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Little Monsters (Vestron Video Collector's Series)
(Fred Savage, Howie Mandel, Daniel Stern, et al / Blu-ray / PG / (1989) 2020 / LGF)

Overview: New to the Vestron Collector’s Series, 'Little Monsters' is the story of Brian (Fred Savage), a sixth-grader who’s recently moved to a new town and made friends with Maurice (Howie Mandel) — the monster who lives under Brian's bed!

Maurice introduces Brian to the world of monsters, where junk food rules, adults aren’t allowed, and the fun and games never end. But when Brian's brother is kidnapped, it’s time for Brian to get serious and fight the monsters on their turf in this zany cult favorite.

Blu-ray Verdict: Simply put, 'Little Monsters' is a funny and moving family comedy that reminds me of my childhood days when I first saw the movie. I thought then, and having rewatched it now on this incredible new Blu-ray special edition, that the cast was perfect, the script was hilarious, and the special and make-up effects were outstanding.

Brian Stevenson (Fred Savage) has just moved into a new house with his parents and little brother Eric (Ben Savage). He has no friends and is not doing well with grades. That is until he discovers that a monster named Maurice (Howie Mandell) has invaded his room!

He starts out scared of Maurice, but quickly becomes best friends with him. Maurice takes Brian to a world of Monsters under his bed and shows him the time of his life.

Brian finds out though that the world is ruled by an evil monster (Frank Whaley) who terrorizes people and has not been seen lately. So, and together, Brian and Maurice embark on an adventure of a lifetime to put this monster away.

Fred Savage (The Wonder Years), Howie Mandell (Bobby's World), Ben Savage (Boy Meets World), Rick Ducommun (Blank Check, Scary Movie), Frank Whaley (Pulp Fiction, Field of Dreams), Devin Ratray (Home Alone 1 & 2), and Daniel Stern (The Wonder Years) all star here and wow, what a delightful flashback to the movies of the late '80s, that's for sure!

Directed by Richard Greenberg, Savage, who was riding high in films right around here - soon to be stepping side though for the '90s to welcome in the late '80s heart throb duo of Corey Feldman and Corey Haim - is genuinely excellently innocent, and all puffy-cheeked here.

And although his maniacal behavior does occasionally become exhausting, Mandel's performance is certainly energetic, and you can't help but love him when he drinks a bully's apple juice, only to refill it with p*ss!! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• *NEW* Audio Commentary with Jarret Gahan, Editor-in-Chief of
• *NEW* Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer David Newman
• *NEW* “Call Him Maurice” – An Interview with Actor Howie Mandel
• *NEW* “Beneath the Bed” – An Interview with Producer Andrew Licht
• *NEW* “Monsters Big & Small” – An Interview with Special Makeup Effects Creator Robert Short
• *NEW* Vintage Interviews with Actors Fred Savage, Ben Savage, Special Makeup Effects Creator Robert Short, and Director Richard Alan Greenberg
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• “Making Maurice” – Vintage Footage of Howie Mandel’s Makeup Transformation
• Vintage EPK & VHS Promo
• Theatrical Trailer
• Still Gallery

With 6 new special features, including an all new interview with Howie Mandel, the 'Little Monsters' Blu-ray will be available September 15th, 2020 for the suggested retail price of $17.99.

Original Trailer

Shivers (Vestron Video Collector's Series)
(Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1975) 2020 / LGF)

Overview: A cult favorite, 'Shivers' is acclaimed filmmaker David Cronenberg’s feature-length debut and new to the Vestron Collector’s Series.

When the residents of a luxury apartment complex outside Montreal are infiltrated by parasites and transformed into violent, sex-crazed maniacs, it’s up to Dr. Roger St. Luc to contain the outbreak from spreading to the city at large in a film that “scares and shocks us because it’s so cleverly made” (Roger Ebert).

Blu-ray Verdict: With a story line premise that a virulent strain of ugly and lethal parasites turn the residents of a swanky deluxe apartment complex into depraved sex-crazed fiends, a directed by filmmaker David Cronenberg, well, you know you're in for a right royal visual treat from the off!

Doctor Roger St. Luc (the hopelessly bland Paul Hampton) and his amiable colleague Rollo Linsky (a wonderfully engaging portrayal by Joe Silver) try to figure out what's going on before it's too late.

Writer/director David Cronenberg concocts an unsparingly bleak meditation on the horrors of mankind being reduced to sheer psychotic libido impulses (check out the scene with a homely fat middle-aged woman jumping a younger man while exclaiming "I'm hungry for love!") and does a sound job of creating and maintaining a cold, icky tone which becomes more increasingly creepy and unnerving as the grim narrative progresses towards a wild pull-out-all-the-stops climax which plays like a perverted version of 'Night of the Living Dead.'

The acting is rather hit or miss: Hampton barely registers as the insipid would-be hero, the ever-alluring Lynn Lowry contributes a memorably sexy turn as the enticing Nurse Forsythe, Barbara Steele projects her usual sense of class and commanding presence as poised lesbian Betts, Allan Kolman does well as the infected Nicholas Tudor, and pretty Susan Petrie likewise impresses as Tudor's sweet, distraught wife Janine.

Moreover, this picture comes through with several effectively nasty moments: the jolting opening with a deranged old scientist murdering his teenage mistress, cutting opening her abdomen, and pouring acid in her stomach prior to slitting his own throat; Betts being violated by a parasite while taking a bath, a parasite attacking Linsky by attaching itself to his face, and a brief, yet startling shot of two little kids on leashes walking on all fours and barking like dogs.

Robert Saad's plain cinematography presents a credible evocation of everyday pedestrian reality while the spare, chilling score does the shuddery trick. Joe Blasco's hideously ghastly and gruesome make-up f/x deliver the disgusting goods.

Plus there's a wickedly twisted sense of blithely morbid black humor at work throughout. Not peak Cronenberg, but still worthwhile and engrossing all the same! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• *NEW* Audio Commentary with Writer-Director David Cronenberg and Co-Producer Don Carmody
• *NEW* “Mind Over Matter” – An Interview with Writer-Director David Cronenberg
• *NEW* “Good Night Nurse” – An Interview with Actress Lynn Lowry
• *NEW* “Outside and Within” – An Interview with Special Make-Up Effects Creator Joe Blasco
• *NEW* “Celebrating Cinépix” – An Interview with Greg Dunning
• Archival 1998 David Cronenberg Interview
• Still Gallery with Optional Archival Audio Interview with Executive Producer John Dunning
• Theatrical Trailers
• TV Spot
• Radio Spots

With five new special features including an all-new audio commentary with David Cronenberg, 'Shivers' will be available September 15th, 2020 on Blu-ray for the suggested retail price of $17.99.

Original Trailer

'First Cow' [Blu-ray Combo Pack]
(Alia Shawkat, John Magaro, Dylan Smith, et al / Blu-ray / PG-13 / (2019) 2020 / LGF)

Overview: Two travelers, on the run from a band of vengeful hunters in the 1820s Northwest, dream of striking it rich — but their tenuous plan to make their fortune on the frontier comes to rely on the secret use of a wealthy businessman’s prized dairy cow.

With their scheme landing somewhere between honest ingenuity and pure grift, renowned filmmaker Kelly Reichardt finds a graceful and deeply moving origin story of America in their unlikely friendship and fragile life at the margins.

Blu-ray Verdict: Based on the 2004 novel "The Half-Life" by Jonathan Raymond ("Night Moves") and adapted by Raymond and Reichardt, 'First Cow' is set on the Oregon frontier sometime in 1820's.

Shot in a boxy 4:3 ratio, similar to the Westerns of the 1950s, the cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt ('Meek's Cutoff') and a haunting score by William Tyler reveals the pristine beauty of the Oregon wilderness as well as the primitive conditions in which most trappers and explorers lived.

At the beginning of the film, a quote from poet William Blake, "The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship" sets the tone as the opening shot introduces us to a barge slowly making its way down the Columbia River, which is where the story takes place.

Telling it like it is, 'First Cow' is a quite stunning tale about friendship and the necessary things we do to make hay.

The central performances are excellent and slow narration with pleasant country music means you really get that 'The Straight Story' and 'Lone Star' underlay, background vibe.

Furthermore, the film's visual style is impressive, but it's story and pacing is what really impressed me here (although its, at times, watching-paint-dry affect, might not be for everyone, of course!)

In truth, the cinematography is yet another aspect I found to be truly excellent. The framing is on point and impressive and it adds a lot to the film's style.

Oh, and the production design and costumes are also really good here too as it honestly looks and "feels" like these characters have just stepped out of the 1820s.

I personally haven't seen any of director Kelly Reichardt's previous works, but after watching this I am more than interested to complete her filmography.

Sure, there are things about the overall tone of the film that bothered me somewhat, but the story, characters, and especially the way the film is shot held my attention throughout.

It's hard to recommend this movie to those who are casual viewers and are simply looking to be entertained though, because I can almost guarantee that you won't be - unless you're a film buff and know what to expect.

While our society is often permeated by the sense that our joy is wearing out and that we are in danger of losing our connection to other human beings, Reichardt's sensitive and haunting film renews our understanding of the deep and abiding companionship we can still share with each other - in moments of beauty and tragedy, in an age that feels closer to the end than the beginning.

Overall, it's a very, very well-made film that fully deserves all the attention it has been lauded, and a much wider audience from here on in, down the years. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

• "A Place in This World" Featurette

Including a bonus featurette, 'First Cow' will be available September 8th, 2020 on Blu-ray (plus DVD & Digital) for the suggested retail price of $24.99.

Original Trailer

'The Secret: Dare To Dream'
(Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas, Jerry O'Connell, et al / DVD / PG / 2020 / LGF)

Overview: Based on the groundbreaking best-selling book by Rhonda Byrne, 'The Secret: Dare to Dream' follows Miranda (Katie Holmes), a young widow trying to make ends meet while raising her three children and dating her boyfriend (Jerry O’Connell).

A devastating storm brings an enormous challenge and a mysterious man, Bray (Josh Lucas), into Miranda’s life. Bray reignites the family’s spirit but, unbeknownst to Miranda, also holds an important secret — one that will change everything.

With its timeless messages of hope, compassion, and gratitude, 'The Secret: Dare to Dream' is an inspiring and heartwarming film that shows how positive thoughts can transform our lives.

DVD Verdict: 'The Secret: Dare to Dream' is a new romantic drama directed and written in part by Andy Tennant, the director of 'Fool's Gold' and 'Hitch'.

The film is about the young widow Miranda Wells (Katie Holmes), who tries to make ends meet and take care of her three children. A devastating storm causes damage to her home, which only makes life more bleak.

When she runs into mysterious man Bray Johnson (Josh Lucas), her life seems to be changing in a positive way. Bray offers her a helping hand in a positive way with all Miranda's problems.

Bray tries to convey his positive energy to Miranda and her children, but as Miranda starts to spend more time with Bray, she learns that he is also hiding something from her.

Sure there are times within this delightful film where they have trouble telling the message that life is going to, or will get better if you go through it in a positive way, but not everything in life can ever be perfect, can it now.

There is a truth deep down inside of you that has been waiting for you to discover it, and that truth is this: you deserve all good things life has to offer, is one of those messages that comes through, and more than once.

For we, as humans, are very lucky because we have life. Most times, without knowing it, a rather beautiful life at that, so the message that we must try harder to see this beautiful world and its beautiful people around us (let alone in these dark times, spend more time with our family and friends), is most definitely a message we can all get behind.

Indeed, we must not let others down in any way, purposely, of course, because one way or another they are playing their very own best versions of themselves. Thus, it is us who can help them rise, which, whilst being yet another message derived from this film, is also a most poignant one to let register.

Katie Holmes does yet another great acting job as a woman going through a rough patch, but without doing anything remarkable with this role, due to the confines of her character.

Whereas Josh Lucas does come across well though, as someone who tries to live life in a positive way and lends others a helping hand when they need it.

Overall, 'The Secret: Dare To Dream' is a lovely romantic story and gives the audience a view of helping others sometimes in reward brings happiness in return. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

The Secret on Set

On September 29th, 2020, 'The Secret: Dare to Dream' will be available on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD for the suggested retail price of $39.99 and $29.95, respectively.

Official Trailer

'The Shadow Of Violence'
(Cosmo Jarvis, Barry Keoghan, Liam Carney, et al / DVD / R / 2020 / LGF)

Overview: In the dark underbelly of rural Ireland, former boxer Douglas Arm Armstrong, played by Cosmo Jarvis from Hunter Killer, has become a feared enforcer for the drug dealing Devers family.

When his ruthless employers order him to kill for the first time, his loyalties are tested in this powerful thriller co-starring Barry Keoghan ('Dunkirk') and Ned Dennehy ('Peaky Blinders').

DVD Verdict: Originally titled 'Calm Horses,' there's nothing here that we haven't seen before, BUT seldom have we seen it done this well!

It's an Irish gangster movie of sorts but it doesn't follow the rules of other gangster films or movies dealing with criminals or family feuds.

Everything about it is different from its location on Ireland's West coast to its characters. Indeed, this is more a character study than a history of violence, which for the U.S. it got renamed 'The Shadow of Violence,' one assumes.

Its central character is 'Arm', a dim-witted former boxer now acting as an enforcer for the Devers' family. He's a bit like Steinbeck's Lennie but with a mean streak and he's played, quite magnificently, by Cosmo Jarvis.

The original title, 'Calm with Horses' actually refers to his love for the animals and their calming influence on him and it also refers to how horses are used therapeutically to calm down his autistic young son.

However, things go badly wrong for Arm when one of the Devers' clan, (a terrific Barry Keoghan), orders him to kill the man who abused one of the girls in the family.

Working from a wonderfully intelligent script by Joe Murtagh, in turn adapted from a Colin Barrett short story, first-time feature director Nick Rowland never puts a foot wrong; drawing superlative performances from his largely unknown cast and dragging us into the film's central premise like he's been doing this sort of thing for years.

As I said, the material isn't new and Rowland isn't afraid to show off his influences, (mostly British gangster pictures, and we're not talking Guy Ritchie here, as well as the best of American independent cinema), but he brings to his material a freshness and a brilliance I can only marvel at.

Without doubt, this is one of the best films of the year and now that it is out on DVD from Lionsgate, I would rush out and purchase it now, if I were you! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Shadow of Violence' will be available September 1st, 2020 on DVD for the suggested retail price of $19.98.

Official Trailer

'The Deeper You Dig: Special Edition'
(John Adams, Toby Poser, Zelda Adams, et al / 2-Disc Blu-ray / NR / (2019) 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: Bogus tarot card reader Ivy (Toby Poser) and her teenage daughter Echo (Zelda Adams) are an unconventional but loving mother/daughter team.

But when reclusive Kurt (John Adams) moves in down the road, a tragic accident results in Echo’s murder, causing three lives to collide in mysterious and wicked ways.

Blu-ray Verdict: In this film, and one whose entire production was a family affair, having been written, directed, and produced by John Adams, his wife Toby Poser, and their daughter, Zelda; who all, in turn, star, shoot, and compose the films score, we get brought forth a dark, unsettling meditation on grief, survival and the brittle barrier that separates the living from the dead.

Ivy Allen (Toby Poser) is a medium who has lost her sight, but still practices the Tarot business. Her goth fourteen-year-old daughter Echo (Zelda Adams) likes to sled in upstate New York.

Kurt Miller (John Adams), their new neighbor, is restoring a house. He's the kind of guy that eats out all the time, drinks, drives a truck, and doesn't slow down when he sees deer crossing the road.

Sadly, he runs into Echo, but immediately has issues burying the body in frozen ground. Much like a Poe tale, he is haunted and starts to crawl within himself, whilst at the same time knowing full well he has to deal with the real world and all the questions that are now coming his way.

Ivy senses that her daughter is dead and her suspicions fall instinctively on Kurt. With the fires of anger and revenge both now flowing equally within her, she knows, sooner or later, and no matter what everybody else can, in this case, cannot prove, one way or another, Kurt will pay for what he has done.

Beautifully shot in a wondrous, and apt minimalistic fashion, and one very reminiscent, to me, of 'The Shining,' the eerie snowy setting combines majestically with the overall sense of quiet, stoic loneliness.

Inclusive of what can only be described as "nightmarish phantasmal" scenes that depict the dark and unknown side of the afterlife (or the cosmos, if interpreting as a Lovecraft devotee), we unerringly watch in as the antagonist is slowly driven mad; and, trust me, at times, well, it is not pleasant viewing and can be upsetting to behold.

However, this all combined is how one can "see" the whole picture come together and, thankfully not liberally scattered jump scares throughout, the plot unfolds nicely; although there are some traditional scares to lovingly behold, of course.

In conclusion, 'The Deeper You Dig' an admittedly slow-burning, psychological piece, but it comes complete with a gory, violent, and highly satisfying climax and twist at the end! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Exclusive 2-Disc set containing 'The Deeper You Dig' (2019) and 'The Hatred' (2018).

DISC ONE – 'The Deeper You Dig'
High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentation
Original lossless PCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary by writers/directors/stars Toby Poser and John Adams
At Home with the Adams Family, an exclusive, in-depth interview with the trio of filmmakers responsible for The Deeper You Dig
It’s in the Blood: The Family in the Horror Genre, an exclusive visual essay by critic Anton Bitel exploring the theme of family in The Deeper You Dig and the Adams Family’s broader filmography
Special effects breakdown with commentary by Trey Lindsay
FrightFest TV interview with the Adams Family
Hellbender Music Videos
Theatrical Trailer
Image Gallery

DISC TWO – 'The Hatred'
High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentation
Original lossless PCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Kid Kalifornia music videos

+ Reversible sleeve featuring two exclusive choices of artwork
Limited edition illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Neil Mitchell

Official Purchase Link

Official HD Trailer

'Mall Rats: Special Edition'
(Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Shannen Doherty, Jeremy London, Jason Lee, et al / 2-Disc Blu-ray / NR / (1995) 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: Simultaneously dumped by their girlfriends, comic book obsessive Brodie (Jason Lee) and best friend TS (Jeremy London) plan to ease the pain of their losses by taking take a trip to the local mall.

Amongst shoppers, they discover the mall is being used as the venue for a dating show, in which TS’s girlfriend Brandi is the star.

Hatching a plan to win back their significant others, Brodie and TS enlist the help of professional delinquents Jay and Silent Bob to hijack the gameshow in a bid to win back Brandi.

Blu-ray Verdict: Featuring a cast including Joey Lauren Adams, Ben Affleck, who would go on to be recurring collaborators in Smith’s movies, 'Mallrats' celebrates its 25th Anniversary in this limited edition set boasting a brand new restoration and hours of bonus content.

In my humble opinion, 'Mallrats,' Kevin Smith's second and most maligned film until 'Jersey Girl,' isn't really that much of a stretch from 'Clerks.'

Mostly it just feels like a movie that got taken away from its creator by the studio system trying to make it more marketable - every filmmaker has at least one such experience.

Still, Smith's comedic brilliance shines through in the writing. Characters are still aimless losers with nothing better to do than hang out and have epic conversations about meaningless nonsense.

One of my favorite such discussions revolves around whether the cookie bakery is regarded as part of the food court, and another pontificates on Superman's romantic life.

As with 'Clerks,' the protagonists are experiencing miniature crises with their girlfriends, the resolution of which leads to the obvious but not heavy-handed moral Smith always interjects in his films.

My only real complaint is the artificially "feel-good" ending, which feels too trite and sensational for what had, for the previous seventy minutes or so, been such a down-to-earth, slice-of-life comedy.

It's like a bad Adam Sandler movie, the kind that always seems to end with cheering crowds and joyfully tearful make-up smooches. The bad guy gets his comeuppance, the lovable characters go on to fame and fortune, and everything is wrapped up in a neat little package.

One of the things I love about 'Clerks' was that the ending, while resolving the conflict, ends without tying all the loose ends together.

While Smith generically employs happy endings, they usually don't feel quite as predictable and saccharine. I've never heard him speak out on the subject, but I get the feeling the new ending was probably tacked on as the result of poor test screenings, or changed at the script stage because of the asinine notes studios like to give to more inexperienced indie directors.

That all said, the cast is great. Jason Lee, of course, steals every scene he's in, even though he's supposed to be the "sidekick" here.

He's a talented actor, and it's too bad that, with the possible exception of 'The Incredibles' and 'My Name is Earl' (I've only seen a few episodes), he's never been utilized quite as effectively as he is in a Kevin Smith movie.

Jason Mewes, mercifully, retains the role of Jay in spite of the studio's wishes, and is as always a foul-mouthed fireball of energy.

Joey Lauren Adams is suitably adorable, even in her role as a cheating ex-Shannen Doherty is wonderfully spirited and appropriately irritable without coming across as shrewish or horrible.

Jeremy London performs his "straight man" role admirably, though since his job is to react to the lunacy around him more than participate in it, the audience never sympathizes with him the way we should (perhaps a bit of underwriting on Smith's part).

The beautiful Claire Forlani is cute enough, but her performance feels sort of flat for some reason.

In closing, 'Mallrats,' while it definitely suffers from a sophomore slump, is still a great entry in the Jersey Chronicles, and has more than enough redemptive qualities to put it in a league far above 90% of most studio comedies. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

-Brand new restoration by Arrow Films of both the Theatrical and Extended cuts of the film, approved by director Kevin Smith and cinematographer David Klein.
-Newly assembled TV cut of the film featuring hilarious overdubbing to cover up profanity
-High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations
-Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Philip Kemp
-Fold out poster featuring replica blueprints for ‘Operation Drive-by’ and ‘Operation Dark Knight’

DISC ONE – Theatrical and Extended Cuts
-Original DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround audio
-Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
-Audio commentary with director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier, archivist Vincent Pereira, and actors Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, and Jason Mewes
-Brand new introduction to the film by Kevin Smith
-My Mallrat Memories – and all-new interview with Kevin Smith
-A newly filmed tribute to producer Jim Jacks by Kevin Smith
-Brand new interview with actor Jason Mewes
-Brand new interview with Cinematographer David Klein
-Hollywood of the North: A newly produced animated making-of documentary featuring Minnesota crew members who worked on the film
-Deleted Scenes – Kevin Smith and Vincent Pereira discuss deleted scenes and sequences originally cut from the film
-Outtakes and behind the scenes footage
-Cast interviews from the original set
-Erection of an Epic: The making of Mallrats – archival retrospective with cat and crew looking at the making and release of the film
-Q&A with Kevin Smith – archival Q&A filmed for the 10th anniversary
-Build Me Up Buttercup music video
-Stills galleries
-Theatrical Trailer

Newly assembled TV cut of the film featuring hilarious overdubbing to cover up profanity
-Original stereo audio
-Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
-Brand new introduction to the TV cut by director Kevin Smith
-Stills gallery of the comic books featured in the film’s opening sequence
-‘Easter Eggs’

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

'Warning From Space: Special Edition'
(Keizô Kawasaki, Toyomi Karita, Bin Yagisawa, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1956) 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: UFOs are seen around Tokyo, but because they look like giant starfish the aliens cannot approach us without creating panic!

Hence one of them sacrifices itself and takes the form of a popular female singer. It/she warns mankind that a meteor will crash on Earth.

While the approaching meteor causes hotter and hotter weather, mankind runs and builds a last-chance, anti-meteor weapon!

Blu-ray Verdict: Telling it like it is, 'Warning From Space' is a rather cheesy and laughable science fiction effort from Japan, in which Earth is attacked by aliens which look like giant starfish (the cheap costumes have to be seen to be believed!).

In order to cut down on budget, one of the aliens disguises itself as a female singer and it turns out that the aliens aren't bad at all, but rather wishing to help mankind by warning them of an impending meteor strike.

The action is made up of the usual disaster set-pieces achieved with miniature effects and guys in suits arguing in official rooms in a bid to make things right.

That all said, where once only a dubbed version with poor picture quality was available, now we got a quite wondrous High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation, with original uncompressed Japanese mono audio and even an optional newly translated English subtitles included, toboot!

If you weren't aware, 'Warning From Space' was made by Japan's Daiei studio which later gave us the 'Gamera' series of movies and it also seems to borrow ideas that were contained in the 1950s sci-fi classics, 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' and 'When Worlds Collide,' which is no bad thing (given how good those two movies were, of course).

So, in conclusion, if you want to watch actors trying to entertain you with dialogue cut out of a crackerjack box for characters, cut out of a refrigerator box in a plot cut out of the ads in a comic book, settle in and watch this delightfully goofy sci-fi flick, 'Warning From Space.'

Oh, and if the plot confuses you, I suggest buying a ton of old sci-fi pulp magazines from 1930-1960 and reading them, 'cause by the time you're through, you'll understand the plot like the back of your hand! 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 uncompressed Japanese mono audio
– Optional newly translated English subtitles
– Brand new commentary by Stuart Galbraith IV, author of Monsters Are Attacking Tokyo!
– First-ever HD transfer of the American release version of the film, including a newly restored English dub track
– Theatrical Trailers
– Image galleries
– Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Japanese Trailer

'The Secret Garden' [Blu-ray Combo Pack]
(Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Dixie Egerickx, Edan Hayhurst, Amir Wilson, et al / Blu-ray / PG / 2020 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: 'The Secret Garden,' starring Colin Firth, Julie Walters and Dixie Egerickx, is a new take on the beloved classic novel of the same name written by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Set in England during a new time period in 1947, the film follows a young orphan girl who, after being sent to live with her uncle, discovers a magical garden on the grounds of his estate.

Blu-ray Verdict: So we're all on the same page, 'The Secret Garden' is a remake of the 1993 movie of the same name. This remake is directed by Marc Munden, who is better known as the director of TV series such as National Treasure and The Crimson Petal and the White.

In the film, the parents of 10-year-old Mary Lennox (Dixie Engerickx) die. This is why she is brought to her uncle Archibald Cravan (Colin Firth).

Her uncle lives in a large country house with his sick son Colin (Edan Hayhurst). Mary is a curious girl and she decides to fully investigate her uncle's large mansion.

She finds a mysterious door that gives her access to a secret garden. In this garden Mary discovers that special things are possible here.

She tries to get her nephew to go to the garden in the hope that he can heal here. Colin is just too negative to come with her. Mary must now find a way to convince Colin of the wonders that are possible in the secret garden.

This film, like the 1993 film of the same name and many other films of the same name, is also based on the book by writer Frances Hodgson Burnett.

For example, the story of the film may seem somewhat familiar to older viewers, but this new version is so much more fun for young children of this generation.

Parents familiar with an older version of this film could watch this film with their children and then compare the two different films.

The film does have beautiful scenes that take place in the secret garden, because it is filled with beautiful images and some animals.

Older viewers can see that most of these images are filmed with CGI and in front of a green screen, but younger viewers can enjoy these beautiful images and continue to fantasize about them.

Because of the script, characters of Dixie Egerickx such as a newly turned orphan and the sick Edan Hayhurst come across as somewhat negative for much of the film.

Although both have good reason to be negative, as a viewer it is difficult to empathize with them and it is difficult to like them.

It would have been better to introduce the characters to the viewers in a more positive way, as the characters only become positive themselves when they are in the secret garden.

That all said, the film is carried by Amir Wilson who plays the helper's son in the household and "lead" actors such as Colin Firth and Julie Walters, have nothing but minor roles in the film, to be quite honest.

In conclusion and even though it may not be remembered as affectionately as its previous adaptation, I'd say that this film still has just enough in it for most audiences to enjoy.

Nevertheless, the 1993 film is still the better one and I definitely prefer it for the various reasons stated above.

Watching both of these films has actually made me interested in reading the original novel to see how it compares to all these onscreen treatments and I am certain the story is better in print form. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Extras of:

Concept to Reality
Page to Screen
Official Trailer

'The Secret Garden' [Blu-ray Combo Pack] is out October 6th, 2020 via Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Official Trailer

Official Website

Official Facebook Page

Official Twitter Page

'American Pie Presents: Girls' Rules'
(Madison Pettis, Lizze Broadway, Natasha Behnam, Piper Curda, Darren Barnet, et al / DVD / R / 2020 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: It's Senior year! Annie, Kayla, Michelle, and Stephanie decide to finally harness their girl power and band together to get what they want.

The boys won't know what hit them when these sassy sweethearts are calling the shots. Wild parties, sexy adventures and a Stifler bring the heat in this hot new slice of American Pie!

DVD Verdict: In truth, my thoughts are this: If they were going to make another 'American Pie' movie, why wouldn't you make it (such as this fifth one) with the original cast (or as many as you could rope together, of course).

I’m sure they’d all be open to doing to, as (sadly) none of them do that much other stuff anyway, so quite why they weren't roped in is beyond me.

For actors such as Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Sean William Scott, possibly Eugene Levy, specifically, would have chewed Universal's hands off for the option, me thinks, which means we get a new instalment that features a batch of all new, young and pretty faces (that we have no prior attachment too, of course).

Anyhoo, we do luckily get some rather talented and deserving character actors here in 'Girls' Rules,' with this latest straight-to-video instalment in the long-running sex comedy series playing out much as you would expect.

Featuring Madison Pettis, Piper Curda, Natasha Behnam, and Lizze Broadway as four high school seniors who decide to finally harness their girl power to get what they want, one look at the front cover art and you know exactly what is going to happen, what edible item will got spotlighted midway through, and how it will end (always messily, but never painfully). This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Pie Presents: Girls' Rules' [DVD] is out October 6th, 2020 via Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Official Trailer

Official Website

Official Facebook Page

Official Twitter Page

'Babyteeth' [Blu-ray]
(Ben Mendelsohn, Essie Davis, Eliza Scanlen, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2019) 2020 / IFC Films)

Overview: When seriously ill teenager Milla falls madly in love with smalltime drug dealer Moses, it’s her parents’ worst nightmare.

But as Milla’s first brush with love brings her a new lust for life, things get messy and traditional morals go out the window. Milla soon shows everyone in her orbit – her parents, Moses, a sensitive music teacher, a budding child violinist, and a disarmingly honest, pregnant neighbor – how to live like you have nothing to lose.

What might have been a disaster for the Finlay family instead leads to letting go and finding grace in the glorious chaos of life.

'Babyteeth' joyously explores how good it is not to be dead yet and how far we will go for love.

Blu-ray Verdict: Though it's far from the easiest watch, 'Babyteeth' is a truly gorgeous film, and one that offers a beautiful outlook on life while taking on challenging and sobering real-world drama.

Brought to life in effortless style by director Shannon Murphy and featuring an ensemble of fantastic performances, it's a mesmerizing watch with a touching and heartbreaking core.

There's so much to love about 'Babyteeth,' but one of the things that makes it so gripping throughout is the way in which it evolves over the course of its runtime.

After all, we've seen countless coming-of-age movies before, and if this were to just follow the same path, there wouldn't be quite as much to write home about.

'Babyteeth' indeed starts off as a sweet and moving portrait of teen rebellion, first love and self-discovery, as we follow Eliza Scanlen as a teenage girl who, under the pressure of a serious illness, begins to break out of her childlike shell and see the world through new eyes.

Scanlen's performance is wonderful right from the start, as she has the perfect blend of wide-eyed innocence and innate fire and curiosity to make her character's development both convincing and gripping to watch.

That means, as a coming-of-age drama, 'Babyteeth' really impresses in its early stages, and grabs your attention for the rest of the film.

Following on from its opening act, 'Babyteeth' begins to evolve into a more challenging drama, tackling difficult issues such as suffering with cancer and drug addiction.

The themes of self-discovery and coming-of-age still remain, but the focus is widened in the second act from Scanlen's character to herself and her family and friends.

With that, the film opens up really nicely as it offers an affecting yet still heartfelt perspective on the struggles of her parents, as well as Moses, the troubled young man who she falls for.

Toby Wallace's wonderful performance as Moses is integral to the story, and his likeability in spite of a questionable lifestyle allow you to sympathize with him and eventually come to understand why he is the way he is, and what he's really like.

Meanwhile, Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn are equally impressive as Scanlen's parents, and with understated yet convincing and emotionally charged performances, are able to develop their characters and their struggles into important and fascinating parts of the story, without overshadowing the central focus.

That range of drama and focus means 'Babyteeth' is so much more than your average coming-of-age drama, and it gives the film such striking gravitas throughout, as it shows time and time again that it's not afraid to take on challenging issues with a unique and eye-opening outlook.

Yet while the film certainly hits hard with that dramatic gravitas, it also manages to avoid telling its story without an overwhelming sense of melancholy. It does that through the use of a wonderfully honest and down-to-earth sense of humor, but more importantly through a powerfully positive perspective on life.

Shining a light on the brighter moments in a difficult situation, 'Babyteeth' consistently offers drama to warm your soul just as it captivates with often weighty storytelling.

That does mean the swings between the joyful highs and the devastating lows are particularly intense, making the film somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster, but it really allows you to appreciate this story in both a positive and sobering light.

Another part of what make 'Babyteeth' so gorgeous is its use of music and visuals. With mesmerizing (yes, I used that word again, but it truly is) direction from Shannon Murphy throughout, this film delights thanks to a beautiful score and intimate, often even psychedelic cinematography, lending it a powerful sense of cool and elegance that only pulls you deeper into its enthralling trance.

In conclusion, from start to finish, 'Babyteeth' is a truly wonderful film that both hits hard and makes you smile. Its only trouble is a slightly rushed opening act, with too few details left up to interpretation that leaves you chasing the story for the first twenty minutes, but apart from that, there's little to criticize about this film.

Utterly gorgeous, emotionally resonant and unique in so many ways, 'Babyteeth' is one of the best coming-of-age dramas ever made. It's not an easy watch, but neither is it an overwhelmingly tough watch.

Telling a difficult story complete with gripping dramatic range, this film impresses so much thanks to an ensemble of incredible performances, gorgeous directing, effortless style, heartfelt humor and a distinctive outlook on life. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.66:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Babyteeth' [Blu-ray] is out September 22nd, 2020 via MPI Home Media.

'Babyteeth' Trailer

'To Your Last Death' [Blu-ray]
(Morena Baccarin, William Shatner, Ray Wise, Bill Moseley, Dani Lennon, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2019) 2020 / Quiver Films)

Overview: After emerging as the sole survivor in a deadly revenge game set up by her father to punish his children, Miriam receives an offer from a supernatural entity to go back in time and try again.

Now, Miriam must survive both her father's blood lust and the Gamemaster's ever-changing rules to save her siblings as she relives the worst night of her life.

Features the voice cast of Morena Baccarin, Ray Wise, Dani Lennon, Bill Moseley and William Shatner.

Blu-ray Verdict: Whilst not knowing quite what to expect from the off, as doing too much homework can sometimes ruin the entire viewing experience, I have to say that I genuinely found this film to be a very intriguing, and highly enjoyable hour and a half of viewing material.

Chock full of well crafted detail, whether it be the forefront or background scenery, the character expressions and mannerisms themselves, or even the, at times, sumptuously delivered one-liners from Morena Baccarin's 'Gamemaster' role, it is obvious that a lot of care, attention and devoted love for the art was put into making and producing 'To Your Last Death.'

Opening with a voice-over monologue from the one, the only William Shatner as 'The Overseer,' he introduces us to 'Miriam DeKalb' (Dani Lennon) as she escapes a building by smashing her way through a door window with a fire axe!

Miriam is, of course, immediately taken to a hospital where a 'Detective Lang' (Tom Lommel) questions her about the incident. Miriam informs him of something rather unbelievable (and heinously gruesome) that had just taken place, causing her to run, but he does not believe her in the slightest.

All alone, feeling unstable, and with nobody believing her story, she is visited by 'The Gamemaster' (Morena Baccarin). Wherein The Gamemaster gives her the option to go back (in time) and this time, knowing what she knows now, have another crack at it; this time with some external rules in play.

Confused, and more than a little wary, Miriam agrees when she is shown proof that her current predicament is actually way worse than she had first realized!

With the animation, to my mind, that moreover of an artsy comic book styling, complete with sharp edge work, and defined facial features - that truly highlight all the full on blood and gore scenes to a tee - it also embraces early colorful Japanese animation too.

With a defined, and equally spread balance of dark humor combined with the aforementioned blood, gore and overall sense of pulsating, yet at times, confused dread, I just cannot see how fans of animated gore, or even fans of "real filmed" movie gore cannot come together on loving this film to bits!

Shatner as 'The Overseer,' which when he speaks gives you the feeling, if you shut your eyes for a few seconds, that you are listening to an audio book, is in cruise control here, but still remains at his usual Shatner best, and aside from the brilliant aforementioned Baccarin as 'The Gamemaster,' it's Ray Wise as the demonically angered, and always ready to implode 'Cyrus DeKalb' that steals the show here!

In closing, and alongside some rather strikingly stellar animation, the script flourishes along with its imbued characters, and complete with a few plot twists (and some red herrings, so beware), it all comes together with an honest, well-developed and satisfying depth of enjoyment.

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and as for the extras, they include a Director's Commentary with director Jason Axinn, and a Zoom panel with Axinn, star Dani Lennon and others, an Interview with star William Shatner, Interviews and behind the scenes with stars Morena Baccarin, Ray Wise, Bill Moseley, Dani Lennon and Florence Hartigan, a Behind The Scenes reel, Comic Con Panels, an Animation Demo with lead animator Mohammad Ali Sharifpour, Unused Artwork and Animation, Crowdfunding highlights, Featurettes on the development of the film, and more!

Official Trailer

Official Purchase Link

'Valley Girl' [Blu-ray]
(Jessica Rothe, Josh Whitehouse, Jessie Ennis, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / NR / 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Set to a new wave '80s soundtrack, whilst now being a musical adaptation of the 1983 film, a pair of young lovers from different backgrounds defy their parents and friends to stay together.

Blu-ray Verdict: Knowing the original very well, I got to watch this musical version last night, not knowing quite what to expect - as too much homework can, most times, lead to a spoiled viewing experience, in my humble opinion), and I have to say that I found this update rather pleasing on both the eyes and the ears!

Although the trailer doesn't tell the whole story, simply put, this version is an '80s boy meets '80s girl plot, with era-appropriate music, choreography, oh-so bright colors, lots and lots of wondrous '80s clothing and enough cheesy lines to make you feel right at home!

The entire cast was excellent in their roles, the choreography to both the music and even the driving scenes combined with their hairstyles and dance moves was spot on to the era too.

OK, sure, being a musical they did take 20 minutes (or more) to actually get to the point, or to ask a question, or to look into something, but when a movie like this is so chock full of color and musical explosions well, you've mostly forgiven them come the end!

Much like a movie of the Disney ilk, if you are a fan of classics such as 'Grease,' 'Mamma Mia,' or even the latter day 'High School Musical' series, you are going to LOVE this film.

But, and saving the best for last, the premise of the story is actually being told as a memory of Alicia Silverstone, who plays the mother of a current teenager, and who herself was knee deep in these sorts of movies herself back in the '80s!

Also sneaking in some some lovingly inserted, and very welcome cameos from the original cast of the 1983 film, sure, the original was a movie full of tired clichés, but here in 2020's musical version, all that tiredness has even exorcised and we have one doozy of a good time to settle in with her, trust me! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

The film will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on October 6th, 2020. The Blu-ray features a Blu-ray disc with the film in hi-definition and a Digital version of the movie.

Official Trailer

Official 'Valley Girl' Facebook Page

Official Purchase Link

'300' (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital)
(Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital / R / (2006) 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: The epic graphic novel by Frank Miller (Sin City) assaults the screen with the blood, thunder and awe of its ferocious visual style faithfully recreated in an intense blend of live-action and CGI animation.

Retelling the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, it depicts the titanic clash in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive Persian army.

Experience history at sword point and moviemaking with a cutting edge.

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 brilliant '300’ in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this October 6th, 2020.

For my money, this '300: 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 '300' 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: 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; such as the BEST scene in the movie, for my money, when Leonidas and Xerxes are talking at cliff's edge, "The 300 at his back...ready to die for him without a moment's pause...every one of them...ready to die...his helmet is stifling...his shield is heavy...your there...Ephialtes...may you live forever....Leonidas, your spear...Stelios!...slaughter them!...his helmet was narrowed his vision, and he must see far...his shield was threw him off balance...and his target is far away...the old ones say we Spartans are descended from Hercules himself...bold Leonidas gives testament to our bloodline...his roar is long and loud."

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 very first battle scene, where Leonidas, the king of Sparta, motivates his warriors to defend the Hot Gates), which is now interestingly different, and more "alive" with this incredible 1080p Blu-ray rendering.

As for the audio, well we have: English: Dolby Atmos, English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), French: Dolby Digital 5.1, 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, well, for me, the 480 BC Battle of Thermopylae is the stuff of military legend when, in popular lore, a mere 300 Spartans commanded by King Leonidas held off a Persian force led by Xerxes the Great that Herodotus claimed as 2.6 million.

In truth, the Spartans were backed by a mixed force of almost 7,000, while there are enormous variations in modern estimates of the multi-ethnic Persian army, but somewhere between 100,000-200,000 seems realistic. Whatever the actual figures, the odds against the Spartans were terrible, death was inevitable, and their honor secure.

The story was first told on film in 1962 when director Rudolph Maté went to Greece and shot a worthy, but conventional and surprisingly leaden, version entitled 'The 300 Spartans', starring American Richard Egan as King Leonidas and the British David Farrar as Xerxes.

'300' takes the same basic narrative and presents it in an utterly different style in a blood-fest when 'The Wild Bunch' meets 'Kill Bill' and the visuals are like nothing else, except save for perhaps 'Sin City'.

This time the director is Zack Snyder, known for his music videos, and the location is a studio set in Montreal with green backgrounds later filled by superb computer-generated graphics and the whole storybook style is based on the graphic novel by co-producer Frank Miller.

Both versions use the legendary exchange: "When we attack today, our arrows will blot out the sun!" "Good; then we will fight in the shade." But only '300' has such fun, throwaway lines as: "Spartans! Enjoy your breakfast, for tonight we dine in Hell!"

Ever since its first public showing at the Berlin Film Festival, most critics have mauled '300' and it presents an easy target for those wanting something more cerebral: there is virtually no plot or characterization, the script is sparse and bland, much of the acting is exaggerated and over-loud, when it is not homo-erotic it is oddly camp, and the whole thing is stereotypical when it is not outright xenophobic and politically incorrect.

