'Doctor Sleep' (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital)
(Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: Years following the events of 'The Shining,' a now-adult Dan Torrance must protect a young girl with similar powers from a cult known as The True Knot, who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.
Blu-ray Verdict: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the simply breathtaking 'Doctor Sleep’ in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this February 4th, 2020.
For my money, this 'Doctor Sleep: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' combo pack's sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.
So, what we have is 'Doctor Sleep' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265 (63.78 Mbps), Resolution: Native 4K (2160p), HDR: Dolby Vision + HDR10+, Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 and Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1.
Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHD's, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.
Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; such as the scenes in the woods, where all the foliage is now immensely green and, at times, vibratingly shiny and alive. It just all comes more vividly to life, which is amazing to see, in truth.
Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material (notably the scenes back in the hotel where the tricycle still gets ridden up and down the carpeted hallway by a young boy; and the scenes set in the attic with McGregor fighting the evil forces) now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the 1080p Blu-ray accounting.
As for the audio, well we have: English: Dolby Atmos, English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), English: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps), Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps), and French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1.
Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.
Phew! OK, so, as for the movie itself, well, as aforementioned, 'Doctor Sleep' is the decades-later sequel to the Jack Nicolson horror classic, 'The Shining,' set primarily many years after the events at the Outlook Hotel that left young Danny Torrance scarred for life.
Danny (Ewan McGregor) is now an alcoholic adult who battles with inner demons who manifest because of his "shine." He also faces real-world demons of sort in the form of vampire-like creatures who steal the souls of children who "shine".
Dan and a particularly powerful young girl cross paths and team up to battle a group of the creatures, who call themselves the True Knot.
In the film's best moments, it really shines (sorry). Mike Flanagan (who has steadily been building his reputation as the most reliable working horror director) performs a challenging dance of honoring both Stanley Kubrick's film and Stephen King's novel sequel.
This task becomes all the more difficult when we realize that the follow-up novel paid no mind to the changes between the first book and movie. Certain characters are in different places and key landmarks, like the hotel, faced different fates. Fortunately, Flanagan pulls it off.
At times we can also sense a struggle between calling back to the original and pushing forward with a new vision. Fortunately, Flanagan pulls that off too.
One scene in particular that displays Flanagan skill and vision features True Knot leader, Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), leaving her body and floating across the country in search of the powerful young girl.
I would've enjoyed seeing more moments like this and fewer obvious homages to the original movie. There's plenty to this story to more than stand on its own.
For, in my humble journalistic opinion, the film would have benefitted from further breaking away from 'The Shining'.'
Blood and violence are kept relatively tame aside from one brutally unsettling scene that gives a sense of how vicious and unfeeling the True Knot group members truly are.
Ferguson owns this scene, displaying equal parts menace and alluring charisma. Her performance is the best in the film, with respect to McGregor, who does fine work as well.
Ultimately, the film works well thanks to the strong performances and skill of Flanagan, remaining entertaining throughout the lengthy 152-minute runtime.
As for the special features included here on this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition, the stand out for me has to be From Shining to Sleep (4:56). Here Director Mike Flanagan and author Stephen King talk about the challenges of continuing a modern classic, the obvious differences between the two novels, Stanley Kubrick's movie, ending with fire and ice, resurrecting some of the original book's themes, and the merging of two or three worlds.
Another decent one, if not all too short, is The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision (13:57) where Flanagan and King (along with actor Ewan McGregor, producer Trevor Macy, actresses Kyliegh Curran and Rachel Ferguson, costume designer Terry Anderson, and others) return to speak about the film's development, sending the script to King, continuing Danny Torrance's story, bringing literary characters to life, casting Abra, finding Rose's hat, The True Knot, and much more (albeit it somewhat crammed into just 15 minutes, of course).
The last one is Return to The Overlook (14:59) where Mike Flanagan (with more of his friends surrounding his thoughts and comments) talks more about his first exposure to Kubrick's film on VHS, rebuilding and tearing down the iconic Overlook Hotel, production design highlights, hunting down a few vintage props, a quick set tour, casting familiar characters with different actors, makeup effects, frivolous nudity, and even imitation vs. homage.
The included Director’s Cut features nearly 30 minutes of new, alternate and extended scenes, selected by director Mike Flanagan, not seen in theaters.
The Director’s Cut will be available on the Blu-ray disc and Digital in the 4K UHD Blu-ray Combo Pack and the Blu-ray editions come February 4th, 2020.
This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:
• From Shining to Sleep
• The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision
• Return to The Overlook
'Deadly Manor: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Clark Tufts, Greg Rhodes, Claudia Franjul, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1990) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: A group of teenagers take refuge in an old, deserted mansion. Soon the members of the group start turning up dead, and the teenagers realize that they're not alone in the mansion.
Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, 'Deadly Manor' is a strange slasher flick directed by Joseph Larraz. Other Larraz films I've seen took place either in England or in Spain ('Deviation', 'Vampyres' and 'Black Candles') and featured sophisticated, and yet delightfully ambiguous characters. But 'Deadly Manor' was filmed in the USA and its characters are a bunch of stereotyped American teenagers!
The story plays out like this: A group of teenagers are heading for a place situated by a lake with a strange name, but they don't know its exact location.
On their way they pick up a hitcher that seems to know the area. But the lake they are going to is still hours away and they take refuge in a seemingly abandoned old mansion.
Once there, the mansion oozes something sinister within it, they can all feel it, and so by dusk, and as it looms there menacingly before them, they all feel like they've been there before! Nevertheless, they decide to remain there for the night. (and so begins the "fun"!)
Larraz's first venture into the slasher genre was 'Edge of The Axe,' which was a fairly decent attempt with an interesting premise. Thus, I think that 'Deadly Manor' was made with an eye for the American market, but it still has that distinctive Larraz touch (like, it still maintains that zen vibe that pervades all his films.
The sex has been toned down and there's not much gore to speak of, and the film may feel kind of slow for the usual slasher film fans, but the strange atmosphere, the beautiful and minimalistic soundtrack, may well keep his horror fans tuned in.
Indeed, the ending twist which gives us all clarification of the manors history and what was indeed "lurking" there is rather reasonably, original and effective. So, yeah, the last ten minutes form a worthwhile swan song to Larraz' career, in my humble opinion.
In closing, those that like Larraz' films should give this one a try. Even if the characters may seem shallow when compared to those of his other films, 'Deadly Manor' is still interesting; if you like films for their atmosphere. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary with Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan
Newly-filmed interview with actress Jennifer Delora
Making a Killing - a newly-filmed interview with producer Brian Smedley-Aston
Extract from an archival interview with Jose Larraz
Original Savage Lust VHS trailer
Original Script and Shooting Schedule (BD-ROM content)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais + FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by author John Martin
(Speech Thomas (Arrested Development), Teddy Kane, Garland Carr, Anthony Johnston, Devonte James, et al / DVD / NR / (2018) 2020 / Lightyear Entertainment)
Overview: '16 Bars' offers a rare glimpse at the human stories and songs locked away in our nation's jails and prisons.
The documentary follows a unique rehabilitation effort in a Virginia jail that encourages inmates to write and record original music.
DVD Verdict: In the jail's makeshift recording studio, four men collaborate to produce an album with Grammy-winner Todd Speech Thomas of Arrested Development.
But, and before anything else, we listen to this quartet of heartbreaking stories from the incarcerated men: Garland, De’vonte, Anthony, and Teddy. The four come from all walks of life–from crippling poverty and homelessness to a decent family life.
As the creative process unfolds, these incarcerated artists must confront the traumas of their past, and music becomes the key to unlocking a new chapter in their lives.
That said, one very important thing to know going in was this was nothing more than an experiment. Not that listening to the quartet and their sad stories isn't going to make you care for them, but you will definitely lean in more and listen to their collective words: both spoken about life and through their lyrics.
What they end up singing about is their lives on the street, drug addictions, drug epidemics, and feeling as if having free time could get them deeper into trouble. In short, they sing about being trapped inside the system.
Two-time Grammy-winner Speech Thomas is widely considered one of the godfathers of conscious hip-hop. His band Arrested Development's 1993 debut album 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of... went quadruple platinum and achieved what few thought was possible at the time; establishing an Afrocentric alternative to gangster rap that was commercially viable.
25 years later, Speech continues to tour the world with his band and seek out opportunities to use music to address issues of social and racial justice.
Starting in 2017, he set out on a journey to the Richmond City Jail, where he conducted music workshops with inmates. His goal was to shed light on the complex issues in our criminal justice system by bringing the voices and stories of incarcerated people to a larger audience.
And so here in '16 Bars' we get a most beautifully, dedicated and simply inner-driven film that shines a light on a system that needs to change and the hidden talent within that system.
Everyone from the staff to the inmates as well as the producers of this gem of a film prove that change is possible and go further as to offer suggestions for the future. This is a Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the extras of:
4 Individual Music Videos For Songs Created Inside The Prison Recording Studio
Full Q&A After The World Premiere Screening of DocLands Film Festival at Smith Rafael Film Center, Courtesy of California Film Institute
'The Mindy Project - The Complete Series'
(Mindy Kaling, Chris Messina, Ike Barinholtz, et al / 10-Disc DVD / NR / 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Kaling) is a talented obstetrician navigating the tricky waters of her chaotic personal life as she pursues her dreams of becoming the perfect woman, finding happiness and getting her perfect romantic comedy ending.
DVD Verdict: For those completely uninitiated about this show, it's about, well, ... Mindy! She's an OB/Gyn living in New York City and works at a practice with Danny and Jeremy, who are also OB/Gyns.
She also works with Morgan and Tamra, nurses and Beverly, the person who you really don't know what she does there. They all have fun adventures together whilst finding love, but she must balance her personal and professional life whilst being surrounded by her quirky friends in the small office.
But over the 117 episodes and six (6) seasons, was it any good? The short answer to that is that the scripts were, for the most part, usually all very good.
The jokes and most all one-liners make you laugh effortlessly and the additional bouts of physical humor also made it a fun watch. So, yeah, overall, 'The Mindy Project' was a comedy that was highly enjoyable and fresh.
With Mindy Kaling coming off of her memorable role in The Office, I was really looking forward to some good stuff from her. She most certainly adds some rather interesting takes to stuff here in this, for the most part, single-gal-in-the-city show, but by far the most "outrageous" thing here is that she's a minority actor in the lead of a regular show.
That said, as it was a big deal back then, Mindy doesn't really play up that fact for other than a brother, her family aspect isn't used much.
Funnily enough, she plays up her chubbiness more than her ethnicity and as much as there are admittedly times where Mindy does struggle to find the natural flow of headlining a comedy, her revolving door of relationships does at least give you high levels of amusement.
Along with Danny Castellano (Chris Messina), Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks) and later Peter Prentice (Adam Pally), Morgan Tookers (Ike Barinholtz), Beverly (Beth Grant), Betsy Putch (Zoe Jarman) and Tamra (Xosha Roquemore) - as the nurses - 'The Mindy Project' showcases the fact Mindy Kaling is indeed a smart cookie.
Furthermore, it shows in her character, the writing, and the dynamic of the show as someone confident within themselves and willing to take chances out there alone on the comedic edge.
I actually started watching 'The Mindy Project' because it aired after 'New Girl' and honestly as the episodes went by I found myself liking Mindy's show more and more.
In truth, I have also over the years garnered quite a distaste for 'New Girl,' but that's neither here nor there! The difference for me is in the strength of the female characters. Mindy does an amazing job portraying a smart, successful, self-possessed woman who is still charming, quirky, and sometimes neurotic.
You won't find that combination in 'New Girl,' at least not in the two female leads. Yes, I'm well aware that after three (3) season on Fox they cancelled it, and that it was picked up by Hulu and given a new lease of life for the remaining three (3) years, but that shouldn't distract from the fact that the show was genuinely funny and achingly heartfelt in all it attempted to portray and do.
In closing, and if I haven't made it clear enough already, the fact that Mindy also takes part in the writing process explains why her character is always just so convincing.
There hasn't been a moment of doubt or inconsistency about her character. It has been said that 'The Mindy Project' is a "girly show" because Mindy herself is the quintessence of romance, but being a man, I have to say that never stopped me enjoying it!
Sure, yeah, the male characters are there to make fun of it along the way so I don't really understand why guys wouldn't love it too!
'The Mindy Project' is just so well written with an incredible cast and with each episode running about 22 minutes each, you feel like you've just had a welcomed comedic mini-break afterward! This is an Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:
'El esqueleto de la señora Morales' [Blu-ray]
(Arturo De Córdova, Amparo Rivelles, Elda Peralta, Guillermo Orea, Rosenda Monteros, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1960) 2020 / VCI Video - MVD Visual)
Overview: A taxidermist decides to murder his wife after having to put up with her after twenty years of hellish marriage.
Blu-ray Verdict: Funnily enough, I used to have tape of this movie I made when it appeared on TV down in Mexico City during one of my visits there years ago.
I only saw it a couple of times and don't have the tape anymore, but I've always hoped it would come out on DVD/Blu-ray.
And now it has, via the wonderful MVD Visual and the first thing I can say about it is that seeing it today through "new eyes" the film could easily be compared to some of Alfred Hitchcock's more macabre and darkly humorous films.
This was made towards the end of the golden period in Mexican cinema. In the 1960's things took a turn towards the cheesy side and only within the past several years has Mexican cinema seen a bit of a turnaround; with some world-class productions, in my humble opinion.
The black and white photography is excellent and the acting is superb in this film about a man who stuffs animals for a living and has a wife who is even colder than the dead creatures in his workshop.
I won't say more so as not to have any spoilers, but suffice to say that 'The Skeleton of Mrs. Morales' (which it is better known as here in the US and around the world) is a cult film that sadly caused no big impression in 1960.
The style was too conventional, but there is a playful fluctuation between extremes that moves the story, and makes the film an attractive, enjoyable and enduring production even today. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Una Familia De Tantas' [Blu-ray]
(Fernando Soler, David Silva, Martha Roth, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1949) 2020 / VCI Video - MVD Visual)
Overview: 'Una Familia De Tantas' (aka 'A Family Like Many Others') is not only the most popular and beloved family melodrama of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, it's also an intelligent, subtle cinematic dialogue with the audience.
Widely considered a masterpiece, the film reflects the morals of the urban middle class and questions the authoritarian logic of family structure.
Blu-ray Verdict: In the beginning of the 20th century, Mexicans were influenced in their daily lives by the exquisiteness of France's elegant and traditional culture. France combined perfectly with Spain's heritage in their family values.
Mexican family members were very close and their Religious beliefs allowed them to see the family as the center of their lives. Pretty soon this changed.
After the end of World War II the European influence gave way to the one from the United States, which was totally different. The upper and middle classes younger generations, in a desire of new guidelines looked to the North to adopt what that Country had to offer.
Families were never the same since then. The control that the Father used to have over his family members diminished abruptly, kids wanted to live their own lives even if this meant not to accept what till then had been the Patriarch's decision.
This is exactly what 'Una Familia De Tantas' is all about: The initiation of lost family traditions, which through the beginning of the 21st Century has disintegrated many families in Mexico.
Rodrigo Catano seeks to impose in his family a Porfirian order. One day a door to door salesman, Roberto del Hierro, comes into the house to sell an American vacuum cleaner from the "Bright O'Home" company.
Maru, Mr. Catano's daughter, watches Roberto while he demostrates the new machine. Roberto leaves and says he will come back to explain Mr. Catano about the vacuum cleaner.
Mr. Catano is very upset because a man has been in his house without him been present. Nevertheless, with fast and intelligent talk, Roberto sells him the vacuum cleaner and, later on, a refrigerator!
Maru is captivated by Roberto and they fall in love. Mr. Catano is furious when Roberto announces to him he will marry Maru.
In closing, and furthermore, 'Una Familia De Tantas' is a movie that allows many of us to meditate about traditions and modernity and is still as pertinent to our human society today as it ever was. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'La Barraca' [Blu-ray]
(Domingo Soler, Anita Blanch, Amparo Morillo, José Baviera, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1945) 2020 / VCI Video - MVD Visual)
Overview: In rural Spain, a new family arrives in town to work a parcel (barraca), the townsfolk are very hostile to the idea of "another" working the land that once belonged to one of them.
Blu-ray Verdict: This classic, now for the very first time on Blu-ray and produced from a new 4K restoration, is recognized as one of Mexico's Top 20 movies of all time!
'La Barraca' is a rather successful adaptation of a novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (the man who wrote "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", "Blood and Sand" and "Beyond All Limits") and has been, for many, many years lauded as being a highlight of Mexican cinema.
Roberto Gavaldón's 'La Barraca' even won all the top Ariel's (Mexican National Film Prizes) awarded to the 1945 production, including Best Film, Direction, Screenplay, Cinematography, Actor, Supporting Actor, Film Editor, Music, Art Direction and Sound!
The production is lavish and the intentions are good here and with a lot obviously invested in special effects and the casting of the many Spanish actors who were refugees from the Civil War, and to make Mexican locales pass for Sevilla, the results are phenomenal for the day.
Filmmaker Tito Davison's (a frequent collaborator of Gavaldón) script is just magnificent and provides us with a first hour or so dedicated to illustrating all the hardships of a foreign family that arrives in town.
They occupy an abandoned "barraca" (a cabin) to work the land nearby, property of the family responsible for the tragedy of the first occupants, but soon discover that the community considers the cabin and land to be haunted.
But everybody is so mean (except for an old shepherd) that it seems it is the people who are really possessed by evil spirits for all they spitefully do many wrong things to the family members; including bringing about the death of the youngest child.
The script is a amazing and accumulates tragedy after tragedy seamlessly and yet thoughtfully. We get moments of happy times with folk music, dances and serenades, but ultimately return to tragedy for the last fifteen minutes or so,
In closing, 'La Barraca' reminded me a bit of Thomas Vinterberg's 'The Hunt,' although 'La Barraca' was made 67 years before, and its characters are more rebellious and confront the mean characters. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
The Hudson River Massacre: MVD Classics [Blu-ray]
(George Martin, Luis Marin, Pamela Tudor, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1965) 2020 / VCI Video - MVD Visual)
Overview: Victor, chief of the fur hunters rebels, kidnaps Ann from the ruthless landowner as a bartering tool.
Blu-ray Verdict: Canada, Nineteenth century. The Hudson Bay Company, with James Sullivan (Santiago Rivero) at the helm and supported by the British Mounted Police, impose unacceptable conditions on native trappers.
A group led by Leo Limoux (Franco Fantasia), rebel in retaliation. Victor DeFrois (George Martin), a trapper who, until the execution his brother by the British soldiers had remained neutral, kidnaps Ann Sullivan (Giulia Rubini), daughter of the ruthless owner of the Hudson Bay Company, to use as a bartering tool while the rebels seek to disrupt and gain control of the company's business.
George Martin stars as a beefy frontiersman who joins up with a rabble of hunter/prospector types operating along the US/Canadian border and running afoul of the Royal Mounties for some reason that escaped my high school textbook German.
Things come to a head when they kidnap the only blond haired woman within a thousand miles as a bartering tool, who it turns out is all too happy to be removed from the clutches of the local land baron that paid good money to have a trophy wife sent up north to him.
In this classic spaghetti western written and directed by Amando de Ossorio (Tombs of the Blind Dead), Martin makes an appealing if somewhat ordinary he-man sort of lead, and more enjoyment is found watching the contributions of cult movie icons Franco Fantasia and Raf Baldessare as two of the frontiersmen.
The costuming and equipment carried by the players is also amusingly odd: Nobody seems to be wearing any clothes more than a week old, and modern day police special pistols are used alongside of prop-ish looking firearms with little or no concern about authenticity.
Characters use knives that are brand new, reflectively shiny and don't appear to be sharpened. The main point of the costuming and props seems to be to set the two societies apart: The Mounties wear funny Mountie hats, the frontiersmen wear fur hats fashioned from raccoons and leather vests.
That all aside, and more interestingly is the location work, probably filming in the mountains of northern Spain as a substitute for Canada, and fans of the 1974 Peter Fonda movie 'Open Season' will recognize the lake that much of the action is set around as being the location used for that movie's exteriors as well.
In closing, 'The Hudson River Massacre' is an incredibly obscure movie that has probably never gotten more than Cowboy Matinée showings on cable in it's English language form, if even then.
But it would be right at home alongside such fare, sort of cunningly disguised as a cheapo 83 minute Western with lots of gunplay, dopey frontier romance and a musical interlude to get things going! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Manon: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Serge Reggiani, Michel Auclair, Cécile Aubry, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1949) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: A classical tragic romance transposed to a World War II setting, Clouzot's film follows the travails of Manon (Cécile Aubry), a village girl accused of collaborating with the Nazis who is rescued from imminent execution by a former French Resistance fighter (Michel Auclair).
The couple move to Paris, but their relationship turns stormy as they struggle to survive, resorting to profiteering, prostitution and even murder.
Eventually escaping to Palestine, the pair attempt a treacherous desert crossing in search of the happiness which seems to forever elude them.
Blu-ray Verdict: Personally, I can imagine that Clouzot took on the task of filming this classic with a lot of trepidation: it's just not his kind of story.
A picaresque novel of 1734, with aristocratic ideals in conflict with a sordid story was not going to be well-handled by a director who pioneered the noir form in France.
His forte was telling a gritty story with characters stretched to the breaking point (as Montand and Vanel were in 'Wages of Fear'). It required a great deal of updating and tinkering with the basic story before Clouzot could feel comfortable with it.
The central narrative concerns Robert Dégrieux (Auclair, a splendid dope) and Manon Lescaut (Aubry, cunningly adorable), where the former quickly falls in love with the latter and finds himself spun into a vortex of mistrust and misjudgements, becoming more compulsive and foolish by the day.
The pursuit of a dream life by both Robert and Manon, runs concurrently with that of the Jewish people attempting to reach Israel, it is here where Clouzot is building towards a quite outstanding last quarter of film.
In truth, Cecile Aubry does not impress me with her acting skills; she mainly pouts and sighs her way through the picture. How much more could Danielle Darrieux or Micheline Presle have brought to the film!
Michel Auclair was a superb leading man who made many films, this is one of his best (see him also in 'Maigret et l'affaire Saint-Fiacre'). Here he manages to convey desire, murderous rage and exasperation with Manon's whims.
Dora Doll and her big toothy grin, as well as Gabrielle Dorziat as the prim madam of Manon's brothel were good, but Serge Reggiani as Manon's brother stole every scene he was in. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original 1.0 mono audio
Optional English subtitles
Bibliothèque de poche: H.G. Clouzot, an archival documentary from 1970 in which Clouzot talks of his love of literature and the relationship between the page and the screen
Woman in the Dunes, a newly filmed video appreciation by film critic Geoff Andrew
Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options
One Missed Call Trilogy: Special Edition [Blu-ray]
(Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Hisashi Yoshizawa, Renji Ishibashi, Maki Horikita, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: An iconic trilogy of J-horror films comes to Blu-ray for the first time!
Tapping into the same brand of terror as the Ring and Grudge movies, visionary director Takashi Miike (Audition, Blade of the Immortal) presents a modern, high-tech twist on that mainstay of Japanese folklore, the yurei or vengeful spirit, in the form of its own iconic antihero the terrifying Mimiko.
Blu-ray Verdict: In the original 'One Missed Call' (2003), people mysteriously start receiving voicemail messages from their future selves, foretelling their deaths.
Student Yoko (Anna Nagata, 'Battle Royale') receives a phone message from her future self, ending with her own death scream. Two days later, she dies in a horrific rail collision.
As the mysterious phone curse spreads, claiming more young lives, Yoko's friend Yumi (Ko Shibasaki, 'Battle Royale,' '47 Ronin') joins forces with detective Hiroshi (Shinichi Tsutsumi, 'Space Battleship Yamato'), whose sister met the same gruesome fate.
But can they unravel the mystery before the clock runs out on the next victim Yumi herself?
Now, and despite being more than a shade 'Ringu'-clone-esquire, I heartily enjoyed this film. It has some great set-pieces (including a memorable death), some spooky moments, a few "jump" sequences, etc.
What the film didn't deliver, though, was any real fear. It was a case of "seen it all before" (a criticism that some levelled at "Ju-On").
The plot unravels in a logical manner and there's a decent pay off. It may not be a future classic, but this is a very well made example of Asian horror cinema.
In 'One Missed Call 2' (2005), a Japanese restaurant cook/owner dies after answering his daughter's cellphone. Other people are getting strange, same ringtone calls as well and dying painfully.
It happened in Taiwan as well so can the police stop it if it's a ghost?!
Since one of the deaths in the original film occurred on television, both our central characters Kyoko and Naoto are familiar with the urban legend and find themselves at a loss as to how to solve the problem.
