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'The Specials: 20th Anniversary Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Thomas Haden Church, Rob Lowe, Jamie Kennedy, Paget Brewster, Judy Greer, et al / Blu-ray / R / (2000) 2019 / La-La Land Entertainment)

Overview: La-La Land Entertainment will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Craig Mazin's film 'The Specials' (2000) with a brand new limited edition release, available for purchase on July 14th, 2020.

The sixth (or seventh) best superhero team in the world pursue their rightful place in the harshly competitive world of toy tie-ins and fighting evil!

Blu-ray Verdict: Bringing it to you from the off, this very special 20th Anniversary limited edition Blu-ray of the highly under-rated 'The Specials' also marks the film's world premiere release in high-definition.

Featuring a brand new 2K scan and restoration from the film's interpositive, with lossless 5.1 and 2.0 audio for the first time, new and vintage bonus features, and all-new front cover art by artist Paul Shipper, 'The Specials: 20th Anniversary Edition' [Blu-ray] is, quite easily, one of the best Blu-ray's to have landed here for review in a long, oh-so long time!

The foundation to this, at-times laugh out loud comedy, at others a dramedy with comedic underlay, is that at their modest suburban headquarters, The Strobe (Thomas Haden Church), The Weevil (Rob Lowe), foul-mouthed Amok (Jamie Kennedy), Ms. Indestructible (Paget Brewster, Deadly Girl (Judy Greer), new member Nightbird (Jordan Ladd) and the rest all spend their time bickering, having extramarital affairs, and preparing for the grand unveiling of their own action figure line!

But when a furious Strobe suddenly disbands the group, who will be there for the oddballs, rebels, outcasts and geeks? Even more worryingly, before they save the world, can they save themselves?

Also featuring Kelly Coffield (In Living Color), Michael Weatherly (Dark Angel), Chase Masterson (Deep Space Nine) and a blink and you'll miss it cameo from Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina), this hilarious, and now deservedly cult hit from director Craig Mazin (creator of HBO's Chernobyl) and screenwriter James Gunn (Writer/Director of Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2), is a low-budget variant on Ben Stiller's 'Mystery Men' (that came out the year before this), albeit with a script that's about four times as good!

A film about superheroes that, thanks to an obviously small budget, features little to no special effects, and weirdly no scenes where the Specials demonstrate their powers (until the very end, of course), what we do get is a smartly written work that incorporates some fascinating characters.

Legendary director James Gunn (who also plays Minute Man), made every attempt to create believable human beings, "cursed" with superpowers that even they have yet to fully understand or barely harness.

Running at a highly entertaining 82 minutes, sure there are multiple layers of shallow parodies of comic book entries from down the years, but the interspersed gags along with an honest-to-God group breakdown that will have you begging for them to come back together (for the sake of the plot, let alone the world!), means that 'The Specials' still connects with us today.

I mean, simply put, 'The Specials' isn't really about superheroes being superheroes, but superheroes being real people. The fact that the superheroes take everything so seriously is the source of a lot of the movie's humor, of course.

But, and as aforementioned, the humor is so subtle, yet so obvious, that it doesn't have to always end in belly laughs to be funny. For me, well, it was hard at times to keep a straight face when Thomas Haden Church was acting as even in his serious moments, well, suffice to say he can crack you up with just an expressive look or grunt!

It even looks like all the actors had a blast making this movie and furthermore, Director Craig Mazin maintains a constant snappy pace throughout, whilst doing an expert job of creating a dry, yet infectiously zany tone.

In closing, the funky, catchy soundtrack, Brian Langsbard's stirring score, and Eliot Rockett's polished cinematography are all likewise up to speed, but what really makes this movie so funny and enjoyable are the spirited and engaging performances from the uniformly excellent cast.

FYI: During the end credits we see an "In Memory: 1970-1993" reference and picture of Mr. Stretch, an original member of the Specials that we are told died of mouth cancer in one of the interview segments! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the copious amount of Special Features such as:

NEW 2K REMASTER OF THE FILM from an interpositive
Theatrical Trailer
Moro's Magic: The 'Specials' effects - Featurette
Audio Commentary with Director Craig Mazin, Writer/Actor James Gunn, Producer Mark A. Altman and Visual Effects Supervisor Mojo recorded in 2000
Audio Commentary with Writer/Actor James Gunn and Actress Paget Brewster recorded in 2005
Deleted Scenes
Wedding Video
Toy Commercial
Behind the Scenes Photos

'The Specials: 20th Anniversary Edition' [Blu-ray] is out July 14th, 2020 via La-La Land Entertainment.

20th Anniversary Blu-ray Red Band Blu-ray Trailer

'Legion of Super Heroes: The Complete Series'
(Michael Cornacchia, Adam Wylie, Kari Wahlgren, Andy Milder, Yuri Lowenthal, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray / NR / (2006-2008) 2020 / Warner Archive Collection)

Overview: One thousand years from now the legendary Man of Steel inspires a group of emerging young heroes from the 31st century to band together and defend the newly formed United Planets.

That is, if they don't kill each other first!

Blu-ray Verdict: Taking it from the top, 'Legion of Super Heroes' was originally developed because of Cartoon Network's desire to have a Superman-centric series to coincide with the movie 'Superman Returns' (2006) and Superman as part of the Legion worked for them.

When Cartoon Network passed on the show, Kids WB! stepped in and they, too, wanted a Superman-centric series with Superman fresh out of Smallville, learning to be Superman.

Add to that the early promotional literature noted that Clark Kent would be called Superboy, as in the comics, and I assume that you also felt that shiver go down your spine!

However, a court ruling awarding copyright to that specific character to creator Jerry Siegel's family and thus prompted Warner Brothers to change the premise by having Clark's superhero identity be simply a young Superman.

All that aside, and with both the cancellation of the 'Teen Titans' (developed by Glen Murakami and Sam Register) and then the reveal of the not-so-great (on oh-so many levels) direct-to-video animated film 'Superman: Brainiac Attacks' reigning down in 2006, I was personally fearing for the future of intelligently-written and superbly-drawn DC superhero cartoons.

But then, and with a bulk of Legion's animation having been done at Korea's Dong Woo and Lotto studios (which, founded in 1991, has produced many wonderous animated series and films), something different came along.

Whereas 'Teen Titans' had both its very dark story lines (come on, at times it did, you know it did) and its uber-comedic moments (which we all loved, even to this day still quoting), 'Legion of Super Heroes' stuck to a more straight-forward, rigidly classic superhero feel.

Throw into this whole scenario of wicked excellent, and at all times uber colorful nostalgia, a bunch of Easter Eggs and homages for fans of all things DC (especially Superman, but no, I will not reveal them here for you), the team's aim was to, simply put, save the world (or rather, the galaxy) at all costs.

In Season One, Legionnaires Bouncing Boy (Michael Cornacchia), Brainiac 5 (Adam Wylie), Saturn Girl (Kari Wahlgren) and Lightning Lad (Andy Milder) travel back in time to convince an awkward teen named Clark Kent (Yuri Lowenthal) to join their Legion of Super Heroes and battle their arch nemeses, the Fatal Five.

The insecure teen is, in turn, inspired by his new friends and, with their help, begins his journey to become the galaxy's greatest hero.

Catching up two years later, Season Two presents Superman and the Legion with an even greater challenge: Kell-El, the Superman of the 41st century!

Originally titled, 'Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes' (as aforementioned above), what we have here is a very rich girl named A-LEX-is, who has a special interest in Superman, and later gets all her hair burnt off (but settle down, it's not permanent!)

Any guesses who she turns out to become, perhaps? No? Seriously! OK then, moving right along and we also come across a being called Drax, who escapes from the Phantom Zone, and then pulls out some unexplained weakness of Clark's (a green rock of some kind!) - oh, and who answers to some supreme being that appears to want out of the Phantom Zone!

The animation is highly stylized, though not distracting, and the themes are surprisingly deep for a children's cartoon - but, believe me, this is a very good thing!

That doesn't mean it's violent, though. While the characters get knocked around fairly often (I mean, this is a super hero show, after all), there's no more violence than one could expect from any other rated show of this ilk.

The characters are very realistic and not only do they speak like real people, but they're constantly growing, changing, and capable of error.

OK, I said I wouldn't reveal any of the Easter Eggs, but I will let this slip, as I think it's just so damn brilliant! As we know, 'Legion of Super Heroes' also gives some nods to the comic books and Superman mythos, in general.

For example, in a bout of insanity, Brainy exclaims, "Red ants! Red ants! Superman shouldn't play with red ants" (which I'm sure all Superman junkies will understand immediately), so it's enjoyable for kids and comic book fans alike.

Unfortunately, and wrongly in my book, it was cancelled after season two and some 26 episodes, and even though I don't think I would have personally taken Brainiac 5 the route they did re: being a "transformer" who may, or may not be an upgrade of the original Braniac, the psychic rings of Saturn emanating latitudinally from Imra's head is a quite brilliant visual (even for animation levels back some 14 years ago!). This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

We Are Legion (9:05) - This 2007 promotional featurette was originally included on Warner Bros.' Legion of Super Heroes Volume 1 DVD collection.

Commentary on Series Finale: Dark Victory, Parts 1 and 2 - This exclusive new commentary track features producer James Tucker, director Brandon Vietti, and voice actor Kari Wahlgren (Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet), and is moderated by the Warner Archive Podcast team of D.W. Ferranti and Matt Patterson.

Warner Archive Collection continues its proud tradition of distributing the best of Warner Bros. Animation’s robust library of DC-based productions with the release of 'Legion of Superheroes: The Complete Series' on Blu-rayTM starting July 14th, 2020.

Official Purchase Link

'The Berenstain Bears: Bear Family Vacation'
(2-Disc DVD / G / 2020 / PBS Kids)

Overview: It's time to hit the road with the Bear Family!

First, the family arrives at a mountain cabin. Although Papa promises the best vacation ever, things don't go according to plan!

Then, the family heads to an amusement park where brother boasts to his friends that he can ride the thunderbolt rollercoaster.

Plus, the family tours Bear Country's National Parks, hosts a family reunion and more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the main episode, 'Too Much Vacation,' the family getaway is a disaster: the cabin's roof leaks, the lake is muddy, and the mosquitoes are ravenous.

But when the bears return home and develop their snapshots, they laugh and laugh, fully enjoying the worst vacation they've ever had!

So yeah, The Berenstain Bears learn yet another important in this installment of their series: there's no place like home. Many things go wrong on their trip, but they happily laugh at photos of it once they returned to the safety of their home.

In closing, here in 'The Berenstain Bears: Bear Family Vacation' we get a wonderful 80 minutes of tales encompassing six (6) singular episodes: Too Much Vacation - Visit Fun Park - The Haunted Lighthouse - By the Sea - Car Trip - Family Get-Together. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Experience: George W. Bush'
(2-Disc DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: In this two-part, four-hour look at the life and presidency of George W. Bush, follow his unorthodox road to the presidency through the contested election of 2000, when a Supreme Court ruling resulted in his becoming the 43rd President.

The film chronicles the tumultuous events, domestically and internationally, that dominated Bush's eight years in office.

DVD Verdict: The latest in AMERICAN EXPERIENCE's award-winning series of presidential biographies, 'American Experience: George W. Bush' offers a dutiful look at the 43rd president, spread over four hours and two discs.

Perhaps inevitably, though, the omissions feel more significant than some of the material that's covered, and the steadfast focus on his presidency fails to shed much light on the man himself.

As aforementioned, 'American Experience: George W. Bush' chronicles the tumultuous events, domestically and internationally, that dominated Bush's eight years in office - including the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the subsequent war in Iraq, the search for weapons of mass destruction, Hurricane Katrina, and the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.

But, and again, as aforementioned, most of the biographical information sheds relatively little light on Bush as a person, other than the fairly well-worn questions about his relationship with his father, having "felt overlooked and underappreciated" when George H.W. Bush was elected president and the focus on the next bearer of the family name with serious political aspirations shifted to brother Jeb.

Similarly, when Bush won a second term - a form of vindication after the divisive, controversial outcome of the 2000 election - the narration notes that he "took a journey from the White House to the Capitol that his father had been denied."

One of the stand out moments for me, in retrospect, working with his senior staff, President George W. Bush reviews the speech that he will deliver to the nation the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 11th, 2001, from the Oval Office. Moving is an understatement.