And yet, as entertainment, it has much to offer: the sepia-tinged visuals are absolutely stunning and the fight sequences viscerally exciting. I was fortunate enough to see it in IMAX back in the day and I regularly felt blood-splattered and exhausted and quite ready to leap into the action.

Back in the day (2006), there are no big names in the cast list which actually helped the sense of history, but did not raise the thespian talent quotient, of course.

Gerard Butler (now the big star we know and love) plays King Leonidas with a Scottish accent, while the Brazilian Rodrigo Santoro is a version of Xerxes bedazzled with ethnic metalwork.

Most of the warriors are literally larger than life: the actors playing the Spartans reveal most of their bodies with digitally-enhanced muscles, while on Xerxes' side characters include a huge hunchback, a giant emissary and a claw-armed executioner as well the metal-masked Immortals.

This is before we get on to an enormous raging rhino and bedecked elephants. Truly this is a battle with a circus-like cast. The love interest comes from the feisty wife of Leonidas, Queen Gorgo, portrayed by the alluring British actress Lena Headey. There is even a scene in a rippling corn field borrowed from 'Gladiator.

At the end of the day, what makes the movie are the thrilling fight sequences with encounters in which the film is slowed down and then speeded up to give a video-game quality that is unlike anything you have previously seen on the big (or now in this case, small) screen.

When a sword slashes, or a spear lunges, or an arrow whistles, you really feel and hear it. At times, it is as if a picture by Hieronymus Bosch had come to life!

Ultra HD showcases 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range (HDR) and a wider color spectrum, offering consumers brighter, deeper, more lifelike colors for a home entertainment viewing experience like never before.

'300' will be available on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack for $24.99 (expected retail price) and features an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with the feature film in 4K with HDR and a Blu-ray disc of '300'.

Fans can also own '300' in 4K Ultra HD via purchase from select digital retailers beginning on October 6th, 2020. The Blu-ray disc of 300 will include more than 3 hours of previously released special features, including commentary from Zack Snyder.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of '300' will also feature a Dolby Atmos® soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.

To experience Dolby Atmos at home, a Dolby Atmos enabled AV receiver and additional speakers are required, or a Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar.

Dolby Atmos soundtracks are also fully backward compatible with traditional audio configurations and legacy home entertainment equipment.

This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

• Commentary with director/co-writer Zack Snyder, co-writer Kurt Johnstad and director of photography Larry Fong
• The 300: Fact or Fiction
• Who Were the Partans? The Warriors of '300'
• Preparing for Battle: The Original Test Footage
• The Frank Miller Tapes
• Making of '300'
• Making '300' in Images
• Webisode: Production Design
• Webisode: Wardrobe
• Webisode: Stunt Work
• Webisode: Lena Headey
• Webisode: Adapting the Graphic Novel
• Webisode: Gerard Butler
• Webisode: Rodrigo Santoro
• Webisode: Training the Actors
• Webisode: Culture of the Sparta City/State
• Webisode: A Glimpse from the Set: Making '300'
• Webisode: Scene Studies from '300'
• Webisode: Fantastic Characters of '300'
• Deleted Scenes with introduction by Zack Snyder

Official Trailer

'300: 4K Ultra HD' Blu-ray Amazon Purchase Link

'Batman: Death in the Family'
(Bruce Greenwood, Vincent Martella, John DiMaggio, Zehra Fazal, Nick Carson, et al / Blu-ray+Digital / NR / 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Trained as Batman’s protégé, Jason Todd brings a relentless sense of justice as Robin, who sets his sights on bringing down the Joker.

But can Batman save Robin from a fate worse than death? Tragedy, revenge and redemption await in this groundbreaking DC film! Who will live? Who will die? Who will watch over Gotham?

Blu-ray Verdict: OK, before we dive into this quite brilliant 'Batman: Death in the Family' film, it should be known that this is the third animated film in which Bruce Greenwood has voiced Batman (following 'Batman: Under the Red Hood' (2010) and 'Batman: Gotham by Gaslight' (2018). Although, and additionally, Greenwood voices Batman in the animated TV series 'Young Justice,' although Jensen Ackles, who originally voiced Jason Todd in 'Batman: Under the Red Hood' does not return due to scheduling conflicts with the final (delayed) season of Supernatural.

In the original comics, DC had two separate 900 numbers where readers can determine whether Jason Todd should live or die. Ergo, this new film is similar to the original poll in how the viewer can determine Jason's fate as it is also the very first DC animated interactive film.

In this new version, the animated film is an interactive storytelling presentation with numerous “branches,” allowing the viewer multiple options from which to choose and alter the path of the core characters (Batman, Robin, Joker, Red Hood and more).

As the second person to assume the role of Batman's sidekick, Jason Todd had a completely different personality than the original Robin.

Rash and prone to ignore Batman's instructions, Jason was always quick to act without regard to consequences. In this fatal instance, Robin ignores his mentor's warnings when he attempts to take on the Joker by himself and pays the ultimate price.

Driven by anger with Superman by his side, Batman seeks his vengeance as he looks to end the Joker's threat forever.

Originally conceived as an "acrobatic" replacement to Dick Grayson, he wasn’t actually very popular from the off! Fans just didn't care that Batman had a "side kick," and moreover, didn't want Batman to even have one!

At the time back then, the Batman comic books were going through a wee decline and Detective Comics was losing readers and was even (and again) on a list of books to be cancelled!

But, in stepped Frank Miller, who created a different end for Batman, that sprang from a very definite beginning. The DC universe went through a crisis and Jason’s origin was altered.

So now he was just some low life street punk who had tried to boost the wheels from the Batmobile, but the man in black had seen something in the lad and raised him to be the next Robin.

At the beginning of 'Batman: Death in the Family,' we find Robin has been grounded for disobeying Batman. Then, and in what con only be described as a "well-timed coincidence" (the kind that only exists in comics, of course), Jason gets some family information that leads him on an African safari hunt for his mom!

But, of course, the Joker is also Africa bound with a number of schemes to get rich so he can get back to being top dog in Gotham!

So, if you're playing along at home, we now have Bruce Wayne and Batman in Africa at the same time, along with Robin and the Joker! Oh, and all three of their mothers happen to be in Africa too ... along with a nuclear bomb (courtesy of the Joker, of course!)

But, and even with that all said, the premise us handled well enough, kept above water nicely, all the way to the third chapter, when the unthinkable happens.

It is at this point that you need to remember that it was the readership of the time, thanks to a 900 number, that decided Robin's fate!

Of course, we move gentle past that particular point and continue to witness some of the strongest Batman storylines to date, in my humble opinion.

And, finally, and not to give anything away, but there is an obvious point to make in the last chapter, when Batman says “Who killed Jason”, for you have to consider, well, Has he just given away his secret identity?!

It’s inevitable that the ending has to have a Did he? or Didn’t he? survive element, which would help set Batman on a more destructive path until the idea of Robin would get another run out, and so therein, it does get kinda left open ended, so to speak.

'Batman: Death in the Family arrives on Blu-ray™ and Digital on October 13th, 2020.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, 'Batman: Death in the Family' serves as the anchor for an anthology of 2019-2020 animated shorts - including "Sgt. Rock," "Adam Strange," "Death" and "The Phantom Stranger."

FYI: The interactive component is only available on the Blu-ray. The Digital version of 'Batman: Death in the Family' offers four fully-played out linear versions of the short.

'Batman: Death in the Family' - "Don't Go After Joker Alone" Clip

'Batman: Death in the Family' - "Opening Title Sequence" Clip

'RWBY - Volume 7' [Blu-ray]
(Lindsay Jones, Kara Eberle, Arryn Zech, Barbara Dunkelman, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang have fought hard alongside their friends to bring the Relic of Knowledge to Atlas, the northernmost Kingdom in Remnant.

However, the futuristic urban-sprawl may hide just as much danger as the Grimm-infested tundra that surrounds it.

Enemies and allies will collide as our heroes fight to stop Salem's forces, but banding together is dangerous when you don't know who you can trust.

Blu-ray Verdict: Well, after a rather long hiatus, Warner Bros. finally brought us Volume 7 of 'RWBY,' which not only was devoured this end in one evening, but itself tries to cram so much into so little episodes - all whilst expanding its lore in terms of characters, story, and big reveals - that you'll need paperwork to follow along!

That said, all the characters we know and love now have complex motivations, all be they (for the most part) well intentioned, but they make some rather imperfect decisions along the way, that's for sure (just like life, to be fair).

With the show's recurring theme of how trust and love can bring people together, these 13 new episodes most definitely showcase an entire season of uncertainty here; and one that sees the main heroes challenged by self-doubt.

Such as when they visit the Kingdom of Atlas, they overly state (within the script) a lot of What should we do? Who should we trust? Are we doing the right thing? et al.

Which is fine, but throughout the other six volumes, I don't personally recall them being so overly wary of such decision making and subsequent consequences.

Anyhoo, moving on and here in Volume 7 there are people they thought they could trust, but maybe they shouldn’t along with people they didn’t think they could trust, but, yep, you guessed it, totally can!

And whilst that’s clearly the case in a number of ways with how the plot progresses, latterly it begins to contradict itself through a series of small lies that were, at first, well-intentioned, but later begin to escalate; culminating in some rather devastating consequences.

We get introduced to new characters and even get to witness the unexpected return of old ones. Personally, it was rather nice to see people such as Robyn Hill (voiced by Cristina Vee), who shows that there are indeed people in Mantle who actively want to help their own people; whilst the Ace-Ops (who are equally entertaining, yet at the same time blindly obedient), only see each other as teammates instead of friends.

Qrow (now voiced by Jason Liebrecht) also has his share of wonderful moments, such as building his budding friendship with the Ace-Ops leader Clover, which the fandom blindly perceived as something romantic due to how their opposite luck powers "complimenting" each other!

Oh, and Penny’s grandiose return helped bring some lighthearted moments back to the group, even if she had her own share of drama later in the story with the way her superiors treat her as just a robot.

So, all in all, 'RWBY - Volume 7' feels very heroic in moments, very triumphant at others, whilst at the same time seemingly hopeless (but that gets worked on, as aforementioned.

Sure, ok, the end result isn’t a perfect world within Weiss’s homeland, but it is a world that still has a fighting chance to reclaim its soul (and hopefully, with the recently announced Volume 8 currently in production, we could potentially see how all the struggles, hardships, and sacrifices for that soul play out next time).

FYI: Created by the late Monty Oum (Red vs. Blue), 'RWBY' is one of Rooster Teeth’s most beloved, viewed and shared series. As the first western-produced anime series to be distributed in Japan, 'RWBY' episodes have averaged more than 7 million views, and the franchise has accumulated over 271 million views since its inception.

To date, the series has sold nearly 670k units sold on DVD and Blu-ray, and registered consumer products sales in excess of $20 million. 'RWBY' has a fervent fanbase in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan.

Rooster Teeth’s epic anime-inspired series following the journeys of four unified huntresses-in-training arrives for its spectacular seventh season when Warner Bros. Home Entertainment presents 'RWBY - Volume 7' on Digital ($14.99 SRP USA & Canada) and Blu-ray ($19.98 SRP USA, $24.98 SRP Canada) starting October 13th, 2020.

'Cold Light Of Day' [Limited Edition] [Blu-ray]
(Bob Flag, Martin Byrne-Quinn, Geoffrey Greenhill, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1998) 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: February, 1983. Detectives are called to a residential address in the London suburbs following reports that the drains have been clogged by human remains.

One of the property's residents, Dennis Nilsen a mild-mannered and unassuming civil servant is brought in for questioning, leading to the discovery of one of the most shocking and disturbing cases of serial murder ever to rock Britain.

Offering a grim and gritty retelling of the story of Des Nilsen, often dubbed the British Jeffery Dahmer , 1989's 'Cold Light of Day' stars Bob Flag (the face of Big Brother in Michael Radford's 1984) as Nilsen-cipher Jorden March, delivering one of the most chilling and credible portrayals of a serial killer ever committed to screen.

Blu-ray Verdict: Following smartly on the heals of the new British three-part television drama miniseries, also based on the 1983 arrest of Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen, and which premiered on the 14th September, 2020, this 1989 version also has just the right amount of "ick" associated with it for the killer.

To bring you up to date, between 1978 and 1983, Dennis Nilsen - an outwardly unremarkable former soldier and police officer turned civil servant - killed at least fifteen men and boys (most of them students or homeless) in gruesome circumstances, allegedly retaining the corpses for sex acts before disposing of the butchered remains by hiding them in cupboards, under the floorboards, or simply by flushing them down the toilet.

This grimy, clammy, little-seen independent film is a lightly fictionalized account of Nilsen's hideous deeds, with a standout performance from Bob Flag as the milquetoast murderer, here renamed Jorden March.

Fhiona Louise's film, clearly made on a shoestring budget, steers clear of exploitation tactics, choosing instead to cast its characters adrift in a singularly bleak, uncaring and desolate world of tatty pubs, squalid bed-sits, greasy cafés and grubby bathrooms.

The police interrogation of March is inter-cut with flashbacks that reveal not just his crimes (a living room disembowelment and the discovery of what's blocking the drains will send a shiver down the spines of even the hardiest souls) but also provide a window of understanding into what has tipped the apparently kindly loner over the edge.

Louise's direction is unobtrusive and detached, allowing the lengthy exchanges between the characters to play out in several lengthy takes, but it's this cold, flat, cinema-verité style that affords the proceedings much of their chilling power, conveying the sense that such horrors really could be unfolding in the street, or even the house, just around the corner.

In conclusion, 'Cold Light Of Day' is an easy film to admire - it won several awards - but it's not an easy film to watch, let alone enjoy! As a fitting footnote, a caption card dedicates the preceding horrors to "those too sensitive for this world" - which, in his own perverse and twisted way, Nilsen surely was. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new 2K restoration from the original 16mm camera negative approved by director Fhiona-Louise
Original uncompressed mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary with writer/director Fhiona-Louise
Brand new audio commentary with film historians/writers Dean Brandum and Andrew Nette
Newly-filmed interview with actor Martin Byrne-Quinn
Newly-filmed interview with actor Steve Munroe
Original 'Cold Light of Day' promo film made to raise financing for the feature
Re-Release Trailer
Two short films starring Cold Light of Day director Fhiona-Louise and photographed by Star Wars DP David Tattershall, newly restored in HD: 'Metropolis Apocalypse' (1988, 11 mins) and 'Sleepwalker' (1993, 2 mins)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
Limited Edition Die-cut O-card
Limited Edition collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Jo Botting and a look at how the press reported Dennis Nilsen's real-life crimes by Jeff Billington
Limited Edition of 2000 units

Amazon Purchase Link

'The Last Starfighter' (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
(Lance Guest, Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Preston, Dan O'Herlihy, Wil Wheaton, et al / Blu-ray / PG / (1984) 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: Video game expert Alex Rogan finds himself transported to another planet after conquering 'The Last Starfighter' video game only to find out it was just a test.

He was recruited to join the team of best starfighters to defend their world from the attack.

Blu-ray Verdict: For those unware, 'The Last Starfighter' is directed by Nick Castle and written by Jonathan R. Betuel. It stars Lance Guest, Robert Preston, Catherine Mary Stewart, Dan O'Herlihy and Norman Snow. Music is by Craig Safan and features wondrous cinematography by King Baggot.

The story sees Guest as Alex Rogan, an everyday teenage boy who upon breaking the high-score record on a trailer park arcade game, suddenly finds himself recruited by an alien defense unit to fight an evil army out in space.

The advancements of computers and all their devilish electronic off shoots have rendered many of the pioneering effects films of yesteryear as rudimentary antiques. Where once films like 'Tron' and 'The Last Starfighter' blazed the trail that many would follow over the years, now they seem, if you believe the multitude of new era reviews for them, to hold only nostalgia value to video game players who were still at school in the early 1980's.

That's something of a disservice, for although they do indeed rely in the main on effects work and razz dazzle '80s credibility, the stories are enjoyably fantastical and not without thought and merit.

That said, 'The Last Starfighter' is one of the better ones because it manages to be both an exciting and sweet picture, one that is completely disarming.

Certainly it marries Spielberg homespun values with George Lucas operatics, but in the form of its teen protagonist it also dots the fantasy canvas with angsty worth. So much so that now when one revisits the film with older eyes, we can appreciate more fully that young Alex is in a rut, the crossroads of his life, a life he's struggling to make sense of.

Also more appreciation can now be made of the relationship Alex has with Grig (O'Herlihy), his flight navigator up in the galaxy, someone whom he calls a Gung-Ho iguana! This relationship is nicely drawn, here is where Alex finds not only his friend, but also his father figure, something he doesn't have the privilege of down on Earth.

Whilst up there fighting an intergalactic battle, Alex on Earth has been replaced by a Replicant Beta Model to ensure he is not missed. Here is where much of the film's fun is gleaned from.

Interesting to note that originally this arc in the film wasn't to be that huge, but test screenings encouraged director Castle into a rethink.

And the film is the better for it as the Beta tries to keep the flame going with the girlfriend (Stewart adorable girl next door type) and ensure he's not found out by any Ko-Dan spies!

Here Guest earns his corn, it's a very good duel performance from the youngster and it's a shame his career never really took off post the film's release.

However, none of this means the film is full of depth, it still remains a very simple story full of fantastical incredulity. But the underlying message of improving oneself, not settling for second best, is rich and puts some potency in the narrative.

Still, it's safe to say that most tuning into 'The Last Starfighter' want whizz bang space adventure frolics, which thankfully we do get.

The effects are, of course, variable, though not as cheap looking in High Definition as one expected, while the action is nicely constructed by Castle and his team.

The villains, led by a Po-faced Norman Snow make their mark, while Robert Preston, a legend to Western and film noir fans in the '40s and 50's, gives a wonderfully sweet and affecting turn as Centauri, the game inventor who whisks Alex away to the planet Rylos for his life changing challenge.

In closing, and more than just a film for nostalgists and gamer types, 'The Last Starfighter' is pretty solid entertainment from its core to the outer layers and still such a flashback gem to behold today! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative
High Definition Blu- ray (1080p) presentation
Uncompressed 2.0 stereo, 5.1 DTS-HD MA and 4.1 audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary with star Lance Guest and his son Jackson Guest
Brand new audio commentary with Mike White of The Projection Booth podcast
Archival audio commentary with director Nick Castle and production designer Ron Cobb
Maggie's Memories: Revisiting 'The Last Starfighter' - A new interview with actress Catherine Mary Stewart
Into the Starscape: Composing 'The Last Starfighter' - A new interview with composer Craig Safan
Incredible Odds: Writing 'The Last Starfighter' - A new interview with screenwriter Jonathan Betuel
Interstellar Hit-Beast: Creating the Special Effects - A new interview with special effects supervisor Kevin Pike
Excalibur Test: Inside Digital Productions - A new interview with sci-fi author Greg Bear on Digital Productions, the company responsible for the CGI in 'The Last Starfighter'
Greetings Starfighter! Inside the Arcade Game, an interview with arcade game collector Estil Vance on reconstructing the Starfighter game
Heroes of the Screen archival featurette
Crossing the Frontier: Making 'The Last Starfighter' archival 4-part documentary
Image Galleries
Theatrical and Teaser Trailers
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Ferguson
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY Limited Edition O-Card; Limited Edition Reversible Poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork; Collector's booklet featuring new writing by Amanda Reyes and sci-fi author Greg Bear's never-before-published Omni magazine article on Digital Productions (the company responsible for the CGI in 'The Last Starfighter').

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

(Justin Salinger, Francis Chouler, Gabriel Harry Meltz, et al / DVD / TV-14 / 2020 / LGF)

Overview: Executive produced by Academy Award® winner Leonardo DiCaprio, 'Grant' tells the remarkable and quintessentially American story of a humble man who overcomes incredible obstacles to rise to the highest ranks of power and save the nation not once, but twice.

This complete three-part miniseries seamlessly blends expert commentary, dramatic reenactments, and beautifully enhanced archival imagery to reveal the true legacy of the unlikely hero who led the nation during its greatest tests: the Civil War and Reconstruction.

DVD Verdict: Just released, 'Grant' is a three-part mini-series based on historian Ron Chernow's 2017 book of the same name. Without commercials, which is a very important point to highlight, this is a 4-hour film that's part dramatic reenactment featuring Justin Salinger in the lead role and part documentary with a diverse cast of erudite and interesting commentators.

Ulysses S. Grant has been described as "an inspired commander, an adequate president, a dull companion and a roaring drunk." Personally, I take issue with that last description. Grant might've had an issue with alcohol, but that doesn't make him a "roaring drunk."

I know real life drunkards and they waste their lives sitting around looking for their next drink, accomplishing very little. Drunks don't lead the biggest military force on Earth and win battle-after-battle, as well as the great war itself.

Nor are they able to lead a country the size of the USA for eight years and have a successful marriage & family that overcome great challenges over and over.

Moving on and this might actually be my favorite Civil War movie of all time. As good, or better, than the best you can cite, such like 'Ride with the Devil' (1999), 'Glory' (1989), 'Cold Mountain' (2003), 'The Horse Soldiers' (1959) and 'Gods and Generals' (2002).

Furthermore, to my mind, 'Grant' is the best cinematic source to understand the bigger picture of The Civil War, especially as far as the Union's strategy to victory.

For instance, what was the purpose of the Battle of Shiloh? If it was a Union victory, why did reporters lambaste Grant as an incompetent drunk and why was he demoted?

After crossing the Mississippi, why did Grant go east to fight two battles and capture Jackson, Mississippi, BEFORE going to Vicksburg?

And what was the strategic value of the Battle of the Wilderness? Petersburg and Cold Harbor?

The reenactments are totally realistic with utterly savage battle scenes. This is what it was like, folks. War is hell. Thankfully, the film doesn't end with Lee's surrender at Appomattax, but goes on to address Grant's final 22 years of life as President during Reconstruction, his wide travels, tragedies and finishing his memoir, three days before passing away.

For the record, I myself just read Grant's memoirs, so I was so glad this production arrived here on DVD at this (nearly) very same time.

Through reading Grant's memoirs, I realized many new things about the Civil War. I was amazed at his memories of everything and all the battles fought.

His memoirs and this documentary really brought home what a terrible war this was. Again, this show 'Grant' was done very well and I loved Justin Salinger's portrayal of the man himself, Grant (FYI: The History Channel also aired a program called 'Lee and Grant,' which is also excellent and well worth your time if you also loved this new release). This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Official 'Grant' Trailer

Ronnie Wood: Somebody Up There Likes Me [Blu-ray]
(Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Eagle Vision)

Overview: This intimate portrait by Oscar-nominated director Mike Figgis is the first in-depth film biography of the artist, Ronnie Wood (72), and traces his many lives and careers.

A man still at the cutting edge in his seventies, the film tells the story from his humble beginnings in north London, where his older brothers shaped the musical powerhouse he would become, to the unique career that has not only spanned over 50 years (so far), but also traversed some of the most influential musicians the world has ever known.

Blu-ray Verdict: "I was in the hands of destiny all my life and being in the right place at the right time". Words spoken by the man himself, his voice aged and cracked, low and gruff, but nonetheless as sincere, and as openly honest about his success as any human could ever be in his profession.

As for his wild life heyday's, when asked it they had gotten him into a lot of trouble, he quickly replies, "No, it got me into a lot of pleasure!"

A big, wide grin on his face, along with a chuckle, he adds, "I wouldn't change anything ... except I'd do it with my eyes open a bit me," he knowingly, and casually smiles, once more.

It's statements such as those, and his genuinely expressed love for life, whilst seeing all he has been (negatively) through as a stepping stone to a better place, that makes this 'Somebody Up There Likes Me' documentary (a title inspired by his surgery for lung cancer in 2017, and which is actually washed over very quickly here) one of the most engaging, and revealing I have had the pleasure to watch in the past decade.

Simply put, Ronnie Wood is a genuine, 24-carat rock star guitarist. He has paid his dues, played hard, lived fast (in every sense) and somehow survived to tell the tale.

And tell it he does, in Figgis's revealing, biographical documentary, which charts Wood's stellar and storied career. From his childhood and entry into the 1960s music scene, through to his time with the Jeff Beck Group, achieving fame with The Faces alongside band-mate Rod Stewart and finally becoming an indispensable and permanent member of The Rolling Stones, Figgis captures it all.perfect rock and roll treat. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1080p AVC) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:

Live from the Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne: 'Wee Wee Hours' (with Imelda May), 'Johnny B. Goode,' and 'Blue Feeling.'
In The Studio
Half Man, Half Horse

'Ronnie Wood: Somebody Up There Likes Me ' [Blu-ray] is out October 9th, 2020 via Eagle Vision.

'Ronnie Wood: Somebody Up There Likes Me' Trailer

(Joaquim de Almeida, Goran Visnjic, Stephanie Gil, Alejandra Howard, Jorge Lamelas, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: Experience the astonishing story of three children whose shared spiritual visions heralded a miracle and has inspired millions in Picturehouse’s 'Fatima,' the uplifting and historical drama based on the captivating story of one of the Catholic Church’s most fabled places of pilgrimage.

DVD: On May 13th, 1917, three children, 10-year-old Lúcia (Stephanie Gil, "Terminator: Dark Fate") and her younger cousins Francisco (Jorge Lamelas) and Jacinta (Alejandra Howard, "Cleo" TV series) were tending their family's flock of sheep at the Cova da Iria, the family pastureland in the Portuguese village of Aljustrel on the outskirts of Fátima, when they had a striking vision of a Lady (Joana Ribiero, "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote") dressed in white near a small oak tree.

Claiming that she came from heaven, she asks the children to return to the same place on the thirteenth day of each month for the next five months, promising that a miracle would be performed that will convince the people of the village of her appearance and receive her message of peace. She also gives the children personal messages that could only be revealed later.

Written by Barbara Nicolosi, Valerio D'Annunzio and Marco Pontecorvo and taken from Lúcia's memoirs, 'Fatima,' directed by Pontecorvo ("Partly Cloudy with Sunny Spells"), son of director Gillo Pontecorvo ("The Battle of Algiers"), peeks beyond the boundaries of the known in his retelling of the fact-based 1917 sighting of the Lady identified as the Virgin Mary, first brought to the screen in 1952 in "The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima."

The present story is told from the point of view of the three young children, especially that of Lúcia who bears the main task of convincing the community of the authenticity of her visions.

The film is book-ended by a fictional conversation held at the Carmelite convent in Coimbra, Portugal in 1989 between a now elderly Sister Lúcia (Sônia Braga, "Bacurau") and Professor Nichols (Harvey Keitel, "The Irishman"), a skeptical Professor of Religion.

Though the flashbacks attempt to put the visions in a modern day context, the experience of the children unfolds in real time and they deliver performances that are real and beautifully realized, especially that of Gil whose beatific smile is enough to convince us of her divine revelation. According to Pontecorvo, "Lúcia, for me, is someone that can see beyond and can get in touch with another level in a way that not all of us have the possibility of doing."

Unlike many Hollywood films in which spiritual events are artificially enhanced by CGI effects and heavenly sounding music to create a "spiritual feeling," Pontecorvo's depiction of the Lady is of a real woman who walks barefoot on the mud, not a fuzzy image floating in the air.

Filmed entirely in Portugal by cinematographer Vincenzo Carpineta ("Let's Talk"), 'Fatima' creates a striking sense of place and time. It is the time of World War I and a weary world prays for peace.

The villagers gather daily in the town square to listen as mayor Artur Santos (Goran Visnjic, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") reads the names of local soldiers who have been declared dead or missing. Lúcia's family hopefully await news from the front about Lúcia's brother Manuel (Elmano Sancho, "The Black Book").

People struggling with the loss of a loved one receive little comfort, however, from a hardline anti-clerical government.

As Lúcia struggles to overcome the disbelief of her mother, Maria Rosa (Lúcia Moniz, "Hero on the Front") and her father Antonio (Marco D'Almeida, "Night Train to Lisbon"), she must also deal with the outright hostility of the mayor, the local pastor Father Ferreira (Joaquim de Almeida, "The Hitman's Bodyguard"), and the bishop (João D'Ávila, "The Easy Way").

During one of Mary's visits at Fátima, the children experience a vision of Hell with all its accompanying charms such as an ocean of fire, devils, and shrieking souls, but the Lady tells them that her visit was a way of saving the tormented souls in Hell.

Despite the children's belief in what they had seen, they are pressured by her parents, the church, and the secular officials to recant and admit their story was just a made-up game.

On October 13th, however, a perceived miracle took place before an estimated 50,000 people who testified that the midday sun suddenly appeared like a silver disk, then began "to rotate, dance, and whirl like a pinwheel."

Wobbling across the sky, it plunged towards the earth as people screamed and looked for a place to hide and then sighed in relief and amazement as the sun re-ascended towards its rightful position in the sky.

Today, the basilica of Our Lady of Fatima stands near the Cova da Iria as the Lady requested and draws thousands of visitors each year. In 2017 Pope Francis canonized Francisco and Jacinta, both of whom died in the flu epidemic of 1918, while Lúcia's canonization is still pending.

'Fatima' is a lovely film that, unlike previous versions of the story, explores the inner life of the characters and portrays the Marian visits without being preachy.

What the visions represent is beyond the scope of this review, yet, as Anne Baring says in her book, "The Dream of the Cosmos," "the passionate longing of the human heart has always been to press beyond the boundaries of the known, to break through the limitations of our understanding, to extend the horizon of awareness."

Marian apparitions as well as other visions of the "Divine Feminine," according to a Newsweek magazine article in 1997 article, have numbered at least four hundred in the twentieth century alone and have been reported from antiquity down into modern times at times appearing as Isis, Kali, Durga, and Ishtar as well as the Virgin Mary.

Ergo, 'Fatima' challenges our normal consensus view of reality and strives to evoke in us a renewed sense of mystery regardless of our religious or secular beliefs. Allowing us to see the world through a broader lens, it points us towards a new connection with the cosmos. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:

Andrea Bocelli: The Making Of "Gratia Plena"
The vision of Director Marco Pontecorvo
Meet the Seers of Fatima
Meet the cast of Fatima
The Making of a Miracle
Behind the lens of Fatima
Set Design and the Art of Cristina Onori
Costume Design and the Art of Daniela Ciancio

Official Trailer

'Fatima' Website

'Fatima' @ Facebook

'Fatima' @ Instagram

'Fatima' @ Twitter

'Ashfall' [Blu-ray]
(Byung-hun Lee, Jung-woo Ha, Hye-jin Jeon, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / MPI Home Video)

Overview: Following a volcanic eruption along the China-North Korea border that leaves the entire Korean peninsula in shambles, seismologists warn that an even greater eruption is forth coming-one that could devastate the entire region.

Blu-ray Verdict: With the impending fate of entire Korean peninsula resting in their hands, enlisting the help of renowned Korean-American scientist Bong-rae (Don LEE), the government scrambles to find a way to stop the impending explosion.

Bong-rae’s plan calls for the use of nuclear warheads, which are currently held in North Korean territory and their precise location known only by imprisoned defector Jun-pyong (LEE Byung Hun).

After a freak accident leaves explosive disposal expert In-chang (HA Jung Woo) in charge of the team tasked with extracting Jun-pyong and locating the warheads, the two very different soldiers must work together to race against the clock and save all of Korea before it’s too late.

My goodness, wow! In truth, this action packed disaster movie is go-go gadget from the very off, opening with the one big explosion and culminating in another much-like it right at the very end.

The CGI and overall effects here are really well executed and are as good as anything Hollywood could have done, in my humble opinion.

Add to that some full on battle sequences, choreographed fight scenes and overall manically scripted mayhem sequences, and 'Ashfall' (originally titled 'Baekdusan') is easily one of the most exciting movies of 2020.

Along the way you also get to side with certain characters, feel for them when things happen around them, and in some cases, cheer when certain things happen to them!

The storyline is rather complex at times, overly for some strange reason, but spliced with black humor and some just brilliantly timed comedic retorts, the overly political subplot (involving nukes and the usual suspects) is soon nullified.

So, if you like your action films on the relentless energy side, and understand that each of the characters has to get into some form of hot water at least once along the way, and with a ticking time bomb just waiting patiently for the worst possible moment to go off, well my friends, 'Ashfall' is most definitely the movie for you! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Ashfall' [Blu-ray] is out now via MPI Home Video.

Official 'Ashfall' Trailer

'Sci-Fi 4-Pack: The Galaxy One Collection'
(Adam West, Gretchen Corbett, Joe Penny, Jordan Michaels, Yanti Somer, Gordon De Vol, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: This is great value for all Sci-Fi fans as you get 4 movies for the price of 1! Featuring: TIME WARP (1981), LIFE POD (1981), STAR ODYSSEY (1979), and THE KILLING AT OUTPOST ZETA (1980).

DVD Verdict: In 'Time Warp', an astronaut comes home to his family, only now he's invisible and it's now one year in the future!

Starring Adam West, Gretchen Corbett and Kirk Alyn, it's notably a weird little flick, full of cheesy, cardboard effects and a meandering storyline involving an astronaut who, due to an anomaly in space, is transported back to Earth via a "time warp" (which means that nobody can see him because he's living a year in the future!)

Unbelievably, this was written by one Anne Spielberg, yup, that's right, big sister to Steven, and, of course, as much as it truly is cheesy, there is something still rather fascinating about the whole plotline.

In 'Lifepod', an interstellar pleasure cruise turns into a nightmare when a computer takes control and issues an emergency evacuation order.

The lives of the passengers are suspended in an overcrowded life pod as a classic battle of good versus evil takes place on the luxury ship.

Starring Joe Penny, Jordan Michaels, and Kristine De Bell, in truth, if you've ever heard of Alfred Hitchcock´s 'Lifeboat' (1944), this is the same story only in space!

It all begins with a sabotage on big passenger spaceship. It blows up and there are only like 10 survivors who luckily (?) got on the aforementioned lifepod.

And there more trouble begins. They are not able to contact the "Starfleet" so they have no one to rescue them. But the most terrifying thing is that they find out that the person who sabotaged the passenger ship is someone of them on the lifepod.

But who is it? For me, 'Lifepod' was very thrilling and is definitely guaranteed to keep you watching until the very "revealing" end!

In 'Star Odyssey', Earth is attacked by an intergalactic villain and his army of robotic androids. Starring Yanti Somer and Gianni Garko, for my money this movie is simply great!

Complete with hokey dialog, corny special effects and cardboard sets, along with some of the dingiest background music (and theme song) you're likely to ever hear, add to all that the "cartoon-sounding" sound effects, and you've got a worse-than-most-all-films-of-its-ilk movie ... that'll completely satisfy any B-movie fan!

Lastly we get 'Outpost Zeta', which is a strategically important, desolate planet at the edge of the Milky Way. Several spaceships sent to Zeta have disappeared without a trace, so a group of soldiers and scientists are to find out what happened.

What they find are the bodies of the earlier crews and a bunch of aliens who appear as volcanic rock monsters. Starring Gordon De Vol, Jacqueline Ray and Jackson Bostwick, this is one of those "SOS because monsters are attacking us" low budget sci-fi flicks, but still works great even today!

"Starfleet" sends a rescue team to the barren planet Zeta after two exploratory teams go missing. This mission is of the utmost importance as they were hoping to begin colonization on this Earth-like rock within two months.

Once the team of six (four men and two women) get there, they discover everyone dead due to some weird rock monsters! Co-directors Robert Emenegger and Allan Sandler certainly seemed ambitious, but only had enough money to create some cheap space suits (motorcycle helmets) and maybe three sets!

The monsters are most likely Papier-mâché and thus, are never given a too much close up screen time, but the surface world stuff (shot in some desert) is actually pretty well done. These are all Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Edgar Allan Poe: Heart-quaking Double Feature'
(Lawrence Payne, William Bates, Karin Field, Fawn Silver, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: This is a rather special, and rare treat for all Edgar Allan Poe fans, a Double Feature containing two (2) versions of one of his most macabre stories, 'The Tell-Tale Heart'!

DVD Verdict: In 'The Tell-Tale Heart', when Edgar sees his girlfriend Betty getting up close and personal with his best friend Carl, he murders Carl in a jealous rage and hides the corpse under the floor of his piano room. Comes the night, and Edgar begins to hear strange sounds coming from under the floor!

The movie starts out with a prologue involving a cocaine-sniffing Poe (also played by suitably austere lead, Lawrence Payne) having the story come to him in a nightmare.

The anti-hero of the main narrative itself, then, is also called Edgar and he lives in the Rue Morgue. An introvert, he falls for sensuous neighbor Adrienne Corri, however, when he introduces her to his best friend, they start an affair behind his back.

Of course, once he discovers this his jealousy turns homicidal. The plot (as reworked by Brian Clemens of The Avengers fame) has therefore been fleshed out, but also rendered somewhat ordinary, for my money.

That said, the stylized approach successfully evokes the authors psychological landscape – most memorably, the "pulsating" carpet above the floorboards where the body is hidden sequence.

In 'Legend of Horror', based on the very same EAP story, two men escape from prison and one starts a murder spree! Mixing Argentinian and US footage, I was expecting something in the Jerry Warren vein.

However, the Argentinian scenes are dubbed and presented whole, and the US scenes are far more than just framing devices. In fact, I'd say the majority of the film is US-shot.

The Argentinian footage is, of course, taken from an adaptation of Poe's 'Tell-Tale Heart,' which is then used as a dream sequence and a haunted memory of an old man serving time in a prison in the US footage.

The US footage is very low budget using only a few actors and a few small sets, and some limited location work, but it is effective in creating a mysterious atmosphere.

As for the film itself, I personally liked the performances from the two actors and thought it was entertaining in its own way. The wrap-around story is also mildly interesting and especially since there are some stop-motion death scenes.

These scenes look quite fake, but at the same time they pretty much come out of nowhere and thus they are effective for what they are. These are both Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Navajo: Special Edition'
(Francis Kee Teller, Hall Bartlett, John Mitchell, William Draper, et al / DVD / NR / (1951) 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: A Navajo boy stoically endures hardship, hunger and the death of his family. He is taken away to attend a white man boarding school and escapes, but is pursued to ancient Navajo caves.

'Navajo' was quite magnificently filmed at majestic Canyon de Chelly and deservedly nominated for two Academy Awards®.

DVD Verdict: In this most unusual tale of an Indian boy that rejects the white man's schooling on a Navajo reservation, and together with the fact that most all the actors are real Navajos, it's no wonder that Cinematogropher Virgil Miller won accolades for his work on this one.

In the title role, a seven-year-old Navajo boy, Francis Kee Teller, received a Golden Globe special award even though he had never seen a movie until viewing his own performance.

The aforementioned Cinematographer Virgil Miller started out in silent pictures and became known primarily for filming travelogues. Indeed, he had a reputation for keeping cameras rolling in remote locations under adverse weather conditions.

The producers needed a cameraman with those qualities, and tracked him down at a camera shop where he repaired photographic equipment. At age 64, Miller took on the challenge of working in freezing cold, with only one camera, a tripod and four reflectors, and came away with an Academy Award® nomination, and a full spread in the prestigious American Cinematographer.

Furthermore, the working title was actually 'The Voice of the Wind,' and despite a shoestring $30,000 production budget, a threatened ban by the Indian Service, harsh weather and terrain, infighting between the co-producers, the picture went on to earn universal critical acclaim! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new 2K scan, and comes with the Special Features of:

Commentary by Francis Kee Teller
'Canyon de Chelly' Photo-essay by Deborah Lem, Diné
'The Canyon Matters' by Genny Yazzie, Diné
'Our Navajo Neighbors' 1952 documentary
1952 National Publicity Tour with Mr. Teller (age 8)
2K scan from the Academy Film Archive preservation negative

'Le Choc Du Futur' [aka 'The Shock Of The Future']
(Clara Luciani, Philippe Rebbot, Alma Jodorowsky, Geoffrey Carey, Laurent Papot, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: In the Paris of 1978, old formulas do not charm listeners anymore in a male-dominated music industry.

Until Ana (Alma Jodorowsky) uses her synthetisers to make herself heard, creating a new sound that will mark the decades to come: the music of the future.

DVD Verdict: Simply put, 'Le Choc Du Futur' (aka The Shock of the Future) is for anyone who's watched a music biopic and thought "that's not how it works!"

Directed and co-written by Marc Collin of Nouvelle Vague fame, it's perhaps the most realistic film about recording music ever made.

Alma Jodorwsky plays Ana, an aspiring synth wave sensation. She spends her day (which takes up the entire length of the film) in a friend's flat that she's sitting, along with his huge collection of synthesizers, keyboards and recording equipment.

She experiments, demos, and converses with a rotating cast of visitors. The slimy Jean-Mi (Philippe Rebbot) keeps popping by for a backing track he's commissioned, taking full advantage of continental kissing, and a singer (French musician Clara Luciani) turns up for a cancelled session.

But all Ana really cares about is her music, and hopes her upcoming party is the perfect place to impress a music executive.

This simple premise is merely an excuse for top-grade synthesizer porn. Oscillators and arpeggiators, wooden cheeks and colored jacks, the mystery of what noise will come from each figuration.

It perfectly captures the pioneering spirit of the age, with each new gadget opening new unheard worlds. Ana is a total geek for this stuff, prone to monologuing about a brave new world away from the dirty rock clubs, thousands of people dancing in fields to electronics and light shows - just imagine!

In closing, and as a head's up, a fair amount of the film is dedicated to showcasing the sounds of the era, which is most definitely a proper treat for the anoraks among us! [OR] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new 2K scan, and comes with the Special Features of:

Interview with Writer/Director Marc Collin
Image Slideshow
Theatrical Trailer

'Silent Running: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Bruce Dern, Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1972) 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: In the not-so-distant future, Earth is barren of all flora and fauna, with what remains of the planet's former ecosystems preserved aboard a fleet of greenhouses orbiting in space.

When the crews are ordered to destroy the remaining specimens, one botanist, Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern, The Burbs), rebels and flees towards Saturn in a desperate bid to preserve his own little piece of Earth that was, accompanied only by the ship's three service robots.

