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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Hellboy: 4K Ultra HD'
(David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim, Sasha Lane / 4K Ultra HD + Blu ray + Digital / R / 2019 / Lionsgate Films)

Overview: Hellboy is back, and he's on fire!

From the pages of Mike Mignola's seminal work, this action packed story sees the legendary half-demon superhero (David Harbour, 'Stranger Things') called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants!

4K Ultra HD Verdict: Lionsgate Films (LGF) continues to expand their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this July with the release of this quite stunning, and brilliantly off-center action tale 'Hellboy' on their new 4K home video format on July 23rd, 2019.

For my money, this 'Hellboy: 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 'Hellboy' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Native 4K (2160p), HDR: Dolby Vision + HDR10, Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, and Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1.

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

Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; like the delicious hues and nuances of all the daylight outdoor scenes and the frantic street chases.

Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material (notably some scenes where Hellboy is conversing with Nimue / The Blood Queen and spurts and plumes of fire are sent raging in every which way back and forth!) now have been tinged with a glorious 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), Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1, and French: 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, telling it like it is, I'm a huge Del Toro and Ron Perlman fan so yes, it would have been great to see their trilogy come to fruition, but it wasn't to be.

It's a bummer, but is what it is. What we do have, now, is the opportunity to see a new trilogy happen. After watching this I truly hope it happens. Nobody can ever take away the great things that Perlman, Del Toro, and Doug Jones brought to the table, but David Harbour has brought his brilliant iteration of Hellboy in a big way.

I thought he killed it and I enjoyed this movie from start to finish, as I'm sure you all did. Oh, what's that now, I'm hearing a lot of you didn't give it a chance simply because Harbour was brought in to replace Perlman!

Well, for those of you with open minds, there was not a draggy moment throughout nor did it feel rushed. The CGI looked great, the practical effects we're beautiful and the acting from everyone was fantastic.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course (although my God, Harbor "looked" just like Perlman, for the most part!) and if some truly did not care for it, that is what it is, for sure.

I feel like many crap on reboots because they feel it disrespects the originals they love. I don't see why both can't have their own merits. It's like the endless DC vs Marvel debate. Some insist only one or the other is worthy of their time.

Again, I'm a big fan of both 'Hellboy' flicks. Seriously! This was such a fun movie. I hope the negativity does not hurt the chances for a sequel or a possible trilogy because, personally I want to see more.

I mean, The creators of 'Hellboy' proved that with great dedication and little finances you can create an eminent solution of horror and comedy. The balance between these two was admirable, the jokes thrown during a seemingly intense scene made the exact effect creators anticipated.

Hellboy himself is the key to the movie's success, as the actor (the much aforementioned David Harbour) himself described Hellboy are the perfect mix between Logan (wolverine) and Deadpool!

Actually, the full cast is good. Comics fans will be disappointed that main players Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman aren't in this at all, but I credit the creators for trying to separate this from the original films.

Hellboy's new partners in crime Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane) and Major Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae KIm) are pretty likable - although I admit that Alice doesn't have much of a story arc and reason to hang around other than to repay a debt to Hellboy.

Ian McShane's Professor Broom, Hellboy's tough love foster father, is a real change of pace from the scholarly figure from the comics and other films, but it's fun to see the actor chew the scenery.

The enormous amount of blood and gore, while some may consider too much, made the perfect atmosphere for the film making it one thing you'd like to watch after an exhausting day.

I feel like this is a great one for anyone who loves brutally violent battles, strangely relatable dysfunctional characters, or just 2 hours of nonstop fun.

In closing, the music kicked ass, the acting by all was wonderful, and the CGI was, for the most part, spot on seamless. Overall, a fun ride … for adults only though!

Anyway, that's that, for the most part, so now let's concentrate on a couple of the special features that are included.

The first I'll talk about is "Tales of the Wild Hunt: Hellboy Reborn" which is a delightful71 minutes long three-part featurette that showcases a lot of glorious pre and post-production information for the fans along with housing some short interviews with principal cast, crew, and director Mike Mignola.

After a slew of "Deleted Scenes" (that runs around 8 minutes long), we get the other excellent bonus feature of "Previsualization" which at just over 7 minutes long offers some computer animated storyboards for some of the more broader sequences.

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

Includes 4K UHD, Blu-ray and a digital copy of Hellboy
Tales of the Wild Hunt: Hellboy Reborn (HD, 1:11:28)
Deleted Scenes (HD, 7:56)
Previsualization (HD, 7:18)

The 'Hellboy: 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack' (+ Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD) will be released June 23rd, 2019 and will be available for the suggested retail price of $42.99, $39.99, and $29.95, respectively.

Official 'Hellboy' 4K Ultra HD Trailer

Official 'Hellyboy' Website

'Hellboy: The Movie' @ Facebook!

'Hellboy: The Movie' @ Twitter!

'Shazam!' [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital]
(Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / PG-13 / 2019 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out.

In Billy Batson's (Asher Angel) case, by shouting out one word - Shazam! - this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Zachary Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou).

Blu-ray Verdict: OK, let's start with saying that the acting is fantastic in this new film! Zachary Levi is incredible and very believable as a 14 year old in an adult body. He's funny, energetic, charismatic, and seems like he was totally born to play this part.

Indeed, I would compare him to Christopher Reeve's Superman. Even aside from Levi, the acting is great. I was a little worried about the child actors since they don't always work, but here they were great.

I was also a little worried about the character of Billy originally. Because in the trailers he seemed to be a very angsty kid, and then as Shazam it felt like a very different person.

However in the film it totally works. He is an angsty kid in the beginning, but he goes through a very interesting character arch that makes both characters feel real and believable.

And then we get to probably my favorite part of the film, the heart and great story about family. Billy Batson is a foster kid who just kind of wants to be left alone but he is forced to adjust to a foster family.

It's incredibly common for films to have a very negative portrayal of foster life, and this film refreshingly has a very positive take on it.

The foster parents portrayed in this film are not abusive or negligent, but genuinely want what's best for the kids. This entire part of the film was brilliantly done and filled with so much heart and I loved it.

One specific scene stands out to me at the end of the second act that I won't get into, but I thought that it too was brilliantly acted and portrayed.

My only negative with this film is the same that I have with most comic book films - the villain. However in this case it isn't bad at all, it actually begins in a very intriguing way but there is a big gap in the characters story that bothered me a little.

Mark Strong does a goon job playing the character of Dr. Sivana, and in fact the character isn't bad, but it's not one you're gonna remember.

'Shazam!' is a brilliant film that is a throwback to the old superhero days and a surprisingly self aware with some scenes coming off as a slight parody to me.

It's brilliantly acted, hilarious in oh so many ways and scenes, has a very heartwarming story, and is without a doubt one of the best films in the DCEU. Watch it today with your family and have a right royal and wondrous night's entertainment viewing that you will all be talking about for days thereafter! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

An Exclusive Motion Comic: SUPERHERO HOOKY
Alternate Opening and Ending
Deleted Scenes Gag Reel
Audition Footage
On Set with Zachary Levi
Shazam!'s Backstory

The 'Shazam!' 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray + DVD + Digital releases July 16th, 2019 via Warner Bros. and will be available for the suggested retail price of $29.96 and $24.96, respectively.

Official 'Shazam!' Trailer

'Shetland: Season Five'
(Douglas Henshall, Alison O'Donnell, Steven Robertson, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2019 / BBC Home Entertainment)

Overview: Douglas Henshall returns as DI Jimmy Perez in the latest installment of this acclaimed long-running crime series inspired by Ann Cleeves' bestselling novels.

DVD Verdict: When a severed human hand washes up in a Shetland beach, Perez and his team face a disturbing new investigation. The victim is identified as a young Nigerian man, spotted in Lerwick a few days before, but what was he doing on the island?

As Perez edges closer to a sinister truth stretching far beyond Shetland's shores, drawing him into a desperate search for a vulnerable young woman, this compelling new single mystery told over six parts is one of the BBC's best yet.

For my money, 'Shetland' is the BEST detective show I've seen in ages (although if you want grit, try 'Luther'!). Complete with some great storylines that keep you guessing the whole way through the series and stunning scenic backgrounds, it deals with some dark topics; but at its core it's a really heartwarming show because of the empathy and respect that is shown to all of the characters.

Funnily enough, 'Shetland' still hasn't had a story take place in wintertime, and this fifth season wanders a wee bit (perhaps) too much on occasion about a story of people traffickers; and maybe a romance for Perez with a truly annoying woman!

Aside from the always-looked-DOA romance with a married woman, Tosh maybe finds a boyfriend while Sandy maybe gets suspended for being stupid! Rhona still just sits around scowling at everyone and eventually the whole trafficking story devolves into various murders (some you may have seen coming, one or two other perhaps not).

Henshall is, as always, excellent as the dogged Detective Perez plying his trade against the spectacular background of the Shetland isles. Intelligent storylines and well drawn characters put this a cut above the average detective series, as mentioned, but its his acting touch that makes it all grounded.

A quirky mix of natural beauty, economical dialogue and a script that made policing way more linked to the community it serves, 'Shetland' is one of those rare television series that transports the viewer to a remote place that he has probably never heard of - and would normally never see. It is definitely worth a look and this fifth season out now through BBC Home Entertainment is a great place to pop your head into and find out for yourself.

Episode 1: A severed hand washes up on a Shetland beach, with further body parts discovered in a holdall that has been dumped at sea. Perez and the team begin a complex murder investigation.

Episode 2: A horrifying discovery at the Hayes house changes the course of the investigation. Perez establishes the probable cause for Daniel's murder and his sister Zezi's disappearance.

Episode 3: Sandy feels the heat. Convinced that McGuire is the key to cracking the case, Perez travels to Glasgow in an attempt to track him down.

Episode 4: Sure that Zezi is being held on Shetland, Perez and the team ramp up the pressure on their remaining leads. Personally, Perez finds himself in turmoil after his kiss with Alice.

Episode 5: The discovery of Nikki’s body intensifies the search for Zezi. Perez feels that time is running out. A desperate Olivia tries to get information from Jamie Hayes.

Episode 6: With Olivia giving up hope, Perez at last closes in on Zezi’s location. But can he reach her before it’s too late? Duncan is traumatised after his discovery on the beach.

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'D-Day 75: Last Words On The Longest Day'
(DVD / NR / 2019 / BBC Home Entertainment)

Overview: June 6th, 1944. Canada, Britain and the US storm the Normandy coast to wrestle back Europe from Nazi control. The soldiers call it The Longest Day. We call it D-Day.

This unflinching documentary tells the story of the historic battle through the dramatic recollections of those caught up in the action.

DVD Verdict: In what can only be described as one of the most fascinating and yet at the same time heartbreaking 90 minutes I have ever spent in front of the small screen, this captivating series gives a 360-degree view of the invasion from a British sailor who laid underwater charges that would blow up German defenses, to Canadians, Americans, French resistance fighters and German defenders.

Moving interviews are combined with newly discovered footage and dramatic reconstructions that plunge viewers into the heat of battle. Truly it will feel, in the quiet of a darkened evening, that you and you alone are the brave solider making these plans and acting on them for your country.

On June 6, 1944, in the dark hours just after midnight, over 13,000 American paratroopers were poised to spearhead the largest military invasion in history.

Standing by anxiously waiting inside twin-engine C-47 Skytrains, the paratroopers of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions were determined to accomplish one of the most critical and risky missions ever undertaken.

One, if successful, that would forever change the history of the world. Still in his early twenties, 1st Lt. Gerald “Bud” Berry, assigned to the 91st Squadron of the 439th Troop Carrier Group was among them. "We carried the 101st Airborne E Company and D Company and they jumped from our airplanes,” Berry recounts.

Flying co-pilot to his squadron commander, Berry recalled that the mission was going smoothly up until they hit an enormous cloud bank over the coast of France which made the already near impossible flight optics of the mission even worse. "You can’t tell anywhere about where you are at night, whether you’re at the dropzone or over the dropzone,” Berry says.

As the hundreds of other aircrews entered the cloud bank that would soon surround them, some pilots started to either gain or lose altitude in hopes to quickly bypass the storm before they made it to the dropzone.

Berry, however, decided that it was best to stay on course in hopes that the skies would soon clear. Berry’s swift decision worked out, although when the clouds finally cleared there was no time to spare. They were only about two minutes away from their designated dropzone.

In the midst of hellish German anti-aircraft fire, Berry had to instantly adapt to his surroundings before signaling to the paratroopers behind him when it was time to jump. "The only thing we were concerned with was the troopers and how they were making it off,” Berry adds.

After releasing all the men in the back of his plane, Berry was headed back to England along with the rest of the pilots that made it through that unbelievable flight to await further orders.

His is just one of the magnificent stories and recollections told here in this hour and a half long series that once begun you will find very hard to turn off (or even pause). That said, once finished, you will also find it very hard to forget. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Experience: Chasing the Moon' [3-Disc]
(3-Disc DVD / NR / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: 'Chasing the Moon' reimagines the race to the moon for a new generation, upending much of the mythology surrounding the effort.

The series recasts the Space Age as scientific innovation, political calculation, media spectacle, visionary impulses and personal drama.

Utilizing overlooked and lost archival material, the film features a cast of characters who played key roles in these historic events.

DVD Verdict: From the ultra-cool opening sequence, (the graphics, the historic images from the '50s and '60s, to the dramatic music) you just knew that American Experience was about to present us with a dazzling, fact filled and humane adventure. And a thoroughly American adventure at that.

Looking back 50 years ago to all involved on every level these brave, brainy, brilliant Americans were our contemporaries and 'Chasing the Moon' comprehensively covers the history of spaceflight from the closing days of WWII through the Apollo program in a way you've never seen before.

In truth I have always enjoyed documentaries that just lay out the basic facts and avoid sensationalizing actual events. In the case of the 1960's space race between the Russians and Americans both countries faltered which had the most absolute deadliest of consequences.

Astronauts were sacrificed for the space race and wives and children lost their husbands and fathers.

Why I mention the nostalgic approach was LIFE magazine had an exclusive with some of the astronauts of the Apollo missions and we were invited right into the astronauts family homes as the wives and children watched on their black and white television sets the flight missions along side their fellow astronaut families and family parish priests.

What Life magazine provided to the astronauts for this exclusive was a $100 thousand dollar life insurance policy to the astronauts family in case of death in space. This is a bet you would rather LIFE magazine never had to pay out on.

Ergo, this wondrous 'Chasing the Moon' three (3) part documentary series provides exceptional historical coverage of the earliest space missions culminating on the first landing of man on the moon.

I mean, who would have ever thought this was possible even in the year 2020! Am I right?!

The recollections of the astronauts themselves, insights from NASA administrators and engineers, extensive broadcast TV clips and rare NASA footage, an appreciation of the Russian space program, and the politics that empowered these human and technological achievements.

Viewers are transported through the era in a way that allows you to feel that you are there, watching it all unfold live before your very eyes.

To highlight the depth of this series, first, the story is told by participants or those with direct knowledge. The commentary of Khrushchev's son, for example, was to me very interesting. Second, the sideline cultural coverage really works well with the song parody of Von Braun just right.

Again, I grew up during the years of the Space race and can remember first-hand how we as a nation were juggling many social problems, as well chasing the moon.

This beautiful six hour series reflects a well balanced view of how life was during those times and I felt, at times as if I'd traveled back in time along with it. A magnificent piece of work. View it for yourself and prove me wrong. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs with the Bonus Features of:

Making Chasing the Moon: Interview with Robert Stone
Making Chasing the Moon: Behind the Scenes with Film Crew

'Grantchester - The Complete Fourth Season'
(James Norton, Robson Green, Tom Brittney, Al Weaver, Tessa Peak-Jones, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: It's 1956 and Sidney Chambers is feeling adrift - until Violet Todd arrives and fires up his need for social justice.

Soon there's a new Vicar of Grantchester, idealistic Will Davenport, who finds himself drawn into Inspector Geordie Keating's world of crime.

While Will embraces the future, Geordie is left entirely baffled by it. Navigating a world without Sidney, where does he fit in?

DVD Verdict: Based on acclaimed mystery novels by James Runcie, and highly reminiscent of 'Father Brown,' 'Grantchester' is a beautiful time piece, peacefully captured with vignettes of rich objects identifying a long gone world of wonderment and scenery serene to dye your soul.

The episodes run a quick 45 minutes each and are a comfortable fit for an evenings viewing. I admit to enjoying British period pieces, such as 'Foyle's War' and the aforementioned 'Father Brown,' and so this show is a welcome addition to the genre.

The fact that, whether it's true or not, back in the 50's the Vicar's of small Parishes were all a) drunks, b) crime solving addicts, and c) one-liner wiz's, seems to make me smile!

Norton plays the vicar at a small parish with habits rather unusual for a man of the cloth: behind the beautiful face, he hides a drinking problem, taste for jazz and melancholy caused by feelings for the wrong woman (although that all changes in this fourth season).

He is helping his friend, a local cop, solve murders. But the whole thing is not very dark, the colors are bright, the little community around the vicar is warm and friendly, and the viewer feels instantly drawn to the story.

Indeed if Poirot had a handsome younger brother, it would be Norton for his charisma is rather suppressed, but equally impressive at the very same time.

With a more skilled actor these two aspects might have been meshed together to show an interesting and complex human being, but Norton doesn't have the skill to portray such a man.

Ergo, on a personal note, there is very little subtlety and nuance in his performances, so he is always reaching to simply convince.

As for this fourth season, well, change is most definitely in the air as, and finally, I am a tad bit relieved that Sidney's angst-ridden character is being dealt with - as I was finding his inability to stay committed to the Church and his vows a little tiresome, in truth.

They have squeezed as much as they could out of that story line surely, I was thinking. The time to shift him away was due and now a whole new plot thread can be explored.

As for the crux to this, what has to be called not-the-best season thus far, without justification, Sidney dumps Amanda and decides to be with another woman with the same or, actually, all cards on the table, way more troubles!

Sidestepping all that for a moment and I love the stern, but soft-hearted housekeeper, Mrs. Maguire (Tessa Peake-Jones, "What the Dickens?!") and the humble vicar Leonard (Al Weaver), who struggles with timidity and homosexuality.

They make the show. Mrs. Maguire is the foil to Chambers, and Leonard's character engenders more sympathy than does the vicar Chambers.

For non-clerical period British detective series, my current top favorite is the 'Endeavor' series portraying a young constable Morse, before he became the sometimes arrogant and unlikable Inspector Morse.

Also, I quite enjoyed the George Gentry series, which is set in Manchester (or Newcastle?) in the 1960s.

Back on track though and with regard this relationship triangle that Sidney has been juggling for a while now, well, I mean, sorry, but it's not even similar to the book.

They simply made Sidney and Amanda's relationship so full of affection and sentimentality only then to bring a lackluster girl in out of the blue to try to create a true love for our central character.

For me it just doesn't fly, given the up's and down's we have all gone through in the past three seasons, but them's the breaks of only being on the outside of the writers room; as 99% of us viewers always are, of course.

The show overall is reliably well produced, the scripts true and the characters full of flaws to satisfy the most demanding 'make-them-human' viewer. This season was interesting, although rather sad at long intervals, but at all times hugely entertaining.

Thus, and not wishing to give too much away, we now get to see how the new vicar Will Davenport (Tom Brittney) reveals his true character - and if he can play fair with Geordie, of course! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs with the Bonus Feature of:

The Making of Grantchester 4

NOVA: Inside The Megafire'
(DVD / PG / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: NOVA tells the stories of residents who had to flee for their lives during the 2018 California fire season.

Scientists race to understand what's behind the rise of the record-breaking megafires and investigate how forestry practices, climate change, and the physics of fire itself play a role in the dramatic increase in wildfires in recent decades.

DVD Verdict: The Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history.

It is also 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 the sixth-deadliest U.S. wildfire overall.

Indeed, and furthermore, it was one of the world's costliest natural disasters in 2018.

Named after Camp Creek Road, its place of origin, the fire started on November 8th, 2018, in Butte County, in Northern California. After exhibiting extreme fire spread, fireline intensity, and spotting behaviors through the wilderness community of Concow, an urban firestorm formed in the densely populated foothill town of Paradise.

The fire caused at least 85 civilian fatalities, with two people still missing and unaccounted for, 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.

Total damage was $16.5 billion; one-quarter of the damage, $4 billion, was not insured. With the arrival of the first winter rainstorm of the season, the fire reached 100 percent containment after seventeen days on November 25th, 2018.

But how did it get so big so fast? And why are megafires like these becoming more common?

NOVA goes to the front lines of the deadliest fires of California's 2018 fire season to hear from the people who had to flee - and the scientists racing to understand what's behind these record-breaking infernos.

Researchers take to the forest, and even a fire lab, to understand the increasing megafire threat. They explore the physics of fire itself, documenting how firestorms move and travel, and what causes phenomena like fire tornadoes.

In the process, they decode the link between climate change, drought, and wildfire.

And they show how those environmental factors -combined with a century of fire suppression in the American West and new residential developments in the forest - may have created an unprecedented risk. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Frontline: Trump's Trade War'
(DVD / NR / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: 'Frontline: Trump's Trade War' is the inside story of President Trump's gamble to confront China over trade.

Reporting from the US and China, NPR and FRONTLINE investigate what led the world's two largest economies to the brink, and the billions at stake.