Luckily for them, a plucky journalist named Takako is on the case, enlisting the help of Detective Motomiya (a returning Renji Ishibashi) who's pieced together quite a bit about how the curse works by now.
For me, 'One Missed Call 2' (aka 'Chakushin Ari 2') is scary like most of the Asian horror movies, and has a promising beginning supported by a good body of a storyline.
In the last of the trilogy, 'One Missed Call 3: Final' (2006), the timid, young Asuka is bullied by her classmates. When they embark on a class field trip to Korea, Asuka plans revenge by sending them a cursed phone message they can either pass on or die.
Not as good as the first two, but still a great joy to behold, this film has got nine death scenes (seven of them were done very well and two of them too funny to comment on!).
Every death scene is sort of unique from one another which is one of the reasons it still manages to be a strong entity in the trilogy. So, yeah, I still found this film to be very scary; especially the washing machine scene and the last death scene which the victim actually vomited blood!
This film is good because you can actually sense the fear on the teenagers faces when they receive the death messages. They desperately do whatever it takes to save their own lives. These are all Wide Screen Presentations (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentations
Lossless Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 soundtracks
Optional English subtitles
New audio commentary on One Missed Call by Miike biographer Tom Mes
The Making of One Missed Call, an hour-long archival documentary on the film's production
Archival interviews on One Missed Call with actors Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi and Kazue Fukiishi, and director Takashi Miike
Archival interview on One Missed Call with director Takashi Miike
Archival footage from the One Missed Call premiere
Live or Die TV special
A Day with the Mizunuma Family One Missed Call alternate ending
The Making of One Missed Call 2, a half-hour archival documentary on the film s production
Gomu, a short film by One Missed Call 2 director Renpei Tsukamoto One Missed Call 2 Deleted Scenes One Missed Call 2 Music Video
The Making of One Missed Call 3: Final, an hour-long archival documentary on the film's production
Maki and Meisa, an archival behind-the-scenes featurette on One Missed Call 3: Final with actresses Maki Horikita and Meisa Kuroki
Behind the Scenes with Keun-Suk Jang, an archival featurette with One Missed Call 3: Final's South Korean star
The Love Story, a short film tie-in for One Missed Call 3: Final
Candid Mimiko, an archival location tour with the series iconic villain
Theatrical trailers and TV Spots
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin
Overview: Mark Rothko is considered one of the most renowned figures of the Abstract Expressionists, though he refused to adhere to any art movement.
For Rothko, both painting viewing of his work was considered a spiritual experience.
This documentary profiles the life and work of a man who often wrestled with great sadness even as he transformed the course of American art with his uncompromising vision.
DVD Verdict: Celebrated painter Mark Rothko (born Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz), was an American painter of Lithuanian Jewish descent.
Although Rothko himself refused to adhere to any art movement, he is generally identified as an abstract expressionist.
Furthermore, he is considered one of the most renowned figures of the Abstract Expressionist movement and transformed the world of art beginning in the 1940s.
In 'Rothko: Pictures Must Be Miraculous' PBS explores the artist's tumultuous journey and includes interviews with Rothko's daughter Kate and son Christopher, Academy Award-nominated writer John Logan, and scenes from the Tony Award-winning play "Red," with Alfred Molina in the role of Mark Rothko.
We also learn some rather interesting facts about Rothko, such as like in 1936, he began writing a book, never completed, about similarities in the art of children and the work of modern painters.
According to Rothko, the work of modernists, influenced by primitive art, could be compared to that of children in that "child art transforms itself into primitivism, which is only the child producing a mimicry of himself."
We also learn that fearing that modern American painting had reached a conceptual dead end, Rothko was intent upon exploring subjects other than urban and nature scenes.
He sought subjects that would complement his growing interest with form, space, and color. The world crisis of war gave this search a sense of immediacy.
Indeed, he insisted that the new subject matter have a social impact, yet be able to transcend the confines of current political symbols and values.
In his essay "The Romantics Were Prompted," published in 1948, Rothko argued that the "archaic artist ... found it necessary to create a group of intermediaries, monsters, hybrids, gods and demigods," in much the same way that modern man found intermediaries in Fascism and the Communist Party.
For Rothko, and simply put, "without monsters and gods, art cannot enact a drama." Learn more about these musings along with a whole host more in this quite magnificent new documentary from PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Material of 6 Features!
'FRONTLINE: In the Age of AI'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)
Overview: FRONTLINE examines the promise and perils of artificial intelligence (AI) -- from fears about work and privacy to rivalry between the US and China.
DVD Verdict: Under President Donald Trump, great power competition has become the organizing principle of American foreign policy.
This has led to near-daily invocations of the Cold War to describe the intensifying rivalry between the United States and China, and to frequent analogies to an “arms race” to describe bilateral competition in advanced technologies, including quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI).
Public statements and national plans from both governments have reinforced this zero-sum dynamic. Such framing has done more to conceal than clarify and, if taken to its logical end-point, will do more harm than good for the United States.
This, it's been called "The New Space Race," but this time it's China taking on the United States, and the race is to seize control of a technology with the potential to change everything -- the way we work; how we play; how our democracy functions; how the world could be realigned.
The US and Soviet Union went through many crises during the cold war, some threatening to doom mankind, before arriving at an arrangement for self-constraint and coexistence.
The world today is more complicated and there is more at stake. Do we need a bigger crisis to help us find the right path?
Can China and the US resolve their differences and coexist peacefully, or decouple, as some in Washington seek, and therefore tear the world apart?
FRONTLINE explores some of the ways in which our world is being re-shaped and reimagined by the technology of artificial intelligence, whose development has been compared to the industrial revolution and the discovery of electricity as an epochal event in human history.
The film explores both the peril and the promise of this ascendant technology -- tracing the battle between the U.S. and China to harness its power; examining fears about what AI advances mean for the future of work; and revealing how AI algorithms are ushering in an age of both great problem-solving potential, and of new and troubling threats to privacy and democracy.
Ergo, 'In the Age of AI' is a powerful and telling journey into how this new technology will transform our world -- and some of the ways it already has. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: Being big can have its advantages, but it also comes with sizeable challenges.
Take the world's largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, whose huge appetite means it must take on prey ten times its weight, or the tallest of them all, the giraffe, who with such a long neck must control immense blood pressure.
Natures biggest beasts must go to extraordinary lengths to thrive. For them, size does matter.
DVD Verdict: Also inclusive of the 150-ton blue whale who can suck up four tons of krill a day, to Japan's finger-length giant hornets that can decimate a hive of 30,000 bees to feed on their larvae, nature's biggest beasts are not only put front and center here in PBS's new 'NATURE: Nature's Biggest Beasts,' but their epic survival stories are told too.
Take the Komodo dragon, the largest living lizard in the world. These wild dragons typically weigh about 154 pounds (70 kilograms), but the largest verified specimen reached a length of 10.3 feet (3.13 meters) and weighed 366 pounds (166 kilograms).
Also known as the Komodo monitor, it's a species of lizard found in the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Motang and as we see, as a result of their size, these lizards dominate the ecosystems in which they live.
Komodo dragons hunt and ambush prey including invertebrates, birds, and mammals. It has been claimed that they have a venomous bite; there are two glands in the lower jaw which secrete several toxic proteins.
Another animal on display here for its size is the adorable giraffe (quite like the cute one found on the cover art). We learn that the tallest giraffe ever recorded was a Masai bull named George.
George stood at 19ft and his horns almost grazed the roof of the 20ft high Giraffe House when he was nine years old. He arrived at Chester Zoo from Kenya in January 1959 and sadly died in July 1969.
It is the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant and it is traditionally considered to be one species, Giraffa camelopardalis, with nine subspecies.
Facts like this and oh-so much more are exactly what 'NATURE: Nature's Biggest Beasts' brings to the fore and trust me when I say that it's 55 minutes that you'll never want back! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'FRONTLINE: Fire in Paradise'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)
Overview: A year after the devastating Camp Fire, who's to blame and why was it so catastrophic?
DVD Verdict: The Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history and the most expensive natural disaster in the world in 2018 in terms of insured losses.
Named after Camp Creek Road, its place of origin, the fire started on November 8th, 2018, in Northern California's Butte County. Ignited by a faulty electric transmission line, the fire originated above several communities and an east wind drove the fire downhill through developed areas.
After exhibiting extreme fire spread, fireline intensity, and spotting behaviors through the rural community of Concow, an urban firestorm formed in the foothill town of Paradise.
With the arrival of the first winter rainstorm of the season, the fire reached 100 percent containment after seventeen days on November 25th, 2018.
The fire caused at least 85 civilian fatalities, with one person still missing, and injured 12 civilians, two prison inmate firefighters, and three other firefighters.
It covered an area of 153,336 acres (62,053 ha) (almost 240 sq. miles), and destroyed 18,804 structures, with most of the damage occurring within the first four hours.
The towns of Paradise and Concow were almost completely destroyed, each losing about 95% of structures in town. The town of Magalia also suffered damage, with roughly half of the structures in town destroyed.
By January 2019, the total damage was estimated at $16.5 billion; one-quarter of the damage, $4 billion, was not insured; disproportionately represented by exceptionally low cost uninsured residences versus high cost insured commercial structures.
The same month, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the utility company responsible for the faulty power line, filed for bankruptcy, citing expected wildfire liabilities of $30 billion.
To prevent bankruptcy, on December 7th, 2019, the utility made a settlement offer for $13.6 billion; the offer covered the four devastating fires caused by the utility, including the Camp Fire.
Drought was a factor: Paradise, which typically received five inches of autumn rain by November 12th, got only one-seventh of an inch. The drought was possibly intensified by climate change.
As this brand new documentary from PBS informs us, the Camp Fire is the deadliest wildfire in the United States since the Cloquet fire in 1918, and is high on the list of the world's deadliest wildfires; it is also the sixth-deadliest U.S. wildfire overall.
With accounts from survivors and first responders, the inside story of the most destructive fire in California history, its causes and the impact of climate change are revealed here within the quite mesmerizing 'FRONTLINE: Fire in Paradise.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: From the mighty grizzly, to the bamboo eating panda, and the bizarre looking sloth bear, this special animal family must use all of their skills, brawn, and brains to get what they need.
Whether it's raiding beehives for honey, standing up to their rivals, or raising cubs, PBS's Nature program follows the adventures of bears across the globe as they draw on their unique adaptations to survive in an ever-changing world.
DVD Verdict: Primarily focusing on the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), also known as the "North American brown bear" or simply grizzly, we soon discover that it is a large population or subspecies of the brown bear inhabiting North America.
Funnily enough, and revealing something I actually never even considered knowing before, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first described it as "grisley," which could be interpreted as either "grizzly" (i.e., "grizzled" — that is, with golden and grey tips of the hair) or "grisly" ("fear - inspiring", now usually "gruesome")!
The modern spelling supposes the former meaning; even so, naturalist George Ord formally classified it in 1815 as U. horribilis, not for its hair, but for its character.
The spectacled bear (the real-life "Paddington Bear") is the only bear native to South America, and is the largest land carnivoran on that part of the continent, although as little as 5% of its diet is composed of meat.
Another bear we delve into is the sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) which is a myrmecophagous bear species native to the Indian subcontinent.
It feeds on fruits, ants and termites and is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, mainly because of habitat loss and degradation.
It has also been called "labiated bear" because of its long lower lip and palate used for sucking insects. It has a long, shaggy fur, a mane around the face, and long, sickle-shaped claws.
It is lankier than brown and Asian black bears and it shares features of insectivorous mammals and evolved during the Pleistocene from the ancestral brown bear through convergent evolution.
So, come on into 55 minute bear adventure, safely in the hands of PBS, as it will not only entertain you, but educate you also. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'NATURE: Okavango - River of Dreams'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)
Overview: Experience the wildlife of the Okavango Delta, an oasis and lush paradise in Southern Africa that connects a wide array of creatures. Lions chase elephants, who chase hippos, who chase crocodiles.
DVD Verdict: Watching this enthralling new documentary from PBS, we learn that the Okavango River, also called Kubango River, is the fourth longest river system in southern Africa, running basically southeastward for 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from central Angola, where it is known as the Kubango, to the Kalahari (desert) in northern Botswana, and where the river terminates in an immense inland delta known as the Okavango Swamp.
The river—formerly sometimes called the Okovango—takes its name from the Okavango (Kavango) people of northern Namibia. David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, and the first European known to have seen the Okavango, reached its swampy delta in 1849.
The Okavango River rises as the Kubango just south of Vila Nova, Angola, on the Bié Plateau, at an elevation of 5,840 feet (1,780 m). It flows south and then southeastward through Angola in a course that is initially broken by rapids.
Along its middle course the Okavango forms part of the Angola-Namibia border. After being joined by its largest tributary, the Kwito River, the Okavango River then crosses Namibia’s narrow Caprivi Strip to enter Botswana.
Soon after entering Botswana the Okavango begins to widen as it enters the flat, swampy tract in which it terminates. About 70 miles inside Botswana, the river spreads out to form a triangular-shaped delta, the base of which extends for about 150 miles (240 km).
This delta region, less than half of which is swamp year-round, covers an area of about 6,500 square miles (16,800 square km). Most of the delta’s area is inundated during the rainy season.
The river is subject to drastic changes in flow along its length because of seasonal variations, the reception of tributaries, evaporation, and absorption into the riverbed.
In its uppermost course, the Okavango flows through woodland country that becomes less densely forested as the river progresses southward. Further to the southeast, the river passes through areas occupied by dry savanna, i.e., grassland with scattered acacia trees.
In the Okavango Swamp itself, the vegetation falls into two main types—dense clumps of papyrus reeds and other aquatic plants in the river and floodplain channels; and patches of woodland and savanna occupying the slightly higher parts of the delta.
In the delta the dense growth of papyrus reeds is continually blocking the river’s channels, thus changing the pattern of flow.
Although the Okavango brings water to a parched land, the river’s resources remain largely unused, and its banks are only sparsely settled. Except for small craft, the Okavango is virtually unnavigable.
A major problem for the Tswana (Batswana) people, the main inhabitants of the Okavango delta, has been control of the tsetse fly.
The Moremi Wildlife Reserve covers 1,463 sq mi (3,788 sq km) of the northeastern corner of the Okavango Swamp. Its teeming wildlife includes lions, cheetahs, buffalo, wildebeests, hippopotamuses, zebras, wild dogs, crocodiles, and other species.
Birds include storks, ibis, herons, egrets, cranes, and weaver birds. There are also numbers of ducks, geese, and quail. Varieties of fish include bream, pike, barbels, and tiger fish.
In short, the Okavango in Southern Africa is a one of a kind river. As detailed, it starts in the mountains of Angola but instead of running to an ocean, it flows inland through Botswana before disappearing in the Kalahari desert.
This delightful three-part mini-series follows the three distinct stages of the Okavango, as this river of dreams creates a unique ecosystem where lions chase elephants, who chase hippos, who chase crocodiles.
See for yourself in this brand new documentary 'NATURE: Okavango - River of Dreams' from PBS! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'NOVA: Rise of the Mammals'
(DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)
Overview: An asteroid blasted Earth 66 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs. How did life recover?
Now a massive discovery a trove of fossils from the key first million years after the cataclysm tells the story.
With exclusive access, this documentary recounts a rare find of animals, plants, and precise dates. Together, they reveal how a new living world one that came to include us rose from the ashes.
DVD Verdict: Watching this enthralling new documentary from PBS, we learn that life came back surprisingly quickly to the site of the impact that killed the dinosaurs.
When a 6-mile (10 kilometers) asteroid slammed into the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago, causing the demise of the dinosaurs as part of the largest mass extinction event in the last 100 million years, it took life on the planet at least 30,000 years to bounce back.
The space rock also melted the crust and mantle at the point of impact, making modern scientists suspect that life would have had a particularly challenging time recovering at that location.
Yet a core sample from the crater rim has revealed that, even at ground zero, life managed to bounce back rapidly, closely matching the resurgence of life around the globe.
Beneath the tropical Gulf of Mexico, near the Yucatan Peninsula, lurks the crater known as Chicxulub. This indent in the Earth is the tombstone of the rock most famous for killing off the dinosaurs.
The asteroid impact also triggered acid rain and forest fires around the globe, and blasted sulfur and other rock into the air in quantities large enough to block the sun.
The collision vaporized the kamikaze asteroid and put a significant dent in the number of species alive on Earth. It also scattered the dust around the world to create what scientists call the K-T boundary, a layer that includes bits of the asteroid itself sandwiched between the rock layers that formed before and after.
However, these traces of the asteroid alone weren't convincing enough to attribute the extinction to the space rock's collision with Earth. Then, in the late 1970s, geophysicists searching for petroleum found the 110-mile-wide (180 km) crater beneath the ocean.
It took more than a decade to find a substantial link between that crater and the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs.
In 2016, a team of scientists headed to the gulf to take a core sample from the crater rim. Drilling into the ocean floor from a ship on the surface, they excavated a half-mile-long (800 meters), pillar-like core that revealed the geologic history of the region.
The task required specialized drilling equipment, but the challenge paid off: The underwater location managed to preserve the crater far more than happens with land-based craters.
Its subsurface placement makes Chicxulub "the most well-preserved crater" known to date, said David Kring, an impact petrologist on the excavation team who has studied the crater for decades.
The extinction event at the end of the Mesozoic era caused by the asteroid is the only such event to have occurred suddenly, thanks to its external origin.
According to some of the people who are interviewed here, other massive extinctions occurred gradually, caused by volcanic events and climate change. Under those circumstances, other life-forms filled the niches cleared by their doomed neighbors.
But when the asteroid slammed into the Earth, it almost immediately created a 150-km-wide (90 miles) sterile region where no life could survive. Measurements of the seafloor taken in the 1970s revealed this dead zone, Lowery said, though its source was then unknown.
There is oh-so much more to be discovered about this event and how we got our "life" back together again thereafter, so come check it all out in the truly eye-opening 'NOVA: Rise of the Mammals' from PBS! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and it comes with the Bonus Videos of:
Concretions: Fossils In Plain Sight
Paleontologist On The Bluffs
A Paleobotanist's Dream
Overview: Since the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, these fragile parchment relics have intrigued scholars, religious leaders, and profiteers alike.
The 2,000-year-old scrolls include the oldest-known versions of the Hebrew Bible and hold vital clues about the birth of Christianity. While certain scrolls have survived intact, others have been ravaged by time - burnt, decayed, or torn to pieces - and remain an enigma.
Now, scientists are using new technologies to read the unreadable, solve mysteries that have endured for millennia, and even discover million-dollar fakes.
DVD Verdict: Taking it from the top, which is where I myself had to begin this new 60 minute journey, the Dead Sea Scrolls (also Qumran Caves Scrolls) are ancient Jewish religious manuscripts found in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert, near Ein Feshkha on the northern shore of the Dead Sea.
Scholarly consensus dates these scrolls from the last three centuries BCE and the first century CE. The texts have great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with deuterocanonical and extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism.
Almost all of the Dead Sea Scrolls are currently in the collection of the Government of the State of Israel, with ownership disputed with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, and they are housed in the Shrine of the Book on the grounds of the Israel Museum.
Many thousands of written fragments have been discovered in the Dead Sea area. They represent the remnants of larger manuscripts damaged by natural causes or through human interference, with the vast majority holding only small scraps of text.
However, a small number of well-preserved, almost intact manuscripts have survived – fewer than a dozen among those from the Qumran Caves.
Researchers have assembled a collection of 981 different manuscripts – discovered in 1946/47 and in 1956 – from 11 caves. The 11 Qumran Caves lie in the immediate vicinity of the Hellenistic-period Jewish settlement at Khirbet Qumran in the eastern Judaean Desert, in the West Bank.
The caves are located about one mile (1.6 kilometres) west of the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, whence they derive their name. Scholarly consensus dates the Qumran Caves Scrolls from the last three centuries BCE and the first century CE.
Bronze coins found at the same sites form a series beginning with John Hyrcanus (in office 135–104 BCE) and continuing until the period of the First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE), supporting the radiocarbon and paleographic dating of the scrolls.
In the larger sense, the Dead Sea Scrolls include manuscripts from additional Judaean Desert sites, dated as early as the 8th century BCE and as late as the 11th century CE.
The Dead Sea scrolls have given up fresh secrets, with researchers saying they have identified a previously unknown technique used to prepare one of the most remarkable scrolls of the collection.
Scientists say the study poses a puzzle, as the salts used on the writing layer of the Temple scroll are not common to the Dead Sea region.
“This inorganic layer that is really clearly visible on the Temple scroll surprised us and induced us to look more in detail how this scroll was prepared, and it turns out to be quite unique,” said Assistant Professor Admir Masic, co-author of the research from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.
“These salts are not typical for anything we knew about associated with this period and parchment making,” he added.
Learn more about these fascinating items and how scientists are using new technologies to read the unreadable, solving mysteries along the way that have endured for millennia, here in PBS's new 'NOVA: Dead Sea Scroll Detectives.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: In 2018, Italy's Morandi Bridge collapsed, killing 43 people.
For 50 years, the iconic bridge had withstood the elements and stress from ever-increasing traffic.
NOVA investigates what went wrong and explores other bridge collapses across the United States.
How can new engineering techniques make bridges safer and prevent such tragedies?
DVD Verdict: Focusing primarily on August 14th, 2018 when the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed, sending vehicles and tons of rubble to the ground 150 feet below and killing 43 people, 'NOVA: Why Bridges Collapse' is a very compelling investigation into a phenomenon that happens all around the world.
Witnesses said the bridge was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm before it crumbled, though lighting alone should not have felled the bridge. Preliminary investigation points to a combination of poor design, questionable building practices and insufficient maintenance.
The Morandi Bridge, finished in 1967, is named after the civil engineer who designed it: Riccardo Morandi, who died in 1989. Before its collapse, it stretched 3,878ft, connecting the A10 motorway toward France and A7 to Milan. Popular for both commercial traffic and local vacationers, the bridge formed an arterial connection between France and Italy.
The bridge was very much a signature Morandi piece. The cable-stayed bridge deck was made from reinforced concrete. The cables linking the towers to the deck were covered in concrete.
Like Morandi’s 1957 design for the General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge in Venezuela, the trestles of the bridge formed a double V: one of the Vs carried the roadway beam, while another one, upside-down, supported the upper tie rods.
On the morning of the incident, Genoa was hit by a fierce thunderstorm. Just before noon, a 300ft section of the highway collapsed, falling almost 150ft to the ground.
“I saw the bridge collapse in front of my eyes; the debris from the collapse landed 20 meters away from my car,” Davide Ricci, who was driving nearby at the time, told Genoese newspaper Il Secolo XIX. “It felt as if electricity was traveling from above downward, as if one of the beams had been struck by lightning.”
According to Angelo Borrelli, Civil Protection Department chief, the collapse took approximately 36 cars and three trucks down with it. Motorists on the bridge weren’t the only ones at risk; apartments and houses built under the bridge were crushed or had to be evacuated.
As hundreds of volunteers and professional emergency workers searched the wreckage for people, still-hanging sections of the bridge creaked ominously overhead.
The death toll stands at 43. In the days after the tragedy, mounting public anger has led to a search for causes: Was neglectful maintenance, shoddy workmanship or poor design to blame for the collapse?
For those seeking answers, the problem isn’t finding one possible solution. It’s determining which of the bridge’s many faults finally caused it to collapse.
Find out more about how further investigations have revealed more thoughts about the bridge's collapse, and how other bridges have suffered the same fate in this brand new PBS documentary 'NOVA: Why Bridges Collapse.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: Tech giants and car manufacturers alike are developing self-driving cars - and some of them are already on public roads.
But what must computers be capable of to truly take the wheel? And could they eventually be safer than human drivers?
DVD Verdict: After years of anticipation, autonomous vehicles are now being tested on public roads around the world. Dozens of startups have sprung up alongside established auto and tech giants - which are also testing the waters - to form what many hope will be a transformative new industry.
So, basically put, a self-driving car, also known as an autonomous vehicle, connected and autonomous vehicle, driverless car, robo-car, or robotic car, is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and moving safely with little or no human input.
But as innovators rush to cash in on what they see as the next high-tech pot of gold, some experts warn there are still daunting challenges to overcome - like how to train computers to make life-and-death decisions as well as humans can.
As we watch and learn for 60 minutes, the development and mass production of self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles, has the potential to revolutionize transportation mobility and safety.
Currently, motor vehicle operating laws, impaired driving laws, insurance laws and most other laws addressing the operation of vehicles in every state are premised on a significant assumption—that a human is behind the wheel, operating the vehicle.
State lawmakers around the country are considering the ramifications of driverless cars, including how existing laws and systems may need to be modified in order to facilitate the implementation of this new technology.
NCSL compiles and develops up-to-date information of interest to state legislators related to autonomous vehicle policy.
