriter.

DVD: Simply put, I am a HUGE fan of the low budget, well-written horror/suspense/sci-fi film genre and so I was rather looking forward to this C-movie, that's for darn sure!

You know the ones, where scripts that deserve to be made linger for a few years, but are always too small for corporate studios so the smaller studios pick them off the shelf and breathe life into them.

Well, 'The Girl in the Crawlspace' most certainly qualifies as low budget, that's darn tootin' obvious, but that means you can sit back, kick back and not pick it to pieces before it's had a chance to grow on you.

Anyway, all that C-movie stuff just adds to the suspense and unexpected twists that are undoubtedly going to come your way and trust me, 'Crawlspace' has a few doozies and a couple to spare!

The ending is incredibly satisfying, if I many say so, but what goes on in between is pretty great too. Set in a small town, the surroundings all closed in, quietly grey, but always alive in the corners, 'The Girl in the Crawlspace' may well feel already-done to you, but trust me when I say that a) you've not seen anything like this before, and b) you'll never guess who the bad person is either! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Restricted Area'
(Randy Wayne, Ross Britz, Shawn C. Phillips, Phillip Andre Botello, et al / DVD / R / (2019) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Four blue-collar friends, recently laid off from the steel mill, take one last camping trip into the wilderness when they discover a backwoods cult with a cataclysmic agenda and must fight to survive.

DVD: Featuring an original score from Michael Levinson and bands Agent 51 and The Megas, 'Restricted Area' has a lot going for it -- and that's even before we discuss the cast, the script and the acting!

Featuring a cast that knows they're in a C-movie and yet want to act their hearts out, I personally loved watching a gruesome movie such as this! One that manages to show all the blood and gore that was obviously an on-set character requirement!

A good set up complete with a dangerously OTT gooey and bloody center, culminating in a rather thrilling ending, 'Restricted Area' is one of those horror/thriller/slasher movies that has you not leaving the sofa throughout its duration -- just in case you miss something wickedly bloody brilliant! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Pagan Warrior'
(Sarah T. Cohen, Tara McGowran, Louisa Warren, et al / DVD / R / (2019) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: After a savage gang of warriors invade a castle, murdering all in sight, one surviving man calls upon Krampus, the Yule devil to come to exact revenge for his family.

DVD: A C-movie of the highest quality, 'Pagan Warrior' is set amid the lush greenery of the English countryside. The historic horror title sees a savage gang of Vikings invade a Saxon castle, murdering all in sight. However, a sole survivor, with the aid of some witches, summons a demonic spirit to exact revenge.

Actually knowing a little bit about the folklore of this movie itself, Director Louisa Warren has gone on record as saying she appreciated that the movie "might be a little different to other Christmas films coming out" at that time, but that it wasn't all in her hands come the final moments.

And sure, whilst the yuletide references don’t exactly come thick and fast ('Pagan Warrior' also looks as if it were shot in summer), the spirit in question is the Krampus, European folklore’s half-goat, half-demon monster that is the satanic, child-punishing yin to Santa Claus’ jolly, present-giving yang!

In fairness, the film was originally titled 'Krampus Vs. Vikings,' but ITN Distribution — the genre label that purchased the film rights — made the switch themselves.

Anyhoo, and moving on, history buffs might want to ensure they’re sitting down or have a stiff drink in their hand before watching 'Pagan Warrior,' with the onscreen date at the start stating it is 1812 -- almost a thousand years AFTER Vikings and Saxons last waged war on English shores!

But, and as Warren herself has since said, "The thing is with these films, you’ve got to use your imagination," and that is why 'Pagan Warrior' ranks very highly for me amongst the plethora of C-movies out there today. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Kansas City: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, Dermot Mulroney, Steve Buscemi, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1996) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Blondie O Hara (Jennifer Jason Leigh) resorts to desperate measures when her low-level hood husband Johnny (Dermot Mulroney) gets caught trying to steal from Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte), a local crime boss operating out of jazz haunt The Hey-Hey Club.