DVD Verdict: The seemingly unexpected collapse of trade negotiations between the US and China in 2018 hinted that existing Sino-US tariffs may now be the new normal.

But recent data reveal that, well before talks broke down in May of that year, China-based companies had already begun bracing for the worst-case scenario.

Indeed, the latest trade numbers suggest that China has been selling Americans fewer goods like computers and auto parts — and that other countries are benefitting from taking up the slack.

What’s at stake here isn’t merely the health of China’s export-focused manufacturing sector (and the many millions of workers it employs).

For the longer the trade war wears on, the greater the risk China will lose its long-standing role as the planet’s top global manufacturing base.

And as more and more foreign investment and technology flow to other nations, China’s chances of becoming a technologically advanced, innovative economy will dim.

The backstory, however, and as we are drawn into here in this truly fascinating new documentary from PBS, is very important here.

In many cases, the trade war isn’t so much triggering a China manufacturing exodus as it is accelerating a shift in supply chains that was already well underway.

China’s working-age population began shrinking back in 2012. Wages are now nearing levels in advanced economies. And low-wage workers are getting harder to find—let alone retain.

From FRONTLINE producer Rick Young and his team and NPR correspondent Laura Sullivan, 'Trump's Trade War' takes viewers on the ground in both the U.S. and China, drawing on business and government insider accounts to offer an eye-opening look at the increasingly competitive rivalry between the two countries - a rivalry that extends well beyond just trade and tariffs. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Frontline: The Abortion Divide'
(DVD / NC-17 / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: 'Frontline: The Abortion Divide' takes you inside the fight over abortion through the stories of women struggling with unplanned pregnancies.

Drawing on a landmark FRONTLINE documentary, Abortion Clinic, from the 1983, a look at both sides of the divide in a community still embroiled in the conflict.

DVD Verdict: In 1983 - 10 years after Roe v. Wade - a landmark FRONTLINE documentary, Abortion Clinic, showed the experience of and conflict over abortion like never before on American television. Now, 36 years later, FRONTLINE returns to Pennsylvania to look at both sides of the abortion debate in The Abortion Divide.

This film offers a window into the sometimes difficult and deeply personal choices women face with unplanned pregnancy - and examines the steadfast belief of the anti-abortion community that there should be no choice at all.

From producers Mark Obenhaus and Elizabeth Leiter, 'The Abortion Divide' offers a window into the sometimes difficult and deeply personal choices women face with unplanned pregnancy – and examines the steadfast belief of the anti-abortion community that there should be no choice at all.

“I returned to Pennsylvania and found a community bitterly divided over abortion in ways I could not have imagined,” says Obenhaus, who directed Abortion Clinic for FRONTLINE 36 years ago.

“When the first film was shot, security was light and the first thing I noticed about the clinic is the bulletproof glass that separates the public areas from the clinic itself.”

“Abortion is a topic that can quickly become overwhelmed by political and legal battles,” says Leiter. “What’s often left out of the conversation are the real human experiences and the complex decisions that women face. That’s where we hope this documentary sheds light.”

With intimate access, the film follows women struggling with unplanned pregnancies, doctors and nurses who provide abortions, as well as those who counsel women against the procedure.

In both films, anti-abortion protestors serve as a constant reminder of the intensity of the conflict – and in recent years, there has been an increase in abortion clinic invasions and threats against providers.

Dr. Lisa Perreira of the Philadelphia Women’s Center tells FRONTLINE she has experienced this firsthand: “I’m not afraid of being threatened by protesters, but it is framed in reality, there are people who are violent towards abortion providers,” she says.

Most of the women at the clinic who were asked to participate in 'The Abortion Divide' declined, but those who chose to speak told FRONTLINE they wanted their stories to be heard.

Through inside accounts from providers, patients and activists, 'The Abortion Divide' documents the changes in abortion procedures and practices - and illustrates the reality that the battle over abortion in America seems to be far from over. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Masters: Robert Shaw'
(DVD / PG / (2016) 2019 / PBS)

Overview: 'American Masters: Robert Shaw - Man of Many Voices' traces the improbable journey of Robert Shaw's life and career, from his childhood as a preacher's son in rural California through his meteoric rise as a star of popular music during the Great Depression.

An early champion of civil rights, his chorales were among the first to break the color barrier in the American South.

DVD Verdict: In what was a stunningly revealing, heartwarming, and totally engrossing new documentary from PBS, 'Robert Shaw - Man of Many Voices' traces the journey of a small town California boy who planned to be a minister like his father, but instead became the greatest conductor of choral music the world has ever known.

Indeed, at the heart of the film is the mystery of Shaw's genius. With no formal musical training, he achieved a stunning early success in popular music and later became legendary for his interpretations of classical music's great choral masterpieces.

An early champion of civil rights, Shaw (April 30, 1916 – January 25, 1999) had a mystical belief in the power of community and could communicate his passion for music with spellbinding intensity.

As Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the latter half of the twentieth century, Robert Shaw changed the course of musical history through the many voices he set on fire with an enduring love of music.

In fact, Shaw's influence extended far beyond the work of one great orchestra and this delightful new documentary showcases that in some lush depth.

Indeed, Shaw's eventful journey is brought to life in the film by interviews with legendary musicians including Yo-Yo Ma, Sylvia McNair, Alice Parker, Marietta Simpson, and Florence Kopleff, among others.

Family members, admirers, and friends include President Jimmy Carter and Ambassador Andrew Young and they all come together to showcase the talents of a man who although noted in classical repertoire, hardly limited himself to that genre.

The 104 recording credits on his discography also include recordings of sea shanties, glee club songs, sacred music and spirituals, musical theater numbers, Irish folk tunes, and, most notably, Christmas albums that have remained bestsellers ever since their release. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:

Robert Shaw - Perspectives Following the ASO/ASOC European Tour (Interviewer: John Weatherford, 1988)
Robert Shaw - Perspectives on Music and the Arts (Interviewer: David Hughes, Duke, Living Stories, 1994)
Alice Parker - Interview Outtakes
Ann Howard Jones - Interview Outtakes

'Frontline: Supreme Revenge'
(DVD / NR / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: From Brett Kavanaugh to Robert Bork, this film tells the essential political history of how a 30-year-old grievance transformed the Court and turned confirmations into vehemently partisan conflicts.

Offering both critical context on the state of America's judicial system and a gripping political narrative, Supreme Revenge is a must-watch look at the battle for control of America's highest court.

DVD Verdict: The bitter, partisan battle that played out during Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearings reflected deep divisions in Washington that may seem unique to America's current political and social moment.

But as this FRONTLINE investigation reveals, the intense politicization on display during the Supreme Court confirmation process - and the transformation of the Court itself - has been a shift decades in the making.

In 'Supreme Revenge', FRONTLINE's acclaimed political team draws on dozens of interviews with key current and former U.S. senators - including Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) - White House and congressional staffers, insiders from multiple presidential administrations, legal experts, authors and journalists to investigate how America reached this moment.

So, for those not in the complete know, just who is Brett Kavanaugh? Well, Kavanaugh’s credentials include having sat on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit since 2006, once clerking for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and serving in both Bush administrations.

He graduated from Yale Law School and also worked for Ken Starr’s team on the special counsel investigation that eventually led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

His confirmation appeared dependent on the results of the FBI’s supplemental background investigation which, after much scrutiny and public indifference, was not the easy road less taken that he expected, that's for sure.

The first day of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing began with Democrats calling for more time to go over thousands of pages of documents released the night before.

But the hearing proceeded and included introductions from two Republicans and one Democrat, as well as Kavanaugh’s opening remarks.

Day Two of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing also marked the start of questions from senators.

The second day was similar to the first and was consistently interrupted by protesters.

Kavanaugh’s public questioning concluded on Day Three of the hearing.

Notably, the Supreme Court nominee said he had "an open mind" on the topic of criminally investigating or indicting a sitting president, which some legal experts have pointed out could be relevant with the current administration and the ongoing probes into the 2016 election.

In the same place where Kavanaugh sat for three days, witnesses testified before the committee on the fourth day. Some of the witnesses included a Parkland shooting survivor as well as John Dean, the Watergate era White House Counsel.

The rest, as they say, is all formality now - inclusive of The New Yorker publishing an article detailing an accusation from one of Kavanaugh’s former classmates at Yale, Deborah Ramirez (Ramirez claimed that while at a college party, Kavanaugh exposed himself to her).

This in depth, and highly intriguing documentary from PBS tells the essential political history of how a 30-year-old grievance transformed the Court and turned confirmations into vehemently partisan conflicts - tracing how the failed nomination of President Ronald Reagan's Supreme Court pick Robert Bork sparked a desire for revenge from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that would ultimately help shape the court for decades to come.

Offering both critical context on the state of America's judicial system and a gripping political narrative, 'Supreme Revenge' is a must-watch look at the battle for control of America's highest court. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Rhythm of the Dance' [PBS]
(DVD / NR / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: This two-hour dance and music extravaganza is an inspiring epic, reliving the journey of the Irish Celts throughout history.

This richly costumed show marries the contemporary and the ancient, combining the traditional music with modern forms of Irish step dancing and song.

This compelling 1,000 year-old story is brought to life with a live band, singers, and a gifted ensemble of dancers.

DVD Verdict: From the creation of Rhythm of the Dance in 1998 (initially the show was set up for a 3 week tour of the United States) it has toured consistently internationally and is achieving greater critical acclaim year after year.

This wonderful show continues to evolve thanks to the constant striving for perfection by its Director/Producer, choreographer and composer to keep the show fresh and interesting so that audiences who attend performances regularly will always find some new and exciting elements within the program.

With a wonderful, gifted young cast of dancers, musicians and singers, featuring live performances from the entire troupe, this is a show that has won critical acclaim across 4 continents of the world in 50 countries to over 7 million fans.

And now after 20 years of showcasing the very best in Irish dance to the world, the show has undergone a process of renewal, reinvigorating the choreography and music to create an even more spectacular performance.

Producer Kieran Cavanagh was, from the very off, very excited about the updated format of the show, and rightly so as this excitingly vibrant, and so colorful 'Rhythm of the Dance' for sure is breathe of fresh air into Irish dance; and still firmly, and traditionally rooted within its authentic production.

Act 1: - Newgrange at Dawn; Celtic Air; The Plight of the Irish; Bodhran; Dancing at the Crossroads; Journey to Old Ireland (Song); The Gathering; Emigrants Lament (Song); and The Departing.

Act 2: - A New Dawn; Thinking of Home (Song); The Irish Overseas; Beat of the Bodhran; Conflicting Rhythms; Emigrants Medley (Song); Swing Time; Musicians Farewell; Home; Finale; and Encore.

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'BBC Earth: Rivers Of Life'
(DVD / PG / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: This landmark three-part series reveals the extraordinary animals, epic landscapes, and remarkable people who live alongside three iconic rivers.

Using new technology and exclusive stories, 'Rivers of Life' reveals a wider and fresh perspective on the extraordinary landscapes, surprising wildlife, and extraordinary people of the Nile, the Mississippi, and the Amazon.

DVD Verdict: Directed by Lydia Baines, Mark Flowers, and Simon Blakeney and narrated by Michael J. Hayes, 'Rivers Of Life' may well have been told before in its parts spread over many other PBS and other companies home entertainment releases, but here as one, as a whole, the Holy trilogy has come home in style, it has to be said.

Revealing a wider and fresh perspective on the extraordinary landscapes, surprising wildlife, and extraordinary people of the Nile, the Mississippi, and the Amazon, we first delve into The Nile.

The Nile River flows over 6,600 kilometers (4,100 miles) until emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. For thousands of years, the river has provided a source of irrigation to transform the dry area around it into lush agricultural land.

Today, the river continues to serve as a source of irrigation, as well as an important transportation and trade route.

The Nile River flows from south to north through eastern Africa. It begins in the rivers that flow into Lake Victoria (located in modern-day Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya), and empties into the Mediterranean Sea more than 6,600 kilometers (4,100 miles) to the north, making it one of the longest river in the world.

The Nile River was critical to the development of ancient Egypt. In addition to Egypt, the Nile runs through or along the border of 10 other African countries, namely, Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

Its three main tributaries are the White Nile, the Blue Nile, and the Atbara.

Next up is The Amazon. It nurtures the largest rainforest on earth and provides life for a mind-boggling array of flora and fauna – the Amazon River is one of South America’s most fascinating destinations to discover and, despite centuries of in-depth exploration, it’s still a mystical place that hides innumerable secrets.

In this new documentary from PBS we learn all there is to know about this incredible ecosystem which will definitely make your Amazon River visit in South America all the more rewarding.

Lastly we encounter The Mississippi. The Mississippi River is one of the world’s major river systems in size, habitat diversity and biological productivity.

It is also one of the world's most important commercial waterways and one of North America's great migration routes for both birds and fishes.

Native Americans lived along its banks and used the river for sustenance and transportation. Early European explorers used the Mississippi to explore the interior and the northern reaches of what was to become the United States.

Fur traders plied their trade on the river and soldiers of several nations garrisoned troops at strategic points, at various times, along the river when the area was still on the frontier.

White settlers from Europe and the United States (and often their slaves) arrived on steamboats dispossessing the Native Americans of their lands and converting the landscape into farms and cities.

Today, the Mississippi River powers a significant segment of the economy in the upper Midwest. Barges and their tows move approximately 175 million tons of freight each year on the upper Mississippi through a system of 29 locks and dams.

It is also a major recreational resource for boaters, canoeists, hunters, anglers, and birdwatchers and offers many outdoor opportunities.

Of course, there are many, oh so many more wondrous facts to be learned about these three Rivers, but without giving them all away here (and without having to type them all out for the next four hours solid!), trust me when I say that this new documentary is as good as it gets knowledge wise on these breathtaking Rivers. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Professor' [Blu-ray+Digital]
(Johnny Depp, Rosemarie DeWitt, Danny Huston, Ron Livingston, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / LGF)

Overview: A college professor lives his life with reckless abandon after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Blu-ray Verdict: College professors are a group of people who I typically have a certain level of contempt for! There, I said it.

They tell students what to think rather than teaching them how to think, and they attempt to tear away any individuality which students may exhibit.

For that reason, I thought I wouldn't enjoy this movie for it was about a type of person I don't care for and the synopsis of the film made it sound like a boring story - one we've all seen more than once before.

However, to my great surprise 'The Professor' is a VERY funny, heartwarming, revealing and openly honest (and unique) film that I beg you all to see!

All the acting in this film is commendable. Johnny Depp does a brilliant job playing the melancholic, but also eccentric college professor who has stopped giving a damn about niceties.

The writing is also very well done with the comedy actually having me laugh out loud more than once (which is a miracle in this day and age for films, intentional comedies or not, trust me!).

When I first read about 'The Professor' I thought it was going to be a slow drama, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out it actually wasn't.

It seems to me that the reason critics hated this film while audiences enjoyed it is that the movie pokes fun at elitist, self-absorbed types, who many professional critics regularly praise and consider themselves amongst, of course.

Bureaucrats, feminists and those so-named corporate types are amongst the those who get mocked in this movie, which isn't often seen in cinema - especially in cinema with such popular and mainstream talent involved.

A secondary reason why so-called professional critics may have panned this film would be due to the still lingering controversy regarding the accusations made against Depp by former spouse Amber Heard.

We've seen self-appointed moral arbiters pan films for similar things time and time again and if that fact did really affect their ratings and words, well, shame on them.

Overall, ok, sure, there is a small amount to complain about here with regard actions taken, points made, motions granted and such, but there is just way more wholly praise within this delightful, and raw, and honest new film from Lionsgate Films.

In conclusion, sure, again, the story is a familiar one, but the funny writing combined with some unique and quite brilliant acting makes 'The Professor' stand out amongst other films about terminal illness. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

Death and How to Live It: Making The Professor

'The Professor' Blu-ray and DVD will include a making-of featurette and will be available for the suggested retail price of $21.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Official 'The Professor' Trailer

'Chain of Death'
(John Patrick Amedori, Madeline Zima, Adrienne Barbeau, Dey Young, Jamie Clayton, Ray Wise, et al / DVD / NR / 2019 / Cleopatra Entertainment)

Overview: When a successful surgeon discovers he has the same neurological disorder as his invalid father, he joins an underground assisted suicide group operating under one rule: if you want to die, you first must help someone else kill themselves.

But when his turn to assist goes awry, law enforcement and The Chain close in.

DVD Verdict: In this creepy US-Spain psychological thriller 'Chain of Death' (aka 'The Chain') starring 'Twin Peak’s' wonderful character actor Ray Wise, we get a well-directed story from David Martin-Porras that sure, may well have been told before, but here shines a light more focused on the story of a man who enlists the services of an assisted suicide company, but discovers in order to take part he must kill someone first.

Dr. Mike Colleman (Amedori), a brilliant young doctor who’s married to the girl of his dreams while enjoying the big city life. The fairy-tale lifestyle comes to a screeching halt as Mike learns that his mother Emma (Barbeau) can no longer take care of his father (Wise) who suffers from a Parkinson’s Disease-like ailment and whose health is in a downward spiral.

Soon Mike learns that he too suffers from the exact same neurological illness as his father and decides to voluntarily enter a “Chain” of assisted suicides in an effort to end his own misery. There’s only one catch, as aforementioned, if you want to die, you must kill someone first!

Working from a screenplay by Andres Rosende, the Director Porras (who also co-created the film’s story) brings forth a rather suspenseful story here.

Nothing that hasn't been delved into before, it still manages to present the viewer with a lot of What would I do? moments which I found both refreshing and insightful.

Chock full of some engaging and tense moments this 100 minute movie is aided by not only a slick cinematic style of filming (from cinematographer Phil Klucsarits), but (for the most part) some solid acting performances too.

OK, sure, the lead man John Patrick Amedori isn't exactly putting it all out there for us, but movie legends both Wise and Adrienne Barbeau most certainly are - and loving it too, by the looks of things! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Image Slideshow

'Chain of Death' DVD will be released on July 30th, 2019 via Cleopatra Entertainment / MVD Visual.

Official 'Chain of Death' Trailer

'Hail Mary!'
(Eddie Mekka, Chet Göle, Sheena Colette, Joomin Hwang, Claire Kennedy, et al / DVD / NR / 2019 / MVD Visual)

Overview: What do you do when your pro football franchise have lost thirty two games in a row?

Buy up a school of Japanese Sumo Wrestlers, with all of its gargantuan 600 plus pound Sumos and make them into linemen protecting your precious star quarterback, O'Rourke.

DVD Verdict: With a tag line that asks What does it take to turn a losing pro-football team around? and an (obvious?) answer being Sumo wrestlers protecting the champion quarterback, you know you're in for a leave-your-brain-at-the-door fun movie!

In an act of desperation, the coach (Eddie Mekka aka The Big Ragu) of The Maine Lobsters, a pro football team that has lost 32 games in a row, travels to Japan to buy a school of sumo wrestlers.

His intention? To bring the humongous wrestlers back to Portland to replace his inept offensive line. In what has to be one of the most inventive movies I have seen in years, the key wrestler is played here by Yama ('Zoolander 2'), man who not only fills the role perfectly, but has some decent acting chops on him too!

Hail Mary! is unusually produced with a combination of hilarious live action and uniquely developed brush-stroke animation with the football sequences having been filmed on green-screen and back-dropped into the Buffalo Bills Ralph Wilson Stadium - Sumo cheerleaders, fans and all!

Trust me when I say that there's never been a family football comedy like 'Hail Mary!' and I doubt there will ever be again! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Material of:

'Sushi Tushi' Comic Book Teaser and Movie Trailer

'Hail Mary!' DVD will be released on July 30th, 2019 via MVD Visual.

'Breakthrough' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital]
(Chrissy Metz, Topher Grace, Josh Lucas, Mike Colter, Rebecca Staab, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital / PG / 2019 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: When her 14-year-old son drowns in a lake, a faithful mother prays for him to come back from the brink of death and be healed.

Blu-ray Verdict: 'Breakthrough' is a very heartfelt movie that will make you cry and laugh at the same time.

Based on a true story with a strong religious theme, 'Breakthrough' is a perfect movie to enjoy with your family.

It doesn't matter what your religion is: it is very easy to connect with this story and to feel very emotional. I love the acting and all the positive messages it contains.

This is the story of a 14-year-old boy, John Smith (Marcel Ruiz) who suffers a terrible accident: when playing in a frozen lake, he drowns and is rescued by a fireman about 20 minutes later.

He miraculously survives but is in serious condition. His mom never surrenders hope and prays with fervor to keep him alive.

I like the underwater scenes: I love how they look and how they are filmed. In the movie poster we see the main character under the water, and, despite knowing he will fall, I still jumped from my seat when the ice broke.

I think it is amazing how a simple story can make such an impact on the audience.

The story is well narrated. There's a song at the beginning of the film that could have been shorter, although it is good.

It feels like a music video trapped in a film that is not a musical, but when the movie resumes, the narrative keeps you interested.

Chrissy Metz, who plays John's mother, portrays the character so well, it made me cry; you feel the connection with her suffering, and it is very powerful.

She confronts doctors, and, although John is in a medically-induced coma, she keeps her faith alive. She doesn't get along with Pastora Jason Noble (Topher Grace) because she thinks he is too cool to be spiritual, but she bonds with this man who is very supportive and caring.

John, of course, spends a good portion of the movie dormant, but he makes you pray for him because you want to see him alive.