The information includes articles, databases and research studies with a focus on compelling issues facing state policymakers related to autonomous vehicles.
That all said, 'NOVA: Look Who's Driving' decides to check things out for themselves and peers under the hood of the autonomous vehicle industry to investigate how driverless cars work, how they may change the way we live, and whether we will ever be able to entrust them with our lives. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Pinkalicious & Peterrific: A Pinkatastic Valentine
(DVD / G / 2020 / PBS Kids)
Overview: Join Pinkalicious and her brother Peter for five pinkatastic adventures in Pinkville!
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'Pinkalicious & Peterrific' is an American half-hour children's television program based on the Pinkalicious books by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann.
The program premiered on PBS Kids on February 19th, 2018 and the animated series is designed to encourage preschool-age children to explore the arts and develop their creativity.
The show's story follows Pinkalicious and her brother Peter as they imagine how the world looks through her artful eye. Each episode will include two 11 minute stories and live action. Indeed, WGBH is working with Sixteen South to produce 38 episodes in 2019.
Ok, so, let's get this straight from the start - for all the people I've encountered complaining about the pink laden throughout the show, come on now ... the title of the show should have clued you into what to expect!
Sure it can be a bit much, especially if young boys are watching, but at least you know full well that the girls in your family will love it, trust me.
That said, Peter also likes the color pink which is important in showing that colors are just colors and there’s no need to bring gender into it.
Due to one of the DVD releases prior to this one ('Pinkalicious & Peterrific: Pinkamagine It!'), my young daughter knows all of her letters, numbers (up to 10), many animals and shapes and plenty of other things far ahead of schedule. Equally important, she knows how to share and use problem solving skills.
Now we have this new PBS Kids release, 'Pinkalicious & Peterrific: A Pinkatastic Valentine's Day!' and she might as well have assumed it was Christmas Day! Seriously, she almost bit my hand off to get it out of its factory-seal and into the DVD player!
Now that's just how much kids these days love Pinkalicious series!
It's Valentine's Day in Pinkville! Pinkalicious can't wait to show her classmates just how much she loves them by making homemade collage valentines out of their favorite things.
But what will Pinkalicious do when the valentines are accidently destroyed? She must come up with a creative solution fast!
Here on this new DVD we get five (5) Pinkalicious adventures:
That Unicorn Feeling
Star Light, Star Not So Bright
Mother's Day Surprise
Whale of a Song
This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Berenstain Bears: Tales From the Tree House, Vol 2
(2-Disc DVD / G / 2020 / PBS Kids)
Overview: It's time for Bear Country adventures with Brother and Sister Bear and 'Tree House Tales, Volume 2' contains 26 more stories from the beloved animated series.
In this value packed DVD collection, watch what happens when sister is picked to represent her school in the upcoming jump rope contest, when Papas longstanding friendship with Farmer Ben is strained due to a pumpkin growing contest, and when Brother and Freddy team up to create an innovative flying device!
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'The Berenstain Bears' began as a children's literature franchise created by Stan and Jan Berenstain and continued by their son, Mike Berenstain; who assumed partial authorship in 2002, and full authorship in 2012 following Jan's death.
The books feature a family of anthropomorphic grizzly bears who generally learn a moral or safety-related lesson in the course of each story.
Indeed, since the 1962 debut of the first Berenstain Bears book, The Big Honey Hunt, the series has grown to over 300 titles, which have sold approximately 260 million copies in 23 languages.
Of course, as we know, 'The Berenstain Bears' franchise has also expanded well beyond the books, encompassing two television series and a wide variety of other products and licenses.
While enjoying decades of popularity and receiving numerous awards, the series has been applauded for portraying many tales of bravery, caring for others, and learning responsibility well beyond The Bears' young years.
Furthermore, 'The Berenstain Bears' is sensibly written to appeal to younger children (preschool and kindergarten age) and teach them values at the same time.
In this age of redundant stupidity in entertainment, parents need a show like this one to help illustrate how fair life should be, and give a firm footing to children, not overwhelm them with glitz, glam and gloss.
By keeping plots simple and allowing children to follow along at their level, this show simply teaches children how to be fair, consider other's feelings and have good sportsmanship.
These are core values which are not being taught to children at daycare dumps or underfunded public schools, in my humble opinion.
Here in 'The Berenstain Bears: Tales From the Tree House, Volume 2' we get an incredible 5+ hours of more tales encompassing 26 singular episodes!
And because these fun-filled tales straight from the family tree house cover important topics including patience, making new friends, and being unique, they are good, honest and solid viewing for all your children. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'No Passport Required: Season Two'
(Marcus Samuelsson, et al / 2-DVD / G / 2020 / PBS)
Overview: Hosted by renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson, 'No Passport Required: Season 2' takes viewers on another inspiring journey across the U.S. to explore and celebrate the wide-ranging diversity of immigrant traditions and cuisine woven into American food and culture.
Each week Marcus visits a new city to learn about the dynamic and creative ways a particular community has made its mark.
DVD Verdict: Hosted by renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson, No Passport Required is a six-part PBS/Eater series that takes viewers on an inspiring journey across the U.S. to explore and celebrate the wide-ranging diversity of immigrant traditions and cuisine woven into American food and culture.
Each week Marcus — an immigrant himself — visits a new city to learn about the dynamic and creative ways a particular community has made its mark.
A vibrant portrait of America today, 'No Passport Required' features chefs, entrepreneurs, artists, community leaders, and home cooks who have enhanced the nation’s culture and cuisine.
Here in the second season, from Seattle, where Marcus cooks with a Filipino community eager to create new traditions for a new generation, to Houston, where West African immigrants create their own brand of soul food, 'No Passport Required' showcases how food brings Americans — new and old — together around the table.
In Philadelphia, Marcus learns more about the genesis of the Italian-American cuisine that’s such a staple in the United States today. In Boston, the chef tracks food traditions through the Portuguese-speaking world while on a whirlwind tour of the city that includes fish stews, indigenous superfoods, and even some jiu jitsu.
In Southern California, the widespread Armenian community in LA and Glendale comes together to create a new home through shared food and culture.
And in glitzy Las Vegas, Marcus leaves the strip to dive into the Chinese culinary traditions now revered in the city. Explore the wonders of the world’s global food traditions right here in the United States — all with, yep, you guessed it, no passport ever being required! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and runs for 5 and a half hours.
'No Mercy - Retro VHS Style' [Blu-ray]
(Richard Gene, Kim Basinger, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1986) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: A Chicago detective, seeking to avenge his partner's death, travels to New Orleans, where he unexpectedly becomes involved in a cat and mouse game of survival.
Blu-ray Verdict: In 1986, when 'No Mercy' was released, two names that would be near the top of any "World's Sexiest Man" and "World's Sexiest Woman" lists would have been Richard Gere and Kim Basinger.
In getting these two gorgeous people together, the makers of 'No Mercy' knew they had hit cinematic gold, but what they forgot to do was create a fantastic blockbuster script to go along with their talents!
Gere stars as a Chicago cop who travels to New Orleans to track down a blond (Basinger) who is linked to the murderer of his beloved partner. The film features a great love-to-hate villain, Losado, played by Jeroen Krabbé; a notable survival-in-the-swamp sequence wherein Gere and Basinger are handcuffed to each other; and an action-packed showdown in an old city hotel.
In truth, this is a passionate drama that keeps heating up right to the interesting, but over blown finale!
That said, Gere and Basinger are outstanding together. Just the eye contact can speed up your breathing. George Dzundza plays a cautious police captain. Ray Sharkey has a small role as does Gary Basaraba. Jeroen Krabbe is one fearsome villain that deserves his demise.
You can also see from the off that 'No Mercy' is riddled with stale plot devices - cop avenging the death of his friend; hero stealing a lover from the villain; usual fish-out-of-water ideas (this time a Chicago cop working in New Orleans); even the swamp sequence has a whiff of 'The Defiant Ones' and 'The 39 Steps' about it - but it really does work when it actually tries.
The film is also excessively grim and nasty, with Krabbe in particular struggling to do anything as a one-dimensional, knife-wielding sadist. The alluded to action high-spots, including a climactic shootout in a burning hotel, are quite expensive-looking sequences but, like the rest of the film, are only oddly interesting and, in some cases, wholly unoriginal.
In closing, and given that Gere was only 36 years-old at the time, he does makes a stylish hero, but he is perhaps rather too laid back; lacking the sort of intensity that the likes of Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis and Gene Hackman brought to their tough cop heroes.
Basinger, however, is excellent and of all her performances that I have seen I would rank this one second only to the one she gave in an even better neo-noir, 'L.A. Confidential.' This film is definitely one for a rainy/snowy Sunday afternoon with nothing better to do to keep yourselves entertained! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'No Mercy: Retro VHS Style' (Blu-Ray) is out February 11th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
'Vibes - Retro VHS Style' [Blu-ray]
(Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Falk, et al / Blu-ray / PG / (1988) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Psychics Sylvia Pickel (Cyndi Lauper) and Nick Deezy (Jeff Goldblum) are hired by a mysterious man (Peter Falk) to find an ancient treasure in South America.
As they trek through Ecuador, their supernatural skills lead them straight into danger, disaster and romance. When the ancient ruins unleash an evil paranormal power, Sylvia and Nick must join psychic forces to save the world.
Blu-ray Verdict: For my money, 'Vibes' is an overlooked gem, waiting to be discovered! It's faults (weak special effects, and underdeveloped script) are swamped by the enthusiastic performances of Cyndi Lauper and Jeff Goldblum.
There are so many quick one liners that could easily be missed, multiple viewings are almost mandatory. Peter Falk delivers some real gems too.
I can see why the film never found an audience back in the day, because it is very silly in parts and dark in others re: knives in the back are nothing to laugh at!
I can say this, go in expecting some dark humor along with endearing acting from Lauper and Goldblum and you will not be disappointed!
Jeff Goldblum and Cyndi Lauper are a comedic smash together and I honestly believe that people would go see this film if it were released today. Googie Gress is impressive in his role as the nemesis of our heroes, with some truly witty lines of his own too.
Peter Faulk plays a con man who entices Goldblum and Lauper to travel with him to Ecuador and use their psychic gifts to find his missing son. The son doesn't really exist, and we discover that he is really hunting for a lost Incan city fabled to have a "room of gold"!
To his last line in the film, Falk plays somebody who's always trying to find an edge that will bring him some extra benefit. His character was a good addition, to leaven some of the more serious stuff.
Simply put, it's all about the vibes! An endearingly quirky late '80s adventure comedy with a bit of romance on the side, sees Jeff Goldblum and Cindy Lauper as psychics hired on to head to Ecuador to find a treasure of a lost Aztec civilization. Watch it tonight on Blu-ray and be glad you did! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Vibes: Retro VHS Style' (Blu-Ray) is out February 11th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: The Complete Series'
(Ellie Kemper, Jane Krakowski, Tituss Burgess, Carol Kane, et al / 8-Disc Blu-ray / NR / (2015-2019) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Rescued after 15 years in a cult, Kimmy Schmidt decides to reclaim her life by venturing to New York, where she experiences everyday life with wide-eyed enthusiasm.
On a whim, she rents a room from Titus, a gay wannabe Broadway actor, who makes ends meet as a street performer in Times Square.
The unlikely pair find they're well-suited to help each other out, with Titus reintroducing Kimmy to modern life, and her providing him with the inspiration that you should never give up.
Together they'll make it through whatever life throws at them.
Now all 51 episodes across all 4 seasons are available for the first time in a single complete series collection!
Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the full know, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) was in the 8th grade when she was kidnapped by Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm).
She spends the next 15 years in an underground bunker in Indiana with the Reverend and his other captive wives. They are rescued by the police and become media sensations known collectively as the Indiana Mole Women.
While doing media in New York, Kimmy leaves the group to strike out on her own. Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane) rents her a basement apartment which she shares with Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess).
She starts working for rich Jacqueline White (Jane Krakowski) to care for her step kids. Krakowski is as super talented at comedy as she is being a fashionista, and she KNOWS fashion. Also, given that she is plagued with first world problems, she will make you laugh out loud too!
For my money (and a hell of a lot of other people's, of course) 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' is a laugh out loud, funny, ridiculous and surreal sitcom that works on almost every level.
Personally, I like Ellie Kemper's style here of unhinged comedy, but Titus is the breakout character (although he's a bit annoying in places and definitely tries to steal the show!).
As with all new relationships, he's actually mean to Kimmy at first, but that all calms down once their friendship truly blossoms. Have to also say that I was never in love with the introduction of Jacqueline White although I really like Kimmy's chemistry with the spoiled stepdaughter Xan!
It's too bad that Dylan Gelula didn't become a main cast member because the whole serial aspect rambles in places and could really do with a couple more in and out characters to freshen a scene.
However, there is something to be said about the catchy opening theme which always sets a good mood. And so with 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' you get a comedic sitcom that is, for the most part, cloaked in long bouts of randomness -- which can be funny, but it's also random!
For the first couple of seasons, I felt like 'Kimmy Schmidt' was essential viewing. Shorn of the restrictions of Network TV, Tina Fey created a warm but hilarious series with characters specifically written for most of the lead actors, but also able to use her star power to pull in some dynamite guest stars.
However, and in truth, the final (fourth) season of this implausible juggernaut is a slight improvement over its inconsistent third season, but it's not particularly cohesive, either.
The multiple plot threads that carry through the season are often difficult to follow because there's so much happening at once, and the writing isn't particularly funny or strong, sadly.
What mostly works this time are the characters, who are thankfully less loopy this time around, and the show manages to guide them along to conclusive narrative arcs.
Ellie Kemper's performance is still as charming and energetic, but at this point the character has become reductive and limiting for the talented performer.
In short, this is an awesome show that actually makes you laugh out loud with its quirky sense of humor and outstanding one liners. The plot of the show is unique and very interesting. I had low expectations from this show but ended up loving it.
Acting is top-notch and the way characters grow and become knitted with each other is also great. Sometimes the nonsense is a bit dragged out and you want someone to make the right decision, but it's the anticipation that keeps you getting hooked!
And so, and with all that said, Kimmy (the character) herself is cute, strong, and compassionate; a great blend. She is gullible, but she is also wise and vigilant. Tina Fey's touch of intelligent and strikingly blunt comedy shines through and that's what makes 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' the kind of show you NEED to binge watch! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: The Complete Series' (8-Disc Blu-Ray) is out February 18th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
'What the Night Can Do'
(Peyton Kennedy, JoBeth Williams, Stuart Margolin, Mercedes Mason, et al / DVD / NR / (2017) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Luana is a 12-year-old girl struggling to grasp the world collapsing around her, as her parents separate and her estranged Grandfather falls ill. It takes one unlikely person to help her find her way.
DVD: Simply put, this movie is a quite endearing film that, at its heart, is a story about family values, reconciliation, and coming of age -- all through the eyes, and heart of a 12-year-old girl.
Directed by Christopher Martini and produced by Michael Hagerty, with Margolin and Tanya Hill serving as executive producers, the story is also a love letter to West Virginia.
Written by, and starring renowned two-time Emmy Award winner Stuart Margolin, with Max Martini, JoBeth Williams, Paul Sorvino, Mercedes Mason and Peyton Kennedy, touchingly, the film production also includes Margolin’s sons Chris and Max.
So this is a real family coming together to tell what will certainly be an engrossing story about a fictional one.
The story centers on three generations of family upheaval, with Margolin playing an ailing grandfather, who tries to explain to his granddaughter (played by Peyton Kennedy) that there are no guarantees with love.
She wants her grandparents to reunite after their divorce. But, he tells her, in the real world, things don’t always work out. He helps guide the young girl through the trials of love, loss and reconnection.
So, if you are looking for meaning in your life, or wondering where you went wrong, 'What the Night Can Do' may not have all the answers, but it sure does have some empathy and love for your situation. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Girl in the Crawlspace'
(Erin R. Ryan, Tom Cherry, Joni Durian, et al / DVD / NR / (2018) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: A young woman escapes from a notorious serial killer, who has kept her prisoner in a crawlspace.
She tries to work her way back to normal with the help of a therapist but becomes inserted into the therapist's strained marriage with a failing screenwriter.
DVD: Simply put, I am a HUGE fan of the low budget, well-written horror/suspense/sci-fi film genre and so I was rather looking forward to this C-movie, that's for darn sure!
You know the ones, where scripts that deserve to be made linger for a few years, but are always too small for corporate studios so the smaller studios pick them off the shelf and breathe life into them.
Well, 'The Girl in the Crawlspace' most certainly qualifies as low budget, that's darn tootin' obvious, but that means you can sit back, kick back and not pick it to pieces before it's had a chance to grow on you.
Anyway, all that C-movie stuff just adds to the suspense and unexpected twists that are undoubtedly going to come your way and trust me, 'Crawlspace' has a few doozies and a couple to spare!
The ending is incredibly satisfying, if I many say so, but what goes on in between is pretty great too. Set in a small town, the surroundings all closed in, quietly grey, but always alive in the corners, 'The Girl in the Crawlspace' may well feel already-done to you, but trust me when I say that a) you've not seen anything like this before, and b) you'll never guess who the bad person is either! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
(Randy Wayne, Ross Britz, Shawn C. Phillips, Phillip Andre Botello, et al / DVD / R / (2019) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Four blue-collar friends, recently laid off from the steel mill, take one last camping trip into the wilderness when they discover a backwoods cult with a cataclysmic agenda and must fight to survive.
DVD: Featuring an original score from Michael Levinson and bands Agent 51 and The Megas, 'Restricted Area' has a lot going for it -- and that's even before we discuss the cast, the script and the acting!
Featuring a cast that knows they're in a C-movie and yet want to act their hearts out, I personally loved watching a gruesome movie such as this! One that manages to show all the blood and gore that was obviously an on-set character requirement!
A good set up complete with a dangerously OTT gooey and bloody center, culminating in a rather thrilling ending, 'Restricted Area' is one of those horror/thriller/slasher movies that has you not leaving the sofa throughout its duration -- just in case you miss something wickedly bloody brilliant! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
(Sarah T. Cohen, Tara McGowran, Louisa Warren, et al / DVD / R / (2019) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: After a savage gang of warriors invade a castle, murdering all in sight, one surviving man calls upon Krampus, the Yule devil to come to exact revenge for his family.
DVD: A C-movie of the highest quality, 'Pagan Warrior' is set amid the lush greenery of the English countryside. The historic horror title sees a savage gang of Vikings invade a Saxon castle, murdering all in sight. However, a sole survivor, with the aid of some witches, summons a demonic spirit to exact revenge.
Actually knowing a little bit about the folklore of this movie itself, Director Louisa Warren has gone on record as saying she appreciated that the movie "might be a little different to other Christmas films coming out" at that time, but that it wasn't all in her hands come the final moments.
And sure, whilst the yuletide references don’t exactly come thick and fast ('Pagan Warrior' also looks as if it were shot in summer), the spirit in question is the Krampus, European folklore’s half-goat, half-demon monster that is the satanic, child-punishing yin to Santa Claus’ jolly, present-giving yang!
In fairness, the film was originally titled 'Krampus Vs. Vikings,' but ITN Distribution — the genre label that purchased the film rights — made the switch themselves.
Anyhoo, and moving on, history buffs might want to ensure they’re sitting down or have a stiff drink in their hand before watching 'Pagan Warrior,' with the onscreen date at the start stating it is 1812 -- almost a thousand years AFTER Vikings and Saxons last waged war on English shores!
But, and as Warren herself has since said, "The thing is with these films, you’ve got to use your imagination," and that is why 'Pagan Warrior' ranks very highly for me amongst the plethora of C-movies out there today. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Kansas City: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, Dermot Mulroney, Steve Buscemi, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1996) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: Blondie O Hara (Jennifer Jason Leigh) resorts to desperate measures when her low-level hood husband Johnny (Dermot Mulroney) gets caught trying to steal from Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte), a local crime boss operating out of jazz haunt The Hey-Hey Club.
Out on a limb, Blondie kidnaps laudanum-addled socialite Carolyn (Miranda Richardson), hoping her influential politician husband can pull the right strings and get Johnny out of Seldom Seen's clutches.
Blu-ray Verdict: Robert Altman, perhaps one of the most innovative directors, working in Hollywood pays homage to his home town: Kansas City.
Mr. Altman recreates a long gone era that he probably didn't know that well, being only a child at the time the action takes place. It seems as though the allure of the period made a vivid mark in the director's mind, as he takes us, with this film, for a long over due visit.
Make no mistake, this is not another 'Nashville', quite the contrary. The only similarity is the title that reflects a city name. As written by the director and Frank Barhydt, the film succeeds in creating the atmosphere, but as far as the story line goes, it has the quality to disorient, even the most avid of Mr. Altman's fans.
What 'Kansas City' lacks in story line, it makes up with the glorious music that serves as compensation with the thinness of the material one sees on the screen. The music is the best excuse to watch the movie that showcases an excellent group of musicians playing heavenly in between the action.
Mr. Altman's choice of Jennifer Jason Leigh as Blondie, is probably what's wrong with the film. This actress mumbles her lines, plays Blondie as strident woman and manages to derail the film.
On the other hand, Miranda Richardson's Carolyn Stilton gives her one of the best roles in her career. Ms. Richardson appears to be on a cloud most of the time because of her opium addiction. She makes us care for her portrayal of this society woman that needs all the help she can get.
Having it all, she can't cope with being married to a cold man that couldn't care less about her. Where other lonely wives resort to drinking, Mrs. Stilton gets away from it all with drugs.
Harry Belafonte plays the local gangster in charge of illegal gambling that evidently was prevalent in the city. His Seldom Seen character (yes, that's actually his character name!) is at times inaudible by the way he throws his lines.
Sometimes we have to strain our ears in order to hear what he is saying. Mr. Belafonte is a fine actor. As far as Dermot Mulroney and Steve Buscemi are concerned, they have not much to play in the movie to make us care for them. The supporting roles are good.
In spite of this movie not being one of Robert Altman's best, it presents a fine opportunity to absorb the atmosphere and the music of the era, oh, and all that jazz! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary by director Robert Altman
Newly filmed appreciation by critic Geoff Andrew
Gare, Trains et Déraillement, a 2007 visual essay by French critic Luc Lagier, plus short introduction to the film narrated by Lagier
Robert Altman Goes to the Heart of America and Kansas City: The Music, two 1996 promotional featurettes including interviews with cast and crew
Electronic press kit interviews with Altman, Leigh, Richardson, Belafonte and musician Joshua Redman, plus behind-the-scenes footage
Four theatrical trailers
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio + FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors booklet featuring new writing by Dr Nicolas Pillai, original press kit notes and an excerpt from Altman on Altman
'The Point: Ultimate Edition' (MVD Rewind)
(Ringo Starr, Mike Lookinland, Harry Nilsson, Paul Frees, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1971) 2020 / MVD Visual)
Overview: Years ago there was a place called The Land of the Point, because everything in The Land of the Point had one the barns, the houses, the cars, everything even the people.
Everyone, that is, except Oblio (Mike Lookinland, The Brady Bunch), who was born round-headed. Since he had no point, Oblio along with his trusty dog, Arrow was banished to the Pointless Forest.
Join them to see what wonders await these two intrepid travelers as they make their way on their amazing, song-filled journey of discovery!
Directed and animated by Academy Award® Winner Fred Wolf ('Free To Be You & Me,' 'The Flintstones'), with story and songs written by Grammy Award® Winner Harry Nilsson and narration by Ringo Starr, 'The Point' is a timeless enchanting fable for the whole family to enjoy!
Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, I first saw this quirky gem on TV as a child and fell in love with everything about it. The message of tolerance definitely spoke to me and the music was great. Found myself singing "Me and My Arrow" many times over the years and still love that song!
In a town where everyone has a point on the top of their head, and everything is also pointed, something happens that it seems has never happened in the community before.
A child is born without a pointed head. He is named Oblio, and during his childhood, he gets a dog with a pointed snout named Arrow and turns out to be quite popular, but one kid who doesn't like him is the nasty son of the evil count!
One day, the two compete in a popular game in the town called triangle toss, where the players try to catch a triangle with the point on their head.
With the help of Arrow, who can catch it with his snout, Oblio wins. The count wants his son to rule someday, and after hearing about his defeat in the game, he is outraged!
He realizes that Oblio is a threat to his son ever ruling, so he tells the king how this boy is an outlaw, due to the fact that he doesn't have a pointed head.
Although the king is good, and likes Oblio, he is weak-kneed and gives in to the count's demands. After a trial, the boy and his dog are banished to the Pointless Forest.
While there, they find themselves on a psychedelic adventure, encountering unusual creatures they've never seen before, and this journey turns out to be quite educational!