Out on a limb, Blondie kidnaps laudanum-addled socialite Carolyn (Miranda Richardson), hoping her influential politician husband can pull the right strings and get Johnny out of Seldom Seen's clutches.

Blu-ray Verdict: Robert Altman, perhaps one of the most innovative directors, working in Hollywood pays homage to his home town: Kansas City.

Mr. Altman recreates a long gone era that he probably didn't know that well, being only a child at the time the action takes place. It seems as though the allure of the period made a vivid mark in the director's mind, as he takes us, with this film, for a long over due visit.

Make no mistake, this is not another 'Nashville', quite the contrary. The only similarity is the title that reflects a city name. As written by the director and Frank Barhydt, the film succeeds in creating the atmosphere, but as far as the story line goes, it has the quality to disorient, even the most avid of Mr. Altman's fans.

What 'Kansas City' lacks in story line, it makes up with the glorious music that serves as compensation with the thinness of the material one sees on the screen. The music is the best excuse to watch the movie that showcases an excellent group of musicians playing heavenly in between the action.

Mr. Altman's choice of Jennifer Jason Leigh as Blondie, is probably what's wrong with the film. This actress mumbles her lines, plays Blondie as strident woman and manages to derail the film.

On the other hand, Miranda Richardson's Carolyn Stilton gives her one of the best roles in her career. Ms. Richardson appears to be on a cloud most of the time because of her opium addiction. She makes us care for her portrayal of this society woman that needs all the help she can get.

Having it all, she can't cope with being married to a cold man that couldn't care less about her. Where other lonely wives resort to drinking, Mrs. Stilton gets away from it all with drugs.

Harry Belafonte plays the local gangster in charge of illegal gambling that evidently was prevalent in the city. His Seldom Seen character (yes, that's actually his character name!) is at times inaudible by the way he throws his lines.

Sometimes we have to strain our ears in order to hear what he is saying. Mr. Belafonte is a fine actor. As far as Dermot Mulroney and Steve Buscemi are concerned, they have not much to play in the movie to make us care for them. The supporting roles are good.

In spite of this movie not being one of Robert Altman's best, it presents a fine opportunity to absorb the atmosphere and the music of the era, oh, and all that jazz! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary by director Robert Altman
Newly filmed appreciation by critic Geoff Andrew
Gare, Trains et Déraillement, a 2007 visual essay by French critic Luc Lagier, plus short introduction to the film narrated by Lagier
Robert Altman Goes to the Heart of America and Kansas City: The Music, two 1996 promotional featurettes including interviews with cast and crew
Electronic press kit interviews with Altman, Leigh, Richardson, Belafonte and musician Joshua Redman, plus behind-the-scenes footage
Four theatrical trailers
TV spots
Image gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors booklet featuring new writing by Dr Nicolas Pillai, original press kit notes and an excerpt from Altman on Altman

'Kansas City: Special Edition' Blu-ray Purchase Link

'The Point: Ultimate Edition' (MVD Rewind)
(Ringo Starr, Mike Lookinland, Harry Nilsson, Paul Frees, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1971) 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: Years ago there was a place called The Land of the Point, because everything in The Land of the Point had one the barns, the houses, the cars, everything even the people.

Everyone, that is, except Oblio (Mike Lookinland, The Brady Bunch), who was born round-headed. Since he had no point, Oblio along with his trusty dog, Arrow was banished to the Pointless Forest.

Join them to see what wonders await these two intrepid travelers as they make their way on their amazing, song-filled journey of discovery!

Directed and animated by Academy Award® Winner Fred Wolf ('Free To Be You & Me,' 'The Flintstones'), with story and songs written by Grammy Award® Winner Harry Nilsson and narration by Ringo Starr, 'The Point' is a timeless enchanting fable for the whole family to enjoy!

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, I first saw this quirky gem on TV as a child and fell in love with everything about it. The message of tolerance definitely spoke to me and the music was great. Found myself singing "Me and My Arrow" many times over the years and still love that song!

In a town where everyone has a point on the top of their head, and everything is also pointed, something happens that it seems has never happened in the community before.