The message of this film is never give up and always have faith. Another message is even if you don't fully like someone it doesn't mean you can't set aside your differences and work together.

In conclusion, I also think is important for young audiences to understand that accidents happen, and we need to be careful. Watch this movie with your family tonight. You won't forget it, trust me. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

A Tapestry of Miracles: Making Breakthrough
"Carry My Soul" Phil Wickham Deleted Scene
Trapped in Icy Waters
Audio Commentary by Devon Franklin and Roxann Dawson

'Breakthrough' Blu-ray+DVD+Digital will be released on July 16th, 2019 via 20th Century Fox.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Store

'Breakthrough' @ Facebook!

Official 'Breakthrough' Trailer

'Shortcut to Happiness: Special Edition'
(Alec Baldwin, Dan Aykroyd, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kim Cattrall, et al / Blu-ray / PG-13 / (2003) 2019 / MVD Marquee Collection)

Overview: Down-and-out writer Jabez Stone (Producer and Director Alec Baldwin) sells his soul to The Devil (Jennifer Love Hewitt) in exchange for fame and fortune.

Blu-ray Verdict: This wonderful, truly delightful film was shot in 2002 but it was three years later that I saw at first at the Naples Film Festival - and it was a terrific film back then too!

Anthony Hopkins was great, as always, as the lawyer who is hired to save Baldwin from eternal damnation and va-va voom Jennifer Love Hewitt as the fire-emblazoned red-headed Devil was simply sensational.

So too Kim Cattrall as a knock-out, drop dead gorgeous PR manager and then rounding it all out perfectly is the cheesy, overacting, and yet perfectly-placed within this movie Dan Akroyd (here actually, more or less, showing off his dramatic chops).

Sadly though, of all the actors in the film, the one I had to rank the lowest was Baldwin himself! He really had no business acting or directing this film. His performance left a lot to be desired and his directing even more so.

I found out later that he walked off the set after he turned in his Director's cut and they hired a new editor who literally saved this film from dying a slow, unpublished death.

I also read in the trades where Producers Michael Gordon and David Glasser were the ones who kept trying to keep this film from sitting on a shelf for the next twenty years and finally got Bob Yari to acquire the film from the insurance company!

Regardless, please, please make a point to see this film when it comes out on Blu-ray via the wonderful folks there at MVD Visual as I think it was well worth the wait. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of the Original Theatrical Trailer.

'Shortcut to Happiness: Special Edition' Blu-ray will be released on July 16th, 2019 via MVD Marquee Collection.

'Shortcut to Happiness' Trailer

'Alice, Sweet Alice: Special Edition'
(Brooke Shields, Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula E. Sheppard, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1976) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: On the day of her first communion, young Karen (Brooke Shields) is savagely murdered by an unknown assailant in a yellow rain mac and creepy translucent mask.

But the nightmare is far from over - as the knife-wielding maniac strikes again and again, Karen's bereaved parents are forced to confront the possibility that Karen's wayward sister Alice might be the one behind the mask.

Blu-ray Verdict: This rather surreal horror film centers on 12-year-old Alice (Paula Sheppard) who is a strange girl who is suspected of murdering her younger and more popular sister Karen (Brooke Shields).

Her parents believe that she is innocent but as more crimes start to happen everyone seems to think that perhaps she isn't so sweet.

'Alice, Sweet Alice' has since become a huge cult film over the years and it's somewhat easy to see why. The film got a second chance of life after Brooke Shields became a star, but in all honesty she's not in too much of the movie.

I remember watching this film as a kid and really hating it because it wasn't bloody or violent enough, but revisiting it now on this brand new Blu-ray release from MVD Visual, well, after all of these years time now has me respecting it a lot more for what it actually ascends to be.

I think what works best is the fact that the entire film has a very bizarre atmosphere to it. I'm not sure if it's the religious aspect of the film, its low budget or what but there's no doubt that there is a very creepy vibe to the entire picture.

The film is also remembered for some of the death scenes in the film. None of them are overly graphic, but at the same time they are well-staged and pack a nice little punch. The twist in the story is something that I also thought worked very well, but won't reveal here, of course.

Performances are rather hit and miss but I thought Rudolph Willrich was good as Father Tom and I also liked Sheppard as the young Alice. Shields is pretty bad in some of her scenes, sorry, but I guess we shouldn't be too hard on her as it was very early in her career.

Alphonso DeNoble appears as the creepy landlord and there's no question that he steals the film because his character is just so damn creepy. Both Lillian Roth and Mildred Clinton are also good and keep the film on the rails, that's for sure.

What really kills the film is the fact that it has a made-for-TV look to it and there's no question that due to that fact that overall it looks quite cheap.

Regardless, and with the pacing a wee bit off in places, 'Alice, Sweet Alice' is still a rather unique film that is well worth watching (especially now that it's been released on a wondrous crystal clear Blu-ray from the aforementioned MVD Visual). This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new 2K restoration of the theatrical version from the original camera negative
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 Richard Harland Smith
Archival audio commentary with co-writer/director Alfred Sole and editor Edward Salier
First Communion: Alfred Sole Remembers Alice, Sweet Alice - director Alfred Sole looks back on his 1976 classic
In the Name of the Father - brand new interview with actor Niles McMaster
Sweet Memories: Dante Tomaselli on Alice, Sweet Alice - filmmaker Dante Tomaselli, cousin of Alfred Sole, discusses his longtime connection to the film
Lost Childhood: The Locations of Alice, Sweet Alice - a tour of the original Alice Sweet Alice shooting locations hosted by author Michael Gingold
Alternate Holy Terror Television Cut
Deleted Scene
Alternate Opening Titles
Trailer and TV Spot
Original Screenplay
Image Gallery
+ First Pressing Only: Collector's Booklet with Essay by Michael Blyth

'Alice, Sweet Alice' Original Movie Trailer

'Akio Jissôji: The Buddhist Trilogy'
(Kotobuki Hananomoto, Akiji Kobayashi, Eiji Okada, Kôji Shimizu, Hiroko Sakurai, et al / 4-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2019 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Akio Jissôji created a rich and diverse body of work during his five decades in Japan's film and television industries.

For some, he is best-known for his science-fiction: the 1960s TV series Ultraman and 1998's box-office success Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis.

For others, it is his 1990s adaptations of horror and mystery novelist Edogawa Rampo, such as Watcher in the Attic and Murder on D Street.

And then there are his New Wave films for the Art Theatre Guild, three of which This Transient Life, Mandara and Poem, forming 'The Buddhist Trilogy' are collected here.

Blu-ray Verdict: Winner of the Golden Leopard award at the 1970 Locarno Film Festival, 'This Transient Life' (1970) is among the Art Theatre Guild s most successful and most controversial productions.

The film concerns a brother and sister from a rich family who defy the expectations placed on them: he has little interest in further education or his father's business, instead obsessing over Buddhist statues; she continually refuses a string of suitors and the prospect of marriage.

Their closeness, and isolation, gives way to an incestuous relationship which, in turn, breeds disaster.

'This Transient Life' is, on the surface, a sordid tale about the interaction between incest, immorality and Buddhism. Dig a little deeper and that's exactly what it continues to turn out to be.

The lead character is Masao, a young man who shuns the path laid down by his rich father to take over his trading business, instead we see him idolize Buddhist sculpture and spend his days laconically with prostitutes and reading books.

His sister Yuri similarly lives how she chooses having turned down two marriage proposals preferring to be close to home and the local monastery. When a playful scene between Yuri and Masao turns into a lustful embrace, the siblings' bond becomes sexual rather than familial and this sets the tone for the rest of the film.

When the monk Ogino discovers their secret, he urges Masao to leave the village and he does so to become the apprentice of a master sculpture of icons of the Buddha.

Throughout the film, Buddhism shows us that life fades quickly and existential questions of how to live ones life are asked. Should one be pure and live by the codes set by religion, or should those very teachings, of the impermanence of life and its swift passing, be a reason to create ones own morality and fear no hell and covet no afterlife?

'Mandara' (1971), Jissôji's first color feature, maintained the controversial subject matter, focusing on a cult who recruit through rape and hope to achieve true ecstasy through sexual release.

Shot, as with all of Jissôji's Art Theatre Guild works, in a radically stylized manner, the film sits somewhere between the pinku genre and the fiercely experimental approach of his Japanese New Wave contemporaries.

Upon first viewing, one is struck by the visual compositions, image juxtaposition and the sound production. Actually that's all there is to be struck by for the first few minutes as it takes a while for the story to get going.

I didn't mind as nearly every frame of this film is a masterwork of composition and camera movement. Unfortunately the verbal part of the film is problematic for several reasons. Third, the film almost requires a decent knowledge of Japanese Buddhist philosophy not just Buddhism in general. Oh, and finally, the film seems very much a product of the turbulent times it was produced and the characters seem motivated by the issues of that time in Japan.

The final entry in the trilogy, 'Poem' (1972), returns to black and white and is centered on the austere existence of a young houseboy who becomes helplessly embroiled in the schemes of two brothers.

Written by Toshirô Ishidô (screenwriter of Nagisa Ôshima's The Sun's Burial and Shôhei Imamura's Black Rain), who also penned 'This Transient Life' and 'Mandala', 'Poem' continues the trilogy's exploration of faith in a post-industrial world.

A young houseboy in Uta wakes up every night to patrol the house of a teacher with a flashlight. He leads an austere life of meditation and he focuses his devotional attention on writing inscriptions for tombstones.

In one of his tours he sees something he shouldn't have. The pervert pleasure of portraying him as a pillar of moral behaviour for the duration of the film is to see the downfall.

As the teacher and his elder brother conspire to take over the mountain property of their grandfather and turn it over to realtors for a profit, Renge spends his time shuddering helpless, on his knees.

The final image haunts with the futility of faith and the spiritual in a crass capitalist world.

In closing, and getting personal, given the subject matter of all these three films in this wondrous trilogy, from a spiritual standpoint I stand by the fact that the so-called nothingness of nirvana is not a rejection of consciousness, as has been posited, but rather a supreme consciousness, a true perception of the world as impermanent and everchanging.

Ergo, if life is like playing the piano, the enlightened doesn't stop playing it to become absorbed with the self, but, having tuned it to perfection, plays every note in harmony.

And the moral code of good and evil, the "sila" of the Buddhists, is not a restriction of laws but rather a realization that certain acts further our misery, others free us from it. Watch these films and decide for yourself come the end of the trilogy what and where your own beliefs fall. You may even surprise yourself. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of This Transient Life, Mandara and Poem
Original uncompressed LPCM mono 1.0 audio on all three films
Newly translated optional English subtitles
Introductions to all three films by David Desser, author of Eros Plus
Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave
Scene-select commentaries on all three films by Desser
Theatrical trailer for Mandara
Theatrical trailer for Poem
Limited edition packaging, fully illustrated by maarko phntm
Illustrated 80-page perfect-bound collector's book featuring new writings on the film by Anton Bitel and Tom Mes

'UglyDolls' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital]
(Zachary Levi, Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Janelle Monáe, Blake Shelton, Wanda Sykes, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / NR / 2019 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: An adorable animated adventure in which the free-spirited 'UglyDolls', lead by Moxie (Kelly Clarkson), journey beyond Uglyville to discover the town of Perfection.

There they confront their desire to be loved and what it means to be different, ultimately realizing that being who you truly are is what matters most.

Blu-ray Verdict: In the adorably different town of Uglyville, weird is celebrated, strange is special and beauty is embraced as more than simply meets the eye.

Millions of dolls are manufactured every year for kids to play. But what happens to those that are less than perfect?

The ones who aren't perfect enough to hit the stores because of their irregularities go to Uglyville where all the rejected dolls are sent to live.

One plucky doll named Moxy, played by Kelly Clarkson, believes that she will get chosen to be someone's doll eventually.

She convinces her friends to join her in search of the big world, but instead, they come across the Institute for Perfection where dolls go through a series of tests to be paired with the right child.

Moxy (Clarkson) and her crew are odd and not the most detailed, but their personalities are etched into the design which goes in time with the world crafted.

This world may not be the most realistic or detail oriented, but it's color, angles, and sort of Hodge podge approach lead to a mish-mash world of fun that would be beautiful as a theme park.

Ergo, ' UglyDolls' manages to add personality into each of the two worlds, mirroring the approach to life each collective bunch represents.

Regardless of which place you prefer, the movie holds the cute factor that is intended for the key audience, creating the safe, family friendly environment that parents would like their young ones to see.

To help further bring the world to life, a talented voice cast has at least been recruited with singers, comedians, and sassy actresses to assist with bringing that last bit of spark to the characters needed.

Clarkson, Jonas, and Monae are the ones who take point using their vocal talents to not only deliver the simplistic writing of the film and even more deliver the lines of the soundtrack this movie was focused on.

The variety of voice talents were marginally used well and balanced to make sure every character got some screen time. Through whatever means though, the movie has some obvious selling points.

The main one surrounds the morals about inner beauty, self-worth, and believing in yourself. Cliché? Absolutely, but an important lesson for the young generation, and their chaperones to learn in hopes of establishing new grounds for self-confidence.

That emotional gimmick, touched my heart personally, but for many of the group it may not quite penetrate the cerebral cortex like they wanted.

Instead the morals will be lost to the toe tapping tunes that this movie is going to use. Much like 'Frozen', the soundtrack is going to be more memorable than the movie, with a number of reprises used to expand the soundtrack ever so slightly.

Plenty of these songs have much emotion, but it's going to be the bubble gum pop beat that gets your kids going, bump up sales, and potentially get overplayed.

In truth, 'UglyDolls' is a simple, yet cutely endearing story, but lacks some of the fundamental moments that Disney does so well.

Most of the characters do contribute in the form of comedy, but the character development is lacking for the others, leading to merely colorful outlines that will be perfect for action figures.

Perhaps this could have been accomplished if the plot did not seem so rushed, trying to get from start to finish in the rapid time limit they set.

In doing this, the impasses for our dolls were not that impressive and easily bypassed, the threat level essentially nullified by the cute antics of our group.

The result is that the movie does not quite have the most memorable moments that will stay with us until the end of time.

That said, and overall, 'UglyDolls' is very cute and I loved the themes, world building and energy built into its design and the presentation.

Yet, the movie fails to find the balance and sense of adventure that others have held from other studios with bigger budgets.

More story planning was needed, and less focus on limited audiences would have been nice, with a little more maturity ingrained to help out.

Yet, the movie really needed to steer away from the focus on merchandising to leave an imprint and be known as one of the greats.

It is not horrible at all, far from it, but the limited audience scope is going to be the main hesitation for parents to dig deep into their pockets; which is a great shame, to be honest (FYI: Please do though, you won't regret it and your kids will love you forever!) This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

Sing-Along Edition
Sing Along Tease – A small taste of the big fun the Sing-Along Edition provides
Fun with the Cast of UglyDolls – Watch the cast of UglyDolls play fun games that showcase their unique talents
Making UglyDolls – A closer look at the music behind the film and the talented voice cast that brings these rich characters to life
Theatrical Trailers

Unconventionality rules in 'UglyDolls', the fun and quirky animated musical debuting on Digital on July 16th, 2019 and on Blu-rayTM Combo Pack, DVD and On Demand on July 30th, 2019 from STXfilms and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Official 'UglyDolls' Trailer

Official 'UglyDolls' @ Facebook!

Official 'UglyDolls' Website!

'Taking Tiger Mountain' [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Bill Paxton, Barry Wooller, David Guthrie, et al / Blu-ray+DVD / NR / (1983) 2019 / Vinegar Syndrome)

Overview: In a dystopian future, Billy Hampton (Bill Paxton, in his first on-screen role) is a World War III draft dodger who finds himself part of an experimental brainwashing program created by a group of radical feminists.

After being released from the program, Billy heads to Wales for what he believes will be a sex-filled vacation. But, unbeknownst to him, Billy is really there to assassinate the Welsh Minister of Prostitution.

Blu-ray Verdict: A wild hybrid of art and experimental filmmaking techniques, 'Taking Tiger Mountain' began production in 1974, under the direction of Kent Smith using short ends left over from 'Lenny.'

After languishing in an unfinished form, the film was resurrected and completed by Tom Huckabee and eventually released in 1983; immediately making it an underground legend.

Set in a dystopian future where an entire town exists solely for prostitution, 'Taking Tiger Mountain' is, and without a shadow of a doubt, a weird, erotic tale that will sit with you long after seeing the film.

Perhaps more interesting than its wild narrative involving brainwashing, sex slavery, and economic turmoil, is the backstory involving the making of the film.

As aforementioned, this (supposedly) long-lost movie has been brought back from obscurity, and still evokes a sense of otherworldliness that deserves to be looked at by a new generation.

Released now via Vinegar Syndrome as a beautiful Blu-ray=DVD combo pack, 'Taking Tiger Mountain' is comprised entirely of dubbed voice overs for it was originally filmed without sound.

In the opening scene a room full of women discuss the pro's and con's of subjecting Billy Hampton (Bill Paxton) to reproductive surgery multiple times (although little do they know all their meddling ultimately turns him into an assassin designed only to kill specific targets.

As the film plays out, it seems Europe has divided itself into districts responsible for a singular financial purpose so a feminist cell resorts to the aforementioned assassination attempt.

However, when Billy gets to Brendovery in Wales he is unaware that he has been programmed to kill the head of the district — a district that peddles in prostitution.

Instead, he’s under the impression that he is on vacation, and so a lot of 'Taking Tiger Mountain' is focused on Billy’s (shall we politely call them) "sexcapades" and run-ins with various locals.

I won't give away any more of the plot, although it does admittedly meander a fair bit in these clouds of moments outlined above, but what I will say is that Billy is more than willingly on this strange and dreamlike odyssey through the urban wastelands - while an incessant torrent of broadcasts announce the utter depravity that the United States is pummeling towards!

With a script by Tom Huckabee and Kent Smith and with William S. Burroughs contributing to the story, these existential post-apocalypse films are still even today few and far between, but wow, yeah, this is most definitely the strangest and most complex I have ever come across!

Loose at times, yet chock full of calculated purpose and direction, 'Taking Tiger Mountain' is a must-see for all the reasons listed above and for the curiosity value alone of the fact that it has been "hidden" from us for so long that it actually deserves to be more openly viewed now. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, shot in B/W and comes with the Special Features of:

Region Free Blu-ray/DVD combo
Newly scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm Techniscope negative
Presenting both the original theatrical version and the 2019 'Revisited' version
Director introductions for both versions
"Taking Over Tiger Mountain" - an interview focused on the original version with director Tom Huckabee
"Revisiting Tiger Mountain" - an interview focused on the revisited version with director Tom Huckabee
"Interviews with Welshmen" - a short film by Kent Smith
Booklet with essay by Heather Drain
Reversible cover artwork
English SDH subtitles

'Mountain Rest: Special Edition'
(Natalia Dyer, Kate Lyn Sheil, Shawn Hatosy, Frances Conroy, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2018) 2019 / Film Rise)

Overview: After sequestering herself to a small mountain town, an aging actress calls her estranged daughter and granddaughter home for reconciliation and one final celebration.

Blu-ray Verdict: Aging former actress Ethel (Frances Conroy) summons her estranged daughter Frankie (Kate Lyn Sheil) and granddaughter Clara (Natalia Dyer) to her Blue Ridge Mountain cabin for a wild funeral party she's throwing before she dies.

While Clara is meeting Ethel for the first time and wants to connect with her, Frankie confronts her mother about family secrets and betrayals.

Written and directed by Alex O Eato, I absolutely loved the moodiness of this quite stunning, thoroughly engrossing film. From the cinematography and music to the script and the speeches, to the on screen relationships, every piece has been thoughtfully put together here to ensure a magnificent hour and a half is spent in its company.

I mean, the storyline that unfolds doesn't just stop at the description above, oh lord no for there might even be a serial killer amongst them! Or a boyfriend that isn't exactly who he seems to be!

As you would fully expect, the always-brilliant Frances Conroy ('American Horror Story') eats up the screen as a crunchy crazy alcoholic grandmother to a young Clara played by Natalia Dyer ('Stranger Things') and their relationship plays out on screen in a way that you might not expect to be just so raw and emotional.

With the weekend festivities allowing Ethel (Conroy) to blur the lines between truth and fiction, the culmination is both unsettling in its revelations and forceful in that fact that it forces everyone to reconsider the roles they play in each other’s lives. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Exclusive Interviews
Deleted Scenes

'Wildland: Special Edition'
(Blu-ray / NR / (2018) 2019 / Film Rise)

Overview: Filmed over one fire season, 'Wildland' (previously titled 'Young Men and Fire') is a sweeping yet deeply personal account of a single wildland firefighting crew as they struggle with fear, loyalty, dreams and demons.

Blu-ray Verdict: Every summer, the American West burns. As climate change has increased, average temperatures have risen, resulting in a sudden increase in both the frequency and intensity of wildfires.

Inside each of these fires are small crews who work to contain them by hand, using shovels, pulaskis, and methods that haven't changed in sixty years.

Filmed during two recent wildfire seasons, 'Wildland' (aka 'Young Men and Fire') is a sweeping yet deeply personal account of a single wildland firefighting crew as they struggle with fear, loyalty, dreams, and demons.

What emerges is a rich story of working-class men - their exterior world, their interior lives and the fire that lies between.