In closing, for anyone who followed the reporting about the Iraq war, most of 'American Experience: George W. Bush' plays mostly like a rehash, despite interviews with many key figures who worked in the Bush administration, including chiefs of staff Andy Card and Joshua Bolten, press secretary Ari Fleischer, Rove and others.

The biggest disappointment, however, is that 'American Experience: George W. Bush' pays virtually no attention to the 11 years since Bush left office.

Bush has, in fact, scrupulously maintained a low profile - making his participation in "The Call to Unite" event this last weekend, and the tweet griping about him by President Trump, more noteworthy.

Indeed, there has been some debate about Bush's legacy in the broader context of the Obama and Trump presidencies, a potentially fertile area that goes unexplored. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Experience: Mr. Tornado'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Meteorologist Tetsuya Theodore "Ted" Fujita spent ten months studying The Super Outbreak of 1974, which was the most intense tornado outbreak on record.

'Mr. Tornado' is the remarkable story of the man whose groundbreaking work in research and applied science saved thousands of lives and helped Americans prepare for and respond to dangerous weather phenomena.

DVD Verdict: The Super Outbreak of 1974 was the most intense tornado outbreak on record, tearing a vicious path of destruction across thirteen states, generating 148 tornadoes from Alabama to Ontario, damaging thousands of homes, and killing more than 300 people.

Meteorologist Tetsuya Theodore "Ted" Fujita spent ten months studying the outbreak's aftermath in the most extensive aerial tornado study ever conducted, and through detailed mapping and leaps of scientific imagination, made a series of meteorological breakthroughs.

In one of the most interesting documentaries I have seen in the past decade (or more), we eagerly watch along and learn that Fujita's discovery of "microbursts," sudden high wind patterns that could cause airplanes to drop from the sky without warning, transformed aviation safety and saved untold numbers of lives.

While many meteorologists today rely upon computers to do their analyses, Fujita preferred to do his own, according to Chicago meteorologist Duane Stiegler. “He used to say that the computer doesn’t understand these things,” said Stiegler, who worked closely with Fujita from 1977 until the latter’s death.

In the 1950s, Fujita began conducting pioneering research in the field of mesometeorology, the study of middle-sized, atmospheric phenomena such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

By the end of his career, he had received nearly $12 million in grants from agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research.

Fujita made the first color movie of planet Earth in 1967, a technique now widely used on television weather reports. Fujita made the movie using 34 color pictures taken at 30-minute intervals from the ATS-III satellite whose orbit provided a stationary view of the Earth.

The satellite was equipped with a camera stable enough to accurately determine cloud motion relative to the Earth’s rotating surface.

“After devising the Fujita Tornado Scale with his wife Sumiko in 1971, he became known as ‘Mr. Tornado,’” Partacz said. Fujita’s six-point F-scale ranges from F0, winds of 40 to 72 miles an hour and minor damage, to F5, winds of 261 to 319 miles an hour and massive destruction.

“His investigation of the Eastern Airlines Flight 66 aircraft accident in 1975 at New York’s JFK Airport led him to discover the killer winds he called microbursts,” Partacz said.

“This important discovery helped to prevent microburst accidents that previously had killed more than 500 airline passengers at major U.S. airports.”

The starburst patterns of uprooted trees found in forests following tornadoes led Fujita to his theory of microburst winds. He had seen similar patterns years before — when he had visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima just weeks after the atomic bombs were dropped to observe shock-wave effects on trees and structures in the devastated areas.

The theory stirred controversy for years. Many meteorologists found it difficult to believe in the concept of a microburst, a small-sized downdraft that could induce an outburst of 150-mile-an-hour winds on or near the ground.

But Fujita continued to collect data in critical field experiments with imaginative acronyms: NIMROD (Northern Illinois Meteorological Research on Downburst in Chicago’s western suburbs, including O’Hare Airport, 1978-79), JAWS (Joint Airport Weather Studies, Denver, 1982-86), and MIST (Microburst and Severe Thunderstorm project, Huntsville, Ala., 1986-88).

Fujita’s data eventually led to the widespread acceptance of the microburst concept and to the installation of Doppler radar at airports to improve aviation safety. Learn more about this amazing man in the just-released 'American Experience: Mr. Tornado,' out now on PBS DVD. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Man Who Tried To Feed The World'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: 'The Man Who Tried to Feed the World' recounts the story of Norman Borlaug, a man who not only solved India's famine problem but would go on to lead a "Green Revolution" of worldwide agriculture programs estimated to have saved one billion lives.

He was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his work but spent the rest of his life watching his methods and achievements come under increasing fire.

DVD Verdict: In 1966, drought and an exploding population confronted India with the imminent threat of a severe famine that many scientists and intellectuals feared was a harbinger of global catastrophes to come, as the world's population outstripped its ability to produce food.

India turned to Norman Borlaug, an unassuming plant breeder from Iowa whose combination of scientific knowledge and raw determination had made him a legend among a small handful of fellow specialists.

'American Experience: The Man Who Tried To Feed The World' informs us that Dr. Borlaug, a central figure in the “green revolution”, was born on a farm near Cresco, Iowa, to Henry and Clara Borlaug.

For nearly three decades, he collaborated with Mexican scientists on problems of wheat improvement; for the last ten or so of those years he had also collaborated with scientists from other parts of the world, especially from India and Pakistan, in adapting the new wheats to new lands and in gaining acceptance for their production.

An eclectic, pragmatic, goal-oriented scientist, we learn that he accepted and discarded methods or results in a constant search for more fruitful and effective ones, while at the same time avoiding the pursuit of what he calls “academic butterflies”.

He spent countless hours hunched over in the blazing Mexican sun as he manipulated tiny wheat blossoms to cross different strains. To speed the work, he set up winter and summer operations in far-flung parts of Mexico, logging thousands of miles over poor roads.

He also battled illness, forded rivers in flood, dodged mudslides and sometimes slept in tents.

He was by then a trained scientist holding a doctoral degree in plant diseases. But as he sought to coax better performance from the wheats of Mexico, he relied on a farm boy’s instinctive feel for the plants and the soil in which they grew.

Even around the time of his passing in 2009, Dr. Borlaug was participating in extensive experimentation with triticale, a man-made species of grain derived from a cross between wheat rye that shows promise of being superior to either wheat or rye in productivity and nutritional quality.

Learn much more about this incredible man in the just-released 'American Experience: The Man Who Tried To Feed The World,' out now on DVD from PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Somewhere South, Season 1'
(Chef Vivian Howard / 2-Disc DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Chef Vivian Howard explores cross-cultural dishes through the professional and personal relationships she has with southerners of many backgrounds.

Each episode of Somewhere South explores the connectivity of a single dish, and the ways people of different backgrounds interpret that dish while expressing the complex values, identities, and histories that make up the American South.

DVD Verdict: In six one-hour episodes, chef and author Vivian Howard digs deeper into the lesser known roots of Southern food, Southern cooking, and Southern living.

Her curiosity has made her beloved by the millions of people who watched her grow into an award-winning television host, bestselling author, and celebrated chef over five seasons of A Chef's Life.

With 'Somewhere South', Howard serves as both student and guide, exploring cross-cultural dishes through the professional and personal relationships she has with southerners of many backgrounds.

Each episode of Somewhere South explores the connectivity of a single dish, and the ways people of different backgrounds interpret that dish while expressing the complex values, identities, and histories that make up the American South.

'Somewhere South' lets viewers meet their neighbors while exploring the foods that bind and define the American South - one dish at a time.

In the first episode, American as Hand Pie, Howard's first stop is to the North Carolina company whose version of the sweet treat fed thousands of mill workers and now lines the shelves of convenience stores and gas stations across the Southeast.

That hand pie lesson prompts a trip to West Virginia’s coal mining country, which offers a taste of their signature pepperoni rolls made by Italian immigrants who used what they had to create what became an ubiquitous treat inside coal miners’ lunch pails.

In another episode, Dumpling Dilemma, while cooking a charity dinner with Southern-Korean chefs, Howard spins out her version of French gnocchi to be served alongside Asian dumplings descended from the Chinese royal court tradition.

During their discussion, the chefs realize that while they all understand what a dumpling is, they can’t actually define it. On her quest to figure out that conundrum, Vivian quickly learns that no one culture can define a dumpling.

So she heads to Mississippi to visit with longtime Chinese communities in the Delta for a complicated history lesson over dim sum.

In another great episode, How Do You ‘Cue?, Southerners are particular about the way they cook and eat barbecue. No dish says eastern North Carolina more than the region’s signature whole hog barbecue; however, the art of cooking meat over fire and smoke is one shared by all cultures.

On a tour of eastern North Carolina barbecue joints, Vivian is reminded of traditions that define the area’s version of pork barbecue while being introduced to new techniques.

Flipping what she already knows about ‘cue, Howard sets out to uncover buried barbecue histories and to learn about the unexpected ways that different types of meat are smoked, pit-cooked, wood-fired and eaten.

Learn much more about this delightful Chef and her tasty trips (with the other episodes being: Porridge For The Soul, What A Pickle and It's A Greens Thing) in the just-released 'Somewhere South, Season 1' out now on DVD from PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Titans Of The 20th Century'
(2-Disc DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: This series is about the four most powerful individuals of modern times: Franklin D Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.

These were people who came from different parts of the world, espoused radically different political doctrines and seem to have had no common characteristics except an ambition to lead, a taste for power and a belief that they had been chosen by destiny.

DVD Verdict: Simply put, 'Titans Of The 20th Century' is a parallel biography of the most significant figures of the twentieth century from the last shot fired in the First World War to the victory of Mao Zedong.

A story of the power to lead and mislead, to inspire and to cause mass destruction.

Indeed, this is a series which is at its core about the four most powerful individuals of modern times: Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR), Winston Churchill (Winnie), Adolf Hitler (The Führer) and Josef Stalin (Uncle Jo).

These were people who came from different parts of the world, espoused radically different political doctrines and seem to have had no common characteristics except an ambition to lead, a taste for power and a belief that they had been chosen by destiny.

Here we get down and dirty with the facts and find out much more about these four men than we ever knew existed. Such as with Franklin D. Roosevelt, who whilst in college, fell in love with Theodore Roosevelt's niece (and his own distant cousin), Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, and they married in 1905.

Encouraged by his wife, Eleanor, FDR appointed more women to federal posts than any previous president; he also included black Americans in federal job programs (though they remained largely segregated).

Winston Churchill’s mother was an American and a rather daring escape from prison camp earned him instant fame! He also organized a massive World War I attack that failed spectacularly and most of his famous speeches came within a few months of each other.

As for Adolf Hitler, well, taking it from the top, Hitler was almost Adolf Schicklgruber. Or Adolf Hiedler. His father, Alois, was born out of wedlock to Maria Anna Schicklgruber and given her surname.

However, when he was about 40 years old, Alois decided to adopt the last name of his stepfather, Johann Georg Hiedler, who some speculated was actually his biological father.

On the legal documents, Hitler was given as the new last name, though the reason for the spelling change is unknown.

And finally we get, Josef Stalin, whose mother, a devout Russian Orthodox Christian, actually wanted him to become a priest!

Furthermore, in 1888, she managed to enroll him in church school in Gori. Stalin did well in school, and his efforts gained him a scholarship to Tiflis Theological Seminary in 1894.

However, a year later, Stalin came in contact with Messame Dassy, a secret organization that supported Georgian independence from Russia. Some of the members were socialists who introduced him to the writings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Stalin joined the group in 1898.

The rest, as they say (and for all of these noted four men, is history! Learn much more about these notable figures of history in the just-released 'Titans Of The 20th Century' out now on DVD from PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Greatest Bond'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: 'The Greatest Bond' is an inspirational documentary, highlighting the journey of disabled veterans whose lives are changed through the unconditional love of service dogs that have been trained by female prison inmates.

Join three veterans as they meet their service dog and work with the inmates in a Texas women's prison. Witness these men's transformation, as each dog expands the veteran's world and heals their hearts.

DVD Verdict: A touching and inspirational one-hour documentary special, shot in observational style, 'The Greatest Bond' is an in-depth chronicle about the high cost of war on the brave heroes and heroines who fight for our freedom.

Over the course of one hour we follow a group of disabled US veterans who are about to be given a service dog. We see their transformation as the dog expands the veteran's world and heals their hearts.

Not only do these dogs help the veterans on a very practical level, they provide constant emotional support, protection and relief from the terrors of their combat-related PTSD.