Featuring a captivating central performance by Dern, visual effects that rival anything in 2001 and a powerful ecological message, 'Silent Running' is a haunting and prescient sci-fi classic that resonates even more strongly today than it did at the time of its original release.

Blu-ray Verdict: When I first watched this movie in my youth, I saw it as an environmentalist message movie. But I think in the original conception of the movie Trumbull didn't even have the film as being about the environment, it was a movie about encountering aliens.

The second time I watched it I felt something very different going on and I felt a very close connection to Freeman Lowell. I've been intrigued as to receptions of this character as some have been applauding his death at the end of the movie.

I think the key phrase of the movie is a story Lowell tells about being a kid, writing a message on a piece of paper, putting it in a bottle and throwing it in the sea, wondering if anyone ever picked it up.

I think that no-one ever reads Lowell's message. I think the key thing about him is social ineptness, you can see at the beginning that his three crewmates, whilst (unfashionably outside of the narrative) not buying his environmentalist arguments, are all to some extent sympathetic of Lowell at points, though antagonistic at others, more out of frustration at his ineptness.

He isn't able to see their point of view and doesn't seem to realize that they aren't the enemy, he doesn't recognize either their sympathy or their antagonism, misreading these attitudes as either digressive or pigheadedly hostile respectively.

Lowell eventually kills these three men, who are replaced for him by three compliant robots (played by bi-lateral amputees in a nod to Tod Browning's Freaks), who are a more fitting audience for him.

I think that he kills these men and that's what he intended, but he has an empathy deficit and doesn't really know what he's doing, other than defending a cause.

Indeed, he slowly becomes haunted by what he's done, by the comrades he's abandoned. Lowell's misplaced integrity is a kind of purity that deserves some sort of respect. His misunderstandings the stuff of high tragedy.

I just wanted to point out as well that the first time I saw this movie I didn't see anything strange or unusual in Lowell's behavior at all, I just straight saw him as a hero.

As a background I have Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulty in social interaction.

I've been learning my way out of it since my late 20s, which is why I've seen this film differently the second time round. But I can hear the silence that Lowell hears, I was always confused as a youth by the phrase, "No man is an island", which I regarded simply as inaccurate.

There's something very wonderful about that silence, but incredibly sad as well. Maybe the saddest moment in many sad moments comes during his eulogy for the three men where he says that although they weren't his friends he did like them.

This is an experience that I have shared a lot, perhaps up until only this year: unilateral friendships where I admire people that don't like me at all, just because there isn't anyway you can express the love inside you when you're socially inept, you end up accidentally upsetting people all the time.

In closing, if I had to sum up all this in a short review title, if you will, I plum for Everest Flower, because I want to think of the remotest place possible, with an amazing clean view, and just imagine a beautiful flower growing there amidst the snow; and that reminds me of Freeman Lowell, and the person I was.

As for the plot of the movie, well, sure, it can be a bit basic at some points, including long dark nights of the soul that a professional botanist suffers through whilst wondering why his plants are dying before realizing the obvious, that the sun isn't shining enough when you're way out past Saturn, but I didn't really care (and I feel you won't either once you have viewed it). This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, approved by director Douglas Trumbull and produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Original lossless mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary by critics Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw
Original audio commentary by Douglas Trumbull and actor Bruce Dern
Isolated music and effects track
No Turning Back, a new interview with film music historian Jeff Bond on the film's score
First Run, a new visual essay by writer and filmmaker Jon Spira exploring the evolution of Silent Running's screenplay
The Making of Silent Running, an archival 1972 on-set documentary
Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull and Douglas Trumbull: Then and Now, two archival interviews with the film's director
A Conversation with Bruce Dern, an archival interview with the film's lead actor
Theatrical trailer
Extensive behind-the-scenes gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Arik Roper
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and Peter Tonguette.

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

'Lake Michigan Monster: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Bruce Dern, Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1972) 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: On the shores of Lake Michigan, the eccentric Captain Seafield (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, who also writes and directs) enlists a colorful crew of misfits in a bid to slay the hellish sea monster that prowls the murky depths.

But as Seafield's obsession with exacting revenge on the creature that killed his father threatens to consume him, can weapons expert Sean Shaughnessy (Erick West), sonar whiz Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters) and former N.A.V.Y. Nautical Athletes and adVenture Yunit officer Dick Flynn (Daniel Long) hold the show together?

Shot in gloriously retro black and white on a shoestring budget, with most of the cast also performing multiple roles behind the camera, 'Lake Michigan Monster' is an inventive, irreverent and riotously entertaining ode to the classic monster movies of yesteryear: an absurdist urban legend guaranteed to appeal to the big kid in all of us.

Blu-ray Verdict: This was the film that kicked off the final day of the Nightmares Film Festival. I had heard from a couple guys who were at the festival the night before that this was a wild one from the trailers they saw!

As aforementioned, the synopsis is an eccentric ship captain and crew of specialists plot revenge against the most mysterious creature of the deep, the Lake Michigan Monster.

We start this learning about the crux of what is going on. Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, who is also the writer and director, plays a man who lives in a lighthouse with his wife and his father was killed.

He hires a weapons expert, a sonar technician and a navy man to help him hunt down and kill what took his father. These people he hires Erick West, Beulah Peters and Daniel Long.

They come up with a few different plans of attack. Things take a turn though when one of the members of the team are attacked by the creature and then an egg is found.

It is destroyed and this angers the creature even more. Ryland is keeping things from the rest of his team and there's a much deeper back-story than any of them realized, which leads to him coming face to face with this creature as well as the truth of his past.

Now I wanted to go a little bit lighter on the recap here as there's not a lot to this story and a good portion of it is really at the end which I don't want to spoil.

I should also point out that this is a comedy. Most of it isn't to be taken serious for sure. It is a revenge tale at heart as well. I almost feel like there's the underlying belief that eventually, we have to stop seeking revenge or there'll be no one left or the adage 'an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind'.

This film actually kind of has a Lovecraftian vibe to it that I can dig. There's a sea creature that is kind of similar to being like a Loch Ness monster, in that it is just living down there.

When we finally see it, it has a low budget look, but I definitely dug it. Since I've kind of moved to the effects, I should state that this is mostly done on green screen. If this film was more serious, I would have hated it.

Since this is played for laughs it works. They definitely use the comedy to hide the lower budget, so I can't harp too much. It is also shot in black and white with an old timey feel. That I actually did like.

I'll move next to the pacing of this. With a runtime of 78 minutes, it's perfect. They know what they're doing here, so they came in with a lower running time which actually kind of feels like those sci-fi films from the 1950's.<> The problem I have though is being a comedy, it really did have trouble building tension. Some of the comedy landed for me, especially a gag about how early the liquor stores in Milwaukee close, but some of it felt a bit forced. I did like the ending, even though it was a wee bit outrageous, to say the least!

As for the acting, it is most definitely over the top while still working for me. Tews is pretty funny as the lead here and I think the rest of the team he assembles is as well.

There are really some times where something is said and they just kind of look at each other. That awkwardness is actually something I really dig in films like this. I also thought that Peters was pretty cute as well, if I'm going to be honest. I really like her glasses as well.

Now with that all said, don't purchase this Blu-ray expecting a serious film or even one with the most coherent storyline. It is one to turn your brain off and have some laughs too.

Again, it is a Lovecraftian-inspired revenge tale that just gets more and more outrageous as we go. The acting is wacky at times, well, most all times, but it never outstays its welcome.

The look of the movie is good, but it's a bit too heavy on effects. The soundtrack didn't really stand out to me, but it did fit for what was needed.

Overall I'd say this is a fun film (ala the old British comedy show The Comic Strip Presents ... from the '80s) that you should check out with your friends and have drinks watching.

Oh, and for the record, and not to give anything away, but the waters surrounding coastal Lake Michigan are extremely cold during the spring months in many North American regions, such as Wisconsin. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, approved by director Douglas Trumbull and produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release
High Definition Blu-ray (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
Two cast and crew audio commentaries featuring writer/director/actor Ryland Tews and actors Daniel Long, Beulah Peters, Erick West and editor Mike Cheslik one sober, one drunk!
Critics audio commentary with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Emma Westwood
Effects Breakdown comparison of the film's underwater sequence, including storyboards and pre-composited footage
Dear Old Captain Seafield the Captain Seafield theme song, performed by the Seafield Monster Sextet
Interview in a Cabin interview with Ryland Tews and Daniel Long at the Fantasia International Film Festival
Interview in a Bar interviews with the cast and crew at the Beloit International Film Festival
Interview by a Fire interview with Mike Cheslik on Mark Borchardt's Cinema Fireside radio show
The first season and pilot episode of L.I.P.S., Ryland Tews and Mike Cheslik's hybrid animation/live action sci-fi comedy web series
Theatrical trailer
Behind the scenes photos
Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Jade Watring and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw.

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

'Burst City: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Michirô Endô, Shigeru Izumiya, Takanori Jinna, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1972) 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: In a derelict industrial wasteland somewhere on the outskirts of Tokyo, two rival punk bands and their unruly mobs of fans gather for a Battle of the Bands-style protest against the construction of a nuclear powerplant, bringing them head to head with the yakuza industrialists behind the development of their turf.

This extraordinary celebration of Japan's punk music scene of the early 1980s thrust Sogo Ishii (now known by the name of Gakury Ishii), the underground filmmaking wunderkind behind such works as Half Human: Einstürzende Neubauten (1986), Angel Dust (1994) and Electric Dragon 80,000V (2001), to the next level and is regularly cited as an early landmark in Japanese cyberpunk cinema.

Blu-ray Verdict: Simply put, and telling it like it truly is, without the work of Sogo Ishii there would be no Takashi Miike or Shinya Tsukamoto.

That becomes quite clear in the opening minutes of 'Burst City.' The hyper-kinetic beginning of the film with its lightning fast editing and violent images together with the use of music were obvious influences on Miike's 'Dead Or Alive' and 'Blues Harp' as well as a number of other films.

And the camera-work, use of black and white photography and cyberpunk imagery were later recycled in Tsukamoto's 'Tetsuo' films as well as the brilliant 'Snake Of June.'

'Burst City' is essentially a feature length punk rock music clip. The film is set in a kind of post-apocalyptic Japan where everyone is a punk, a freak or a brutal cop.

There are non-stop riots in the streets, non-stop punk concerts, non-stop gang warfare, non-stop police brutality and non-stop car chases.

So yeah, 'Burst City' is one hell of a wild ride and it left me feeling spun out and wow, the soundtrack is made up entirely of awesome Japanese punk rock and fits the images perfectly.

In closing, 'Burst City' is powerful, frenetic, feral, rabid cinema that feels like a transmission from the gutter of the future. An '80s Japanese Sci-fi Punk Rock Musical, is how I wished I could have ended this review, but I cannot.

For as much as I wanted that to be my bottom line, I thought it might be a little misleading. Sometimes it can be fun to get together with some friends, get some pizza, and put on a low budget movie.

But when you do that, you ought to choose a movie that is easy to watch. After all, the focus is hanging out with friends. This won't work if you try it with 'Burst City.' It's just that good! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original lossless mono Japanese soundtrack
Optional English subtitles
Brand new audio commentary by Japanese film expert Tom Mes
The Punk Spirit of 82: Sogo Ishii on Burst City, an exclusive new 56-minute interview with the director
Bursting Out, an exclusive 27-minute interview with the academic and independent filmmaker Yoshiharu Tezuka on Jishu Eiga and the making of Burst City
Original Trailer
Image Gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mark Player

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

'Fahrenheit 9/11 - Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Michael Moore, et al / Blu-ray / R / (2004) 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: In the most provocative film of 2004, 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' Academy Award© winner Michael Moore (2002, Best Documentary, Bowling for Columbine) presents a searing examination of the role played by money and oil in the wake of the tragic events of 9/11.

Moore blends captivating and thought-provoking footage with revealing interviews, while balancing it all with his own brand of humor and satire.

Blu-ray Verdict: Without too much doubt, Michael Moore is the pre-eminent cinematic muckraker of our time. From 1989's ROGER AND ME to 2002's BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, the man from Flint, Michigan has put his money where his mouth is.

And in 2004, with 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' he truly outdid himself by leaps and bounds, provoking a firestorm of response, both pro and con, that I have not seen in quite some time (before or after).

Done with savagely ironic narration by Moore himself, this is a chilling expose about the administration of George W. Bush, from the Florida debacle to the horrors of the 9/11 attacks and the rush to the war in Iraq and beyond.

We all may have seen the mountain of footage that Moore has assembled for this film time and time again on our TV screens back all those years ago, but there's a lot more.

We see the connections between the Bush family and Osama Bin-Laden; Dick Cheney's connections with Haliburton; the complicity of the mainstream media to go along with Bush; the passage of the so-called Patriot Act, which not a single member of either body of Congress even bothered to READ, much less object to.

And even more, we see Moore and his crew try to get people in Congress to enlist their kids to go fight in a war that they force other kids from lower-income families to fight.

Of the 535 members of the House, both the Senate and the Congress, only one has anyone in their immediate family serving over there in Iraq.

Undoubtedly, there are those apologists who will slam Moore and his film as being totally unpatriotic and traitorous. But from the first few days after the 9/11 attacks to the release of this film, those same apologists in the news media - Rush Limbaugh; Ann Coulter; Sean Hannity, Chuck Scarborough, etc. - have bombarded us with their own right-wing, indeed borderline fascist, pro-war propaganda and have reduced words like "patriotism", "freedom", and "democracy" to punchlines.

Of course, neither of these people has ever served in combat. Even if he is a left-wing propagandist, Moore and his film merely serve to balance the scales; and if it means that the far-right's apple cart turns over, then so be it.

Moore is only doing what is his RIGHT to do, what our soldiers are supposedly DYING for - calling it like he sees it under the First Amendment, the same as Limbaugh and friends.

And by asking the tough questions, probing without fear, and willing to make us look at ourselves without shame and realize why we are where we are now, Moore defines what it is to be an American and a patriot - someone who is willing to fight for common people.

To me, and still, 'Fahrenheit 9/11' joins a select group of politically-oriented films that deserve to be called masterpieces because they provoke discussion, debate, and thought.

It was true with DOCTOR STRANGELOVE, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, and JFK, and it is true here. It is infuriating and provocative, and any film that manages to be those things should be seen at least once. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Featurette: 'The Release of Fahrenheit 9/11'
Montage: The People of Iraq on the Eve of Invasion
New Scene: 'Homeland Security, Miami Style'
Outside Abu Ghraib Prison
Eyewitness account from Samara, Iraq
Extended Interview: More with Abdul Henderson
Lila Lipscomb at the Washington, D.C. Premiere
Arab-American Comedians - Their acts and experiences after 9/11
Condoleezza Rice's 9/11 Commission Testimony
George W. Bush's Rose Garden press briefing after 9/11 Commission Appearance
Original Theatrical Trailer

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

Jack And The Beanstalk: 4K Restoration [Spe. Ed.]
(Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Buddy Bear, Dorothy Ford, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / MVD Visual - VCI Video)

Overview: Available now in glorious color and in a new 4K restoration from an original 35mm archival print, these superb zanies have contemporized a universal fable.

Choosing as their adversary the most famous giant in all literature, Dink (Lou Costello) and Jack (Bud Abbott) declare their intention to rescue the princess and the hen which laid the golden egg.

They get captured and the fun really begin! Note: the film begins in sepia tone and then changes to color!

Plus, this brand new Blu-ray edition contains a bonus Abbott & Costello film - Africa Screams (1949), digitally restored in HD!

Blu-ray Verdict: Bud Abbott and Lou Costello always had a good following among children, but in their careers I think you could say that they only made one film that could be designated for kids. 'Jack and the Beanstalk' was that one film.

It was part of a two picture independent deal from Warner Brothers, the second film being 'Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd.' Indeed, these were the only two films the boys made in color.

The two of them, out of work as usual, take a job for a very precocious and obnoxious young David Stollery as a babysitter. Although it starts out with Costello wanting to read the kid, Jack and the Beanstalk as a bedtime story, the young lad winds up reading it to Costello.

Lou falls asleep and in his dreams he fantasizes he's indeed Jack the Giant Killer.

Buddy Baer who menaced the boys in 'Africa Screams' (now also included on this wondrous new 4K restoration from an original 35mm archival print Blu-ray) plays the giant and he's got a giant size Dorothy Ford as his housekeeper!

Dorothy was a big girl, 6'2", and you can imagine she had some difficulty being cast except when her height was used as a joke.

One of the only players who ever looked down at her was John Wayne in Three Godfathers at 6'4". Henry Fonda and James Stewart in On Our Merry Way also stood barely above her, but again her height was part of an ongoing gag.

Shaye Cogan and James Alexander were the princess and prince of the fantasy and they sang beautifully, but couldn't act worth anything.

This was the last film of William Farnum who's career dated from the early silent screen days and even to the turn of the last century on stage. He played princess Shaye's father, The King.

Some not terribly memorable musical numbers came from 'Jack and the Beanstalk,' save the title song. I well always remember as a kid having the 78 record of Bud and Lou singing the song and reciting the story.

I was in my early single digit years, but became a lifelong fan of theirs through that and their television series. Anyway, in conclusion, 'Jack and the Beanstalk' is still a good children's picture for the very young, though I would warn parents to warn their little urchins not to imitate young master Stollery!

In the bonus feature, 'Africa Screams,' Bud and Lou are up to their necks in the jungle where peril is rife at every turn. It's standard fare for the boys this one, though some strong scenes induce the laughter that the viewers are looking for.

The plot is a sort of Tarzan Meets King Kong And King Solomon's Mines, with animals, cannibals and diamonds a go-go! The usual rules apply re: Lou is constantly under threat and offering up cowardly reactions, while Bud is calm and manages to avoid the tricky situations.

As a formula it works to an extent, but as always with Abbott and Costello movies, it's best not to watch too many in one sitting due to the repetitive nature of their material. Joining the lads for this one is Clyde Beatty, Frank Buck, Max Baer, Buddy Baer and Hillary Brooke. These are both Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:

'Africa Screams' - Full-Length Abbott & Costello (1949) Comedy Feature Film!
Original Theatrical Trailer

Amazon Purchase Link

'The Dog Doc: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Film Rise - MVD Visual)

Overview: A pioneer of integrative medicine, veterinarian Dr. Marty Goldstein attracts four-legged patients from around the world, providing holistic treatments for animals after other vets have given up hope.

Director Cindy Meehl goes behind the scenes to capture the full drama of Dr. Marty and his colleagues' life-changing commitment to wellness and the astounding results they achieve.

Blu-ray Verdict: Simply put, Dr. Goldstein is paving the way for the future of Veterinary Medicine and in this brilliant documentary by Cindy Meehl, we are shown the advances Dr. Goldstein has made over the years with homeopathic treatments combined with traditional medicine to enhance and lengthen our beloved dogs lives.

Furthermore, EVERY pet parent needs to see this film. In the plainest and most loving language, Dr. Goldstein explains so clearly and logically why are beloved pets are not getting the best care.

Western practice over medicates, focuses on curing disease, not preventing, and doesn't advocate good nutrition. Cindy Meehl shows us Dr. Goldstein's compassion for his patients and his passion for integrated medicine over and over and over here.

We see what happens to pets when Dr. Goldstein and his team combine western medicine and traditional healing. It makes so much sense I now want to find an integrated medical vet for my dog and a doctor for me! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Photo Gallery
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer

Amazon Purchase Link

Official Trailer

The Short History Of The Long Road:Special Edition
(Sabrina Carpenter, Maggie Siff, Steven Ogg, Rusty Schwimmer, Danny Trejo, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Film Rise - MVD Visual)

Overview: Teenager Nola (Sabrina Carpenter) grew up living out of a van with her beloved father Clint (Steven Ogg), two nomads against the world. When tragedy strikes, Nola is confronted by the reality that life as an outsider may not be her only choice.

Blu-ray Verdict: Young Nola (Sabrina Carpenter) and her dad basically travel out west and live in their old VW van. He works odd jobs to earn some cash and he teaches his daughter the ways of life.

She was named after the city (New Orleans) and they hope to get there at some point. She never knew her mother who left when Nola was a baby and she hopes to someday track her down.

When things take a big turn and Nola finds herself alone with the van she has to make a whole new plan, including befriending an auto shop owner and working for him for a time to pay for towing and van repairs.

When she finds her mom she learns the whole story, she may have been abandoned but at least she was allowed to live. Striking out alone again she finds a traveling group of van owners, this might be her logical family.

This is mostly a quiet movie but a good character study. Indeed, myself and my partner had not heard of Sabrina Carpenter before this film, but she is actually really good in the role (all 5' 1" of her), and a very accomplished singer/songwriter too!

In closing, there are so many worthless movies with no meaning being made, so much wasted talent, and so I say, to everyone who made this film, keep making films with meaning and purpose because people need it more than they are willing to admit; and a legacy which someone leaves behind that changes lives is something money will never be able to buy.

There are many things in life that can be bought, but the people who have truly lived, they know the most valuable things have no price tag, and giving a young kid hope to live another day is worth far more than any big budget film with absolutely no heart and no message to bring hope for people who might also be going through a tough time. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Photo Gallery
Blooper Reel
Theatrical Trailer

Amazon Purchase Link

Official Trailer

'The Untold Story: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, Danny Lee, Emily Kwan, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1993) 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: 'The Untold Story' is based on the Eight Immortals Restaurant murders that took place on 4th August 1985 in Macau.

While the massacre involving a family of 10 did occur at the restaurant, the alleged cannibalism is sensationalism inferred from the incomplete discovery of the victims' corpse; only finding limbs, and that there was a lack of telltale smell of decomposition despite the summer tropical heat!

Blu-ray Verdict: In the early '80s, popular actor Danny Lee (famous for his work in action films) became director and producer of his own films, and by the end of the decade was already a major player in Hong Kong's movie industry.

This position allowed him an enormous amount of power during the '90s boom of Hong Kong cinema, and made him the discoverer of famous stars (like Stephen Chow) and producer of a wide array of interesting films by upcoming filmmakers.

Among those, Herman Yau's 'Baat sin Faan Dim Ji Yan Yuk Cha Siu Baau', or 'The Untold Story' as it is widely better known, is one of the most popular in the Western world, and one of the better known movies of the CAT III rating that was introduced by the Hong Kong government during those years.

Supposedly based on a "true crime story," 'The Untold Story' is a very powerful film that truly lives to its reputation as one of the most brutal films of Hong Kong cinema.

The plot starts with the discovery of a plastic bag containing the severed hands of a person in a lonely Macao beach. The young and unexperienced police team assigned to the case is clueless as they had never faced something so horrible, but lead by the suave officer Lee (Danny Lee), they find some clues pointing to Wong Chi Hang (Anthony Wong), the owner of the popular Eight Immortals Restaurant.

As the cops find out that Wong just bought the place to his former boss, they try to track down the previous owner, but every attempt to find him or his family prove futile.

The discovery of Wong's dark past prompts his arrest, but he still refuses to admit having committed the crime. Officer Lee decides to take severe measures, but not even he will be prepared to hear Wong's, thus far untold story.

Written by Law Kam Fai (author of another famous CAT III film, 'Dr. Lamb'), the movie develops as a police procedural movie, detailing the work of the cops to figure out the responsible of the crime; however, two extremely different elements set 'The Untold Story' apart from similar stories: the dark and extremely brutal portrayal of the psycho killer, and the odd addition of offbeat comedy thrown in to balance the grittier aspects of the movie.

While this strange mixture of genres may sound unappealing (and honestly at first sight looks unappealing too), it surprisingly works within the movie, and gives good balance to the overall darkness of the story.

Appropriately, in the end it is the horror element the one that dominates the film in a terrific brutal finale that by now is definitely a classic of '90s CAT III movies.

Famed for being one of the most shocking Asian horror movies, 'The Untold Story' is surprisingly not as gory as one would expect with that reputation; however, this is not saying that the film doesn't live to the hype, as it is definitely a shocking experience although for a very different reason.

Director Herman Yau cleverly chooses to portray the grotesque details of the crime in a relatively subtle, unseen way; but the way he executes the scenes allow for a far more powerful effect as plays with the imagination making the violence portrayed frighteningly real despite not being too graphic.

The raw and gritty style Yau uses for his film (mainly for budgetary reasons) only enhance the realism of the movie, and together with Wong's brilliant performance make a movie very hard to forget.

Definitely one of the elements that really make the difference between 'The Untold Story' and similar exploitation movies is the top notch performance of Anthony Wong as the enigmatic Wong Chi Hang.

He captures so well the traits of this unbalanced psychotic character that one can't help but believe that the man on screen is truly a demented person.

Danny Lee as the Officer in charge of the case offers the balance between the sadistic darkness of Wong and the at times silly comedy of the police team.

Lee's smooth and witty character contrasts with the clumsiness and naiveté of the young cops, portrayed effectively although somewhat average by equally young actors.

The exception is Emily Kwan, who plays Bo, the only female in the team and therefore the one who has to prove that she is as capable as the guys to do the police work.

In closing, sure, at times 'The Untold Story' is often hard to watch, but it's definitely never boring, and while crude, the portrait of sadistic violence it makes of the crime is captivating in a way that few horror movies are.

While this is definitely one of the best CAT III movies of its time, it's not without flaws, as the budgetary constrains really took its toll in the movie.

Anyways, what most viewers have criticized about 'The Untold Story' is the odd mixture of comedy in the movie, as it seems to add an unnecessary source of silliness to an otherwise brutal movie!

Personally, I think that, while not exactly subtle, the comedy do adds to the "charm" of the film, and helps to break the tension in a very dark movie. It may not seem appropriate at first sight, but it's not really a terrible flaw, as some may have pointed out to me down the years.

In the realms of the horror genre, Herman Yau's 'Baat sin Faan Dim Ji Yan Yuk Cha Siu Baau', is now a classic of Hong Kong cinema, and essential viewing for those interested in the infamous exploitation movies rated as CAT III.

It's not a movie for everyone, but if you have an interest for gritty tales of serial killers, 'The Untold Story' (especially now, as it's just been released as a Special Edition Blu-ray by MVD Visual) is a must-see! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

The Documentary, Category 3, The Untold Story of Hong Kong Exploitation Cantonese Carnage, an Interview with Rick Baker
Commentary with Herman Yau
Commentary with Anthony Wong
Commentary with Art Ettinger & Bruce Holecheck
Booklet written by Art Ettinger of Ultra Violent Magazine

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

'Delta Rae - Coming Home To Carolina' [Blu-ray]
(Delta Rae / Blu-ray+DVD+CD / NR / 2020 / Cleopatra Records - MVD Visual)

Overview: This electrifying concert film, Coming Home To Carolina was filmed with fourteen 4K Ultra Hi Def Cameras, before hometown fans in Raleigh, North Carolina, during their final shows one week before Christmas, from their highly successful 2019 sold out Take Me There Tour.

It features some of the bands biggest hits including 'Take Me There', 'Down By The River', 'Dance In The Graveyard' interspersed with scenic performance scenes at Raleigh River, Interview segments at the bands home where they recorded most of their first album of songs, ending in a bonfire jam at the Local Watering Hole!

Blu-ray Verdict: Earthy, familial alt-pop outfit Delta Rae skillfully juggle gospel-tinged country-rock, sensual blue-eyed soul, and harmony-laden Americana, resulting in an infectious, radio-ready sound.

Formed in 2009 as a four-piece around the talents of siblings Ian, Eric, and Brittany Hölljes, along with Elizabeth Hopkins, the North Carolina-based band expanded to a sextet the following year with the additions of Mike McKee and Grant Emerson.

In 2011 the group inked a deal with Sire/Warner Bros. after a particularly impressive in-office audition for Seymour Stein, who was blown away by Hopkins and the Hölljes siblings’ powerful voices. The resulting Carry the Fire, their major-label debut, arrived in 2012.

Carry the Fire reached #11 on the U.S. Heatseekers chart and 13 on the folk chart. Delta Rae released their second album, After It All, in the spring of 2015.

Following a relocation to Nashville, the band signed with Big Machine in 2017 and issued a pair of EPs — A Long and Happy Life and The Blackbird Sessions — in quick succession.

The front part of 2019 saw a spate of new singles, though in July of that year, Delta Rae announced their departure from Big Machine following a massive company buyout.

Choosing to go independent, they quickly launched a massively successful crowd-funding campaign for their next release, a two-part double album called The Light & the Dark. The first volume, The Light, appeared in March 2020.

1. 'Take Me There'
2. 'Holding On To Good'
3. 'Outlaws'
4. 'Out Of The Badlands'
5. 'Country House'
6. 'Surrounded'
7. 'Pay No Rent'
8. 'Any Better Than This'
9. 'The Wrong Ocean'
10. 'If I Loved You'
11. 'Morning Comes'
12. 'Bottom Of The River'
13. 'The Chain'
14. 'Dance In The Graveyards'

This fantastically ambient, colorful and vibrant new live concert opens with the upbeat and poppy 'Take Me There' and continues neatly onward with the foot-tappin' melodic brilliance of 'Holding On To Good,' the euphoric 'Outlaws,' the fast-paced, yet always sculptured 'Out Of The Badlands' and then both the low brow ballad 'Country House' and the eclectic, hunched-slung vibe of 'Surrounded.'

Up next is the Gospel-esque jaunt of 'Pay No Rent' which is followed by the finger-snappin', one-two pop bounce of 'Any Better Than This,' the soaring 'The Wrong Ocean' and then one of my own personal favorites, the country pop flow of 'If I Loved You.'

This quite magnificent live concert recording then rounds out with the strong-boned melodies of 'Morning Comes' (which, trust me, you should definitely watch the vid for!!), the Historical reach back about the Salem witch trials, and the oppression of women in accusation of witchcraft in the name of God, within the emphatic 'Bottom Of The River,' and then closes on a cover of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain,' leaving us with their embodiment of Dia de los Muertos (especially within their video, of course), 'Dance In The Graveyards'

This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Materials inside this Special Edition packaging of Interview segments at the bands home where they recorded most of their first album of songs, and a lovely Audio CD soundtrack too!

Official Blu-ray+DVD+CD Purchase Link

'V for Vendetta' (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital)
(Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, Stephen Fry, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital / R / (2005) 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Set against the futuristic landscape of totalitarian Britain, 'V For Vendetta' tells the story of a mild-mannered young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) who is rescued from a life-and-death situation by a masked man (Hugo Weaving) known only as "V."

Incomparably charismatic and ferociously skilled in the art of combat and deception, V ignites a revolution when he urges his fellow citizens to rise up against tyranny and oppression.

As Evey uncovers the truth about V's mysterious background, she also discovers the truth about herself - and emerges as his unlikely ally in the culmination of his plan to bring freedom and justice back to a society fraught with cruelty and corruption.

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 brilliant 'V For Vendetta' via an expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this November 3rd, 2020.

For my money, this 'V For Vendetta: 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 'V For Vendetta' 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; such as the brilliant "My Gift to You" scene, where He trusted her enough to give her the train. He knew they had no future together, but at least he had a chance to demonstrate his love to her, for the first and last time.

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 (most notably ALL the acting of Hugo Weaving in this movie, his face never revealed, yet his characteristics and head movements thoroughly impacted the movie, and his character nonetheless), which is now interestingly different, and more "alive" with this incredible 1080p Blu-ray rendering.

As for the audio, well we have: English: Dolby Atmos, English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), French: Dolby Digital 5.1, 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, well, this film marked the fantastic return of the Wachowski Brothers. Those who were disappointed with their last two efforts will not be disappointed here for there is no doubt that the Brothers are talented.

Here they make their comeback, but not as filmmakers, but as producers and writers. And to be honest, this film thrills you from beginning to end and you'll be blown away with all the adrenaline-induced excitement chock full within this dramatically intense thriller.

It's a finely complex storyline about "V", a reluctant freedom fighter, a rebel who fights for freedom against the government in London in another time line.

Set against the futuristic landscape of totalitarian Britain, a mild-mannered young woman named Evey is rescued from a life-and-death situation by this mysterious "V."

Incomparably charismatic and ferociously skilled in the art of combat and deception, "V" urges his fellow citizens to rise up against tyranny and oppression.

As Evey uncovers the truth about "V"'s mysterious background, she also discovers the truth about herself - and emerges as his unlikely ally in the culmination of his plot to bring freedom and justice back to a society fraught with cruelty and corruption.

This is, perhaps, the first and fully realized and most successful of all the Moore adaptations. What I liked about this film was the way it balances action and drama. The script is fantastic and the directing is equally worth a mention.

The assistant director on the Matrix movies (James McTeigue) really has some talent and handles the action and drama very well.

As noted, the film is fast-paced and exciting and it is also politically charged and quite controversial at times, but that is the whole point.

It makes you think about the current situation, how well the government is handling the situation of terrorism and such. Ergo, "V" serves as an anti-hero on a quest for freedom where his actions are right, but his methods are wrong.

'V For Vendetta' focuses on the source material of the book, ala more on the characters than on the action. More on the emotions and the drama than on the violence.

Indeed, the film doesn't glorify "V" as a terrorist, but shows that under certain circumstances he was tempted to be what he is. Furthermore, the film has an intriguing atmosphere throughout, never once boring, and features an apocalyptic future that really heightens the tension with stark, dark set designing and stunning cinematography.

The action is striking and the performances in the dramatic moments are totally thrilling, which means that this film is simply terrific from start to finish.

Always hidden behind the creepy mask, Hugo Weaving as "V" really proves he is a versatile actor. His character provokes thoughtful questions in a dystopian future and every emotion of his character is brought out by Weavings subtle, nuanced performance.

Portman, on the other hand, also excels, and here with a convincing accent she is well liked as the heroine of the film. The scenes between Evey and "V" are touching with the rest of the film just as superb in its execution.

In closing, 'V For Vendetta' is a spellbinding adventure, chock full of exciting action, has some superb directing and writing to back it, and comes complete with a very thoughtful message.

Ultra HD showcases 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range (HDR) and a wider color spectrum, offering consumers brighter, deeper, more lifelike colors for a home entertainment viewing experience like never before.

'V For Vendetta' will be available on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack for $24.99 (expected retail price) and features an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with the feature film in 4K with HDR and a Blu-ray disc of 'V For Vendetta'.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of 'V For Vendetta' features a Dolby Atmos® soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.

To experience Dolby Atmos at home, a Dolby Atmos enabled AV receiver and additional speakers are required, or a Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar.

Dolby Atmos soundtracks are also fully backward compatible with traditional audio configurations and legacy home entertainment equipment.

The 'V For Vendetta' Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack features an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with the feature film in 4K with HDR and three new special features, a Blu-ray disc with the film in high definition and the previously released special features in high definition, and a Digital version of the movie.

Fans can also own 'V For Vendetta' in 4K Ultra HD via purchase from select digital retailers beginning on November 3rd, 2020.

To experience Dolby Atmos at home, a Dolby Atmos enabled AV receiver and additional speakers are required, or a Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar.

Dolby Atmos soundtracks are also fully backward compatible with traditional audio configurations and legacy home entertainment equipment.

This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

New Special Features on 4K UHD Disc:
V For Vendetta Unmasked
• Natalie Portman's Never-Before-Seen Audition: Explore the depth of Evey's character with Natalie Portman's
• James McTeigue & Lana Wachowski in Conversation

Previously released Special Features on Blu-ray Disc:
• Freedom! Forever!: Making V For Vendetta – The cast and crew of V For Vendetta reveal the intense filmmaking process
• Designing the Near Future – A look at the artistic process of creating the frightening future world of V
• Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot – The history behind the story of Guy Fawkes
• England Prevails: V For Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics – The origins of the original V story is illuminated
• Cat Power Montage – Cat Power song played under images of the film
• Theatrical Trailer
• Easter Egg: Hidden Bonus: Saturday Night Live Digital Short

Official 'V For Vendetta' 4K Trailer

'V For Vendetta: 4K Ultra HD' Blu-ray Amazon Purchase Link

'Mutiny: 4K Restoration' [Blu-ray]
(Mark Stevens, Angela Lansbury, Patric Knowles, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1952) 2020 / VCI Entertainment - MVD Visual)

Overview: Produced from a new restoration re-mastered from the original 35mm negatives in 4K, in gorgeous Technicolor, 'Mutiny' is set during the War of 1812.

The United States, in need of gold, arranges with a French group to lend the government $10 million in bullion. To bring the gold here, and American ship must break through the British blockade.

A young captain accepts the dangerous assignment and after several narrow escapes, the ship finally reaches France. No sooner is the gold aboard the American ship, when the crew mutinies and sets the captain adrift, giving him one chance in a thousand to reach shore.

Blu-ray Verdict: Though about average overall, 'Mutiny' has some strengths, with an interesting period/adventure setting and a couple of good performances.

The story includes some good action sequences that help make up for the less interesting stretches. The shipboard atmosphere generally works well, and where once the lighting and photography were so dark that it blended together, now here on this wondrous 4K restoration, they all separate and come alive!

The set up has Mark Stevens as the captain of a ship carrying out a special mission during the War of 1812, with Patric Knowles as a disgraced captain who is now serving as second in command, Angela Lansbury as Knowles's greedy and domineering wife, and a mutinous gun crew looking for a way to turn things to their own advantage.

It's interesting in taking the historical setting as the backdrop to what becomes a largely private battle of nerves and wills. The circumstances of the war do come into play often enough to make the setting relevant, which I liked and admired.

Knowles is effective in portraying his complicated, somewhat indecisive character, Lansbury gets the kind of role that she used to perform quite believably, and Rhys Williams and Gene Evans are good as the ringleaders of the mutineers. Stevens is solid, but sometimes slightly lacking in energy, as the captain.

The finale is the best part of the movie, and it is set up nicely, leading to a three-way showdown with plenty of suspense and action, plus an interesting depiction of a primitive submarine.

It's good enough to make up for an overall lack of consistency in much of the rest of the movie. In the earlier parts, especially, the script sometimes takes too long to establish simple points, and it also has some stretches in which some weak dialogue weighs it down.

So sire, it's by no means perfect, but it does have enough to fill its relatively short running time with a generally interesting story. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and now Restored to a beautiful HD 1080p 4/3 and comes with the Bonus Feature of the Warner Pathe Newsreel Popeye Cartoon "Cookin' With Gags."

The film will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on December 15th, 2020 via VCI Entertainment / MVD Visual.

Amazon Purchase Link

'Riders Of Death Valley: 4K Restoration' [Blu-ray]
(Dick Foran, Leo Carrillo, Buck Jones, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1941) 2020 / VCI Entertainment - MVD Visual)

Overview: This western serial has our able heroes escaping various perils devised by the evil Wolfe Reade and his pack of outlaws, who wish to lay claim to a fabled lost mine.

Blu-ray Verdict: Universal reportedly budgeted one million dollars for 'Riders of Death Valley,' a sum unheard of in B-movie circles back then!

With money like that spent on it, it was guaranteed to have a little more of everything: a large cast, extensive location shots, lots of action, plenty of chases and shootouts, et al.

In spite of the grand scale though there are also plenty of the usual B-movie troupes, like obvious stock footage shots used, nobody can hit the broadside of a barn (on both sides of the law) and, well there's just too much overkill in trying to raise this serial above the norm, in my honest opinion.

The plot is simple: The riders of the title are a group of men protecting local miners from the bad guys. Heading up the riders are Jim Benton and his pal Tombstone (Dick Foran, Buck Jones).

Opposing them are Wolf Reade (Charles Bickford) and his "Wolf Pack" backed up by respectable town citizens Kirby and Davis (James Blaine, Monte Blue).

Benton acquires joint ownership in the Lost Aztec Mine with heroine Mary (Jeanne Kelly) and the rest of the story concerns their efforts to hold on to their property.

Dick Foran, who appears to do most of his own action scenes, makes a likeable hero in the lead. The legendary Buck Jones, who had been around westerns since 1918, was about to kickstart his career after this one in the 'Rough Rider' series, but sadly passed away in 1942.

Jones, getting along in years, is visibly doubled (by Rod Cameron, I'm told) in virtually all of his action and riding scenes, but that's ok, as we don't believe for a second most all these "cowboys" are doing all these wild stunts anyway!

Rounding out the riders are Leo Carillo, playing virtually the same character of Pancho that he would portray in the 'Cisco Kid' series, Guinn "Big Boy" Williams as "Borax", Glenn Strange as "Tex" and Noah Berry Jr. as "Smokey" - a character we hardly ever see!

Veteran Edmund Cobb plays the mine foreman who can't seem to keep the baddies locked up and on the wrong side of the law, this serial was elevated a notch by the casting of Bickford (in black hat and mustache) as the chief villain.

As far as I know, this was his only B-Western and his "Wolf Pack" includes such luminaries as Lon Chaney Jr. (wasted again, of course), Roy Barcroft and Dick Alexander.

In closing, all in all, 'Riders of Death Valley' (containing all 15 original Chapters, and now fully restored from a new 4K scan of the Studio’s 35mm fine grain, and released by VCI Entertainment and MVD Visual) is one of the better western serials of the period, although Republic Pictures probably could have done it better with less.

This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and now Restored to a beautiful HD 1080p 4/3 and comes with the Bonus Features of a Commentary on Chapters 1 & 2 by Toby Roan, writer and film historian; Original Serial Trailers; and a Photo & Poster Gallery.

The film will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on November 24th, 2020 via VCI Entertainment / MVD Visual.

Amazon Purchase Link

'Bill & Ted Face the Music' (Blu-ray + Digital)
(Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Kid Cudi, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / PG-13 / 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: The stakes are higher than ever for the time-traveling exploits of William ‘Bill’ S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore ‘Ted’ Logan (Keanu Reeves).

Yet to fulfill their rock and roll destiny, the now middle-aged best friends set out on a new adventure when a visitor from the future warns them that only their song can save life as we know it.

Along the way, they will be helped by their daughters, a new batch of historical figures, and a few music legends — to seek the song that will set their world right and bring harmony in the universe!

Blu-ray Verdict: If you liked the previous Bill & Ted movies, then this one continues in the same tradition. Time is up for Bill & Ted to save the world, and they must play their song that will unite the world!