In this just-over-the-hour mark documentary film - brought to us by the uber talented Alex Jablonski and the brilliant Kahlil Hudson - 'Wildland' is one mighty fine, and absolutely true and honest story of what it takes to be a Wildland Firefighter.

It brings forth, whether we are prepared or not, a no-holds-barred look behind the scene at the daily life on the fire line. People from all walks of life with the desire to challenge themselves are showcased and tell their tales of what got them into this line of dangerous work.

Watching this twice now I have to say that I have a much greater respect for these men and women willing to take on what most people would shy away from.

Ergo, 'Wildland' is a must-see documentary film that will leave you cheering on the efforts and hard work of the firefighters involved and the shared satisfaction of a job well done. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Deleted Scenes
Photo Gallery

'Juno Selects: Child's Play'
(Christopher Beeny, Ernest Scott, Patrick Wells, Mona Washbourne, Peter Martyn, et al / DVD / NR / (1954) 2019 / MVD Visual)

Overview: What happens when a bunch of precocious kids get their hands on an atomic chemistry set? They manage to split the atom and thereby create a new form of popcorn, of course!

DVD Verdict: I have to say that as much as I never knew this movie even existed, I am so, just so glad that it arrived here for review and has been added to my personal collection.

Released on DVD for the first time from Juno Selects via those wonderful people from MVD Visual, 'Child's Play' (which, for the record, is most definitely not the one featuring Chucky … or a murderous, bloody-dripping large knife either!), but a thought provoking satire about atomic research and the Official Secrets Act that came to be.

For the most part, 'Child's Play' (1954) is mostly about a gang of kids in a small English village who invent atomic popcorn! Sure, as you would fully expect, it has a silly and sometimes confusing air to it, told as it is by the leader of the gang, Christopher Beeny.

There's definitely also a rough attempt here to emulate Hal Roach's 'Our Gang' series in post-war Britain which can only be a good thing, in my humble opinion.

However, despite some silly moments and a fine, mildly daft performance by Mona Washbourne as the children's collaborator and saleswoman, 'Child's Play' is, without a shadow of a doubt, a wondrous flashback and innocent gem that fully deserves to be seen by today's much wider viewing audience.

Directed by Margaret Thomson, a lady who began her career directing informational shorts for the Department of Agriculture, and who later became a specialist in writing and directing children's movies, 'Child's Play' is a classic film of the day (in black and white, of course) and allows the story to breathe further in scope by adding a suspicious local detective in this family-friendly adventure! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Juno Selects: Conflict Of Wings'
(John Gregson, Muriel Pavlow, Kieron Moore, Niall MacGinnis, Harry Fowler, et al / DVD / NR / (1954) 2019 / MVD Visual)

Overview: A small Norfolk village is outraged when it is discovered that government agency proposes to take over the nearby Island of Children, a bird sanctuary, to use as a military firing range.

A struggle of wills begins between the authorities and the villagers, who resort to a variety of ways to prevent damage to the historic island.

DVD Verdict: 'Conflict Of Wings' (aka Fuss Over Feathers') is a splendidly English premise where local villagers take on the might of the Royal Air Force over nesting birds.

Still living on the goodwill engendered by its heroics in the recent war, the 1954 had become involved in less immediate conflicts in Asia that only the unfortunate National Servicemen felt any impact from.

Back home with rationing being gradually phased out most people wanted to get on with life as best they could, respecting the Armed Forces, certainly, but with an increasing sense of England's waning influence on world affairs.

Against this background, 'Conflict Of Wings' portrays the people of the beautiful county of Norfolk as Animal Rights activists well before their time.

The fundamentally decent Air Force personnel are cast as the not-very-bad, er, well, bad guys using an area frequented by nesting birds as a firing range.

The film makes its point quite gently with excellent performances in the British tradition and a wonderful support cast including ex-RAF pilot Humphrey Lestocq at the time a huge star on BBC children's' TV 'Whirligig' as stooge to a puppet called Mr. Turnip!

"H.L.", as he was known, also had a brief career as a sub-Kenneth More type before Mr. More himself took over the roles Lestocq might have taken.

So, in closing, if you love that quintessentially English county of Norfolk the fine Eastman color (which was actually a company run by my Grandfather back in the day!) cinematography of its beautiful northern coast will thoroughly enchant you here in 'Conflict Of Wings.' This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Juno Selects: Doublecross'
(Donald Houston, Fay Compton, William Hartnell, et al / DVD / NR / (1956) 2019 / MVD Visual)

Overview: Albert Pascoe (Donald Houston, The Longest Day), a Cornish fisherman, is approached by a strange woman Anna (Delphi Lawrence, The Man Who Could Cheat Death) and two men to smuggle them across the English channel, unaware that they are criminals having stolen top secret documents and killing a man in the process.

DVD Verdict: During the voyage, Pascoe overhears them talking about the killing and turns the boat back towards Cornwall, but fixing the compass to give the impression to the passengers that they are still on course for the French coast.

On reaching the coast the woman, Anna (Fay Compton), warns Pascoe that he will be killed once he has put them ashore. Having rowed the two men ashore in a small boat, Pascoe overpowers them and makes his escape back to the trawler.

Reaching his home port, he explains to the police that he landed the two men in a small cove from which they will not be able to climb out. Pleading with them that all charges against Anna should be dropped, it's what comes next that makes this film what it truly always aspired to be.

Although a reasonably low budget film, the story and portrayals are sound enough to carry it nicely along, especially the one from the Sandy-haired Welsh actor who served in the RAF during World War II, lead Donald Houston ('Moonbase 3').

A slow, ocean burner, albeit with a surprisingly brutal fight at the climax between Houston and the baddies, 'Doublecross' is still today on this brand new DVD release from Juno Selects via MVD Visual an enjoyable, believable, and entertaining film for all to behold.

Featuring nice balance of humor and mild suspense, with a good plot and actors that seem to actually care about their plied trade, I'd find it difficult to dismiss this film as just a B-movie - and I hope you don't either. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Wild Kratts - Creepy Creatures!
(Martin Kratt, Chris Kratt / DVD / G / 2019 / PBS Kids)

Overview: The Wild Kratts aren't sure what to do for Halloween. Should they go trick-or-treating, or just enjoy a Halloween party?

The Kratt Brothers decide that the best thing to do is to discover some new "creepy cool" creatures!

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, real-life zoologists Chris and Martin Kratt are brothers (in real life!) who explore the wild throughout the world to learn more about animals and share conservation information.

Furthermore, they have three friends who travel in the Tortuga HQ with them named Aviva, Koki and Jimmy Z.

The brothers have creature power suits that allow them to experience what it's like to be the animals they find. The team helps them by creating power suit creature disks for each animal they study.

They also bring them supplies and help them out of tricky situations when their adventures get dicey.

In 'Wild Kratts - Creepy Creatures! the Kratt Brothers decide that the best thing to do for Halloween is to discover some new "creepy cool" creatures, but when they set off to find these new animal friends, Martin and Chris discover that Zach and the other villains have come up with a plan to ruin Halloween!

Can the Wild Kratts defeat the villains and still get to celebrate Halloween? Well, I won't be giving anything away here, but I think if you are a fan of the Wild Kratts and all their previous adventures that you'll safely have a good guess as to how this all turns out!

And then, the adventure continues as Jimmy is convinced there is a ghost living with them after strange things happen in the Tortuga HQ. Will the team discover what's causing the ruckus and moreover, will they all be the same afterwards?

In short, any and all 'Wild Kratts' adventures are a great cartoon escape for your young ones where they can learn about new animals and why conservation is so important to the world, not just them.

Also, we get to learn fun facts, straight from the box cover art work, in this case: When do vampire bats hunt? The answer is a interesting … nope, sorry, you'll simply have to buy the DVD for yourself to find that answer out (Hint: It's on the back of the DVD cover!

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with two (2) Wild Adventures: Creepy Creatures and Masked Bandits.

'Ready Jet Go! One Small Step'
(DVD / G / 2019 / PBS Kids)

Overview: In 'Ready Jet Go! One Small Step' we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing!

When Jet reveals he's built a brand-new super saucer, the friends head to the moon to test it out!

But after a rough landing, Jet and Sunspot go missing and it's up to the rest of the gang to find them!

DVD Verdict: 'Ready Jet Go!: One Small Step' is a lovely gently animated TV special commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1969 moon landing.

As Jet and his friends travel to and explore the moon, they share their knowledge of the event along with photographs and video clips of space travel history with viewers.

Among the characters, Sydney stands out as a problem solver with technical skill and a can-do attitude, and the show ends with another female - an astronomer - who teaches viewers more about how astronauts live and work in space.

This fun story incorporates music, humor, and characters popular with preschoolers to celebrate the lunar landing.

As you can well imagine, 'One Small Step' demonstrates a clear intent to give kids a working knowledge of real aerospace history, and if this is preschoolers' first introduction to the concept, it's a great place to start!

Mainly because the characters incorporate actual photos and video footage from the past, the show is more adult-friendly than others might be, making it a contender for watch-together fare for parents and their preschoolers to celebrate this anniversary.

This fun and educational DVD will instantly be loved by your children. If not for the sometimes-silly characters, fun music and ​all the space-orientated adventures, but for the fact it truly explores space; and rightfully encourage​s​ children to go out​ and do the same!

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the three (3) episodes of: One Small Step, Earth Mission to Moon and Mindy's Moon Bounce House.

'Arthur Celebrates Community'
(Jane Lynch, Roman Lutterotti, Bruce Dinsmore, Evan Blaylock, et al / DVD / G / 2019 / PBS Kids)

Overview: In 'Arthur Celebrates Community' we all learn about the people, places, and things that make a community special, and learn what it takes to keep a community strong!

DVD Verdict: If you were not aware, 'Arthur' is a show that gives off such a great message of friendship. Even though all the characters are so lovable, they each have their own unique flaws.

Like how Arthur complains about D.W all the time or like when Muffy gets her snobby attitudes. Also when Francine gets competitive, and the brain brags about his IQ!

Ergo, 'Arthur' represents life's imperfections and how to deal with them for Arthur and his friends have so much fun together because, and solely because they except each other for who they are.

Which I think is definitely a message kids should learn early in their lives and what makes 'Arthur Celebrates Community' one of the best DVD releases of 2019 thus far!

What is a community? Well, here in 'Arthur Celebrates Community' he, along with his friends (and us as we follow along, of course) all learn about the people, places, and things that make a community special and strong.

We watch along as Francine rallies the troops around a petition to help Lakewood Elementary protect the environment, as the Lakewood Elementary students share their school with their Mighty Mountain rivals.

Oh, and lest we forget that Arthur and his classmates also attend Mr. Ratburn's wedding, amongst others! Wow, hardly expected and yet what a wondrous day was had by all.

These eight (8) fun-filled episodes are filled with tales of honesty, open-mindedness, compromise, and compassion and are just perfect (and safe) for your young ones to engross themselves within.

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the eight (8) of: Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone, The Feud, When Rivals Came to Roost, The Longest Eleven Minutes, Muffy's House Guests, Binky Can't Always Get What He Wants, Muffy's Car Campaign and Truth or Poll.

'Frontline: Sex Trafficking In America'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: 'Frontline: Sex Trafficking In America' exposes the hidden reality of sex trafficking, inside a police unit and a victim's harrowing story.

Filmed over three years, a look at how victims are groomed and sold and innovative ways undercover police target traffickers and buyers.

DVD Verdict: In this gripping hour long documentary, award-winning director Jezza Neumann and producer Lauren Mucciolo ('Poor Kids') embed with the Phoenix police unit that's tackling child sexual exploitation.

Offering an inside look at the lucrative industry through unique access to a series of undercover, high-stakes police operations they also film with young women who have escaped the trade.

“I didn’t even know what sex trafficking was before I was taken,” Kat says in this eye-opening FRONTLINE documentary. "I didn’t know that I would end up in this situation that I ended up in.”

Jezza Neumann and Lauren Mucciolo — the director and producer behind the film — found that, like Kat, many people were unaware of the American woman and girls being sexually exploited within the U.S.

“Most people thought it was an international thing,” Neumann says, but as the documentary quickly reveals, there's more to this story for there are many layers to peel back.

On the forefront, you have a film about trafficking, but what you also have is this film about these amazingly empowered women. You have it through the detectives, and the work they’re doing and the sacrifices they give.

They’re moms as well, so they’re trying to be parents and do this job that’s all consuming. And then you have the prosecutor, she’s a woman in a really strong position.

And then you have the aforementioned Kat and Marriah and the other survivors — these young women have been through horrific, horrific situations.

But as we eventually get to see, they are coming out of it with strength and not letting it defeat them, and using it to better themselves where they can.

What's horrifically revealed though in 'Frontline: Sex Trafficking In America' is a crime that's both hidden in plain sight and growing - due in part to social media, where traffickers often start to groom and recruit young women and girls.

With extensive and intimate access to local law enforcement, prosecutors, service providers and the women themselves this new documentary shines a much needed, and much welcomed light on the hidden reality of sex trafficking in America. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Experience: Woodstock'
(DVD / NR / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: 'American Experience: Woodstock - Three Days That Defined A Generation' celebrates the 50th anniversary of the concert that became a touchstone for a generation.

This film brings the three-day concert to life through the voices of those who were present at what became the defining moment of the counterculture revolution.

DVD Verdict: In August 1969, nearly half a million people gathered at a farm in upstate New York to hear music.

What happened over the next three days, however, was far more than a concert. It would become a legendary event, one that would define a generation and mark the end of one of the most turbulent decades in modern history.

Occurring just weeks after an American set foot on the moon, the Woodstock music festival took place against a backdrop of a nation in conflict over sexual politics, civil rights and the Vietnam War.

A sense of an America in transition - a handoff of the country between generations with far different values and ideals - was tangibly present at what promoters billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music" (although it was also referred to alternatively, on occasion, as the "Bethel Rock Festival" - given its location in the Town of Bethel, New York, or the "Aquarian Music Festival".

Thirty-two acts performed over the course of the four days it was Swami Satchidananda who gave the opening speech and amazingly, Richie Havens was moved up to the opening performance slot after Sweetwater were stopped by police en route to the festival (and other artists were delayed on the freeway!).

Infamously rounded out on the Sunday/Monday early AM by Jimi Hendrix / Gypsy Sun & Rainbows - performing to a considerably smaller crowd of fewer than 200,000 people - it has been said that the dreams of marijuana and rock music was what drew the 300,000 fans (and hippies) to the Catskills that long weekend!

'American Experience: Woodstock' turns the lens back at that aforementioned audience, at the swarming, impromptu city that grew up overnight on a few acres of farm land.

What took place in that teaming mass of humanity - the rain-soaked, starving, tripping, half-a-million strong throng of young people - was nothing less than a miracle of teamwork, a manifestation of the "peace and love" the festival had touted and a validation of the counter-culture's promise to the world.

Who were these kids? What experiences and stories did they carry with them to Bethel, New York that weekend, and how were they changed by three days in the muck and mire of Yasgur's farm?

Find out, in some small part, of course, here within this intriguing hour and a half documentary, now out via PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Jamestown - The Complete Season 3'
(Naomi Battrick, Max Beesley, Jason Flemyng, Dean Lennox Kelly, Stuart Martin, et al / 2-Disc DVD / PG-13 / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: It's boom time in Jamestown, but success brings the scrutiny of the Crown and there are few in the settlement who have nothing to hide.

Relations with the Native Americans offer hope and advancement for the settlers until greed for land and want of power corrupts those with influence.

What ensues is devastating conflict; the fallout of which will shape the New World for centuries to come.

DVD Verdict: From the producers of Downtown Abbey, 'Jamestown' is not so much a historically accurate recounting of times back in 1619, but moreover a challenging interpretation of what times were like and the things that could have happened therein.

It's boom time in Jamestown and Virginia promises riches and freedom for the English settlers.

Jocelyn's destroyed plantation may have regrown but old feuds remain; she plans revenge, but Yeardley will not be dislodged without a fight.

Profits in the colony bring the watchful eye of the King of England to focus on Jamestown, and the arrival of an enigmatic man in town forces many to attempt to cover the tracks of their past indiscretions.

Amongst the conflict, love grows, and even Jocelyn is presented with a future she never thought possible.

Maria, Pedro, and their fellow Angolans fight to find a place for themselves in the colony, but can no longer deny the tyranny they live under and the unspeakable reality of what this means for their future.

The Sharrows have formed a deep connection with the Native Americans; Henry has taken a Pamunkey wife, and Silas lives with them in exile.

His friendship with the warrior Chacrow is tested and he finds himself at the center of the gravest clash between the English and the Native Americans.

These conflicts herald a new chapter in Virginia's history which will shape the New World for centuries to come.

In truth, 'Jamestown' - as a series - started out stronger than it finished, but that happens when a series that is hoped to go for more than two seasons gets axed, I suppose!

I liked it well enough and have followed it regimentally from the very start, as many of my friends have too, of course.

Chock full of great actors - like Burn Gorman from 'Turn' and 'Game of Thrones' and the brilliant Sophie Rundle from 'Peaky Blinders' - I was interested in the couples for the most part, but the characterization got a little wobbly and aimless toward the end.

The introduction of the slaves in season two was a good idea, but kind of rushed in my mind for they appeared and it seemed like right away they were all speaking English!

As with all the season, this third season featured a lot of political intrigue, some interesting, some convoluted and unbaked. Oh, and my favorite couple ended up being the "comic relief," the drunk tavern keeper and his sassy wife!

Limited budget obviously, but the scenery was still lovely. OK, playing Devil's Advocate, to give credit where credit is due, the finale itself wasn't terrific, but complete with a brief synopsis it at least put the ending into an appropriate historical context for the viewer.

So, and wrapping things up here for those of you still on the fence about whether or not to binge this series, well: Beloved characters vanish in the blink of an eye through various means, from death to change so radical, you almost can't recognize them, but man it makes it interesting to follow along with their newly-created paths!

For, the one thing this show has always done is make you unsure who the heroes and villains are. Henry's redemption arc comes full circle and there are good things in store for Mercy and James Read, but what can you do to survive in a world turned upside down?

Once again, excellent performances of these strong characters carry the show so yes, definitely worth the binge for my money - and yours, once you invest in this wonderful PBS TV series on DVD! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: Would You Be Mine'
(Fred Rogers / 4-Disc DVD / NR / 2019 / PBS)

Overview: Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Please won't you be my neighbor!

Stroll down memory lane with this four-disc set featuring 30 iconic episodes from the beloved children's series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, hand-selected by Fred Rogers Productions.

DVD Verdict: For those not completely in the know, and so just to bring you up to date a wee bit, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was an American half-hour educational children's television series that was created and hosted by Fred Rogers.

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

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

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

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

Now having been made into a major motion picture movie starring Tom Hanks as the loveable Mister Rogers himself, this brand new 4-Disc DVD collection 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: Would You Be Mine' celebrates the worldly love of the beloved series.

Showcasing 30 classic episodes from 1979-2000, we all gleefully watch as Mister Rogers helps children learn the importance of being kind to others, appreciating what makes everyone unique and oh so much more.

In truth, Mister Fred Rogers did what few artists have done in the history of mankind - strengthened and supported his audience so profoundly and so generously that he became a transformative force in their lives.

I myself feel fortunate to have learned from him. In all too many homes, Mister Rogers was, and still is the only voice of understanding, gentleness and positive reinforcement.

Imagine how different our world would be if more young people could be exposed to his philosophy of acceptance and love.

There are so many children who never hear their parents say the words "I love you" - not once, not ever. And then they hear Mister Rogers sing of all the ways people say "I love you," like "the cooking way" and "the eating way," and it's a comfort and reassurance beyond words.

No other public figure provides this kind of life-changing insight to the people most in need. Thus, on behalf of everyone you helped, of all the souls you touched in a badly damaged world, Mister Rogers we thank you, and we love you too.

With all the aforementioned 30 episodes of the classic series spread over nearly 15 hours of happiness, there will never be another Mister Rogers. He didn't want to sell the kids things, he didn't expect them to be cool, and he didn't want to replace their parents.

He just wanted to be their neighbor.

This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes complete with English Subtitles.

'Trial By Fire' [DVD]
(Laura Dern, Jack O'Connell, Emily Meade, Jeff Perry, Jade Pettyjohn, et al / DVD / R / 2019 / LGF)

Overview: In 1992, Cameron Todd Willingham (Jack O’ Connell), a poor, uneducated heavy metal devotee with a violent streak, was convicted of arson-related triple homicide and put on death row.

'Trial by Fire' is the true-life Texas story of the unlikely bond that formed between Willingham and Elizabeth Gilbert (Laura Dern), a Houston mother of two, who battled against the state for 12 years to try and save Willingham by exposing suppressed evidence and illogical conclusions.

DVD Verdict: Director Edward Zwick and writer Geoffrey Fletcher have movingly crafted a biopic about convicted killer Cameron Todd Willingham (Jack O'Connell) in the late nineties executed for killing his three children in a fire, that's for darn sure.

While there are multiple instances of the filmmakers morphing incidents to make strong their case against capital punishment in Texas, the impressive facts in the case swayed the jury and the parole board and the public.

Yet Elizabeth Gilbert (Laura Dern), a Houston playwright, befriends him and finds strong evidence that he may have had a weak defense, local justice withheld proof of innocence, and forensic evidence showing no arson, was all garnered too late.