Peppered among the vulnerable and broken veteran stories, we will also experience the lighthearted joy of the puppies, the redirected lives of the female inmates and the good-natured humor of the Patriot Paws trainers.

'The Greatest Bond' centers around a service dog organization called Patriot Paws based in Dallas, Texas. Many of these traumatized men and women come to Patriot Paws in their darkest hours, as a last resort.

While the service dogs help on a fundamentally practical level, the audience will be left with the knowledge that ultimately these dogs save lives.

Simply put, the mission of Patriot Paws is to train and provide service dogs of the highest quality at no cost to disabled American veterans and others with mobile disabilities in order to help restore their physical and emotional independence.

We learn that Patriot Paws intends to build partnerships with the state and community organizations to help develop and support this goal.

Even more incredible is the following list of just some services provided to assist disabled veterans in accomplishing daily tasks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible:

Get help in emergencies - Recognize and avert PTSD episodes - Pick up and retrieve items - Open and close doors - Pull wheelchairs - Provide bracing to stand, walk, and sit down - Help with chores, such as laundry, and amongst others, Take off shoes and socks.

Funded entirely by private donations, this 501(c)(3) organization places service dogs with veterans free of charge, nationwide. Certified by ADI. Learn much more about this incredible organization in the just-released 'The Greatest Bond' out now on DVD from PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Scoob!' (Blu-ray + Digital Code)
(Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / NR / 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: 'Scoob!' reveals the never-before-told story of Scooby’s origins. It shows how one of history’s most famous friendships began when an adorable, homeless puppy met a lonesome young boy named Shaggy, and how the two of them joined forces with aspiring young detectives Fred, Velma and Daphne to become the celebrated Mystery Inc.

Blu-ray Verdict: Well, in truth, 'Scoob!' is most likely going to be the entry in the Scooby-Doo franchise that is going to equally divide its audience - with each side giving its own valid reasons, of course.

Some viewers are going to appreciate the modernization of the story, while others will wish it had stayed in the late 1960s. Some are going to get a kick out of the pop culture references, while others will ask themselves why they are even in a Scooby-Doo movie.

Some will appreciate the superhero theme, while others will forget that Blue Falcon and Dynomutt have existed in the past. Some will recoil at the childish crude humor, while others may giggle at it.

For me personally, the casting of this movie is excellent for Jason Issacs does a great Dick Dastardly, and Ken Jeong is amazing as Dynomutt - and his dialogue is wonderful too!

In fact, it was fun seeing him do a "serious character" for a change. Oh, and one of my favorite scenes is at the beginning on Halloween when they solve their first mystery after meeting each other (the other is at the end when they fight Cerberus).

As always, the overall theme of the movie is friendship, an important thing right now, especially because it is something everyone should have, to enable us all to get through these most trying of times.

Some longtime Hanna-Barbara fanatics are going to love the tie-in with other characters - such as the aforementioned Dick Dastardly and Muttley, Captain Caveman, and during the end credits, we see Atom Ant, The Great Grape Ape, Jabberjaw, Dr. Frankenstein, and Dr. Benton Quest, who is himself currently developing R.O.S.I.E.), while others are going to call it a forced attempt to kick-start a shared universe.

It'll be very interesting to see how the overall consensus falls, and it'll also be up to the individual to form its own opinion. At the end of the day, it's a kids' film and, for all intents and purposes, that's the best anyone can say about it.

It does what it can to introduce this franchise to a younger generation through those quirks and contemporary computer animation, while at the same time, it does have enough weight in the story and aims closer to the source material than more recent attempts - even when it doesn't always digest easy.

Of course, it'll be up to you to decide where this lands. Obviously, it's more focused at entertaining today's kids than being a great entry in the Scooby-Doo canon.

However, if it connects with the long-time meddling kids that grew up with the characters for over half a century, then it has definitely earned its extra Scooby Snack points! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Deleted Scenes (including alternate opening)
How To Draw Scooby Doo (with director Tony Cervone)
New Friends, Newer Villains
And Puppies!!

Learn the origins of Mystery Inc. and prepare for adventure when “SCOOB!” arrives on 4K UHD Combo Pack, Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Official Trailer

'Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection' [Blu-ray]
(Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner, Tom Kratochvil, et al / 10-Disc Blu-ray / NR / (1975-1979) 2020 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: 'Wonder Woman,' the beloved 1970s live-action television series starring Lynda Carter, has been remastered and is coming to Blu-ray™ on July 28th, 2020.

Blu-ray Verdict: Save the world? That’s a man’s job! Then along comes star-spangled Wonder Woman with her bullet-deflecting bracelets and golden lariat to set everyone straight!

With Lynda Carter staring as the title character, Season One features adventures in Wonder Woman’s original World War II era, while Seasons Two and Three whoosh forward to the disco-loving ‘70s.

Times change. The need to smash evil, calamity and injustice does not!

In all truth, the stories of 'Wonder Woman' have always been a favorite of mine, despite the often weak stories and tongue-in-cheek sensibilities, of course.

It was just such a fun show, with a perfectly cast lead. Lynda carter wasn't likely to win any acting awards, sure, I'll grant you that, but she played the character straight and looked the part too.

She had great charisma and was fairly athletic (and had a great stunt double, as it has subsequently been revealed down the years) and looked fantastic on screen.

She made the rather ludicrous costume work, something other actors have struggled with in superhero movies and television.

Personally, I prefer the first season, set in the 1940's. Yes, it looked like a studio lot, but it was more interesting; like a view from another world.

Of course, a few anachronisms showed up in costuming, but nothing too jarring. The main plus was the Nazis as villains. This helped make up for the lack of real Wonder Woman villains, of which there were few exceptional ones in the comics.

As stated earlier, Lynda Carter was perfectly cast. She looked like the character, had a great figure (still does, too), and was gorgeous. That said, Lyle Waggoner made for a nice Steve Trevor, if a bit bland.

He was never that impressive as an actor and got by on looks, in my humble opinion. Carter wasn't an Emmy contender either, but she had a better handle on the material, as aforementioned.

It would have been nice to see a few more villains from the series, like Giganta or the Cheetah, but Fausta and Baroness Paula Von Gunther were fine; although the Baroness was rather weak, compared to the comic version from the 40's.

Fausta could have been used a few times before being reformed, but c'est la vie, as they say.

In my opinion, the series suffered when it was moved to the present (well, the '70s, as were). The concept seemed to work better in the 40's, and the villains were less impressive. Also, the wetsuit and skateboard costumes were just plain silly, sorry!

Add to that, Carter's confident performance did indeed have a great run on-screen, but as with all good things, it came to an end when they tried to relocate Wonder Woman to L.A., bring in an annoying kid character, and have her boss act just like the boss of Starsky and Hutch!

So, my own personal favorites episodes include the quite brilliant pilot ("The New Original Wonder Woman") and succeeding two specials (first three episodes) and the two-part "Feminum Mystique" (debut of Wonder Girl).

That said, there are some interesting facts to know and discover this original 'Wonder Woman' series. Such as in season two's "Mind Stealers From Outer Space" (two-parter), aside from the obvious 'Star Wars' "borrowing of scenery and theme, there's also stock footage from 'This Island Earth' (1955).

Also in season two's excellent "The Bermuda Triangle Crisis," they use stock footage of the submarine Seaview from 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' (1964-68) and in season three's brilliant "Time Bomb," where people from earth's future appear in the '70s, stock footage from the brilliant, and wholly under-rated 'Space 1999' (1974-77) is used.

And whilst I'm at it, season three's "The Boy Who Knew Her Secret" (two-parter) is actually rather a misleading episode title as this is way more about remaking 'Invasion Of The Body Snatchers' (1956).

So, I hear you ask, why the switch to crazy sci-fi episodes in Season 3? Well, the show got a new producer that year, Bruce Lansbury, who was known for a cult sci-fi series re: 'The Fantastic Journey' (1977).

He brought with him a new music composer, Richard LaSalle (ex-'Land Of The Giants'), and you could say that Lansbury and LaSalle turned the 'Wonder Woman' series upside down, I guess!

Simply put, these 'Wonder Woman' seasons one to three are a great way to introduce a whole new generation that wasn't born when the classic show first aired on ABC Saturday Nights, and CBS Friday Nights.

Indeed, 'Wonder Woman' is less on the level of the George Reeves 'Superman' and the Adam West 'Batman', and more on the level of some of the great '70s action adventures like 'Charlie's Angels' and 'Kojak'.

Every episode is original, and our comic book heroine battles foes from Nazis to domestic terrorists, to intergalactic criminals. This was one classic television program from back in the day that NEEDS a new generational audience and now out on remastered Blu-ray, I get the feeling it will.

Now remastered and coming to Blu-ray™ from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on July 28th, 2020, this excellent 'Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection' houses all three seasons of the great show and sets you up perfectly for the upcoming 'Wonder Woman 1984' (with Gal Gadot).

Oh, yeah, once last thing, for the film that follows that, Patty Jenkins, how about Lynda Carter as Hippolyta! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

The collection also includes such Bonus Features as Audio Commentary on the film pilot by Lynda Carter alongside executive producer Douglas S. Cramer, as well as Commentary by Carter on Season 3's premiere episode, "My Teenage Idol Is Missing."

There are also three featurettes: "Beauty, Brawn and Bulletproof Bracelets: A Wonder Woman Retrospective," "Revolutionizing a Classic: From Comic Book to Television" and "Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Feminist Icon."

Out of the three, my favorite is the expansive, 20 minute long "Beauty, Brawn and Bulletproof Bracelets: A Wonder Woman Retrospective", where even Carter herself admits that she doesn't think there's ever been anyone quite like Wonder Woman in the world!

It gets revealed, by the man himself, Executive Producer Douglas Kramer, that he went into the show with the reputation of being the "master of camp in Hollywood," which explains why as a kid at ABC (in the program department) his dream of putting a comic book on television soon came to fruition.

It brings us the facts of how 'Wonder Woman' (the TV show) originated from the comic books set in 1941, how they chose to push on through the male-dominated comic book and TV show era (Batman, Superman, et al) by determinedly bringing the female Wonder Woman to celluloid life, and even how Lynda Carter herself was chosen to play the lead role.

Oh, and how about this for a juicy factoid: William Moulton Marston, also known by the pen name Charles Moulton was an American psychologist who, with his wife Elizabeth Holloway, invented an early prototype of the lie detector -- he was also known as a self-help author and comic book writer who actually created the character of Wonder Woman!

The 'Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection' Blu-ray box set (USA $64.99 SRP, Canada $69.99 CAN) comes complete with all 59 episodes, plus the treasured pilot movie, across 10 discs.

'Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection' comes to Blu-ray on July 28th, 2020 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

'The Phantom Rider: Restored Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Buck Jones, Marla Shelton, Diana Gibson, Harry Woods, Frank Larue, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / VCI Entertainment - MVD Visual)

Overview: Buck Jones, the great king of outdoor adventure drama in his most exciting and mysterious role? Playing a daring lone hand against a band of ruthless outlaws, who stop at nothing to steal control of every ranch in the valley and the fabulous gold mine of one of their victims!

Not even the girl he loved and fought for knew who he was? An amazing series of daring adventures and astounding escapades!

Spine-tingling mystery - breath taking suspense and a thousand thrills!

Blu-ray Verdict: VCI Entertainment now brings us another Classic Cliffhanger, fully restored from a new 2K scan of Universal Pictures' original 35mm film masters and for the for time ever on Blu-ray.

'The Phantom Rider was a 15-episode serial in which Buck Grant, the Phantom Rider, helps rancher, Mary Grayson, fight off a band of outlaws out to seize her property.

1. Dynamite 2. The Maddened Herd 3. The Brink of Disaster 4. The Phantom Rides 5. Trapped by Outlaws 6. Shot Down 7. Stark Terror 8. The Night Attack 9. The Indians Attack 10. Human Targets 11. The Shaft of Doom 12. Flaming Gold 13. Crashing Timbers 14. The Last Chance 15. The Outlaw's Vengeance

OK, so, to set the scene, so to speak, Buck Grant (Jones) is an undercover State Ranger, tasked, with assistance from Judge Holmes (Frank LaRue) with rounding up a gang of outlaws who have been trying to drive ranchers out of the region.

Buck himself poses as what they term a "nester" to hide his connection with the State, but soon thereafter disguises himself - dressed all in white to match his horse Silver - as "The Phantom Rider" (whilst stating that the new get-up will instill a dread of fear in them there outlaws.