Ergo, 'The Point' is a rather bizarre story, but Nilsson made it abundantly clear that it was inspired by an acid trip; so it's also a rather clever story with a moral.
I know I'm not the first to point this out, but it's lesson in tolerance, which I may not have quite understood as a kid, but do now. The animation in this 1971 TV special is sketchy, and not completely colored, which could disappoint some people, but I think I've always liked it that way.
The story may be touching a times (during the sad farewell scene as Oblio leaves for the Pointless Forest, for example). Oblio meets some very interesting and memorable characters in the Pointless Forest, such as the three-headed Pointed Man (who is ironically quite pointless, though maybe not when he says, "A point in every direction is the same as having no point at all."), the Rock Man, the Leaf Man, etc.
There's also humor in the cartoon, especially during Leaf Man sequence, in my opinion, with the first words he says to Oblio and Arrow. As aforementioned, I most certainly can't forget the bunch of songs from Nilsson featured in the film and on the album, which are a big part of the both, and ones I've enjoyed many times.
I really don't know what I would have thought if I had just seen 'The Point' for the first time at my age now. It may have left me confused, though it also may have grown on me with more viewings.
It definitely seems more bizarre and a bit less entertaining to me now than it did when I watched it when I was eight years old, but I definitely understand it more now than I did before, and I've never been a stoner, in case you were wondering.
Also, I used to always see the TV version, taped off TV, with Dustin Hoffman as the narrator. Renting it on DVD, I finally got to see the home video version for the first time, featuring Ringo Starr as the narrator instead (which is the one just-released now from MVD Visual).
This was a little different, but Ringo also does a good job, so it was worth hearing his voice in the cartoon. I'm sure kids today could really enjoy this psychedelic cartoon just like I did, and I'm sure many adults can as well, and can have a better understanding of the message.
Perhaps the same goes with adolescents. If you like psychedelic cartoons from this era, like, let's say, 'Yellow Submarine', there's probably a good chance you'd like this one! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.37:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new 2K High Definition transfer presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio
5.1 Surround + 2.0 Stereo
Optional English Subtitles
NEW! ''The Kid's Got a Point'': An Interview with Mike Lookinland (HD, 17:13)
NEW! ''That Old Guy Wrote The Point'': A Conversation with Screenwriter Norm Lenzer (HD, 15:01)
NEW! ''Everybody's Got a Point'': Kiefo Nilsson and Bobby Halvorson on Adapting The Point (HD, 15:50)
NEW! ''Nilsson on Screen'': Biographer Alyn Shipton and Friends on Harry Nilsson's Film Projects & Appearances (HD, 1:01:13)
The Making of The Point: Four part featurette includes: ''Who Is Harry Nilsson?'' , ''Pitching The Point'' , ''Making The Point'' and ''Legacy of the Point'' (SD, 26:40)
All songs written and performed by Harry Nilsson:
"Me And My Arrow"
"Everything's Got 'Em"
"Think About Your Troubles"
"Are You Sleeping"
(Kelvin Harrison Jr, Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie, Sterling K. Brown, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2020 / LGF)
Overview: Tyler is a high school wrestler on the verge of a full college scholarship under tremendous pressure from his domineering father (Golden Globe® winner Sterling K. Brown).
When Tyler is pushed to the brink, his actions threaten to tear his close-knit family apart, deeply affecting his younger sister, who is navigating her own path of growing up and falling in love.
Blu-ray Verdict: 'Waves' is an ambitious, impassioned, and honest depiction of the trials and tribulations that reverberate through our lives.
It is slice of life cinema that brings us so urgently into human moments at an intimacy I haven't seen since Honeyland or Roma. It's about the weight of our personal battles, but also about rediscovering family, love, and some sense of normalcy in a world that can grow tumultuous and overbearing.
Waves, however, is primarily a sensory experience. The meticulous, immersive film and sound editing is notably well done, with visuals and colors that reflect character and mood, thoughtfully crafted transitions, and a jarring shift in tone and theme (writer/director Trey Edward Schultz apparently does all the editing himself!).
There is essentially an anxiety-filled Krisha-like chapter accompanied by a fantastic score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails, followed by a lighter, more weightless Terrence Malick chapter. The camera communicates theme and emotion through all of this extraordinarily well.
Wonderful casting and chemistry. It's sincerely difficult to pick a favorite character when each one is written and acted so well. A few minor issues with the first half, including the medical probability of a particular event and the dynamic style being a bit heavy-handed initially.
The second half emotionally wrecked the audience, as tears and sobs filled the Opera House throughout this portion. At times I thought of Lee Chang-dong's masterful meditation on grief, Secret Sunshine in the way the film spends time in silence, self-discovery, and learning to love again.
The opening shot of the film begins with the sound of heavy breathing in and out. Amidst all the chaos in life, it never again feels we can reduce life back down to these peaceful respiratory oscillations that keep us alive and moving forward. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
• Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Trey Edward Shults and Actor Kelvin Harrison, Jr.
• “Creating Waves: The Truth in It All” Featurette
• Q&A with Director and Cast
• Deleted Scenes
'The Great War' [Blu-ray+Digital)
(Bates Wilder, Ron Perlman, Billy Zane, Edgar Damatian, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2020 / LGF)
Overview: During the final days of World War I, a regiment of daring African-American “Buffalo Soldiers” is trapped deep behind enemy lines.
After one of these soldiers manages to escape, he’s ordered to join a select team of white troops, led by a battle-scarred officer, to find and rescue the survivors.
Casting aside their racial differences, the determined men join forces to find their lost comrades in this gripping, action-filled tale of bravery and unity.
Blu-ray Verdict: From someone who has felt, fear of the unknown, loneliness and loyalty amongst brothers, 'The Great War' is spot on perfect, in my humble opinion.
Furthermore, this is a fantastic film to watch after seeing men from different creeds, cultures and such bond together for each other in dangerous times only those that have experienced conflicts will encounter.
'The Great War' is about humans and how they feel in fear and becoming brothers which makes it the real deal. Having already been compared to '1917' this is an absolutely great stand alone movie.
It shows a different point of view of World War I that the majority of people will never really know or dare to comprehend.
I applaud the filmmakers of this movie for it also has a great cast, great stories and excellent cinematography and so to produce something on this budget deserves some major accolades in my book.
In closing, if you don't like the "N" word, don't watch it! That said, this is how it always was until recent times. This is certainly better than most movies these days.
It is full of realistic good action and has all well acted script. Many black American's fought valiantly in every American war. Then they came home to the same racism and got no recognition for their valor.
'The Great War' is a mighty fine example of how African Americans have contributed to our freedom by fighting courageously in battle. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Warrant' (DVD+Digital)
(Neal McDonough, Steven R. McQueen, Annabeth Gish, et al / DVD + Digital / NR / 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Sheriff John Breaker and his son, Cal, reunite after the Civil War to track down a fellow veteran, now a notorious gang leader.
Their mission turns dangerous when they find themselves caught between their former friend's outlaw gang and the vigilantes who are taking the law into their own hands.
DVD Verdict: Featuring a superb B-movie cast that includes Neal McDonough as John Breaker, Steven R. McQueen as Cal Breaker, Casper Van Dien as Virgil St. Denis ("The Saint") and the always beautiful and sexy Annabeth Gish as Bonnie Breaker, 'The Warrant' is a thrilling, action-packed adventure of the highest order.
From the off the action is laid out before you, whether it be Civil War flashbacks or current time hardships and battles, trust me when I say that whenever something explosive or simply menacing is about to occur, the brilliant soundtrack echoes the foreboding nature of it fantastically.
As we are informed, there are two types of men that go to war: Those that fight because it's their duty and then there are those that fight because they're fighters.
This movie is packed with both and boy, do they have at each other in some of the most brilliantly shot, cinematically stunning, B-movie ways here in 'The Warrant.'
With the bad guy named 'The Saint' and having a crew of oddjob mercenaries that follow him and back him at every turn, they've been going on a raiding rampage, bringing death and destruction to everything and everywhere they hit.
And so, as aforementioned, Sheriff John Breaker and his son, Cal, reunite to not only track down this 'Saint' (a fellow veteran, and now a notorious gang leader), but to bring an end to their collective path of destruction.
Once friends who fought hand in hand, side by side in the Civil War, due to the loss of his son to a Rebel sniper, they are now very much enemies as 'The Saint' not only seeks justice for the killing, but has fallen hard within the dark heart of his lost soul. This is a Widescreen Presentations (1.78:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
'Dragonheart: Vengeance' [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Joseph Millson, Jack Kane, Arturo Muselli, Carolina Carlsson, Richard Ashton, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / PG-13 / 2020 / Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
Overview: Lukas (Jack Kane), a young farmer whose family is killed by savage raiders in the countryside, sets out on an epic quest for revenge, forming an unlikely trio with a majestic dragon and a swashbuckling, sword-fighting mercenary, Darius (Joseph Millson).
Helena Bonham Carter voices Siveth, the ice breathing dragon who was once banished from the kingdom for failing to save the king's life.
Compelled by the young man's cause, she emerges from hiding, using her fantastical powers on the trio's adventurous journey which brings revelations and rewards beyond vengeance.
'Dragonheart: Vengeance' is an exciting action-adventure filled with fantasy and humor that will thrill the entire family.
Blu-ray Verdict: As I'm sure you are all aware by now, 'Dragonheart: Vengeance' is the fifth movie in the tale and is also the final one (so we are told).
It all starts with a boy that saw his parents get killed by a group of ugly people so he sets sail on an adventure with a man who can talk to animals (no, not Dolittle!) and, of course, his trusty dragon.
The movie definitely has its funny, sometimes slapstick moments, especially when the man that speaks to the animals, but beware as it also contains some darker moments.
That said, they too are always tinged with some form of comedic timing so nothing too overly bad in the end, I guess.
There's also a lot of actin scenes, but as with the four movies of the same ilk that went before it, 'Dragonheart: Vengeance' does not reply on fantastically CGI nor overly impassioned acting either.
But that's not an issue for you kinda sorta know that going in (having already watched the first four) and so knowing what to expect means you can settle in and enjoy what comes at you.
As for what to expect, well, this fifth installment doesn't have a breaking story, nor is it as "big" a tale as the first one about a rebellion against a tyrannical King, but the story and characters here still enables the whole vibe to be one of our beloved Dragonheart.
Indeed, there are several points through the film that go deep into dragon lore, which I personally found highly interesting and, as it turns out, captivatingly enthralling to the plot.
Buy it today for yourself and watch it with your kids and even you (the adult in the room) might learn something about these most wonderous of creatures! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:
• A New Legend – Take an intimate look at what sets this film apart from previous installments of the iconic Dragonheart franchise, and how filmmakers and cast came together to make this fantasy epic.
• Creating Siveth – Siveth is a dragon unlike any we've seen before. In this piece, we get a peak behind the curtain into Helena Bonham Carter's process for breathing life into this unique character
Complete your Dragonheart library when the all-new five-Movie Collection is available on DVD on February 4th, 2019.
Now fans can experience the legendary fantasy franchise with all five movies in one complete must-own set including, Dragonheart, Dragonheart: A New Beginning, Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer's Curse, Dragonheart: Battle for The Heartfire and Dragonheart: Vengeance.
'V.C. Andrews’ Casteel Family - 5 Movie Series'
(Annalise Basso, Julie Benz, Jason Priestley, Kelly Rutherford, and Daphne Zuniga, et al / 2-Disc DVD / TV-14 / 2020 / LGF)
Overview: The best-selling family drama books by V.C. Andrews come to life in their Lifetime® Original movies: Heaven, Dark Angel, Fallen Hearts, Gates of Paradise, and Web of Dreams, available for the first time in this complete 5-film collection.
DVD Verdict: In the first movie, 'Heaven, to escape poverty, Heaven is sent to live with her father's deranged ex-lover.
There, she is tormented but finds solace in her stepfather Cal, and begins a taboo relationship.
Although not exactly (or even close, to be honest) following the book, 'Heaven' is still a very believable tale of the darkness behind those sickening sweet Southern accents.
Indeed, be prepared for many pious characters who are actually just the opposite and yes, there's a boat load of hypocrisy and liberal use of the word "whore" spread around!
The number of domineering female characters is directly proportionate to the number of spineless males. It's a predictable, but reasonably entertaining, trashy little soap opera.
Next up is 'Dark Angel' where we find Heaven Casteel in her new life living within her estranged grandparent's mansion, Farthinggale Manor. But even in the world of the wealthy, there are secrets best forgotten.
This second edition in the series was, for my money, an improvement over the first one. Some characters, such as Jillian, were not handled properly for she was not an alcoholic in the book; just extremely vain and selfish!
Also the scene where Heaven meets Tom at the circus, Pa seemed too happy to see Heaven. Jason Priestly played Tony very well, just showed his evilness a little too quickly. All and all a much better adaptation and so I'm happy.
In the third tale, 'Fallen Hearts', we follow Heaven Casteel, now happily married and ready to settle back in her hometown. But after a trip to Farthinggale Manor, she is persuaded to stay.
Again, for my money, this third tale is most definitely my favorite of all the V.C. Andrews Casteel Family series. Jason Priestley did such an amazing job of both acting and directing this particular version.
A job well done, for sure, and given that there's still an audience for this sort of Southern-fried Gothic melodrama ie: Lifetime's first forays into Andrewsiana, 'Flowers in the Attic' (based on Andrews' 1979 debut novel) and the sequel 'Petals in the Wind,' I would say that we can expect many more to appear on our small screens in 2020!
Then we get 'Gates of Paradise' where Heaven Casteel''s daughter Annie finds herself orphaned and crippled. Whisked off to Farthinggale Manor, Annie pines for her lost family, especially for her half-brother Luke.
Here in this fourth outing the story isn't as good as the others. It's a bit of a horror/thriller diversion with a 'Misery' storyline to boot!
Heaven's orphaned daughter is the central character. After her parents die in an accident she is paralyzed and kept captive by Tony her Great Grandfather (so yes, still some icky sibling or not stuff going on there!)
Finally we are given 'Web of Dreams'. Leigh VanVoreen had to escape from Farthinggale Manor and the secrets she harbored. She fell into the arms of Luke Casteel, whose devotion promised her hope.
Only Luke knew her deepest secret. Bravely she bore the local folks' suspicions as she grasped for the happiness that had long eluded her, awaiting the birth of her child and hoping for a chance at happily-ever-after.
Sadly, along with the other numerous inconsistencies with the novels, they barely touched upon Jillian's maniacal obsession with her looks, which was a huge and important part of her character.
Furthermore, Leigh is supposed to have silvery blond hair. She is supposed to be stunningly beautiful in an angelic way. The girl that was cast did not reflect the character in the book at all and she didn't seem like she would catch the eye of a young Tony Tatterton.
She was just kind of an awkward teenager and time at school was never addressed and her boyfriend's was changed from Joshua to some guy named James!
All and all, I wish they made Jillian, Leigh, Heaven and Annie look alike except for their hair. This was an important plot point that was missed.
Other than all that,'V.C. Andrews’ Casteel Family - 5 Movie Series' is a quite stunning coming together of all five (5) titles in the Casteel Family series which has now been given to us on lovely DVD by LGF. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
The 'V.C. Andrews’ Casteel Family - 5 Movie Series' DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $24.98 when it arrives on DVD February 25th, 2020 from Lionsgate.
'The Great Alaskan Race: 3 Film Collection'
(Treat Williams, Brian Presley, Brad Leland, Brea Bree, et al / DVD / PG / 2020 / P12 Films)
Overview: In 1925's historic great race of mercy, a group of brave mushers travel 700 miles to save the small children of Nome, Alaska from a deadly epidemic.
DVD: 'The Great Alaskan Race' is yet another captivating angle to what was already an incredible real life story.
All of the films I've personally seen about this historic, and true event are very good, including this version, which is why I highly recommend it, of course.
I recently also watched the movie Togo and thought that it was pretty good, which is what you would expect from a Disney film.
That said, and playing Devil's Advocate, Disney (again, in my humble opinion) has a extremely damaging habit of anthropomorphizing animals.
For the sled dogs in this marathon were, in fact, not conscious of carrying serum and were not performing any different than had they been on any other long distance competitive races.
This film provides a warm and interesting reflection of the man who contributed 80% of the rescue effort, Leonard Shepard. His own daughter was one of the sick children, which was a very compelling motivation for Mr. Shepard to get the serum back to Nome expeditiously.
Watch Togo, or for that matter Balto and you'd think the dogs were conscious of their mission. What these dogs are, are amazing athletes, amazing social group/pack on a sled team with driver, and working in conditions that are both extreme and beautiful.
In closing, the acting was great - I mean, come on, when is Treat Williams ever anything but the best actor working at his greatest levels - and the scenery truly, and stunningly beautiful (although it was actually filmed in Colorado, not Alaska! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
• “The Making of The Great Alaskan Race
• “Behind-the-Scenes with the Iditarod”
• “Beargrease Race Kick off Video”
• “Mushers Review The Great Alaskan Race
This special educational bundle includes a 3-Film Collection (Why Do They Run? Documentary, The Great Alaskan Race film, and Lure of the North Documentary) and bonus features for over an hour of new content for families to enjoy on Digital & DVD now!
'Why Do They Run?' - Produced by the Emmy award winning Insider Production Team, this short documentary takes a fascinating look at the sled dog to answer the burning question: “Why do they run?”
In just 33 minutes viewers will get insight and testimony from leading veterinarians and scientists that answer this very question. A true “must see” for any dog lover!
'Lure of The North' - This short documentary film profiles Blake and Jennifer Freking, a musher family from Finland, Minnesota who care for 60+ purebred Siberian Huskies.
With over 20 years of working with the breed, they have each competed in numerous long-distance sled dog races including the Iditarod, Yukon Quest, and The John Beargrease Marathon.
The film explores the challenges of living and raising a family off-grid in the snowiest region of Minnesota and captures the Frekings’ devotion to the sport, spirit of adventure, and commitment to the well-being of their huskies.
'Mind Games: MVD Rewind Collection'
(Maxwell Caufield, Edward Albert, Shawn Weatherly, Matt Norero, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1989) 2020 / MVD Visual)
Overview: Maxwell Caulfield ('Grease 2') stars in this taut psychological thriller from director Bob Yari (producer of the Academy Award®-winning 'Crash') about a family's battle for survival against a cruel, scheming stranger.
Blu-ray Verdict: To be very honest, 'Mind Games' is a very memorable movie with a plausible plot and subplot which meant even back then it held my attention; let alone here today!
Trapped in an unhappy marriage, Dana Lund (Edward Albert, 'Galaxy of Terror') and his wife, Rita (Shawn Weatherly, 'Police Academy 3: Back in Training') try to breathe new life into their relationship by taking a trip through northern California with their 10-year-old son Kevin (Matt Norero, 'Roseanne').
Along the way they pick up Eric (Caulfield) an amiable hitchhiker who's a psychology student. But Eric's charm masks the fact that he is psychotic. Sensing the Lund's vulnerability, he decides to take control of the family, then destroy it through deceit and emotional manipulation.
At first the Lunds are easy prey until they realize they've become victims of a bizarre reign of terror. They begin to fight back in a desperate attempt to save themselves from Eric's madness and perverse mind games.
Not your typical horror flick, nor a traditional thriller, 'Mind Games' works because the motives of the sociopath are not made clear from the off.
Over time they are slowly revealed, mainly through his own private journal, but even then it not only showcases how one sick and twisted individual can wreak havoc on unwitting people in the blink of an eye.
It further illustrates why families should be protected and why strangers should be kept away from children, but that's a whole other batch of fish ton fry!
A film that is very suspenseful and excitingly entertaining, 'Mind Games' has no nudity, very little violence, but packs a whole bus load of suspense and intrigue, that's for darn sure.
Sure something like the original (or latter day remake, to be honest) 'Cape Fear' has a better edge to it, but any film of this type done well fully deserves its audience. And so, if you are (much like myself) a purist of this kind of cinematic genre, well, you are all going to be very happy with this new-to-Blu-ray release from MVD Visual. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the main feature in 1.78:1 aspect ratio
English 2.0 Stereo Audio
Optional English Subtitles
NEW! The Making of Mind Games (HD, 108 mins) [brand new feature length retrospective of the film featuring interviews with stars Maxwell Caulfield, Matt Norero and Shawn Weatherly, producer Mary Apick and director Bob Yari]
NEW! 'Bob Yari: Portrait of a Producer' (HD, 33 mins) [retrospective featurette on the career of the producer of the Academy Award Best Picture Winning Crash, The Illusionist, Find Me Guilty, and many others]
Original Theatrical Trailer (SD, 01:13)
Reversible Sleeve Featuring Alternate Artwork
'The Hunt for Vlad The Impaler'
(Cem Uçan, Erkan Petekkaya, Nur Fettahoglu, Yetkin Dikinciler, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / 4Digital Media)
Overview: In the middle of the 15th century, in the depths of Turkey during the Ottoman Empire, the land is torn apart by horrendous atrocities against the terrified people by the cruel and blood-thirsty, Vlad the Impaler.
The ruler, Baba Sultan, orders a group of seven fearless warriors known as Deliler, to hunt down Vlad and end the persecution once and for all.
The seven heroes set out on their long journey, stopping at nothing until they find the inhumane Vlad and defeat him in what will be a battle to end all battles.
DVD Verdict: Sold as "Game of Thrones meets Vikings," this heavily romanticized take on Vlad The Impaler is one that manages to grab your attention from the off and never allow you to avert your gaze.
It is also, which is a refreshing occurrence, one of those films that keeps your gaze throughout, never allowing you the thought of checking your watch to see how long is left!
Featuring wonderful cinematography, both real and (obviously) CGI, it follows the path of a band of Turkish warriors known as the Deliler (which was this films original title ie: Calvary Troop) racing into the battle to end all battles.
Approached as a rather stylized, medieval comic book style, and chock full of OTT and highly melodramatic chase, pilfering, raiding and even battel scenes (ie: simple burning arrows set into flight that land in bails of straw and explode on impact!), the best thing about 'The Hunt for Vlad The Impaler' is that no matter what you expect to happen, it rarely does!
The final battle scenes are immense and acted out in a very meticulous, and well crafted manner, it should be said.
Ok, yes, some of the looks given by Vlad and his cohorts can be taken as being needlessly cheesy, adding to the whole soap opera melodrama of it all, but without any pixies, fairies, princesses, princes or even dragons, this film relies on its lead actors.
Hence, 'The Hunt for Vlad The Impaler' - which has an open ending that definitely allows for a sequel to ready itself - is a quite brilliant film, chock full of everything you would hope to find in such a presentation, and has just the right amount of cheese for it to be a tasty night of cinematic nourishment. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Queen & Slim'
(Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloe Sevigny, Flea, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital / R / 2020 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Overview: While on a forgettable first date together in Ohio, a black man (Kaluuya) and a black woman (Turner-Smith), are pulled over for a minor traffic infraction.
The situation escalates, with sudden and tragic results, and the man kills the police officer in self-defense. Terrified and in fear for their lives, the man, a retail employee, and the woman, a criminal defense lawyer, are forced to go on the run.
But the incident is captured on video and goes viral, and the couple unwittingly become a symbol of trauma, terror, grief and pain for people across the country.
Blu-ray Verdict: Yes, police brutality (and the subsequent retaliation against the cop) is the main selling point of this film, but it is oh-so much more than that. If you love to explore nuance, then this film lends itself to that craving.
I read a review that accused this film of defiantly negating romantic affection between a Black man and woman, by way of the presence of White oppression. To that criticism, I say … pay closer attention to the love, physical and emotional, that transpired between Queen and Slim.
We're so used to seeing black couples at each other's throats, that some folks can't recognize the beauty in the love-making montage in this film. Not harsh, coarse intercourse. But a truly heart-syncopated rhythmic scene with passion.
And in regards to the collective love, we see Queen and Slim protected by a hive of adoration and dignity. The juke joint scene, where we see a live blues band and patrons old enough to appreciate the southern tradition, extended a solidarity that's missing in today's hip hop culture.
Not to mention the hilarious scenes of warmth when Queen enlists the help of her uncle, played by the rejuvenating Bokeem Woodbine.
The visual poetry is breathtaking, and commands your attention, as the scenery beckons that you recognize it as it's own character. The journey of this duo is more than what is happening around them.
The journey is also about what is happening INSIDE them. The undeniably measured growth of Queen comes to a boiling crescendo at the film's fatal climax.
You can't help but sympathize with her, as she endured so many transitions in just a few days. And boy, does her body take quite the hit. A true testament to the unyielding spirit of black women.
The small detours and many supporters that they encounter are all worth it. There isn't a single scene or anecdote that feels unnecessary, in my opinion. Everything has a purpose in this film.