Although more than half of the film is spent on unnecessary setup, when the biopic gets to Liz unearthing new evidence, it becomes on fire, so to speak.

That last half has moments of tension while at the same time following the Hollywood formula of manipulating music, questionable coincidences, and charming convict.

Although clearly the filmmakers make the case that his case was bungled, they also make sure to depict Todd as a redneck loudmouth unlikeable by any stretch, until, that is, he has time to educate himself and be contrite.

Dern and O'Connell are convincing in their roles as unlikely friends, with a hint of romance, the film's singular weakness being not connecting them earlier and getting to the evidence gathering sooner. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

The 'Trial by Fire' DVD will include a Photo Gallery and Theatrical Trailer and will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.98.

'Trial By Fire' Trailer

'Jesus: His Life' [DVD]
(Houda Echouafni, Cassie Bradley, Greg Barnett, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2019 / History Channel - LGF)

Overview: 'Jesus: His Life' explores the story of Jesus Christ through a unique lens: the people in his life who were closest to him.

Each of the eight chapters is told from the perspective of different biblical figures, all of whom played a pivotal role in Jesus’ life including Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary Mother of Jesus, Caiaphas, Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene, and Peter.

DVD Verdict: OK, let's get something straight here from the off: This is not a documentary. Rather a dramatization supported by commentary about life in Biblical times.

Whenever a dramatic production approaches the Christ story people become outraged. Such is the way of the world. They responded the same way with Jesus Christ Superstar.

If any aspect plays contrary to the way they want to know the characters and events involved, emotions take over, of course.

That all said, onward and upwards now as this series 'Jesus: His Life' is spectacularly cast and produced, in my humble opinion.

For one of the first times the viewers get to see what people in that time and era might have actually looked like. And the first person perspective is a unique and different view on the greatest story ever told.

That being said, the content was confusing a good deal and contradicting the sources which it claims to have sited. I can only speak from a Biblical point of view, being a scholar myself, and say that many of the portrayals contradict things that are portrayed in all the gospels (therefore should be included/referenced, at the very least).

As opposed to portraying characters as being confused when all sources indicate they were sure. I speak primarily of the John the Baptist episode that portrays John as not knowing who Jesus was after baptizing him let alone claiming Jesus did not know who He was until he was baptized - which contradicts the primary sourcing of this docuseries.

Anyway, this 6 hours and 44 minutes long production is supposed to ONLY cover what others could have thought and does not have the authority to say Jesus thought anything aside of what the Bible says of him.

But, we will never likely see a perfect piece of this genre in this mode ever in our lifetimes (how could we) so for now I'm rather happy to say that the makers have made the story and the words have power again.

The actor who plays Jesus is wonderfully believable. He manages to portray Jesus as a real individual, a combination of divine love and purpose, but filled with joy and sorrow and compassion.

So, for those who have not yet seen this docuseries I HIGHLY recommend it and hope you watch it with loved ones throughout all its chapter. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

The remarkable 'Jesus: His Life' DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.98.

Official 'Jesus: His Life' Trailer

'The Secret Life of Pets 2: 4K Ultra HD'
(Kevin Hart, Harrison Ford, Patton Oswalt, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu ray + Digital / PG / 2019 / Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

Overview: 'The Secret Life of Pets 2' continues the story of Max (Patton Oswalt), Gidget (Jenny Slate), Snowball (Kevin Hart) and the rest of the gang as they take on new adventures and are pushed to find the courage to become their own heroes.

Explore the emotional lives of our pets - the deep bond between them, the families that love them - and find out what your pets are really doing when you’re not at home.

4K Ultra HD Verdict: Universal Studios Home Entertainment continues to expand their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of a sequel within their widely-beloved series, 'The Secret Life of Pets 2' in this wondrous 4K home video format on August 27th, 2019.

For my money, this 'The Secret Life of Pets 2: 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 'The Secret Life of Pets 2' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy.

Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265; Resolution: Native 4K (2160p); HDR: HDR10; Aspect ratio: 2.35:1; Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1.

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

Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; like when the one cat is teaching the three smaller dogs (!) how to "act like a cat"! It just all comes more vividly to life now there in the forest. 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 fur and some of the yellow graded material (notably some scenes, much like the scene where Snowball welcomes back to the table White Thunder - who after a washing machine run in with a red item is now being know as Pink Thunder!) 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: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

. Additionally, the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and Blu-ray feature Dolby Atmos® immersive audio mixed specifically for the home, to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.

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, while the 'Despicable Me' franchise continues to reign as the commercially successful non-Disney animated franchise, Illumination gives the sequel treatment to their previous projects, including 'The Secret Life of Pets'.

Looking back at the first film, I still find it cute for its interesting premise, colorful animation, catchy musical score and a cast of memorable, side characters. My only issue(s) were that the plot was predictable and Max & Duke, while not intolerable, didn't leave much an impression for me.

However, my expectations began to blossom ever since the marketing for the sequel came out. After months of anticipation, the movie took me by surprise on how much it improved.

The sequel has three stories: 1. After Katie got married and has a son, Max (Patton Oswalt) became overprotective of his new playmate and must learn to overcome his fears. 2. Gidget (Jenny Slate) tries to rescue Max's favorite toy from an apartment room full of cats. 3. Reformed villain Snowball (Kevin Hart) dons a superhero alter-ego and must save a tiger from an abusive circus owner (Nick Kroll).

In hindsight, the plot would sound like a mess and have a lack of focus on which story to follow. In practice, however, the stories intertwine pretty well and does deliver an entertaining and intense climax in the third act.

The plot is one of the major improvements over the original. The stories are more character-driven and sticks more close to the title of the franchise more than Max & Duke's buddy-comedy journey, which took majority of the first.

The comedy is also a set-up from the predecessor where the jokes are more hit than miss. In fact, laughed out more than chuckling a few times in the past.

One of the highlights of any Illumination movie is the animation. Sure, some may argue that the Illumination animation quality and the character designs are too simplistic and doesn't visually stand out comparing to other animation studios.

As an animator myself, I sense that the animators continue using heavy emphasis on shape on the animals' design that are executed well in their movements and humor.

You can tell the animators had fun referencing how the animals move and behave, and animate them to their full potential. As for the setting for New York City, it retains its colorful appeal from the first film.

They also added new scenery to give a different atmosphere from a pet's perspective. It can whether Max & Duke visiting the upstate farmland or Snowball venturing through the carnival fairgrounds. For the latter, it also provided some decent and energized action sequences.

Most of the characters return and they are still likable and funny, thanks to the actors' performances. There are couple of characters worth mentioning.

I'll start off with Max. First, he is now voiced by Patton Oswalt replacing Louis C.K. after exposing his … history! He is, for the most part, a fitting replacement.

But, there are times when his voice can be a little noticeable since both said actors have different pitches and deliveries. Outside his performance, Max goes through a major character development where he and Duke become friends with Katie's son, Liam.

But, Max slowly and progressively becomes brave and less worried. I consider Max to be more likable than he was last time. Snowball went through a major transition from villain to a happily living as a pet while determining to helping others as a superhero (though at times, pretends for fun).

As the for the new characters, they are mostly welcoming additions and provide their own charm. The only exception(s) that I felt weren't interesting enough were Katie's husband Chuck and son Liam.

Again, not bad characters, they didn't leave much of an impression. On Snowball's side of the plot, we have Daisy, a kind-hearted Shih Tzu who idolizes Snowball's alter-ego and wants to be like him.

Hu, the captive white tiger that gives out more personality than words with behaving like a house cat and having a childlike innocence. If I had to pick two of my favorite new additions of the pack, it would be Rooster and Sergei.

Rooster (voiced the first time and remarkably well by Harrison Ford) is the farm dog that acts as Max's mentor on how to overcoming fears. I'd classify Sergei as the most menacing villain in Illumination history for his dark and threatening design and nature, comparing to the comedic, over-the-top villains from other movies.

Overall, 'The Secret of Life of Pets 2' is a major improvement over the first film, thanks to a well-thought out story, appealing animation, good laughs and great performances.

If you are an animal lover, Illumination fan, or have kids, I'd definitely recommend this movie. It'll be fun to sit through and a good appetizer before 'Toy Story 4'.

Anyway, that's that and now for a delve into the mighty special features included here on this great 4K Ultra HD edition.

The first are the Mini-Movies and in this case, up first is "Minion Scouts" where Margo, Agnes and Edith return from Badger Scout camp and three of the Minions are entranced by the girls’ merit badges.

Their own attempt at scout camp results in attracting a bear, eating poison berries and eventually blowing up a dam, creating a massive flood.
But, when they arrive back home, the girls share their badges, encouraging the rest of the Minions to try their hand at scouting.

The other Mini-Movie is "Super Gidget" where Max is kidnapped by an army of squirrels and Super Gidget is the only one who can save him.

It turns out that Max’s captor is a flea with the power of mind control so Gidget must use her pluckiness, strength and smarts to save her one true love!

The four (4) deleted scenes are: "Wake Up" – Max and Duke have a new morning routine with Liam; "Duke Explores the Farm" – Duke has a funny interaction with a goat; "Snowball Karate" – Snowball does his superhero warm up; and "Secret Confessions" – Dogs gather to talk about their deepest secrets.

And so not to give all the goodies away here, and leave you a few to explore for yourselves, the other stand out one is Pops’ Puppy Training School with Kevin Hart where comedian Kevin Hart hilariously shows off his dog training skills!

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the aforementioned Special Features of:

Includes 4K UHD, Blu-ray and a digital copy of 'The Secret Life of Pets 2'
The Making of the Mini-Movies
Deleted Scenes
A Tapestry of a Tail - The Making of
How to Draw
Frame by Frame - How to Make a Flip Book
Character Pods
My Buddy and Me
The Further Adventures of Captain Snowball
Pets with Jobs - A Documentary
A Party Fit for a Pet
Relax the Cat: The Secret Life of Pet Massage
Pops' Puppy Training School with Kevin Hart
Production Pets
Pet's Yule Log
Lyric Videos
A Party Fit for a Pet

Amazon Purchase Link

'The Command' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital]
(Colin Firth, Matthias Schoenaerts, Léa Seydoux, Peter Simonischek, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital / PG-13 / 2019 / LGF)

Overview: Colin Firth stars in the unforgettable true story of the K-141 Kursk, a Russian flagship nuclear powered submarine that sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea in August 2000.

As 23 sailors fought for survival aboard the disabled sub, their families desperately battled bureaucratic obstacles and impossible odds to find answers and save them.

Blu-ray Verdict: Directed by the highly attune and skilled Thomas Vinterberg, 'The Command' (aka 'Kursk') offers excellent production values, cinematography and performances, but falls victim to its own conceit in attempting to interweave muddled, inconsistent political statements; resulting in a film that alternates between tense action and maudlin sentimentality.

As aforementioned, as the sailors fight for survival, their families desperately battle political obstacles and impossible odds to save them. Ergo, as we quickly discover, the futile and ineffective efforts of the families have little to do with the through line.

But considerable attention is devoted to opening and closing scenes presented in a distractingly claustrophobic cropped frame, as well as raucous town hall meetings evocative of contemporary meetings disrupted by virulent activists promoting radical political ideologies.

The Russian bureaucracy is presented again, again and again as obstinate and deceitful, leaving one to wonder if the filmmakers are attempting to make a statement about contemporary claims of Russian interference and hegemony.

Although framed as a tragedy, the film isn't in the classical sense of a noble hero brought to ruin by a personal flaw. However, there is a tragic element in a recurring plot device concerning timepieces which in a minor way impedes the protagonist's ability to perform his duties.

In the denouement, this device is woven into an apparent call out to the Resist! Movement. A scene evocative of the Sermon on the Mount seems to advocate income redistribution.

Yet, these apparent efforts to espouse liberal political ideologies are confused by other elements. The disaster is exacerbated by the Russian Navy's failure to properly maintain its fleet, suggesting more money should have been spent on the military.

The socialist/communist bureaucracy is depicted as corrupt, ineffective and incompetent, possibly as a cautionary note to accepting the political policies of Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders, and possibly even leftists like Warren and Pelosi.

The Russian military is depicted as ineffective and a theme is that all sailors are brothers, regardless of nationality, possibly suggesting that we should consider Russia a potential ally, rather than our natural enemy.

The movie joins a large group of recent films that seem compelled to make political statements at the expense of plot and character development. It could have been a much more effective thriller by focusing on the disaster and the efforts by the crew to overcome impossible odds.

Alternatively, it could have been a melodrama, focusing on the efforts of the wives to persuade intransigent bureaucrats, particularly Max von Sydow's Petrenko, to admit failure and take the moral high ground instead of blind obsequiousness to party dogma.

Ergo, and in closing, 'My Command' (which is based on Robert Moore's book "A Time to Die") is the happenings aboard a ship that are mostly speculative, at best.

In this sense it follows other sea-disaster films such as 'Titanic' and as aforementioned, becomes overly politically sensitive in its portrayals right from the off.

I mean, perhaps given the current Russian political climate, in relation to the West it could have ridden the gas pedal a wee bit lighter, but that all said the film truly does not deserve to become a political tool for any side in the new Cold War.

At worst, or best, this film is a single insight into how the Russia of today became the Russia it is today.

Oh, and as a capper, it's interesting to know that all families of the dead sailors received, which was for the very first time in the history, serious monetary compensation (a ten-year salary per sailor) and an apartment each based within major Russian cities. Almost all of them accepted this compensation. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Command' Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD will include the “Human Costs: Making The Command” featurette and will be available for the suggested retail price of $22.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Official 'The Command' Trailer

'The Jungle Book And Friends'
(DVD / NR / 2019 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Beloved stories are lovingly retold in this delightful animation collection!

Tales as old as time come to life in this enchanting assortment of animated feature films.

'The Jungle Book', 'Cinderella', 'The Legend of Snow White' and Simba The King Lion - The Last Battle' are all assembled on one fun-filled DVD.

DVD Verdict: First up is 'The Jungle Book' (2000). Based on the famous book by Rudyard Kipling, 'The Jungle Book' tells the story of a lost boy named Mowgli, who is adopted and raised by a family of wolves and Baloo the bear.

Running at an incredible 97 minutes, this standalone animated title is really not all that bad. Sure some of the character designs are rather stiff and the dialogue does have moments of corniness, but in the whole it pans out rather nicely for the viewers.

With some of the story being rushed to me and Shere Khan's voice seeming slightly over done, the backgrounds make up for that ten-fold. All suitably colorful, the dialogue also has moments of wit and the story will appeal more to the main target audience of the little ones.

The music is catchy enough as well, if not as much as Disney's well known version, and the characters are quite likable. Overall, the voice work from the main leads is good too.

All in all, nothing great and nowhere near the best version but a decent enough animation on its own terms.

'Cinderella' (2005) is up next and runs at a lovely 90 minutes. Cinderella, an orphan, is now under the control of her evil stepmother and stepsisters. With the help of her friends, she is able to fall in love with the Prince, while helping him win over his own obstacles.

I have always loved the story of Cinderella and so whilst not my absolute favorite version, this 2005 animated version is still a very good one.

Indeed it is closer to the story than Disney's overall, with Cinderella's mother dying of an illness and the business with the lentils in the ashes, but still as enchanting; which in my mind is more important.

The animation is not perfect, lacking the color and fluency of Disney's more glamorous version, but at least the character designs are less forced than even the Mouses' Alice in Wonderland.

The script has a lot of nice humor with the stepsisters while never feeling over-simplified and overall the story is sweet and moves along swiftly.

'Cinderella' is just so warm-hearted and the stepsisters in their appearance contrasts nicely and so with the additional bouts of humor you simply cannot go wrong with this animated tale.

Next up is 'The Legend of Snow White' (2005) that runs for a wickedly brilliant 94 minutes. We join Snow White in this high-quality animated feature for your kids and family and watch as she escapes her evil stepmother, finds comfort in a cottage with seven dwarfs, and finds her Prince Charming with the help of her friends.

In some respects the plot of 'The Legend of Snow White' develops scenes that are productive of an intense emotional sort. There are some beautiful snow scenes, also home scenes that remind one of bygone days.

These is a double visualization that is very beautiful, but which is ruined in the finale (due to obvious "reveals", shall we say and leave it at that!).

Regardless, this 2005 version will definitely still please the wee ones that sit in front of it, of that you have my word.

Lastly we get 'Simba The King Lion: The Final Battle' (2005) which itself runs for an incredible 118 minutes! Here we join in the adventures of Simba and his jungle animal friends in this high quality entertaining animated feature for your kids and family.

When I first saw the original 'The Lion King' in cinemas at the age of four, I'd been hooked. Ever since then, my favorite movie has always been the Disney classic.

The sequel came out when I was seven, and for a cheaply made direct-to-video movie, was quite enjoyable to watch. Subsequently they mined the whole Lion King / Simba vault thereafter, bringing this direct-to-DVD one out in 2005.

Basically, the story follows on from the original film and thus is nicely tied in with the original film. With the concept of Scar, the antagonist of the first film having a family bent on revenge over Simba, the protagonist is seen here now within some very moving moments going toe-to-tow with young Simba; in what will be their final battle! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

DIGITAL BONUS: This new DVD includes Digital Streaming Access to 6 additional adventures via redemption insert including: Welcome Back Pinocchio, Pocahontas I: Princess of American Indians, The Thief of Baghdad, The Three Musketeers, Hercules, and Robin Hood.

'Anastasia - The Mysteries of Anna'
(Amy Irving, Rex Harrison, Olivia de Havilland, Omar Sharif, Susan Lucci, Christian Bale, et al / DVD / NR / 2019 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: In July of 1918, the Bolsheviks shot Russian Czar Nicholas II, his wife and their five children during the Russian Revolution.

So begins the epic saga of Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed until the day she died in 1984 that she was truly Grand Duchess Anastasia, the youngest child of Czar Nicholas II and sole survivor of the family's execution.

Her story became one of the greatest romantic mysteries of the twentieth century.

This breathtaking adaptation of Anna's journey is also a depiction of a lost era, from her days of Russian royalty, her flight from execution and her years of struggle to reclaim her royal heritage.

Amy Irving leads a luminary cast in this spectacular drama filled with triumph, tragedy, mystery and hope.

DVD Verdict: This is a richly produced, atmospheric telling of the Anastasia legend set against the time of the Russian revolution.

It has the look of an authentic, handsome movie of the kind made during the golden age of Hollywood.

In the title role, Amy Irving gives what is probably one of the finest performances of her career.

Others around her are equally impressive: Rex Harrison, Olivia de Havilland, Claire Bloom, Omar Shariff, Jan Niklas and Susan Lucci.

The epic story begins with the start of the revolution and the exile of the family of Nicolas and Alexandra.

After fleeing execution, the story follows Anastasia's years of struggle to regain her royal heritage - and the opposition of forces around her who call her an imposter.

In truth, it was probably watching this TV movie that got me interested in the debate as to whether "Anna" was really Tsar Nicholas's daughter Anastasia.

Since seeing it I have made a point of watching various documentaries and also bought a book. Despite the evidence that has been discovered since the film was released, I sometimes still think she was.

Such is the power of Amy Irving's acting in this 2-parter which is somewhat liberal with the historical facts, but packed to the brim with tear-jerking drama and Irving's totally convincing performance.

I was not consciously aware of Irving before this, though I must have seen her without realizing it in 'Carrie' (another favorite film of mine).

In 'Anastasia' I never felt for one moment that it was only a film or a TV movie. For me this woman WAS Anastasia, and when the first part ended with her in the railway carriage meeting members of the royal family, I knew that come hell or high water I had to see the second part.

I just wanted to see how she would prove that she was who she claimed to be, and as the story progressed I felt an intense hatred of Rex Harrison's character; though I greatly admire him as an actor, of course.

In closing, winner of two Emmy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and much acclaim from critics and public upon its video showing in 1986, 'Anastasia - The Mysteries of Anna' I for one will always believe that HIH Anastasia Nicolevna Romanova and Anna Anderson were indeed the same person; and I will never be swayed to the contrary! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Pan Am: The Complete Series'
(Margot Robbie, Christina Ricci, Kelli Garner, Annabelle Wallis, David Harbour, Mike Vogel, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2019 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: The Jet Age just hit full swing and leading the way are Pan Am's elite stewardesses who can navigate any culture and overcome any challenge.

From New York City to the edge of the world, they will discover romance, natural dangers and exotic intrigue in a lush recreation of 1963 that will take your breath away.

Christina Ricci (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) leads an accomplished cast including Karine Vanasse (Midnight in Paris), Kelli Garner (The Aviator), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Mike Vogel (The Help) and Michael Mosley (The Proposal).

Join the journey in all 14 exciting episodes collected in this complete edition of the original series 'Pan Am'.

DVD Verdict: It's 1963. Laura Cameron (Margot Robbie) is a runaway bride following her black sheep sister Kate (Kelli Garner) to be a Pan Am stewardess.

Kate is recruited by government agent Richard Parks (Jeremy Davidson) to be a secret courier. Maggie Ryan (Christina Ricci) is the sassy wild one.

Colette Valois (Karine Vanasse) is the worldly French one. Ted Vanderway (Michael Mosley) and Dean Lowrey (Mike Vogel) are pilots.

Simply put, 'Pan Am' is a glossy mix of disparate and clashing story styles. The family drama of Kate and Laura is probably the most compelling and starts the show on the right foot.