As for Buck's "Phantom" disguise, well, in what I can only assume for its time, featuring a masked hero must have been like walking a tightrope on set for the audio engineers as surely that mask tended to muffle the actors' voice? I mean, not only Buck's but his cohorts and the bad guys too, of course.

But from what I can hear now, remastered and restored from the 2K original studio film masters, their voices here today are all crisp and understandable.

Moving on, and whilst embedded at Hidden Valley Ranch (isn't that the same place they make the dressing?!), he quickly ascertains - whilst the owner, Jeff Grayson (Lafe McKee) is off prospecting - that neither his daughter Mary (Marla Shelton) and her friend from the East, Helen Moore (Diana Gibson) appear to be outlaws.

Buck's assistant Spooky (George Cooper) are now embedded further into the ranch which allows more characters to get some screen time, like the wealthy and respected rancher Harvey Delaney (Harry Woods), whose interests seem to include the aforementioned Mary.

So, whilst the outlaws rustle cattle, their goal is to get control of the ranches in the region to profit from the coming of the railroad.

Sure, and especially for it's time, 'The Phantom Rider' doesn't exactly have an original plot, but it serves the purpose mighty well, and must have slipped perfectly into the television watching patterns of those tuned in, back in 1936.

Other exponents that propel the storyline, whilst also adding sub-plots and side ventures to fill our minds as we watch, are a gold mine, renegade Indians (from what seems to be, for all intents and purposes, a rather peaceful tribe), Buck getting arrested on a false murder charge, and the appearance of some musical entertainers (Cactus Mack and His Saddle Tramps) - who show up in the saloon and at the ranch several times, but who we only actually hear three songs from.

OK, sure, the action is slow in some places, focusing more on the sub-plots that either distract or waver, according to who they are based around, but with Buck Jones at his finest comedic and dead pan best, the show was always going to be a might fine hit.

Add to that some great performances by the rest of the cast, which includes, in my book, stand outs from Harry Woods and his gang of underlings, and lest we forget the many background actors that had appeared in most all movies and TV shows of this ilk up until that point, and I'm sure all those viewers familiar from other serials and westerns akin to this would not have had one compliant.

As noted, this restored version is sourced from material in Universal's archives, thus the image quality is outstanding, although there are some filtering moments on display; noticeable grain field, albeit one that ebbs and flows.

And, in general, the overall quality of the sound is also very good, with little noise, low distortion and good frequency response. All the dialogue is presented crisply and clearly - even from behind the masks, for the most part - although that would also account for patches of speech that now sound a wee bit hollow, without much resonance, shall we say.

But, in truth, with 90-year old stock like this, we are truly blessed to get what we get, and VCI Entertainment have done an excellent job here in restoring this from the 2K original studio film masters for a whole new generation (or two, or even three!) to enjoy. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.37:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer, and with Audio in English LPCM 2.0 Mono.

The 'The Phantom Rider: Restored Edition' [Blu-ray] will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.99.

Official Purchase Link

'Hiroshima: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Eiji Okada, Yumeji Tsukioka, Yoshi Katô, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1953) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: 'Hiroshima' (1953) is a powerful evocation of the devastation wrought by the world's first deployment of the atomic bomb and its aftermath, based on the written eye-witness accounts of its child survivors compiled by Dr. Arata Osada for the 1951 book Children Of The A Bomb: Testament Of The Boys And Girls Of Hiroshima.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, and as I'm sure you would have fully expected, 'Hiroshima' is a bleak depiction of life in Hiroshima in the days leading up to the dropping of the atomic bomb (on Aug 6th, 1945) and the consequences of the attack, with a focus on the short, and long-term term effects of radiation exposure, especially on children.

The production is outstanding, with realistic recreations of the ruined city blended with authentic footage, and the cast (many of whom were not actors) is excellent.

The scenes of homeless, parentless, children trying to survive are especially poignant, notably the two siblings finding their family's rice bowls as they pick through the rubble of their home or the group of boys trying to teach the youngest enough English to beg for food from American servicemen.

The film is scored by Akira Ifukube, who a year later would write the iconic themes for the original 'Gojira'. His stirring music plays over the end, in which the people of Hiroshima congregate at the Genbaku Dome, the unbelievable scenes that feature the multitudes of extras for which the film is famous.

Not surprisingly 'Hiroshima' is unabashedly anti war, but is not simply a screed against the U.S. The contentious idea that the bomb would not have been used if the target population was white is briefly mentioned, but is counterbalanced by scenes of the Imperial forces deciding to lie to the Japanese public about the nature of the weapon and use the devastated city as a rallying cry to incite even more hatred of the Allied forces (in an attempt to reinforce the implacable resolve that defenders of the A-bombing maintain made use of the devastating weapons necessary).

While Hiroshima did have some military value as a target, the casualties were overwhelmingly civilian, including many children. The film's message is not an overly-simplified don't drop the bomb, but rather a more nuanced plea to consider the consequences beyond tactical or strategic objectives.

Furthermore, the film also touches on one of the lesser known consequences of the bombing - the survivors sometimes faced anger and resentment from the rest of the population for their unique 'victim status' as "Hibakusha" ("people affected by the atomic-bombs").

Unfortunately, the visceral impact the scenes of stunned survivors limping through the streets, filthy, burned and bloody, may be blunted to some viewers because they almost look like a parody of modern "zombie" movies.

Excellent: sad, and memorable and perhaps, in some small part, a contributor to nuclear restraint - despite the proliferation of the weapons (and the powers that wield them), and despite the numerous wars that have been fought since 1945, they have never again been used. [JR] 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 uncompressed audio
Archive interview with actress Yumeji Tsukioka
Hiroshima Nagasaki Download (2011), 73-minute documentary featuring interviews with survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings now residing in the United States, with an introduction by the director Shinpei Takeda
New video essay by Jasper Sharp
Newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mick Broderick

'Zombie For Sale: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Jeong Jae-yeong, Jung Ga-ram, Kim Nam-gil, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2019) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: When the illegal human experiments of Korea's biggest Pharmaceutical company go wrong, one of their "undead" test subjects escapes and ends up in a shabby gas station owned by the Park family a band of misfits spanning three generations who hustle passers-by to make ends meet.

When the Park family uncover their undead visitor, he bites the head of their household, who instead of transforming into an undead ghoul becomes revitalized and full of life!

The family then hatch a plan to exploit this unexpected fountain of youth, allowing locals to pay to be bitten too, until things go wrong!

Blu-ray Verdict: The eccentric Park family own a run-down gas station not far from the test site of a pharmaceutical company. One of the company's test subjects accidentally becomes a zombie, which wanders away and into the Park's gas station.

After showing a distinct preference for cabbages, the zombie bites the family patriarch! But an unexpected side effect of that bite is that the patriarch suddenly becomes much more vigorous than his age would suggest, and soon all the elderly men in a nearby village are paying to be bitten themselves!

However, there may be more unforeseen side effects coming too!!

I'm not a big zombie movie fan, as they tend to get either super gory or just tedious after a while, and often one zombie flick is much like another.

However, here we have a zombie comedy in which a family of misfits and schemers have to cope with a situation far beyond any of their capabilities!

There's also a lot of references to Millennial "Zom-Com" films such as 'Shaun of the Dead,' 'Warm Bodies' and 'Zombieland,' but also straightforward Zombie films, like George E. Romero's 2005 'Land of the Dead.'

The characters are all well-drawn and distinctive, including the zombie who (oddly enough) is very sympathetic, and the humor is more of the laughing-at-ourselves kind than the malicious sort.

It's not enough to turn me into a zombie movie fan, but if you like any of those aforementioned zombie movies, then Lee Min-Jae's film is for you. It was an entertaining way to spend an evening, that's for sure.

FYI: In its Midwest premiere, Min-Jae stated that his wife co-wrote the script and that the fact "zombies" belong to Haitian Vodou. He further said that, in fact, the idea of the "living dead" can be also found in Korean lore. 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 uncompressed Stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD MA options
Newly-translated English subtitles
Brand new audio commentary with filmmakers and critics Sam Ashurst and Dan Martin
Q&A with director Lee Min-jae from a 2019 screening at Asian Pop-Up Cinema in Chicago, moderated by film critic and author Darcy Paquet Eat Together, Kill Together: The Family-in-Peril Comedy - brand new video essay by critic and producer Pierce Conran exploring Korea's unique social satires
Making-Of Featurette
Behind-the-Scenes footage
Original Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Mike Lee-Graham
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing by Josh Hurtado

'Zombie For Sale' Official Trailer

'Black Rainbow: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Rosanna Arquette, Jason Robards, Tom Hulce, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1989) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Martha Travis (Rosanna Arquette, Pulp Fiction, Crash) is a travelling clairvoyant on the road with her sceptic father (Jason Robards, Once Upon a Time in the West, Magnolia).

During a séance Martha communicates a message from a dead man to his wife in the audience. Shocked the wife insists her husband is still alive.

Later that evening the husband is killed by a ruthless assassin. As Martha foresees more and more tragic events journalist Gary Wallace (Tom Hulce, Amadeus, Animal House) follows the pair in pursuit of a hot story with catastrophically eerie results.

Blu-ray Verdict: Personally, I love films about fake psychics who suddenly discover they actually do have psychic powers!

'The Night Has a Thousand Eyes' with Edward G Robinson did it brilliantly, but this film written and directed by Mike Hodges is right up there with the best.

This film makes you appreciate Mike Hodge's talent as a storyteller, and there are layers to 'Black Rainbow' that make it doubly interesting.

Tom Hulce plays reporter Gary Wallace who stumbles across Martha Travis (Rosanna Arquette), a medium who works with her father doing a spiritualist act in South Carolina.

We are in "Elmer Gantry" territory here and although we are led to believe the act is a scam, Martha begins to have visions that come true. However the things she sees put her life in danger.

Wallace feels he is onto a big story and although he doesn't believe in her powers at first, he becomes fascinated with the enigmatic and sensuous Martha.

Without spoiling things, the film has a terrific ending that leaves you wondering. Hodges could come up with a punchy ending – remember 'Get Carter'?

A perfect cast struts their stuff including a low key Tom Hulce as the disbelieving reporter. Jason Robards goes to town on his alcoholic Walter Travis, the father who doesn't realize his daughter's powers have progressed beyond mere show business.

However Rosanna Arquette steals the show as the ethereal Martha. Rosanna Arquette always brought a sense of detachment and a certain quirkiness to her roles and often surprises you with how sexy she could be – her screen persona is hard to define.

Simply put, 'Black Rainbow' blends together a heady mixture of spiritualism, bent detectives, hit men, corrupt corporate heads and a dash of sex.

Mike Hodges captured a slice of life in South Carolina with the same assurance he caught life in the North of England in 'Get Carter'.

It's a penetrating gaze, but not a jaundiced one, he has a feeling for people and the script has touches of wit. Brand new restoration from the original negative approved by writer-director Mike Hodges
Original stereo 2.0 PCM uncompressed audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround Sound options
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary by film historians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan
Archival audio commentary by Mike Hodges
Message in a Bottle: Archival 'Making of' documentary
Archival interviews with Jason Robards, Tom Hulce, Rosanna Arquette
Archival featurettes '8 Minutes'; 'Disasters'; 'Seeing the Future'; 'Behind the Rainbow' featuring interviews with Hodges, Arquette, Robards, producer John Quested including behind-the-scenes imagery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Mike Hodges and more illustrated with stills

'Black Rainbow' Official Trailer

'Bloodstone: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Brett Stimely, Rajinikanth, Anna Nicholas, et al / Blu-ray / PG-13 / (1988) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: The Bloodstone, a priceless stolen ruby, accidentally ends up in the possession of American newlyweds Sandy (Brett Stimely, Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death) and Stephanie (Anna Nicholas, Remington Steele).

Now, their honeymoon in India is interrupted as they become the target of international fence Van Hoeven (Christopher Neame, The Prestige) and his evil henchmen.

When Van Hoeven kidnaps Stephanie and ransoms her for the jewel, Sandy joins forces with cabby and dormant stunt-driver Shyam Sabu (Rajinikanth, 2.0) to rescue his young bride.

Blu-ray Verdict: For my money, 'Bloodstone' is one of those forgotten films of the '80s that deserved so much more!

Most people who saw it in the theater then have forgotten they did and the movie disappeared from theaters never to be heard from again - that is, until now!

I, for one, was one of the people that forgot about this film. For years my memory of the film lay dormant, then one day I saw it on the shelf at one of my local DVD stores (remember them?!).