Only problem is, they've been trying for the past 25 years and haven't come up with anything, and now they must play their song that evening!

That said, and with both Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter older than when they started this trilogy (aren't we all!), and with their dumb teen routine really not now befitting of two men in their fifties, to try and get around this, the writers of 'Face The Music' introduce us to the guys' twenty-four-year-old daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving).

So this time around, while Bill & Ted are jumping through time trying to find their future selves with "the song", their daughters Billie and Thea decide to secretly help their dads out with another time machine and collect famous musicians throughout history so they will be ready to play when the time comes!

Hilarity ensues, and somehow they all end up knocking on Death's door to try and get the band back together!

Overall it's the same old funny antics of Bill & Ted, and it's great they brought back so much of the original cast, along with cameos from other famous people (the Dave Grohl part was particularly outstanding!).

Furthermore, this third movie has a plot that's more streamlined like the first film rather than the second. This is a good thing. The daughters are a fantastic addition and used to their strengths.

They aren't here to replace our leads but to give them a shot of youthfulness. And it works!

Some of the jokes however don't land as well as they should. Some of that is due to editing and directing rather than the actors or writing and the ending, although abrupt, is satisfying and actually does a very good job of bringing some reasonable answers to some obvious questions.

Such as, "How was a single SONG going to unite the whole world?"

To my mind, and given the "subject matter," this movie does not disappoint and I personally think it ends the saga on a good note, brining some finality to Bill & Ted's most excellent adventure.

Oh, and be sure to watch the clip after the credits as you'll get a good smile from it! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

The Official Bill & Ted Face the Music Panel at Comic-Con@Home
Be Excellent to Each Other: Behind the Scenes with Cast and Crew
A Most Triumphant Duo
Social Piece (Excellence)
Death's Crib

'Bill & Ted Face the Music' will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on November 10th, 2020.

The Blu-ray disc features the film and special features in hi-definition and the DVD features the film and special features in standard definition. Both versions feature a Digital version of the film.

Official 'Bill & Ted Dace the Music' Facebook Page

Amazon Purchase Link

'Lucy Worsley's Royal Palace Secrets'
(DVD / G / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Lucy Worsley explores three extraordinary royal palaces: the Tower of London, Hampton Court and Kensington Palace.

During lockdown they're closed to visitors, but Lucy has the keys. From William the Conqueror to Princess Diana, they tell the story of almost a thousand years of British monarchy.

DVD Verdict: If you're looking for the definition of quirky charm, you'll find it in historian and chief curator of England's historic royal Palaces, Lucy Worsley!

In this latest of her delightful specials, which always feel like an outing with a smart, slightly eccentric friend who does "proper" with a wink, she gives a private tour of three London landmarks: Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London and Kensington Palace.

"I'm always keen to get my hands on the dressing-up box or anything that makes history more than me just telling you stuff," Worsley says at the beginning of the how.

Hence, this getup as Anne Boleyn (above), second wife of Henry VIII, beheaded at the Tower of London. "I was trying to imagine what it must have been like for her to face her unjust death with such dignity," Worsley says of her walk in Anne's doomed footsteps across Tower Green.

At Kensington Palace, Worsley shows us the velvet dress Princess Diana wore to dance with John Travolta at the White House in 1982. She was also surprised to be allowed to see the scrapbook of Princess (later Queen) Victoria's governess. "That was a privilege," she says. "It was such a moving expression of love."

Personally, I'm a BIG fan of Lucy Worsley's documentaries, and found this one to be incredibly informative and highly entertaining. In another very well done documentary of hers, 'Lucy Worsley's 12 Days of Tudor Christmas,' Worsley is, once again, at her best, making history fun and yet bringing us the "true" facts of the historical case too! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Age of Nature'
(DVD / NR / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: 'The Age of Nature' brings together inspirational contributors, rare archive material and stunning imagery from around the world, to give us a deeper understanding of Nature and our place within it.

DVD Verdict: 'The Age of Nature' explores humanity's relationship with nature and wildlife, as scientists and conservationists from all over the world examine ways we can restore our planet.

Indeed, this wondrous documentary series - narrated by actor Uma Thurman - asks whether newfound awareness of nature could bring about a new chapter in the human story, which is as deep a psyche hole as they could have gone, for my money!

The state of the environment as approached by television frequently becomes a subject fraught with terror, horror, guilt, forbidding carbon footprints and intimations of imminent incineration.

But 'The Age of Nature' is not just a beautifully made series, it’s also a surprisingly joyful one. It’s about rehabilitation — how humans are correcting environmental outrages from Panama to Mozambique to Central China to Yellowstone Park — and how forgiving Mother Nature can be if we just pay her some affectionate attention.

The mixed message, of course, is that you’re tempted to push mom till you push her too far!

Indeed, this breathtaking, three-part documentary series, filmed on seven continents, presents creative ideas from around the globe for dealing with such pressing issues as climate change, animal extinction, and environmental degradation.

Each episode (Episode 1 "Awakening"; Episode 2 "Understanding"; and Episode 3 "Changing") highlights some of the latest scientific research that helps us understand the workings of the planet and explores effective strategies for restoring the environment, re-wilding landscapes and maintaining a balance between species.

The series examines the work of a diverse international scientific community as well as indigenous citizen activists committed to bringing about change in their local communities. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Frontline: Policing The Police 2020'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Race, policing and the struggle to hold departments accountable. In the wake of George Floyd's killing, New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb examines prospects for reform, and returns to the case of one troubled department he first visited in 2016.

DVD Verdict: Against the backdrop of a pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black people, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police in 2020 sparked a push for racial justice and calls for change.

FRONTLINE and New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb examine the realities of race and policing in America, asking the question: Can policing be done differently — and is there the will to make the change?

The film explores the story of Newark, New Jersey, which has been undergoing an experiment in police reform for several years. In many cities across America this summer, police met both protesters and members of the media with force.

But things remained relatively calm in Newark — whose police force was ordered to reform by the Department of Justice in 2016 after a federal investigation found a pattern of civil rights abuses, the brunt of which was borne by Black and Latino residents.

Policing the Police 2020 traces how the reform effort has played out in Newark — where prior to federal intervention, approximately 75 percent of stops by officers were found to have no documented legal justification — and how President Trump's Department of Justice has largely abandoned federal efforts to compel systemic change in police departments.

“Since the 1967 riots that erupted after the beating of a black cab driver by two white police officers, the Newark Police Department has been haunted by allegations of discriminatory policing, excessive use of force, and a severe lack of accountability,” voices New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb, a historian at Columbia Journalism School who has written about issues of race and policing for The New Yorker for years.

After a three-year investigation, the DOJ found systemic civil rights abuses by the Newark police, noting that approximately 75 percent of stops by officers had no legal justification.

The DOJ also found cases where police used excessive force against residents, stole their belongings, and arrested people for criticizing or questioning their actions — and, as aforementioned, it ordered Newark to reform.

With gripping, on-the-ground access, 'Frontline: Policing The Police' gives viewers a raw and complex look at the challenge of changing how cops operate in a place like Newark: a poor city plagued by violent crime, where the victims and the perpetrators are usually black, and the police force itself is largely black and Latino.

The film is supported by Chasing the Dream, a public media initiative from The WNET Group in New York that examines poverty, justice and economic opportunity in America. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Trouble with Maggie Cole'
(Dawn French, Mark Heap, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Vicki Pepperdine, Patrick Robinson, et al / 2-DVD / TV-14 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: 'The Trouble with Maggie Cole' follows the stories and fall out for Maggie Cole, played by Dawn French ('The Vicar of Dibley'), who doesn't pay attention to the cautionary adage that "those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones"!

DVD Verdict: Maggie Cole is the self-appointed oracle of Thurlbury, a close-knit town. When a radio journalist interviews Maggie, she gives him far more detail and embellishment about the locals and their personal lives than he was counting on.

When the interview is played in full, all the guarded secrets, indiscretions and gossip are broadcast for the whole county to hear, changing life in Thurlbury forever.

When a radio journalist interviews Maggie Cole (Dawn French, The Vicar of Dibley) for a small piece about local life in their small coastal community, she gives him far more detail – and embellishment – about the locals and their personal lives than he was counting on.

In the days and weeks following the show’s broadcast, Maggie’s over-zealous chit-chat gets her into serious hot water, as the fallout from her very public gossip-fest disrupts the lives of her fellow residents.

Personally, I think the writing is beautiful. The dialogue flows nicely and there are some very clever details in it that many writers would ordinarily miss.

I would be interested to see other projects by this writer and how he develops, as there's such warmth and heart in the writing that can't be learned, you just have to have it, you know!

Now I have to say that the actors that are good are VERY good. Dawn French is fabulous in the title role. Mark Heap is deliciously awkward in his role as Maggie's husband.

Julie Hesmondalgh is adorable and warm as Maggie's best friend and her love interest played by Patrick Robinson is brilliantly natural. Kerry Howard does a terrific job with the west country accent, although I assume she may originally be from the region.

Laurie Kynastan is a new face to me, but nonetheless his acting ability is something very special and I imagine he's one to watch in the future.

However some of the other casting choices are nothing short of appalling! Worst of all has to be the supposed Polish father and daughter. If Tomi May isn't putting on an accent, then he's just a terrible actor and should never have been cast!

Emily Reid is even worse, neither looking nor sounding Polish and having zero acting ability or charm. As a Polish person myself, I feel very offended by these choices, as we're crying out for decent representation, but get slapped in the face with these!

I also feel the casting of Rocco Padden as Kerry Howard's son was a poor choice. The boy seems streets behind the acting level of his classmate, Jamie Talbot (who isn't even listed in the cast!), who is superb with his expressions and naturally funny delivery.

It's a real shame and maybe Rocco Padden will improve someday, but there's no point in casting a child that can't act until they've grown in their ability as it will just ruin his career before it's started!

Also, sorry, but I don't think Holly Edwin fits very well with Laurie Kynastan. They simply look wrong as a couple, which again feels like a mistake by casting. Maybe Holly Edwin has great ability, but it is rather distracting when a couple just LOOK wrong, you know!

I know these are petty and minor niggles too, but all in all, 'The Trouble with Maggie Cole' is a very enjoyable watch, that also features great wardrobe choices and scenery galore to melt into.

Ergo, and packed full of comedy, intrigue and suspense, 'The Trouble with Maggie Cole' is a warmly humorous yet distinctly cautionary tale about the perils of passing on unfounded gossip! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and includes the Bonus Video of:

Friendship & Forgiveness
The Garden Party
Do You Gave Floats in Poland?
Rumours, Gossip & Whispers

'Hacking Your Mind'
(Jacob Ward / 2-DVD / NR / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: This amazing series takes you from the farthest corners of the globe to the inside of your mind, guided by Jacob Ward, who brings discoveries and laughter to "The Today Show." Discover why it’s incredibly easy for others to “hack” into your mind and how you can defend yourself.

DVD Verdict: Simply put, this brilliant 'Hacking Your Mind' takes you inside the world of hackers ­­— from presidential campaigns and social media companies, to corporate marketers and governments — to reveal how they influence your behavior without your even being aware of it.

The series is hosted by Jacob Ward, longtime editor of “Popular Science” and NBC’s science correspondent and this show also features best-selling authors, including Michael Lewis (“Moneyball,” “The Big Short”) and Nobel Prize winners, including Daniel Kahneman (“Thinking, Fast and Slow”) and Richard Thaler, creator of behavioral economics.

'Hacking Your Mind' is a fun and fast-paced adventure filled with discoveries that are incredibly relevant to your life, to our nation and our world.

Throughout the program, discover how we evolved to make many of our decisions not based on what we “think,” but based on our feelings, intuition and habits.

This enables us to make decisions almost instantly, as though we’re operating on autopilot. Most of the time these autopilot processes serve us well, but they can also lead us to make predictable mistakes.

Ward also reveals how these common mistakes make us vulnerable to bias and misinformation. Even more important, Ward will show us how we can protect ourselves and fight back, so you can learn how to hack your own mind to make your life better, and by doing it, improve the lives of everyone around you. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Masterpiece: Victoria - Complete Seasons 1,2&3
(Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Laurence Fox, Kate Fleetwood / 9-DVD / NR / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Discover all three seasons of the unmissable global hit drama starring Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria, a nineteenth-century heroine for our times.

This landmark account of the life of one of history’s greatest monarchs begins as Victoria takes her first faltering steps from capricious, hormonal teenager to respected monarch, navigating palace intrigue and constitutional crises alongside an epic romance with her cousin Prince Albert (Tom Hughes).

As Victoria’s reign continues, she must face the very modern challenge of balancing life as a mother and wife with her work as ruler of the most powerful nation on earth.

As the lavish saga unfolds against the backdrop of pivotal moments in history, the Queen and Prince Albert must meet each public challenge while confronting profound personal change.

DVD Verdict: Personally, I love historical/period dramas and from the off, the advertising for 'Victoria' was appetizing, the cast a super talented one, and Queen Victoria herself was an interesting historical figure with an interesting life.

Similarly her reign of 64 years (the longest for any ruler for over a century before topped by our present queen Elizabeth II) is a landmark one. So 'Victoria' had so much potential.

That said, and having now watched all three seasons of 'Victoria' back-to-back, sure, ok, admittedly the series is a wee bit uneven in places, with a good deal of it being in the transitional stages, so to speak, but my goodness, it's a right royal to-do, that's for darn sure!

Anyhoo, what I can say is that it keeps you watching, drawn into her world due to being so captivating with regard its overall production and costume values and, for the most part, all the primary actors too, of course.

Again, there is no doubt about it, 'Victoria' does look amazing, so much so that there are times when I myself wished I had lived back then (albit not for long, given that times young death rates!)

The radiant photography never put a foot wrong whilst the costumes are of sheer sumptuousness, the scenery is enough to take the breath away and the interiors and buildings similarly are stately and opulent, whether in England or abroad.

Oh, and for my humble money's worth, the episode partly set in France was a major standout (Ohh la-la!").

I also LOVE the music too, with the main theme/opening title music not being one to forget in the long run. It has a lot of presence while having the ability to tone down when needed.

Most all the writing intrigues also, as do some of the relationships (particularly Victoria and Melbourne that was also emotionally investable), and there are some compelling storylines which makes forever-a-dull moment, so to speak.

Another big reason for why this series resonates with me so much is the overall acting; or, at least, most of it. Jenna Coleman is both regal and vulnerable in the title role, as well as luminous, which only equals impeccable acting.

To me it didn't matter whether she was too pretty or a little too tall (if remembered correctly, Victoria was actually under 5 foot, Coleman is slightly over that).

Other particularly good performances are Paul Rhys, suitably hateable and stern without being one-dimensional or pantomimic, and especially, always-remarkable actor Rufus Sewell, who is oh-so beautifully cast here.

This eight-part drama wears its moral scheme on its sleeve by contrasting the hissable villain the Duke of Cumberland (Peter Firth), with the aforementioned pragmatic, yet goodhearted, Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), who admires the Queen yet remains convinced that she has to transform herself from an immature girl into suitably monarchical material, and will try his utmost to achieve that transformation.

Sometimes he has to be cruel to be kind, but all in a good cause. In between these two extremes stands the Duke of Wellington (Peter Bowles), and Sir Robert Peel (Nigel Lindsay), both members of the Tory Party (and hence implacably opposed to Melbourne's politics), but interested in maintaining the business of government.

Same goes for the wonderful supporting cast. Adored the prickly and snobby Lahzen, the sarcastic Penge, David Oake's caddish yet warmhearted Ernest, sympathized with Catherine Flemming's Duchess of Kent, and found Alex Jenning's King Leopold so freaking amusing that I would so love to have an uncle like that!

Perhaps the only disappointment for me was the "downstairs" love story. I was just not invested in Francatelli and Nancy's romance, and I felt like I was forced to endure rather than relish it.

Unfortunately, as with all good things, there are exceptions. Like, personally, I didn't think much of Nigel Lindsay, who constantly came over as over-compensating, but the biggest exception was a woefully cast and very anemic Tom Hughes as Albert.

For my part, and although the script was quite brilliant throughout, I just didn't detect any chemistry between him and Coleman and never believed they were in love. It was not a love at first sight relationship purposefully by all means, but there was not much evidence of it changing or growing.

It was far more invested in the chemistry between Coleman and Sewell, which was so poignantly and sympathetically handled.

However, if you want both sides of the story here, so to speak, much more of an issue for me was the overall handling of some of the larger storylines.

And whether the writing tended to be somewhat stilted, thankfully it never took me out of the time period (albeit having some overly melodramatic soap opera tones at times!).

People - fans or not - will always have complaints regarding the historical inaccuracies, but when it revolves around a famous and important historical figure/ruler with an interesting life that was played out before a nation, all the personal stuff was kept, well, personal!

Ergo, how do we know what happened and what was said behind closed doors, so why people make a fuss abut such things is totally beyond me, sorry.

Overall, worthy of a LOT of admiration, 'Victoria' is a drama that goes very deep into the story of this monarch who, with the permission of the current Queen, was the monarch with the longest reign in British history, so there is a lot to tell.

All the small details of what happened wouldn't be appreciated if it weren't for the amazing performance that Jenna Coleman gives us all. Again, she is simply wonderful in her role on a young Victoria and it is through her eyes that we learn along with her, through her voice that we are taught how a ruler is born.

Of course, her aforementioned great supporting cast "allow" her to shine even more in her performance and, considering their limited budget, the cinematography is wonderful, the clothing beautiful and the set designs simply breathtaking. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and includes over 100 minutes of Bonus Video including:

Cast Interviews
Tour of the Buckingham Palace Set
Creating the CGI Magic
An Icon for Women Today
Researching Victoria
The Costumes
Feodora: A New Dynamic
Lord Palmerston: The Foreign Secretary
And Much More!

'Garfield And Friends - Season 3'
(2-DVD / G / 2020 / PBS Kids)

Overview: Enjoy the complete third season of 'Garfield and Friends'! This hilarious DVD collection features classic episodes centered around the world’s most lovable feline Garfield, his owner Jon Arbuckle and his pal Odie.

DVD Verdict: Just to bring you up to date a wee bit, Garfield is a fictional cat and the protagonist of the comic strip Garfield, created by Jim Davis.

The comic strip centers on Garfield, portrayed as a lazy, fat, and cynical orange cat. He is noted for his love of lasagna, coffee and sleeping, and his hatred of Mondays, fellow cat Nermal (sometimes), raisins and exercise.

Here in 'Garfield And Friends - Season 3,' we get all 18 episodes from Season 3 of Garfield and Friends, and which also includes the episode shorts from U.S. Acres, which stars a group of barnyard animals!

So that's 430 minutes (or, over seven hours, in old money!) of incredible kids TV on two discs from PBS, where we get to watch as Garfield becomes a stowaway after Jon goes on a cruise, and as Garfield hosts a TV debate on “Why cats are better than dogs!”

In other episodes, Binky goes to the beach for a sandcastle contest; Orson declares that roosters can't fly for long periods of time; When Jon becomes a DJ, he suddenly becomes hip and forgets about his pets; Superspy Double-O Orson returns and battles the mysterious Cornfinger; and Odie's drooling ends up with Garfield in a diaper, and Roy opens a lemonade stand and offers all the lemonade you can drink, et al.

These classic episodes all centering around the world’s most lovable feline Garfield, his owner Jon Arbuckle, and his canine pal Odie will bring children, and their parents, hours of entertainment and laughter! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Other Side of Madness: 4K Transfer' [Blu-ray]
(Brian Klinknett, Erica Bigelow, Paula Shannon, et al / Blu-ray+CD / NR / (1971) 2020 / The Film Detective)

Overview: 'The Other Side of Madness' (1971) returns nearly 50 years after its initial release!

An avant-garde retelling of the infamous Manson Murders, 'The Other Side of Madness' brings audiences closer to the events than most filmmakers have dared to go, with real life footage of Spahn Ranch and music performed by Charles Manson.

Directed by Frank Howard and produced by Wade Williams, this hypnotic film served as one of the first Helter Skelter recreations, filmed so close to the time of the events that Manson and his followers had yet to be sentenced for the vicious crimes.

Blu-ray Verdict: Known, since birth, as 'Frank Howard's Helter Skelter Murders,' the renamed 'The Other Side of Madness' (out now as a magnificent 4K Transfer From Original Camera Negative) is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most fascinating watches I have sat down to review for the longest time (having never originally seen it back in 1971, or thereafter).

Supposedly the very first picture to capitalize on the Manson Family Murders, the fact it was being filmed whilst their infamous trial was still going on makes knowing what happened thereafter even more of a visual delicacy.

Not something, in my book, having now viewed it twice, to be labelled as a "exploitation film," it doesn't feature any real blood and gore, per say, and the only sexual moments are when the hippies are doing their own thing, shall we say, given that it was the late '60s, after all.

Thus, 'The Other Side of Madness' takes its time getting to the core of the film, which is no bad thing, as I actually liked the way it steadily built on the facts and what (supposedly) made certain members do certain things and such.

Ergo, the Director, the aforementioned Frank Howard, takes his paced time in showing the life of the Manson Family, one growing, budding moment at a time. With none of them having so much as their own personal identity it was hard, as a viewer to latch onto any of them, or even care what happens to them, in truth.

Furthermore, the ones attributed to the killings are not even given names here, not even titled, nor labelled for the film, which means these "real life" killers truly come across as characters fliting back and forth across our screen, none of which hold any devoted stares or concern from us (which, I'm sure, was always the Director's intention).

The same goes for the nameless victims, but I would hazard a guess as that being more to do with Howard playing respect to the fallen, as opposed to wishing they too blend into the white noise that was their portrayed killers here.

Shot in black and white, the ambiance of that cinematographic choice is a first class visual choice and really eerily captures the mood of what must have been a most horridly dark, foreboding grey and harshly-lit night (in essence and weather) in real life for all concerned.

Lurching from shadow to shadow, Howard showcases his brilliance in both directing and cinematography angles and shots, especially those shot during the home invasion sequence. For buried within each moment, each shot, each still, these shadowy effects bring forth pockets of darkly depressing event, and highly menacing snap shots.

Featuring Brian Klinknett as the lead "killer," he delivers his lines as if he himself were truly crazy, his portrayal of a sneering and terrifying psychopath one for the ages. Indeed, when his character says "I am the Devil, coming to do the Devil's work", you genuinely believe what he is saying and had you been facing him, terrified at that time, you would have also known your time was up!

In closing, lest we forget the dynamic backbone of this film, the wondrous accompanying music that ebbs and flows throughout. Created by the brilliant, and uber-talented Sean Bonniwell, the tracks actually came from his very own band, The Music Machine and contain layers of excellently orchestrated psychedelic blues, infused proto-punk. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1:37.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

A New Documentary: 'The Other Side of Manson: An Interview with Producer Wade Williams'
Original Trailers from both Theatrical Releases
Musical CD with songs written and performed by Charles Manson!

'The Other Side of Madness' is available as part of a special-edition anniversary collector’s set with Bonus CD on Blu-ray ($29.95) and DVD ($21.95); or as a standard release, without Bonus CD, on Blu-ray ($24.99) and DVD ($19.99).

With only 1,500 Blu-ray copies and 2,000 Bonus CDs available, reserve a copy now BY CLICKING HERE!

'The Broken Hearts Gallery' [Blu-ray]
(Geraldine Viswanathan, Dacre Montgomery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Molly Gordon, Phillipa Soo, Bernadette Peters, et al / Blu-ray / PG-13 / 2020 / Sony Pictures)

Overview: What if you saved a souvenir from every relationship you’ve ever been in? 'The Broken Hearts Gallery' follows the always unique Lucy, a 20-something art gallery assistant living in New York City, who also happens to be an emotional hoarder.

After she gets dumped by her latest boyfriend, Lucy is inspired to create The Broke Hearts Gallery, a pop-up space for the items love has left behind. Word of the gallery spreads, encouraging a movement and a fresh start for all the romantics out there, including Lucy herself.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, those all-to-familiar rom-com beats are too hard to ignore in 'The Broken Hearts Gallery,' but what holds it all together is a spunky little (lead) performance from Geraldine Viswanathan (who plays Lucy, an art gallery assistant).

With a plot that's tailor-made for a romantic comedy (it has got a lot to do with Lucy's heartbreaks and the souvenirs she keeps from those broken relationships), 'The Broken Hearts Gallery' makes the city of New York look like a standout character.

Darc Montgomery plays Nick, the owner of a work-in-progress hotel, who bumps into Lucy in a rather unusual meet-cute. Their second (chance) encounter felt contrived as hell though.

When the duo decides to convert part of the hotel space into a gallery for exhibiting souvenirs from relationships that fell through, the film picks up speed, charm, and some romantic vibes.

I didn't expect many surprises in the screenplay (which occasionally descends into downright cheesiness), but what is definitely lacking is a rather distinct lack of under riding humor.

Here and there we get a chuckle or two, courtesy of the largely silent Jeff (Nathan Dales), Eva Woolf (a spirited Bernadette Peters), and Marcos (Arturo Castro), but it doesn't spoil anything, overall.

Indeed, 'The Broken Hearts Gallery; wholly rides on Geraldine's star-making role and the chemistry she shares with Dacre, whose role was undertaken just perfectly.

While the inclusion of multi-ethnic (there's Utkarsh Ambudkar playing Max Vora, presumably of Indian origin) and LGBTQ (Philippa Soo plays Nadine, a lesbian) characters is commendable, they often recede conveniently into the background for the central plot to play out.

Ergo, this film is cute, quaint, not unfamiliar, cozy and Alar Kivilo's cinematography is a plus, that's for sure. Indeed, 'The Broken Hearts Gallery,' written and directed by Natalie Krinsky, is certainly one for audiences who savor their romantic comedies with a tolerable dose of clichés and syrupy feels (much like me, of course). This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes wit h the Special Features of:

• Gag Reel
• Behind-the-Scenes Vignettes

'The Broken Hearts Gallery' [Blu-ray] is out this November 17th, 2020 via Sony Pictures.

'The Broken Hearts Gallery' @ Facebook

Sony Pictures @ YouTube

'He Came from the Swamp: William Grefé Collection'
(Rita Hayworth, Richard Jaeckel, Christopher George, John Darrell, Jeremy Slate, et al / 4-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: Killer sharks and human jellyfish and living mummies, oh my! Arrow Video is proud to present the first ever collection of works by William Wild Bill Grefé, the maverick filmmaker who braved the deep, dark depths of the Florida everglades to deliver some of the most outrageous exploitation fare ever to go-go dance its way across drive-in screens.

Bringing together seven of Grefé s most outlandish features, all new to Blu-ray, 'He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefé Collection' packs in a macabre menagerie of demented jellyfish men (Sting of Death), zombified witch doctors (Death Curse of Tartu), homicidal hippies (The Hooked Generation) and seductive matrons (The Naked Zoo) not to mention the ubiquitous go-go dancing college kids to create one of the most wildly entertaining box-sets of all time!

Blu-ray Verdict: First up is 'Sting of Death', and opens with a college girl, Karen, who visits her dad, a marine biologist, at his island compound in the Florida Everglades.

Her partying friends show up, dance to Neil Sedaka tunes, and taunt the doctor's creepy assistant, Egon. Soon they're victims of a wetsuit-wearing. bipedal jellyfish monster. Jealous of Karen's boyfriend, Egon kidnaps her and carries her to his secret underground lair.

The main thing I dug about this movie is the cool pad under the sea where the jellyfish man hangs out! You swim down to the bottom of the lake and you find a cave. Swim through the cave you end up in a swingin' mad scientist lab/paradise cove!

It's all so really cool. You come up through the floor of the lab and you're not underwater anymore. Surrounded by big foam rocks and special '60s science equipment in the walls, it's like a honeymoon suite or something!

Plus, the color in this movie is really nice and it makes everything seem a little extra appealing. Maybe that's why I was so impressed with this little hideout under the sea (and the entire movie, of course!).

Next up is 'Death Curse of Tartu', where four students on an archaeology assignment in the Everglades decide to throw a dance party on the burial site of an ancient Indian medicine man named Tartu. He returns from the dead, in the form of various animals, to take his revenge on those who desecrated his grave site.

'Death Curse of Tartu' was a staple of late night insomniacs in the pre-cable days of television, along with other no budget wonders such as 'They Saved Hitler's Brain,' 'Women of the Prehistoric Planet,' and 'Zontar the Thing from Venus.'

Although the plot dredges up the overworked "Mummy vowing vengeance against all those who desecrate his tomb" from the Universal WW2 days, other aspects of this feature point toward the natural horror cycle of the '70s ('Frogs' or 'Kingdom of the Spiders') and the whole teenagers in peril subgenre of horror in the '80s.

Yes, the acting is awful, there's little in the way of suspense, and the teens are required to do dumb and stupid things, but you still have to admire Miami-born writer/director William Grefé, already a veteran of four features by this time!

Then we get 'The Hooked Generation', which is about a gang of dope peddlers who sail out to meet a Cuban boat. The trouble starts when they are forced to throw their narcotics overboard and are seen by a young couple.

Much of this movie centers around images of people on drugs or doing drugs. with a wonderful "Psychedelic Orgy" in the middle of it all. The rest of the time, our villains are fleeing through the swamps, dragging a pair of uncooperative hostages along with them for no apparent reason.

The DP seems to have had some problems shooting in daylight, much of the outdoor scenes are woefully overexposed, but his studio-work is competent.

The acting and plot are simply outrageous, and may be more enjoyable to experience on drugs. Not really a classic drugsploitation film, but a good example of the genre, nonetheless.

Up next is 'The Psychedelic Priest', a film about a Priest who sheds his habit, tunes in, turns on and drops out for a road trip that will change his life and bring him sorrow. Filmed in 1971, it wasn't actually released until 2001.

This is a late-'60s time capsule of counter-cultural themes at its finest, trust me! It also shares some traits with 'Easy Rider', being a "road movie" with a graphically depicted acid trip, a cemetery seen through a distorting lens, hippie communes, drugs, and evil murderous rednecks. And there's also a familiar-sounding rock music soundtrack that works on every level too.

Then we get 'The Naked Zoo', where a seductive matron lives in Miami with her wheelchair-bound, wealthy husband. Frustrated, she beds a young author. The gravy train abruptly derails when her husband finds out, and murder ensues.

One of Rita Hayworth's final films, it's a story of double dealings, murder, and suspense. Hayworth, at 52, looks as attractive as ever. She always kept herself in great shape.

Sort of sad to see this once great star reduced to this "B" South Florida made movie, but she gives an above average performance; considering the script and budget, that's pretty darn good.

Grefé also fills his supporting cast with his group of favorites; singer/actor/record producer Steve Alaimo, and former light-heavyweight boxing champ Willie Pastrano.

Next up is 'Mako: Jaws of Death', where during the Vietnam War, US soldier Sonny Stein is saved from a pursuing enemy by a Mako shark. He begins to appreciate Makos after that. After the war, Stein finds work in the Philippine Islands as a marine salvager.

A Filipino shaman gives him a medallion that helps him develop a telepathic rapport with Makos. Once back home in Florida, Stein decides to become Makos defender.

A shady scientist who wants to research the sharks and a strip club owner who wants to use the sharks in a stripping act try to get Stein to use his powers to help them with their plans. Furious, Stein turns on the two men and things get ugly quickly for all of them.

Richard Jaeckel was always an engaging actor to watch over many decades of distinguished film service, and despite his simpleton turn here, there's still a hint of the professionalism in his thespian skills, that will endear his character and have you rooting for the shark guy.

Throughout the movie, Jaeckel's rather dim alter ego descends into paranoia and eventual insanity, culminating in a frenzied rampage led by his number one Tiger shark who he commands with a telepathic dominion.

As much a character examination as it is a B-grade action-thriller, there's enough in Jaeckel's offbeat portrayal to warrant interest, and some familiar faces in the wings (Harold Sakata, John Davis Chandler, Luke Halpin) to provide character contrast.

FYI: Grefé wrote the story for this film prior to 'Jaws' (1975), but couldn't get anyone to finance his movie until after 'Jaws' was a huge hit at the box office!

Then we get 'Whiskey Mountain', where Bill, Dan, Diana and Jamie, four motorcyclists who arrived at Whiskey Mountain for a treasure hunt, are terrorized in the woods by a gang of murderous hillbilly drug dealers.

This is a movie that has all real marijuana as props and a soundtrack by the Charlie Daniels Band, along with the exact kind of horrors you know await them Yankees when they ask too many questions and push too hard!

It's also filled with Peckinpah-esque slow motion - most effect with George is double firing shotguns - to go with a brutal scene where we only hear the assault on the girls and see still evidence as it develops on Polaroids.

Also, it's 1977 and a technically a motorcycle movie, so that means that it also has a potential downer-ending freeze frame, of course!

Lastly we get the brand new documentary 'They Came from the Swamp: The Films of William Grefé' (2016). Savage. Sadistic. Thrill hungry. When it came to independent filmmaking in the sunshine state, William Grefé was the wildest of the wild. Now, the untold story of Florida's most daring moviemaker comes to the screen.

Among the best tales woven within are how Grefé shot his early films on weekends to get around union rules; family members helping out on the movies in multiple capacities; Grefé nearly managing to get a film made with Elvis Presley; a close call with an alligator on 'Death Curse of Tartu'; Harold Sakata almost getting killed due to a harrowing mishap during the shooting of the scene in which Sakata gets strung up on a rope in 'Impulse'; a shark that was supposed to be dead, but wasn't on 'Mako: The Jaws of Death'; and the pot in the cave being the real thing in 'Whiskey Mountain'!!

Such Grefé actors and collaborators as bubblegum pop music idol Steve Alaimo, veteran character actor John Davis Chandler, writer Gary Crutcher, 'Stanley' star Chris Robinson, and make-up expert and monster man Doug Hobart relate lots of fun anecdotes on their time in the trenches with Grefé, while film historian Chris Poggliali, Frank Henenlotter, Herschell Gordon Lewis, David F. Friedman, and Fred Olen Ray all give Grefé plenty of well-deserved props.

Filled with wondrous behind-the-scenes footage and nifty film clips, this one sizes up as a spot-on loving tribute to William Grefé and his movies. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) - save for the 2016 documentary - enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Seven William Grefé films, all newly restored from the best surviving film elements: Sting of Death (1966), Death Curse of Tartu (1966), The Hooked Generation (1968), The Psychedelic Priest (1971), The Naked Zoo (1971), Mako: Jaws of Death (1976) and Whiskey Mountain (1977).
Brand new, extended version of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures definitive documentary They Came from the Swamp: The Films of William Grefé.
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations on 4 Blu-ray discs.
Original uncompressed mono audio for all films.
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Fully illustrated collector s booklet featuring an extensive, never-before-published interview with William Grefé and a new foreword by the filmmaker.
Reversible poster featuring newly commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil.
Reversible sleeves featuring newly commissioned artwork for each of the films by The Twins of Evil.

Brand new introductions to the films by director William Grefé.
Archival audio commentaries for both films with William Grefé and filmmaker Frank Henenlotter.
Sting of Death: Beyond the Movie Monsters a-Go Go! a look into the history of rock 'n' roll monster movies with author/historian C. Courtney Joyner.
The Curious Case of Dr. Traboh: Spook Show Extraordinaire a ghoulish look into the early spook show days with monster maker Doug Hobart.
Original Trailers.
Still and Promotion Gallery.

Archival audio commentaries for both films with director William Grefé and filmmaker Frank Henenlotter.
Hooked Generation behind-the-scenes footage.
Hooked Generation Original Trailer.
Still and Promotion Gallery.

William Grefé s original Director s Cut of Naked Zoo.
Alternate Barry Mahon re-release cut of Naked Zoo.
Original Mako: Jaws of Death Trailer and Promo.
Still and Promotion Gallery.

Whiskey Mountain Original Trailer.
Still and Promotion Gallery.
They Came from the Swamp: The Films of William Grefé the definitive documentary presented for the first in High-Definition and in a brand new, extended cut.

Official Purchase Link

'Blade' (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital)
(Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N'Bushe Wright, Donal Logue, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital / R / (1998) 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Wesley Snipes stars as Marvel’s iconic half-vampire, half-human vampire hunter, Blade.

With all the strengths of a vampire, and none of their weaknesses, the Day Walker uses his incredible gifts to hunt his enemies in his search for the one that killed his mother and turned him into the monster he is.

Blade’s fight leads him to Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff), a rising force in the vampire world, set on raising a vampire God bent on destroying mankind.

Blu-ray Verdict: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the breathtakingly frenetic 'Blade’ in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this December 1st, 2020.

For my money, this 'Blade: 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 'Blade' 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; such as the truly excellent meat locker warehouse dance rave scene (yes, you red all that correctly!) where Blade takes on a slew of manchette-wielding, and colorfully-dressed vampires, blowing them away and into ashes with his shotgun, one after the other!

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 one-on-one inner sanctum fight scene with the brilliant Stephen Dorff; although the CGI for when Dorff's hand "morphs" back into being is a little old school now, in truth!), which is now interestingly different, and allows their contorted facial expressions to become much more detailed and alive within this incredible 1080p Blu-ray rendering.

As for the audio, well we have: English: Dolby Atmos, English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps), and Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps).

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 the mid-1990s, Marvel Comics film adaptations where in the midst of some serious doldrums. The previous released Marvel adaptation had been a film version of Captain America that was produced for a extremely low budget and ended up going straight to video; which was appropriate considering how terrible it was!

There had also been an abortive attempt to produce a Fantastic Four film, but after the completion of the film, it was shelved when producer Bern Eichenger made a deal with director/producer Chris Columbus to produce a big-budget version (which would take more than a decade to actually make it to screen).

It was into this environment of calamity that emerged a film centered around a little-known Marvel character named Blade. Blade, a half-human, half-vampire who has devoted his life to destroying other vampires, didn't seem like a likely choice to bring some light to the Marvel universe, but it did and managed, in many ways to breathe life back into Marvel film adaptations.

Written by comics aficionado David Goyer (whose personal collection of comics reportedly stretched into the thousands), Blade was a vehicle for Wesley Snipes, directed by a former make-up effects artist turned director named Stephen Norrington.

The results, while not perfect, are rather entertaining for a action-driven comic adaptation. Blade starts off with guns blazing, featuring a high-energy action sequence in an impromptu vampire nightclub where vampires gather to feast on unlucky victims.

The sequence is full of energy, some rather tense suspense at the appropriate moments and well-staged fight sequences.

It is from here that the film's plot begins to unfold: the world is secretly ruled by an ancient race of vampires who control much of the financial empire throughout the globe, manipulating humans and using some as their pawns.

Blade, assisted by his mentor, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), a man whose family was killed by a vampire, hunts down vampires from city to city, desperately attempting to rid the world of this scourge.

It is after a vampire bites a doctor involved in blood research, Karen Jenson (N'Bushe Wright), whom Blade attempts to save from becoming a vampire, that he finds himself drawn closer to his arch-nemesis, Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff), who is attempting to translate ancient vampire text to discover the secrets of a all-powerful deity who will transform the world into vampires.

Blade is not high-art, that is for sure. The film is not designed to change your life or make you think deeply about important issues. It is, however, designed to provide some entertainment for it's running time, and pulls it off fairly well.

As with other films of it's type, when a complicated culture has to be introduced to the audience, an outsider is the perfect opportunity, and Karen Jenson provides that entrance into the world of the vampires, allowing for exposition that is not unrealistically placed.

We learn a fair amount about the film's vampire world, and it proves interesting at times. However, this is first and foremost an action film, and Blade services that aspect well. Beyond the opening scene, there are several major fight sequences in Blade, all well choreographed and destined to get the adrenaline pumping.

Director Norrington uses some stylization during the course of the film, including time-lapse photography, but doesn't overdo it like other films heavy on action in recent years.

Wesley Snipes is strong in the role of Blade, making an indelible impression, even with limited dialogue. He looks the part of hardened vampire killer and wears the role well.

Kris Kristofferson is good as his mentor Whistler, providing some necessary levity at moments and giving us a more human hero to latch onto when Blade proves a bit less than talkative. N'Bushe Wright is serviceable in her role, but proves to be a somewhat bland companion for Blade.

Oh and yes, for those wondering, Stephen Dorff gives a good performance as the villain, without going over the top.

Blade is not quite as good as other Marvel adaptations that followed it in short order, such as X-Men and Spider-Man, but it is a decent piece of action film-making that does it's job well.

Ultra HD showcases 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range (HDR) and a wider color spectrum, offering consumers brighter, deeper, more lifelike colors for a home entertainment viewing experience like never before.

'Blade' will be available on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack for $24.99 ERP and includes an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with the feature film in 4K with HDR and a Blu-ray disc with the feature film and special features. Fans can also own Blade in 4K Ultra HD via purchase from select digital retailers beginning on December 1st, 2020.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of 'Blade' will feature Dolby VisionTM HDR that dramatically expands the color palette and contrast range and uses dynamic metadata to automatically optimize the picture for every screen, frame by frame.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of 'Blade' will also feature a Dolby Atmos® soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.

To experience Dolby Atmos at home, a Dolby Atmos enabled AV receiver and additional speakers are required, or a Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar. Dolby Atmos soundtracks are also fully backward compatible with traditional audio configurations and legacy home entertainment equipment.

To experience Dolby Atmos at home, a Dolby Atmos enabled AV receiver and additional speakers are required, or a Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar.

Dolby Atmos soundtracks are also fully backward compatible with traditional audio configurations and legacy home entertainment equipment.

This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

• Commentary with Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, David S. Goyer, Theo Van De Sande, Kirk M. Petruccelli & Peter Frankfurt
• Isolated score with commentary by composer Mark Isham

Original 1998 'Blade' Trailer

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

'The Flintstones: The Complete Series' (Blu-ray)
(Alan Reed, Mel Blanc, Jean Vander Pyl, Don Messick, Gerry Johnson, Harvey Korman, et al / 10-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Yabba Dabba Doo Not Pass This Up!

'The Flintstones: The Complete Series' is boulder-sized fun for the whole family and fans of all ages will crack up at the misadventures of the Flintstones and Rubbles who consistently find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place!