Even the unfortunate circumstances that follow. The people complaining about how "slow" this movie is, haven't attempted to dive into the ethos of Queen and Slim. Every subtle quirk and joyous moment isn't taken for granted.
A road trip? Sure. A cautionary tale of two unfortunate souls that are seeking refuge? Of course. But take the time to relish in the beauty that this film wants to convey, instead of lambasting the heavily nuanced cop-killing scene. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
• Feature Commentary with Director/Producer Melina Matsoukas and Writer/Producer Lena Waithe
• A Deeper Meaning - Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith and filmmakers discuss the complicated journeys of Queen & Slim and explore the deeper meanings of how far these characters have come from where they began
• Melina & Lena - A behind-the-scenes look at the creative partnership between director/producer
Melina Matsoukas and screenwriter/producer Lena Waithe
• Off The Script - Screenwriter Lena Waithe reads from her original screenplay for Queen & Slim
• On The Run With Queen & Slim - Go behind the scenes with the cast and crew of Queen & Slim as they film in Cleveland and New Orleans
From Emmy Award®-winning writer Lena Waithe (Netflix’s “Master of None”) and Grammy Award®-winning director Melina Matsoukas (Beyonce’s “Formation” and Nike’s “Equality”), comes the unflinching new drama, 'Queen & Slim', arriving on Digital February 18, 2020 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-rayTM, DVD and On Demand March 3rd, 2020 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
'Midway' [Steel Book, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray]
(Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, et al / 4K Ukltra HD Blu-ray + Digital / PG-13 / 2020 / LGF)
Overview: 'Midway' centers on the Battle of Midway, a clash between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy which marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater during WWII.
The film, based on the real-life events of this heroic feat, tells the story of the leaders and soldiers who used their instincts, fortitude, and bravery to overcome the odds.
Blu-ray Verdict: Lionsgate Films (LGF) is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the simply breathtaking 'Midway’ in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this February 18h, 2020.
For my money, this 'Midway: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' Steel Book combo pack's sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.
So, what we have is 'Midway' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Upscaled 4K (2160p), HDR: Dolby Vision + HDR10, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 and Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1.
Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHD's, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.
Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable.
For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; such as the absolutely breathtakingly "real" images of when the missiles strike the ships, the bombs explode on the boats; where suddenly ALL you can see, all you can focus on are the magnificent red/orange explosions. It just all comes more vividly to life, which is amazing to see, in truth.
Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material (notably the scenes on the decks of the ships where the men in charge realize they have to do something in retaliation or face certain incoming-as-they-speak death; and those captivating moments in the various pilot cockpits where you can read everything in their minds seeping through their collective eyes) now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the 1080p Blu-ray accounting.
As for the audio, well we have: English: Dolby Atmos, English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), English: Dolby Digital 2.0 and Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1.
Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.
As for the film itself, well, finally there is a WW2 movie with the right balance of modern effects and good storytelling. I've always preferred the straightforward stories in 'Tora Tora Tora' and 'A Bridge Too Far' over the newer gory angst filled war movies and those which deal with obscure insignificant incidents.
Unlike Bay's 'Pearl Harbor' or the older 'Midway' movie there is no wasted time on silly romances. Also the dragginess of Eastwood and the gore of Spielberg are not present here.
The screenplay is clear and comprehensive from pre-Pearl Harbor to the decisive day everything is clearly explained. Doolittle deserves mention. Good history lesson for some folks nowadays who seem to forget which country was defending themselves against those who waged aggressive wars!
Slower moments are not dull as they are used to explain strategy, training and the role of intelligence.
The air battle scenes and dive bombing scenes are thrilling yet clear. You can still see who is who. You are really put right into the center of things. Superb exciting cinematography without looking fake or too CGI.
The casting is brilliant. Using distinctive famous actors to portray the various heroes helps the viewer remember who is who and build up sympathy for whether they make it or not.
Ed Skrein, usually the anti-hero type role, here plays the cocky pilot and his eventual vulnerability is touching. Luke Evans is convincing as another hero pilot.
Patrick Wilson is perfect as the intelligence officer who helped get it right. The older actors like Denis Quaid and Aaron Eckhart are well cast too and Woody Harrelson, usually a goofball, is rather fine too.
Actors usually don't associate with historic roles like Darren Criss and Jonas are surprisingly right. Mandy Moore looks pretty and suitable in her WW2 getup and IMO should attempt more roles from this period. The Japanese naval officers are distinctive enough to differentiate also.
That said, the best part for me was that the stakes of the climatic battle are well realized here and the CGI is NOT poor, nor distracting. Indeed, they are extremely well done (but are far more effective and real on the big screen, as you can only imagine, of course).
Furthermore, you completely forget your watching visual FX after a point, which one assumes, is the whole idea. Where the earlier 'Midway' film failed in its visuals of the battle, here you're really put in the seat of the plunging dive bomber or on the deck of the carrier during the numerous actions.
It is a visceral experience to see these sequences on the big screen, sure, but even to se it on the big screen home entertainment TVs we all seem to have these days, well, it's still something that shouldn't be missed.
In closing, it took a truly international effort from a German director, some Chinese producers, an American writer and great British and American cast to make the best WW2 movie in decades. But, oh my God, it was well worth the wait!
As for this wondrous Steel Book edition of the 4K Ultra HD presentation, well, the 4K Dolby Atmos presentation is clean, bright and comes complete with some rather outstanding sound (as one would hope, given the density of the subject matter).
Overall the CGI effects accurately portray the ships and planes of the era in some brilliant and just eye popping ways and so if you're a World War II buff or just a lover of good movies, this is one to add to the collection!
This isn't a Michael Bay movie, but it has all the hallmarks!
As for the aforementioned Steel Book, well, it means this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray comes in a very unique slipcase, which gives us this historic movie complete with one highly active soundtrack.
Simply put, 'Midway' is an instant classic. A very clear telling of the historic events that led up to and then including the epic naval battle at Midway. Great cast, great editing, great effects and terrific sound and in the form of this wondrous Steel Book, a definitive must for all home entertainment collections.
As for the special features included here on this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steel Book edition, the stand outs for me have to be the highly intense, and very revealing Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich and the magnificent look behind-the-scenes of "Getting It Right: The Making of Midway” Featurette.
In the first, Emmerich takes us frame by frame through the film, recounting not only how things came to be in certain shots but interestingly enough (and possibly more interestingly) how certain shots they had tried over and over to create just couldn't get finished off.
In "Getting It Right: The Making of Midway” Featurette, we get more of the behind-the-scenes reveals, albeit this time visually, and we get to watch along as the actors are put through their run here, run there paces, each and every time, from various angles.
This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
4K UHD / BLU-RAY / DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES:
• Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich
• “Getting It Right: The Making of Midway” Featurette
• “The Men of Midway” Featurette
• “Roland Emmerich: Man on a Mission” Featurette
• “Turning Point: The Legacy of Midway” Featurette
• “Joe Rochefort: Breaking the Japanese Code” Featurette
• “We Met at Midway: Two Survivors Remember” Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES:
• Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich
• “Getting It Right: The Making of Midway” Featurette
• “The Men of Midway” Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
'Midway' arrives on Digital February 4th and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Steel Book Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital), Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand February 18th from Lionsgate.
'Dark Waters' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital]
(Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / PG-13 / 2020 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Overview: Inspired by a shocking true story, 'Dark Waters' centers around a rising lawyer (Mark Ruffalo) who uncovers the dark secret that lies beneath the surface of a small town.
Launching a heroic one-man crusade to take on a powerful corporation, he risks everything — his future, his family and his own life – to expose the truth.
Blu-ray Verdict: Mark Ruffalo portrays Robert Billott, a Cincinnati-based attorney who is part of a law firm that represents dozens of multi-billion dollar corporations, the biggest not only in America but the world at large as well.
But when he hears about a farmer in his own hometown of Parkersburg, West Virginia who has lost nearly two hundred head of cows because they drank from toxically polluted water, he wades into the situation (albeit reluctantly at first) and discovers that one of the companies he has represented in his time, no less than DuPont, is the corporation whose dumping of their toxic waste is responsible for not having only killed livestock, but poisoning and/or severely deforming almost everybody there in Parkersburg; nearly seventy thousand in all!
Combing through documents dating all the way back to the 1970s, he learns that some of this poisoning may be connected to a very well-known product, that DuPont created back in the early 1960s (everyone will know all too well what the name of that product is), and is in practically everything in every home in the United States, including pots and pans.
The toll it took on him and his family, including the relationship with his wife (portrayed by Anne Hathaway) was almost too much for him (he ended up in the hospital for a time); but he kept on fighting for the people in his town, getting blood samples from everyone tested to be used as evidence of DuPont's corporate malfeasance, which virtually bordered on corporate homicide.
Based on Nathaniel Rich's article "The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare" that appeared in the New York Times Magazine in 2016, 'Dark Waters' is quite well directed by Todd Haynes ('I'm Not There', 'Wonderstruck'), and co-written by Matthew Michael Carnahan ('Lions For Lambs', 'Deepwater Horizon').
Ruffalo, who portrayed one of the Boston Globe reporters in the much-acclaimed 2015 drama 'Spotlight', ably portrays Billott in a way that gives us a glimpse into his way of thinking that, just by having represented DuPont in his time, he himself may have been somewhat responsible for the years-long poisoning of his own hometown, even if only indirectly.
The atmosphere conjured up by Haynes is not too dissimilar to what we saw in 'All The President's Men,' 'Spotlight,'or 'The Post', one that is decidedly sinister, shadowy and arguably corrupting.
Tim Robbins, well known for his highly liberal political beliefs, does a good job of playing Ruffalo's partner in the firm, who is initially extremely reluctant to take his side but then does when the facts about DuPont become too big to ignore.
Mare Winningham is also good as one of Parkersburg's many residents who have to face what the town's biggest employer has been doing to then for decades.
While it may seem all too common for movies to take what may seem like potshots at multi-billion dollar conglomerates, when they do the wrong thing (which seems to happen all too frequently, as it did with DuPont), then those wrongs have to have a light shone on them.
This is what 'Dark Waters' does; and as a result, it was one of the best films released in 2019/20.
As for a nod toward one of the Special Features included here, well, 'The Real People' is very revealing and eye-opening as it gives us a chance to (once you have watched the movie, of course) meet the real people from Parkersburg who were impacted first-hand by the contaminated water.
We listen along as they share their experiences being on set and taking part in the film, and watch the grey in their eyes cloud over as they recount their true story memories of the time back when they themselves had been knee deep inside the real story! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Uncovering Dark Waters
The Cost of Being a Hero
The Real People
The riveting story of a courageous attorney who uncovers a deadly secret and blows the lid off a monumental cover up, 'Dark Waters' comes home on Digital February 18th, 2020, and Blu-ray™, DVD and On Demand on March 3rd, 2020 from Participant and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
(Tom Stern, Telly Savalas, Robert Vaughn, John Marley, Burgess Meredith, et al / DVD / R / (1971) 2020 / MVD Visual)
Overview: Joe Ryan, a returning Vietnam veteran, (Tom Stern, 'Hells Angels 69') thinks his life is on borrowed time because he jumped over a grenade to save his platoon and it didn't go off!
He just wants to be left alone to collect scrap, pay his rent, and smoke his weed!
Into his life comes Redford (Telly Savalas, 'Kojak'), a CIA operative looking for a drug kingpin Neilson (Robert Vaughn, 'The Magnificent Seven'), running heroin, cocaine and other habit-forming illegal drugs into the LA area.
The CIA names our 'Joe' as the Kingpin in order to draw him out into the open, where they can catch him, making Joe the "Clay Pigeon".
DVD Verdict: Co-directors Tom Stern and Lane Slate's 'Clay Pigeon' qualifies as a grim, but ultimately lethargic crime thriller about the Los Angeles heroin trade.
Telly Savalas, after 'The Dirty Dozen' but before 'Kojak,' co-stars in this activist-oriented, anti-drug, message picture. Savalas plays an unscrupulous FBI agent who bends the rules so he can play the game his way.
Robert Vaughn, in one of his worst performances (it has to be said, sorry), is cast as the villainous Mr. Big of the heroin trade. Vaughn postures and shouts threats throughout this 97-minute, R-rated, movie about murder and mayhem.
He slaps around vulnerable, helpless young women, while his henchmen do far worse. Tom Stern looks like Steve McQueen in a bushy beard with long hair, but he isn't a charismatic hero in the slightest!
Indeed, he is a passive hero who does nothing until the villain prompts him into action with their murderous ways. Eventually, the villains get our lackluster hero to react.
Initially, after the authorities arrest for taking a joyride on a motorcycle cop's bike, Ryan turns down a deal from FBI Agent Frank Redford (Savalas) to serve as Redford's undercover agent.
Our hero, Joe Ryan (Tom Stern of 'The Hallelujah Trail') is a lucky Vietnam veteran whose claim to fame is his risked his life and dived onto a grenade to save his fellow soldiers.
As it turned out, the grenade didn't blow up, and Ryan received a Silver Star. Redford ushers Ryan on a tour of a local drug rehab center so he can witness first-hand the shocking effects of heroin.
Noted character actor Jeff Corey appears in a cameo as the clinic doctor who supervises hopeless heroin addicts.
Of course, the hippie-looking Ryan knows about the drug, loathes its side-effects, but he refuses to accommodate Redford. Ryan believes the wily Neilson will pay off a judge and land a short sentence.
Ryan complains about how penniless kids in Texas, Alabama, and elsewhere wind up doing hard time for smoking marijuana.
However, Ryan agrees to tackle Neilson, but he wants to play by his own rules. Instead, the treacherous Redford allows Ryan to walk without prosecution for his joyride.
Nevertheless, Redford has Ryan's face plastered across the front page as the mysterious heroin dealer. Predictably, Neilson wants Ryan located and dispatches his two most trusted henchmen, Simon (Ivan Dixon of CBS-TV's 'Hogan's Heroes') and Jason (Mario Alcalde) to ferret the reluctant hero out.
Basically, Ryan becomes the titular 'Clay Pigeon' because Neilson treats him as one. Simon and Jason then embark on a killing spree!
They shoot-up one of Ryan's heroin junkie friends, Tracy (Belinda Palmer), with enough muck to kill her! Later, Simon murders another heroin junkie, Saddle (Marlene Clark), after she divulges Ryan's whereabouts.
Simon puts his gun to her ear and shoots her without a qualm and then Neilson and his two henchmen surprise Ryan after he has just awakened.
Simon wounds Ryan and they kill Ryan's stripper girlfriend Angeline (one-time only actress Marilyn Akin) and everything boils down to a desperate foot chase to the Hollywood Bowl where Ryan kills both henchmen.
Some of the violence is staged with believable horror, especially to one of the tortured heroin addicts. Meanwhile, Stern pulls his punches in one physical encounter with Savalas.
The dune buggy chase is a brighter moment, while Ryan running circles around the cops in their patrol cars in the desert. FBI agent Frank Redford and free-wheeling Mr. Neilson (Robert Vaughn of 'Bullitt') represent the Establishment, but they are equally corrupt.
Mind you, the local police captain (John Marley of 'Love Story') doesn't like Redford. The bittersweet ending has Ryan assaulting Redford after the authorities tear him off Neilson who he is struggling to drown at the Hollywood Bowl.
There are a few good lines of dialogue, but 'Clay Pigeon' drags on interminably at times when some judicious editing might have accelerated its sluggish pace.
Also, the blood looks too bright, but there are a couple of nude scenes for those that applaud such things! One scene involves Ryan's stripper girlfriend twirling about on a dance floor as naked as she was the day she was born.
The second nude scene occurs in a swimming pool when a guy swims with two bare-breasted babes.
In closing, Stern's righteous-to-anger hero lacks initiative thus 'Clay Pigeon' amounts to a tepid so-called crime thriller, and yet, well, I might just watch it again to see if I missed something the first time! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Raiga: God Of The Monsters'
(Yukijiro Hotaru, Ryan Davies, Manami Enosawa, et al / DVD / NR / (2009) 2020 / SRS Cinema)
Overview: Global warming leads to excessive melting of the southern polar ice cap, disrupting Earth's ecosystem. The receding ice brings long dormant ancient sea creatures back to life, monsters that set their sights on Japan.
Among the kaiju is an enormous sea beast the locals refer to as the legendary Raiga. The monster attacks the city of Asakusa, bringing death and destruction as he tramples building and lays waste to the military. Can Raiga be stopped, or will all of Japan be destroyed by his fury?
DVD Verdict: Well, straight from the off I can confirm that 'Raiga: God Of The Monsters' is at least visually a vast improvement over it's predecessor, with great miniatures, costumes and composite effects.
But what it has in style it lacks in substance as that takes a back seat to the irritating family (especially the daughters) that we're forced to sit through and hope they survive!
Oh, and lest we forget about some really unfunny jokes and gags that are spread throughout, such as “I can’t run in a kimono!” screams a frustrated Japanese man, having been evacuated as our favorite giant monster smashes the city in the background!
That said, sure, I don't mind when a film series wants to go in a more lighthearted direction, but the humor just didn't work for me. I barely cracked a smile through those moments, but that doesn't make it a terrible movie.
OK, yes, sure, it just feels like a big step down from the great 'Reigo,' but what wouldn't?
Here the humans are modern and cynical, the kaiju is performed primarily through suitmation and all that is just fine and dandy.
Furthermore, the storyline is a wee bit weird to me, but when Raiga begins crushing buildings like a drunk madman, well, all that went out the window and I was loving it all; like a moth(ra) to a flame! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Making of Raiga Monster (Japanese)
ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas [Blu-ray]
(ZZ Top, et al / Blu-ray+DVD / NR / 2020 / Eagle Vision - Banger Films)
Overview: Produced by the award-winning Banger Films, 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas' tells the story of how three teenage bluesmen - Billy F Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard – became one of the biggest, most beloved bands on the planet; all while maintaining a surrealist mystique that continues to intrigue fans and entice onlookers 50 years after the band’s inception.
This 90-minute documentary is packaged with 35 minutes of live performances, a mix of recent Gruene Hall and archival footage.
Blu-ray Verdict: If you are a fan of the band, you might well know most all that is revealed here by the trio along with other celeb talking heads.
But, if you are a casual passer-by who has found their music to be magically enthralling, well, trust me when I say that you will be blown away by what you see and hear on this quite magnificent delve into that little ol' band from Texas, ZZ Top.
From the off it's very clear that there was always more to ZZ Top than met the eye. When asked how they came up with the bands name, one says they will tell the interviewer three stories, whilst another one adds that none of them will be true!
Thus, the band with one of the most distinct and unmistakable sounds in music ever, lovingly showcase themselves as down to earth, fun-loving Texan's who just got into the business to play their brand of music to anyone that wished to listen.
Described as unique, eccentric, and as Billy Bob Thornton puts it, "Seeing them on stage was like seeing Bugs Bunny in person!", as the film shows us, they also had brains.
For straight from the off, ZZ Top were smart enough to hire people they trusted to handle their promotion, sound production, their image, their video work, and everything else that came a'knocking.
Connecting to the world of MTV videos almost like a duck to water, the band were sharp dressed, guitar-motivated, car-orientated, and dived right into promoting their sound as if it were the most natural next step of evolution for them (which of course, it was).
As this fascinating look into the band continues, it's revealed that they knew that they wanted to bring their Texas-branded style of music, singing and performing to the masses and that getting out there and playing as many shows as possible was the way to go.
Funnily enough though, and in a move I actually knew nothing about beforehand, the whole ZZ Top "mystique" was largely cultivated by their manager, the late Billy Mack "Bill" Ham.
The band would loved to have appeared on Johnny Carson and do interviews and perform, but Ham nixed all of that at the beginning, citing "You do your music, and make everybody come to you!"
That changed as Ham mellowed about the whole TV chat show appearances band persona over the years, but they still remained a rare sight for those fans wanting their late night ZZ Top fix!
Now, don't be thinking there is a lot of personal reveals going to be coming forth here, for that's now how this film was constructed. Indeed, aside from Beard's brief mention of leaving Dallas with a wife and a kid, and destroying a relationship with his substance abuse ("I got a check for $72k and spend it all on drugs! Every bit of it!"), there actually isn't much of anything "below the surface" here - which is mighty fine on one hand, slightly disappointing on the other, in truth.
As if it were still an MTV-inspired, heyday production, 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas' wraps up with chats about 1983's Eliminator album and their infamous 'Gimme All Your Lovin'' and 'Legs' video shoots.
And as the film comes to a close, intercut with each of the guys talking around a table about why they think they have stuck it out with each other for so long ("I never wanted to quit this band … nor did I want to get fired!"), we get the really nice treat of a live performance of 'Blue Jean Blues' from 1975.
Complete with some rather "fuzzy" historical stills and video clips of the band's earlier incarnations (Hill and Beard with Lady Wilde and the Warlocks; Gibbons with The Moving Sidewalks), brief animations of key early moments (especially those involving their late manager Bill Ham), very short concert clips in their early prime, and memorable footage from their first music videos directed by Tim Newman for MTV in the early '80s, 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas' is as magical as you could ever hope it to be.
Also inclusive of some rather candid (although, as aforementioned, nothing too under the skin) band interviews, and celebrity fan testimonials (Billy Bob Thornton, Joshua Homme and many more), it also comes complete with an intimate performance from the band at the legendary Gruene Hall; shot exclusively for this documentary. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of a Gruene Hall Bonus Performance and Ham Estate Archive Bonus Footage.
Gruene Hall Bonus Performances (18 minutes):
'Shuffle In C' / 'Fannie Mae'
'Brown Sugar '
'Blue Jean Blues'
Return of Ultraman-The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
(Jiro Dan, Nobuo Tsukamoto, Jun Negami, Shin Kishida, Rumi Sakakibara , et al / 6-Disc Blu-ray + Digital / NR / (1971) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: The crustal movement and the abnormal climate had occurred repeatedly on a global scale and dormant monsters started to awaken from sleep.
A young man named Hideki Gô, who was chasing his dream to be a race car driver, lost his life in saving a boy and a puppy that failed to escape in the midst of Monster Takkong's rampage.
However, the new Ultraman, who had come from Nebula M78 to defend Earth, was deeply touched by Gô's brave action and resurrected him by uniting as one.
After that, Gô is determined to fight any enemy that threatens the freedom and happiness of humanity and joined MAT, the Monster Attack Team.
While he struggles with his identity gap between Ultraman and Hideki Gô, he grows through fighting against the monsters and aliens.
Blu-ray Verdict: Created by Eiji Tsuburaya in the 60's and brought over to the states in the 70's' 'Ultraman' is a show that's like a PG-rated prehistoric version of 'The X Files' ... with Godzilla monsters!
Oh, and a GIANT super hero who saves the day every episode, and all the craziness cranked to 11!
To be more precise, in the then not too distant future of the early 90's, an international police group called The Science Patrol investigates strange phenomena like aliens and cryptids.
Now known as Ultraman Jack, this fourth installment of Ultra Series, and first of what's known as the Second Ultra Series (consisting of this series, Ultraman Ace, Ultraman Taro, and Ultraman Leo), Ultraman returns to earth after four years of hiatus from the last episode of the Ultra Seven.
Hideki Gô (Jiro Dan) is a young man aspiring to be a race car driver. One day when kaijyu Takkong goes on a rampage, he saves the life of a boy, and a dog while losing his.
Ultraman - a visitor, as aforementioned, who came to protect earth from M78 nebula was watching. Impressed with his courage, he decides to merge with him. Now reborn, Hideki joins MAT, and battles the menace of attacking kaijyu.
The series starts out good with hordes of good looking kaijyu on every episode, but from around episode 10 the quality of kaijyu design starts to go down hill.
The appearance got more juvenile looking as the episodes progressed, and by the time it gets to the last episode, alien from planet Batt looks like nothing more than a Smoky the Bear in a tiger costume!
This, I understand is due to the low ratings the series suffered when it first aired, and marketing showed that children wanted to see combination of alien, and kaijyu in each episode.
They also wanted Ultraman to get boost in power. This resulted in more kaijyu that's geared for younger audience, and Ultraman getting the Ultra Bracelet from Ultra Seven that changes into multitude of weapons.
The best of the kaijyu design Twin Tail, I believe is based on the sketch of the walking vegetation that appeared on Day of the Triffids.
This is the first series where the relation of all Ultra heroes are brothers is revealed, with Ultraman Jack being the fourth in the brotherhood. Ultraman Jack appears in ten other Ultra series/movies as a guest, and costar. Most recent being "Ultraman Saga" (2012).
'Kaettekita Urutoraman (as it was known in China) is an excellent television series. The monster fights are very entertaining, especially in episodes 37 (Ultraman Death in Twilight) and 38 (When the Ultra Star Shines), in which New Ultraman is badly beaten by Knuckle-Seijin and Black King, after his two best friends are killed by Knuckle.