The cold war espionage drama is probably the most clashing which means what you are getting is a tonally and completely different show to the "flighty" one you believe you might be seeing from the cover art and such.

To my mind, Annabelle Wallis haunts the show like a ghost. Colette is probably the darkest where, again, her dark tones clash with the bright shiny show.

That said, Christina Ricci is probably the most disappointing because the show struggles to find a long term stable story for her. Dean is weakly written or weakly performed for even after just the series run of 14 episodes I still cannot figure out which!

Ted has some fun daddy issues, but he gets annoying way too quickly in most scenes. But, 'Pan Am' is still a delightfully glossy shiny recreation of an era that may well have gone, but still lingers in the minds of all who lived through it.

All that in mind, I actually really enjoyed 'Pan Am's attention to period detail, loving the costumes and the sets. The flight attendant uniforms are slightly different from the originals and they are missing their in-flight smocks, but this is a TV series not a documentary.

Actually a lot of thought and research went into bringing the early '60s back to life and this was most evident in the first episode. Subsequent episodes have brought increasing disappointment; hence the cancellation after just this first season.

What could have been a great show has turned into a melodrama that has little to do with the airline industry with the story lines quickly becoming far fetched; leaving 'Pan Am' bordering on becoming a weak soap opera.

I mean, sure, the individual episodes continually provide different examples of the international relations of the time as well as the way it felt to be an American in the 1960s.

But as much as these story lines developed with each episode and subsequently become overlapped, they never quite gel successfully. Otherwise it's a pretty compelling, beautiful and accurate depiction of the 1960s! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Hart To Hart: Movies Are Murder Collection'
(Robert Wagner, Stefanie Powers, Lionel Stander, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / 2019 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers return after a successful series run as Jonathan and Jennifer Hart for 8 feature-length mysteries that will entertain and thrill you.

See everyone's favorite crime-solving couple along with their loyal butler, Max (Lionel Stander), and their dog, Freeway in these eight whodunits.

Hart to Hart Returns (1993) - Home is Where the Hart Is (1994) - Crimes of the Hart (1994) - Old Friends Never Die (1994) - Secrets of the Hart (1995) - Two Harts in 3/4 Time (1995) - Harts in High Season (1996) - Till Death Do Us Hart (1996).

DVD Verdict: Up first in this quite wondrous new collection from Mill Creek Entertainment is 'Hart to Hart Returns' (1993). As Jonathan Hart contemplates what to give Jennifer for their anniversary, a murder is committed and Jonathan is being set up to take the fall. It all has to do with codes, cave-ins, burnouts, and bugging's!

What can I say the "Return" was like they never left. I really enjoyed the story line and especially the last scene which was true 'Hart to Hart' style.

The writers again captured the essence of what the series was really about love, adventure and mystery. The characters, Jonathan, Jennifer and the late Max is timeless.

As a baby boomer this is what I call good television. There are very few good shows on today so I am finding myself going back to the '70s, '80s and '90s for good viewing pleasure.

Then comes 'Home is Where the Hart Is' (1994) where the Harts travel to Kingmans Ferry a town a quaint little town where people know Jennifer Hart as Jennifer Edwards.

Here the sleuthing couple attend a funeral of a friend but are forced to stay in town when they learn they've inherited a seat of power from the dearly departed. But, when Stephanie receives some threatening messages, it's clear someone in town wants them to leave!

Next up is 'Crimes of the Hart' (1994) in which are rich married sleuths uncover a sabotage plot in N.Y.

With yet another appearance from Lionel Stander as Max it seems to me that the Hart's must be on lean times here as there are no more private jets and they are actually flying via Delta Airlines!

That aside, I love the love they shared as Jonathan and Jennifer Hart. Not too many shows have the kind of chemistry they had.

They actually loved each other which gives hope as to what the future could potentially hold those looking for that legit kind of love in their marriage and relationships!

Then comes 'Old Friends Never Die' (1994) where our intrepid duo show up for a literary weekend and overhear a plot for murder.

Once Jennifer happens to overhear two men discussing a murder they plan to commit and discovers it sounds like it might well be her very own Jonathan, suddenly the Harts have to find out why he has become a marked man while staying out of harm's way as they track the killers!

In 'Secrets of the Hart' (1995) Jonathan and Jennifer Hart are in San Francisco to help with a charity auction. Jennifer picks up an old locket for auction and shows it to Jonathan.

Jonathan quickly recognizes a picture of him and his sister who he hasn't seen since he was a child, inside. Stuart Morris approaches the Harts claiming to be Jonathan's nephew.

Stuart tells them that his aunt is Mr. Harts long lost sister but perhaps, this family reunion isn't quite what it seems!

Then comes 'Two Harts in 3/4 Time' (1995). When the Harts accept a clock left to them by Max, their recently deceased valet, the timepiece becomes the centerpiece of a case involving blackmail and murder.

Yet another delightful portrayal of how a relationship can be successful no matter how much external strain you put on it (!), it was very sad to know that Max (Lionel Stander) had passed away around the time of this TV movie. But it was rather lovely to see some of Montreal!

In 'Harts in High Season' (1996) when his old enemy Elliot Manning goes missing in Australia, Jonathan Hart is suspected by the Australian police of having done away with him.

With help from his wife, Jonathan turns sleuths in order to prove himself innocent. The couple go through a few adventures while trying to clear Jonathan's name.

As the TV films had progressed over the years since the very first one, Stephanie Powers amazingly still looks great, but Robert Wagner does look well aged here!

I also missed Max and Freeway as the former had passed away by now and the latter had "retired" from showbusiness but all in all this is yet another fun, and therefore typical 'Hart to Hart' TV film.

Finally we get 'Till Death Do Us Hart' (1996) where the Harts go to Munich where Jennifer is to donate bone marrow to a little boy who has leukemia.

The doctor is amazed that Jenifer looks like his fiancée who is missing just before the wedding. There is a party and the doctor will be embarrassed if he comes without his fiancée.

OMG, what is Jennifer thinking? Another great and what was to be final story that, once again, showcases the fact that Hart's never got to be alone - even when they were celebrating their Anniversary! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Roxanne: Retro VHS Style'
(Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Shelley Duvall, Fred Willard, et al / Blu-ray / PG / (1987) 2019 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: The large-nosed C.D. Bales is in love with the beautiful Roxanne; she falls for his personality but another man's looks.

Blu-ray Verdict: Steve Martin (The Man With Two Brains) stars as fire chief Charlie Bales, a man with a rather big nose! Indeed, this unusual feature makes him believe he will never be able to be with a girl - especially the one he has just met; the beautiful Roxanne.

Martin gives a good performance as the insecure but happy fire chief. His best moment is the famous bar scene where he is challenged to think of 20 insults regarding his own big nose!

The oversized nose is the big talking point of the town and the use of it was quite interesting as it brought out a touching subject regarding appearance and what other people thought of it.

As the film is a comedy that is where its focus lies with pretty much all of the jokes involving Martin's comedic timing. At all times proving vital to make the nose jokes work he is on the ball and punchline perfect here in 'Roxanne.'

Indeed, his reactions are excellent, especially the aforementioned bar scene and the opening sequence with the two men. The fact Martin did all of his own stunts was knowledge I couldn't believe because there are some very difficult maneuvers that he has to do; but all are executed brilliantly, of course.

The plot is consistent, with many good jokes and a sweet storyline regarding the fire chief and the woman he subsequently falls. Sadly though, it follows the conventional romantic story line that has been tried and trusted for 100+ years.

Now, don't get me wrong I love romantic films, but a bit of variety every now and again wouldn't hurt.

Rossovich and Hannah are good enough in their roles but are completely outshone by Martin. They have pretty conventional roles and always seemed to give the film predictability rather than spontaneity. Though that is also down to some cheesy and poor dialogue at times!

In closing, Martin's performance is obviously enough to carry the film from start to finish, but had the film been rather more shy from the usual romantic conventions, to my mind, then this would be the "perfect" romantic comedy. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Roxanne' [Retro VHS '90s Style Blu-Ray] is out August 13th, 2019 via Mill Creek Entertainment.

'The New Kids' (Retro VHS Style)
(James Spader, Lori Loughlin, Shannon Presby, Eric Stolz, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1985) 2019 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: A brother and sister arrive in a small town to help their relatives run an amusement park, and they find the town is terrorized by a local street gang.

Blu-ray Verdict: Teenage orphans Abby (Lori Loughlin) and Loren (Shannon Presby) go to live with their aunt and uncle in Florida, who run a combination gas station and amusement park.

Abby attracts the attention of scumbag Eddie Dutra (James Spader) and his redneck buddies. When Abby rejects them, the punks harass her and her family.

Loren tries to get even which leads to Abby being kidnapped. Now it's a life or death showdown vs the rednecks.

Not a horror movie like the poster implies but an action-thriller that sadly has nothing to do with New Kids on the Block!

The '80s was a decade full of revenge movies. Most were more brutal than this. But I suppose that might make this more accessible than, say, the Death Wish series.

The cast here is decent. Shannon Presby had a short-lived career but that appears to be by choice as he does fine here. Lori Loughlin is very pretty and personable. Every time I see one of her pre-Full House movie roles I have to wonder what the world she was smoking in the '80s that prevented her from becoming a bigger star!

We're also teased with a nude shower scene from her in this but, alas, it's just a tease. Carrot-topped Eric Stoltz plays Lori's boyfriend. I doubt I'll ever fully get his appeal.

Eddie Jones plays the likable but irresponsible uncle ("Soon enough, we're gonna be fartin' through silk") and Tom Atkins appears all-too-briefly.

The guys playing the rednecks are over-the-top goofy and not the least bit scary. The standout of the movie is, obviously, a scenery-chewing platinum blonde James Spader as the creepy villain.

It's his movie, really. This was written by Stephen Gyllenhaal, father of Maggie who would later have her first big role in 'Secretary' - which starred Spader! Two degrees of separation right there, boys and girls!

Anyway, getting back on track and the gang of school toughs that back up Spader do not seem like the kind of dudes a guy like him would be hanging with. Also, something tells me the part Spader was cast for and the part he played weren't exactly the same!

In closing, 'The New Kids' shares that special charm and energy that most of the classic from the '80s held. It's lively, it's interesting, the characters are fun and over-the-top, and it had some pretty sweet scenes too! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The New Kids' [Retro VHS '90s Style Blu-Ray] is out August 13th, 2019 via Mill Creek Entertainment.

'White Line Fever' (Retro VHS Style)
(Jan-Michael Vincent, Slim Pickens, Kay Lenz, et al / Blu-ray / PG / (1975) 2019 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: In the 1970s Arizona, a young married man becomes an independent long-haul driver and he risks his life fighting the corruption in the local long-haul trucking industry.

Blu-ray Verdict: Jan-Michael Vincent stars in this B-movie from the Redneck Renaissance which has an ex-military man buying a rig to achieve the American dream along with his doting wife.

Corruption rears its ugly head when his unscrupulous owners try to force him to do the wrong thing but with a granite jaw and rather a handy dandy shotgun, he prevails!

'White Line Fever' came out with the CB fad and is really a vintage film now. Is it a classic? Well, the truck driving scenes are classic. The other stuff like the plot and ending are apparently fabricated just so we could have a place for the great action to take place, in all honesty!

Where else can you see someone climb from the cab of a moving truck onto the van trailer's roof? Where else can you see a semi hit a bobtail truck tractor in the tandems and spin it off the road?

Where else can you see a diesel truck burn? Where else can you see a truck tractor jump through the air? Funnily enough, 'White Line Fever' tries many times to get the point across that truck driving is a great way of life and yet constantly shows us that it's also so hard for someone like JMV to make a living at it too!

In closing, and in truth, it's also a little uncomfortable to see JMV in several scenes drinking alcohol knowing what eventually happened to him in real life.

Also, it's not clear if the chief bad guys get punished in the end or not, but if you can overlook minor flaws like those the movie is still enjoyable to watch. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'White Line Fever' [Retro VHS '90s Style Blu-Ray] is out August 13th, 2019 via Mill Creek Entertainment.

'The Ugly American' [Blu-ray]
(Marlon Brando, Eiji Okada, Pat Hingle, Arthur Hill, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1963) 2019 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Marlon Brando stars in this volatile political thriller based on the critically acclaimed best-selling book.

As a compassionate American ambassador to the strife-torn Southeast Asian nation of Sarkhan, Brando tries to keep the Communists in the north from overrunning the weakened democracy in the south by making sure a vital road into the country's inaccessible interior goes through.

But, from his very arrival, The Ugly American is met with suspicion and hate even by an influential freedom fighter now suspected of being a Communist agent.

Intrigue and danger surround Brando and co-stars Pat Hingle, Arthur Hill and Sandra Church, in this tense story of Cold War politics that remains all too real today.

Blu-ray Verdict: Despite 'The Ugly American' being filmed in a fictional Southeast Asian nation, the parallels between this film and Vietnam in the 1960s are quite obvious.

It's obviously NOT about this fictional place but is a commentary on the American government's reaction to nationalism and revolution.

While this nation was founded as a haven for revolutionaries, by the time the film was made, the policies were generally reactionary - bolstering up ANY government that was seen as keeping the status quo so long as they weren't communists.

Yet, like in the case of this fictional land, many revolutions had nothing to do with communism and SHOULD have been welcomed by the US but weren't.

This film begins with Marlon Brando playing a new ambassador to the tiny nation of Sarkan. Some of the senators at his confirmation hearing were not impressed - Brand's character appeared to be a political liberal and looked favorably upon the nationalistic movement growing within Sarkan.

After all, the leader was his old and dear friend. However, after assuming the post, both the friend and Brando behave quite stupidly. They should have been friends but very soon become bitter enemies.

Brando brands the ex-friend a communist and the friend rushes to the communist camp for assistance.

Several scenes in this movie are so vivid they are unforgettable. The airport demonstration that turns into a riot is unusually realistic for a movie of this period.

I should know as I've seen more than my fair share of riots in Asia and Central America. The attack on the opening ceremony of the Freedom Road is also realistically played out.

The eerie silence right after the attack is suddenly interrupted by wailing from the wounded. As the Ambassador's wife tries to tend to one of the casualties, a relief worker walks by and casually tells her, "Don't bother, she's dead."

The chaos at the besieged embassy near the end of the movie opens with the face of a bewildered and frightened child as US nationals scramble in the background to leave a country descending into hell.

My biggest problem with the film was its pacing. Brando - whose performance as the American Ambassador is one of his best portrayals, in my humble opinion - goes from close friend to bitter enemy VERY quickly - too quickly. Things escalate wildly out of control in an interesting manner but it's all just too rushed to be realistic.

But, aside from this, the acting is decent and the story quite compelling - especially the film's commentary on the apathetic American public.

Clever and insightful, this one probably looks a lot better today in hindsight then it did back in 1963 before the Cold War in Southeast Asia really heated up significantly. This is a New High Definition Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Ugly American' [Blu-Ray] is out August 13th, 2019 via Mill Creek Entertainment.

'Shiraz: A Romance Of India' [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Himansu Rai, Enakshi Rama Rau, Charu Royet, Seeta Devi, et al / Blu-ray+DVD / NR / (1928) 2019 / Juno Films - MVD Visual)

Overview: Based on the romance between 17th-century Mughal ruler Shah Jahan and his queen, this epic silent film 'Shiraz: A Romance Of India' is the ravishing, romantic tale behind the creation of one of the world's most iconic structures: the Taj Mahal.

Blu-ray Verdict: This intriguing 1928 silent film, now restored by the BFI and released via Juno Films and MVD Visual on Blu-ray, is a startlingly ambitious epic weepie-romance, filmed entirely on location in India – and is of far more than just archival interest.

Taking creative flight from the historical record, it reimagines the story of the Mumtaz Mahal, the 17th-century Mughal empress in India whose death so devastated the emperor that he commissioned the monument to her in Agra, now known as the Taj Mahal.

The film invents a new backstory for the empress: as a little girl she is ambushed with her mother by bandits in the desert and rescued by a family with no clue of her noble identity (although an amulet is to be the proof).

They bring her up as a little sister to their son, Shiraz. In adulthood, Shiraz (played by the film’s producer-star Himansu Rai) remains deeply in love with this girl, named Selima (Enakshi Rama Rau).

When she is kidnapped by slavers and sold into the harem of the emperor, poor Shiraz hangs around the palace gates, trying to gain admittance, even as the emperor falls in love with her and she with him.

Shiraz is threatened with all sorts of punishments and tortures and grows old and blind as a beggar outside the palace – because Selima could only think of him as a brother.

But after her death, he is to achieve a redemption by designing her famed marble mausoleum in a blind, visionary ecstasy. The crowd scenes and the location work in this film are a real marvel, and there is great tenderness to its final act.

As aforementioned, 'Shiraz' was shot entirely on location in India and features lavish costumes and gorgeous settings - all the more impressive in this 2K restoration by the BFI National Archive; which also features a specially commissioned score by the Grammy Award-winning Anoushka Shankar.

Produced by and starring Indian film legend Himansu Rai, the film is performed by an all-Indian cast, featuring Rai as humble potter Shiraz, who follows his childhood sweetheart Selima (Enakshi Rama Rau) when she's sold by slave traders to the future emperor (Charu Roy).

This is a brilliant new 2K restoration Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• Presented in High Definition and Standard
• Restoration Demonstration (2017, 3 mins)
• Temples of India (1938, Hans M Nieter, 10 mins): Indian travelogue featuring beautiful colour footage of the Taj Mahal shot by Jack Cardiff
• Musical Instruments of India (1944, 12 mins): public information film made by the Government of India to promote Indian arts and culture
• Illustrated booklet with essays by Bryony Dixon, Simon Broughton and Gautam Chintamani
• Silent with English Intertitles

'Shiraz: A Romance Of India' [Blu-ray+DVD] is out August 13th, 2019 via Juno Films / MVD Visual.

Official Trailer

'Anti-Nowhere League: We Are The League'
(Anti-Nowhere League, et al / DVD+CD / NR / 2019 / Cleopatra Entertainment - MVD Visual)

Overview: 'Anti-Nowhere League: We Are The League' tells the full uncensored story of how a biker, a skinhead, a grammar school boy and a Persian exile came together, with no musical talent or ambitions and even less respect for anything or anyone, to burst into the UK charts with their debut single!

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, the Anti-Nowhere League are an English hardcore punk band, formed in 1979 by lead singer Animal (Nick Culmer), guitarist Magoo (Chris Exall), Bones (Tony Shaw) on drums and Chris Elvy on bass.

Their first gig was as a three piece at the 1980 Chaos Show at St Mark's Hall, Royal Tunbridge Wells on 31 March 1980. They later managed to get a slot in Discharge and The Exploited's Apocalypse tour, along with Chron Gen and Anti-Pasti.

Chris Elvy was replaced by Clive Blake (Winston) and Bones (Tony Shaw) was replaced by PJ (Persian John) as they moved towards going pro (which ultimately led them signing to John Curd's record label WXYZ Records).

November 1981 saw the release of their first single, a cover version of Ralph McTell's 'Streets of London'. The single peaked at No. 48 in the UK Singles Chart and spent five weeks in the listings.

Funnily enough, the profanity-laden B-side of the single, 'So What' later became the group's anthem. In 1982, ANL took part in the 'So What Tour' alongside groups such as Chelsea, The Meteors, Chron Gen and The Defects.

This very same year also saw the release of their debut album, We Are...The League. It reached No. 24 in the UK Albums Chart and spent eleven weeks in the chart.

This brand new DVD + CD package 'Anti-Nowhere League: We Are The League' showcases the uncensored story of how this band of misfits came together to form not only a chart band, but an ongoing musical outlet for fans (old and new) even today!

Here via a scattering of various interview snippets we hear that some fans first saw ANL back in 1982 and how the young teens of today relate to them because, as one red-haired Mohican lad puts it, "They're f**kin' good 'cause they piss people off!".

As inflammatory lyrics are casually read out by senior citizens and further stories are spun of how fans came to fall in love with the band ("It's that f**k off attitude that I loved", being a constant running theme), the fact that when they play their home town they are known as "local heroes" says it all really.

Interestingly enough, as Magoo (Chris Exall) reveals, he may well have started and created the band, got them some gigs and such, but without lead singer Animal (Nick Culmer), the band wouldn't have gotten past Tunbridge Wells!

Stories are told, reminisced in most part by ex-band members of just how good the band had it back in their heyday. Of how they could get away with murder on stage, drink all day and all night, cop off with fan's girlfriends and play the music that they had written. As they put it themselves here, How many people get that chance. So yeah, it was good. It was very, very good".

And as ex-drummer PJ (Persian John) perfectly sums up, "Anti-Nowhere League just exploded like a star and the ripple will carry on forever". This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• Additional Interview Footage
• 19 Track CD of Previously Unreleased 1982 Live Performances

'Anti-Nowhere League: We Are The League' [DVD + CD] is out August 9th, 2019 via MVD Visual.

Official Trailer

'Skateboard: Special Edition' [DVD]
(Allen Garfield, Kathleen Lloyd, Leif Garrett, et al / DVD / G / (1978) 2019 / Liberation Hall - MVD Visual)

Overview: A Hollywood agent finds himself in debt to a powerful bookie so to make a fast buck, he creates a team of exceptionally talented skateboarders and enters them in a downhill race. If they win, they will get $20,000!