Since the stone age, The Flintstones has delivered entertainment that never shales to delight each new generation and now all 166 episodes are available, for the first time, in HD!

So settle in for the first primetime animated television series and celebrate 60 years of history in the making!

DVD Verdict: Hailed, and rightly so, in my humble opinion, as one of the best animated TV series ever created, each episode of The Flintstones was simply laugh out loud hilarious.

As I'm sure you are all more than aware, The Flintstones cartoons featured two Stone Age families, the Flintstones and their neighbors, the Rubbles.

Much of the humor was based on its comic portrayals of modern conveniences, reinterpreted using Stone Age "technology." Most notably were their cars, complete with absence of floorboards to allow them to be foot-powered.

I myself loved the prehistoric twists they threw in, such as when they used animals to depict current uses of technology (wooly mammoths for garbage disposal or a bird for air travel, complete with passenger cabins on their backs, et al).

And so we were presented with Fred Flintstone, the gruff, but also lovable working class stiff who came to be to audiences everywhere in the '60s.

His wife Wilma and his neighbors Betty and Barney Rubble were the most loyal and helpful people in his life and Fred took advantage of that in every way he could!

Although what I have just written makes Fred look like the ultimate beast you couldn't write a character like this without him having redeemable qualities as well.

So Fred is also trustworthy when Wilma tells him to and works hard to give her things she so desperately craves. Such as glamorous clothes, though, for the most part, she always has to return them!

As the series evolved so did the characters, and so Fred, Wilma, Betty and Barney all became parents. Pebbles, Fred and Wilma's daughter were the pride and joy of Fred and he became a babbling softy when he became her father.

Barney stayed himself and Betty and Wilma didn't change all that much either. There was one major difference in Wilma's character as she didn't put up with so much anymore.

Indeed, she wasn't just a spectator anymore and moreover tried to become something other than a housewife, which Fred didn't like one bit at first. But those were the breaks and he had to follow suit and get in line, of course.

I think the earliest episodes of The Flintstones were the best, but not because the character of Fred was more mean spirited and chauvinistic (a caveman, if you will), but when Betty got a new voice (Gerry Johnson) she lost all appeal!

She sounded like what they used to call a "boob" and Barney got pushed into the background. Indeed, the early episode saw Betty and Barney actually standing up to Fred on a number of occasions and that turned into the moral of the show: That you couldn't let Fred get away with his selfishness all the time!

Admittedly, as the years went by, it was interesting to watch the changes that happened: a new opening theme song, the birth of Pebbles, the appearance of Wilma's mother, Anne Margrock (Ann Margret) and other unusual characters came and went.

Oh, and if you love a drinking game, it's easy to find the more-than occasional animation mistakes! My favorite is when Wilma's eyebrows disappear as she turns her head! And on the first season shows with the original closing title, we see Fred turn off the TV and walk past Wilma, asleep in her bed, she has no mouth!

For me though, well, I simply cannot compare this show to the other more successful shows of nowadays, such as The Simpsons, American Dad, Family Guy, et al, because I think they are in entirely different leagues.

The Simpsons are, at times, oh-so out there, whereas The Flintstones was, for the most part, totally believable and relatable; except for the stone age setting, of course.

So both have merit and they should be judged entirely on their own terms, but without a shadow of a doubt, The Flintstones were, and still are, an absolute sensation to behold.

And now this wondrous flashback, animated cartoon TV show - which has its own humor and originality, but more importantly, the catchiest and most joyful title song known to the business - if out now on Blu-ray via Warner Bros. and not only features all 166 episodes from all 6 seasons, but two bonus movies too!

With regard the movies, The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown! is actually more know as the film that marked the very first time the character of Mr. Slate was voiced by someone other than John Stephenson.

When Fred loses his family's vacation money, he hatches one of his hair brained plans to get it back. It's a sports entertainment spectacle that involves throwing his best bud, Barney into the wrestling ring with the likes of John Cenastone, Rey Mysteriopal and even The Undertaker, with Fred himself as event promoter.

In the other movie, The Man Called Flintstone, which was produced right after production of the original The Flintstones (1960) series ended, and was intended as a swan song for the characters; and unusually, Wilma is seen wearing a purple dress in this film rather than her usual white, while preparing for a camping trip, Fred Flintstone is enlisted by the Bedrock Secret Service to capture a criminal mastermind after a spy who looks like him is injured on the job.

As for the Original Pilot Episode, well, entitled The Flagstones: The Lost Pilot (480i), it only lasts a minute and a half, and is just a really badly faded quick showing that has obviously suffered from bad storage over the years.

This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1/1.77:1/1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.33:1, and comes with the Special Features of:

'The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown!' (Movie)
'The Man Called Flintstone' (Movie)
Original Pilot Episode (1:35)
How to Draw Fred Flintstone (6:47)
Carved in Stone: The Flintstones Phenomenon (20:42)
Songs of The Flintstones Album (27:57)
All About The Flintstones (5:21)
Wacky Inventions (5:44)
Bedrock Collectibles: Collecting All Things Flintstones (6:42)
The Flintstones: One Million Years Ahead of its Time (8:33)
First Families of the Stone Age (7:06)
Hanna-Barbera's Legendary Music Director Hoyt Curtin (7:05)
The Flintstones Meet Pop Culture (11:29)
The Great Gazoo - From A to Zetox (3:49)

Official Purchase Link

'Dune Drifter'
(Phoebe Sparrow, Daisy Aitkens, Simon Dwyer-Thomas, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / 4Digital Media)

Overview: During an ongoing battle for humanity, a group of rookie space fighter pilots is sent to join the battle against an armada of unbeatable enemy ships.

When the trainee pilot and her gunner are shot down, they manage to crash land on a nearby planet. With the gunner mortally wounded and her own life support only set to last two days, our pilot's only option is to fix her ship.

The sudden appearance of an enemy craft offers the answer, but as the pilot looks for parts to use on her own ship she is horrified to spot another survivor; an enemy alien soldier who has no intention of letting her escape.

DVD Verdict: I mean, come on now, to be able to create such a simply brilliant film such as 'Dune Drifter' on such a low budget (of around $100,000) that balances such a monetary restriction with a Sci-Fi overtone back from those good old days of late night B-Movie classics, and have it still come out head held high as a film that should go down as one any self-respecting fan of the genre needs to watch! Well played Writer/Director Marc Price! Well played indeed, Sir!

I mean, the whole early scene where Adler's (Phoebe Sparrow) spaceship was forced off kilter and through a black hole before crashing on the unknown planet is as Star Wars-esque congratulatory as I've ever seen before!

Oh, and as for that aforementioned budget and the corners cut, well, that whole cockpit set was constructed in the director's living room!

Projection was used to simulate a number of environments and situations for the spaceship to cruise through, including the whole space battle and subsequent crash sequence!

Furthermore, sections of the film were shot during the Covid-19 lockdown (in the UK) with just the occupants of the director's flat!

Indeed, the director's girlfriend doubled for any actors and WhatsApp voice notes from cast members were used for any extra lines of dialogue!

But I digress with all the Behind-The-Scenes info that comes with this excellent new DVD, as the film itself is so vibrantly magnificent, I went ahead and watched it all over again the next night!

Featuring some truly beautiful, and at times starkly dramatic scenery, all remarkably shot, and most all in some highly inventive ways, watch the film, and then the Bonus Features, and you'll be AMAZED at how it all came together in such a clever and proficient way.

Oh, and as for the "Dune" of the title, it refers to the Adler's squadron callsign, and not the landscape, as heard in the scene where she tries contacting the retreating allied forces.

Indeed, Phoebe Sparrow's character Adler is named after Austrian psychotherapist Alfred Adler whose major theories in personality development included "The Inferiority Complex".

A psychological term used to describe people with intense feelings of inadequacy, often resulting in extreme shyness, self-isolation, or social submissiveness.

Traits the character of Adler shares with the theory and overcomes throughout the course of film, of course. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:

The Producer's Cut Feature (95 mins)
Behind-The-Scenes Featurette (20 mins)

'Dune Drifter' [DVD] is out on December 1st, 2020 (Digital, VOD and DVD) via 4Digital Media.

Amazon DVD Purchase Link

The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy 4K Ultra HD
(Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, et al / 6-Disc 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital / PG-13 / 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment now bring forth 'The Hobbit Trilogy' and 'The Lord of the Rings Trilogy,' from Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, for the first time on 4K UHD on December 1st, 2020.

Peter Jackson journeys back to Middle-earth with an all-new adventure following Bilbo Baggins, who’s swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug.

Bilbo, along with the company of thirteen dwarves and the wizard Gandalf the Grey, encounter trolls, orcs, goblins, elves and the mysterious Gollum.

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 stunning 'The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy' in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this December 1st, 2020.

For my money, this expansive 'The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy' 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' collection 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 'The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy' presented to us as a magnificent 6-Disc collection with a sheet for a Digital HD Code. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Native 4K (2160p), HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10, Aspect ratio: 2.40:1 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 throughout all three movies.

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 some of the battle scenes and woodland antics), which is now interestingly different, and more "alive" with this incredible 1080p Blu-ray rendering.

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 movies themselves, well, let's start from the beginning, shall we. 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' (2012) kicks things off. The story for The Hobbit is as quintessential of a fantasy adventure as, well, Lord of the Rings.

The film not only does a fine job of packing in loads of events, characters, and fine details from The Hobbit's original narrative and story, but it also ties in some content from The Silmarillion and the appendices of Tolkien's books.

A lot of this is incorporated to make tangible ties with LOTR, allowing the film to serve as a proper prequel, while digging up additional subplots, conflicts, and details to layer onto all of Peter Jackson's Middle-Earth films.

Yes, the film could have all these extra scenes cut out, making the film trimmer. Frankly, I liked it the way it is, because some of the scenes helped me understand certain nuances of The Hobbit's politics and backstories.

Some helped in the nuances of established characters and events (especially in regards to chronicling Gandalf's whereabouts, who would otherwise just pop in and out randomly, like in the book, but it would have probably alienated audiences further).

Some is purely invented for the film series to streamline the continuity (purists might be outraged when they see Radagast on screen). As a stand alone movie, it was a wee bit early to tell where The Hobbit was going with all the threads it had grabbed at that standalone time, but it did serve a purpose in the long run.

If nothing else, it helped average audiences connect and understand the Middle Earth on a deeper level, and set things up for later events in the next two films.

Speaking of which, 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' (2013) is up next. While the film does an excellent job of not simply being the middle film, something The Two Towers struggled with in the LotR trilogy, it is the action, set pieces, and effects which are the true stars.

This may not be a LotR movie, but it's close. We almost immediately start out with a bang and it rarely lets up. Of course, much of what happens early on, as exciting as it may be, pales in comparison to it's explosive and lengthy climax.

Smaug is quite possibly the best creation of any of the film, Hobbit or LotR. He is as awesome as you could have hoped for and Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent in the role. While effects have been applied to his voice to give it more boom, he does a fantastic job as the sneering, wise, and boastful dragon.

Watching and listening to him face off against Bilbo is a delightful treat, and that is before we get to any fire breathing and chasing. What follows is a lengthy conclusion to the film that will excite and delight all.

I have no qualms in saying that Smaug makes the entire film worth the admission of price. But don't go in expecting a solid conclusion. This is, after all, the second of a trilogy, so you can surely expect the film to leave you salivating for the next one!

Which is, as we all know, 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' (2014). Well, The Battle of the Five Armies forsakes the tradition of prologues that would often go back in time from the main narrative, and instead thrusts us into the action!

Sending us with a flurry of excitement into Smaug's attack on Laketown, it is truly a spectacle to watch, building up the suspense and then being the perfect pulse racing build up and is one of the standout set pieces of the year; as we finally see Smaug the terrible lay wake to the town.

And as the title card appears over the ruined Erebor, the film continues to be the ultimate goodbye to Middle Earth, high on energy, whizzing through scenes at a breakneck pace until the credits roll!

Obviously, it doesn't stick to Tolkien's Hobbit in its entirety and makes links to the original Lord of the Ring trilogy, but overall, given what Peter Jackson was trying to accomplish, he did a wonderful job.

Hobbit 3 has a lot of epic battle scenes, mixed in with a variety of moving, elegant pieces of music done by Howard Shore. It has a mixture of drama, action, adventure, romance, and magic - all of them parts that can make up a great film. Which this one, and the entire trilogy most assuredly were. These are all Widescreen Presentations (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and features all three (3) Theatrical and Extended Movies on the six (6) discs.

This superb 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray 6-Disc collection of 'The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy' also features a Dolby Atmos® soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.

To experience Dolby Atmos at home, a Dolby Atmos enabled AV receiver and additional speakers are required, or a Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar.

Dolby Atmos soundtracks are also fully backward compatible with traditional audio configurations and legacy home entertainment equipment.

Sean Astin announces 'Lord of the Rings' in 4K!

'The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy 4K Ultra HD' 6-Disc Amazon Purchase Link

The Lord of the Rings: Motion Picture Trilogy [4K]
(Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, et al / 9-Disc 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital / PG-13 / 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment now bring forth 'The Hobbit Trilogy' and 'The Lord of the Rings Trilogy,' from Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, for the first time on 4K UHD on December 1st, 2020.

This critically acclaimed epic trilogy follows the quest undertaken by the hobbit, Frodo Baggins, and his fellowship of companions to save Middle-earth by destroying the One Ring and defeating the evil forces of the Dark Lord Sauron.

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 stunning 'The Lord of the Rings: Motion Picture Trilogy' in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this December 1st, 2020.

For my money, this expansive 'The Lord of the Rings: Motion Picture Trilogy' 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' collection 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 'The Lord of the Rings: Motion Picture Trilogy' presented to us as a magnificent 9-Disc collection with a sheet for a Digital HD Code. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Native 4K (2160p), HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10 Aspect ratio: 2.40:1 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 throughout all three movies.

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 a lot of the opening battle scenes and castle cavorting), which is now interestingly different, and more "alive" with this incredible 1080p Blu-ray rendering.

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 movies themselves, well, let's start from the beginning, shall we. 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' (2001) kicks things off. The story for Lord of the Rings is as quintessential of a fantasy adventure as, well, The Hobbit.

When I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy back in the early 1970's, I recall saying to myself that the story would make a wonderful movie.

Well, my imagination, of course, found life in The Fellowship of the Ring, a truly profound epic that set the standard for film fantasy, just as the books did for the written word.

I can recall upon first seeing it during it's initial release, I couldn't have been happier with the amount of detail it offered while remaining true to the original adventure.

Everyone imagines what a story and characters look like in their own mind; it was as if Peter Jackson tapped a great cosmic consciousness to deliver a tale that captured the tone and pacing of the novel dead on.

I felt that the readers of the trilogy had a leg up on the characters and locations of Middle Earth, as they are revealed in the film quickly and with nominal explanation.

For example, when the Black Riders appear for the first time, it's difficult to grasp what they're all about, other than the fact that they're after the ring.

Strider's explanation of the Nazgul is perfect - ring wraiths who were once men, neither alive nor dead, who always feel the power of the ring.

Coming to the movie with that understanding ahead of time helps the viewer have a greater appreciation of the action taking place.

The real magic of the movie for me is the seamless manner in which the various races coexist and interact with each other. Though levels of unfamiliarity and distrust appear, can anyone coming out of the movie doubt that elves, dwarfs, hobbits and wizards actually exist.

Even orcs and the evil Uruk hai have a place in this world, for without the danger they pose there is no triumph.

Up next was 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers' (2002). The Two Towers can only be explained in one word: Beautiful. This film left me breathless. I was hoping for a film that could stand in the same depths of the Fellowship of the Ring, and I must say that it has surpassed the film completely.

There also are some new characters and actors. David Wenham is a surprisingly talented young actor and I think it's great that they actually have cast someone that really looks like Sean Bean.

Bernard Hill also impressed me. Probably best know for his role as the captain in 'Titanic,' I think I still have to say that Viggo Mortensen is my favorite overall though.

Sure Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee are also more than great, at all times, but Mortensen really puts some passion and effort in his character.

That all said, Gollum gives an astonishing performance too! The poor misunderstood beast, or the darkened soul creature whose cares are only based on the One Ring.

The performance given in CGI is at times very human. The facial expressions given could strangely give this character a personality as you would see in any great actor.

Gollum's voice is still haunting, even when the beast appears to be the loving guide to the dark gates of Mordor. For these reasons and more, Gollum has become my second-favorite character in the film, knocking down Legolas from the Fellowship.

Lastly we got 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (2003). I think a lot of people (myself included) were worried after The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers after seeing the battle of Helm's Deep.>p> How was Peter Jackson ever going to top that great battle? Well, with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King he topped it alright! The battle for Middle Earth is like nothing you've EVER seen before, trust me!

For me, the greatest moment was when the riders of Rohan charged, it was really a moment in which you felt the true meaning of fighting and dying with honor.

Also great moment during the immensely large battle were the fights against the oliphaunts, just when you thought the battle was over, those large creatures appeared! yet another incredibly emotional moment.

The characters are possibly at their best in this movie. No characters need introductions anymore and we get to see the deepest of their emotions in this movie. Even Gollum's! These are all Widescreen Presentations (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and features all three (3) Theatrical and Extended Movies on the nine (9) discs.

This superb 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray 9-Disc collection of 'The Lord of the Rings: Motion Picture Trilogy' also features a Dolby Atmos® soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.

To experience Dolby Atmos at home, a Dolby Atmos enabled AV receiver and additional speakers are required, or a Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar.

Dolby Atmos soundtracks are also fully backward compatible with traditional audio configurations and legacy home entertainment equipment.

Sean Astin announces 'Lord of the Rings' in 4K!

'The Lord of the Rings: Motion Picture Trilogy' 9-Disc Amazon Purchase Link

'Bobbleheads: The Movie'
(Jennifer Coolidge, Karen Fukuhara, Khary Payton, Julian Sands, Brenda Song, Cher, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: Featuring an all-star cast of voices including Jennifer Coolidge, Karen Fukuhara, Khary Payton, Julian Sands, Brenda Song, Luke Wilson and Academy Award-winning Cher, this hilarious and heart-warming adventure is sure to become a family favorite and fulfill a bobblehead’s simple purpose: To bring joy.

Get ready for a big shake-up when misfit bobbleheads take on trashy humans and a slobbery dog who crash their home with plans to swap a new baseball player bobblehead for a valuable one of them.

With some guidance from Bobblehead Cher, they find the courage to bobble-up for an outrageous battle of wits and wobble!

DVD Verdict: Well, with Warner Bros. having oh-so successfully turned the long time franchise LEGO into a winning animated franchise, it was obvious that other such animated objects would get their time to shine, so to speak.

Not that I personally ever expected the once-everywhere toy brand known as the Bobbleheads to get their own movie, of course! Oh, and one that (honestly) has Cher's bobblehead voice by none other than Cher herself!

That all aside, Universal Pictures brings us 'Bobbleheads: The Movie' which focuses on a group of four Bobbleheads that band together to get rid of intruders in their adoptive family’s home.

And so where does Cher fit into all this, you might well ask? Well, and stay with me here folks, but as they believe that her singing voice would most likely rid their home of said intruders re: her vocal range and piercing melodies, they go in search of the lady herself!

Fun for all the family, and something to give the adults watching along with their kids an inner chuckle to, this ever-so colorful movie is chock full of dumbed down humor and even more than a few social nods to today's society.

Highly entertaining from start to finish, and not too far removed from the whole Toy Story gig, 'Bobbleheads: The Movie' is no LEGO movie, but it sure ain't anything close to the heavily derided Emoji Movie either (which is a blessing for us all, trust me!). This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Bobbleheads: The Movie' [DVD + Digital] is out on December 8th, 2020 via Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Featuring new original score and songs written by Greg O’Connor and music supervised by Michael Lloyd, the 'Bobbleheads: The Movie' soundtrack will be available digitally on December 4th, 2020 from Back Lot Music.

Official Trailer

Official Website

Official Facebook Page

Official Twitter Page

Official Instagram Page

'Tenet' (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital)
(John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Clémence Poésy, Kenneth Branagh, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital / PG-13 / 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Armed with only one word — Tenet — and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist (John David Washington) journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time. Not time travel. Inversion.

Blu-ray Verdict: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the breathtakingly mind-bendingly frenetic 'Tenet’ in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this December 15th, 2020.

For my money, this 'Tenet: 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 'Tenet' 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 (57.45 Mbps), Resolution: Native 4K (2160p), HDR: HDR10, Aspect ratio: 1.78:1, 2.20:1 and Original aspect ratio: 2.20:1.

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 truly excellent scene now known as The Opera Opening.

I mean, we all know Nolan has a serious talent for constructing a genius opening scene and this one is chock full of tension, fantastic music from Ludwig Görranson, and exciting action.

The much later reveal of Neil being the mysterious soldier who saved the Protagonist, and the subsequent death of the Protagonist after this scene only serves to improve its meaning and importance; let alone the huge explosion as they escape the building, of course!

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 plane crash, as it also allows us to see the join of a previous scene - known as Infiltrating The Airport and Hallway Fight - where the crash, which gets used to trigger the airport security while Neil and the Protagonist infiltrate the airport, is nonetheless incredible to behold due to the sheer magnitude of the explosions that come forth thereafter); and which now allows for each actors contorted facial expressions to become much more detailed and alive within this incredible 1080p Blu-ray rendering.

As for the audio, well we have: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1, French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit), German: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit), Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps), Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps), Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps), Czech: Dolby Digital 5.1, Hindi: Dolby Digital 5.1, Polish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps), Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps), and Japanese: 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, you know when filmmakers and studios insist their movies need several watches to truly get to grips with the things you missed that pertain to the finished storyline, well, here that is actually a VERY true statement and command, trust me!

In truth, I never understand Nolan's movies the first time! They're both more complex and simpler than I initially anticipate. As in, there are too many details to fully take in with one viewing, but, at the same time, many events and themes overlap with each other.

The answers were already there, but I know I had to see it a few times to really get it. In the meantime, the movie was stuck in my head like nothing I'd ever seen before!

Many of the classic Nolan tropes are here - weird time stuff, people in fancy suits explaining rules and one-upping each-other alternately with threats and quips, epic action scenes with shooting, explosions, cars and planes, jittery pounding music, people looking at watches, seeing events from multiple angles, saving the world coming down to personal relationships, etc.

There are also interesting themes of lifting yourself up by the bootstraps and transcending or breaking the rules to kind of have your cake and eat it too.

Characters do the impossible and we're not sure if they were on top of things the whole time or barely fluked it!

Nolan's movies are sometimes criticized for being too pretentious or laborious with exposition, but they're just very intricate and intelligent.

Do people want him to explain everything thoroughly or let you work it out for yourself? It's a fine line between accessibility and mystery, not to mention how bold and original he's trying to be.

When brand new concepts are being explored, I think a little confusion on the first watch is perfectly reasonable. It's not like Einstein's theory of relativity was immediately accepted as obvious!

The music is suitably intense, but it was very loud in places and I couldn't always understand the dialogue; which was already tricky to follow.

The plot was very tricky to follow although it keeps you involved and excited about where everything's leading. In particular, it's very vague in terms of who the bad guys are or what's actually at stake and why.

But the plot thickens and starts to come together, quite literally, before too long.

There were some touches which I enjoyed like the red logos at the start and a blue one at the end and a scene with trains going in opposite directions from each other forming a nice visual metaphor (those will make more sense once you see the movie).

The actors were all really good. Branagh plays a convincing and very nasty Russian (or Ukrainian) criminal, Pattinson's an intelligent buddy with mysterious intentions, while Washington's a likeable and funny protagonist for us to relate to; although seemingly as confused as us for most of the film!

The main thing that stands out for me is the concept of this movie itself which has never been done before. It's simple and implied in the posters and trailers, but I couldn't predict how Nolan would actually make it work.

Even if the broader story still has loose ends for me, I can't stop thinking about it. They apparently consulted Kip Thorne or other scientists (I saw his name in the credits) and the physics seem to hold up pretty well under the circumstances.

The implications are fascinating and yet at the very same time hard to get your head around.

Some of the action scenes echo Inception's hallway fight scenes but with a different twist to them. Instead of playing with gravity, Nolan's playing with time.

Again, it makes you marvel at what you're watching and how on Earth they filmed it. A lot of clever planning, choreographing, editing and multiple takes, one assumes.

After 'Tenet,' other movies seem so plain and light, what with their exclusively forward motion of time and entropy.

I mean, few movies will ever match the sheer intensity and intricacy of 'Tenet' (which I can't wait to watch for the fourth time soon!) and, in conclusion, none of Nolan's movies have disappointed me on multiple viewings (and I hope the same goes for you also).

Ultra HD showcases 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range (HDR) and a wider color spectrum, offering consumers brighter, deeper, more lifelike colors for a home entertainment viewing experience like never before.

'Tenet,' the must-see motion picture event, playing now on the big screen wherever theatres are open, will arrive on 4K, Blu Ray, DVD and Digital on December 15th, 2020 in time for the holidays.

This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.20:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Feature of:

• Looking at the World in a New Way: The Making of 'Tenet' - An hour-long exploration of the development and production of the film as told by the cast and crew.

'Tenet' - Official Final Trailer [2020] (4K ULTRA-HD)

Official 'Tenet' Facebook Page

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

'COBRA: Season One'
(Robert Carlyle, Victoria Hamilton, Richard Dormer, David Haig, et al / 2-Disc DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: COBRA follows the Prime Minister and his titular committee, comprised of leading contingency planners and senior politicians, as they navigate the difficulties in overcoming a major national crisis.

DVD Verdict: For my money, 'COBRA' is a laudable attempt to portray behavior in the face of a genuine national emergency. In order to create the necessary drama, events necessarily unfold somewhat rapidly and normally law abiding people become anarchic maniacs almost overnight but, nonetheless, the story does hold water.

It also shows, over a truncated time-frame, just how awful people can be; anyone who remembers the miners' strikes, Brixton riots and "The Troubles" will also remember how ugly things can become, and how quickly.

The tortured Prime Minister, superbly played by Robert Carlyle and ably supported by his brilliant advisor, played by the equally excellent Victoria Hamilton, finds himself assailed on all fronts - anarchy on the streets, disloyalty and insurrection from his Home Secretary and major turmoil at home.

It is clear throughout that he is the man n charge and he is the one who has to make all of the difficult decisions; Carlyle's portrayal of a man who knows the buck undoubtedly stops with him is perfect.

The back stories relating to the Prime Minister and his advisor don't intrude but allow for a demonstration of how they both deal with difficult, and emotional personal issues alongside their professional duties.

Things may be a little far-fetched at times but then this is television and not real life. Thankfully we are spared the usual, and utterly unrealistic CGI and there is plenty of tension as the story develops.

It's not a great series but, when compared to some of the tripe that's been pushed of late - 'His Dark Materials', 'Deadwater Fell' 'War of the Worlds' and 'Dracula' to name but a few (out of oh-so many) - it's more than good enough for a high scoring grade.

A grade that is pushed higher by the central performances of Carlyle and Hamilton, who are admirably supported by Richard Dormer and David Haig's horribly slimy, constantly plotting Home Secretary.

Clearly there's a second series already planned for 2021 and I have to say that I'm rather looking forward to it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Audrey: More Than An Icon' [Blu-ray]
(Audrey Hepburn, Peter Bogdanovich, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Bohemia Media)

Overview: Actress, humanitarian and recognized as a film and fashion icon, Audrey Hepburn was undoubtedly one of the greatest legends from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

This in-depth documentary looks back at the life, loves and career of this enigmatic star.

Blu-ray Verdict: As I'm sure all her fans know by now, Audrey Hepburn won her first Academy Award at the age of 24 and went on to become one of the world's greatest cultural icons: a once-in-a-generation beauty, and legendary star of Hollywood's Golden Age, whose style and pioneering collaboration with Hubert de Givenchy continues to inspire.

But who was the real Audrey Hepburn? Malnourished as a child, abandoned by her father and growing up under Nazi occupation in Holland, Hepburn faced a life-long battle with the traumas of her past, which thwarted her dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, and cast a shadow over her personal life.

Yet she found inner peace using her superstardom for good as a global ambassador for UNICEF and bringing her life full circle; first a victim of war, then a source of relief to millions.

Hepburn was only 63 years old when she died of cancer in 1993, but the European-born Hollywood legend packed more living into her time on earth than most people could do in a century.

It's broadly known that she was the designer Givenchy’s muse, that she retired from acting to do the aforementioned relief work for UNICEF and that women still show up at Tiffany’s with bags of pastries thanks to Hepburn’s iconic performance in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

But while seemingly every moment of her adult life was documented, there’s still a lot that most people don’t know about the glamorous movie star.

Here in 'Audrey: More Than An Icon,' we learn a few more pertinent facts about the lady herself. Such as the British-born actress moved to Holland during the war because her Dutch mother believed they would be safe in a country that had pledged to stay neutral.

The Nazis invaded anyway. Hepburn, like millions of others, nearly starved when the Nazis cut off food supplies. Her envied slender figure was the result of being malnourished during adolescence.

Hepburn had cemented her position as America's Sweetheart by the time she began filming Sabrina. Little did the public know that her relationship with her costar William Holden was anything but innocent. Their strong on-screen chemistry blossomed into an off-screen affair!

Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe's images were diametrically opposed to each other. Monroe was the voluptuous, ditzy sexpot while Hepburn was sophisticated and elegant.

In fact, Truman Capote, who wrote the novel Breakfast at Tiffany's, wanted Monroe to play Holly Golightly in the film because he thought she would be more believable as a call girl.

The character had to be changed significantly to fit Hepburn, though the result was an iconic, influential film.

The term EGOT is used to describe those rare individuals who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award. Hepburn is one of the 14 people who have managed this feat.

All of her fans know that she won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for 1953’s Roman Holiday. The next year she was awarded the Tony for Best Actress in a Drama for her performance in Ondine.

Hepburn’s Emmy and Grammy are more surprising. She retired from acting long before it became acceptable for movie stars to take TV roles. She won an Emmy for hosting PBS’s 1993 documentary series Audrey Hepburn’s Gardens of the World, which, as the title implies, featured avid gardener Hepburn visiting some of the world’s most spectacular gardens.

And amongst other things learnt here in this simply fascinating documentary, I think we can all agree that Hepburn would probably have been a great Peter Pan!

Like Mary Martin, who played the role on Broadway, she was a petite woman who could have looked appropriately “boyish” and who certainly could have convincingly portrayed a child’s innocence and enthusiasm. It nearly happened.

In 1964, following the success of My Fair Lady, Hepburn planned to reunite with director George Cukor for a live-action film of the classic musical.

Cukor began negotiating with London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, which inherited the rights to the play from playwright J.M. Barrie.

Unfortunately, the movie was never made because Disney Studios claimed it had exclusive cinematic rights to Peter Pan. Simply put, Audrey Hepburn was one of a kind and this wondrous documentary showcases that in diamonds. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Audrey: More Than An Icon' will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on December 15th, 2020.

Official 'Audrey: More Than An Icon' Trailer

Amazon Purchase Link

'The Curse of Hobbes House'
(Mhairi Calvey, Waleed Elgadi, Makenna Guyler, Kevin Leslie, Jo Price, et al / DVD / R / 2020 / 4Digital Media)

Overview: After the death of her Aunt, Jane Dormant travels to the family’s remote, ancestral home hoping to receive a large inheritance.

When Jane’s estranged, half-sister Jennifer arrives at Hobbes House to claim her part of the estate, the sisters’ simmering hate ignites.

But then a violent, unexpected storm cuts the estate off from outside help and a wave of bloodthirsty zombies lays siege. Now the sisters have to learn how to fight back together.

DVD Verdict: When Jane Dormant (Mhairi Calvey, 'Braveheart,' 'Crystal's Shadow') is at her wit's end trying to make ends meet, she learns about the death of her aunt Alex.

Expecting some potential benefits from the inheritance Jane makes her way to her grandmother's remote estate, Hobbes House, to attend the reading of the will.

When Jane arrives at the estate she finds herself face to face with her estranged but successful half-sister Jennifer Dormant (Makenna Guyler, 'David and Goliath'), who has brought along her lover Nigel Thatcher (Kevin Leslie, 'The Rise of the Krays), an investment banker from London.

The only other people attending are Eurydice Saul (Jo Price, 'Doctors'), the solicitor and Naser Mohammedin (Waleed Elgadi, 'A Hologram of the King'), a Syrian refugee, who worked as the groundskeeper for Jane and Jennifer's late grandmother.

The reading of the will gets harshly interrupted when Saul is killed in a gruesome accident. When a storm cuts off the estate from the outside world, Jane is attacked by the reanimated corpse of Saul.

Things spiral more and more out of control and soon enough the group faces a horde of bloodthirsty undead corpses seeking to kill!

Shot at a location ie: really big mansion that is actually an event space in the UK that gets rented out all the time, it's funny to know that as hair raising and as - at times - gruesomely down and dirty as this film is, to make the tight schedule work, crew and cast had to work around several wakes, kids birthdays, conventions and graduation ceremonies that were also booked there!

Shot in just 18 days on location close to Bristol, it's reported that Writer/Director Juliane Block (this being her third movie in which she incorporates songs of singer-songwriter Georgie Fisher; the others being both '8 Remains' and '3 Lives') took on the challenge of the very tight schedule under the condition that she could shoot without bigger location moves.

And this most definitely worked in her favor, as 'The Curse of Hobbes House' is a tightly woven, darkly and dimly lit horror movie that works based on all that crammed cinematic styling, allowing a densely compact crew to come together against the uprising of evil.

Trust me, George A. Romero would have been very proud to call this film his own back in the day!

Oh, and in closing, for all you fans of Easter Eggs, hidden in the background of several scenes is a small Playmobile figurine called Bob. It's a toy of Block's son that she placed on every set as a shout-out to him! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Curse of Hobbes House' will be available on VOD & Digital HD On Leading Digital Platforms and DVD on December 15th, 2020.

Amazon DVD Purchase Link

'Love and Monsters: 4K Ultra HD' (Blu-ray+Digital)
(Dylan O'Brien, Michael Rooker, Jessica Henwick, Ariana Greenblatt, Dan Ewing, et al / Blu-ray-Digital / PG-13 / 2020 / Paramount)

Overview: Dylan O’Brien stars in this thrilling adventure delivering epic action and laughs.

After monsters take over the world, Joel (O’Brien, The Maze Runner) and the rest of humanity are forced to live underground. Believing he’s lost everyone he has ever loved, Joel finds his high school sweetheart Aimee (Jessica Henwick, “Game of Thrones”) living just 80 miles away.

Facing unknown dangers that stand in his way, Joel must discover his inner hero as he makes the impossible journey across a monster-infested land to be with the girl of his dreams.

Also starring Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Ariana Greenblatt (Avengers: Infinity War).

Blu-ray Verdict: Paramount Pictures is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the breathtakingly fun, gloriously colorful 'Love and Monsters’ in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this January 5th, 2021.

For my money, this 'Love and Monsters: 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 'Love and Monsters' 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: 4K (2160p), HDR: Dolby Vision, 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; such as the truly brilliant Gigantic Frog scene! Possibly some of the frogs from Jedi the fallen order (!), when the leader appears and unfolds his tongue, well, it's as if you are right there with our hero!

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 Yelling Like a Girl scene, with the Sand Gobler's Nest explosion from Rooker and the bits landing on our hero); and which now allows for O'Brien's contorted facial expressions to become much more detailed and alive within this incredible 4K 1080p Blu-ray rendering.

As for the audio, well we have: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 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.

OK, well, as for the actual movie, to my mind at this point in time, 'Love and Monsters' is simply one of the biggest and best surprises of 2020!

On its surface, it appeared to be a very run-of-the-mill post-apocalyptic film, but I do like Dylan O'Brien and the reviews from all around the world have been amazingly strong!

Furthermore, it succeeded my expectations and currently cracks my top ten of the year. O'Brien is fantastic as always, but the journey his character goes on was remarkable (albeit kind of spoofing his Maze Runner character, of course).

That's down to the writing, but O'Brien managed to pull it off with ease. The supporting cast was also great, but we didn't really spend much time with anyone else, apart from O'Brien's character, Joel.

Feeling like the odd man out of his group, he decides to venture out to find a long lost love (Jessica Henwick, Iron fist), but the question soon arises: Does Joel not have any skills to survive and furthermore, can/will he against the "monstrous elements"?!

Other actors such as Michael Rooker and Ariana Greenblatt, well, their screen time is limited, but they're pretty much the best characters in the movie (behind O'Brien, of course).

The CGI effects are astonishing, making the world feel realistic and lived-in. I liked the narrative a lot, but I feel like an extra fifteen minutes could have easily been added to a couple of key areas.

The pacing wasn't entirely there for me, but it was a far cry from being bad and I liked that something was always happening.

In truth, there were also a couple of questionably conveniently-plotted things that happened, and real-word logistical issues thrown in for "display" purposes, but that aside, nothing distracts from ones overall enjoyment of a gem of a movie.

Again, the overall writing is simply incredible and the film also came complete with some surprisingly touching moments. A sequel was definitely hinted at with the closing scene, so I hope it comes to fruition.

In closing, 'Love and Monsters' is constantly exciting, the action is great, it has a neat twist, amazing effects, brilliant writing, and was totally compelling throughout.

I cared about the characters, which made me thoroughly invested in Joel's journey and I know you will too. So, simply put, if you haven't seen 'Love and Monsters,' please check it out now by buying this brand new Blu-ray+Digital release from Paramount Pictures. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

• Deleted Scenes
• Bottom of the Food Chain: The Cast of Love and Monsters
• It's a Monster's World: Creating a Post-Apocalyptical Landscape

'Love and Monsters' is on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & DVD January 5th, 2021 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Original Trailer

'Honest Thief' [Blu-ray]
(Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Robert Patrick, Anthony Ramos, Jeffrey Donovan, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / PG-13 / 2020 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: Meticulous thief Tom Carter (Liam Neeson) has stolen $9 million from small-town banks while keeping his identity a secret.

But after he falls in love with the bubbly Annie (Kate Walsh), Tom decides to come clean about his criminal past, only to be double-crossed by two ruthless FBI agents.

Packed with action, Honest Thief is a tale of redemption and one man's mission to make things right for the sake of love.

Blu-ray Verdict: OK, well, I think we all know at this point that Liam Neeson has had a rather rocky PR road of late! But, and unlike Kevin Spacey, he is clearly not being put on the naughty step by Hollywood, since he has some five other features (at the time of writing) in the works and/or lined up for release!

His latest release, 'Honest Thief has Mark Williams directing and co-writing (with Steve Allrich), and sees Neeson back on VERY familiar territory in an exciting and sometimes violent thriller.

The nice concept behind the story sees Tom (Neeson) as a hugely successful bank robber meeting the love of his life in Annie (Kate Walsh) and committing to jack it all in for love.

Furthermore, not wishing to have to live with the deception and guilt of his hidden life, he determines to hand himself over to the FBI, along with the $9 million stolen cash, in return for a lenient sentence.

There's a problem though: he's about the fifteenth person calling the FBI claiming to be the "In and Out Burglar", so no-one wants to take him seriously!

Boston area chief Sam Baker (Robert Patrick - the infamous 'Terminator' cop!) and his deputy Meyers (Jeffrey Donovan) casually put it on the "to-do" pile of agents Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Hall (Anthony Ramos).

The best laid plans run off the rails in a big way though when Nivens and Hall investigate and find that Tom is the real deal.

The concept here works nicely for a thriller, but the rest of the script is so formulaic that it's fairly and squarely a park your brain in the foyer (or, in the world we currently live, front room) movie.

For several of the actions and motives going on here, suspension of disbelief was required. Even given the limited competition in 2020, the script is in no way going to trouble the Academy (but you knew that going in, of course).

All that being said, Mark Williams has put together a tight and well-executed movie, not outstaying its welcome at only 99 minutes long. Even with the 15 year age difference, Neeson and Walsh make a believable couple (given that Neeson looks pretty good for his 68 years) and the chemistry between them is good too.

And for a pretty small movie, the supporting cast is pretty impressive also, but a major standout for me was the cinematography by Shelly Johnson (whose had a busy year with the latest 'Bill and Ted' movie and the straight-to-TV 'Greyhound' under his belt).

Indeed, Boston - always a great movie location - looks spectacular, and the framing of the car chase action sequence highly impressed me too.

My final few positives would be the villains, character depth and ending. I thought they did a very good job with the villains, they actually felt like threats to the characters and their actions made you despise them even more.

I mean, Jai Courtney, and despite a slightly campy and over the top performance, does a pretty decent job and I like that they contrasted with Anthony Ramose's character.

For me, there was only one really dodgy element of the movie: the special effects used in a certain house explosion/fire. The budget clearly didn't stretch to using practical effects, but it is what it is, I guess!

So, in closing, is 'Honest Thief' worth seeing? Yes, I emphatically reply! True, given what Neeson usually dolls out, my expectations for this movie were pretty low, but I was pleasantly surprised and in some moments, rather delighted by the overall acting, plot, dialogue and even the ending!

In short: The villain is incredibly dislikable! Liam Neeson is always reliable! And it features GREAT action throughout albeit all twisting and turning itself through, at times, a rather unusual storyline. Highly recommended! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Honest Thief' will be available on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital on December 29th, 2020 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Official Trailer

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Tourist Trap: VHS Retro Big Box Collection[BR+DVD]
(Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness, Tanya Roberts, Robin Sherwood, et al / Blu-ray + DVD / PG / (1979) 2020 / Full Moon Features - MVD Visual)

Overview: Every year young people disappear! An eerie and deserted wax museum, SLAUSEN'S LOST OASIS, is the site for spine-tingling terror where four unsuspecting young travelers (including TANYA ROBERTS from Charlie's Angels) are lured into a very deadly 'Tourist Trap.'

Slausen (CHUCK CONNORS) is the reclusive and bizarre owner of this attraction, which is actually more like a macabre chamber of horrors.

The grotesque and frightening mannequins in this sordid sideshow are only the beginning of the murderous mayhem and nightmarish madness to come!

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, 'Tourist Trap' is a bizarre, yet great horror film from the late '70s. The film is about a group of young adults, Becky, Jerry, and Molly, who are traveling in a jeep through a desert area.