I was totally surprised to see it, so I picked it up. But now, the wonderful folks are MVD Visual have brought out a simply stunning new Blu-ray Special Edition of the film, digitally remastered, with plenty of delightful Special Features.

As for the movie, it brought back great memories. The story is your average adventure affair, much like 'Indiana Jones,' 'Romancing The Stone', and the brilliant, and itself highly underrated 'Firewalker,' but it does have many comical moments too.

For me, the best part of the film is the police chief that speaks with a funny back-of-the-throat vocal growl! I found myself mimicking this voice for days after I initially saw the movie!

The film was a pleasure with its adventure, off-the-wall humor, and exotic locations. If you like adventure films, give this lost gem a try, you won't be disappointed. And for those of you who saw the movie, and can't remember, well, it's time to refresh your memories, my darlings! 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 2.0 Stereo PCM Uncompressed audio and 5.1 Surround audio options
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Optional Greek subtitles
Brand new audio commentary by Bryan Reesman
Keeping it to Myself brand new interview with producer and co-writer Nico Mastorakis
Brand new video essay on Bloodstone s star Rajinikanth by Indian cinema expert Josh Hurtado
Image gallery
Original screenplay [BD-ROM content]
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mark Cunliffe

'Bloodstone' Official HD Trailer

Life Is a Long Quiet River: Special Ed. [Blu-ray]
(Benoît Magimel, Valérie Lalande, Tara Röme, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1988) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: The radiantly bourgeois Le Quesnoys with their immaculate children and perfect manners and the grubby, disreputable Groseilles are thrown together in absurd chaos by an act of revenge as they discover that twelve years prior their babies were switched at birth.

Blu-ray Verdict: A witty send up of class relations and family ties, 'Life Is a Long Quiet River' was celebrated with a host of trophies at France's César Awards ceremony winning for best screenplay, best debut work and acting prizes for Héléne Vincent and Catherine Jacob.

For me, personally, this movie was actually more about how life is not a long, tranquil river. Anyone can disturb the peace by a simple action like the nurse did, first by switching the children and later writing to the parents about it.

To her it was just an act of revenge towards the doctor, but the consequences were not limited to the doctor. Etienne Chatillier pokes fun at many different issues throughout the movie which is meant to be a comedy.

Americans, without knowledge of all these issues, as well as the play on words and other humor aimed at the French, will not enjoy it to its full extent. Nevertheless, anyone will laugh at the doctor swearing scene. (La salope)

Most of the characters seem to be very stereotypical - the Arab shopkeeper, the "poor family", the policemen, the doctor, the "rich family".

In fact, the only truly realistic character is Mômo. His many sided character sometimes puzzles the audience. His romantic love for his biological mother, his stealing to help his other family, his spite in revealing the truth to Bernadette, his friendships with the children in both families and his childishness, create a curious mélange.

In addition to these basic characters, there is also the priest. He is used to criticize the church and religion in general.

Parenting and upbringing of children is an important theme in this film. The children in the rich family are very polite, intelligent, religious, etc. while the children in the poor family act stupid, are rude and naughty.

I noticed that this difference in upbringing was not really substantial because when Mômo became part of the family and introduced "naughty" ideas, the rich children just followed along with enthusiasm.

The way they were convinced so easily, shows that their parents hadn't ingrained their education into the children. The only reason why they hadn't done the "naughty" things before was that they hadn't heard of such ideas. Once Mômo supplied them, they dropped all pretense of a higher education, morals, etc. and followed along.

The rich parents' method of dealing with the problems was heavily criticized in the movie. When Bernadette purposefully spilled the soup at the table, they just sat there in silence.

They continue using this approach and we see how the children only get wilder and wilder, unrestrained, and with no solution in sight.

I felt that the ending scene fitted in with the movie really well. It summed up the idea that so many problems arise when one person simply pursues their goal, not stopping at anything.

The satisfied nurse sitting, victorious, with the doctor completely broken. And this right after seeing how the rich family completely fell apart. A cruel type of humor, sure, but well placed here.

In closing, 'Life Is a Long Quiet River' ('La vie est un long fleuve tranquille') is not an American comedy. There are few slapstick moments. Nevertheless, I think many Americans would enjoy this movie. I would definitely appreciate watching it once more myself. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition digital transfer
High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentation
Original Mono audio
Newly translated optional English subtitles
Archival interviews with director Étienne Chatiliez, actor André Wilms, co-writer/co-producer Florence Quentin and producer Charles Gassot
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Jonathan Romney

'Life Is a Long Quiet River' Official HD Trailer

'Gamera: The Complete Collection' [Blu-ray]
(Eiji Funakoshi, Kojiro Hongo, Nobuhiro Kashima, Tsutomu Takakuwa, Eiko Yanami, et al / 8-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: The original hero in a half-shell returns! For the first time ever worldwide, all twelve tales of the adventures of everyone s favorite titanic terrapin are collected together in one deluxe Blu-ray boxset!

Blu-ray Verdict: This Limited Edition Collectors Set traces the decades-long evolution of Gamera, from the friend of all children in his more light-hearted earlier films, to the Guardian of the Universe in the groundbreaking 1990s reboot series, often hailed as three of the best kaiju films ever made.

Disc One: 'Gamera The Giant Monster' (1965) - An ancient gigantic prehistoric flying turtle is awakened from its centuries of slumber and embarks on the expected destructive rampage. Can an elite team of top scientists from all over the world figure out a way to stop Gamera before it's too late?

Director Noriaki Yuasa, working from a neat script by Nisan Takahashi, relates the cool premise at a steady pace, maintains a serious tone throughout, and stages the funky and exciting mondo destructo set pieces with real aplomb (the scenes with Gamera attacking Tokyo are not only very thrilling, but also surprisingly harsh and grim).

The cast play the material with admirable sincerity, with praiseworthy work from Eiiji Funakoshi as pragmatic zoologist Dr. Eiiji Hidaka, the fetching Harumi Kiritachi as Hidaka's faithful assistant Kyoko Yamamoto, Junichiro Yamashita as eager reporter Aoyagi, Jun Hamamura as the wise Professor Murase, and Yoshiro Uchida as lonely turtle-loving misfit kid Toshio Sakurai.

The special effects are pretty good and convincing; Gamera makes for an impressively huge, deadly, and fearsome fire-breathing beast.

High Definition (1080p) transfer of Gamera the Giant Monster, with lossless original Japanese and dubbed English mono audio, and optional English subtitles
Commentary and newly filmed introduction by August Ragone
High Definition (1080p) transfer of Gammera the Invincible (Blu-ray premiere), the American theatrical version of the film, with lossless mono audio and optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Remembering the Gamera Series, an archive featurette from 1991, including interviews with director Noriaki Yuasa, writer Nisan Takahashi and others
Interview with Noriaki Yuasa, filmed by Jörg Buttgereit in 2002 Gamera Special, an hour-long best-of compilation supervised by Noriaki Yuasa in 1991
Alternate English credits
Trailer and image galleries

Disc Two: 'Gamera Vs. Barugon' / 'Gamera Vs. Gyaos' (1966/1967) - In the first of the two movies, 'Gamera Vs. Barugon' begins with the giant turtle being freed from the rocket he was trapped in at the end of Gamera, the Gigantic Monster and returning to Earth to wreak havoc on a dam.

He then disappears for a good 45 minutes while the movie follows a trio of treasure hunters to a tropical island on their quest to retrieve an opal the brother of one of the hunters hid in a cave during the Second World War.

Not to give away too much, but the procurement of this opal leads to the emergence of Barugon, in the middle of Japan, who Gamera (eventually) fights in typical Gamera fashion.

This probably is the most adult oriented of all the Gamera films mainly because it is the only film in the original series not to feature a child as the main human character.

However, I also think that it is the one of the weaker films in the series. The human characters aren't really that interesting and this is one of the flaws of the Gamera series.

At least with the Godzilla series (or for that matter Toho kaiju films altogether) the human characters, especially in the earlier films, are fully dimensional whereas in the Gamera films they are treated as more of an afterthought.

In the second of the two movies, 'Gamera Vs. Gyaos,' we get, in my humble opinion, the best looking rival of Gamera - namely Gyaos. In this movie, Gamera, as friend of little kids, also gets firmly established.

An ancient monster Gyaos awakes due to activity of Mt. Fuji. Gamera was sleeping near by and awakened by Gyaos' movement. In an effort to save a boy, Gamera challenges Gyaos.

Gyaos can fire ultrasound from its mouth that slices through almost anything. Being cut by Gyaos' ultrasound, Gamera retreats to the ocean. Gyaos is carnivorous, and nocturnal. It flies out at night to eat humans.

How will Gamera defeat Gyaos without being sliced by Gyaos' ultrasonic attack ?

Sadly, problems that existed in the previous Gamera movies are still present in this movie - namely poor integration of human related scenes with that of the monsters.

Compared to Toho's Godzilla movies that teamwork between directors Ishiro Honda, and Eiji Tsuburaya was seamless, this movie suffers poor matching of human related part of the story with the part kaijyu appears. But that's all, so come on in and enjoy regardless!

Also, fun fact, Kojiro Hongo who've appeared in 1995 version of Gamera vs. Gyaos (Gamera Guardian of the Universe) is the star of this move.

High Definition (1080p) transfers of Gamera vs. Barugon and Gamera vs. Gyaos, with lossless original Japanese and dubbed English mono audio, and optional English subtitles
Commentary on Gamera vs. Barugon by August Ragone & Jason Varney
Commentary on Gamera vs. Gyaos by Stuart Galbraith IV
Newly filmed introductions to both films by August Ragone
High Definition (1080p) transfer of War of the Monsters, the shorter American edit of Gamera vs. Barugon, with lossless English audio Alternate English credits for both films
Trailer and image galleries

Disc Three: 'Gamera Vs. Viras' / 'Gamera Vs. Guiron' (1968/1969) - In the first of the two movies, 'Gamera Vs. Viras,' the veering of the Gamera series towards the younger generation finally began with this fourth film in the series.

Released a speedy three years after the original hit Japanese theaters in 1965, even though the previous movie, the gleefully entertaining 'Gamera Vs. Gyaos' was also geared mostly toward children, it still had an element of terror and dread in it.

That is gone here and 'Gamera vs. Viras' is an unsuccessfully endeavor, sadly. However, that it is hardly due to the fact that it is being directed at little children and those who are still able to find the child deep within themselves.

The problem with this picture is, despite its wonderful beginning and wonderful ending, most of the middle is just shameless, lazy jigsaw-construction of its predecessors. In other words, it's mostly just stock footage reels, sorry.

The second of the two films on this disc, 'Gamera Vs. Guiron,' junior astronomers, Akio and Tom (Nobuhiro Kajima and Christopher Murphy) have detected a strange craft landing near their house, and set out to investigate.

This leads to their being whisked away to the ship's bizarre planet of origin. Upon their arrival, the boys encounter two brain-eating alien women and their gigantic, knife-headed monster, Guiron!

As should be expected, the "story" is secondary to the obligatory battle between the titular titans. Once everyone's favorite turtle arrives, the showdown begins!

But first, a flashback sequence gets us up to speed on Gamera's history as "friend to all children", and we check in back on Earth to burn up more screen time. But don't worry, it's worth the wait!

High Definition (1080p) transfers of Gamera vs. Viras and Gamera vs. Guiron, with lossless original Japanese and dubbed English mono audio, and optional English subtitles
Choice of three different versions of Gamera vs. Viras via seamless branching (72-minute Theatrical Version, 81-minute Director’s Version and 90-minute US Extended Version)
Commentary on Gamera vs. Viras by Carl Craig and Jim Cironella
Commentary on Gamera vs. Guiron by David Kalat
Newly filmed introductions to both films by August Ragone
New featurette with actor Carl Craig showing his souvenirs and props from Gamera vs. Viras
Highlights from the G-FEST X convention in 2003, featuring Noriaki Yuasa and Carl Craig
The 4th Nippon Jamboree, a promotional film for the Boy Scouts of Japan directed by Yuasa in 1966
Alternate English credits for both films
Trailer and image galleries

Disc Four: 'Gamera Vs. Jiger' / 'Gamera Vs. Zigra' / 'Gamera Super Monster' (1970/1971/1980) - In the first of the three movies on this fourth disc, 'Gamera Vs. Jiger,' the vicious behemoth beast Jiger attacks Japan during an annual science fair!