DVD Verdict: The phenomenon of skateboarding which blossomed in the '70s gets a look in this G rated film about a down and out promoter who sees a bunch of kids doing their skateboard thing and turns them into a team.

Allen Garfield stars as the promoter who gets to like the kids no matter how much he first sees them as just a cash cow.

Garfield's probably a decent enough guy under ordinary circumstances and considering what he does for a living. But these times aren't ordinary, Garfield is into Anthony Carbone for some bucks and then borrows some bigger bucks to promote the team.

The leg breakers will be paying him a call if he doesn't succeed!

Which explains the pressures he puts on the kids to win although they don't understand it. Neither does Kathleen Lloyd, team nurse and guardian and all around confidante to Garfield though he levels with her.

Leif Garrett who was on the cusp of bubblegum stardom plays one of the kids and Garfield's eventual savior. The rest of the players are skateboarders first and barely handled the dialog, it has to be said.

And although billed as a Leif Garret vehicle, the bulk belongs to character-actor Allen Garfield as the tubby, struggling talent agent.

While Garrett meanders in the background as one of the younger skaters, too shy to really take chances, the true hotshots are real life rollers Richard Van der Wyk, Tony Alva and Ellen O'Neal.

And while the trio skate better than act, there's something genuine in the deadpan deliveries: after all, it's their territory more than Garfield who, with a constantly frantic bicker, seems more part of a low-rent gangster flick than skateboarding propaganda: which this needed more action shots of.

But Manny's a likable antihero, especially after Kathleen Lloyd joins the ranks as the chaperon/nurse. Although scenes where Manny attempts talking ingénue Pam Kenneally from sleeping with Van der Wyk seem a bit creepy, he eventually becomes the endearing sloppy uncle; as the team climbs to the final competition where – after the star skater drops out – it's up to underdog Garrett to win a do-or-die downhill race, providing more suspense in the buildup than the real thing.

Still, it's skateboarding and Leif Garrett combined that people paid to see and 'Skateboard' gives them their money's worth. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• Audio Commentary Track with George Gage and Tony Alva
• Interview with George Gage
• Interview with Tony Alva
• Theatrical Trailer
• Photo Galleries of Lobby Cards and Posters
• Scene Selection Menu

'Skateboard: Special Edition' [DVD] is out August 27th, 2019 via Liberation Hall / MVD Visual.

Official Trailer

'Cruising: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1980) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Academy Award-winner William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) directs Al Pacino as an undercover cop pitched into New York's seedy underbelly in 'Cruising' - available for the first time on Blu-ray in a brand new director-approved transfer.

Blu-ray Verdict: Body parts are being found in the Hudson River and there have already been two recorded homosexual murders that show signs of being done by the same killer.

With no leads in the case, Captain Edelson offers Officer Steve Burns the chance to go undercover on the basis that Steve looks similar to the victims that the killer tends to pick.

Steve goes undercover with no badge and no gun, only reporting to Edelson; meanwhile the murders continue as Steve begins to lose himself little by little.

I had never seen this film until just a few weeks ago but I was looking forward to it now that it was here on Blu-ray for review.

The film opens with a similar enough premise: cop goes undercover to try and catch a killer. We have all seen this genre before and think we know where it is going to go - cop will start to `go native' gradually and will struggle with it even after he has caught the killer - right?

Well, yes and no. The film tries to do this but it manages to make a real pigs ear of it throughout, coming across like it really didn't know what it wanted to do.

In truth, the film is all over the place. Burns' investigation goes nowhere for the vast majority of the time and just seems to focus on gay clubs with lots of men in leather or jock straps.

Meanwhile the killer continues to carry out his murders and the rest of the police sort of float around in the background.

For the most part it is rather difficult to really get into the film because the narrative is so very disjointed and it is almost impossible to have anything to follow or care about: basically the first 90 minutes is `There's a guy out there killing and a cop going to gay clubs - oh, look what they do!'

And then the final 20 minutes is `Oh, we got him now' - and that's it! So with no traditional narrative I assume that the film wanted us to follow the character of Steve.

However, Steve is a nonentity, even being played by Pacino! He has no "character" and we see nothing to suggest that he is really being either attracted or repulsed by the life he sees.

The end of the film is so open in regards him and just doesn't make sense for the most part, sorry! With these two threads going nowhere, all that remains is a film that looks at the gay scene in the city.

In this regard I was worried that it was going to be all PC when the film opening with a disclaimer that I assume was put on to placate gay groups.

However I immediately understood why the makers had put this caption onto the film - and it wasn't even enough! The homosexuals in this film are, to a man, deviants who all hang out in clubs having anonymous sex with multiple partners in clubs and parks.

I know the film apologizes for this but it doesn't excuse the sheer lazy clichés that it wheels out and seems to just hope that we are shocked by the repeated graphic image.

The seedy nature of the film means that it hasn't lost it's shock ability (even with gay relationships no longer a taboo in the media or normal life) - but if this is all it has then it is hardly worth it.

If director Friedkin had a vision then it has been lost because there is no sign of life in this film as by the end of the film everyone seems to have given up on it and it just, well, grinds to a halt.

I won't even go into the various threads that just seem to go nowhere - DiSimone turning up all over the place for no reason being just one of them!

Pacino is a great actor but he cannot do anything with a character he cannot understand. He is absent from the film and is given nothing to work with.

Certainly the slow burn he is required to do is not fitting his style, but it is made harder considering the script doesn't know about Steve either and Pacino has nothing to build to.

Sorvino is OK but has nothing to do, likewise Allen is just floating around as well. The only thing that really kept my interest was how many famous faces were in early roles here - Powers Booth, Mike Starr, Spinell and Weeks to name but a few.

Overall I was looking forward to this film and wanted to enjoy it. I was not let down, sure, I'll admit that on a higher level of the screenplay, but when it failed to do the usual things I expected from the genre set-up, well, it was then I was let down (by the fact that Friedkin did nothing else with it).

The plot is all over the place and the performances are poor simply because they have no characters. Steve is impossible to understand and every gay character is a cliché.

An amazingly inept film when you consider the names attached to it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, supervised and approved by writer-director William Friedkin
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Newly remastered 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio supervised by William Friedkin
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Archival audio commentary by William Friedkin
The History of Cruising – archival featurette looking at the film’s origins and production
Exorcizing Cruising – archival featurette looking at the controversy surrounding the film and its enduring legacy
Original Theatrical Trailer

'Cruising' Original Movie Trailer

'Batman: Hush: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray + Digital'
(Jason O'Mara, Jennifer Morrison, Stuart Allan, Sachie Alessio, Geoffrey Arend, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu ray + Digital / NR / 2019 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: When threads from Batman's past begin to unravel, the race is on for the Dark Knight to crack Hush's deadly game.

Based on the tour de force graphic novel, 'Batman: Hush' ranks as one of the greatest Batman stories ever told.

A virtual who's who of DC - including Superman, Nightwing, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Joker and more - is woven into this twisting tale of murder, mystery and romance that will create strange alliances and reveal shattering secrets when Hush's silence is finally broken.

4K Ultra HD Verdict: Warner Bros. continues to expand their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the quite stunning 'Batman: Hush' in this wondrous 4K home video format on August 6th, 2019.

For my money, this 'Batman: Hush: 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 'Batman: Hush' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy.

Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Upscaled 4K (2160p), HDR: HDR10 and Original aspect ratio: 1.78:1.

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

Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; like when the bright city lights unveil themselves beneath the Bat and the Cat's running, jumping, swinging bodies high atop the rooftops of Gotham. It just all comes more vividly to life now there in the forest. Which is amazing to see, in truth.

Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the green hue and vapor trail, for instance, of Poison Ivy when she is asking Catwoman if Batman is her new "boy toy." Furthermore, scenes like this one and whenever there is gun fire or fires are lit now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the usual appearance on regular Blu-ray presentations.

As for the audio, well we have: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

. Additionally, the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and Blu-ray feature Dolby Atmos® immersive audio mixed specifically for the home, to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.

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

Phew! OK, so, as for the movie itself, well, in truth if you loved the outstanding graphic novel you may not like the liberties the creators of this film have taken!

In many ways this film is like last years 'Batman: Gotham by Gaslight' as in it pulls punches in the story which turn out to be different than the original graphic novel originally brought forth.

'Hush' (inspired by the acclaimed 2002-2003 storyline written by Jeph Loeb, penciled by Jim Lee, inked by Scott Williams, and colored by Alex Sinclair) also elaborates on the Batman/Catwoman romance angle more than previous animated media, which I am actually not against due to the fact that it shows the creators are starting to show as much interest in the Bat/Cat angle as the fans themselves have done over the decades.

So, sure, I get that this new rendition of the villain Hush may seem a bit underwhelming and disappointing to fans of the comic book with the story feeling a wee bit overstuffed with characters and plot twists.

However, if you are a fan of the character and world of Batman, and can separate this from the comic book that inspired it, you should probably have a fun time with it!

The storyline takes place after the events of 'Reign of the Supermen', highlighting the interconnection of these movies. Indeed, having Batman go to Metropolis and meet Superman all in the purpose of showing Clark's relationship with Lois, might be the flare to suggest that 'Batman: Hush' might be a bridge to a greater storyline re: 'Injustice: Gods Among Us'.

Although we don't yet have a strong bromance between the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight (to justify Clark wanting Bruce to be the godfather of his unborn child), this connection will possibly be the object of future films in preparation for the masterpiece that is 'Injustice'.

For now, it is satisfying to see that Clark's relationship with Lois is well established for it to soon bear a child.

Another hint includes two events that happened at different times in the movie: The first is Superman being controlled by Poison Ivy using "Synthetic Kryptonite" and the second is Nightwing being exposed to Scarecrow's fear toxin.

Does this ring any bells? Hint: Kryptonite-laced fear toxin! Also, it is no coincidence to have the Joker, Poison Ivy and Scarecrow all in one place now (Arkham Asylum) following their encounter with Batman or the Bat-family.

Additional clues that suggest this is movie is a buildup for 'Injustice' is having Dick Grayson prevalent throughout the film and briefly featuring Damian Wayne; as both of them play big roles in the Injustice storyline.

Also, it is worth mentioning that Bruce and Selina's relationship is well manifested in 'Injustice', and as aforementioned 'Batman: Hush' makes sure to introduce it in the DCAU once and for all!

Finally, last but definitely not least, the final hint for this direction is Batman's stress on "code" at the end of the movie, something that resonates to the events of 'Injustice'.

As familiarized fans recall, that code is the basis of the entire 'Injustice' storyline.

Regardless, and in closing, it was nice to have a cameo from Batgirl, Night Wing, Damian Wayne, along with classic Batman villains: Bane, Poison Ivy, The Scarecrow, The Riddler and his minions wearing their Riddler costumes, the Penguin, and Clay Face, amongst others.

And the final battle in the warehouse/factory, though a setting that's exhausted at this point, is really well done and exciting here, thankfully.

Some changes are acceptable, like Lex Luthor just being a business man instead of the President (which he was at that time in the comics) and replacing Talia's role of helping Batman find Poison Ivy.

Batgirl replacing Huntress is fine, though the latter's absence is kinda disappointing. Also, having Catwoman jump down to protect Batman from the street thugs is also a welcome addition!

Finally, merging the scenes with Catwoman and Poison Ivy and the scene where Ivy and Hush meet were good, as it shows how cunning and ruthless Hush is. Enjoy!

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, the feature-length animated film 'Batman: Hush' is available August 6th, 2019 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital.

This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the aforementioned Special Features of:

Includes 4K UHD, Blu-ray and a digital copy of 'Batman: Hush'
DC Showcase Short - 'Sgt. Rock'
Batman: Love In Time Of War
Audio Commentary With Filmmakers
A Sneak Peak At DC Universe's Next Animated Movie: Wonder Woman: Bloodlines
From The DC Vault: Bonus Cartoon

'Batman: Hush' Trailer

'Batman: Hush' Clip - "Uncovering Hush's Plans"

'The Last Black Man in San Francisco'
(Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / LGF)

Overview: After Jimmie enlists his best friend Mont to help reclaim the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco, they begin a search for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind.

A wistful odyssey populated by skaters, squatters, street preachers, playwrights, and other locals on the margins, 'The Last Black Man in San Francisco' is a poignant and sweeping story of hometowns and how they’re made — and kept alive — by the people who love them.

Blu-ray Verdict: Telling it like it is, 'The Last Black Man in San Francisco' is by far one of the most stunningly beautiful films I have ever seen.

The masterful work of cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra is a monument for modern filmmaking. This tale of longing, love, and hate, captures the complexity and mercilessness of displacement.

The performances from the likes of Tichina Arnold and Danny Glover stand out, sure, but all the cast have incredibly solid supporting roles for the two leads, Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors.

Indeed, Majors presents one of the most intricate and delicate performances of this year, as Montgomery Allen and Jimmie Falls as the lead is also astounding, playing a version of himself in the film.

With regard the cinematography, all the poeticism of this piece is carried by its enthralling, detailed and ornate visuals. Its use of color, composition and light far surpass the rest of the major films from this year, and to an extent most films from this decade.

So, if you are still a wee bit unknowing of what to expect to find here with these 121 minutes, well, and simply put, this is a heartwarming tale about a man and his family who have been affected by gentrification.

It is difficult to explain the mental effects of gentrification, many people just see a developing community in terms of dollars and cents. As someone who lives in a gentrified area which is also a huge tourist city (DC area), the impact from gentrification extends generations.

This story shows how gentrification affects a person, affects a family and a community. It shows differences between those who were originally there and the gentrifers, small conversations between characters and family members show how families have been fractured and people changed forever.

In closing, this loving and sensitive portrait of San Francisco is authentic, sobering and luscious. From its quasi-wildlife portraits of people in the city, to its sweeping camera pans, this film is an augury of the future of filmmaking. I encourage everyone to see this quite stunning, wondrous and enthralling new film out now from Lionsgate Films. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.66:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Last Black Man in San Francisco' Blu-ray+Digital and DVD will include an Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Joe Talbot and the "Ode to the City: Finding The Last Black Man in San Francisco" featurette and will be available for the suggested retail price of $24.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Official 'The Last Black Man in San Francisco' Trailer

'American Gods - Season 2' [3-Disc Blu-ray]
(Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover, Bruce Langley, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray + Digital / NR / 2019 / Starz - LGF)

Overview: We were forged in God’s image, but the Gods are also made in ours — and in Season Two, the battle moves inexorably towards crisis point as the destinies of gods and men collide.

While Mr. World plots revenge for the attack against him in Season One, Shadow throws in his lot with Wednesday’s attempt to convince the Old Gods of the urgency for full-out war, with Laura and Mad Sweeney in tow.

A council at the House on the Rock explodes into chaos, sending deities both Old and New on quests across America that will converge in Cairo, Illinois.

Shadow is forced to carve out a place as a believer in this strange new world of living gods — a dark world where change demands commitment, and faith requires terrible sacrifice.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth I really enjoyed the first season of the show as it mostly followed the excellent narrative and themes of the Neil Gaiman novel.

However, this second season obviously was left with a lot of story to fill for time's sake, so the plot is interrupted with a lot of political propaganda that does nothing to forward the narrative, characters or interest, in truth.

While the novel explored a variety of themes) the heavy-handedness used in the last few episodes of this second season two not only clash jarringly with where the story started, to my mind it drowned the themes the novel was written on.

Thus, and for all those of you not in the behind-the-scenes know, 'American Gods - Season 2' is a great example of how if the ENTIRE creative team from Season 1 departs that you should just end the show right there and then!

But of course today - with the endless hunger for content - that could never happen. But let's face it, we all know that Season 1 was sensational.

The digital effects were off the charts excellent, the roles were perfectly cast and the characters uniquely written, but most of all there was a dark, witchy energy seldom seen on television: the Gods were intimidating.

Oh, not to mention aloof, cold, imperious, dangerous, seductive, scary, and sexy!

All of that is gone in 'Season 2,' replaced by a show that seems to aspire to the chirpy patter of 'The Magicians' and shows the Gods with far too many smiles, laughs, and soap opera-worthy facial expressions!

This new effort by the team and the actors to humanize the Gods admittedly works intermittently, but not overall, sadly. Put it this way, the "secret sauce" found within the first season has been heavily diluted and spread too thin here in the second season.

Meanwhile the writers seem to know of the problems, but readily dust over them hoping that the on-screen antics move fast enough that whatever you were thinking about has quickly gone.

Such as in the third episode of this second season when Media reappears, rechristened as New Media, after Tech got wind of her new incarnation, and he asks: "How is that an upgrade?"

This is a clear reference to the fact that Kahyun Kim - and really through no fault of her own, and enduring a tired harajuku girl costume - doesn't hold a candle to the first season's BRILLIANT, departed Gillian Anderson (and lest we forget Old God Easter, Kristin Chenoweth has departed too!).

But, as noted, 'American Gods' isn't all that bad. A true fight between the Old Gods and the New Gods, the series questions our believes and keeps us on the edge of our seats with its breathtaking visuals and cinematography.

The scene with Laura Moon laying on the field of flowers was just beautiful, it has to be said. And there are many scenes that will keep you guessing as to what's coming which is always a burst of giddy pleasure when it comes to shows like these.

Another way to look at this series is that it exposes myths and superstitions that have been embroidered in American culture and which melt here in the most imaginative and surrealist of manners.

Ergo, and for that alone, the show is visually astonishing. The storyline vague at times, sure. The characters shallow, especially here in the second season, sure.

But then I'm guessing that that is precisely how it is supposed to be for its structure borrows from the Greek and other mythologies (think, for instance of the Mabinogion) where Gods, heroes and simple mortals get entangled in plots that, unbound to any notion of logic or realism, may well appear childish absurd to a modern day audience.

In closing, 'American Gods - Season 2' is bizarre, strange, weird, lopsided, weakly scripted, explosively colorful, and yet at all times extremely well crafted with a premise, that we give power to that in which we believe, setting the roadmap for our own journeys through life. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Gods - Season 2' [3-Disc Blu-ray and 3-Disc DVD] will include "The House on the Rock: Setting the Stage" featurette, "The Second Coming: Neil Gaiman on Season Two" featurette, and a "Gods and Ends: Musings from the Cast" featurette, and will be available for the suggested retail price of $34.97 and $34.98, respectively.

Official 'American Gods - Season 2' Trailer

'Poms' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital]
(Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, Celia Weston, Phyllis Somerville, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / PG-13 / 2019 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: From the studio that brought you 'Bad Moms' and the producer of 'Book Club' comes an uplifting comedy about a woman who starts a cheerleading squad at a retirement community.

Starring Academy Award winner Diane Keaton, Academy Award nominee Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, Celia Weston, and Rhea Perlman, 'Poms' is a "heartfelt and hilarious" (Hollywood News Source) story that proves it's never too late to follow your dreams.

Blu-ray Verdict: Diane Keaton is always fantastic in any project she's involved in. Even in this stage in her career. I liked 'Book Club' from last year and felt like 'Poms' was in the same category.

A film about older woman being funny and bonding with one another over an activity. Its a new genre of film, really. I wanted to see 'Poms' because it looked like a simple fun way to kill time, even here in the house.

It still managed to exceed my expectations which means that this is a fun 90 minutes to be had that will ensure your living room gets filled with laughs and all around sweetness.

The film is about a woman with cancer, who moves into a retirement community. In the beginning she is closed off and not excited but they she begins to pursue a passion of her past: cheerleading.

She recruits 7 other elderly friends and soon they go from doing cheerleading for fun, to entering professional competitions. The woman begins to understand and revel in the bond she has with these women while also learning the importance of living your life now.

Diane Keaton and especially Jackie Weaver are fabulous in this film. The women are generally all lovable and have quirks to them that make them funny.

Admittedly, the script is simple and often unremarkable but the characters excel in bringing the film to life. Side note, Alisha Boe is very attractive and a joy to behold on the screen, but I felt like she was pretty bad in this film. (It doesn't require a lot and is just a minor point).

The film isn't really about the cheerleading competition. Its not a film about the activity like 'Bring It On'. This is more so a backdrop for the development of the womanhood and the bond between the characters.

The film is sweet and cute and funny for a good amount of time. Its basically nice harmless fun, which is necessary especially in an action packed month full of home video blockbusters. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of Subtitles in English SDH and Latin Spanish.

Official 'Poms' Trailer

'The Vanishing Shadow' [Blu-ray 2K Remaster]
(Onslow Stevens, Ada Ince, Walter Miller, James Durkin, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / NR / (1934) 2019 / VCI Entertainment - MVD Visual)

Overview: VCI Entertainment is pleased to present this classic cliffhanger from Universal Pictures, which has never had an official video release on any format, now available for the first time on Blu-ray and produced from the original studio film elements!

'The Vanishing Shadow' is a 12-episode Universal serial in which a son avenges the death of his father at the hands of corrupt politicians.

He develops a wide variety of complex devices in his crusade - ray guns, robots and even a 'vanishing belt' - and the serial also features what is believed to be the first appearance of a hand-held ray gun in film!

Blu-ray Verdict: It has been a journey of over 40 years, but fans of the classic theatrical serial genre are being rewarded for the long, long wait.

Back in the 1970s, VCI Entertainment acquired the “non-theatrical” distribution rights to 48 serials from Universal Pictures through a third party.