Notable in these episodes are the appearances of Ultraman and Ultra Seven, along with their respective hosts Hayata and Dan (Susumu Kurobe and Koji Moritsugu).
In closing, copies of this series have been so rare to find, let alone watch outside of Japan, but now that Mill Creek Entertainment have brought this wondrous box-set out (alongside other Ultraman and Ultra Q series') well, my long lost inner '60s child has come back home and is very content; thank you, Mill Creek. Thank you. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga + Ultra Fight Orb'
(Hideo Ishiguro, Takaya Aoyagi, Saki Fukuda, et al / 2-Disc Blu-ray / NR / (2016-2017) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: A spin-off to the TV series Ultraman Orb, the prequel introduces the characters Gai Kurenai and Jugglus Juggler, who, legend has it, once fought for the same power.
Blu-ray Verdict: Last year the silver giant of light turned 50 years old, and with the franchise having gained new footing in the past few years Tsuburaya Productions did plenty to celebrate.
Ultraman X kicked things off in 2015, leading into a movie which also featured appearances from both the original Ultraman and Ultraman Tiga.
However the main event was Ultraman Orb – a brand new anniversary series which once again saw worldwide distribution via Crunchyroll simulcasting.
Although this main series only ran for a total of 25 episodes, it was immediately followed up with a now-released Amazon Prime-exclusive prequel series as well as a movie.
As a child, Naomi Yumeno had a dream of a strange warrior of light fighting against a monster. This dream led to pursue the strange, extraterrestrial and paranormal – forming the SSP (Something Search People) with her friends Jetta Hayami and Shin Matsudo.
One day while investigating a giant monster attack, Naomi is saved by Ultraman Orb – a warrior of light who fights using the powers of his Ultra Hero predecessors. Shortly afterward the SSP then befriend wanderer Gai Kurenai, the man behind Orb, none the wiser to his heroic alter-ego.
Together with the SSP, Gai/Orb fights to prevent the resurrection of the Demon King Beasts who were sealed away long ago by veteran Ultra Warriors. Pulling away at those seams is the enigmatic Jugglus Juggler – a man from Gai’s past who wields the Dark Ring to counteract Orb’s light.
In a daring approach, 'Ultraman Orb' takes a very different approach from its predecessors and provides a standalone series with a greater emphasis on serialized storytelling with a smaller and more developed cast.
Even though Orb’s powers are derived from previous Ultras, the links start and stop there – making Ultraman Orb just as enjoyable to newcomers as it is to veteran fans.
The result is a series that feels very different to X, but has the same spirit, energy and reverence for the wider Ultra franchise.
As usual with this series, the visual effects are on top notch, pushing the envelope when it comes to miniature set design, pyrotechnics and physical stunt work.
Orb continues to enjoy Ultraman’s rich heritage of classic creatures, with appearances from monsters/aliens both old and new.
Old foes are brought back in exciting ways, from the ridiculous retro Space Mafia to the hilariously edgy (but unequivocally cool) reimagining of Zetton as “Hyper Zetton Deathscythe”.
I should also give a special shout out to the forms of Orb himself, which wonderfully blend the distinct traits of two different Ultramen while keeping Orb’s visual trademark of a circular color timer.
In closing, and on top of boasting the same level of technical quality that makes the Ultra Series just so spectacular to watch, Ultraman Orb pushes its narrative even further to create a story and characters that manages to surpass its predecessor.
Combined with 'Ultra Fight Orb: I'm Borrowing the Power of Parent and Child!,' the mini-series (again produced by Tsuburaya Productions, of course) is a direct spin-off of Ultraman Orb.
Released in 2017, and originally aired during the ending segment of Ultraman Zero: The Chronicle programming block on TV Tokyo, the film features the live appearance of Ultraman Orb's two game-exclusive forms, Lightning Attacker and Emerium Slugger from Ultraman Fusion Fight!
Not to give too much away here, but at the end of the series, it also features the debut of the titular character of Ultraman Geed! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Norm of the North: Family Vacation'
(Andy Toth, Brian Drummond, Cole Howard, James Higuchi, Jennifer Cameron, Jonathan Holmes, Lee Tockar, Lisa Durupt, Paul Dobson, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / Lionsgate Films)
Overview: Overwhelmed by his Kingly duties, Norm struggles to make time for both his kingdom and his family. But when his crown is mysteriously stolen in the dead of the night, Norm must embark on an epic journey — disguised as a family vacation!
Norm sets out to track down the thief and find his crown, and learns the valuable lesson that by working together as a family, nothing is impossible.
DVD Verdict: OK, I'm just gonna say this from the off: 'Norm of the North: Family Vacation' is truly an excellent movie you should not miss! It will undoubtedly please the majority of its captured audience because it is impressively funny from beginning till end!
Although it doesn't have the rock solid B-Movie cast that the original one had, and whilst like any other children's movie, it wasn't aimed at my own personal adult demographic, I still found the dialogue entertaining -- and, more importantly, the themes powerful.
Indeed, this movie takes on climate change and aims the issue at an audience that will shape our future on Earth -- so it's a BIG hit in my adult parenting book!
Here in the next sequel, King Norm of the North has a tough time prioritizing his royal duties while balancing his family life. He must prepare the best pre-winter jubilee celebration for his subjects, but it all seems a little overdone in light of spending time with his wife and children.
Even though King Norm is frustrated with his duties, the burden weighs even heavier on his family at home.
Amidst the planning, someone steals King Norm’s crown, and legend says that if the king cannot present his crown at the jubilee, an eternal winter curse will set in.
Undercover of a King Norm ruse, he and his family travel to China to chase down the thief and save his kingdom.
If you have wee children watching this, please allow me to float be you some scenarios that will appear on screen: Such as some larger animals eating smaller animals ie: like a seal eating a fish and a killer whale eating a sea turtle (all be they done in an obviously subtle cartoon manner, of course).
Still, there are there so just be aware, that's all.
Oh, and in a sign of our social media and technology-crippling times, King Norm, his family, and other characters HEAVILY rely on technology for communication and entertainment!
In a way that I've not seen before in other such animated shows, they are either glued to, or finding information out about on their phones, computers, iPads, etc.
Not a bad thing, per say, but a definite upturn in the way communication is achieved within animation between characters these days, that's for sure.
In closing, 'Norm of the North: Family Vacation' features some rather delightful animation, is very colorful and fluent in all things it attempts to either perform or teach.
Simply put, 'Norm of the North: Family Vacation' proves that just because you're not a big Polar Bear does not mean you can't make a big splash in whatever you attempt to do! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9.
'Norm of the North: Family Vacation' will be available on DVD for the suggested retail price of $14.98.
'Two Times You'
(Melissa Barrera, Anahi Davila, Daniel Adissi, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / Synergetic)
Overview: Tania and Daniela exchange husbands during a wedding just for fun, but a fatal accident will create new, strange relationships.
DVD Verdict: In 'Two Times You' (otherwise known as 'Dos Veces Tú'), two couples are out at an event. Daniela and Rodrigo (Melissa Barrera and Mariano Palacios) are ridiculously attractive thus Daniela's cousin, Tania (Anahi Davila), is worried that she's missing out, making her life feel more boring.
That said, she's married to Benny (Daniel Adissi), who has antediluvian views of the role of a wife in a marriage. The couples get pretty wasted, and the women decide to each go home with the other's husband.
The problem is one of the cars crashes, killing the partners of the people in the other vehicle. The surviving widow and widower must now try to navigate the mistrust and rumors in their community, the loss of their friend and lover, and the strange position concerning one another that they are put in.
Intriguing and compelling in equal measures, in truth 'Two Times You' really gets juicy after the car crash, but when it does start to get a head of steam, well, watch out everyone!
Paced and thought provoking for its entire running time of 95 mins, this Spanish language film is definitely a slow burn that's well worth the conclusion it brings forth, trust me.
Not to give anything away about which of the male and female die in the crash, or how the surviving two get on with being themselves - whether that be together or apart - but suffice to say that 'Two Times You' is a mysterious, haunting drama that has been built beautifully around a sultry foreign cinematic experience. This is a Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) and enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Passion of Darkly Noon' [Blu-ray]
(Brendan Fraser, Ashley Judd, Viggo Mortensen, Loren Dean, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1995) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: After the death of his strictly religious parents, forlorn young Darkly gets lost in the woods. A truck driver, Jude, rescues the exhausted man, who has only a bible for comfort.
He brings him to the house of Callie and Clay, two lovers who live in the forest. While Clay is away in the forest, beautiful Callie nurses Darkly back to health, and he develops an obsession with her that is totally contrary to his upbringing - a sexual obsession!
Blu-ray Verdict: Described by critic Mark Kermode as an extraordinary filmmaker and one of the UK s most imaginative talents, visionary British director Philip Ridley followed his sensational debut 'The Reflecting Skin' with another surreal incursion into the dark heart of the American dream in, 'The Passion of Darkly Noon.'
Darkly Noon (Brendan Fraser) is the sole survivor of a military-style attack on an isolated religious community. Stumbling through a forest in a daze, he is rescued by the free-spirited and enigmatic Callie (Ashley Judd).
Darkly finds himself feeling strange new desires for Callie as she nurses him back to health only to watch her jump into the arms of her returning mute lover Clay (Viggo Mortensen).
Lost in the woods with only his fundamentalist upbringing to make sense of his unrequited passions, Darkly soon descends into an explosive and lethal rage.
Simply put, this film is a powerful study of obsession, set in an abstract fantasy world. It is beautiful in so many ways, from the stunning surroundings, to the haunting score, to the exceptional acting from Brendan Fraser as a man driven to madness by the conflict inside him.
It is essentially a tragedy, where everyone loses and you can still feel sorry for Darkly despite everything he does. It doesn't have a complex plot or highly developed characters: it is essentially like a short story rather than a novel, a snapshot of the demise of the main character, but done so effectively as to immerse you completely in the vast forest and leave you thinking about what has transpired long after the film has ended.
Ashley Judd comes on like a distant relative of Laura Palmer who exists in a parallel universe, just as Viggo Mortensen is the "flip" side of killer BOB; his life energy channeled into his potent sexuality and the strong feelings he has for Judd's character; rather than the Essence of Pure Evil, which is why he's a lightweight when the time comes to confront a raging Noon.
Peaks gets more homage paid to it by the way the dreamy German forest locales are shot and lit. DP John de Borman takes more than a few cues from the work of Ron Garcia on both the Peaks series and the movie.
Watch the cave scenes and the river scenes closely. One comes to suspect that if you peeked inside that giant silver shoe floating down the river, you'd find a dead body inside, wrapped in plastic.
Where the similarities between Ridley's movie and Lynch's work begin and end is pretty simple. After 'The Passion of Darkly Noon,' I could calmly find my way through the darkness of my own home, to get a drink of water in the middle of the night, and not think about it.
However, with Lynch's best and most alarming work, (the TP movie and, of course, 'Lost Highway'), I wouldn't dare do that!
Something about darkness in a Lynch film equates it with the depths of the basest impulses hidden in the human soul. To use a very profound quote from a B-movie I saw: "It's not the dark I'm afraid of; it's what's IN the dark."
In closing, 'The Passion of Darkly Noon' is truly a work of art, and having seen Philip Ridley's other work 'The Reflecting Skin,' I can count myself as a great admirer of his style of moviemaking. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
New 2K restoration by Arrow Films from the original camera negative, approved by Philip Ridley
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary by writer/director Philip Ridley
Isolated score track in lossless stereo, including never-before-heard extended and unused cues, and the two songs from the film
Sharp Cuts, a newly filmed interview with editor Leslie Healey
Forest Songs, a newly filmed interview with composer Nick Bicât
Dreaming Darkly, an archive featurette from 2015 featuring interviews with Ridley, Bicât and star Viggo Mortensen
Previously unreleased demos of the music score, written and performed by Bicât before filming started
Reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork + FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring a new Philip Ridley career retrospective written by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
Now available for the first time worldwide on Blu-ray, Ridley's talent for spellbinding, hallucinogenic dream imagery is on full display in a glittering new transfer of his most formally inventive and electrifying film.
The mesmerizing soundtrack includes two songs co-written by Ridley for the film, 'Look What You've Done (To My Skin)' performed by Gavin Friday and 'Who Will Love Me Now?' performed by PJ Harvey.
'The Grudge' [Blu-ray + Digital]
(John Cho, Lin Shaye, Demian Bichir, Andrea Riseborough, Jacki Weaver, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2020 / Sony Pictures)
Overview: After a young mother murders her family in her own house, a detective attempts to investigate the mysterious case, only to discover that the house is cursed by a vengeful ghost.
Now targeted by the demonic spirits, the detective must do anything to protect herself and her family from harm.
Blu-ray Verdict: January is always a cold, grey month and so when this new tale of 'The Grudge' was the very first of the horror season to break through in 2020, it brought with it a lot of raised eye brows!
'The Grudge' reboot, directed by Nicolas Pesce and produced by horror master Sam Raimi, sees a woman return from Japan to the US, and the curse we met in the original comes with her.
Created in sorrow or rage the violent Japanese spirit happily continues until the whole family ends up dead. Well almost the whole family, as someone needs to stay around as a parasite for the next host.
'The Grudge' (2020) continues feeding off those who enter the haunted house, with the detective who investigated unable to shake off the case, and his religious partner, who didn't enter the house, trying to keep him safe.
All whilst a grisly new discovery invites us to look anew at the case.
In truth, 'The Grudge' (2020) does a lot of things well within the genre, in my humble journalistic opinion, but nothing is so horrific or scary that they stay long enough to linger with you after the movie.
That said, the cinematography is beautiful, the panned shots combined with the jump starts / false starts work well, and the soundtrack stood out to me as a step above the normal for this genre.
Terrific Andrea Riseborough is Detective Muldoon, the newly widowed partner of Demián Bichir's Detective Goodman. It was his partner who investigated the original murder/suicide at 44 Reyburn Drive, and he never speaks of it these days (although it still haunts him deeply, as we can all see).
But Muldoon is drawn to the house after they discover a body they find had originally stayed there. Of course, we all expect the house to be empty but horror regular Lin Shaye is living there (and we all know what that means!)
And so it begins again, with Muldoon investigating the subsequent deaths associated with the house, each suffering an emotional loss or trauma, and being haunted by the original family.
Hanging on the back of Muldoon's own loss is just plain cruel, although we never see her grieving. She has a son to look after. But this spirit is ruthless!
'The Grudge' (2020) is chock full with plenty of creaks, croaks and shadows (put the lights on, FFS!) from cinematographer Zack Galler, and clever gore from the make-up and special effects teams.
To be honest there were not enough jump-scares for me, but Nicolas Pesce introduces just enough dread to keep it interesting. Personally, I like the supernatural and so with a top notch cast game for the shocks, 'The Grudge' is another retread, sure, but it does take a rather fresh approach to it.
Interestingly enough, and as for the number 4, it is seen throughout the film, but that same number in Japanese culture is viewed as unlucky! It's because the word for the number 4 in Japanese sounds very close to the word for death! So there are no 4th floors. No 14th floors, etc. (much like the number 13 in America). This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
• “The Cast of the Cursed” featurette: Take an inside look at the evil that lurks behind the doors at 44 Reyburn Dr., as key creatives and cast members explore The Grudge characters and discuss their experience working with Writer/Director Nicolas Pesce
• “Designing Death” featurette: From a slightly paler version of themselves to being completely mangled and rotted, to the incredible death scenes; like Faith Matheson’s (Lin Shaye) epic leap off of the staircase, explore the character make-up design process and the film’s visual look involved in creating the myriad of ghosts caught in the grips of the Grudge!
• “Easter Egg Haunt” featurette: Join Writer/Director Nicolas Pesce as he brings to light the plethora of hidden Easter Eggs throughout the film which are homages to the previous works in the Ju-On franchise
• Extended Scenes & Alternative Ending - Experience the scenes too disturbing for theaters, like Peter Spencer’s terrifying encounter in the attic of 44 Reyburn Dr., or the uncovering of the gruesome truth behind the Landers’ family deaths
'The Grudge' arrives on Digital March 10th and on Blu-ray™ and DVD March 24th, 2020.
(Sophie Van Winden, Abbey Hoes, Mark Frost, Julian Looman, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / 4Digital Media)
Overview: Lizzy, a zoo veterinarian, gets caught up in a grisly adventure as she finds herself leading the city-wide hunt for a monstrous lion terrorizing the Dutch capital of Amsterdam.
With notorious British big game hunter Jack, Lizzy must work together to prevent more bloodshed.
The hunt is now well and truly on!
DVD Verdict: Originally titled 'Prey,' and initially ready for distribution since 2016, this quite brilliant new Dick Maas-directed movie might well have been sitting on a shelf getting dusty, but trust me when I say that it shows zero signs of lethargy from the off!
Featuring stand out lead performances together with believable characters (given the plot and film scope circumstances, of course), 'Uncaged' doesn't just run screaming up and down blind alleys, it conjures up dark comedy elements too.
And it's actually these, that come fast and furious at one point, but moreover are smartly scattered throughout, that give 'Uncaged' its cinematic edge.
Led by Sophie Van Winden as Lizzy, without a shadow of a doubt she steers he ship here with her on-point acting and delivery of lines. The other unexpected stand out is when she introduces her wheelchair-bound, but no less witty friend, Jack DeLarue (Mark Frost).
Unveiled to us at the film's most warranted time of need, he arrives on the scene wearing a big coat and hat, a shabby version of Sherlock Holmes, if you will.
For the British hunter is their best chance to catch this killer lion, but as with all plot twists, tensions rise as Lizzy’s boyfriend Dave starts to worry about Lizzy and Jack’s previous romantic relationship getting in the way of the hunt!
On a very interesting side note, actually realizing the movie's animal antagonist proved to be a challenge. For using a real, living lion was not possible, since filming with wildlife is prohibited in the Amsterdam city area (it would not have been a good option anyway, as male lions are notoriously lazy and difficult to rouse into action!).
The crew then contacted fellow Dutchman Erik De Boer, whose company was responsible for the computer-generated tiger in 'Life of Pi' (2012).
However, De Boer calculated that one scene alone with a fully computer-generated lion would cost about a million dollar (one-third of the entire budget).
So the crew then turned to a Dutch special effects company, who built a very detailed, manually operated animatronic lion for the close-up scenes with a computer-generated lion then used for a few scenes that showed the creature in full.
In closing, 'Uncaged' has some inventive gore and bloody make-up effects combined with some rather applaudable twists and turns from those trying to out run or escape the predator. And the film has a great climax scene with a quite stunning, and completely unexpected twist too! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'2 Graves In The Desert'
(William Baldwin, Michael Madsen, Cassie Howarth, Iván González, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / 4Digital Media)
Overview: When Eric wakes up, tied and gagged in the trunk of a truck, its instantly clear he's been kidnapped!
However soon he discovers he's accompanied by a young woman, Blake, another hostage. Neither can recall how they ended up in this dire situation, and together they desperately try and get any help they can.
With no helping coming, and as things become more and more hopeless, it soon becomes fearfully apparent that there is more going on than it first seems.
The two kidnappers have their own agenda, and its not a pleasant one.
Is there any way the hostages can escape alive?
DVD Verdict: Going into any movie knowing the two leads are the weather and career worn pairing of Billy Baldwin and Michael Madsen, you either have an accepting sense of what's to come or one of pure cinematic C-Movie dread!
So, yeah, it's true that the acting on display is chock full of cheese and that the way they both perform their character-driven lines is as corny as you could ever expect, but that all said, I don't think there's ever been a cinematic moment when Madsen has ever not given his soul to a role.
Here as Vince, one half of the kidnapping brothers, he turns in a tour de force of C-movie acting, chewing through his scenes perfectly, never stopping once to second guess how he's meant to be performing; he just inhabits.
Baldwin, on the other hand, as Mario, well, sorry, but he couldn't act his way out of a wet paper bag! Whatever he's done to his face over the years has set his features in stone and almost closed his eyes tight shut, and none of that helps him develop his character.
Aside from those two, the other participants in this film are the captives, Blake (Cassie Howarth) and Eric (Iván González), whose roles (Hint!) should have more attention given to them then perhaps the kidnappers as the film progresses!
Chock full of plenty of violence and splayed with rude language throughout, one of the stand out moments here, for our day and age, has to be when one brother turns to another and tells him how the full orange moon looks like Trump! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Spies in Disguise' [Blu-ray Combo]
(Will Smith, Karen Gillan, Tom Holland, Ben Mendelsohn, Rashida Jones, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / NR / 2020 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: In this high-flying animated comedy, super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites.
Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is none of the above. But this unlikely duo must team up for the ultimate mission to save the world when a “biodynamic concealment” experiment transforms Lance into a brave, fierce, majestic … pigeon!
Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, there's something great about going into a movie you expect nothing of only to love it. 'Spies in Disguise' is quirky, goofy, not-taking-itself-seriously fun and the overall creativity here is really exceptional; which is vital in a spy movie that's heavy on the ridiculous gadgets and science.
The animation is great, perfectly fitting the tone of the movie with cartoony realism. I really appreciated the aesthetics, the way everyone is seemingly made of rubber and yet they still get hurt and bruised when hit.
So, creativity is on point, it looks great, but is it fun? Oh my God, yes! I gut laughed multiple times during this, I couldn't breath a couple of times I was laughing so hard. That is such a rare occurrence for me but I loved it!
The reason this isn't rated higher within the animated film community is for one reason and one reason only: Will Smith. From the very first time his character spoke I wasn't feeling it, sorry.
Smith just can't help being Will Smith and as he's talking all I can see is him, not the character. He's just being Will Smith. Even as a damn pigeon.
Which is fun, sure, but not as fun as it could have been. Everyone else is spot on. Tom Holland is an unadulterated delight but Smith just wings it (all pun intended!)
That said, directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane have definitely given us an action-packed, hilarious and heartwarming movie, that will be an absolute delight for kids and adults alike, that's for sure.
Since it is a kid's film, it's obviously going to have some gross out humor. That kind of humor made the movie less enjoyable, and there wasn't very much of it, but when it was present, it was bad and unnecessary.
The humor that wasn't gross out was well written for the most part, but some jokes get too dragged out or are simply unfunny come the final reveal, so to speak.
Again, the animation is flawless and regardless of my honest opinion above of Smith, he does share effortless comedic chemistry with Holland.
Ben Mendelsohn is perfect as Killian. Rashida Jones is excellent as Marcy. Reba McEntire, and the other vocal performances from Oka, Karen Gillan, DJ Khaled and Rachel Brosnahan are fantastic as Joyless, Kimura, Eyes, Ears and Wendy, respectively.
However, some elements also feel way too conventional, and the villains feel like cardboard cut-outs. This is especially noticeable in the sidekick villain, where his main purpose is for comedic relief.
Again, this won't really affect children's enjoyment of the film, but I prefer my characters to be more fleshed out, sorry.
Oh, and if you weren't aware, the short film the film is based on is called 'Pigeon Mission' and is all unto itself a pretty decent "student project," per say.
Anyway, here, even the lowly supporting cast is great which means 'Spies in Disguise' is a MUST WATCH for the entire family. Oh, and it also gives us a valuable message, without being too preachy! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
• Super Secret Spy Mode
• Infiltrating Blue Sky Studios
• The Top Secret Guide to Gadgets
• “Then There Were Two” Music Video
• “Freak of Nature” Music Video
• Making the Soundtrack “Then There Were Two”
• Making the Soundtrack “Freak of Nature”
• “Lunch Break”*
o Color Keys and Moment Paintings
o Character Designs
o Props and Gadgets Concept Art
Add 'Spies in Disguise' to your digital collection on Movies Anywhere, or own it on 4K Ultra HD™️, Blu-ray™️ and DVD on March 10th, 2020.
'Superman: Red Son' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital]
(Jason Isaacs, Amy Acker, Diedrich Bader, Vanessa Marshall, Sasha Roiz, Tara Strong, Roger Craig Smith, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / NR / 2020 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: What if the Man of Steel was raised behind the Iron Curtain? So begins DC’s acclaimed Elseworlds story, Superman: Red Son, the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe Movies.
Blu-ray Verdict: How would Superman be if baby Kal-El crashed into Communist Russia instead of Capitalist America? 'Superman: Red Son' explores the idea, which is based on a comic book mini-series.
In truth, it's a rather intriguing premise and the film does indeed have some interesting moments. Unfortunately, it tries to squeeze too many ideas into an hour and a half format and it just feels too rushed. Many ideas are not fully developed or explored.
The movie opens with a young boy who is being chased by some bullies. The boy is rescued by a young girl called Svetlana, who scares the rowdy boys away.
When the conflict is over, Svetlana comes to the young boy, cleans him up and says: "I can't keep saving you like this, Somishka. You have to stop running and find the courage to face them", only to have the boy reply he was not scared of the bullies, but of hurting them!