It's up to Gamera to stop the foul fiend. However, Jiger has injected the heroic flying prehistoric turtle with its parasitic offspring. Can two little boys save Gamera in time?

Director Noriaki Yuasa, working from a fairly dark and twisted script by Fumi Takahashi, relates the entertaining story at a constant brisk pace, maintains a generally serious tone throughout, and stages the fierce and lengthy monster fight set pieces with a reasonable amount of skill and flair.

Moreover, there are also pleasing moments of large scale mass destruction with Jiger demolishing a major city and surprisingly harsh bits of violence (Jiger cripples Gamera by shooting needles into all of his limbs and turns people into skeletons!).

In the second movie, 'Gamera Vs. Zigra,' which in truth, after 'Gamera Vs. Jiger,' this one is a definite upgrade to the level of previous Gamera movies.

A real charmer, 'Gamera Vs. Zigra' features an alien who controls humans with hypnosis to get what it really wants. The plot runs into two children, the girl, Helen, who, with her older sister Maggie, appears to be bi-racial, and Kennie, who have a psychic link to Gamera.

Avoid the non-Japanese print, this one is beautifully shot in widescreen that is completely lost in the TV cut version. Also, the acting is much more restrained than the horrible dubbing would have you believe!

It's sort of the ultimate expression of the Gamera idea.

In the third and final movie of the three on this disc, 'Gamera Super Monster' (which itself comes a decade after the last one mentioned!), well, yes, everyone has their own view of this movie, but unless you take into consideration the reason it was made and the target audience, you may find yourself giving it a lower review then it deserves.

'Super Monster Gamera' is MEANT to be a cheap, fun, lazy film. It's nothing more then a blending of the entire series sprinkled with a new plot to tie the battles together.

It's not meant to be taken seriously, it's not meant to deliver an important issue, and it's not meant to WOW the audience with late '80s special effects.

It's just a kid's film; no more, no less.

With that in mind, 'Super Monster Gamera' is by far my fav of the original Gamera series. Six monster battles, a catchy opening theme song, great music and very, very, VERY bad acting! What a perfect Saturday afternoon popcorn treat!!

High Definition (1080p) transfers of Gamera vs. Jiger, Gamera vs. Zigra and Gamera Super Monster, with lossless original Japanese and dubbed English mono audio, and optional English subtitles
Commentary on Gamera vs. Jiger by Edward L. Holland
Commentary on Gamera vs. Zigra by Sean Rhoads & Brooke McCorkle
Commentary on Gamera Super Monster by Richard Pusateri
Newly filmed introductions to all three films by August Ragone
Alternate English credits for all three films
Trailer and image galleries

Disc Five: 'Gamera The Guardian Of The Universe' (1995) - Reports were coming in as a trio of large, bird-like reptiles called Gyaos are going around eating people.

Gyaos are super weapons created by a civilization long forgotten (presumed to be Atlantis). Luckily, that same civilization created Gamera to destroy Gyaos and protect humanity, but with the military believing Gamera to be the larger threat, its up to a few scientists and a teenage girl (Ayako Fujitani, daughter of Steven Seagal!), who shares a link with the giant turtle, to help the Guardian of the Universe save the day!

This movie truly stands on its own with a good story, decent cast, cool special effects, and awesome action scenes. Its nice to see Gamera finally have a serious and dark role. Thankfully, there's no annoying kids ruining the show!

Instead, we get teen girl Asagi to share a bond with the monster, which helps appeal to a broader audience. The Gyaos have a menacing atmosphere to them, especially when they go hunting humans, while Gamera embodies a sense of power and nobility.

Some Gamera movies have the tendency to torture the poor green guy, but here, thankfully, he delivers plenty of punishment back. Now that's turtle power!

High Definition (1080p) transfer of Gamera the Guardian of the Universe, from a 4K restoration by Kadokawa Pictures
Original Japanese and dubbed English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 audio, with optional English subtitles
Commentary by Matt Frank
Newly filmed introduction by August Ragone
A Testimony of 15 Years: Part 1, the first in an epic three-part documentary interviewing cast and crew of the Heisei Trilogy
Interviews with director Shusuke Kaneko and SFX director Shinji Higuchi, filmed by Jörg Buttgereit in 2002
Extended 90-min interview with Shinji Higuchi from 2001, focusing on the trilogy’s special effects
Behind the scenes featurettes tracing the film’s production from announcement to release
Alternate English credits
Trailer and image galleries

Disc Six: 'Gamera 2: Attack of Legion' (1996) - OK, now this film is definitely one of the best movies featuring this movie monster - and one of the few that rival the best that rival Toho Studios put out.

The story is rather suspenseful and very well written, even in dubbed form (nothing is really lost, as I have seen the original Japanese release in subtitled form as well).

The Legion creatures are interestingly made and very creepy to watch, especially in the scene in which they cover Gamera completely. The sight of the huge beast with an army of insectoids completely covering him and bristling with movement is just plain weird to watch.

In closing, 'Gamera 2' (for me) ranks right up there with the original Gamera movie and it's 1990s revamping. The rest of the series is definitely just for the kiddie crowd, but these three movies stand out from the rest, comparing easily with the best Godzilla movies of any period.

High Definition (1080p) transfer of Gamera 2: Attack of Legion, from a 4K restoration by Kadokawa Pictures
Original Japanese and dubbed English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 audio, with optional English subtitles
Commentary by Kyle Yount
Newly filmed introduction by August Ragone
A Testimony of 15 Years: Part 2, the next part of the documentary interviewing cast and crew of the Heisei Trilogy
On-set footage from the shooting of the film’s main unit and special effects filming
Behind the scenes featurettes tracing the film’s production from announcement to release
Alternate English credits
“Lake Texarkana” comedic dub track
Trailer and image galleries

Disc Seven: 'Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris' (1999) - The Gyaos have returned, newly evolved and multiplying like crazy around the world. As if that isn't bad enough, a new foe has emerged, one who has been bred by the hate of a teenage girl who harbors a grudge against Gamera for accidentally killing her parents in the first film.

This new creature is called Iris (named after the girl's deceased pet cat), a mysterious armored, blood-sucking squid creature with immense destructive power and a genetic link to the Gyaos. With the military once again hunting Gamera, will all this be too much for the Guardian of the Universe?

The stakes are raised and so is the severity of the violence. Tons of people are laid waste as the monsters battle each other for supremacy, destroying everything in their path.

It's great. Gamera looks really fearsome, looking as if he will stop at nothing until all his monstrous enemies are destroyed. He even has some new tricks up his giant sleeve.

Iris is a fascinating creature, bringing a sense of both awe and dread to his presence, especially when he's flying. In fact, he reminds me of an Angel from "Evangelion".

Furthermore, it's nice seeing some of the old cast in this one like Gamera's human companion Asagi, who has really grown as a character. Some the new characters are interesting while others are strange, which is why sometimes I feel that this film may appeal to goths.

The star here is Ayana, whose backstory and hatred for the turtle and backstory allow her to stand out from the rest of the cast.

High Definition (1080p) transfer of Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris, from a 4K restoration by Kadokawa Pictures
Original Japanese and dubbed English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 audio, with optional English subtitles
Commentary by Steve Ryfle & Ed Godziszewski
Newly filmed introduction by August Ragone
A Testimony of 15 Years: Part 3, the final part of the documentary interviewing cast and crew of the Heisei Trilogy
Newly filmed interview with Kaho Tsutsumi about the DNA Tokasatsu exhibition in Tokyo, by kaiju historian Edward L. Holland
Behind the scenes featurettes tracing the film’s production from announcement to release
Deleted Scenes
The Awakening of Irys (Remix), a montage of behind-the-scenes footage and work-in-progress special effects footage
Alternate English credits
Spoof commentary by “Gamera” & “Soldier No.6”
Trailer and image galleries

Disc Eight: 'Gamera The Brave' (2006) - Director Ryuta Tazaki comes from Japanese sci-fi action television with quite a resume with the Japanese Power Ranger Shows and never ending Kamen Rider series.

This film shows little of his TV roots as this film is very well directed, well photographed with some modest experimentation with visuals and sound design.

The film has a sort of naturalism that you don't usually get in a kaiju film. The hero just lost his mom to a car crash and his friend is afraid she won't live thru a heart operation in the hospital.

The parents are working class shop owners. A few moments of over-sentimentality and cuteness are here but the rest of the film makes up for it.

The special effects live up to the level of the Kaneko Gamera films with a couple of shots that are excellent. Tazaki doesn't have Kaneko's dramatic flair for the action scenes, but they are well done, nonetheless.

In closing, it's not as thrilling or suspenseful as 'Gamera Guardian of the Universe' or 'Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion' and it does not surpass most of the Godzilla movies in overall entertainment, but this is one of the better of all the Gamera films, in my humble opinion.

High Definition (1080p) transfer of Gamera the Brave
Original Japanese and dubbed English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 audio, with optional English subtitles
Commentary by Keith Aiken & Bob Johnson
How to Make a Gamera Movie, a featurette hosted by director Ryuta Tasaki
Behind The Scenes of Gamera the Brave, an all-access on-set documentary
The Men That Made Gamera, a documentary looking back at the series from start to finish, featuring interviews with cast and crew
Opening Day Premiere, a featurette showing the cast and crew presenting the film at its first showing
Kaho’s Summer, an interview with the film’s young star
Special Effects Supercut, a montage of effects shots overseen by FX supervisor Hajime Matsumoto
Trailer and image galleries

These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the collective Special Features of:

Limited collectors’ edition packaging, housed in a large-format rigid box, fully illustrated by Matt Frank
Casebound, fully-illustrated disc book containing eight Blu-ray discs
High Definition (1080p) versions of all twelve films, with lossless original Japanese audio and a complete collection of English dub tracks, including classic American International dubs on the Showa-era films remastered from original MGM elements
Hardback 130-page comic book including a full-color reprint of the four-issue Gamera comic series originally released by Dark Horse Comics in 1996, and the first-ever English-language printing of the prequel comic The Last Hope by Matt Frank and Joshua Bugosh
Perfect-bound 80-page book including a new retrospective on the series by Patrick Macias, an archive interview with Noriaki Yuasa by David Milner, kaiju X-ray illustrations by Jolyon Yates, Fangoria set reports on the Heisei trilogy by Norman England, and a viewers’ guide to the English-dubbed versions of the films
Double-sided four-panel poster of “Gamera’s Map of Japan” in both Japanese and English
Collectors’ art cards for each film, featuring new artwork by Matt Frank

'Gamera: The Complete Collection' - Arrow Video Channel Trailer HD

'Abrakadabra: Limited Edition' [BR +CD]
(Germán Baudino, Eugenia Rigón, Gustavo Dalessanro, et al / Blu-ray+CD / R / (2018) 2020 / Cauldron Films)

Overview: What the eye sees and the ear hears, the mind believes!

Thirty years after his father is tragically killed during a magic trick gone wrong, Lorenzo’s own magic act is suddenly derailed by a series of gruesome magic themed murders.

Struggling to prove his innocence, he begins to unravel the mystery that leads him through an intricate, bloody trail all the way back to his father’s demise.

Blu-ray Verdict: Filled with a pulsing Goblin-esque soundtrack and all the earmarks of a classic Giallo, 'Abrakadabra' pays homage to the Italian horror films of the '70s, and is the third, and final entry in the Argentine-born Brothers's Giallo Trilogy (the other two being 'Francesca' and 'Sonno Profondo').

Well, I have absolutely no idea how they did it, but those wondrous Onetti Brothers have conjured up a film that from the off, if you had no prior knowledge, you would assume (and without a shadow of a doubt) was filmed back in the glorious days of Giallo!

Oh, for those not in the know, and in the context of 20th-century literature and film, especially among English speakers and non-Italians in general, "Giallo" refers specifically to a particular Italian thriller-horror genre that has mystery or detective elements and often contains slasher, crime fiction, psychological thriller, psychological horror, sexploitation, psychedelic and, less frequently, supernatural horror elements.

Indeed, this particular style of Italian-produced murder mystery thriller-horror film usually blends the atmosphere and suspense of thriller fiction with elements of horror fiction (such as slasher violence) and eroticism (similar to the French fantastique genre), and often involves a mysterious killer whose identity is not revealed until the final act of the film.