After an arduous struggle with “chain-of-title” documentation, Universal Pictures has finally turned over the original film elements to 38 of those serials and is currently working on tracking down the materials for the remaining ten.

VCI Entertainment will be bringing the entire collection to market as either 2K or 4K scans from either the original negatives or remaining fine grain elements (35mm black and white positive elements) during the coming months.

First up is 'The Vanishing Shadow' [Blu-ray 2K Remaster] from 1934 where an electrical engineer, Stanley Stanfield (Onslow Stevens), brings his newest invention to the famous electrical wizard, Carl Van Dorn (James Durkins) - a vest-like apparatus that enables the wearer to vanish, leaving only a shadow.

Of course, Van Dorn is vastly impressed and with the aid of the machine, the pair set out to bring about the downfall of power-crazed Wade Barnett (Walter Miller) and his crony Dorgan (Dick Cramer); whose political-group activities, through a vicious smear campaign, had hounded Stanfield's father to death.

Stanfield's efforts are complicated by the fact that his girlfriend, known to him as Gloria Grant (Ada Ince), is really Barnett's daughter, who has rejected her father and goes by an alias.

Wizard Van Dorn also stays busy inventing new gadgets to fight the gang with but, someway or another, he or Stanfield or Gloria always end up as the victim rather then Barnett, Dorgan or their hench men!

Going back to the drawing board in chapter 10 (The Iron Death), Van Dorn comes up with a short-wave radio controlled robot and, in chapter 11 (The Juggernaut), he remotes it into a room to kill Barnett; but by mistake, the robot attacks Stanfield, who is tied helpless in a chair. Barnett was long gone.

In my opinion, they would have been better served by spending all their time and energy in trying to get rid of the shadow caused by the invisibility vest.

Toss in Ada Ince in the highest-budgeted "film" she ever made, and Edmund Cobb as a derby-hat wearing hench man (looking a lot like "Doiby" Dickles, the Green Lantern's cab-driving pal), and add Kenneth Strickfaden's art-deco lab and amazing electrical gadgets and this little-seen gen is a real Keeper, my friends! This is a brand new 2K Remaster from the Original 35mm Fine Grain enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Original Theatrical Trailer
Liner Notes by Ralph Tribbey
Poster and Photo Gallery
Classic Cartoon & Newsreels

'Ladyworld' [DVD]
(Maya Hawke, Ariela Barer, Ryan Simpkins, Odessa Adlon, Annalise Basso, et al / DVD / NR / 2019 / Cleopatra Entertainment - MVD Visual)

Overview: Eight teenage girls become trapped in an endless birthday party after a massive (imaginary?) earthquake.

The girls' sanity and psyches dissolve as they run out of food and water. Eventually, they regress to their baser instincts, exploiting each other's fears and insecurities.

This critically acclaimed thriller features a great cast that includes Maya Hawke (Stranger Things), Ariela Barer (Runaways), Annalise Basso (Ouija: Origin of Evil), Ryan Simpkins (A Single Man) and Odessa Aldon (Nashville).

DVD Verdict: My goodness! This low-budget, single-setting feature debut of theatre veteran Amanda Kramer (which has already been quoted in the same reminisces of an all-female 'Lord of the Flies') plays out in a rather disturbing way; so much so two of those watching it in my front room got up and left halfway through (the tension got to them both!).

Brought forth as the aftermath of a natural disaster coupled with an overflow of young girl adolescence as the tension on screen builds, the need for answers build, the dense, dank isolation grows (all the windows are suddenly covered by dirt), 'Ladyworld' starts to exhibit and showcase a most surreal and savage emotive display from its characters.

I mean, let's not beat about the bush here for 'Ladyworld' is a very disturbing film that gets into the ugliness of humanity. When the lights go out and food runs short, our suppressed inner selves start to come out and with eight teenage girls all coupled together in an "unknown shelter", well, it's only a matter of time before hot and sweaty teen angst rises to the top.

Opening with a black screen and the sounds of crashing and crumbling, the scene is set, even if we cannot physically see it that for ourselves. But, as we soon discover, Eden’s (Atheena Frizzell) party has been interrupted by shaking walls and falling chandeliers.

After finding the doors and windows blocked, the friends somewhat reluctantly elect a leader to oversee their time in limbo. The calculating Piper (Annalise Basso) wants the job, but the more pragmatic Olivia (Ariela Brady) narrowly emerges victorious, although loner Romy (Maya Hawke, 'Stranger Things 3') proposes that the whole notion is unnecessary ("Nobody needs to be in charge if everyone has a knife.")

Trying to act "normal" they spend time rather harmoniously eating birthday cake for breakfast and singing songs, but with no wi-fi or cell tower connections, all that is short-lived once a "figure" is spotted inside the house with them!

Or was it? As all sense of certainty dissipates, the now overly-make-up'd, lipstick-smeared girls swiftly splinter into factions and their already fragile mindsets begin to shatter. Their setting becomes a battleground and soon all hell has broken loose between them.

With an eerie score (that's admittedly a wee bit too loud at times), there are definitely a few mysteries to keep you wondering about various things here, and with a cast of characters who are unlikable in their own precious way, 'Ladyworld' will make you uncomfortable through to the very end! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Image Slideshow
Theatrical Trailer

'In The Aftermath: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Tony Markes, Rainbow Dolan, Kenneth McCabe, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1988) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Following in the footsteps of Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich, Roger Corman protégé Carl Colpaert (The Crew) made his directorial debut by combining repurposed excerpts from a foreign film in this case, Mamoru Oshii's (Ghost In The Shell) spellbinding 1985 anime Angel's Egg with new live-action footage shot in America.

The result is 'In The Aftermath', a haunting post-apocalyptic vision like no other.

In a radiation-soaked wasteland, two surviving soldiers, Frank and Goose, search for essential supplies amid the rubble. After a violent confrontation, Frank is haunted by visions of an angelic young girl holding a giant egg, herself a refugee from another world altogether.

Could the egg be the key to saving both their worlds?

Blu-ray Verdict: Most who are interested in this film have come this way due to curiosity due to it containing images from Oshii's surreal masterpiece 'Tenshi no Tamago.'

Which is just fine for whatever explored avenue brings you to this gem take it and don't look back!

In truth, and not knowing much about this film before it arrived here for review, the anime sections actually caught me off guard as I had gone to get a coffee and sandwich and thought the film had ended … and was surprised to find it hadn't!

The music also caught my attention a lot of the times, especially one beautiful, poignant classical piece played on the piano by one of the main characters (which I have since discovered was not written for the movie as I had first thought).

And ok, yes, it's low budget and creaky, but even so 'In The Aftermath' is still one of the most effective films I have ever had the pleasure of watching.

The whole premise of the story by Carl Colpaert being wrapped around 'Angel's Egg' works tremendously (now that I've since done my homework and have revisited the Blu-ray for a second, much closer viewing).

For me, at it's core it is a story about the hope and redemption of the human race, that a benevolent race of alien beings (my opinion of the story there) who have placed themselves as saviors of doomed races, takes pity on us after seeing the love that we humans give one another.

Beautiful, effective and severely underrated I would highly recommend you purchase this brand new Blu-ray from Arrow Films (UK) / MVD Visual (USA) and bring some friends round for an evening's viewing that will fast become water cooler chat tomorrow! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
High Definition Blu-rayTM (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed stereo PCM audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
The Path To Aftermath, a newly filmed interview with producer Tom Dugan
Apocalypse Then, a newly filmed interview with star Tony Markes
Before The Aftermath: The Influence of Angel's Egg, a new appreciation of Mamoru Oshii's original film by anime expert Andrew Osmond (author of Arrow Books Ghost In The Shell)
Still and Poster Gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Corey Brickley
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: booklet featuring essay on the film by Jon Towlson

Official Blu-ray Release Movie Trailer

'The Hustle' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital]
(Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Dean Norris, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / PG-13 / 2019 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: Josephine Chesterfield (Anne Hathaway) is a glamorous, seductive Brit who defrauds gullible wealthy men. Penny (Rebel Wilson) amasses wads of cash by ripping off her marks in neighborhood bars.

Despite their different methods, both are masters of the art of the fleece so they con the men that have wronged women.

Wilson's talent for physicality and Hathaway's withering wit are a combustible combination as the pair of scammers pull out all the stops to swindle a naïve tech billionaire (Alex Sharp) in this hilarious comedy.

Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the know, the con artist comedy 'The Hustle' is a remake of the brilliant 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' with Michael Caine and Steve Martin; which was itself a remake of 'Bedtime Story' with Marlon Brando and David Niven!

The lack of advertisement for this didn't leave me with high hopes. However, the movie was better than expected. Still, it was also a pale imitation of DRS.

The movie's biggest issue is that the plot from it's predecessor is basically replicated point-by-point. Everything is too expected. The reason DRS became more entrenched in public memory than Bedtime Story was because it was willing to take the story on a different trajectory.

I mean the general idea of two con artists competing over a mark is a general idea that could've been reinvented in multiple ways. They could have at least changed geographic locations. If you haven't seen DRS, you'll probably get a lot more entertainment value out of this.

Rebel Wilson plays the Steve Martin/uncouth, small-time con artist role. The problem is that the film relies too much on her. It's clear, that a good portion of filming involved director Chris Addison just having Wilson ad-lib.

When Wilson is funny, she is very funny. She can have such a delightfully sharp tongue. But she produces a lot of groaners, too. In fairness to Wilson, it was up to the director and editor to which material showed up on film.

Doesn't help that the actress' character and a lot of her material feels recycled from previous films. They try to make her character sympathetic in the end, but the character is so acidic the audience's empathy isn't earned.

Anne Hathaway fairs a lot better as the Michael Caine/classy and haughty con artist. Her posh British accent is clearly fake, but she's so committed to the role that I couldn't help enjoying it. (The same can't be said for another accent she uses later on though!)

She also has a great control of non-verbal mannerisms. The best difference between this and DRS is that unlike with Michael Caine's total straight man 'The Hustle' isn't afraid to knock Hathaway's haughty character down a peg and make her the butt of the joke at times.

It's fun to see the character's rare moments where she loses her temper and drops all sense of control and class.

Alex Sharp plays the mark, and I'm afraid the character isn't very interesting or really leaves much of an impression.

I know I have a lot of complaints about this film, but the reason I didn't give this a complete raspberry of a review is because when it was all said and done I didn't have a that bad of a time!

I mean, when it's funny, the movie is very funny. Oh, and it also doesn't hurt that since this is set in the French Riviera, the whole thing looks nice too!

This is by no means a great movie, but I didn't finish the film feeling cheated either. Thing is that I can see some people really liking or disliking this. I say take a chance and you might just surprise yourself!

In some of the additional Special Features, we get a quite brilliantly revealing one in Hitting the Mark where the production team show the plans behind the film: from Anne Hathaway’s initial discussions with Jac Schaeffer and Rebel Wilson about updating the story for a modern era to Chris Addison’s collaboration with the cast to craft the comedy on set.

Another great one is the Comedy Class featurette which showcases every actor in the film bringing a very different comedic style to their roles. This comic clash also helps sell the conflict between Josephine, Penny, and the other characters in the film, of course. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Includes Blu-ray, DVD and a digital copy of 'The Hustle'
Hitting the Mark Featurette
Comedy Class Featurette
Con Artists Featurette
Feature Commentary with Director Chris Addison

Official 'The Hustle' Website

Official 'The Hustle' @ Facebook

Official 'The Hustle' Trailer

'The Sun Is Also A Star'
(Yara Shahidi, Charles Melton, John Leguizamo, Camrus Johnson, Gbenga Akinnagbe, et al / DVD / PG-13 / 2019 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: “What if I told you I could get you to fall in love with me…?” College-bound romantic Daniel Bae (Melton) and Jamaica-born pragmatist Natasha Kingsley (Shahidi) meet—and fall for each other—over one magical day amidst the fervor and flurry of New York City.

DVD Verdict: Based on the book by New York Times bestselling author Nicola Yoon, this fate-filled, star-crossed romantic drama features two good-looking people who fall in love against all odds.

So unique, right? If you enjoyed her story and movie 'Everything, Everything', you'll enjoy this too. If you thought that movie was silly nonsense, you'll feel the same about 'The Sun Is Also A Star.'

Directed by Ry Russo-Young, it feels very much like her other movies 'Before I Fall' and 'You Won't Miss Me,' but it does have its very own discerning features too.

Their story holds some unique flavor to it compare to others by offering a twist in the form of a very set timeline along with an ending that offers a refreshing take on these types of films.

My favorite part would be more so the background details that somehow tell another part of the story, hidden nods for details that will later be revealed in the ending.

Yet, the film does not quite deliver in the usual pizazz that these movies hold, getting too caught up in the one-day time limit to deliver on the quality cries and emotions these films like to use.

Still it does not escape the predictable and cliché story telling that fans love, but rather than true love and a believable romance we instead get a very cheesy tale that offers little sustenance.

The film feels more like two friends starting out on a friendship, that rapidly changes as each hour passes.

In addition, many of the tales have blunt finishes, with the secondary characters adding little to the movie overall, which was a shame given all the personal problems the leading characters had with their family's style of raising them.

Overall, the movie is not bad and is a very nice attempt at changing the formula that has been a staple in the genre. Sadly, the movie feels a little rushed, leaving much of the meat of the book remaining in the pages instead of onscreen.

In closing, this adventure is not quite the epic love story that so many fall in love with, but at the same time it at least brings some emotional moments and a relationship that has believable components to it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

Love Is a Universe Featurette

'The Sun Is Also A Star' EST contains the following special feature:
• “The Chemistry of Casting” featurette
• “Love is a Universe” featurette
• Alternate Scene – “Five Years Later”
• Deleted Scene – “Korean Restaurant”

On August 6th, 2019, 'The Sun Is Also A Star' will be available to own in high definition and standard definition from select digital retailers including Amazon, FandangoNow, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, Xbox and others.

On August 20th, 2019, 'The Sun Is Also A Star' will be made available digitally on Video On Demand services from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles.

Official 'The Sun Is Also A Star' Trailer

'The Major And The Minor: Special Edition'
(Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Rita Johnson, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1942) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Legendary actress and dancer Ginger Rogers (Monkey Business) stars as Susan Applegate, a struggling young woman who pretends to be an 11-year old girl in order to buy a half-price train ticket.

Fleeing the conductors, she hides in the compartment of Major Philip Kirby (Ray Milland, The Big Clock, The Pyjama Girl Case).

The Major believes Susan is a child and takes her under his wing, but when they arrive at the military academy where Kirby teaches, his fiancée (Rita Johnson) grows suspicious of Susan's ruse.

Blu-ray Verdict: Billy Wilder began his career in Hollywood as a screenwriter. However, dissatisfied with how directors were treating his screenplays, he yearned to have greater creative control over his films.

Though he had co-directed a single film in the past, the ultra-obscure French drama 'Mauvaise graine (1934),' it wasn't until 1942 that he was given a genuine opportunity to display his directorial talent, and a penchant for audacious comedy.

On the surface, 'The Major and the Minor (1942)' might easily be mistaken for a silly, fluffy screwball comedy - and it works quite effectively when viewed as such - but closer inspection reveals an abundance of mature, and even slightly scandalous themes coming into play.

Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland co-star in Wilder's improbable but highly entertaining satire of inherent human sexuality, loaded with unsubtle innuendo ("Why don't you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?") and difficult romantic situations.

It must have taken a bold director, indeed, to present a grown man falling in love with (what he believes to be) a twelve-year-old girl; a contentious subject even today.

Ginger Rogers plays Susan Applegate, a proud and independent woman living in the city. Wilder doesn't shy away from revealing the darker, even somewhat predatory, sexual nature of most men, and the camera shows countless male heads turning towards Susan as she passes through a hotel lobby, each pair of eyes eagerly passing over her attractive body.

When a married scalp-massage client (Robert Benchley) mistakes their appointment for something more than a massage {the early stages of Wilder's preoccupation with marital infidelity}, Susan decides to return to her quaint, uncorrupted hometown, only to find that she lacks the money for an adult train ticket.

In a burst of genius, she decides, in order to claim a half-fare ticket, to masquerade as a twelve-year-old, her appearance drastically altered by styling her hair into pigtails, wearing children's clothing and carrying a balloon.

That any intelligent human being would actually be fooled by such a scheme is highly debatable, but if the viewer learns to suspend ample disbelief, then many laughs are due to follow.

Ray Milland plays Major Philip Kirby, a handsome and respectable military man, who meets Susan {now using the childish moniker "Su-Su"} on the train, and takes to her almost immediately.

After intense flooding brings their train to a halt, Kirby agrees to bring Susan back to his residence at a boy's military school, where she is immediately the sensation of the college.

As a young girl, Susan's experiences with male sexual desire change little: the hordes of gawking and opportunistic men give rise to equally-rapacious hordes of gawking and opportunistic boys, and even Major Kirby himself, to his horror, finds himself becoming attracted to Su-Su; as her "mature charm" begins to exhibit itself.

In a particular sequence, one that the censors no doubt would have watched warily, Kirby attempts to explain to Susan the "birds and the bees," likening her female attraction to a light bulb surrounded by moths, and, one eye clamped firmly shut, suddenly declares her to be a "knock-out!"

Ergo, and in closing, Billy Wilder's first feature film is audacious, well-written, brilliantly-acted, and, most importantly of all, very funny - and it deserves to be seen alongside the director's other various classics. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements
Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
Half Fare Please!, a newly filmed video appreciation by film critic Neil Sinyard
Archival interview with Ray Milland
Rare hour-long radio adaptation from 1943 starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland
Image Gallery
Original Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet with essay by Ronald Bergan

'The Major And The Minor' Original Movie Trailer

'The Hills Have Eyes, Part II: Special Edition'
(Robert Houston, David Nichols, Penny Johnson Jerald, Michael Berryman, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2007) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: The hills are once again alive with the sound of screaming in Wes Craven's hugely entertaining follow-up to his own groundbreaking 1977 'The Hills Have Eyes'.

A motocross team on their way to trial a new super-fuel head out across the desert lead by Rachel, who, unbeknownst to the rest of the group, is a survivor of the cannibal clan which menaced the Carter family several years before.

Opting to take an ill-advised shortcut across the desert, the busload of youngsters drive straight into the path of the remnants of Rachel's demented cannibal kin - the menacing Pluto, and a hulking, blood-hungry brute by the name of The Reaper.

Blu-ray Verdict: Trying to get over his fear of the desert, Bobby, (Robert Houston) agrees to go on a dirt-bike expedition with friends Roy, (Kevin Spirtas) Cass, (Tamara Stafford) Harry, (Peter Frechette) Rachel, (Janus Blythe) Hulk, (John Laughlin) Foster, (Willard E. Pugh) Jane, (Colleen Riley) and Sue, (Penny Johnson) and get lost on a side road.

Searching an abandoned house, Pluto, (Michael Berryman) and Reaper, (John Bloom) attacks them and begins systematically killing them one by one. Gathering every ounce of strength they have as a group, they fight back against the murderous pair.

As one of the most maligned films in the genre, this wasn't expected to be all that good. Made by Wes Craven immediately prior to his smash-hit 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', 'The Hills Have Eyes, Part II' diverges from the grim tone of its predecessor in favor of fun action-horror thrills and spills replete with mutants, motorbikes, and - oh yes - dog flashbacks!

The fact that its mostly just a carbon copy of the first isn't really that damaging, as it allows for a constant stream of action scenes throughout the film.

The dirt-bike and ensuing foot chase through the mountains through various caverns is a wonderful action sequence. The large amount of suspense played out in the cavern sequence in the end was a great highlight, as the novel idea of having the main character in that sequence being blind was able to make some new ideas out of a clichéd experience.

It's quite nice to see something that had been taken through all of the possible explorations, but then to add a great new gimmick that actually adds some suspense to the proceedings.

In fact, it's quite nerve-wracking to see them wander through the situations unaware of what's out there and there's no way for it to change.

The fact that it changes styles over the first one and becomes more of a stalk-and-slash film is a nice change of pace and adds a little more to the film.

Now playing Devil's Advocate here, even though it wasn't all that bad, there's still a couple things wrong. The plot is a virtual retread of the first one, and the situation to get them involved with the group is a step-by-step repeat of before too!

Ergo, it really doesn't try anything new here and instead goes mainly for new traps and more characters. The fact that it's so maligned is based mostly around that and it's cheese factor, which doesn't bode too well for most movies.

Indeed, this one tries to rise against it with a couple of great moments, but the fact that it's so cheesy and clichéd is the major source of complaint. That said, and as I hope you can tell, I didn't have too many problems with this one overall.

In closing, 'Part II' is far better than it's reputation will give it, but don't compare it to the original and it might be interesting. Take it on it's own merits and you might find yourself enjoying it a lot more than you would. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:

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 The Hysteria Continues
Blood, Sand, and Fire: The Making of The Hills Have Eyes Part II - brand new making-of documentary featuring interviews with actor Michael Berryman, actress Janus Blythe, production designer Dominick Bruno, composer Harry Manfredini and unit production manager/first assistant director John Callas
Stills Gallery
Original Theatrical Trailer
6 Postcards
Reversible Fold-Out Poster
Limited Edition 40-page booklet featuring new writing on the film by Amanda Reyes and an archival set visit from Fangoria
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper

'The Hills Have Eyes, Part II' Original Movie Trailer