A child is born without a pointed head. He is named Oblio, and during his childhood, he gets a dog with a pointed snout named Arrow and turns out to be quite popular, but one kid who doesn't like him is the nasty son of the evil count!

One day, the two compete in a popular game in the town called triangle toss, where the players try to catch a triangle with the point on their head.

With the help of Arrow, who can catch it with his snout, Oblio wins. The count wants his son to rule someday, and after hearing about his defeat in the game, he is outraged!

He realizes that Oblio is a threat to his son ever ruling, so he tells the king how this boy is an outlaw, due to the fact that he doesn't have a pointed head.

Although the king is good, and likes Oblio, he is weak-kneed and gives in to the count's demands. After a trial, the boy and his dog are banished to the Pointless Forest.

While there, they find themselves on a psychedelic adventure, encountering unusual creatures they've never seen before, and this journey turns out to be quite educational!

Ergo, 'The Point' is a rather bizarre story, but Nilsson made it abundantly clear that it was inspired by an acid trip; so it's also a rather clever story with a moral.

I know I'm not the first to point this out, but it's lesson in tolerance, which I may not have quite understood as a kid, but do now. The animation in this 1971 TV special is sketchy, and not completely colored, which could disappoint some people, but I think I've always liked it that way.

The story may be touching a times (during the sad farewell scene as Oblio leaves for the Pointless Forest, for example). Oblio meets some very interesting and memorable characters in the Pointless Forest, such as the three-headed Pointed Man (who is ironically quite pointless, though maybe not when he says, "A point in every direction is the same as having no point at all."), the Rock Man, the Leaf Man, etc.

There's also humor in the cartoon, especially during Leaf Man sequence, in my opinion, with the first words he says to Oblio and Arrow. As aforementioned, I most certainly can't forget the bunch of songs from Nilsson featured in the film and on the album, which are a big part of the both, and ones I've enjoyed many times.

I really don't know what I would have thought if I had just seen 'The Point' for the first time at my age now. It may have left me confused, though it also may have grown on me with more viewings.

It definitely seems more bizarre and a bit less entertaining to me now than it did when I watched it when I was eight years old, but I definitely understand it more now than I did before, and I've never been a stoner, in case you were wondering.

Also, I used to always see the TV version, taped off TV, with Dustin Hoffman as the narrator. Renting it on DVD, I finally got to see the home video version for the first time, featuring Ringo Starr as the narrator instead (which is the one just-released now from MVD Visual).

This was a little different, but Ringo also does a good job, so it was worth hearing his voice in the cartoon. I'm sure kids today could really enjoy this psychedelic cartoon just like I did, and I'm sure many adults can as well, and can have a better understanding of the message.

Perhaps the same goes with adolescents. If you like psychedelic cartoons from this era, like, let's say, 'Yellow Submarine', there's probably a good chance you'd like this one! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.37:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new 2K High Definition transfer presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio
5.1 Surround + 2.0 Stereo
Optional English Subtitles
NEW! ''The Kid's Got a Point'': An Interview with Mike Lookinland (HD, 17:13)
NEW! ''That Old Guy Wrote The Point'': A Conversation with Screenwriter Norm Lenzer (HD, 15:01)
NEW! ''Everybody's Got a Point'': Kiefo Nilsson and Bobby Halvorson on Adapting The Point (HD, 15:50)
NEW! ''Nilsson on Screen'': Biographer Alyn Shipton and Friends on Harry Nilsson's Film Projects & Appearances (HD, 1:01:13)
The Making of The Point: Four part featurette includes: ''Who Is Harry Nilsson?'' , ''Pitching The Point'' , ''Making The Point'' and ''Legacy of the Point'' (SD, 26:40)
Collectible Mini-Poster

All songs written and performed by Harry Nilsson:
"Me And My Arrow"
"Everything's Got 'Em"
"Poli High"
"Think About Your Troubles"
"Life Line"
"P.O.V. Waltz"
"Are You Sleeping"

'The Point: Ultimate Edition' Blu-ray Purchase Link