Their two other friends, Eileen and her boyfriend Woody, are in a separate car. When a wheel goes flat, Woody takes it to a nearby gas station and meets a grisly fate to some bizarre telekinetic mayhem and some creepy mannequins.

The friends get tired of waiting for Woody and go to a local "tourist trap" mannequin/wax museum. In front of the entrance, the car randomly breaks down, and the girls find an oasis area to go swimming in.

It's there that they are approached by Mr. Slausen, who runs the roadside attraction that is now closed down. He takes them up to the old western wax museum, and the girls stay behind while he and Jerry go to fix their car.

Eileen, the more curious of the two, wanders to an old house nearby, where she also falls prey to the hands of a mysterious masked killer and a bunch of life-like mannequins.

After awaiting for Eileen, Becky and Molly go to look for her. That's when the real horror begins and where we discover that the telekinetic (can move objects with his mind) masked brother of Mr. Slausen begins to kill off the teens one by one; whilst controlling his large amount of humans-turned-mannequins!

Sound similar to the 1953/2005 'House of Wax' movies (especially the latter day remake)? Well, it is, that's why. Funnily enough, I'd heard of this movie down the years, but had never seen it.

Now having watched it, sure, I can now see the striking similarities the two movies share, and how 'Tourist Trap' was obviously a BIG contributor to the 'House of Wax' remake (which happens all the time in movies).

That said, the mannequins in this movie are scary to begin with, some with moving eyeballs, some with no eyes at all, and some with dropping mouths that sing too! For me personally, the whole singing thing was extremely creepy and the mannequins themselves eerily designed

Shit, mannequins are creepy to begin with, they're so lifelike yet they really aren't and given that 'Tourist Trap' also tightly blends elements from 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (the masks the killer uses are similar to those of Leatherface), with a little bit of the original 'House of Wax', all brought together with a pinch of telekinetic powers that are displayed in 'Carrie," and, well, the result is VERY satisfying.

Indeed, overall, the telekinesis aspect was a nice touch to the movie for it made the killer all the more menacing and inescapable. The masks were terrifying too and the plastering scene was really disturbing in and unto itself!

Pino Donaggio's score, if not a little overused during some scenes, was chillingly '70s good also and whereas some of the acting may not have been particularly on form, none of it was really that bad either.

Chuck Connors is fabulous as the covertly, shadowy Mr. Slauson, giving the character a shady, but friendly feel. Better known for her role on Charlie's Angels and such, a young Tanya Roberts is also in the film.

Robert A. Burns serves as the art director and overall I think he did a splendid job with what he had to embrace a cinematic feel here reminiscent of his work on the original 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre.'

At all times during the "horror" scenes, he brings a cluttered, musty atmosphere to both the rundown museum and the old house filled with mannequins.

I found it a little odd that the original rating for the film was PG for it seems a little too scary to have such a tame rating, but the film really isn't overly violent, I guess (having now watched it twice in two days!).

In closing, 'Tourist Trap' is an eerily unique, fast-paced, and extremely under appreciated horror classic, for my money. Directed by 'Puppet Master' director David Schmoeller and co-produced by Charles Band (the guy who founded Full Moon Features, and has been throwing countless 'Puppet Master' sequels and knock-offs at us for decades now!), 'Tourist Trap' has an almost instant lived-in vibe about it!

From the strains of Donaggio's aforementioned bizarre, yet familiar score to the horrific yet low-budget effects, this is definitely a Full Moon Features production of the highest order.

Oh, and speaking of Full Moon Features, they have now brought it out as this quite beautiful 'Tourist Trap: VHS Retro Big Box Collection' [Blu-ray + DVD] that also comes complete with a Mr. Slausen Figurine!! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Interview with director David Schmoeller
Rare Trailers
Director's Commentary

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

Chuck Berry - The Original King Of Rock 'N' Roll
(Keith Richards, Gene Simmons, Steven Van Zandt, George Thorogood, Joe Bonamassa, Alice Cooper, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2018) 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: In this highly anticipated feature length documentary, the absolute instigator of rock 'n' roll, Chuck Berry, is truly revealed; and with unprecedented exclusive access.

Blu-ray Verdict: Despite his iconic status, and reverence for his talent by rock's heroes John Lennon, Keith Richards, Steven Van Zandt, Joe Perry, Nils Lofgren and Alice Cooper (all featured), Chuck Berry was a family man.

He was a prolific craftsman of word and chords; an undisputed and stunning combination of talent and charisma. Furthermore, we go back in time here and view for ourselves just how Berry’s childhood was characterized by racial segregation.

He’d never seen a white person until the age of three, when the fire department responded to a call in the black community where he was raised. "I thought they were so frightened that their faces were whitened from fear of going near the big fire,” Berry jokes. "Daddy told me they were white people, and their skin was always white that way, day or night.”

Through his own voice and re-enactments set to Berry's very own original music, we also learn that he moment that started it all came in 1941 when Berry first performed 'Confessin’ the Blues' in front of his entire high school.

The song choice (considered crude by 1940’s standards) offended the adults in the room and, of course, elated the students. And it was this performance, and watching his friend play the guitar, that sparked something within Berry. "It was then that my determination to play guitar and accompany myself while singing became an amendment to my religion."

Although Berry grew up during an era rife with discrimination and racial segregation, he intentionally blended music from both sides of the racial divide.

“Curiosity provoked me to lay a lot of our country stuff on our predominantly black audience,” he explains, and of which is also noted in his self-titled autobiography. “After they laughed at me a few times, they began requesting the hillbilly stuff and enjoyed dancing to it.”

Some of the interviewees (with Keith Richards being the most prominent "talking head" throughout) are the same within their praise for Berry, but those others that slightly divert away from the cozy storytelling path, well, those are the ones that make you smile.

As noted, we go back to the beginning of Berry’s life and director Jon Brewer places a lot of emphasis on how Berry was a family man with interviews with his former wife and children.

Interviewees include Mick Jagger, Jerry Lee Lewis and Berry’s longtime piano player Johnnie Johnson and, as mentioned, Keith Richards.

Indeed, Brewer (B.B. King: The Life of Riley, Nat King Cole: Afraid of the Dark), was personally selected by the Berry Estate to produce and direct the inside story of the man known as the bedrock of rock 'n' roll and has done a simply fantastic job here on 'Chuck Berry - The Original King Of Rock 'N' Roll,' in my humble opinion. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of a slew more New & Exclusive Interviews!

Amazon Purchase Link


'Blade: The Iron Cross' [Blu-ray]
(Tania Fox, Vincent Cusimano, Griffin Blazi, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Full Moon Pictures - MVD Visual)

Overview: Sick science, punishing puppets, clairvoyant crusaders and a legion of fascist zombies combine in this, the darkest and weirdest 'Puppet Master' film yet: 'Blade: The Iron Cross'!

Dr. Hauser, the Third Reich's maddest scientist, rises again with murder and mayhem on his mind. As the deranged Nazi doctor's perverse plot is revealed, psychic journalist Elisa Ivanov (Fox) awakens her own angel of death in Blade and together, maiden and marionette get set to hammer the evil Hauser back into hell where he belongs!

Blu-ray Verdict: That's right, folks, for the 12th official entry in the 'Puppet Master' series, this brand new one finally focuses exclusively on the franchises main Nazi-murdering marionette, Blade!

The simplistic plot line is that when the malevolent Dr. Hauser, the Third Reich’s maddest scientist, rises again with murder and mayhem still on his mind, psychic journalist Elisa Ivanov awakens her own Angel of death in Blade!

Together the pair set out on a bloody journey to stop Dr. Hauser’s sinister plot and hammer him back into hell where he belongs!

OK, sure, Director John Lechago delivers a rather hokey instalment in the vein of the Axis of Evil trilogy - in terms of production values and tone - but overall, it's EXACTLY what you purchased it for, trust me!

Indeed, Lechago does his best with the obviously low budget, but if less was more we'd have nothing on screen, so credit has to be given, as aforementioned.

As for Blade himself, well, in our 'Puppet Master' chat rooms, the general consensus that Blade's look here is just a little off, so to speak re: his look, his size, and such.

We fans actually have really great Blade puppets in our collections, but as this is a movie, and not stop-animatronics re: the use of "lifelike" puppets (no pun intended!), we'll let them slide on that small factor.

Clairvoyant crusader Elisa played by Ukrainian actress Tania Fox is notable and out acts the majority of the cast, both dressed and undressed, with relative ease! Oh, and both Vincent Cusimano (Detective Lieutenant Jonas Gray) and Angelica Briones' Gloria deserve a mention too.

However, and that all said, the solid music score by Richard Band is the main reason to watch this 'Puppet Master' spin-off, but ultimately, it's in desperate need of a high budget remake of the original to reignite the franchise, me thinks.

For it's totally unrecognizable when compared to 'Puppet Master' 1 & 2, but it is Blade's first solo outing, so we'll just have to wait and see where he goes, and how he fares, after this one has been digested by the fans! [AM] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Director's Commentary
Behind The Scenes Videos

Amazon Purchase Link

Official Trailer

'Guncrazy: Collector's Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Drew Barrymore, James Le Gros, Rodney Harvey, Jeremy Davies, Ione Skye, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1992) 2020 / MVD Rewind)

Overview: Since Anita Minteer (Drew Barrymore, 50 First Dates) was nine, every man she ever met has wanted only one thing. But when she becomes pen-pals with imprisoned convict Howard Hickock (James LeGros, Drugstore Cowboy), she gains self-confidence and sees a possible escape from the torment of her everyday life.

Howard's infatuation with guns drives Anita to them as well. But with this new found strength in her hands, she murders her sexually abusive guardian.

Now with Howard out on parole and the police on their back, there can be no turning back. In the style of BONNIE & CLYDE, GUNCRAZY tells the story of two young lovers on the run from the law.

Blu-ray Verdict: For a school project, promiscuous 15-year-old Drew Barrymore (as Anita Minteer) is instructed to find herself a pen pal.

So, she begins writing to 24-year-old prison inmate James LeGros (as Howard Hickok), who is serving time for manslaughter. Through their correspondence, Ms. Barrymore falls in love with Mr. LeGros, and decides to stop having sex with the guys at school, like Rodney Harvey (as Tom) and Jeremy Davies (as Bill).

Barrymore also becomes enamored with guns, and learns how to shoot, from absent mother's sexy boyfriend Joe Dallesandro (as Rooney). When Barrymore cuts him off, Mr. Dallesandro turns to rape.

Meanwhile, Barrymore is attempting to get LeGros out of jail, on parole, by convincing snake-charming preacher Billy Drago (as Hank Fulton) that the pistol-whipping prisoner has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

The parole board buys the ruse, and LeGros is good to go. Ironically, he is unable to satisfy Barrymore's sexual appetite. Still, the pair become close companions.

Problems arise when Barrymore reveals a deadly secret to LeGros, and the young couple's "Guncrazy" tendencies boil over. Writer Matthew Bright's doomed characters simmer alongside director Tamra Davis' banister end. Oh, and yes, the cast is a future cult dream!

Students of classic era film noir can't but help to be pulled in by the many deviance's at work, themes involving sexual abuse, promiscuity, impotence, alienation, prostitution and foolish love, the latter pitching a classic noir character into a vortex from which they in all probability know they can't return from.

It's not that Anita is a femme fatale, because she's so young and isn't written as a viper type, it's that her youthful ignorance, her teenage hormones tortured by a torrid upbringing, is enough for Howard to grasp onto as a semblance of normality.

They are both fools, but honest with it, it's the classic romanticized dream going sour. Again, a classic film noir trait.

Visually there is oh-so much to recommend here. The use of slatted shadows and balustrade is cunning and nods appreciatively to influences past, the inference obviously that Howard may be out of prison, but he's still behind bars.

Davis throws in a number of striking scenes, a camera shot looking out as a grave is dug, our lovers close and personal (sexy) as they shoot guns, and the finale has a sad grace that, again, noir lovers can appreciate.

In closing, Matthew Bright's screenplay also has black comedy elements, the script devious with Freudian smarts, while the cast turn in performances worthy of the form. Highly recommended, especially now that it has been re-released via MVD Rewind on Blu-ray and complete with a slew of wonderful NEW added extras! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition (1080p) presentation of the main feature in 1.78:1 aspect ratio
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, English 2.0 LPCM Stereo, Spanish 2.0 Stereo
English & Spanish Subtitles
Audio Commentary from director Tamra Davis and star Drew Barrymore
NEW! "The Making of Guncrazy" (HD, 88:57)
NEW! "Portrait of a Director: Tamra Davis" (HD, 39:12)
5 Behind the Scenes Clips on the Set of 'Guncrazy' (SD)
"The Making of Guncrazy" Original 1992 featurette (SD, 19:39)
2 Theatrical Trailers (SD)
Reversible Sleeve
Collectible Mini-Poster

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

Versus + Ultimate Versus (2-Disc Special Edition)
(Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka, et al / 2-Disc Blu-ray / NR / (2000) 2020 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)

Overview: A relentless one-of-a-kind sensory assault chock full of hyper-kinetic fight scenes, gangster shootouts, sword-slashing violence and gory zombie horror, 'Versus' was a key title amongst the barrage of innovative horror and action movies that appeared (as if from nowhere) from Japan at the turn of the millennium, leading to a new wave of appreciation for Asian extreme cinema.

A mysterious, and ultimately bloody face-off in a wooded clearing between two escaped convicts and a carload of sharply dressed yakuza holding a beautiful woman captive ends in hails of bullets and showers of blood.

The location for this violent encounter is the mythic Forest of Resurrection, the site of the 444th portal of the 666 hidden gates that link this earthly domain to the netherworld and it didn't get this name for nothing.

As one of the surviving prisoners escapes with the girl into the darkness of the forest, disgruntled gangsters soon become the least of their worries as an earlier battle between a lone warrior against hordes of zombie samurai is carried over from a millennium ago into the present day.

Arrow Video is proud to present this mythic cult title in both its original 2000 and expanded 2004 'Ultimate Versus' iterations, in a brand new, director-approved restoration.

Blu-ray Verdict: To my impartial mind, the contribution that Japan has made to the world of screen violence can hardly be overstated, and in the 21st Century there seems to be a new renaissance of sheer bloodiness.

Movies like BATTLE ROYALE, ICHI THE KILLER and VERSUS really set new standards for out and out shocking violence that I don't think any other country in the world has ever matched.

'Versus' is basically all about action. The premise is a crazy one that involves kung-fu samurais re-incarnated as yakuza who then get turned into zombies and vampires.

It's actually a very interesting and quite complex story in its own right, but basically it's an excuse to get a bunch of people in a forest and stage a fairly continuous sequence of hand to hand fights, sword fights and gun fights - with a supernatural angle to justify some HK style OTT acrobatics and an undead angle to justify people getting seriously messed up and still fighting on.

Genius. Sick as all Hell, but genius!

These days, good action movies from Hong Kong are becoming increasingly rare. For years HK stood unchallenged and exported its unique cinematic arts throughout Asia.

Since the talent or the investment or the will or whatever seems to have fled the HK industry in recent years, it seems like other Asian countries are stepping up to the challenge of filling the gap.

Korea has produced movies like MUSA and MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER, Thailand has produced BANGKOK DANGEROUS and TAK 4, INDIA has produced AANKHEN and MISSION KASHMIR. Hollywood and Europe have had a go too, but with so little success overall it's hardly worth mentioning.

'Versus' is clearly made by a small independent team who recognized that Hong Kong isn't going to produce the next jaw-dropping action movie any time soon, and who believed they had what it took to do it instead.

It takes a lot of confidence and dedication to produce results like these on a clearly low budget, and Napalm Films must have had a lot of both.

'Versus' attempts practically every type of action scene that Hong Kong has been famous for (and Japan traditionally has not), and pulls most of them off very well.

There'd been such a lot of hype around 'Versus' on the net for ages just before it came out in 2000, so much so that I'd found myself instinctively hating it before I knew anything about it!

But when I first saw the trailer I was converted to pure and utter enthusiasm and now having watched both the original version and the Ultimate Edition of the film, well, all is once again ok with my world!

Admittedly, having previously seen the wild disparity between the cool SHIRAYUKI HIME trailer and the dreadful full-length movie gave me some trepidation about 'Versus' back then; which is probably a good thing since at least I wasn't expecting something flawless.

And sure, 'Versus' is not flawless, but it's much much better than SHIRAYUKI HIME, of that you have my word!

The action scenes are not better than Hong Kong's best and, in truth, they're not even nearly as good as some of the scenes in movies like MAGNIFICENT WARRIORS, but they're imaginatively and enthusiastically staged and filmed.

And violent! Oh so very very violent! The special effects are some of the most convincingly brutal I've seen. ICHI THE KILLER may have had more outrageous effects, but was never in danger of having convincing effects, if that makes sense.

BATTLE ROYALE may have had more realistic violence, but nothing like the sheer magnitude of the bodily damage people take here in 'Versus'!

People get cut in half, lose limbs, have gaping holes blown through them and, well, you know how much it takes to stop a zombie moving toward you at pace!

It's all played fairly non-seriously, but not to the cartoonish extent of ICHI ie: It looks pretty damn real!

Definitely not one for the squeamish, and really not a family movie, but for the sick puppies out there who maintain an innocent curiosity as to just how violent a movie can be (like myself, I admit), 'Versus' is definitely the real deal and a must-see! 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 by Arrow Films, approved by director Ryûhei Kitamura
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of both versions of the film: the original 2000 cut and 2004's Ultimate Versus, featuring over 10 minutes of new and revised footage
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon

DISC 1: 'Versus'
Original lossless Japanese 5.1 and 2.0 stereo audio and English 2.0 stereo audio
Optional English subtitles
Audio commentary by Kitamura and producer Keishiro Shin
Audio commentary by Kitamura and the cast and crew
New visual essay on the career of Kitamura by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp
Behind Versus, a two-part behind-the-scenes documentary exploring the film's production
First Contact: Versus Evolution, a featurette exploring the film's origins
Tak Sakaguchi's One-Man Journey, an archival featurette on the actor's visit to the 2001 Japan Film Festival in Hamburg
Film festival screening footage
Team Versus, a brief look inside the Napalm Films office
Deep in the Woods, an archival featurette featuring interviews with Kitamura, cast and crew
The Encounter, an archival interview with editor Shûichi Kakesu
Deleted scenes with audio commentary by Kitamura, cast and crew
Nervous and Nervous 2, two side story mini-movies featuring characters from the main feature
Featurette on the making of Nervous 2
Versus FF Version, a condensed, 20-minute recut of the film
Multiple Trailers
Image Gallery

DISC 2: 'Ultimate Versus'
Original lossless Japanese 6.1 and 2.0 stereo audio and English 6.1 and 2.0 stereo audio
Optional English subtitles
Audio commentary by Kitamura, cast and crew
Sakigake! Otoko versus Juku, a featurette on the newly shot material for Ultimate Versus
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's Booklet

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

'Cinema Paradiso (Special Edition)' [Blu-ray]
(Philippe Noiret, Jacques Perrin, Antonella Attili, et al / 2-Disc Blu-ray / NR / (1988) 2020 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)

Overview: 'Cinema Paradiso' offers a nostalgic look at films and the effect they have on a young boy who grows up in and around the title village movie theater in this Italian comedy drama that is based on the life and times of screenwriter/director Giuseppe Tornatore.

The story begins in the present as a Sicilian mother pines for her estranged son, Salvatore, who left many years ago and has since become a prominent Roman film director who has taken the advice of his mentor too literally.

He finally returns to his home village to attend the funeral of the town's former film projectionist, Alfredo, and, in so doing, embarks upon a journey into his boyhood just after WWII when he became the man's official son.

In the dark confines of the Cinema Paradiso, the boy and the other townsfolk try to escape from the grim realities of post-war Italy.

Blu-ray Verdict: As I hope you all already know, this delightfully charming Italian motion picture achieved notorious fame, comparable to the equally famous and more recent Italian movie 'La Vita è Bella'.

Like that one, this one is also very good in its first half, but after that it becomes a movie of bad taste. That's really too bad, because this movie (and 'La Vita à Bella') had potential to be something big.

'Cinema Paradiso' can be considered a homage both to cinema and films. It shows us the pinnacle of the cinema as an industry of entertainment and as an escape for those who go there to watch the movies, making them forget the hard reality of poverty and war. Besides the cinema's success, it also shows its progress, its bankrupt, its decadence and its sad ending.

This is a very simple film. However, simplicity doesn't necessary mean something bad. Plus, the brilliant and memorable soundtrack by Ennio Morricone adds lots of emotion to the film, particularly in its first half, which is without a doubt the best part of the movie.

One of the biggest charms of this movie is the fascination and enthusiasm of Salvatore (whose nickname is "Toto") on the cinema and the projectionist job.

He wins the friendship of the local projectionist, Alfredo, who also teaches him all about that job. As you can tell, "Toto" is a very intelligent kid and a very quick learner. Plus, he is mischievous, cute and hilarious.

Of course, even the first half has its minor faults, such as the pranks of bad taste - for example, that pig who spits to the audience and the prank with a bug on the sleepy guy. Pranks aside, I also don't like at times the behavior of Salvatore's mother as she slaps him a number of times.

As for the good of the first half, well, just about most of it. And this without forgetting Salvatore's dumb classmate. He's a poor dumb kid who doesn't know what 5x5 is. Whenever he answers that question is hilarious, as each answer is dumber than the previous one.

On the third time, he goes as far as replying «Natale!» (which is "Christmas" in Italian) - when he said that, I practically died of laughter!

As for the second half of the movie, most of it seems quite rushed and forced, sadly. Salvatore is no longer charming as a grown up. The love story between Salvatore and the girl of his dreams is frustrating in all ways, not to mention that it's ridiculous that Salvatore spends entire months waiting for her to open the window as a sign that she fell in love for him.

There is no comedy or charm here, as in the first half. An animal is stabbed and Salvatore joins the army. And Alfredo's attitude later is puzzling: forcing Salvatore to leave that town forever, never look back, never return (not even to visit, going as far as saying that if he returns he won't receive him in his house), and never allow nostalgia to strike him, and never to even write or think about them again.

I clearly prefer "Toto" as a child than as a teen or as an adult for "Toto" is far more charming as a child. In fact, the moment he grows up, for some reason the movie loses its initial greatness, in my humble opinion.

Phillipe Noiret gives a great performance as Alfredo, but little Salvatore Cascio steals the show as little "Toto".

Furthermore, this coming-of-age story is then made even better thanks to these great actors, background visuals, and phenomenal Ennio Morricone's scored soundtrack. I personally want to praise the two aforementioned actors that acted out the child and teenage versions of "Toto."

While the former perfectly captured the innocence of a child who was compassionate but also wildly curious about everything, the latter perfectly captured the naiveté of a teenager when it came to love and life in general (albeit not something that stuck to the page, so to speak).

In closing, and overall, 'Cinema Paradiso is a pleasant and meaningful childhood memory. A profoundly tender and nostalgic film with which it is easy to identify without restrictions, especially if like "Toto" we have carried since childhood, or blood clutching a fascination for film.

The film was winner of Golden Globe, Oscar for Best Foreign Film and was a Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. A pity that the Italian cinema still suffers from the crisis that is stifling the past several decades.

Indeed, movies like 'Cinema Paradiso' remind us that Italy always gave us one of the best filmmakers in the world. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• Audio commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus
• A Dream of Sicily – A 52-minute documentary profile of Giuseppe Tornatore
• A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise – A 27-minute documentary on the making of Cinema Paradiso
• The Kissing Sequence – Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with clips identifying each scene
• Original Director's Cut Theatrical Trailer and 25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

'Tremors' (2-Disc Limited Edition) [Blu-ray]
(Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Finn Carter, et al / 2-Disc Blu-ray / PG-13 / (1990) 2020 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)

Overview: Good-ol-boy handymen Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) are sick of their dead-end jobs in one-horse desert town Perfection, Nevada (population: 14).

Just as they re about to escape Perfection forever, however, things start to get really weird: half-eaten corpses litter the road out of town; the phone lines stop working; and a plucky young scientist shows evidence of unusually strong seismic activity in the area.

Something is coming for the citizens of Perfection and it s under the goddamn ground!

Blu-ray Verdict: From the off, it's easy to see how the engaging monster movie 'Tremors' could win over an audience. It's the kind of movie that both gently pokes fun at, and pays homage to, its inspiration, in this case, the creature features of the 1950s. Many impressive elements come together to create a successful whole; everything just works here.

The story has the people of a very small desert community menaced by enormous underground predators that just appear out of the blue, with no clue as to their origins. The characters can speculate, sure, but how and why these things exist isn't nearly as important as how to outwit and destroy them.

Leading the charge against the beasts are amiable handymen Val and Earl (Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, who share a marvelous chemistry), two guys who had been planning to leave for the big city - or the nearest town of any size.

The movie is by turns suspenseful, action packed, and humorous, with an enjoyably quirky bunch of characters for whom we can easily root.

The movie is cast to "perfection" also, with country and western darling Reba McEntire (making an unlikely but endearing movie debut) and 'Family Ties' dad Michael Gross make for a highly amusing survivalist couple, Victor Wong ('Big Trouble in Little China') lends his appealing, eccentric presence to the role of the local shop keeper, cute AND likable Finn Carter, who could easily have had a bigger career in film after this, is shapely seismology student Rhonda, and Charlotte Stewart ('Eraserhead') and Ariana Richards ('Jurassic Park') are a local mom and daughter.

The music (by Ernest Troost) is fun, the photography has an appropriately sun baked look to it, and the creatures themselves are convincingly created by the talented effects team of Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr.

So what do we have here? Well, as aforementioned, the story harkens back to '50s giant monster movies, with a three act plot that closely follows those of old: unexplained deaths are followed by an explanation of the threat, culminating in a battle to the death with the giant critters.

Special effects (thankfully pre-CGI, unlike the sequels) are top-notch, and the DUNE-inspired worms are great creations, full of sticky orange blood just ready to explode – you'll never stand on a worm again after watching this!

Indeed, the movie has fun taking the pee out of small-town American stereotypes, with Michael Gross' gun-crazy conspiracy theorist standing high as the film's most entertaining character!

There is a little gore and violence here and there and the latter half of the movie is chock-full of inventive set-pieces, from the top scene where all the townsfolk are hiding out on the roofs of the town's buildings, to the escape in the JCB and trailer, and the rock pole-vaulting interlude.

The suspense is gradually piled on until the riveting climax which is both hilarious and adrenaline-pumping, the perfect ending to an excellent, tongue-in-cheek, humble monster-cum-comedy movie that stands as the best of its kind.

"They're big, ugly, smelly, slimy things with mouths that open up like flowers, and can move through the dirt like nobody's business!" The dialogue has its fair share of quotable lines, delivered with gusto by the cast and the more-than capable direction is by Ron Underwood, making a solid feature debut.

The concept definitely proved to be an enduring one, as multitude of direct-to-home-video sequels and a short lived series have followed! For my money, 'Tremors' continues to hold up well on repeat viewings, with enjoyment of its laughs and thrills unaffected by familiarity. It's quintessential summer viewing for this viewer and I'm sure has been for all ya'll good folks too. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

New 4K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films, approved by director Ron Underwood and director of photography Alexander Gruszynski
60-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing by Kim Newman and Jonathan Melville and selected archive materials
Large fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Frank + Small fold-out double-sided poster featuring new Graboid X-ray art by Matt Frank
Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards
Limited Edition packaging w/ reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Frank

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation w/ restored DTS-HD MA original theatrical 2.0 stereo, 4.0 surround & remixed 5.1 surround audio options
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary by director Ron Underwood and writers/producers Brent Maddock & S.S. Wilson
New audio commentary by Jonathan Melville, author of Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Tremors
Making Perfection, a brand new documentary by Universal Pictures interviewing key cast and crew from the franchise (including Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross, Ariana Richards, Ron Underwood, Brent Maddock & S.S. Wilson, among many others) and revisiting the original locations
The Truth About Tremors, a newly filmed interview with co-producer Nancy Roberts on the film's rocky road to the screen
Bad Vibrations, a newly filmed interview with director of photography Alexander Gruszynski
Aftershocks and Other Rumblings, newly filmed on-set stories from associate producer Ellen Collett
Digging in the Dirt, a new featurette interviewing the crews behind the film's extensive visual effects
Music for Graboids, a new featurette on the film's music with composers Ernest Troost and Robert Folk
Pardon My French!, a newly assembled compilation of overdubs from the edited-for television version
The Making of Tremors, an archive documentary from 1995 by Laurent Bouzereau, interviewing the filmmakers and special effects teams
Creature Featurette, an archive compilation of on-set camcorder footage showing the making of the Graboids
Electronic press kit featurette and interviews with Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire
Deleted scenes, including the original opening scene
Theatrical trailers, TV and radio spots for the original film + trailers for the entire Tremors franchise
Comprehensive image galleries, behind-the-scenes stills, storyboards + two different drafts of the screenplay

Extended hour-long interviews with Ron Underwood, creature designer Alec Gillis and more!
Outtakes w/ optional introduction and commentary by S.S. Wilson
Three early shorts by the makers of Tremors

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

'Survivor Ballads: Three Films by Shohei Imamura'
(Ken Ogata, Sumiko Sakamoto, Mitsuko Baisho, Kazuo Kitamura, Etsuko Ichihara, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)

Overview: Throughout the 1980s, Shohei Imamura (The Pornographers, Profound Desires of the Gods), a leading figure of the Japanese New Wave era of the 1960s, cemented his international reputation as one of the most important directors of his generation with a series of films that all competed at Cannes to great critical acclaim.

This exclusive box set from Arrow Academy presents restored versions of three late career classics from the legendary filmmaker: The Ballad of Narayama (1983), making its HD debut, Zegen (1987), and the harrowing Black Rain (1989).

Blu-ray Verdict: First up is 'The Ballad of Narayama' (1983) where in a poor 19th century rural Japanese village, everyone who reaches the age of 70 has to climb a nearby mountain to die. An old woman is getting close to the cut-off age, and we follow her last days with her family.

With beautiful photography and sensitive, elegant acting, this is perhaps the best exploration of what it means to be human. As usual, Shohei Imamura draws direct parallels between the basic drives and instincts (hunger, greed, lust, anger, envy) of people and other animals.

I have friends who have not made it through watching it because they found these comparisons so depressing when shown in the desperately poor rural Japan during the late 19th century.

What they missed was the core intelligence, caring, self sacrifice, clear thinking and love that enabled that community, and by extension the human race, to survive such difficult times.

This sympathetic portrayal of a family in a rural village is the best of ten films I have seen from Imamura, with an epic scale of Akira Kurosawa and all of the subtlety of Ozu.

Making its HD debut, up next is 'Zegen' (1987) where a Japanese immigrant in 1901 Hong Kong wishes to become a simple shopkeeper. Fate soon intervenes, allowing him to mix adventure and fervent patriotism with greed.

In, 'Zegen,' Imamura tells the tale of the "Japanese Dream" of booming pre-war economics through exaggeration and satire: Muraoka's obsessive attempts of honoring his country are seen as fussy and comical and the constant presence of giggling prostitutes also strengthens the sense of laughableness that surrounds Imamura's trusted actor Ken Ogata in the lead role.

On the other hand, the relationship of Iheiji's sensible lover Shiho (Mitsuko Baisho), also a prostitute, and a rivaling pimp Wang (Chun Hsiung Ko) brings a feel of sadness in the story, as does the general idea of girls leaving their homes or being kidnapped to work as prostitutes overseas, even if the characters are too keen on their daily bumblings to ever realize it.

The satirical aspects become perhaps the most obvious during the final 15 minutes or so, when Muraoka has finally lost his grip on reality in the pressures of honor.

At this point, he has moved from laughable to pathetic – Imamura's commentary on economy and patriotism replacing common sense is not left unclear.

Lastly we get 'Black Rain' (1989), which is the story of the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, based on Masuji Ibuse's novel.

The film opens to the moments prior to the dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima and how this tragic incident affects one family: a young woman, Yasuko, who lives with her aunt and uncle.

Even in black and white, and using special effects that are quite primitive by modern standards but emotive and effective nonetheless, the depictions of the immediate aftermath of the bomb are quite horrific.

Family members become unrecognizable to each other, others resemble zombies as they wander the streets bedraggled and in shock.

The title refers to rainfall that fell soon after the bomb, which was mixed with radioactive ash, and in which Yasuko is caught. Rumors of Yasuko's being in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing affect her marriage prospects and it is later learnt that the black rain is indeed causing sicknesses.

The film is concerned not just with the physical effects of the bomb on the Japanese, but on the social and psychological damage that was wrought.

I found the film compassionate and a fascinating journey into a unique culture. While the film is primarily concerned with the pain felt by one family, the film's gentle political message is relevant today and probably for all time - wars have horrific consequences, and should not be entered into unless absolutely necessary. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Restored High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of all three films
Original lossless Japanese PCM 1.0 mono soundtracks
Optional English subtitles
Brand new audio commentaries on all three films by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp
Brand new, in-depth appreciations of all three films by Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns
Alternate color ending to Black Rain, shot by Imamura but removed from the film shortly before its release
Archival interviews on Black Rain with actress Yoshiko Tanaka and assistant director Takashi Miike
Multiple trailers and image galleries
Original Japanese press kits for The Ballad of Narayama and Black Rain (BD-ROM content)
Limited edition 60-page booklet containing new writing by Tom Mes
Limited edition packaging featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella

Amazon Purchase Link

'The Queen And The Coup'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Feb 1953 - the first anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's reign. Little does she know she is about to be deployed in a secret plot to topple Iran's democratic leader in favor of an all-powerful Shah.

Planned by MI6 and executed by the C.I.A., the coup that follows destroys relations between Iran and the West. Using newly declassified documents this film unravels this secret for the first time here in PBS's 'The Queen And The Coup.'

DVD Verdict: As aforementioned, planned by Britain's MI6 and then executed by America's C.I.A., the Coup D'Etat which followed would destroy Iran's last democracy, and relations between Iran and the West until the present day.

Most shocking of all, the truth about Her Majesty's role will be hidden from the Queen herself, and even the all-powerful Shah who will be used by Britain and American to replace Iran's last democratic Prime Minister.

The coup would indeed lead to political upheaval all over the Middle East for decades to come, eventually resulting in the Islamic Revolution of 1979 which will end the reign of the Shah, and British and American influence in Iran, inspiring countless other Islamist revolutions around the world.

Directed by Paul Elston, previously nominated for TV Bafta for the documentary Pompeii: Life and Death in a Roman Town, and featuring the research of Professors Rory Cormac and Richard Aldrich, it's revealed that two professors who discovered a paper trail in national archives which showed how the Queen was unwittingly involved in the 1953 coup d’etat which overthrew Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.

Indeed, he had moved to nationalize British oil assets in Iran after his attempt to limit the control of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now part of BP) over the nation’s reserves had met with fierce opposition.

In response, the UK instigated a global boycott of Iran’s oil, while using Iranian agents to try and undermine Mosaddegh’s government.

Amid escalating tensions and fears of a Communist takeover in Iran, the Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his counterpart Dwight D Eisenhower’s administration in the US decided to engineer a military coup.

Documents declassified in 2017 revealed how the British first approach their allies over potential action in November 1952, with a view to replacing the prime minister with the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

According to 'The Queen and the Coup,' the name of the monarch, then 26 years old and just a year into her reign, was used by the US to dissuade the shah from fleeing Iran as he became nervous ahead of the coup.

However, this only came about because of a bizarre, amateurish error – the misreading of a telegram which referred to the ocean liner which the foreign secretary Anthony Eden was traveling on at the time: the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

According to The Times, the US sent a telegram to their ambassador in Tehran on 27 February 1953 which read: “Foreign Office this afternoon informed us of receipt message from Eden from Queen Elizabeth expressing concern at latest developments re Shah and strong hope we can find some means of dissuading him from leaving country.”

This message was seemingly taken by the ambassador, Loy Henderson, to mean that the Queen was passing on her desire for Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to stay put.

He then relayed to the shah’s minister by describing a message from a “very important personage for whom Shah had most friendly feelings,” which the academics believe would have led him to assume that it came from Elizabeth II.

The Times reports Professor Aldrich, of Warwick University, saying: “This is critical because you can’t have a coup putting the shah into power if the shah has done a runner. In our view, if the shah had done a runner this coup probably would not have happened.”

It seemed the Americans quickly realized the error, privately expressing their “deep regret” at possibly dragging the young Queen into the skullduggery of international politics.

However, they decided not to confess the mistake to their British allies – meaning the Queen remained none the wiser of the potential role she played in an episode which has had a lasting effect on Iran’s relationship with the West.

Watch, listen and learn here in this incredible 'The Queen And The Coup,' out now via PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Secrets of Royal Travel'
(DVD / G / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: The British Royal Family are the most well-travelled monarchy in history. The Queen alone has been around the world 42 times, clocking up over one million air miles.

This series tells the inside story of the monarchy on the move, taking us inside some of the most famous and yet secretive transport in the world.

DVD Verdict: The conveyance of royalty, whether to Balmoral or Buffalo, by steam or by jet, has always had its own mysterious traditions and protocols.

These two programs open the door to the private world of the Royal Train and the Royal Flight. With exclusive insight from the people responsible for looking after the Queen and her family as they travel Britain and the globe, this remarkable archive of unexpected stories offers a rare insight into the Royals.

Watching along as we also climb on board the world's most exclusive locomotive and take to the skies for the five-star luxury of the Queen's Flight, we also learn along the way that this British Royal Train is used to convey senior members of the British royal family and associated staff of the Royal Household around the railway network of Great Britain; and is owned by Network Rail, and is maintained and operated by DB Cargo UK.

Indeed, the Royal Train comprises a dedicated set of claret liveried sleeper, dining and lounge carriages. The current rolling stock dates from 1977–1987. They are arranged according to requirements, and stored when not in use.

The earliest royal coaches date back to the mid-19th century in the reign of Queen Victoria; until an upgrade in 1977 there were multiple sets based in different regions, a legacy of the pre-nationalization era of railways in Britain.

Furthermore, many are now in museums or on heritage railways; the National Railway Museum in York has a royal themed exhibition.

As for the Air transport for the British Royal Family and the Government of the United Kingdom, that is provided, depending on circumstances and availability, by a variety of military and civilian operators.

This includes an Airbus Voyager of the Royal Air Force, No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron and The Queen's Helicopter Flight which forms part of the Royal Household. Civil aircraft and scheduled commercial flights are also utilized.

In a trip down memory lane, we learn that the first aircraft ordered specifically for transport of the Royal Family, two Westland Wapitis, were delivered to No. 24 Squadron at RAF Northolt in April 1928.

Between 1929 and 1935 the Prince of Wales purchased thirteen aircraft. Although the RAF maintained at least one of these aircraft for a time the Prince of Wales eventually became solely responsible for the aircraft.

When the Prince ascended to the throne in 1936 as Edward VIII, The King's Flight was formed as the world's first head of state aircraft unit.

In contrast the first flight of a sitting U.S. president was in January 1943. This unit initially used the King's own de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide. All this and more can be viewed here on the just-released PBS documentary 'Secrets of Royal Travel.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NOVA: The First Alphabet'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: 'NOVA: The First Alphabet' follows the evolution of the written word, from millennia-old carvings in an Egyptian turquoise mine to our modern-day alphabets.

'How Writing Changed the World' shows us how the printing press transformed the spread of information, igniting the Industrial Revolution.

But how did technologies–from pen to paper to printing press—make it all possible?

DVD Verdict: In the first documentary, 'A to Z: The First Alphabet,' the question is asked Where would we be without the world's alphabets?

Writing has played a vital role in the expansion and domination of cultures throughout history. But researchers are only now uncovering the origin story to our own alphabet, which may have gotten its beginnings in a turquoise mine thousands of years ago.

From the shape of the letter A to the role of writing in trade and storytelling, discover how the written word shaped civilization itself.

One theory is that the history of alphabetic writing goes back to the consonantal writing system used for Semitic languages in the Levant in the 2nd millennium BCE.

Most or nearly all alphabetic scripts used throughout the world today ultimately go back to this Semitic proto-alphabet. Its first origins can be traced back to a Proto-Sinaitic script developed in Ancient Egypt to represent the language of Semitic-speaking workers and slaves in Egypt.

Unskilled in the complex hieroglyphic system used to write the Egyptian language, which required a large number of pictograms, they selected a small number of those commonly seen in their Egyptian surroundings to describe the sounds, as opposed to the semantic values, of their own Canaanite language.

This script was partly influenced by the older Egyptian hieratic, a cursive script related to Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Mainly through Phoenician, Hebrew and later Aramaic, three closely related members of the Semitic family of scripts that were in use during the early first millennium BCE, the Semitic alphabet became the ancestor of multiple writing systems across the Middle East, Europe, northern Africa and South Asia.

The other documentary is 'How Writing Changed the World' where we are informed that just as writing changed the course of human history, the evolution of paper and printing revolutionized the spread of information.

The printing press kicked off the Industrial Revolution that fast-tracked us to the current digital age. But as the millennia-old tradition of penmanship falls out of favor, should we consider what might be lost in this pursuit of ever more efficient communication. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NOVA: Secret Mind of Slime'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Who says you need brains to be smart? Extremely primitive life forms called slime molds can navigate mazes, choose between foods, and create efficient networks no brain required.

New research on these organisms, which are neither plant nor animal, could help reveal the fundamental rules underlying all decision making.

DVD Verdict: In this fun new documentary, we discover that slime molds look like something out of science fiction, but these primitive, forest-dwelling organisms are very real.

Now, scientists from across the globe team up to put one particular species, the electric yellow Physarum polycephalum, to the test.

Fueled by oatmeal, these brainless blobs spread out in web-like patterns to navigate mazes and create efficient networks. They can even learn to tolerate chemical obstacles to reach their next meal.

Can these remarkable organisms, which are neither plant nor animal, redefine intelligence and decision-making?

'Secret Mind of Slime' from PBS tells us that slime is recognized as a Non-Newtonian fluid. This means that it is not considered a solid or a liquid.