Ok, so as we're all up to date now, this genre having been developed in the mid-to-late 1960s, peaked in popularity during the 1970s, and subsequently declined over the next few decades, but my goodness, these brothers have most certainly blown the dust and cobwebs off the genre and brought it back to oh-so colorful life!

Both Luciano and Nico Onetti - who also directed the international anthology 'A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio' (2019) and 'What the Waters Left Behind' (2017) - stars Germán Baudino ('What the Waters Left Behind'), María Eugenia Rigón ('Deadpoint'), Clara Kovacic ('I Am So, Tita from Buenos Aires'), Ivi Brickell ('Until It Happens'), Gustavo D´Alessandro ('Francesca'), Raúl Gederlini ('Francesca') and Pablo Vilela ('Giants of Mexico').

With a lovely run time of a healthy, but not over done 70-minutes, watching along with 'Abrakadabra' (which, for me, is a definitive Giallo homage to films like both 'Tenebrae' and 'The Bird With The Crystal Plumage'), you have zero idea who has done what, who is most likely to die next, how it will end, or, for the most part, what the f**k is actually going on!

I mean, there was even a (supposed) big reveal that came during the final act, one where I accepted what was being said, yet still remained confused - and, as it turned out, rightly so!

What we get is a theatrical performance that provides us a washed up, alcoholic gambler of a magician, still traumatized from when he sadly witnessed the death of his own father on stage (following a magic trick gone wrong), who suddenly becomes the prime suspect in a murder when a woman turns up dead amongst his own equipment.

From then on in, as the cameras tip and twirl, back and forth, up and down, the bodies continue to fall and just about everything continues to point to our already-in-the-hot seat magician - but he's doggedly determined to prove that he's being framed!

The original story was written by Carlos Goitia and so with supervision from both brothers as directors, it's obvious their main challenge was to create a story that could fit the low budget they obviously had, and yet still adequately deal with the subject of mind and personality.

Ergo, the brothers have created a rather bold and expansive use of Gaillo via their camera work, for flashing between faces, close up's here and there and everywhere (to the point that sometimes all you see are twitching eye balls), for a spit second you think everyone's a suspect. Whether it be their mannerisms, hushed conversations, flirtive looks and shy gestures, you seem (as the viewer, and amateur detective looking in) that the killer must be that guy, but no, wait, surely now it must be this girl, but no wait, ...!

Having said all that, 'Abrakadabra' is actually set in 1981 and as us oldies know that era oh-so well, here the wardrobe, set design, hair, and makeup, well, my goodness it's all so spot on it's actually quite magnificent.

Of course, due to the whole Giallo aspects, the '70s creep in, smother in certain cases, the actors and scenery accordingly, which is just fine with me. The soundtrack alone is magnificent and then we get the overall color correction, created in post-production, to bring the Giallo era to the fore, works splendidly, seamlessly.

Indeed, it's amazing to think that 'Abrakadabra' wasn't actually shot on such expressive means as either a 16mm or 35mm camera, which I'm sure they would have LOVED to have used, but using what they did obviously worked out rather well too, of course.

In closing, the brothers even took time to design the end credits to have that Giallo '70s with a tinge of '80s aura and specific look - and boy did they nail it!

Obviously neither are fans of “neo gialli,” here their collective research has paid of to the hilt and back, Word has it they even brought in a real magician to come to the shooting to help them stage things, and coach the actors also.

Also, it seems they also used real magic tricks for the murders. For example, the guillotine and the box with the spades are real acts! And in the theatre scene, there’s a real time trick for us viewers to watch, safely from the comfort of our own sofa's! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Limited to 1000 copies
CD soundtrack with music by Luciano Onetti
Behind the Scenes
Italian 5.1, Italian 2.0, and English 2.0 audio options
English & Spanish subtitles
Inserts with promotional artwork
Limited Edition high quality slipcase with original poster art

Official Purchase Link

Official Trailer

'American Rickshaw: Limited Edition' [BR+CD]
(Mitchell Gaylord, Daniel Greene, Victoria Prouty, Donald Pleasance, et al / Blu-ray+CD / NR / (1989) 2020 / Cauldron Films)

Overview: The way that is the way is not the ordinary way!

After a stripper tricks him into filming a sex tape, Scott Edwards (Olympic Gold Medalist Mitch Gaylord), a Miami rickshaw runner, becomes embroiled in the murder of an evangelist’s son when he inadvertently takes the wrong video tape.

With the help of the stripper and an Asian witch, Edwards sets out to clear his name while avoiding the assassin dead set on retrieving the video tape.

Blu-ray Verdict: Directed by Italian genre legend Sergio Martino ('All the Colors of the Dark') and Written by Sauro Scavolini ('A Man Called Blade') with a story by Roberto Leoni ('Santa Sangre') this late '80s Miami-lensed Action/Horror hybrid has only ever been available on VHS in the US in a muddy full screen presentation.

Featuring all of the action, nudity and bizarre practical effects you can handle, Cauldron Films now brings us 'American Rickshaw' (aka 'American Tiger' / 'American Risciò'), in all of its sun drenched glory, with a brand new 2K scan sourced from the original camera negative as their inaugural release!

OK, well, yes, the plot to this is extremely simple and yet, my goodness, what a LOT of fun this late '80s film really is! After inadvertently befriending an ageless witch, a young student helps her save a legendary Boar Statue from the clutches of a ruthless televangelist!

Well, you've got me hooked, so let's dive in! Scott Edwards (the aforementioned Olympic Gold Medalist Mitch Gaylord) is your typical college kid who makes ends meet by being a rickshaw puller in Coconut Grove, Florida.

Wearing his trademark Tiger tank top, something he's very proud of (as he was apparently born in the Chinese year of the Tiger), one rainy night he picks up a new fare, that of an elderly Chinese mystic, Madame Luna (Kobi) - a woman who watches everything that goes on around her via the spirits found within her "pets" ... a cat and a cobra!

But then, all hell breaks loose for Scott as he quickly gets himself knee deep in a bad conspiracy and is even more quickly framed for murder!

Out of nowhere a hitman named Francis (Greene) is on him like jam on peanut butter, so Scott goes on the run with a prostitute named Joanna (Victoria Prouty), whilst they both try and clear his name.

Oh boy, and now cometh the hour, cometh the man as maleficent televangelist Reverend Mortom (the always great, Donald Pleasance) is on the prowl and wants his pound of flesh!

Of course, sure, there are much more supernatural forces that come to the fore, from various deviant entities that join the chase, so to speak, and yet all brought out into the open by the highly cherished, and highly sought after, "stone of evil".

I think, personally, that looking at the box art and knowing what the true storyline escapade turned out to be, seems like it was perhaps a little deceiving to any prospective renters back in the day, so to speak.

Anyway, in truth, any one familiar with Italian horror and Giallo's will know the name Sergio Martino, for the man is a legend within the genre. I mean, come on now, the man has brought us every genre imaginable, like post-apocalyptic, Spaghetti Westerns, sexploitation, Poliziotteschi, and oh-so many more.

In closing, 'American Rickshaw' is a great film for its day, and still holds up today, in my humble opinion. So rush out and buy this brand new Blu-ray with soundtrack CD release (one chock full of quite wondrous '80s-esque vibes and sounds from and of the day) and settle back, grab a beer, and press play for a wonderful evening's entertainment, my friends! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.66:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Limited to 1500 copies
On camera interviews with director Sergio Martino and production designer Massimo Antonello Geleng
Then and now location footage
The Projection Booth Podcast discuss AMERICAN RICKSHAW
Commentary with Samm Deighan & Kat Ellinger
Image Gallery
Booklet with writing by grindhouse comics writer and Tough to Kill co-author, David Zuzelo
Reversible cover featuring Italian artwork
Limited Edition high quality slipcase with new artwork by Mattias Frisk

Official Purchase Link

Official Trailer

'Even Money: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Kim Basinger, Nick Cannon, Danny DeVito, Kelsey Grammer, Carla Gugino, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2006) 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: Struggling writer Kate (Kim Basinger) loses her family's savings at a casino; a washed-up magician (Danny Devito) tries to help Carol regain her money; Clyde (Forest Whitaker) owes so much money to his dangerous bookie (Jay Mohr) that he asks his NBA-destined nephew (Nick Cannon) to throw the game.

Also starring Kelsey Grammer, Tim Roth, Ray Liotta and Carla Gugino, 'Even Money' is a cautionary thriller about addiction and deception that hits a jackpot of suspense.

Blu-ray Verdict: 'Even Money' follows a theme that many are seeming to tackle lately. That of intertwined actions from inter-related characters resulting in one climactic reaction. 'Crash' mastered this superbly only two years earlier and then came 'Even Money.'

Lined up with a commendable list of actors, 'Even Money' sets out to prove something from the start. Based around a theme of gambling addiction and its consequences, 'Even Money' definitely delivers where it matters.

Everyone plays their part effortlessly but some obviously stand out more than others. After disappearing into the world of direction, Danny Devito reappears as a failed magician still holding onto his dream.

His character offers moments of comic relief and utter charm. Tim Roth is impeccable as Victor, the second-hand man to mysterious Ivan. But it is that of Forest Whitaker who absolutely shines once again in this film, showing that there is no role he cannot hold.

While the acting for the most part is truly fierce, and the mood is alive with all the happenings of a gritty urban underworld, 'Even Money' feels like it tries just a bit too hard, or possibly, not enough, in making the character's stories interweave and you can see it a mile away.

But even with that, it is much more about the emotions portrayed through those lasts scenes and the impact they have. 'Even Money' is a dramatic and powerful attempt at a new 'Crash' and achieves a definite amount of success. 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 of the main feature
Audio: English 5.1 Surround
English and Spanish Subtitles
Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:30)

'Even Money: Special Edition' [Blu-ray] is out April 14th, 2020 via MVD Visual.

'Even Money' Trailer

'First Snow: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Guy Pearce, Piper Perabo, J.K. Simmons, William Fichtner, Adam Scott, et al / Blu-ray / R / (2006) 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential), Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly) and Academy Award© Winner* J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Spider-Man 1-3) star in this intriguing thriller about a man whose life spins out of control after psychic tells him his days are numbered.

After his car breaks down in a desolate town, a slick salesman, Jimmy Starks (Pearce), visits a fortune teller (Simmons) to kill some time.

But the psychic's ominous reading sends Jimmy's life into a tailspin when he learns that his life will soon end, but he is safe at least, until the first snow of the season.

ow, with his ultimate fate looming nearer, Jimmy becomes obsessed with revisiting his past in hopes of changing his destiny before it's too late.

Blu-ray Verdict: Guy Pearce confirmed his cult status with his tortured Leonard of Memento. Writing notes to himself because of his serious short term memory loss, he pursues a putative killer of his wife.

Now in 'First Snow,' Pearce as Jimmy Starks pursues another threat, his imminent death disclosed by a fortune teller. The theme of fate versus determinism - Can anyone alter his destiny? - is provocatively introduced, but only partially developed beyond plot demands for someone avoiding death.

The expectations for a thematically heavy duty, time challenged thriller like Christopher Nolan's Memento are not always in Mike Fergus's 'First Snow,' a semi-entertaining thriller slow in many parts and hardly challenging other than seeing Pearce put his indie-strange stamp on a mediocre knockoff of his most famous role.

Here he displays his usual taut physical and mental persona but without any puzzling character depths other than selling old Wurlitzer juke boxes and flooring while touting shoulder-length hair and attitude incommensurate with the nowhere character he inhabits.

The New Mexico setting is just right for the new-age ambiance of the occult and existentialism. This region has had its cult status confirmed with the many UFO sightings and the starkly haunting work of Georgia O'Keefe. Chris Martinez's minimalist score punctuates the spare emotional landscape.

Jimmy's palm reader, Vacaro (a wonderfully weary J.K. Simmons), says, "I saw no more roads, no more tomorrows. But you're safe until the first snow."

The script doesn't allow Jimmy to go too far beyond disbelief at this prophecy into whether or not one can be happy knowing the future. Try he will to alter that future but without intellectual resolution for the audience.

More promising is the redemption motif in which he must face a recently-released-from-prison former business partner, who went up the river because of Jimmy's testimony and who may now wish to exact his due.

How Jimmy faces this prophetic return is not well enough dissected, but it remains an energetic coda to an otherwise sporadically interesting study of personal responsibility and fate. 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 of the main feature
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
English Subtitles
Final Omen featurette (SD, 03:32)
Behind The Scenes featurette (SD, 07:12)
Interview with Actors Guy Pearce & Piper Perabo (SD, 6:54)
Interview with Actor J.K. Simmons (SD, 1:20)
Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:00)
Reversible Artwork

'First Snow: Special Edition' [Blu-ray] is out June 30th, 2020 via MVD Visual.