The boy promptly demonstrates his powers to Svetlana, who then proclaims that he should give himself to the State, to help people.
As far as settings go, this one is simple yet effective. It shows us how this Superman is a kind soul who wishes to avoid conflict, yet he still wants to better people's lives.
Superman in this movie is, above all, an idealist. He truly believes in his ideas and truly desires to help others, accentuating the main plot point of this movie: the struggles of rulership, what it takes to be a successful leader, in both the good bits and bad.
In fact, the struggles of rulership Superman faces that this movie barely has a villain, or even an antagonist: Lex, Superior Man/Bizarro, Batman and Brainiac are there to provide the action superhero movies are known for but they are not the main focus.
In reality, if you are expecting this to be a superhero movie with a clear villain, a plot to take over the world, a hero and lots of action you will be disappointed. This movie is an inwards reflection of Superman and how he behaves in a position of power.
That said, while I do think I would say the team behind this movie made a good job showing how Superman keeps trying to find solutions to the problems as they arise, it's far from perfect.
Sometimes they are rushed, as aforementioned, as if to include parts of the comic that became orphaned by the changes, but more about that later.
As for Superman, he's far more proactive than his comic book counterpart. While in the book Stalin is killed by his son in convoluted plot, here it's Superman who kills him when he becomes disillusioned with Stalin - a man who preached one thing in public, but in private did nefarious things.
After seeing atrocities committed by the USSR, he kills Stalin and takes the leadership.
As a leader, Superman tries his best to prove the welfare of his citizens. Unlike the comics, we don't get to see how exactly the geopolitics are faring.
So no global empire, no secession of Georgia and what not. The most we get are some remarks about revolutions, so while Superman is not willing to make the first move, he's more than happy to help those who ask.
In this, Lex is not a man plotting Superman's downfall at every instance. I mean, he is, but he's not the antagonist to Superman in a traditional rival sense, here he represents foreign interests that go against Superman's.
He doesn't hate Superman because he's an alien or what not, but because he believes there are better options than what Superman is offering.
Superior Man/Bizarro seems like an excuse for a fight scene. In the comic, he's used to demonstrate how Superman affects Lex ego, but in this film it's an example of how Superman reacts to foreign aggression: even after an invasion with a weapon of mass destruction, he minimizes losses and takes him to an inhabited area and, even when defeating him, shows compassion. Even after such attack, Superman does not declare war on the US.
Batman is an example of people unsatisfied with the current regime. After all, you can't expect everyone to agree with you, you ought to make some people angry, inside and outside.
How Superman handles the Sons of Batman (name not used in the film) shows the pressures of leadership: he has to deal with them somehow, but he can't just kill or send them to a gulag else he would be just like Stalin.
In the end he takes another option, but is it that different from what Stalin did? For context, in the comics Batman's parents were killed by Pyotr, giving him a hate for all structures of powers, in here he's a direct victim of the most unsavory things done by the USSR.
For some criticism, well, the way Diana lost faith on Superman was rushed. It seems there was a mismatch, with the faith wavering in weird moments and not when Superman started upscaling his methods.
The same with the Ambassador Lee character: Superman was shown to be nothing but kind and passionate to his subjects, yes there was the thing about using the Brainiac tech on dissidents but that is hardly that terrifying.
We are never shown he using it on people who merely disagree with him, just actual mass murderers. Breaking from impersonality, I admit I'm against that form of punishment, but apparently so is every world leader who eat supper with Superman, made worse by the fact we are not even sure how Superman decides who gets the implant: is there a trial? is the populace in favor of what appears to be a muffled death sentence? We are not given answers.
In a minor point, the way Superman deals with some issues. Suicide and depression are treated with medicating water supplies - while it's completely in character for Brainiac to do that, one would expect Superman to push for something like healthcare, not drugging the population.
The ending was also interesting. It borrows from the books - Lex and Lois convince Superman has gone too far so he fakes his own death.
In this movie, this happened just after Superman lost his temper and was attacked by the US. Here it improves the ending of the comic, in which Lex becomes the president of the world and through scientific prowess and an ideology that is not that different from Superman's rules for millennia.
In this film, there's no twist ending with time paradox and the sort, there are still plans to make a global United States but it's not Luthor at the helm, there's not "more of the same, but different", we don't know what happens and it serves it well.
Oh, and as for Brainiac, he represents the struggle for power within the State machine. He was an advisor to Superman, putting his own interests forward manipulating the Man of Steel.
For when you're in power even the people you think are under your control and want your best might have ulterior motives.
Simply put, Superman decided he went too far and that people should be allowed to choose what they want, and that's all. Ergo, I didn't find this movie overly preachy, but it did show that doing the right thing - or what you believe is the right thing - isn't always as simple as it might seem. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
• DC Showcase: Phantom Stranger (Animated Short) – Animation legend Bruce Timm helms Phantom Stranger as both executive producer & director from a script written by Ernie Altbacker (Teen Titans: The Judas Contract).
Set in the 1970s, the short follows young adult Jess as she joins her friends at a party in a dilapidated mansion hosted by the mysterious Seth … when odd things begin to happen to Jess and her friends, can Phantom Stranger intervene?
Peter Serafinowicz (The Tick) gives voice to Phantom Stranger, and Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville, Impastor) provides the voice of Seth. Phantom Stranger also features the voices of Natalie Lander, Grey Griffin and Roger Craig Smith.
• Cold Red War (New Featurette) – An exploration of the Cold War through the lens of the Elseworlds classic Superman: Red Son, as Superman rises to power and tension escalates between the United States and the Soviet Union. • Two episodes from Superman: Red Son – The Motion Comics. • A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War – An advanced look at the next animated film in the popular DC Universe Movies collection.
'Superman: Red Son' will also be available on Movies Anywhere. Using the free Movies Anywhere app and website, consumers can access all their eligible movies by connecting their Movies Anywhere account with their participating digital retailer accounts.
Fans can also own 'Superman: Red Son' via purchase from digital retailers beginning February 25th, 2020 before it arrives as a 4K ULTRA HD™ BLU-RAY COMBO PACK AND BLU-RAY™ COMBO PACK March 17th, 2020.
'Uncut Gems' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital]
(Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / R / 2020 / LGF)
Overview: A charismatic jeweler (Adam Sandler) makes a high-stakes bet that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime.
In a precarious high-wire act, he must balance business, family, and adversaries on all sides in pursuit of the ultimate win.
Blu-ray Verdict: In 'Uncut Gems,' Adam Sandler plays a 47th Street jeweler whose life is out of control. He's shacked up with his girlfriend, Julia Fox. His wife, naturally, wants a divorce.
He owes huge sums of money to his bookie, Eric Bogosian, who sends his legbreakers around to encourage him to a more prudent program of debt repayments.
He thinks things are turning around when a rock arrives. It contains hundreds of carats of black opals valued at up to $3000 a carat at auction.
Having spent the first half century of my life in the Diamond District - and twenty years before then - I was impressed by the setting; clearly, the ground floor of 35 West 47th Street has not been cleaned since they took out the diner in the late 1980s!
Sandler's character is a schnorer and a momzer, and I am uncertain as to his viability in the everyone-knows-everyone society of the jewelry industry; it was changing to something far less collegial by the late 1990s.
Even before then, we had problem children. One tenant was a particular problem, but we didn't throw him out because he was the best gold smith on the street.
But I digress. Sandler's character is marked for destruction from the start. Once his current lease was up, he would have been gone. The only question is whether this core of opals can delay his end, and by how long.
There's been talk about how brilliant Sandler is in a serious role. Every time a comic actor gives a performance that is serious, people are astonished. I am not.
An actor is an actor, and a good comic actor needs to be a good actor with something extra. Sandler has shown himself more than competent in serious roles - like in 'Anger Management' - but is, of course, better know for his charms as a comic actor.
Here in 'Uncut Gems' though, and Sandler aside, some won't understand the deeper meanings, but there is a real life connection to the uncut gems and Howie (Sandler).
He's a gambler and jeweler addicted to the high he gets by trying to successfully hustle and gamble. The money is never enough and things don't usually work out and the he doubles down.
He is trying to manage chaos (our universe), but he can't manage his marriage, his personal relationships, his emotions, his business … but he is always desperately trying to.
Although Howie is a terrible person in a lot of ways, he has a woman that loves him, his son loves him, he has an odd but endearing charisma with many people.
Ultimately, he lives in a dream state that he can control chaos, but when things finally pay off, he is riding a high and then is ultimately brought crushingly back into reality.
Humans are complex and although he has many bad traits, he has good ones as well down deep, much like the cold rock exterior of the uncut gem and beauty hidden beneath it that started him on his insane, unhinged journey.
The film's score was also fantastic. Drowning out people's voices, creating dissonance and relief from the actions on screen. It's both a wordless narrator and mood piece to the whole movie.
In closing, 'Uncut Gems' is a MUST SEE if you've got a strong heart. It's an immensely well crafted film and a rare experience where almost everything comes together perfectly.
I just found myself needing to breathe an hour after for my blood pressure to ease up! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:
• “Money on the Street: The Making of Uncut Gems” Featurette
Executive produced by Martin Scorsese, the 'Uncut Gems' Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD will be available March 10th, 2020 (via Lionsgate Films) for the suggested retail price of $39.99 and $29.95, respectively.
'The UnXplained: Season 1'
(William Shatner / DVD / NR / 2020 / LGF)
Overview: Hosted and executive produced by Golden Globe®- and Primetime Emmy Award®-winning actor, William Shatner, this hit series from HISTORY® tackles subjects that have mystified mankind for centuries — from Japan’s ominous “Suicide Forest” to strange creatures like the Chupacabra to bizarre Voodoo rituals.
DVD Verdict: William Shatner as narrator and host lends just the right aura of skepticism intertwined with intrigue here in this quite wondrous, and ever-engrossing 'The unexplained: Season 1.'
Between Shatner's commentary we see dramatic re-enactments of past events and/or we tour actual places the events occurred. We meet people who experienced those events. We hear background information and opinion from experts who have studied the events.
There were a handful of stories in the debut episode which drew me instantly in. Indeed, each one was riveting and I found myself clicking to the next episode relatively quickly just as the prior one had finished (I'm sure you will too).
In the first episode, Evil Places, Shatner explores some deadly forests, haunted houses, and even mountains where visitors never return alive! Are there such things as "evil places"? is the question being asked here.
Other episode titles include Mysterious Structures, Strange Creatures, Unnatural Nature, Bizarre Rituals, Life Beyond Death, Mysteries of the Mind, Incredible Survivors, The Oak Island Curse and Dark Prophecies.
Out of all of them, The Oak Island Curse is an ongoing, and long running TV show that is now eight seasons in (and still has no resolve in sight), but the other two that stood out for me here personally were both Incredible Survivors and Life Beyond Death.
In the former, How do some people live through the impossible? is the question being asked. Whether it's plane crashes, bearing freezing temperatures, or performing superhuman feats while in danger, these remarkable tales of human survival force us to reconsider what we know about our own will to live.
Do we have a hidden reserve of inexplicable energy locked away inside us that only gets released when the situation calls for it, perhaps?
In the latter, perhaps the greatest unexplained mystery of all is: what happens to us after we die? Perhaps clues to the answer lie in unusual cases of near-death experience, reincarnation, and how memories can be passed from organ donors to transplant recipients.
The question asked here is: Are these phenomena figments of our collective imagination, or could they be real? Fascinating from start to finish, this episode, along with the ten others make for an intriguing and, at times (many times), eye-opening learning experience.
FYI: The show airs Friday evenings on the History channel. Check it out because it's well worth it and highly entertaining. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Delving deep into the HISTORY® series that explores unexplainable phenomena including ancient cities, mysterious structures, bizarre rituals, and extraterrestrial sightings, 'The UnXplained: Season 1' DVD will be available March 24th, 2002 (from LGF) for the suggested retail price of $14.98.
'Love & Temptation: 3-Film Collection'
(Alyssa Milano, Zane Holtz, Erika Christensen, Antonio Cupo, Andy Favreau, Justina Machado, Elisabeth Rohm, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / LGF)
Overview: Based on the novels by best-selling author Jane Green, the Lifetime® Original movies in this exclusive 3-film collection — Tempting Fate, To Have and to Hold, and Family Pictures — tell tales of forbidden lust, shocking secrets, and desperate love.
DVD Verdict: Opening with 'Tempting Fate' (2019), Gabby's marriage to Elliott is jeopardized when she meets Matt. What begins as a business opportunity develops into an emotional affair, leading Gabby to succumb to his unrelenting attention; not foreseeing the life changing consequences.
While Alyssa Milano is as watchable as ever - she gives a committed performance - there are some other good performances here, but the story is just too unbelievable for me, sorry.
That said, and moving above that obvious flaw, I loved that the plot focused on family and love making this a GREAT humanitarian story. If the acting was bad, I didn't notice, for I was too busy being drawn into the story; and watching how love, human decency and caring solves problems and brings people back together.
In 'Family Pictures' (2019), Sylvie and Maggie are strangers living on opposite coasts, leading very similar lives with husbands that travel for work too much and daughters about to leave the nest.
But when their daughters befriend each other on a college tour, they soon discover a shocking secret that threatens to tear both families apart.
In truth, this theme of a man juggling two families has been done oh-so many times before, but here the actresses are likeable - Elizabeth Rohm especially - and watchable and the directing and tone are sharp enough to make it more than watchable.
In mean, this Lifetime melodrama fits their usual program pattern with adequate acting and - at times - a captivating script. The plot centers around how two families, one on the east coast and one on the west coast, suddenly fine their lives in a most unexpected tangle facing the same situation.
So, simply put, when his LA step daughter goes to NYC for a college tour and meets a new friend, guess what … she's his East Coast daughter! I mean, it's only 10 years so it's possible, I guess!
In closing, the dialog is funny and quite touching and the story unfolds quickly with characters not making ridiculous and wholly unrealistic choices (which is always refreshing to see!)
The last movie is 'To Have and to Hold' (2010) in which Alice still can't believe that her high-school crush - dashing, wealthy, successful Joe - would choose to marry her; so she willingly allows him to mold her into his deal socialite wife.
Young Alice dreams of becoming a master chef and caterer. She begins by working for Madeleine's catering service in Seattle. She has two loyal friends in her bestie Em and Harry, who clearly has an attraction to Alice.
But, in a whirlwind romance, Alice meets her old middle school classmate Joe Chambers. But, it turns out that this is not any ordinary Joe.
The filmmakers strive for a fairy tale with Alice working through her trials and tribulations to finally fulfill her dreams. Joe gets transferred to New York after he is caught on camera sharing the same chair with a co-worker.
Alice dutifully tags along, hoping for children and a dream house in the country in Connecticut!
In closing, Christenson does an attractive and believable turn in these sort of things and the other actors were pretty solid also, especially given that this is the Hallmark-style of character portrayals, of course.
The movie kept me engaged through both her personal and professional development, and I rather liked the final outcome with the fresh start with both. Nicely done. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Love & Temptation: 3-Film Collection' DVD includes the films Tempting Fate, Family Pictures, and To Have and to Hold, and will be available March 24th, 2020 (via LGF) for the suggested retail price of $19.98.
'Ancient Aliens: Season 12, Volume 2'
(2-Disc DVD / NR / 2020 / History Channel - Lionsgate Films)
Overview: The acclaimed History series is back when 'Ancient Aliens: Season 12, Volume 2' arrives on two-disc DVD March 10th, 2020 from Lionsgate.
Continue to explore the wonders and mysteries of out galaxy and its strange unexplained phenomena with second volume of the twelfth season.
DVD Verdict: To my mind, the biggest plus of the show 'Ancient Aliens' is its most obvious element: you know it is going to try to convince you about the existence of aliens and their appearing in human history and you definitely have the curiosity about how they are going to achieve it!
Furthermore, you get what you would expect to get from a show messing around with that subject: lots and lots of footage from ancient monuments, artifacts, drawings, carvings, legends and scripts.
With each volume released a huge variety of information about many civilizations from all over the world are presented in grand detail. Not just in a sweeping way about every aspect of the culture thought, just information related to the topics of the show and that particular volume.
The pieces of the puzzle created are so many, and at the same time the "Original" footage is so eye-grasping that it actually gets you thinking.
On the other hand however, there are occasions like when the philosophy and attitude of the "experts" presenting the show follow the general rule of flawed approach to the truth: instead of trying to prove their claims the best logical way they can in order to make YOU think, Sure, ok, I get it. That could have happened, they prefer to prove them by disproving (and using irony in small doses) from the other side; which is, of course, usually via mainstream archaeology.
It opens with The Trans-Dimensionals. Could paranormal activity be explained by beings entering our world from other dimensions? According to some Ancient Astronaut theorists, entities that have been described as ghosts, angels, and extraterrestrials are actually visitors from unseen realms - and they are among us even now.
That's followed by Islands of Fire. The native Hawaiians trace their ancestry to beings from the Pleiades star system called the Akua. Could these islands have once been inhabited by extraterrestrials? And is it possible that the enormous energy generated by Hawaii's volcanic activity could produce a portal through space and time?
Then comes The Constellation Code. Throughout the ancient world, structures were built to mirror the constellations in the night sky and this is only apparent when they are viewed from high above; a look at the possibility that these structures were designed as messages.
Next is The Nuclear Agenda. Ever since the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945, UFOs have been reported at nuclear facilities all over the world. Is it possible that extraterrestrials are monitoring humanity's nuclear capabilities? But why? Does this constitute a threat? Or are they trying to ensure humankind's survival?
Then it's time for The Alien Mountain, one of my own personal favorites amongst this second volume episodes. A mysterious mountain in northern Italy has stood witness to strange sightings in the sky and unexplainable phenomena for hundreds of years but could it be attracting extraterrestrial visitors and there could be technology within its rocky slopes.
Up next is a right royal beauty to think about, The Alien Brain. Telepathy. Precognition. Psychokinesis. We will explore if the human brain possesses extraordinary untapped abilities were given to us by extraterrestrial beings. Abilities that, once harnessed, will enable the next step in the evolution of humankind.
Then we get The Secrets of Stonehenge. A shocking DNA study released in 2018 reveals that the original builders of Stonehenge mysteriously vanished.
Up next is Food of the Gods. Texts, archaeology and legend contain evidence of past human-extraterrestrial contact.
Then we get another brilliant episode to have our brains flipflopping around from what we have always, perhaps, believed, Human Hieroglyphs. Tattoos, piercings, and body modification account for a nearly one-billion-dollar industry. But are these practices being adopted by mainstream society as a bold form of self-expression or could it be motivated by a profound link to our.
Along next is the very recent planned The Storming of Area 51. In 2019, millions responded to an internet post advocating to storm the gates of the world's most top-secret military installation - Area 51. When they did, the US military vowed to defend the base with deadly force.
But will the "Storm Area 51" movement finally force open the gates of government secrecy and reveal the truth about an extraterrestrial presence on Earth?
Another good, and thorough interesting one is Countdown to Disclosure. Are governments around the world preparing mankind for the most startling event in human history-the official disclosure of an extraterrestrial presence on Earth? And if so, why is this happening now and what might happen in its aftermath?
And finally, and yet another one to have you thinking is Secrets of the Exoplanets. Over the past 20 years, thousands of potentially habitable exoplanets have been discovered outside our solar system. Could some of them be home to intelligent extraterrestrial life? Perhaps even alien beings that have visited Earth?
In conclusion, 'Ancient Aliens - Season 12, Vol. 2' is a really comprehensive presentation of various historical places, stories, situations, and artifacts that have mysteries and unexplained factors.
Therefore, it showcases a clear presentation of what makes these varied mysteries baffling in light of the history of technology and this for the subjects it pertains to is a rather comprehensive presentation of the connection between unrelated ancient cultures and structures and revealing unexplained similarities.
Combining excellent quality videos of all these sites around the world, a lot of the items they present can really make one ponder that there maybe validity to the possibility of ancient aliens. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the 10 aforementioned episodes:
The Trans-Dimensionals - Islands of Fire - The Constellation Gods - The Nuclear Agenda - The Alien Mountain - The Alien Brain - The Secrets of Stonehenge - Food for the Gods - Huma Hieroglyphs - The Storming of Area 51 - Countdown to Disclosure - Secrets of the Exoplanets.
Featuring the second 10 episodes of Season 12, the 2-disc 'Ancient Aliens: Season 12, Volume 2' DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $14.98.
'Richard Jewell' [Blu-ray + Digital]
(Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / NR / 2020 / Warner Bros.)
Overview:“There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have thirty minutes.”
The world is first introduced to Richard Jewell as the security guard who reports finding the device at the 1996 Atlanta bombing — his report making him a hero whose swift actions save countless lives.
But within days, the law enforcement wannabe becomes the FBI’s number one suspect, vilified by press and public alike, his life ripped apart.
Reaching out to independent, anti-establishment attorney Watson Bryant, Jewell staunchly professes his innocence. But Bryant finds he is out of his depth as he fights the combined powers of the FBI, GBI and APD to clear his client’s name, while keeping Richard from trusting the very people trying to destroy him.
Blu-ray Verdict: OK, and telling it like it is from the off, I personally, and HIGHLY recommend this movie! For we are all Richard Jewell.
When a once storied agency can abuse it's power and take away all due process rights afforded in the Constitution, we all in grave danger. I once thought that the corruption in the FBI was limited to a few corrupt execs at the top, Jewell proves that is not the case.
The program I work in is being scrapped and rebuilt as it is not very efficient. The FBI is not only totally inefficient, they are actively working to frame the innocent and destroy people's lives.
Simply put, the FBI has lost all credibility. They knew that the entrapment they set up against an uncouth Jewell would make him a perfect patsy.
The FBI had no concern of finding the actual bomb maker, they put all their energy to violating due process rights, and continued to harass a hero when they knew they he was innocent.
In truth, the FBI needs to be scrapped and rebuilt as an investigative agency that protects, serves and follows the Constitution.
The media also needs to be held accountable for destroying the lives of innocent people. Jewell settled out of court with Tom Brokaw and NBC.
Brokaw shamelessly said this, "They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well." Having read 'Unfreedom OF The Press' by Mark Levin, this movie substantiates everything in that book.
All the actors give passionate career performances beyond my wildest expectations here in 'Richard Jewell,' none more so than newcomer Paul Walter Hauser as Richard Jewell.
He truly gives one of the best performances I have ever seen. I was totally immersed in his role. He was me, my neighbor, the security guard at my job who works tirelessly to keep me and my colleagues safe, and so many more all wrapped into one layered character.
Again, casting, dialog, screenplay, and acting (bravo also to Sam Rockwell and Kathy Bates) combined to create a very entertaining, powerful, and nuanced story-telling; while at the same time recounting a sobering example of a self-serving, blatant abuse of power carelessly wielded by a handful of ego-driven governmental and media employees.
The sparing use of understated piano work on the musical sound track was perfectly executed and placed, a feature of other Eastwood (a jazz pianist) films.
In closing, DON'T miss the two memorable lines toward the end of the movie which were spoken by Jewell's attorney just prior to them both entering a room for their final meeting with his FBI accusers.
Thank you everyone involved in this wonderful masterpiece. You have served your country well. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
• The Making of Richard Jewell
• The Real Story of Richard Jewell
The film will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on March 17th. The Blu-ray and DVD features a Digital version of the movie.
'Verotika' [Blu-ray + DVD + Soundtrack CD]
(Rachel Alig, Alice Haig, Scotch Hopkins, Natalia Borowsky, Sean Kanan, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Soundtrack CD / NR / 2020 / Cleopatra Entertainment - MVD Visual)
Overview: Glenn Danzig's directorial debut, is a horror anthology that compiles stories from Danzig's line of comic books of the same name.
Stories which focus on horror content that's often sexual and violent in nature, usually featuring scantily-clad female protagonists.
Blu-ray Verdict: OK, and telling it like it is from the off, I personally watched this alone and all that kept running through my head was the phrase: It's so bad it's actually good!
Chock full of bad effects, bad editing, randomly bouncing along on a really bad script combined with some really, really bad acting, if it hadn't been this "good" I would have abandoned it a quarter of the way in, trust me!
I've since seen it with two friends and the common theme here between us is that 'Verotika' is, and without a shadow of a doubt, a self-important piece of visual art from Danzig, with no apparent awareness of its own absurdity!
Which is rather beautiful unto itself, of course. So yeah, I guess, technically, it's an anthology, but the individual stories are so disjointed that it doesn't seem like it matters. Even calling it an "anthology" feels like I'm giving the script too much credit!