Indeed, Issac Newton, a well-known scientist, revealed how liquids are affected by water and temperature. However, slime goes against this statement and, thus, is a Non-Newtonian fluid.

Slime mold (or slime mould) is an informal name given to several kinds of unrelated eukaryotic organisms that can live freely as single cells, but can aggregate together to form multicellular reproductive structures.

Furthermore, slime molds were formerly classified as fungi but are no longer considered part of that kingdom. Although not forming a single monophyletic clade, they are grouped within the paraphyletic group referred to as kingdom Protista.

More than 900 species of slime mold occur globally. Their common name refers to part of some of these organisms' life cycles where they can appear as gelatinous "slime".

This is mostly seen with the Myxogastria, which are the only macroscopic slime molds. Most slime molds are smaller than a few centimeters, but some species may reach sizes up to several square meters and masses up to 20 kilograms.

Oh, and "Slime" was invented by Mattel Toys in 1976. While creating slime, the toy company wanted the oozing substance to be gross as possible.

Thus, slime was first created as a light green material which you could find in a little green trash can. The trash can toy was sealed with a lid to keep the slime fresh and ready for use. Children all around the U.S. loved this oozing slime!

OK, sure, that last bit was just for fun, but this new documentary is fun to watch along with and is very informative (but sure, all Slime shown is in its natural color!) This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NOVA: Human Nature'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Our DNA can determine attributes from eye color to medical predispositions. An extraordinary technology called CRISPR allows us to edit human DNA, possibly eliminating genetic diseases or choosing our children's features. But how far should we go?

DVD Verdict: A string of discoveries beginning in the 1990s has led scientists to a revolutionary tool known as CRISPR.

It comes from the immune-like response of bacteria that can chop up the DNA of invading viruses and incorporate it into their own, creating a "memory" of the invader in case it attacks again.

This simple but powerful gene-editing tool has now been harnessed by humans to edit DNA - including our own. The ability to make targeted edits to the genome could mean a cure for genetic disorders like sickle cell disease.

It could also lead to editing of human embryos for specific traits. But how far should we go? Is it wrong to engineer soldiers to feel no pain, or to resurrect an extinct species? Is there harm in allowing parents to choose their children's features, like eye color or height?

And is something lost, even in editing out "harmful" things like disease? The scientists who pioneered human genome studies and CRISPR grapple with the ethics of editing the very code that makes us human.

What we learn as we watch along, is that Genome editing is of great interest in the prevention and treatment of human diseases. Currently, most research on genome editing is done to understand diseases using cells and animal models.

Scientists are still working to determine whether this approach is safe and effective for use in people. It is being explored in research on a wide variety of diseases, including single-gene disorders such as cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, and sickle cell disease.

It also holds promise for the treatment and prevention of more complex diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, mental illness, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

Ethical concerns arise when genome editing, using technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9, is used to alter human genomes. Most of the changes introduced with genome editing are limited to somatic cells, which are cells other than egg and sperm cells.

These changes affect only certain tissues and are not passed from one generation to the next. However, changes made to genes in egg or sperm cells (germline cells) or in the genes of an embryo could be passed to future generations.

Germline cell and embryo genome editing bring up a number of ethical challenges, including whether it would be permissible to use this technology to enhance normal human traits (such as height or intelligence).

Indeed, based on concerns about ethics and safety, germline cell and embryo genome editing are currently illegal in many countries. Learn more than this about a subject I'd like to bet you knew nothing, or very little of, now on this PBS-released DVD 'NOVA: Human Nature.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

(Hugh Laurie, Helen McCrory, et al / 2-Disc DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Peter Laurence (Hugh Laurie, House, Veep) is a political outsider who is very popular with the people. Fresh from a successful libel case against a journalist printing stories alleging corruption, he's a man on the rise.

But Peter has plenty of skeletons in his closet. And soon he discovers another--an illegitimate daughter serving a prison sentence. It's a secret that could ruin him. And one, apparently, that his Prime Minister (Helen McCrory) already knows.

DVD Verdict: David Hare's latest four-part political drama centers on populist Conservative rising politician Peter Laurence, who projects a winning "man of the people" image not only with his solid, family-man image alongside his wife Saskia Reeves and two adult daughters, but also via his regular appearances on a "meet the people" live-radio chat-show where he candidly fields questions directly from the public.

Phew! OK, well, as we join the action, his star has risen even higher as he has just won a high-profile libel case against a national tabloid newspaper which has alleged dodgy business practices against him while in America.

The precarious Prime Minister of the day, Helen McCrory, obviously riffing off Theresa May, recognizes the danger to her own position of Laurence's ascendancy, and so sidelines him in a reshuffle to the political hot potato of Justice Secretary, when Laurence has been counting on being promoted to one of the senior Cabinet positions.

But problems are mounting up on the sidelines for Laurence. Not only does the female journalist who filed the original "libelous" article against him get a lead to follow up the story in New York which will prove the original charge and lead to a perjury accusation against Laurence, but also his rebellious younger teenage daughter, Millie Brady, has been caught on camera by the tabloid press taking drugs!

His mistress, played by "Borgen" P.M. Sidse Babett Knudsen is also getting uppity about being the invisible "other woman", his Private Secretary, Iain De Caestecker and even his female driver are secretly conspiring against him and leaking information about him to his enemies, while last, but not least, he learns that he has another adult daughter from an affair with a black woman years ago.

Just to mix things up even more, this new daughter is incarcerated in prison, serving a long sentence for bank fraud, coincidentally as her dad, whom she's known about for years, becomes the minister responsible for prisons. Then the prison where she's serving her sentence becomes the flashpoint for a major riot! (It's all bloody go, isn't it!!)

The narrative ebbs and flows from there with myriad characters, all of the above and more, ducking in and out of the story, with a possible murder, a prime ministerial resignation and financial skullduggery all in the mix as Laurence struggles to keep all his plates spinning to protect his career, new daughter, reputation, secret relationship with his mistress and his family, especially his two recalcitrant daughters.

The one person he thinks he can count on is his seemingly docile wife, who seems to be in denial about his philandering as she focuses on her day-job as a choirmaster.

The show title 'Roadkill' rather needlessly occurs when Laurence accidentally runs down a stray deer but the real roadkill of course here are all the incidental characters who likewise stray into his path.

The problem for me with the series is that with two larger than life buffoons currently running the White House and Downing Street, it's very hard currently to convincingly make fiction stranger than fact.

I also felt there was too much "cliffhanger and coincidence" as well as just too many characters at play, dragging down the action.

Hugh Laurie was capable, no more than that, as Laurence, but the ensemble acting was mixed in quality. Best were Helen McCrory as the vulnerable First Minister and Saskia Reeves as the mouse who eventually roars, while by contrast the performances of Brady and De Caestecker, to name but two, lacked depth and realism.

Whilst I certainly followed the serpentine twists and turns of the series, and was compelled to follow them and watch them spin out before me, at no time did I confuse what I was watching with real life. But then again, it is only TV and an enjoyable 225 minutes at that. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Great Performances - Now Hear This: Season 2'
(Scott Yoo, et al / 2-Disc DVD / G / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Scott Yoo, star violinist and conductor, is back for Season 2 of the celebrated music miniseries Now Hear This, presented by GREAT PERFORMANCES.

Join him for more unexpected stories of our greatest composers; more spectacular journeys through Europe, the US and Canada; more breathtaking photography, locations and sound; and more unforgettable performances from some of today's leading musicians.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, violinist and conductor, American Scott Yoo is the Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Mexico City Philharmonic and the Music Director of Festival Mozaic.

He is also the Host and Executive Producer of the all-new PBS series Now Hear This presented by Great Performances – the first show about classical music on American prime time TV in 50 years.

He is the Conductor of the Colorado College Music Festival, and the founder of the Medellín Festicámara, a chamber music program that brings together world-class artists with underprivileged young musicians.

But going back to the Now Hear This series, and Yoo is back for a second season where he plays Haydn, Schubert and Mozart.

Trust me when I say Yoo’s approach to these works and how he himself interprets them is very engaging and highly enjoyable; for novices and experts both (oh, and yes, his colleagues’ musicianship and scholarship are wonderful also, of course).

Furthermore, this quite wonderful series merges music, storytelling, and travel, as Yoo chases the secret histories of some of the greatest music ever written, and collaborates with international virtuosos, instrument builders, musicologists, and experts across many art forms, to discover surprising connections to the music and culture of today.

Enjoy 270 minutes worth of breathtaking photography, locations and sounds and, of course, unforgettable performances from some of today's leading musicians. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

About The Show
The Characters
The Politics
Making A Crash

'JSA - Joint Security Area (Special Edition)' [BR]
(Lee Young-ae, Lee Byung-hun, Song Kang-ho, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2000) 2021 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: Gunfire breaks out in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, leaving two North Korean soldiers dead while a wounded South Korean soldier (Lee Byung-hun, The Good, the Bad, the Weird) flees to safety.

With the tenuous peace between the two warring nations on a knife-edge, a neutral team of investigators, headed by Swiss Army Major Sophie Jean (Lee Young-ae, Lady Vengeance), is dispatched to question both sides to determine what really happened under cover of darkness out in no-man's land.

The recipient of multiple accolades, including Best Film at South Korea's 2001 Grand Bell Awards, 'JSA Joint Security Area' showcases Park's iconic style in an embryonic form, and demonstrates that humanity and common purpose can be found in the most unlikely places.

Blu-ray Verdict: Firstly, I'd like to point out for those who've watched this film after realizing it was made by the same director, Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) that this is one of his first films.

Before this film Park was basically an unknown. You can tell that it is a low budget film. This explains the bad acting on part of the English speaking actors.

Secondly, you must understand the background for this movie. This film is loosely based on a true incident near the border. If you think this film was "unbelievable," I'd like to point out that it is merely improbable, but not impossible.

While the North and South Korea are still technically at war, it has been over 50 years since the war broke out. Public opinion has been changing, but even so this film was extremely controversial because it portrayed North Koreans as human beings instead of the enemy.

This movie touches on an extremely sensitive subject - perhaps akin to a Jordanian-Israelite friendship story. The point of the movie is that even during war, there is always a sliver of humanity (Like the film Joyeux Noel).

Yeong-ae Lee (Lady Vengeance) is investigating an incident that happened at the JSA. Of course, nothing is as it first appears and most everything has already been reported in depositions taken before she got there.

This is a political thriller, told in flashbacks and is about four soldiers that bridge the JSA and become friends.

Thirdly, this film is most definitely NOT homo-erotic. Many things considered gay in other countries do not equate to the same things in other countries.

It doesn't make Koreans any more or less homophobic as say, here in the US, but there is a different definition of what is considered gay. In Korea male bonding is considered very important and many friends consider each other as close as brothers, in truth.

This is completely normal in Korean society. In fact, Lee's role as the only female cast was chosen to 'balance out' all the male relationships. While I do not agree with this decision, I am extremely glad there weren't any needless love scenes so common in movies.

Ergo, I urge people to understand the context of this film before watching for maximum enjoyment. The premise is incredible, the directing is good, but unfortunately the acting of foreigners and the choice of Lee prevents me from giving this film a perfect 10, so to speak.

OK, yes, sure, it was a little melodramatic, but you should expect that from most Asian cinema, trust me! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original lossless Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks
Optional English subtitles
New audio commentary by writer and critic Simon Ward
Isolated music and effects track
Newly recorded video interview with Asian cinema expert Jasper Sharp
The JSA Story and Making the Film, two archival featurettes on the film's production
About 'JSA', a series of archival introductions to the film by members of the cast
Behind the scenes montage
Opening ceremony footage
Two music videos: Letter from a Private and Take the Power Back
Theatrical trailer
TV spot
Image gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch
+FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing by Kieran Fisher.

Amazon Purchase Link

Official Trailer

'Southland Tales (2-Disc Limited Edition)' [BR]
(Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott, Justin Timberlake, Kevin Smith, et al / Blu-ray / R / (2006) 2021 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: In 2001, writer/director Richard Kelly achieved cult status with 'Donnie Darko', an assured debut feature exploring deep existential questions through the lens of '80s nostalgia.

Five years later, he followed up with a more ambitious and even more beguiling sophomore effort, in which forces of totalitarianism and anarchism collide against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic, near-future world the beguiling and baffling 'Southland Tales.'

Los Angeles, 2008. As the city stands on the brink of social, economic and environmental chaos, the fates of an eclectic set of characters including an amnesia-stricken action star (Dwayne Johnson, the Fast & Furious series), an adult film star developing her own reality TV project (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Cruel Intentions) and a police officer whose identity has split in two (Seann William Scott, TV's Lethal Weapon) intertwine with each other and with the whole of humanity.

A darkly comic futuristic epic that speaks as presciently to our turbulent times as it did to the American socio-political climate in 2006, 'Southland Tales' receives a fresh and timely lease of life with this new, director-approved restoration.

Blu-ray Verdict: To put it bluntly, and not to sound pretentious, but this is not a movie for your weekend cinema goer, its a movie for those who want something new, unique and never done before. That in its own appeals heavily to me.

From the get-go the movie begins with a ensemble cast of characters who haven't yet been introduced nor spoken of, this is due to the fact that the movie has three prequel chapters, but I'll get to that later.

We are soon brought the first person narration of Private Pilot Abileine (Justin Timberlake) who's dreary, dark voice provides a sign of what is to come in this darkly comedic thriller.

As captions reading "Chapter IV" begin to surface, the viewer is confused as to what is happening, but with excess viewing, sense can be made of these. Another character is then "introduced", Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson) and Krysta Noww (Sarah Michelle Gellar), from what I have read online, most people believe these characters to be played badly.

This is incorrect, the director has stated on numerous accounts that the acting shown by these characters is completely intentional. This movie is a satire people! Not a drama!

The comedic, surreal acting is what is to be expected of these comedic, surreal characters. Most situations found within the movie are also quite strange and unnerving, situations that wouldn't normally take place, although this is a SATIRICAL DARK COMEDY. I hope I have made my point clear.

One needs to accept this and empathize with it in order to connect with the rest of the movie. The set design in this movie is absolutely fantastical, one of dreams.

The connotations and signs shown throughout the background of this crazy universe are so well placed and make the movie even more appealing, knowing that the next time you watch it, you will see another bit of detail you hadn't already.

The attention to detail is beyond marvelous as it isn't hard to see where director Richard Kelly got his aspirations from, the movie 'Brazil' by Terry Gilliam was an obvious inspiration.

The music, is beyond spectacular, the eerie, melancholic tunes played by Moby suit the dystopian universe so well, its almost like they were made entirely for the movie.

The musical sequence with Justin Timberlake is a direct homage to 'The Big Lebowski' and works so well, I was dumbfounded at how the movie packs so much and provides the viewer with a plentiful supply of genres and imagery.

And yet people look past this and insist on calling it an ugly mess! To each their own, I guess!

Anyway, along with a huge cast of other wacky characters including Officer Roland Taverner (Sean William Scott) this movie may not satisfy the needs of someone who needs a direct answer to every question, but heavily appeals to those who are open to question and give their own meaning without even having read the prequel comics; as I have not. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

New 2K restoration by Arrow Films, approved by director Richard Kelly and director of photography Steven Poster
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of both versions of the film: the 145-minute theatrical cut and the 160-minute Cannes cut, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006
Original lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary on the theatrical cut by Richard Kelly
It s a Madcap World: The Making of an Unfinished Film, a new in-depth retrospective documentary on the film, featuring contributions by Richard Kelly and members of the original crew
USIDent TV: Surveilling the Southland, an archival featurette on the making of the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew
This is the Way the World Ends, an archival animated short set in the 'Southland Tales' universe
Theatrical Trailer
Image Gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacey
Limited edition collector's booklet featuring new writing by Peter Tonguette and Simon Ward.

Amazon Purchase Link

Original Trailer

'Batwoman & The Panther Women: Double Feature'
(Maura Monti, Roberto Cañedo, Héctor Godoy, Ariadne Welter, Elizabeth Campbell, Tongolele, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2006) 2021 / VCI Entertainment - MVD Visual)

Overview: 'Batwoman': After the body of a professional wrestler is found off Acapulco's coastline, the victim, by all appearances, is believed to have drowned.

However, the autopsy reveals a very perplexing and disturbing prognosis, when it's discovered the victim's pineal gland has been surgically drained of all fluid.

With this prognosis eerily imitating the findings in the autopsies of murdered victims in Hong Kong and Macao, the police turn the investigation over to Mario Roble, who enlists the help of a beautiful crime fighting luchador known as Batwoman.

'The Panther Women': In an effort to resurrect the dead leader of their satanic cult, the Panther Women must perform blood sacrifices in order for him to arise from his cold grave.

Using the wrestling ring as their sepulcher and their unsuspecting opponents as their blood sacrifice's, these beautiful sirens of Satan perform their life-resurrecting rituals, shedding much innocent blood.

However, the accomplishment of their goal is thwarted, after Captain Diaz becomes wise to their evil dealings and quest!

Blu-ray Verdict: In 'Batwoman' (1968), a series of murders involving wrestlers has the local police stumped. It seems there is a mad scientist in the area trying to create a fish-man (not sure why) and he needs the juice of the penial gland (don't they always need the penial gland!). Ergo, the police need help and agree to call in the fabulous Batwoman.

Personally, this movie has always been a 50/50 love/hate with me, meaning it was never either great, nor was it terribly horrible. And that fairly well sums up my feelings toward this movie, in general, here today watching it in its brand new 4K Restoration Transfer.

That said, it's more great than not, I guess and so lets tackle some highlights, shall we. Maura Monti is truly excellent as Batwoman.

She's fills her bat-bikini very nicely. I'm not sure, however, where she was carrying that gun she whipped out on occasion, but whatever! She's also decent enough in the action scenes and whereas Monti is no Bruce Lee when it comes to fighting, she still holds her own nicely.

Dr. Eric Williams - odd name for a mad scientist in a Mexican movie, me thinks - is great too, as it happens. He's uber-demented and a blast to watch. His plan may not make a lick of sense, but he's so into it, I didn't care! I also liked the fact that his assistant was named Igor. How randomly bizarre too!

The Fish-Man starts off as an action figure, but when hit with enough of Dr Williams' rays, he turns into the cheesiest monster imaginable! I loved it too and as it was 1968 when this was made, well, no CGI actually helps what we se on screen be more, well, acceptable!

There's more though to love, like the swinging '60s score and the hysterically ineffective police, but you get the idea. On the downside, there are way too many stretches in 'Batwoman' where there's not much going on.

I mean, it can definitely get a wee bit tedious with the car chases and what not and thank God the wrestling is kept to a minimum too! Overall, a fun watch and sure, ok, I'll admit it, well worth your time.

In 'The Panther Women' (1967) (aka 'Las mujeres panteras'), the police and a masked wrestler (!) must try and track down a Panther Woman who is killing people.

Before long they've got yet another monster to deal with and it all goes back to a group of ladies worshiping Satan.

'The Panther Women' is a film that never got a fair shake at a release in America back then (or at any time, in truth), so there wasn't a dubbing track done.

That said, and now released via this wonderous 4K Restoration Transfer, a lot of the fact that, and for years, anyone not on a first language basis with Spain would find it impossible to follow what any of the characters were saying, has been updated accordingly.

As for the film itself, well, personally, I think the greatest thing it has going for it are the two monsters! Also, being a red-blooded male, I thought the Panther Women, in general, looked rather good in their tights!

So too, of course, our lead Ariadne Welter as "Loreta Venusher" in her very own tights and oh yeah, the monster aspect of her face was pretty good too.

I also liked the creature that showed up towards the end and I'm sure he gave some children nightmares back in the day! The two of them should have shared a lot more screen time together, me thinks.

Sadly though Panther Woman and her attacks have a very limited time on the screen, but she admittedly does her damage and then performs a quick getaway (via a cutaway!).

Shot in 1967, the B&W cinematography is good, but it's easy to see why this wouldn't sell in America back then. Although there's plenty of wrestling, some decent action scenes and of course all of the low budget nonsense that you'd expect to see in a film like this (which America DOES love!)

The ending itself was quite good and overall 'The Panther Women' was most definitely a lot of fun with a generous mix of action, wrestling and horror. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced to HD 1080p.

Amazon Purchase Link

'Afterglow + Ray Meets Helen' [Double Feature]
(Lara Flynn Boyle, Nick Nolte, Jonny Lee Miller, Julie Christie, Keith Carradine, Sondra Locke, Keith David, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1997/2017) 2021 / Moonstone Entertainment - MVD Visual)

Overview: 'Afterglow' is director Alan Rudolph's (Mortal Thoughts) wry romance about a handyman who wreaks havoc and builds romance in two marriages.

Desperate to have a baby, Marianne hires Lucky Mann to remodel a nursery. There's just one problem: Marianne's not pregnant and her husband isn't interested in sex.

So what's a handyman to do? Intimate, intelligent, reckless and romantic, you'll delight in this one and you'll leave in an afterglow of pleasure!

'Ray Meets Helen' brings us the story of how in a bizarre, unrelated turn of events, Ray (Keith Carradine, Nashville) and Helen (Sondra Locke, Bronco Billy) each happen upon large sums of money which give them the chance to re-invent themselves.

From acclaimed writer / director Alan Rudolph (Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle), 'Ray Meets Helen' features an all-star supporting cast that includes Keith David (The Nice Guys), Samantha Mathis (American Psycho) and Jennifer Tilly (Bullets over Broadway) in a wonderfully, magically humane film filled with imaginative visuals (NY Times) that is filled with Rudolphian magic.

Blu-ray Verdict: In 'Afterglow' (1997), once again, Alan Rudolph shows why he is one of the best directors working in film and I give special credit to cinematographer Toyomichi Kurita for his excellent camera work.

Okay, so its flawed, especially in casting Nick Nolte as the man about town. His appeal is not very believable although he and Johnny Lee Miller do finally find their groove in their scenes opposite Christie.

Miller tries hard to make some sense of his elliptically written character, and looks so good that one hardly cares when his lines are ludicrous.

The real treasure in the movie are its actresses. Julie Christie and Lara Flynn Boyle do all that they can with what's written for them (at times, a little too much), and Christie really manages to give this movie a heart and soul.

She should have won the Oscar (but lost to Helen Hunt playing Helen Hunt in As Good As it Gets). Christie is arguably our most cinematic actress.

One cannot imagine how she would emote on stage. Her face conveys everything, said and unsaid, hidden and obvious, and in playing for the camera as only she can do, she does for this movie what she did for Dr. Zhivago: she gives it a little life.

This film is touching, funny, quirky, and just plain great, it will entertain everyone with its sense of joie de vivre and irony.

In 'Ray Meets Helen' (2017), well, sadly, it's a little disjointed and the entire movie is slightly weird!

Also, you can tell from the opening scenes just how sick Sondra Locke was (although she looked better at the end of the film, but they don't shoot films in order, do they?), given that sadly died the next year after fighting cancer for almost two decades (this was her last movie).

Overall a HIGHLY sentimental movie, which I actually liked it a lot, 'Ray Meets Helen' tries to balance whimsical romantic fantasy with a melancholy examination of guilt and regret, and kinda/sorta succeeds.

The latest project from director Alan Rudolph ('Afterglow'), it struggles to make its characters likeable or believable, especially "Ray" (Keith Carradine), a lonely ex-boxer who stumbles upon stacks of cash after witnessing an armored-car accident.

Helen (the aforementioned Sondra Locke) likewise is haunted by a troubled past and trying to use sudden wealth as a path to redemption.

As their paths cross during one impulsive romantic evening, both realize that money can’t buy happiness. The performances are strong, although the characters never manage to achieve much chemistry with each other, but the powerful messages laid out for us are what truly makes this movie the gem that it fully deserves to be for the current times. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced to HD 1080p.

Amazon Purchase Link

Agatha Christie Inside The Mind of Agatha Christie
(DVD / PG / 2021 / PBS)

Overview: This set includes two films about the world's most successful crime writer. Discover what made Agatha Christie tick and see how the people and places Agatha encountered found themselves immortalized in her huge canon of work.

DVD Verdict: Surpassed only by the Bible and Shakespeare, Agatha Christie is the most successful writer of all time. We all know her characters and incredible plot twists, but what do we know about Agatha herself?

Combining rare access to Agatha's family, her personal archive and speaking to those who know her work best, in 'Inside The Mind of Agatha Christie' we discover what made the world's most successful crime writer tick.

Dr. John Curran has spent years pouring over the most precious elements of Agatha's legacy – her personal archive, a treasure trove containing her letters, manuscripts and 73 meticulously kept notebooks, in which she documented everything she saw and heard.

We’ll garner unprecedented insight into how the author wove together formidable plots and how, despite being known as the Queen of Cozy Crime, Agatha's mind was, the words of screenwriter Sarah Phelps, "incredibly dark."

Contrary to being a Marple-esque figure, she was "infinitely more complex," the clues as to why lie in her own life-story. We'll hear how an isolated childhood sparked Agatha's imagination and how her time as a dispenser during WWI gave her a knowledge of medicine – and poison, blood and gore.

And how the breakdown of her first marriage allowed her, according to Biographer Laura Thompson, her very own plot twist – a disappearance which flummoxed the nation and how traveling the world healed her broken heart and transformed her writing from a hobby into a serious profession.

And how during WWII Agatha's own sense of mortality made her output more urgent, writing an awesome three to four books every year.

There are 73 Christie Notebooks, the earliest dating from before her career, the last with notes for a book that she would not live to write.

In these unimpressive jotters she scribbled ideas for plots, notes for characters, possibilities for settings. Here she experimented with stage adaptations, wrote travel diaries – she was a lifelong traveler – compiled lists of Christmas presents, kept bridge scores and solved crossword clues.

There are notes for all but a half-dozen of her novels, many of her stage plays, some short stories and her autobiography. And, most fascinating of all, are those jottings that got no further than the page on which they appear; what I call her “Unused Ideas”.

Her existing impressive literary output – 66 novels, 150 short stories, 18 plays – did not exhaust this fund of ideas, which seemed, quite simply, infinite.

'Agatha Christie's England' is a thorough exploration of the British locales made famous by Agatha Christie. Ranging from London to Wallingford to Torquay, from Harrogate to Burgh Island, these itineraries create a travelling companion for the millions of Christie fans wanting to walk in the footsteps of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.

This documentary will appeal to both Christie fans planning a trip to England (when Covid has departed, of course) and armchair travelers. It is organized into themes, such as all the places that Christie lived in London, Torquay, trains (did you know that some cars from the Orient Express are used for some British trips at certain times of the year?), etc.

This documentary does a great job of making the connections between locations found in Christie's work and how those locations were significant in her own life (and I believe that Greenway House, near Torquay, is still open to the public. But if you are a Christie fan, this is a fun journey to take, for sure. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Nature: Primates'
(DVD / PG / 2021 / PBS)

Overview: They are called the highest order of animal on the planet. Primates, with their big brains, are smart and adaptable.

They use tools, self-medicate, hunt and swim. They are social and political, form hierarchies and friendships, and can be very mischievous.

Get to know the many species of primates, from the familiar chimpanzee and gorilla, to the more obscure species such as the owl monkey, the slender loris, the drill and many more.

DVD Verdict: Filmed over two years on 28 filming expeditions across the globe - from Argentina to Borneo to Madagascar - this series captures primates' survival skills and relationship dynamics with the latest science and technology.

Experience from your screen extremely rare or never-before-seen moments, including one of the first images of the bald uakari and the recently discovered Tapanuli orangutan.

We also get to meet the scientists and dedicated people working and risking their lives to protect the future of primates.

Monkey see, monkey do. From baboons facing down leopards, to lemurs exploiting a jungle pharmacy or rhesus macaques charming their way to an easy life, discover the survival strategies used by primates, often in the most unexpected places.

This is a quite brilliantly done documentary with such a wonderful musical score in the background it also includes such fascinating video footages of how each of these primates survive, get food, use tools and even come up with their own medication and even more wonderful and fascinating to see SO many different colorful species of these animals in their natural habitat.

I was especially entertained by the scenes of the baboons facing down the leopard, the macaques and the squirrels competing over food and the bush babies finding nectar in the South African zoo.

Such awesome ways these animals figure out how to get food makes this most definitely a very enthralling documentary and one that I have since watched three times now with my family. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NOVA: Touching the Asteroid'
(DVD / PG / 2021 / PBS)

Overview: It is a mission that might prove impossible. In the fall of 2020, a NASA spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx attempts to reach out and grab a piece of an asteroid named Bennu and bring it back to Earth.

The OSIRIS-REx team has just three chances to extend its spacecraft's specialized arm, touch down for five seconds, and collect material from the surface of Bennu.

Can they pull it off?

DVD Verdict: Here in 'NOVA: Touching the Asteroid,' PBS takes you inside the mission as the team plans its approach: They must map the asteroid's surface, choose possible collection sites, and rehearse the risky maneuver.

If the collection is successful, scientists could gain great insight into Earth's own origins - and even learn to defend against rogue asteroids that may one day threaten our planet.

Ok, so taking it from the top, OSIRIS-REx seeked answers to the questions that are central to the human experience: Where did we come from? What is our destiny? Asteroids, the leftover debris from the solar system formation process, can answer these questions and teach us about the history of the sun and planets.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft traveled to Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid whose regolith may record the earliest history of our solar system and thought to possibly contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans.

Bennu is also one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids, as it has a relatively high probability of impacting the Earth late in the 22nd century.

OSIRIS-REx determine's Bennu’s physical and chemical properties, which will be critical to know in the event of an impact mitigation mission. Finally, asteroids like Bennu contain natural resources such as water, organics, and precious metals.

In the future, these asteroids may one day fuel the exploration of the solar system by robotic and crewed spacecraft.

Indeed, OSIRIS-REx’s key science objectives included:

Return and analyze a sample of Bennu’s surface
Map the asteroid
Document the sample site
Measure the orbit deviation caused by non-gravitational forces (the Yarkovsky effect)
Compare observations at the asteroid to ground-based observations

In 2023, OSIRIS-REx's sample return capsule is scheduled to bring a piece of Bennu back to Earth. But first, the spacecraft will conduct an in-depth study of the rocky body and help scientists learn more about how sunlight can shift an asteroid's position.

FYI: On October 28th, 2020, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission successfully placed the spacecraft’s sample collector head into its Sample Return Capsule (SRC). This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NOVA: Can We Cool the Planet?'
(DVD / PG / 2021 / PBS)

Overview: As global temperatures continue to rise, scientists are wondering if we need solutions beyond reducing emissions.

Enter geoengineering. From sucking carbon straight out of the air to physically blocking out sunlight, the options may seem far-fetched.

Can geoengineering really work? How much would it cost? And what are the risks of engineering Earth's climate?

DVD Verdict: Once seen as spooky sci-fi, geoengineering to halt runaway climate change is now being looked at with growing urgency.

A spate of dire scientific warnings that the world community can no longer delay major cuts in carbon emissions, coupled with a recent surge in atmospheric concentrations of CO2, has left a growing number of scientists saying that it’s time to give the controversial technologies a serious look.

“Time is no longer on our side,” one geoengineering advocate, former British government chief scientist David King, told a conference last fall. “What we do over the next 10 years will determine the future of humanity for the next 10,000 years.”

King helped secure the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, but he no longer believes cutting planet-warming emissions is enough to stave off disaster.

He is in the process of establishing a Center for Climate Repair at Cambridge University. It would be the world’s first major research center dedicated to a task that, he says, “is going to be necessary.”

Technologies earmarked for the Cambridge center’s attention include a range of efforts to restrict solar radiation from reaching the lower atmosphere, including spraying aerosols of sulphate particles into the stratosphere, and refreezing rapidly warming parts of the polar regions by deploying tall ships to pump salt particles from the ocean into polar clouds to make them brighter.

United States scientists are on the case, too. The National Academies last October launched a study into sunlight reflection technologies, including their feasibility, impacts and risks, and governance requirements.

Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said: “We are running out of time to mitigate catastrophic climate change. Some of these interventions… may need to be considered in future.”

The study’s prospective authors held their first meeting in Washington, D.C., at the end of April. Speakers included David Keith, a Harvard University physicist who has developed his own patented technology for using chemistry to remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere, and Kelly Wanser of the Marine Cloud Brightening Project, which is studying the efficacy of seeding clouds with sea salt and other materials to reflect more sunlight back into space. The project is preparing for future field trials.

China too has an active government-funded research program. It insists it has no current plans for deployment, but is looking, among other things, at how solar shading might slow the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers.

Geoengineering the climate to halt global warming has been discussed almost as long as the threat of warming itself. American researchers back in the 1960s suggested floating billions of white objects such as golf balls on the oceans to reflect sunlight.

In 1977, Cesare Marchetti of the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis discussed ways of catching all of Europe’s CO2 emissions and injecting them into sinking Atlantic Ocean currents. In 1982, Soviet scientist Mikhail Budyko proposed filling the stratosphere with sulphate particles to reflect sunlight back into space.

The first experiments to test the idea of fertilizing the oceans with iron to stimulate the growth of CO2-absorbing algae were carried out by British researchers in 1995. Two years later, Edward Teller, inventor of the hydrogen bomb, proposed putting giant mirrors into space.

Still, many climate scientists until recently regarded such proposals as fringe, if not heretical, arguing that they undermine the case for urgent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

A group of scientists writing in Nature as recently as April last year, called solar geoengineering “outlandish and unsettling… redolent of science fiction.”

But the mood is shifting. There is broad, international scientific agreement that the window of opportunity to avoid breaching the Paris climate target of staying “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), is narrowing sharply.

A pause in the rise in CO2 emissions that brought hope in 2015 and 2016 has ended; the increase has resumed at a time when we should be making progress toward a goal of halving emissions by 2030, says Johan Rockstrom, science director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research.

CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere — the planetary thermostat — are now at 415 parts per million (ppm) and rising by almost 3 ppm each year, reaching levels that have not been seen in 3 million years. “We have two years left to bend the curve” downward, says Rockstrom.

Some experts contend we may be approaching a moment when nothing other than geoengineering can meet the international community’s promise — made when signing the UN Climate Change Convention at the Earth Summit in 1992 — to prevent “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

Myles Allen of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute says: “Every year we are not even trying to reduce emissions is another 40 billion tons of CO2 dumped into the atmosphere that we are blithely committing future generations to scrub out again.”

Possible geoengineering schemes and schedules are now being discussed, and always will be, one assumes, but for now all this and more is something to think about, that's for sure. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NOVA: Nature's Fear Factor'
(DVD / PG / 2021 / PBS)

Overview: A bold experiment to bring rare and fierce African Wild Dogs back to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique reveals how predators – and the fear they trigger – play a surprising and crucial role in keeping wild ecosystems healthy.

DVD Verdict: During Mozambique’s civil war, which ended in the mid-1990s, Gorongosa’s abundant wildlife was almost completely destroyed.

Since then, the park has been steadily recovering, aided by an unusual partnership between the Mozambique government and the wealthy American philanthropist Gregory Carr, along with input from local communities, international teams of scientists, conservationists, human rights advocates — really, anybody Mr. Carr can get on the phone.

Researchers see in Gorongosa the chance to track the recovery of a complex ecosystem from the ground up, and to see what will heal on its own and what requires intervention.

And so the big headline was that wild dogs had returned to the famed Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. The first puppy litters were not far behind.

Last summer, not long after releasing a pioneer pack of 14 African wild dogs into Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park as part of an ambitious wildlife restoration effort, Paola Bouley went to see for herself what in the name of Canis major could have happened to the wild dog pups. As Gorongosa’s carnivore expert, Ms. Bouley knew that Beira, the alpha female of the pack, had been pregnant when the dogs were set free. She knew that the closely bonded and highly endangered apex predators had dug a maternity den for their queen, and that Beira had spent a lot of time down there — until one day, she didn’t. She and the pack had moved on.

But where were the pups?

As Ms. Bouley was crouching by the abandoned den and peering into the hole, she met the likely answer. A giant African rock python — the continent’s largest species of snake — dropped from a nearby tree, stared her in the face and then slithered off. “I think it was disappointed that I wasn’t a warthog,” Ms. Bouley said.

For a snake that can grow to 20 feet and swallow an impala whole, even a large litter of Lycaon pictus pups would barely rate as an amuse-bouche.

Yet the wild dogs were unbowed, and this year, after migrating to a less serpent-y sector of Gorongosa’s one million acres, they made up for lost time in spectacular fashion.

Beira give birth in late April to 11 pups, who emerged from their den in early June and appear on camera trap footage to be thriving, as well as inexcusably cute (although the runt of the litter eventually died).

Of greater surprise to Ms. Bouley and her colleagues, Nhamagaia, the beta female of the pack, defied the L. pictus convention that only the resident alpha female gets to breed, and in late June delivered her own litter of eight.

The researchers initially feared that Beira and the other adult dogs might reject the off-label young, leaving them to die of neglect. But no: The new pups have been swept up into the sens-a-round frenzy of carnivore kumbaya — life as an ardently, obligately social mammal for whom, as wild dog expert Scott Creel of Montana State University put it, “the worst thing that can happen is to be alone.”

Gorongosa’s pup eruption didn’t end there. Not far from the Beira-Nhamagaia crèche, a group of four adult dogs that had split off from the original pack in the spring — three males and one female — appeared to be successfully rearing yet another litter of eight pups.

“It’s incredibly exciting,” said Cole du Plessis, coordinator of the wild dog range expansion program at the Endangered Wildlife Trust. “At the beginning of last year there were no wild dogs in Gorongosa, and now we’re closing in on 50.”

And why not? “When I flew over Gorongosa,” Mr. du Plessis said, “looking at the prey numbers, the water, the topography — I thought, if you could sketch what wild dog heaven would look like, Gorongosa is it.”

The successful reintroduction into Gorongosa of African wild dogs underscores the park’s position as one of the bright spots on an otherwise grim landscape of shrinking forests and accelerating loss of large, charismatic animals unlucky enough to not be our pets or livestock. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Nature: Santa's Wild Home'
(DVD / PG / 2021 / PBS)

Overview: Green lights dance across a star-filled sky, and snowflakes sparkle on the trees. It is little wonder Lapland is famous as a realm of elves and flying reindeer, the magical home of Santa Claus.

This northernmost region of mainland Europe, however, is a real place, with real animals such as reindeer, Great Gray owls, wolverines, eagles, wolves, musk oxen and Brown bears who live out their lives in the tundra and forest.

Get an intimate look into life in Lapland through the changing seasons, long after the Christmas lights are taken down, and where only the toughest survive.

DVD Verdict: Of course, we all know who Santa Claus is, but through repeated tellings and alterations (and cola advertisements), the true story of Father Christmas can get a bit watered down.

Ironic, considering the legend of Santa is a distillation of hundreds of stories, including historical figures like Saint Nicholas, myths like Father Christmas, Viejo Pascuero, Sinterklaas, Weihnachtsmann, Joulupukki, Pere Noel, and even Norse gods like Odin.

For hundreds of years, these stories and more have been told to children in European and western countries when the days grow short and snowflakes fall like fairy dust over the land.

But what of where he lives? Well, once upon a time, the northernmost part of mainland Europe was freely roamed by nomadic people who, indeed, had almost magically adapted themselves to their Arctic environment.

The Sami people lived in tents called lavvus. By the mid-16th century, the economy was based on farming and herding reindeer. Their homeland at the top of the Scandinavian peninsula became known to outsiders as Lapland.

They knew no frontiers, taking their animals inland during the winter and, for the most part, out to relatively mosquito-free reaches of the coast in the summer. It was largely through them that the Norwegians, Finns, Swedes and others from the south learned how to survive, and enjoy, the Arctic.

Today, these indigenous people of the north still live there – albeit in modern houses. And they continue to herd reindeer, but they now have to respect international boundaries.

Technically, "Lapland" still stretches across the same region – from northern Norway to Russia's Kola Peninsula, encompassing northern Sweden and northern Finland on the way.

Quite apart from the intriguing culture of the area's communities, this is a place of intensely beautiful fjords, of inland lakes and trees and, of course, of extreme contrasts, with bright summers of abundant wildflowers, and almost sunless winters when the snow-covered world around shimmers in a haunting green/blue light.

As for the featured Species, here is a list: Great Gray owl, Eurasian wolf, Golden eagle, European Brown bear, Reindeer, Musk ox, Eurasian Lynx, Black grouse, Wolverine and Orca.

Some of the stand out moments here over the 52 minutes are when we get to witness the mass migration of hundreds of thousands of reindeer.

Guided by Sami herders, the two-week journey is a spectacular sight. As the snow begins to thaw with the change of seasons, the reindeer need to reach their feeding grounds by the coast, before the snow gets too soft to run on.

A mother brown bear teaches her young cubs how to find food and to survive threats, such as older male bears and wolverines. Each scrap of meat can be contested, as seen when the mother bear and a wolf fight over a meal.

And we also learn that the great gray owl is a nomad in the frozen forests. These owls can fly more than 1,000 miles in search of prey, hunting for signs of movement beneath the snow. One female owl has three little owlets to keep fed, and they demand several large meals a day. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NATURE: Pandas - Born to Be Wild'
(DVD / G / 2021 / PBS)

Overview: The Giant Panda may be one of the most recognizable endangered species on our planet, but the daily lives of wild pandas remain a mystery, until now.

Filming over three years, two Chinese cinematographers trek through the steep forested trails of the Qinling Mountains to catch a glimpse of wild pandas.

With the help of scientists and rangers on this journey, they capture startling new wild panda behavior on screen.

Unlike the playful image of captive pandas, wild pandas are solitary and territorial. The film crew also follows the training of a young panda born in captivity learning to be a panda in the wild.

DVD Verdict: Taking it from the top, the panda, with its distinctive black and white coat, is adored by the world and considered a national treasure in China. Indeed, this bear also has a special significance for WWF because it has been our logo since our founding in 1961.

Pandas live mainly in temperate forests high in the mountains of southwest China, where they subsist almost entirely on bamboo. They must eat around 26 to 84 pounds of it every day, depending on what part of the bamboo they are eating. They use their enlarged wrist bones that function as opposable thumbs.