'First Snow' Trailer

'Haven: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Orlando Bloom, Zoe Saldana, Anthony Mackie, Bill Paxton, Bobby Cannavale, et al / Blu-ray / R / (2004) 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: On the idyllic shores of the Cayman Islands, Shy (Orlando Bloom, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and Andrea (Zoe Saldana, Guardians of the Galaxy) share a secret her parents can never know - they are in love.

But a night of passion leads to their discovery and a devastating act of vengeance by Andrea's brother (Anthony Mackie, Captain America: Civil War).

Meanwhile, a shady American businessman (Bill Paxton, Aliens) has fled with his daughter to the Islands to avoid federal prosecution, only to be drawn into a dangerous web of deceit.

As lives intersect and truths are revealed, a chain reaction of violence is set in motion that will determine whether love can survive the fall of paradise.

Blu-ray Verdict: From the producers of 'Crash', this non-linear narrative style movie takes place in the Cayman Islands and boy, it makes for one really remarkable movie (for many reasons).

The cast does a great job, Bloom especially delivering one of his best performances so far, but there really is not a single weak act that stands out.

Indeed, writer/director Frank E. Flowers does a fantastic job of keeping the story coherent as we alternate between two timelines, set four months apart. The acting is strong and the entire film has a distinctive atmosphere.

The writing is tight and complex and the movie introduces a fair number of very different characters that we need to care about in order for it to work, but they do pull that angle off - and that is quite a considerable achievement in itself, as you yourself will discover.

As aforementioned, the story is told in a non-linear way, and in fact there is a phase of the movie during which you might wonder how this whole thing fits together.

But then the threads are pulled together nicely and artfully, with a lot of attention to detail so that a viewer will be delighted in their visual discoveries (although, sure, perhaps repeated viewings wouldn't be a bad idea either just to ensure you catch all the seams, so to speak).

Ergo, those things that fall into place are seen to have a meaning with respect to other parts of the narrative, and quickly the film becomes complete and whole.

Oh, and high praise to the photography/cinematography too as it is truly beautiful in those places where it should be, and gritty in others.

There, in my humble opinion, 'Haven' is a gritty, fierce yet picturesque portrayal of realism surrounding Cayman's underground subcultures.

From love to drugs to violence, Flowers and his team perform an astounding delivery of these themes through the use of raw, powerful drama, all the while winding around a multitude of heinous plots that grow and intertwine to the point of cataclysm.

In conclusion, the lesson learned here is that people, even good people, can be cruel. There's something for every one here for 'Haven' is a complete rollercoaster of emotions and a carnival of characters that I'm sure you'll enjoy. I know I did. 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 of the main feature
Audio: English 5.1 Surround
English and Spanish Subtitles
Making of Featurette (SD, 3:26)
Original Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:30)

'Haven: Special Edition' [Blu-ray] is out April 14th, 2020 via MVD Visual.

'Haven' Trailer

'Possession: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Sarah Michelle Gellar, Lee Pace, Chelah Horsdal, Michael Landes, et al / Blu-ray / PG-13 / (2009) 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: Sarah Michelle Gellar (The Grudge 1 & 2), leads an all-star cast including Lee Pace (TV's Pushing Daisies) and Michael Landes (Lakeview Terrace) in the year's most mesmerizing thriller.

Newlyweds Jess (Gellar) and Ryan (Landes) seem to have it all until a car accident renders both Ryan and his brother Roman (Pace) comatose. But things spin even more eerily out of control when Roman awakens and tries to convince Jess that he is her husband.

Beside herself with fear and grief, Jess grapples with one question: Could the man before her actually be the man she lost - or does something far more sinister await her in his arms?

Blu-ray Verdict: Jess (Sarah Michelle Gellar) finds her perfect married life turned upside-down when both her husband Ryan (Michael Landes) and his bad-boy brother Roman (Lee Pace) are sent into comas following a head-on car collision.

Roman eventually wakes from his coma, but seems convinced that he is Ryan. Will Jess believe that her husband's spirit has somehow passed into the body of his brother, or will she call bulls**t?!

It doesn't surprise me at all to find that 'Possession' is a remake of an Asian film: it stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, it moves like molasses, and the messy plot sure takes some swallowing!

The title promises supernatural shenanigans, and for most of the film, that is precisely what we are led to believe we are watching; but as the film progresses (very, very slowly) to the less than scintillating finale, it becomes apparent that there is nothing supernatural about the story whatsoever!

Personally, I felt more than a tad cheated: I watched the film with the expectation of a spooky chiller, but what I got was a psychological thriller-cum-romance instead, sorry!

That all said, I recently watched 'Addicted,' the Korean film on which this was based and as much as it too is also a very slow-moving film, it did possess (sorry, not sorry) a much more, and wholly worthwhile overall spooky vibe to it (which, at some point, became devoid here in the American remake).

And so, in conclusion, and playing Devil's Advocate, 'Possession' has an interesting plot which keeps you thinking and, at times, even guessing throughout, but the "mystery" is still reserved for the very end reveal.

Though the acting is not outstanding, the plot makes up for it in that respect and where some might find the actual reveal a little weird, given that there are definitely scenes beforehand that kinda sorta contradicting of the ending, if you don't think to hard, this film is just perfect for a wet Sunday evening viewing. 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 of the main feature
Audio: English 5.1 Surround
English and Spanish Subtitles
Making of Featurette with star Sarah Michelle Gellar (SD, 3:34)
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (SD, 32:58)
Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:26)
Reversible Artwork

'Possession: Special Edition' [Blu-ray] is out April 14th, 2020 via MVD Visual.

'Possession' Trailer

Nothing Stays The Same: The Story of The Saxon Pub
(Various / DVD / NR / (2019) 2020 / MVD Visual)

Overview: With iconic Austin venues closing each year due to rising rents and property taxes, the writing is on the wall for The Saxon Pub, a mainstay for live music since 1990.

Soon being forced to a new space - akin to closure for most clubs - its owner, staff, regulars, and its beloved musicians turn to face the music until they learn their fate might not be sealed after all.

DVD Verdict: As noted, 'Nothing Stays The Same' celebrates the last 30 years of live music in Austin, Texas, while also examining the challenges faced by musicians and music venues in one of the fastest-growing and most popular cities in the country, all through the lens of the legendary Saxon Pub.

Opened in 1990, the Saxon has hosted well over 22,000 musical performances and has also been the location for films, videos and countless live recordings.

On any given night you might see a major celebrity from the film or music industry either having a beer or sitting in on stage jamming with the locals.

Furthermore, this award-winning listening room has helped launch the careers of several prominent entertainers. It is also known for booking some of the greatest music legends around, performing in an intimate atmosphere that Kris Kristofferson likened to “playing in his own living room.”

As we progress though this highly informative new documentary, we quickly learn that located on South Lamar in Austin, TX, the Saxon Pub was actually going to be forced to relocate (because of rising rents and real estate deals) in 2015.

But by 2016, the plan had collapsed – but this wasn't the same old song of an Austin club on the brink of disappearing. Instead, it got an unexpected lease of life from a surprising source.

Longtime TV documentarian Jeff Sandmann's decided to film a tribute, if you will, to his beloved Pub, with its sticky floors and awesome sounds generated almost 7-days a week, and so instead of a There she goes direction, he redirected the viewers eyes and ears toward something much more optimistic.

Chock full of oh-so many talking heads and, in some cases, even recognizable faces, ok sure, his documentary does lean more toward those musicians in residence for the local bar (most of which you will not have a clue about if you live outside of Austin), but the way Sandmann (a real last name that totally rocks!) showcases those challenges that faced owner/manager Joe Ables (let alone his employees and all those musicians) truly defines not only the Saxon Pub, but this documentary as a whole.

In closing, 'Nothing Stays The Same: The Story of The Saxon Pub' is a quite wondrous look into the history of Austin music, whilst at the same time a musical treat for your ears. It also won the Best Music Documentary at SXSW in 2019. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Nothing Stays The Same: The Story of The Saxon Pub' [DVD] is out July 14th, 2020 via MVD Visual.

'Nothing Stays The Same: The Story of The Saxon Pub' Trailer

'Sukiyaki Western Django: Collector's Edition'
(Hideaki Ito, Yusuke Iseya, Kaori Momoi, Quentin Tarantino, et al / Blu-ray / R / (2007) 2019 / MVD Visual)

Overview: Famed Japanese auteur Takashi Miike, best known for cult classics 'Audition', 'Ichi the Killer' and 'The City of Lost Souls', redefines the spaghetti Western with 'Sukiyaki Western Django,' an epic tale of blood, lust and greed starring Hideaki Ito, Yusuke Iseya, Kaori Momoi and Quentin Tarantino ('Pulp Fiction').

Two clans battle for a legendary treasure hidden in a desolate mountain town. One day, a lone gunman, burdened with deep emotional scars but blessed with incredible shooting skills, drifts into town.

Two clans try to woo the lone gunman to their sides, but he has ulterior motives. Dirty tricks, betrayal, desire and love collide as the situation erupts into a final, explosive showdown.

Blu-ray Verdict: In a way, everything Takashi Miike makes from here on out could easily be considered fan service. That's partially because he has fans that wouldn't be disappointed no matter what he does!

From the straight street dramas of the Black Society Trilogy to the messy violence of his more famous cult classics and lately to the more surreal works of 'Big Bang Love, Juvenile A' and even 'Zebraman', his work is both loved and admired.

But it's also partially because nobody really has a handle on what he's doing except that it's bizarre! So how does one tell a good Miike movie from any other one?

Well, how kick-ass it is? Yup, sometimes it just boils down to that!

'Sukiyaki Western Django' is a boiled mish-mash of various conceits and approaches, an almost chaotic display of Western bravado meets mixed-genre in-jokes.

With Quentin Tarantino and a brief animated display, nonetheless!

However, what makes it really work are those things that wouldn't have worked if it wasn't half the point: the broad widescreen of Sergio Leone - used to show a color-corrected Japanese landscape that looks nothing like the West; the Man with No Name approaching a nearly empty gold mining town - made in Japanese architecture complete with the man hanging off of the rectilinear entry-gate; set in a dry universe of gun-play and whiskey - that suddenly turns to rain and snow once the violence and vengeance comes reigning from the sky!

Phew, yup, the point isn't to make a Western with Japanese people, the point is to make an epic shootout with grit-teethed character. The rest are all details.

Anachronistic, displaced and utterly absurd details, but beautiful beautiful detail at that.

It's not strictly parody and it's not strictly surreal. At one point there's a hint that it's a prequel to the title movie. It has references to things from 'Yojimbo' to 'Once Upon a Time in America' on through to 'Kill Bill,' but it exists utterly in its own logic and is completely unpredictable.

The characters discuss anime as a weakness, a sheriff starts grappling with himself like Gollum from 'The Lord of the Rings,' and the spider-woman gunslinger might be a hermaphrodite (just saying!)

But while I do not believe in a "Miike Universe" that cross-references between different movies, there is most certainly a "Miike mood" which is the ability to range from pure hysterics to morbid fascination to disturbing reveals to good ol' fashioned fireworks.

This movie might not make a lick of sense in terms of chronology and setting, but that won't stop you from caring deeply about its characters and laughing at its jokes.

This is one of those things where I really wish I could get more people to buy/rent the movie at work, simply because it's so much goddamn fun, but have to settle for the fact that for the most part, the incredibly sincere Japanese acting and the over-the-top Western landscapes (including a painted backdrop that purposefully gets blood sprayed on it) won't mesh with the average viewer's careful expectations of what they want from a movie.

For shame, too, because this is actually precisely what you want from a Western. Nobody goes into a Western for it to make any historical sense! Am I right! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the main feature in 2.35:1 aspect ratio
Audio: English 5.1 Surround, 2.0 Stereo
English and Spanish Subtitles
Sukiyaki Western Django : Extended Cut (HD, 159:57, with Optional Japanese Subtitles)
Making of Featurette (SD, 52:37, In Japanese with English Subtitles)
Deleted Scenes (SD, 06:37)
Sizzle Reel (SD, 03:12)
Promotional Clips (SD, 02:58)
US and Japanese Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots (SD)
Reversible Artwork

'Sukiyaki Western Django' Original Movie Trailer