Written and directed by rock / metal / punk music legend Glenn Danzig, founder of Misfits, Samhain and Danzig, and starring Alice Tate (The Kominsky Method), Sean Kanan (The Karate Kid Part III), Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) and Cody Renee Cameron (El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie), they all get to play within the obvious small budget, but the fact their collective acting is entertainingly bad, somehow wooden and even overenthusiastic at the same time shows you the lack of guidelines given here by Danzig.
With large pockets of scenes featuring gore, and plenty of scantily clad young women (and no matter what they are doing, all with perfect hair!), there are just so many bewildering happy accidents that they will have you laughing out loud, trust me!
Moments where they didn't get the coverage they needed, but went with it regardless, leading to head scratching edits and bizarro continuity errors. Like zooms and shots that go on just a little too long and make you shout at the TV "Cut!"
And so, in closing, and playing Devil's Journalistic Advocate here, 'Verotika' is all that and more when it comes to how OTT bad it truly is, BUT all the things that make you laugh, that you find terrible, all the OTT acting and B-movie special effects that don't even come close to being imaginative MAKE 'Verotika' the cult movie success that it WILL undoubtly become down the years! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Soundtrack CD:
1. 'Eyes Ripping Fire' (Danzig)
2. 'Dancing Madly Backwards on a Sea of Air' (Ministry)
3. 'Close Your Eyes' (Jyrki 69)
4. 'Crimson Lust' (Vile a Sin)
5. 'Je Suis a Toi' (Fantôme)
6. 'Allez Prenons Un Autre Verre' (Pink Velvet)
7. 'Can't Stop Won't Stop' (Kore Rozzik)
8. 'Gutter Glitter' (Switchblade Symphony)
9. 'The Return' (Vile a Sin)
10. 'Il Est Juste la' (Studio 69)
The film will be available on Blu-ray + DVD + Soundtrack CD on March 17th, 2020 via Cleopatra Entertainment / MVD Visual.
'Joe Camp's Benji - 4 Movie Collection'
(Benji, Nick Whitaker, Patsy Garret, Ron Moody, et al / DVD + Digital / PG / 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Hollywood's biggest canine superstar, Benji, will entertain and delight in this adorable 4-movie collection!
DVD Verdict: We kick things off with 'Benji: The Original Movie' (1974). This unique film, all told from the heart and soul of a dog, catapulted Benji into international stardom!
Benji is a stray who has nonetheless worked his way into the hearts of a number of the townspeople, who give him food and attention whenever he stops by.
His particular favorites are a pair of children who feed and play with him against the wishes of their parents. When the children are kidnapped, however, the parents and the police are at a loss to find them.
What makes this movie so wonderful is Higgins, the dog (under the direction of his trainer, Frank Inn). Higgins was so far beyond other dog actors that it is impossible to explain to folks who don't own dogs or train dogs.
Not only is he cute and photogenic, expressive and believable, he did all his own stunts -- and he was 14 years old when he made this film!
Next up is 'For The Love of Benji' (1977). The canine star with the most expressive face in dogdom returns in his second record-breaking movie adventure!
The family goes to vacation with their two dogs in Greece. Along the way, Benji gets implanted with a secret code by the evil Chandler Dietrich.
Chandler befriends the family knowing that, without their trust and friendship, he won't be able to smuggle Benji away from them at the right time.
What Chandler doesn't plan on is Benji getting lost en-route to Crete!
Then we get 'Benji: Off the Leash!' (2004) Benji is back in this charming story that's told from the pooch's point of view, tracking his early days as a pup to his current life in showbiz!
In direction, story construction, camera-work and performances both human and canine, 'Benji Off the Leash!' is the best of the Benji canon!
Its two-legged hero is Colby, a stalwart youngster who loves dogs. Its two-legged villain is Colby's harsh father, whose appropriate last name is Hatchett. He runs an illegal dog mill and mistreats all beings, both two-legged and four-legged.
Colby and Benji have parallel plights, dealing with the rescue of loved ones and strong maternal bonds.
The creativity of the twists and turns of the story, as well as the multi-layered plot line leave you talking about the issues raised in the movie for days to come.
The last chapter is 'Benji's Very Own Christmas Story' (1978). A surprise visit to meet Kris Kringle (Oscar® nominee Ron Moody) finds the jolly old elf with a secret that could break the hearts of millions of kids.
In truth, Ron Moody steals the show as Kris Kringle! His comedic timing, wit, and musical abilities showcase the many sides of his character, as seen through the eyes of people all over the world.
The main characters along with Benji are taken on a unique behind-the-scenes view of Santa's operation.
These depictions are ahead of their time, ideas that other Santa movie franchises would borrow and extrapolate on in future decades. It's good-natured, timeless, family fun for all. These are both Full and Widescreen Presentations (1.33:1, 1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Joe Camp's Benji - 4 Movie Collection' (DVD) is out March 17th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
'Woman On The Edge'
(Jeffrey Patterson, Rumer Willis, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / ITN - Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Following the suicide of her sister, an investigative journalist discovers that it may be linked to a number of recent murders that are set up to look like suicides.
DVD Verdict: Rumer Willis plays dual roles here in this new movie and I have to say, as much as I knew this was a B-movie going in, due to Willis' performances, 'Woman On The Edge' turned out to be quite the doozy of a movie!
Susan Waterman (Willis) is an investigative reporter whose sister (Willis) jumped off a roof right in front of her (and a bunch of gathered others) one fateful night.
But, as Susan digs deeper, she discovers that a series of killings are taking place all around her in much the same vein, all of which are being made to look like suicides or overdoses.
Susan thinks that television medic Dr. Mitch (Patterson) is being framed as a suspect and that another mysterious man - who has been dating the dead women and showing up at their crime scenes - might have killed them; and is carrying out his deranged fantasies!
Again, it's a definite B-movie, but Willis tries her hardest to get it to rise and she, for my money, succeeds. The story line is interesting, and with a nice twist too, there's nothing not to like here within this B-movie genre, trust me. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Woman On The Edge' (DVD) is out March 3rd, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
(Dave Mussen, Kristen Renton, Sondra Currie, Thomas Calabro, et al / DVD / NR / 2020 / ITN - Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: In a sleepy town, one man, a wannabe horror film director is about to have his life and the world he knows change forever.
Finally, he gets the big break he has been waiting a lifetime for, but its not Hollywood knocking on his door.
DVD Verdict: Trust me, this ain't your typical Walking Dead episode! Far from it, for when a zombie outbreak happens in his town, budding filmmaker Sam (Mussen) manages to convince some of the survivors to make a zombie film using REAL zombies!
But, the thing is, here in 'American Zombieland' the zombies (who don't wear anything close to Walking Dead "make-up" and which can, at times, come across as badly painted, drunk clowns) move really quickly, for some strange not-zombie-like reason!
Nevertheless, in order to do this safely, he wants slow-moving, and predominantly fat zombies, but as you can well imagine here in this quite deliciously fun B-movie, well, things don't exactly go according to plan!
Chock full of hat tips to the media, liberals, rednecks and hillbilly's alike, for me, and given the times we are currently living in, one of the truest culture reveals we get is when during the outbreak the film switches back and forth between the Red news station and the Blue; each with their own quickly moving scroll that is, well, two completely different sides of the outbreak coin!
Don't miss 'American Zombieland,' because not only does it feature some classic zombie chasing, catching, fighting moments, but the script has some quite brilliant one-liner's strewn within it also! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'American Zombieland' (DVD) is out February 18th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
'Double Feature: In the Beginning & Noah's Ark'
(Martin Landau, Jon Voight, Jacqueline Bisset, et al / 2-Disc DVD + Digital / NR / 2020 / ITN - Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Martin Landau stars as Abraham in this historical drama of a man, his people and their faith.
Centered on one of the oldest and greatest spiritual texts of the world, 'In The Beginning' is a powerfully rendered film, retelling some of the most enduring stories from the Old Testament.
One of the most powerful and awe-inspiring epics of all time, 'Noah's Ark' is brilliantly brought to life by an outstanding cast including Academy Award® winners Jon Voight and Mary Steenburgen.
With little help from the outside world, the brave and gentle Noah goes against all odds and builds an extraordinary ark to protect his family from the threat of a great flood.
DVD Verdict: Up first is 'In The Beginning' (2000). Martin Landau as Abraham? Jacqueline Bisset as his wife Sarah? Christopher Lee in gratuitous cameo as Rameses I? Only TV's Hallmark Entertainment could make this possible.
The producer back at Hallmark who might nearly have enough money to make a macho Hollywood blockbuster spend it yet again on a another 3-hour two-part miniseries meant to set ratings on fire.
Well not really, but they do come up with a rather interesting and marginally entertaining TV special with an agreeable cast and a modest budget.
The movie is basically a 3-hour long adaptation of the most important events of the Old Testament. From Adam and Eve (with cut-for-TV nudity), Abraham and how he became "the Father of All Nations", Joseph and his multicolored dream coat and the grand story of Moses and the Exodus, the movie has it all and has time to spare.
Then we get treated to 'Noah's Ark' (1999). I think first off it should be noted that this story is a loose adaptation of the story of Noah and his ark as told in the Christian Bible. A very loose adaptation, actually.
Not that it matters much, as the historical validity of the stories depicted in the Bible cannot be verified anyway - something most other reviewers don't seem to realize - and should not be taken as "historical fact" until proved so.
That said, the movie is something of a post-modern, satirical take on biblical events and characters, and is probably only enjoyable if you approach it that way.
In their original form, the biblical stories were probably social commentaries and moral lessons appropriate to the society which created them; this (post)modern approach can therefore be seen as a comment on our time.
Furthermore, the sense of humor used brings out the complexities of the Bible. The acting is superb, which is finally able to bring out the subtlety and double meaning of many of the humorous passages in the bible, to my mind. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Double Feature: In the Beginning & Noah's Ark' (2-DVD) is out March 17th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
'Hard Hunted: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Dona Speir, Roberta Vasquez, R.J. Moore, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / (1993) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: R.J. Moore (the son of Roger) stars as gun-runner Kane, who becomes the target of three female super agents in this action film from Andy Sidaris.
Blu-ray Verdict: After the surprisingly entertaining 'Do or Die,' Andy Sidaris slips back into mediocre mode for 'Hard Hunted,' an unspectacular espionage/action tale that see his sexy federal agents from the Hawaiian paradise of Molokai tasked with recovering a nuclear weapons trigger hidden inside a small jade statuette.
There's a bit more to the plot than that, but let's be honest ... you didn't come here to find out about the intricacies of the storyline, did you?
What you want to know is if film delivers when it comes to cheesy action, big-breasted babes in skimpy outfits brandishing guns, and soft-core sex scenes?!
The answer is that there is certainly lots of T&A on show, with series regulars Dona Speir, Roberta Vasquez, and Cynthia Brimhall all stopping for a spot of nookie amidst the gunfire and chases!
But, sadly, the action scenes are, for the most part, rather disappointing, with only Al Leong in his rocket-launching gyro-copter (which makes some seriously strange noises as it flies) providing the kind of dumb fun we've come to expect from a Sidaris movie.
In closing, and seventh in the "Bullets & Babes" series, 'Hard Hunted' is a BIG success within its genre, but as an action adventure, well, it's sadly lacking and very tame. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs (from a 4K Widescreen Restoration), and comes with the Special Features of:
Introduction by Director Andy Sidaris
Behind the Scenes Featurette
'Hard Hunted: Special Edition' [Blu-ray] is out March 17th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
'Fit to Kill: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Dona Speir, Roberta Vasquez, Julie Strain, R.J. Moore, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / (1993) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: L.E.T.H.A.L. agents, Donna and Nicole, do their best to protect a wealthy Asian businessman and his rare diamond from a sinister international jewel thief.
Blu-ray Verdict: 'Fit To Kill' is the sequel to 'Hard Hunted' with the same villain Kane (R.J. Moore) who is this time trying to steal a priceless diamond.
Agent Donna Hamilton (Dona Speir) is on his track, but she has to realize there are more parties interested in the jewel than just Kane.
This is a much better story this time around (than 'Hard Hunted') and to me one of the best from the Lethal Ladies series. Julie Strain is added to the familiar cast from 'Hard Hunted' and she gets herself a great introduction scene - working out on a balcony; whereas Dona Speir and R.J. Moore (son of Roger Moore) get a Bond dream scene and the best dialog they ever had!
Sidaris' gadget obsession with remote control cars, boats and helicopters is taken to its all-time high with the duel of two heavily armed baby helicopters!
Two silly killers who blow up themselves in an attempted assassination turn the toy obsession into a comedy element which is the only possibility to top that. Regular actor Rodrigo Obregon plays a Russian diplomat - and he's a good guy, exceptionally.
In closing, and eighth in the "Bullets & Babes" series, 'Fit to Kill' is a well-written screenplay with some excellent acting by the cast, which has helped ensure that this film, like all of Sidaris', achieve cult classic status! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs (from a 4K Widescreen Restoration), and comes with the Special Features of:
Introduction by Director Andy Sidaris
Behind the Scenes Featurette
'Fit to Kill: Special Edition' [Blu-ray] is out March 17th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
'The Nines' [Blu-ray]
(Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, Melissa McCarthy, et al / Blu-ray / R / (2007) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: 'The Nines' consists of three short films, each featuring the same actors in different and sometimes overlapping roles.
Together, three stories form a single narrative that explores the relationships between author and character, actor and role, creator and creation.
Alternately funny and unsettling, 'The Nines' is like a riddle where the answer is the question: How does it all add up?
Blu-ray Verdict: Gary (Ryan Reynolds) is a troubled actor who plays a cop on the TV show Crim9 Lab. While on crack, he crashes his car.
His perky publicist Margaret (Melissa McCarthy) takes care of him while he's under house arrest. He gets involved with his Canadian next door neighbor Sarah (Hope Davis).
He leaves his house and meets deaf little girl Noelle (Elle Fanning) at a bus stop but then she disappears. Strange things keep happening and there is something about him belonging to the Nines.
Then Part One ends and Part Two Reality Television begins where the actors play different characters.
The first part has some interesting surreal aspects. It suggests a pretty weird but compelling story. It lacks the surreal visual style to match but some of that is the everyday problem of the low budget indie.
Then the second part of the movie comes and the story stumbles. The disruption is too much. The third part starts off with some interest because its title is Knowing.
However the explanation is too convoluted to understand or even to follow. I question whether it's even understandable. This is John August trying to write like Charlie Kaufman. He fumbles the ball which the director John August had no chance of recovering.
In closing, what you experience here is akin to, well … Imagine Sharon Stone flirting with you, playing footsie, offering you a ride home, putting her hand on your lap, then going to her place and finding that she enticed you there only to show off her collection of china patterns. On a smaller scale, that is what you will experience if you see 'The Nines'! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Nines' [Blu-ray] is out March 17th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
'Double Feature: The Contractor & The Fan'
(Wesley Snipes, Robert DeNiro, Lena Headey, et al / Blu-ray + DVD / R / 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: The world's greatest marksman is now a marked man!
Wesley Snipes is back in this explosive action-thriller about a deadly assassin who finds himself on the run when an attempt to kill a terrorist mastermind in London goes terribly wrong.
All fans have a favorite player. This one has a favorite target! When the San Francisco Giants pay centerfielder Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes) $40 million to lead their team to the World Series, no one is happier or more supportive than #1 fan Gil Renard (Robert De Niro).
So when Rayburn becomes mired in the worst slump of his career, the obsessed Renard decides to stop at nothing to help his idol regain his former glory ... not even murder.
Blu-ray Verdict: Up first is 'The Contractor' (2007). Government assassin Wesley Snipes is set up by his own covert ops organization (he really should have known better, didn't he see 'Shooter'?), and ends up on the run in London pursued by his own organization and the Metropolitan Police; all with a little help from troubled teenager named Emily.
Notwithstanding the fact that the story is very familiar, it is presented with some panache. Snipes can play this role in his sleep, of course, and pretty much does so. Bulgaria does a pretty good impression of seedy south London!
There is a nice, if unlikely, wrinkle in Charles Dance's relationship with his police officer daughter, and the action bashes along satisfactorily.
On the negative side there is a gun battle early on during which the Metropolitan Police spray automatic weapon fire all over the place in a way which would simply not happen (even the controversial de Menezes killing didn't involve indiscriminate discharge in public of automatic weapons!).
But on a positive note - a very strongly positive note - there is a fabulous performance from Eliza Bennett. She acts Snipes off the screen, and her performance - naturalistic, humorous and powerfully touching - raises this movie to a higher level than its otherwise rather pedestrian nature would have taken it to.
Then we get 'The Fan' (1996). Knife salesman Gil Renard is a die-hard baseball fan and is looking forward to Opening Day more than normal as his team, the San Francisco Giants, have acquired Bobby Rayburn - a 3-time MVP - from the Atlanta Braves.
However, not long into the season, Rayburn's form goes downhill fast, and he starts to fall out with his teammates, especially the on-form Juan Primo.<>
Gil decides to try and "help" Rayburn any way he can even if it means taking things a bit too far, but when he's not given the credit he thinks he deserves after Rayburn starts hitting again, Gil takes matters into his own hands after a "chance" meeting with Rayburn.
Whether you like psychological thrillers, are a fan of De Niro or Snipes, or all of the above, 'The Fan' is definitely a must-see kind of movie. The story's not intricate nor deeply complex, but it doesn't need to be when it's told & delivered as good as this.
The film's cast is excellent. De Niro, Snipes, Leguizamo, Del Toro all do a fantastic job, but the master is definitely De Niro and he's at his psychotic best once again.
The way he portrays Gil going on a steady downward spiral deeper into insanity is fantastic and scarily realistic. Snipes also does a good job of playing cocky Rayburn, which isn't too far off how a lot of players see themselves.
The Nine Inch Nails soundtrack of "Closer" is used to great effect and really adds to atmosphere of Gil's descent into madness. I've seen people moaning about the lack of "realism" regarding the game of baseball in this movie also.
How many action movies have we seen where the "hero" gets shot at 1000s of times but doesn't get hit once? Or all those James Bond moments when he's in trouble?
People still enjoy them though. Yes, some of it's not realistic ie: playing the game in a torrential downpour, but if you want "realism" regarding baseball then go and watch a documentary about the game. This is a film for entertainment, not education. So just enjoy it for what it is. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Double Feature: The Contractor & The Fan' [Blu-ray] is out March 17th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
Ultraman Orb Movie - The Power of Bonds! [Blu-ray]
(Hideo Ishiguro, Miyabi Matsuura, Naoto Takahashi, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / NR / (2017) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: A mysterious item is delivered to paranormal investigators SSP. SSP members Naomi, Jetta and Shin determine that it is a transformation device ... the X Devizer that housed Ultraman X both during and after his merging with Xio agent Daichi Oozora (Kensuke Takahashi).
Gai Kurenai (Hideo Ishiguro), the human form of Ultraman Orb returns from his wanderings to search for X ... unaware that this is just the first sign of a new threat to the Earth.
The villainous space witch Murnau has allied with Ultraman Orb's arch enemy Jugglus Juggler to use the Dark Ring she now possesses.
Blu-ray Verdict: Without a shadow of a doubt, 'Ultraman Orb Movie - The Power of Bonds!' is a really great movie to top off the Ultraman Orb series!
Also featuring Ultraman X, Ultraman Ginga, Ultraman Victory, and a brief battle appearance by Ultraman Zero, I used to only be into Godzilla and Gamera, but these newer Ultramen are proving to be almost as good!
Orb, in particular, is so good, especially in this film, that in an upcoming fanfiction I will be writing I am casting him as the wayward Ultra Prince, son of the Ultra King; and the last hope of saving planet Ultra from an ultimate threat!
Anyway, getting back on track, and Gai is, as always, an absolute pleasure to see on-screen and blends seriousness and humor well, particularly when he rolls up from Hawaii playing his trademark song on the ukulele rather than harmonica.
But it’s the SSP who really get to shine in the film – moving beyond their role of bystanders and getting to be part of the main action.
At its core the film is all about Gai learning to accept help from others/the SSP and it does a great job of selling that message, proving that even without the manpower and gadgets the SSP are just as valuable a “science patrol” as all the other various versions in the Ultraman universe. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Ultraman Orb Movie - The Power of Bonds!' [Blu-ray] is out March 17th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
'Ultraman Geed Movie - Connect the Wishes!'
(Hideo Ishiguro, Miyabi Matsuura, Naoto Takahashi, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / NR / (2018) 2020 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: The Giant Artificial Brain Gilbaris is trying to eliminate all intellectual life forms throughout the universe. Ultraman Geed confronts the harsh fate against a mighty enemy who withstands the power of Ultra Warriors’ light.
Ultraman Orb, Jugglus Juggler, and Ultraman Zero rush to the crisis! And the heated feelings inside Riku awakens Geed’s Ultimate form – Ultimate Final!
Blu-ray Verdict: In my humble opinion, 'Ultraman Geed Movie - Connect the Wishes!' is superior to the 'Ultraman Orb' film, not nearly as good as the 'Ultraman X' film (but, in fairness, little else is!)
I have several little issues with it here and there - the structure and pacing is a little creaky, Riku is more insufferable as a protagonist than usual, some of Sakamoto's composite work can diminish the overall impact of the effects - but the movie as a whole turns out to be a pretty solid entry for the franchise.
It doesn't hurt that this is a film that's pretty heavy on expanding the cross-franchise lore, with callbacks to 'Ultraman Zero - The Movie' and a continuation of the plotline from the best pair of 'Ultraman Orb' episodes; and I'm an easy mark for that kind of storytelling.
Unlike the Orb film this one had a very involved and broadening plot (thanks again to writer Otsuichi) that felt organic and layered. It's very epic in scope and it does everything that the series did so well.
It helps that with Geed all the characters are involved in Geed's world saving adventures as opposed to a side cast that interacts on the periphery.
Indeed, that helps keep the same vibe and get everyone involved for the movie. I had so much fun.
Hell, 'Ultraman Orb' and his nemesis Juggler even show up so I got that good Gurenai Kai action goodness. Just fantastic and a perfect continuation to the series!
In closing, the tropical, Okinawan setting is a really lovely change of pace from the usual generic cities and TPC's interpretation of a Shisa kaiju is GORGEOUSLY designed. Unlike the Orb movie, I can definitely see myself revisiting this one despite its problems. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Ultraman Geed Movie - Connect the Wishes!' [Blu-ray] is out March 17th, 2020 via Mill Creek Entertainment.
'Inherit the Viper' [Blu-ray]
(Josh Hartnett, Margarita Levieva, Brad William Henke, Dash Mihok, Bruce Dern, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / R / 2020 / LGF)
Overview: For siblings Kip (Josh Hartnett) and Josie (Margarita Levieva), dealing opioids isn’t just their family business—it’s their only means of survival.
When a deal goes fatally wrong, Kip decides he wants out. But Kip’s attempt to escape his family’s legacy ignites a powder keg of violence and betrayal, imperiling Kip, Josie, and their younger brother, Boots (Owen Teague), in this searing crime-thriller that builds to a shattering conclusion.
Blu-ray Verdict: This one mill town has literary broken the backs of workers who go to the Conley family to obtain oxy down the years, but Josie Conley (Margarita Levieva) sells one to a woman who soon dies.
Everyone in town knows what happened but Sheriff Kyle (Dash Mihok) is in a relationship with Josie and so he looks the other way. Kip Conley (Josh Hartnett) is the eldest brother with a baby on the way. Whereas the youngest brother Boots (Owen Teague) is recently introduced to the family business; as they do what they have to do to get by.
However, where there are drugs there is money - and there are guns. Each one of the Conley's has their own idea on how to solve the problems they cause which leads to an unlikely climax; and yet one that makes the film just as perfect as it could ever hope to be.
From the off, the scene is set for a grizzly, cold, wet, grey and dark journey into the poor district of Birmingham, Alabama's drug addicted neighborhoods.
'Inherit the Viper' is a film about the fight to survive in a double jeopardy, life and death reality, in which the crusade of getting the next hit is imperative.
Add to that the need to protect ones drug businesses, and where nobody, not even family members cannot, or simply will not trust one another in the fight for the next high; or in the race for the next dollar, and you have the ground laid out squarely for you for 'Inherit the Viper.'
In some ways, it's a film that really hurts to watch and the realism of it all is beyond grueling at times, making you think why ... why do these people do this, or moreover, how do they get there?
As a production, well, it is stunning, although, as aforementioned, gritty and very dark, extremely foreboding in places, but it sure gives you the infectious sting of what the director and the superb actors were trying to get across.
The film also features a rather mesmerizing touch of suspense along with moments of sheer, unadulterated, and brutal fear and violence, but that comes with the territory here in 'Inherit the Viper.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
A tense crime thriller with powerful performances, 'Inherit the Viper' will be available on Blu-ray and DVD for the suggested retail price of $22.99 and $19.98, respectively on March 10th, 2020.