A newborn panda is about the size of a stick of butter — about 1/900th the size of its mother — but females can grow up to about 200 pounds, while males can grow up to about 300 pounds as adults. These bears are excellent tree climbers despite their bulk.

The Qinling panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis) is a subspecies of the giant panda, discovered in the 1960s, but not recognized as a subspecies until 2005. Disregarding the nominate subspecies, it is the first giant panda subspecies to be recognized.

It differs from the more familiar nominate subspecies by its smaller skull and dark brown and light brown (rather than black and white) fur, and its smaller overall size. Its eye spots are under the lower lid, instead of around the eyes.

This subspecies is restricted to the Qinling Mountains, at elevations of 1,300–3,000 metres (4,300–9,800 ft). Its coloration is possibly a consequence of inbreeding: as the population is closed off from genetic variation and this might have led to the preservation of the mutation responsible.

Here in 'Born to Be Wild' we learn that there are an estimated 200–300 Qinling pandas living in the wild and that on August 30th, 1989, a female of this species was captured and brought to the Xi'an Zoo to be mated with a regular giant panda.

This panda's offspring was black-and-white, but reportedly started becoming brownish as it aged. According to other reports she gave birth to three cubs, all of whom died shortly after being born. The mother, named Dan-Dan, died in 2000.

Due to the Qinling subspecies being captive, it has been exposed to toxicants in their bamboo diet. Even though it is not fully known which toxicants it has been exposed to, it was determined to be heavy metals from atmospheric deposition.

Thus, the conservation of the Qinling pandas may be compromised in the future due to air pollution in China.

Funnily enough, we also learn that dental health is important for the survival of the Qinling Pandas. These pandas have a survival rate of 5-20 years. The most common dental abnormalities that Qinling Pandas face are dental attrition and fractures. These two abnormalities can impact the survival rate of these pandas. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NATURE: Australian Bushfire Rescue'
(DVD / PG / 2021 / PBS)

Overview: Rising From the Ashes of Australia's devastating and unprecedented bushfires, animal survivors begin their challenging journey back to a wild existence.

Iconic species such as koalas, kangaroos, wombats and endangered species of parrots face a series of hurdles to recover from their trauma.

Follow their stories of rescue, rehabilitation and eventual release alongside the remarkable tales of human compassion and dedication - from an orphan wombat growing too attached to her caretaker, to audacious helicopter airdrops that feed remote rock wallabies.

When the fires finally burn out, Australia looks to the science, innovation and Indigenous knowledge that will be needed to safeguard fragile wildlife in an even hotter future.

DVD Verdict: Simply put, the highly emotive 'NATURE: Australian Bushfire Rescue' is an up-close look at the rescuing and caring for the animal survivors of Australia's devastating bushfires in 2019.

Iconic species like koalas, kangaroos and wombats face a series of hurdles to recover from their trauma and some, well, on camera as well, they just don't make it: one way or another.

It’s been a year we’ll never forget. Even before the challenges of COVID-19, Australia was hit hard by bushfires during summer 2019-20 - the most catastrophic bushfire season ever experienced in the country’s history. So much was lost, and the impacts will be felt for years to come.

Up to 19 million hectares were burnt, with 12.6 million hectares primarily forest and bushland. 33 lives were lost and around 3,094 homes destroyed.

Early in January, WWF estimated that at that time, 1.25 billion animals had been killed. As the fires raged well into March, and destroyed even more habitat, they had a scientific duty to update that figure to understand the true impact on our wildlife and natural landscapes.

An interim report was released six months on from the fires that they commissioned from a team of scientists from Australian universities, and the findings are shocking. Nearly 3 billion animals were impacted by the bushfires.

At the peak of the fires, their focus was to get emergency support to the amazing frontline organizations, rescuing and caring for injured and fire-affected wildlife.

Now that the fires are out, it’s time to focus on the long road to recovery and future-proofing their country for the fire seasons ahead.

As they grapple with the global pandemic, the need for our work does not stop. In fact, nature needs us now more than ever. They continue to work safely through COVID-19 to deliver work on-the-ground with their partners.

For example, on Kangaroo Island, the extent of destruction to wildlife habitat is severe, but responders have been searching for any animal survivors.

Their priority is to keep wildlife in the wild, but even unharmed wildlife may need to be taken to sanctuaries if they do not have access to food or water due to fire damage.

Animals who are injured are taken to rehabilitation facilities for veterinary treatment, with the goal of re-release back into the wild after recovery. Only if animals are severely injured, suffering, and not able to be returned to health would they be humanely euthanized.

An estimated 1 billion animals died in the horrific Australian bushfires last year. Through the help of tireless volunteers working to rescue the remains of their once-flourishing environment, stories of animal and human resilience have emerged.

A series of digital shorts, produced by NATURE, captures the immediate aftermath of the fires and relief efforts, including the rescue of an orphan wombat, the treatment of one of Australia’s deadliest snakes and the story of a selfless citizen who turned her home into an animal sanctuary.

Inspired by those journeys, the 60-minute documentary follows iconic species including koalas, kangaroos and endangered species of parrots as they face a series of hurdles to recover from their trauma and go back into the wild.

Their stories of rescue, rehabilitation and eventual release sit alongside the remarkable tales of human compassion and dedication from their rescuers and caretakers.

In this quite magnificent, eye-opening, but ultimately sad (be forewarned) documentary 'NATURE: Australian Bushfire Rescue', we discover what is being done in-the-field and how it was made possible. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Batman Soul of the Dragon: 4K Ultra HD'
(David Giuntoli, Mark Dacascos, Kelly Hu, Michael Jai White, James Hong, et al / 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray+Digital / NR / 2021 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: An all-new original animated film, 'Batman: Soul Of The Dragon' does a deep dive into Elseworlds vibes by putting Batman in the midst of the swinging 1970s.

Faced with a deadly menace from his past, and along with his mentor O-Sensei, Bruce Wayne must enlist the help of three former classmates – world-renowned martial artists Richard Dragon, Ben Turner and Lady Shiva – to battle the monsters of this world and beyond.

Blu-ray Verdict: Taking it from the top, here's the overly intriguing storyline line: Batman, Bronze Tiger, Lady Shiva, and Richard Dragon join forces when they come to realize that they share a common acquaintance.

The Martial Arts Master that trained them has been missing for a number of years and under mysterious circumstances. When a cursed relic resurfaces, the mystery of their dead master re-opens and Batman and his former classmates must face-off in the ultimate test of their Martial Arts kills to gain control of this dangerous relic.

For those not in the know, 'Batman: Soul of the Dragon' marks the 41st installment in the long line DC Universe Movies, and it is also among the most unique, in my humble opinion.

Rather than acting as a direct adaptation of a particular DC Comics storyline, it loosely draws on the work of the late Denny O 'Neil to give the DCU a martial arts movie makeover from the past.

Indeed, if Warner Bros. had ever made a Batman movie in 1973 with Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen and Jim Kelly, it would have been a little something like this, if truth be told!

The resulting stew is just as fun and campy as it sounds, though, like many martial arts movies, the characters often take precedence over the action.

Ergo, 'Batman: Soul of the Dragon' is a relatively "outside the box" approach to the DC Universe Movies line, and luckily for all us devoted fans, the results are mostly satisfying.

OK, sure, the film is admittedly light on plot and heavy on action and '70s martial arts movie tropes, but it also boasts a strong voice cast, many of whom would be equally at home in a live-action version.

But while the straightforward nature of the plot isn't an issue, the lack of character development for Richard Dragon is. This is the rare Batman movie where Batman himself is the weakest link.

That all said, one of the biggest strengths of 'Soul of the Dragon' is the eye-catchingly colorful animation. I mean wow, there's a massive level of detail that has gone into this film’s animation.

From the hairstyles, clothes and backdrop settings of the '70s to the highly choreographed, and diligently captured fight scenes. These martial arts moments are tremendous fun to watch along with and are very much taken in a fluid directorial and animated stride, so to speak.[NS]

Being that this is a 4K Ultra HD presentation (Blu-ray Disc, Two-disc set - 1 BD-66, 1 BD-50), the Video aspects are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 4K (2160p), HDR: HDR10, and Original aspect ratio: 1.78:1.

Special Features and Technical Specs:
HDR Presentation of the Film
Batman – Raw Groove (New Featurette)– From the explosion of gritty cinema and kung-fu to the cultural changes spreading across the U.S., we explore the early '70s and how they inspired Batman: Soul of the Dragon.
Producer Jim Krieg's Far Out Highlights (New Featurette)– It's an off-the-hook and out-of-sight supercut of one of Producer Jim Krieg's funniest in-character appearances
A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie – An advance look at the next animated film in the popular DC Universe Movies collection, Justice Society: World War II
Look Back: Superman: Red Son (Featurette) – Kal-El's rocket fleeing Krypton never reaches Smallville, but instead lands in the Soviet Union, single-handedly shifting the new world order. This is the epic re-imagining of Superman's origin story
Look Back: Batman: Gotham By Gaslight (Featurette) – Set against the backdrop of turn of the century Gotham, Batman is involved in a hunt for a criminal who has committed the most heinous acts of murder. This is Batman versus Jack the Ripper!
From the DC Vault: Batman: The Animated Series, "Day of the Samurai" From the DC Vault: Batman: The Animated Series, "Night of the Ninja" Optional English, Spanish, and French subtitles for the main feature.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, 'Batman: Soul of the Dragon' arrives today on Digital, and will be available on 4K Combo Pack & Blu-ray starting January 26th, 2021.

'Batman: Soul of the Dragon' | "Shiva-Dragon Vs. Ninjas" Clip

'Batman: Soul of the Dragon' | "Ben Turner Attack" Clip

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete Twelfth Season
(Bill Fagerbakke, Tom Kenny, et al / 3-DVD / NR / 2021 / Paramount Home Entertainment)

Overview: It’s time to revisit the adventures of SpongeBob SquarePants and his Bikini Bottom friends in 'SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete Twelfth Season,' arriving on DVD January 12th, 2021 from Paramount Home Entertainment and Nickelodeon Home Entertainment.

DVD Verdict: In 'SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete Twelfth Season' we get to witness Gary try out a new pair of legs to keep up with SpongeBob and Plankton and practice ruling the world in SpongeBob’s aquarium!

We also watch along as Plankton creates clones of himself and Mr. Krabs, and follow Squidward as he tries out another line of work before SpongeBob and Patrick come to ruin it!

Oh, and lest we forget that at the very same time we can watch along as the newly reformed “Clean Bubble” takes a job at the Krusty Krab, and Mrs. Puff, Karen, and Sandy take Pearl to a cabin in the kelp for a fun weekend.

OK, so as we all know by now, the show is about Spongebob who works on the Krusty Krab, and goes on adventures with his friends on Bikini Bottom!

In my humble opinion, seasons 1-5 are amazing, seasons 6-8 are average, and the show went back to amazing on seasons 9-12. As for the animation, personally, I really like how the animation looks, from the backgrounds, like the oceans, to the character designs, and how they move and express themselves.

The writing in this show is really good for most of the episodes. It has a lot of funny moments, and jokes. The plots are creative and even relatable, especially here in the 12th season.

Even looking at a normal everyday problem, and turning it into something fun, these plots can range from Spongebob and Patrick goofing off to Plankton trying to get the secret Krabby Patty formula!

Most of the time all the characters are likable. There is Spongebob Squarepants himself; who even when he messes up he means well and tries to be a good citizen.

Patrick is dumb and yet brilliantly funny! Squidward is a grumpy character, but also a highly relatable character. Many of the other main characters are good to, such as Sandy, Gary, Plankton, Larry, Mrs. Puff and Mr. Krabs (for the most part).

The music is great and always helps display a good rolling ocean theme. If there are any negatives, then they are very far and few between and not something I'm even to to bring up.

This hard-working optimistic sponge just has a very special place in my heart and I never stopped liking this show in way over 10 years of watching it.

It's just one of these shows where you know there will NEVER be anything like it or even close to it's uniqueness. If I could leave the future people one last thing, it would be this show!

This 12th season box-set features, much like Season 11, three discs instead of four and has thus far released the following episodes on U.S. television: "My Two Krabses," "Knock Knock, Who's There?," "Pat Hearts Squid," "Lighthouse Louie," "Hiccup Plague," "Plankton's Intern," "Patrick's Tantrum," "Bubble Bass's Tab," and "Kooky Cooks."

Interestingly, and despite being produced before the pandemic began, "Kwarantined Krab" is not included in this DVD box-set due to its theme being unintentionally similar to the COVID-19 pandemic!

Indeed, this is the first season DVD where an episode from the season has been excluded since the season 1 DVD, not counting its re-release.

Oh, and for the record, this is the first season DVD where the credits play after every episode, unlike other season sets where the credits are all jumbled up at the end of each disc!

Disc 1: • "FarmerBob / Gary & Spot"
• "The Nitwitting / The Ballad of Filthy Muck"
• "The Krusty Slammer / Pineapple RV"
• "Gary’s Got Legs / King Plankton"
• "Plankton’s Old Chum / Stormy Weather"
• "Swamp Mates / One Trick Sponge"
• "The Krusty Bucket / Squid’s on a Bus"
• "Sandy’s Nutty Nieces / Insecurity Guards"
• "Broken Alarm / Karen’s Baby"

Disc 2: • "Shell Games / Senior Discount"
• "Mind the Gap / Dirty Bubble Returns"
• "Jolly Lodgers / Biddy Sitting"
• "SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout"
• "SpongeBob in RandomLand / SpongeBob’s Bad Habit"
• "Handemonium / Breakin’"
• "Boss for a Day / The Goofy Newbie"
• "The Ghost of Plankton / My Two Krabses"

Disc 3: • "Knock, Knock Who’s There? / Pat Hearts Squid"
• "Lighthouse Louie / Hiccup Plague"
• "A Cabin in the Kelp / The Hankering"
• "Who R Zoo?"
• "Plankton’s Intern / Patrick’s Tantrum"
• "BubbleBass’s Tab / Kooky Cooks"
• "Escape from Beneath Glove World"
• "Krusty Koncessionaires / Dream Hoppers"

These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of: Spongebob Appreciation Day: Patchy's Beach Bash!

Featuring a grand collection of season 12’s hilarious episodes, including “SpongeBob’s Big Birthday Blowout,” 'SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete Twelfth Season' 3-DVD set will be available for the suggested retail price of $13.99 U.S.

'The Climb'
(Kyle Marvin, Michael Covino, Gayle Rankin, Talia Balsam, George Wendt, et al / DVD / R / 2021 / Sony Pictures)

Overview: 'The Climb' is a hilarious - and oftentimes awkward - examination of the toxic lifelong friendship of Mike and Kyle.

While Kyle is kind, and a bit of a pushover, Mike is a train wreck, who despite his affection for Kyle, seems to sabotage all of Kyle’s relationships.

Told through a series of vignettes, Kyle struggles to deal with the fact that his best friend might just be the worst person for him.

DVD Verdict: Biking thru the French countryside, Mike waits for a grueling climb to offhandedly mention his affair with Kyle's wife to be.

Struggling to keep pace, a stunned Kyle is furious and winds up running up the hill to confront his soon to be ex-best man. Soon they are in hospital, where things spiral further out of control!

This orchestrated moment of comedic tragedy defines their lifelong relationship, and a rather enjoyable film, if truth be told.

Co-stars and co-writers Kyle Marvin and Michael Covino (who also directs), pull off their push pull brotherly love-hate relationship effortlessly enough to raise suspicion these may not be fictional events.

As the obvious heel in the picture, Mike revisits his childhood buddy from time to time, wreaks havoc to whatever situation he insists himself in, tries to make misguided amends, then disappears until his next untimely resurrection.

A hard character to love, an easy one to punch, Mike does sprinkle a few redeeming qualities to always leave a crack in the door. Everyone knows someone like this, or knew.

The human nature of second chances is put to the test: who opens that crack, and who slams it shut?

Ambitiously shot in several long take chapters, 'The Climb' has a down to earth, visceral quality which makes entry into the complicated and inviting Kyle and Mike dynamic an easy one.

And therein lies the films genuine genius as it is able to pack its story into such a concise runtime because of the way it uses organic dialogue to such great effect throughout.

As we jump through time between different vignettes, the screenplay explains what has happened in the last few years or however long with just a couple of words offhand from a character that feels entirely natural to the situation at hand.

There's no clunky exposition or drawn-out narration, but rather succinct and brilliantly organic dialogue that helps what could have been a regularly abrupt series of time shifts flow so nicely.

That structural flow is also helped by the movie's camerawork, which pulls the Birdman trick of using those aforementioned long, long, long takes where the camera flies around the characters for minutes on end without a single cut.

In closing, 'The Climb' is just that, the hill of life everyone struggles with, and sometimes, no matter how potentially destructive, friendship is all anyone craves. Oh, and a rather fetching soundtrack doesn't hurt either, of course. [JS] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Filmmaker Commentary
Original Short Film
Deleted & Alternate Scenes, and More!

'The Climb' us available on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray January 19th, 2021.

'The Village In The Woods'
(Beth Park, Therese Bradley, Richard Hope, et al / DVD / NR / (2018) 2021 / 4Digital Media)

Overview: Every village, every person, has a secret.

None more so than the inhabitants of this isolated, murky village whose fate relies on the luring of two unsuspecting pawns to satisfy their appetite and determine their being.

DVD Verdict: Having sat down and watched this last night, much like a lot of these low (oh-so low) budget B-movies with an acting/directorial heart, sure it's not perfect, but it's brilliant, and subtle '70s homages all buttoned up tight within the grip of a modern day chiller makes this a quite brilliantly suspenseful film!

Chock full of twists and turns galore, all of them beautifully daunting and expertly played out and shot, the slow burning, menacing threat that runs throughout this debut film from Writer/Director Raine McCormack is fantastically woven, and highly effective from the very off (which also has a LOT to do with Cinematographer Berndt Wiese and his keen eye on all-things spooky!)

The storyline is basic, but it honestly doesn't need to be anything more than it is to get us to this spooky village.

Stuart Whitman is great as an impatient movie director looking for a remote location to make an atmospheric horror movie. His impatience with his crew leads him to seek out the location himself and so he subsequently gets lost in the English countryside.

Eventually stumbling upon an (seemingly) abandoned ye olde village in the deep and mist-laden woods (unbeknownst to him ruled by Demons and Ghouls, who feast on dead corpses from the local graveyard and where the only sanctuary from them is the old church), he LOVES it and gathers the troops to shoot there!

Now, don't get me wrong as this is NOT a horror film, per say, moreover 'The Village In The Woods' is better akin to more recent high budget brain-taunting releases such as both 'Midsommar' and the excellent 'The Witch.'

A quite stunning combination of art house and thrill spill, all cloaked within the lovingly tender, albeit perhaps false, embrace of intentionally unanswered questions and decisions made that have you shaking your head, 'The Village In the Woods' leaves you wanting more come the final act, trust me. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Village In the Woods' is out on VOD, Digital and DVD on January 19th, 2021 via 4Digital Media.

'The El Duce Tapes (Special Edition)' [Blu-ray]
(El Duce, Gwar, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2019) 2021 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: In the early '90s, aspiring filmmaker (and General Hospital co-star) Ryan Sexton lugged a giant camcorder into some of the seediest clubs and the filthiest apartments in Hollywood.

There he filmed hour upon hour of VHS footage of the jaw-droppingly offensive Shock Rock band The Mentors, focusing on their infamous lead singer, El Duce.

30 years later, the team behind The Nightmare and Room 237 and the editor of Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist uncover this dusty stockpile of long forgotten and unseen footage.

They begin to piece together a picture of the man under the black executioner's hood and what his willfully offensive act and controversial views might tell us about 21st century America.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, 'The El Duce Tapes' is both a hard, shake of the head watch, whilst at the same time being something you simply cannot take your eyes off!

Of course, this film will only entertain a certain, and relatively small audience, one assumes, but their collective, and joyful appreciation for it will, without a shadow of a doubt, be heard around the world.

A collection of old VHS-taped footage filmed in 1990-91, 'The El Duce Tapes' center around lead singer for The Mentors, El Duce, but not always in a pleasant way, as you will quickly discover for yourselves.

Some will find what is revealed, aside from unnecessarily noisy, unappealing, invigorating, mind blowing, destructive, revealing, sad, appalling, poignant, and oh-so many other things!

Nothing much before now, some 30 years on and a new team have taken it under their wing and with the editor of Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist (David Lawrence) at the helm, they have dusted off this old, and unseen footage to allow it to finally breathe life.

The interviews are woven together nicely, the narrative on point throughout, and there's nothing hidden by anyone within frame, trust me.

Simply put, you get to witness the distressing to witness the dysfunctional, depression-laden and alcoholism-embraced fallout of the leader of one of the most unique early era punk-ish bands.

An incendiary, tragicomic documentary (midway between The Decline of Western Civilization and Crumb) which has been hailed as Essential Viewing by CineVue and called Dark and Irresistible by director John Carpenter, 'The El Duce Tapes' will chew you up, spit you out, and leave you floored! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Brand new audio commentary with 'The El Duce Tapes' crew
The Ryan Sexton Tapes 34-minute illustrated audio conversation between Ryan Sexton and producer Tim Kirk about the shooting of the original VHS footage
The Nilbog Tapes Video of the band recording the original score for the film
More El Duce Tapes A free-standing alternate assembly of unused material, sort of a sideways sequel
Tape 2: Hollywood Reservoir A piece of raw tape providing a peek behind the scenes of the process of shooting the footage and a candid document of El Duce and Ryan s rapport
El Duce Stories A humorous cut-up of a few of El Duce's famously long aimless stories into one completely incomprehensible and endless word salad
Return to Rape Rock Mountain A brand new interview with Steve Broy, aka Dr. Heathen Scum of The Mentors
Reality Check presents the all-female El Duce tribute band The Womentors
Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by John Pearson and reverse art by Benjamin Marra
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors booklet featuring new writing by Manish Agarwal

'The State Of Texas Vs. Melissa: Special Edition'
(Blu-ray / NR / (2020) 2021 / FilmRise)

Overview: Melissa Lucio was the first Hispanic woman sentenced to death in Texas. For ten years she has been awaiting her fate, and she now faces her last appeal.

Blu-ray Verdict: There’s an eeriness throughout 'The State of Texas vs. Melissa' that would make it seem as though Melissa Lucio had already been executed, despite the fact that she is the first person you meet in Sabrina van Tassel’s film chronicling her road to death row.

Relatives speak about Lucio in the past tense and both in her current disposition, speaking through a telephone behind glass, and the places she once was that the filmmaker retraces, all completely absent of other people, she appears to have been left behind the world at large - her only interaction with others being with her appellate lawyer Margaret Schmuckler since being convicted of murdering her prepubescent daughter Mariah 11 years earlier, if not for van Tassel’s visit.

Indeed, there may not be much hope for Lucio to avoid her sentence — 'The State of Texas v. Melissa' is unusual among contemporary advocacy docs in resisting making a legal crusade to get her out as its primary narrative thrust, as much as it disputes the case that was presented against her.

Instead, van Tassel creates a way for Lucio to leave a legacy regardless of whether she is successful with an appeal, pinpointing the flaws in the system that assured justice wouldn’t be served when so many turning points in her case were decided not by the facts of the case, but a presumption of guilt antithetical to the foundation of American law.

While Lucio may have all but disappeared behind bars, she had the right look for a quick conviction when she was taken in by Texas rangers in the border town of Harlingen as a poorly educated mother of 14.

Although she holds distinction as a rare woman to be sentenced to capital punishment, the film reveals that the local D.A. in Cameron County was hunting for such a case during an election year and police had brought him something relatively open and shut with Lucio confessing on tape not to the crime of murdering her daughter - after countless hours of questioning that ended at 3:15 in the morning, but to likely causing the head trauma that ended Mariah’s life.

The early morning interrogation, presented generously throughout 'The State of Texas vs. Melissa,' is sketchy enough in its particulars, but van Tassel builds a case that Lucio’s public defender had no interest in pursuing as just another file to get off his desk - interviewing Lucio’s kids who witnessed Mariah falling down some stairs the day before her death and her larger family, who describe the internal conflicts that could’ve led to the tragedy.

Like a trial, these witnesses aren’t presented as speaking to one another — and admirably van Tassel leaves the room to show how they all aren’t on the same page — but they come to form a picture that is far less damning of Lucio than how her confession was obtained, what crime she’d be tried for was determined and how the prosecution and defense in her case worked hand-in-hand out of convenience rather than in pursuit of the truth.

It may be Lucio who is thought to be lost at the start of the film, but by the end, it’s the sense that there can be fair trials in a country where political considerations and prejudices based on race and class so readily make their way into verdicts, no matter how impartial juries may present themselves, and 'The State of Texas vs. Melissa' proves there was criminal negligence, just not necessarily how you would think. [SS] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Interview with Director Sabrina Van Tassel
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer

'Mean Man: The Story Of Chris Holmes' [Blu-ray]
(Chris Holmes, Stet Howland, Johnny Rod, Scott Ian, Dizzy Reed, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2021 / Cleopatra Entertainment)

Overview: From iconic guitar player to construction worker, Chris Holmes has lived a life of highs and lows. After losing publishing rights of his own songs and dealing with addictions, the ex-W.A.S.P. member has had to start from scratch living in his mother in law's basement in Cannes, France.

He is now ready to take on Europe with his new band. As we follow him along, he meets many fans and proves that he still is the showman he was as a young and famous rockstar.

This musical journey draws parallel stories of the rise, fall and rebirth of Chris Holmes with archives, live performances, interviews and behind-the-scene footages.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, I knew nothing of Chris Holmes, but did indeed obviously know of W.A.S.P. from back in the day, so I went into this rockumentary with an open mind and willing to learn something rockin' facts.

Surprisingly, for me at least, this rockumentary is actually very interesting, even to the W.A.S.P. layman and reveals a man in Holmes that, to put it bluntly, has been through life's wringer and back, that's for damn sure!

Having had his unfair share of ups and downs, the former W.A.S.P. guitarist has managed to stick around, regardless of vodka binges and black out nights spent, well, shit, even he doesn't know where, and the story of his life and career is told with depth and love and conviction here in 'Mean Man: The Story Of Chris Holmes' from Cleopatra-Entertainment.

I'm sure you know what to expect from it, but it delivers on all those fronts and even adds a genuine heartbeat of care, from the viewer to the screen, thread throughout too.

Tackling his past history as well as his current state of mind and well-being, in the present tense, the rockumentary follows Holmes during 2015-16 while on tour in support of his second album, the aptly entitled Shitting Bricks.

Watching old footage along with seeing endless amounts of old photos of the wee skinny-assed 19 y/o guitarist before W.A.S.P. was even thought up, the film includes its fair share of interviews - with former bandmates, longtime friends and other people that were around during Holmes’ life. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Theatrical Trailer
Image Slideshow
Bonus Footage

'Deep in Vogue: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Blu-ray / NR / 2021 / FilmRise)

Overview: 'Deep in Vogue' celebrates the colorful, queer, emotional and political stories of Northern Vogue and its people.

Blu-ray Verdict: 'Deep in Vogue' explores the dancers behind the renewed popularity of the dance scene in England. Brought to the mainstream to many by Madonna’s 1990 hit of the same name, voguing dates back to the 1960s.

Today in Northern England, dancers have formed Houses that are as much about providing support as they are about having fun.

The documentary starts with interviews from members of the Houses. This provides a quick history that explains how voguing came to England.

There is also an explanation about how the Houses came to be. (Four Houses are featured: The House of Suarez, The House of Decay, The House of Cards, and The House of Ghetto.)

'Deep in Vogue' also deals with the prejudice faced by people. This includes racism, LGBTQ issues, and ideas of masculinity. These are personal tales told by a likable cast.

There is also talk about the lack of safe places and internal conflicts. The short length of the documentary prevents some of these stories from going as deep as they should, however.

This may be an intentional decision by the filmmakers. Deep in Vogue is filled with a sense of independence and fun. The stories being told may be more of an ends to a mean.

Issues are addressed, but nothing prevents anyone in the film from living their lives. The film does a great job of trying to take power away from ignorance without downplaying the severity of any issues.

'Deep in Vogue' does this by showing the passion of the dancers. These candid interviews provide insight into what has happened and how it changed their lives.

Still, there is a theatricality and color makes for a fun documentary. Nowadays, it can be hard to find a film that celebrates life and creativity.

'Deep in Vogue' looks at the vogue dance halls of Northern England. While it does deal with their struggles, there is also a sense of joy to the whole thing. [NM] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Director's Commentary
Additional Scenes

'The Mary Millington Movie Collection' [Blu-ray]
(Mary Millington, et al / 5-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2021 / Screenbound Entertainment - MVD Visual)

Overview: This is a Special Collector's Edition (numbered and limited to 3,000) and is the very first 5-Disc Blu-ray release that features: 'Come Play With Me,' 'The Playbirds' and 'Confessions From the David Galaxy Affair.'

The special packaging means these 5-Discs (which also include brand new extras, including short films/docs, audio commentary and more) are bound within a rigid slipcase and there's even an 80-page booklet entitled, "The Mary Millington Collection Book" by Simon Sheridan.

Blu-ray Verdict: Released to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Mary Millington's death(by British label Screenbound Pictures), this special edition Blu-ray box-set opens with 'Come Play with Me' (1977).

For reasons totally unknown to me and to everyone else who has ever reviewed this film down the years, one imagines, 'Come Play With Me' was a MASSIVE box office hit in the UK, breaking records to become the longest running film to ever grace a UK cinema screen (it also ran in cinemas for an incredible four years!)

The plot is as follows - two forgers go on the run from a bunch of crooks and hide out in a health farm. From there the plot expands to include a government official on their trail, along with the crooks, a health farm where there are virtually no staff, and a bunch of young women turning up on a coach to run said health farm.

Lots of familiar faces from the period show up in this film, including Alfie Bass, Ronald Fraser, Henry McGee, Bob Todd, Ken Parry and many others.

For none of these people is the movie their finest hour, but they are all fun to watch and the film is kept moving along nicely. And yes, it was the movie that introduced us to Mary Millington, who, along with 20 other "naughty nurses" brought everything she could to her role!

Next up is 'The Playbirds' (1978) where the cover girls of a famous sex magazine are murdered one-by-one and the easily baffled British police can only think of one solution: To send one of their own in undercover!

I won't name the killer, of course, but I can tell you that the suspects make a rather colorful line-up. Which also provides an excuse for some varied location scenes, ranging from Speakers' Corner through Newmarket racecourse to a forest where some rather extreme witchcraft rituals look like getting out of hand!

Funniest is the moment when the baffled detectives think it's time to send in an undercover female cop to charm the publisher into giving her a centerfold, so they have to start by holding auditions at Scotland Yard.

Millington carries no conviction whatever as a police officer, but she certainly makes one heck of a stripper, and should have exploited the surprisingly common policewoman fetish with plenty of slow peeling-off of the dark blue livery of the law!

Then we get the 'Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair' (1979) where Playboy David Galaxy is a suspect in a robbery case and needs an alibi, and the only credible witness to his innocence won't help. Oh, and he also has to prove his mettle with "the only woman in the world who's never had an orgasm"!

Sadly, I have to report, and even in this new 2K restoration, this movie is a quite dreadful addition to the kitchen sink sexploitation movie genre that Britain was well known for in the '70s.

It's particularly bad due to the central casting of the ultra-sleazy Alan Lake as some kind of super stud who has his way with pretty much every woman in the movie.

Lake is a truly repulsive character here and you wonder just what the casting director was smoking. The film is generally unappealing and unerotic, with an odd sense of humor that doesn't translate well for the viewer.

I mean, who thought the scene of Lake farting in bed was funny? The pseudo-crime storyline is particularly moronic and unending and character actors like Tony Booth and Diana Dors seem faintly desperate by appearing, in truth.

The one thing this film has going for it is a good supply of attractive women, Millington among them, and of course they do disrobe regularly, but it's hardly a proper movie and these actresses deserved better.

Next we get 'Queen of the Blues' (1979) where seedy striptease club in London's West End becomes the target for unpleasant crooks. The club's owners are blackmailed into paying out large wads of cash, but star attraction Mary Millington saves the day with her energetic stripping.

Sadly, 'Queen of Blues' was the last film Millington appeared in before she is reported to have committed suicide, citing worries about going to jail, tax issues and police harassment. She also ran her own sex shop in London where she would also serve her fans and customers personally.

As for the movie's storyline, well, the club has been bought by two brothers, on the proceeds of an unexpectedly generous gift of cash from their uncle, of whose business affairs they know nothing.

But where's there's brass, there's muck, and the brothers soon get the offer they (supposedly) can't refuse from Mr. Nice and Mr. Nasty, played by the laddish Felix Bowness and the murderous Milton Reid.

The brothers are very poorly cast, especially the leader, played by the wimpish John East whose attempts to intimidate the gangsters are pathetically unconvincing.

He is almost as bad trying to impersonate Max Miller during the intervals, actually wearing one of the great man's suits. Incredibly, the two men had been close friends.

The elbow game is looking like a walkover by the mob until the surprise ending, which I won't obviously divulge, but which reveals how the uncle made his fortune and such.

Then we get 'Mary Millington's True Blue Confessions' (1980). For me, the life and early death of Mary Millington remains one of the saddest episodes of British cinema history.

A woman whose sexual honesty and openness was abused by business men who viewed her as little more than a cash cow.

This "tribute" has to be watched with open mouth as producer Sullivan uses it to make a quick killing and preach his own self-serving propaganda over someone else's grave.

Sex, death and politics don't really go side-by-side. We even have Marie Harper pretending to be Millington in her coffin!

Strangely the Millington story is an interesting one with rumors (let us be respectful of the dead) of cocaine running, high ranking prostitution, tax avoidance and hardcore pornography peddling (very illegal in the UK at the time.)

There was even a Channel 4 UK documentary 20 years after her death which used some of the very same footage.

Those wanting a sex film will be disappointed. Those that want to know more about the private life of Millington will be disappointed (they don't even tell us she was married).

Those that enjoy pornographers whining about their experiences and how they are shinning knights who operate at the cutting edge of media freedom will enjoy it though.

Lastly we get 'Respectable: The Mary Millington Story' (2015), an in-depth documentary chronicling her extraordinary life. According to this documentary, in her own sex shop that was aforementioned above, she would also sell under the counter materials which gained her the attention of the police resulting in raids.

However, she was a libertarian and campaigned to make adult materials available at a time when the UK had the most draconian laws in Europe.

Ergo, this eminently watchable documentary (so much more so than the one above) of the late, great Mary Millington, the porn star and glamour model who became a household name in 1970's Britain, is as full, as enriched and, at times, as sad as it needs to be.

The title actually comes from her quote: "I was born respectable, but I soon decided I wasn't going to let that spoil my life".

Through clips of Mary, including brief glimpses of her hard core loops, which seem playful, even innocent today, as well as interviews with family members, lovers, friends and colleagues, a fascinating story emerges.

Though it was to end in tragedy, there's lots of fun along the way, not least when Dudley Sutton amusingly disses and dismisses Mary's arch enemy, self-appointed Filth-Fighter General, Mrs Whitehouse.

Mary married Bob Maxted when she was eighteen, and he remained her husband to the end of her life, though it was an open marriage from early on.

The '60s and '70s were a time when the last vestiges of Victorian morality were breaking down, with their replacement by modern day taboos some way off.

Stories of suburban swinging and the legendary 'wife swapping' parties were rife, TV programs with sex scenes and partial nudity abounded, and for a time, newsagents and corner shops up and down the land were festooned with scores of different soft core sex magazines to an extent unimaginable today.

Indeed, some of these were becoming increasingly explicit, particularly those owned by David Sullivan, and it was these that brought Mary her fame. These are all Brand New 2K Restorations from Full Screen Presentations (1.66:1 - 1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

NEW! 'The Playbirds' audio commentary by biographer Simon Sheridan and director Willy Roe
NEW! 'Queen of the Blues' audio commentary by biographer Simon Sheridan and actor Allan Warren
NEW! 'Mary Millington's True Blue Confessions' audio commentary by biographer Simon Sheridan and executive producer David Sullivan
NEW! 'Ten Million Dirty Words' - a brand new featurette about Harry Knights, the Nottingham-based porn writer who helped create Mary's image
'Confessions of a Pixie' - an interview with Josie Harrison Marks, the daughter of 'Come Play With Me's director George Harrison Marks
'Mary on Location - Then and Now' travelogue revisiting the main locations in Mary's life and films
Respectable: The Mary Millington Story - audio commentary by director Simon Sheridan and the BFI's Sam Dunn
8mmillington - compilation of the 'tamer' sequences from Mary's hardcore 8mm films
Short Films:
Response - 8mm softcore short film (1974)
Wild Lovers - 8mm softcore short film (1974)
Party Pieces - 8mm softcore short film (1974)
Sex Is My Business - 8mm softcore short film (1975)
Mary Millington's World Striptease Extravaganza (1981)
'Come Play with Me- - original 1977 trailer

'Let Him Go'
(Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Lesley Manville, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / NR / 2021 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: Following the loss of their son, retired sheriff George Blackledge (Kevin Costner) and his wife Margaret (Diane Lane) leave their Montana ranch to rescue their young grandson from a dangerous family living off the grid.

They soon discover that the Weboy family has no intention of letting the child go, forcing George and Margaret to fight for their family.

Blu-ray Verdict: 'Let Him Go' is Thomas Bezucha's captivating and heartbreaking family drama that is skillfully executed and is based on Larry Walson's 2013 bestselling novel.

It tells the story of a retired veteran Montana sheriff George Backledge, and his wife Margaret, magnificently played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane in two sensational Oscar worthy performances, who's beloved son is killed in a freak horse riding accident; leaving behind his young wife Lorna, superbly played by Kayli Carter, and baby son Jimmy.

Lorna soon remarries an abusive man named Donnie Weboy, well-played by Will Brittain, who is viewed by George and Margaret as suspicious. Even more so when he, Lorna and Jimmy move into town away from George's farm.

Concern presents itself when one day when Margaret witnesses Lorna and Jimmy being physically abused by Donnie and then without any word he relocates them to North Dakota to live with his twisted mother Blanche, chillingly played by Lesley Manville in a brilliant scene-stealing performance (let alone the rest of her psychotic family!)

Margaret persuades George to go after them for the sake of their young grandson Jimmy, but when they get to North Dakota it soon turns into a very disturbing and dangerous encounter with the Weboy clan that will have some tragic consequences for both sides.

Chock full of rather astute direction by Bezucha, with absolutely stunning cinematography by Guy Godfree, and a wonderful score by Michael Giacchino, it also features some exceptional supporting performances by Booboo Stewart, Jeffrey Donovan, Ryan Bruce, Adam Stafford, Bradley Stryker, and Greg Lawson.

To say that 'Let Him Go' is one of 2020's finest films is an understatement as if you are a self-proclaimed lover of all-things wondrously cinematic, you simply need to have this new BR in your collection, trust me. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

The Making of Let Him Go
The Blackledges: Kevin Costner & Diane Lane
Lighting the Way: Thomas Bezucha

'Let Him Go' [Blu-Ray+DVD+Digital] will be available February 2nd, 2021 via Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Let Him Go Discussion with Matthew McConaughey & Diane Lane

Amazon Purchase Link

'Ammonite' [Blu-Ray]
(Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Shaw, Gemma Jones, James McArdle, et al / Blu-ray / R / 2021 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: In 1800s England, acclaimed but unrecognized fossil hunter Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) works alone on the rugged Southern coastline.

With the days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now searches for common fossils to sell to tourists to support herself and her ailing mother. When a wealthy visitor entrusts Mary with the care of his wife Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), she cannot afford to turn his offer down.

Proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, Mary initially clashes with her unwelcome guest, but despite the distance between their social class and personalities, an intense bond begins to develop, compelling the two women to determine the true nature of their relationship.

Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the know, the protagonist here is a real-life figure, although not exactly historic. In her field, however, she had made ample contribution which, alas, were not even credited to her own name, in the male-dominated era she was born into.

Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) was a paleontologist in England in the 1840s. A deprived childhood in abject poverty molded her into something as hard as the fossils she gathers at the rugged Dorset seashore, a passion and a livelihood. She shares her life with just her mother, but only in the sense than they live under the same roof.

Honestly, I cannot think of any actor who can best Winslet in portraying the bottled up resentment and resignation. Winslet accomplished this with an unsmiling, taciturn face that is subtly eloquent.

Additionally, there's a half-nude shot of her back which shows the hardened, developed muscles from climbing and digging - where Winslet must have worked physically hard on, or, perhaps, it is simply just superb make-up.

When a fellow scientist pays her a friendly, albeit unexpected, visit, her cold handshake signals rejection rather than welcome.

But it is this man's wife that changes Anning's life forever. Delicately beautiful and vulnerably fragile, Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan) is described by her husband as one suffering from "mild melancholia".

Without saying in so many words, he leaves a clear impression that she is something of a burden. A rich man, he can afford to pay Mary to look after his wife while he has important business to do all over Europe. While Mary does not particularly need a burden either, the money is handy.

The rest of the film, depicting the development of the relationship between these two women, is a joy to behold. Trying to describe the mesmerizing performance of these two actors would ruin the enjoyment of the film.

Very little is known about the private life of Anning. Therefore, director/writer Francis Lee had a free hand in showing his artistic creativity, which he accomplished brilliantly.

The narrative is opening-ended, in a wordless scene showing the two protagonists gazing at each other across the glass display case in a museum, with their hitherto persona somewhat reversed.

Just that one shot will stay with you for a long time, let alone the entire film.

In closing, and in summary, 'Ammonite' is a quiet, contemplative drama that consistently engaging and often affecting. Francis Lee crafts a poetic film that impresses with its poignant storytelling, stunning cinematography, and incredible performances delivered by the titanic talents of Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan at the forefront. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

The Making of Ammonite

In this Special Feature, stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan join filmmakers to discuss how they were able to convey the extraordinary depth of the film’s two main characters, Mary Anning and Charlotte Murchison.

'Ammonite' [Blu-Ray] arrives on Digital, Blu-ray™, DVD and On Demand January 12th, 2021 from NEON and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

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