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Ghost Canyon

'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children'
(Eva Green, Rupert Everett, Samuel L. Jackson, Asa Butterfield, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD / PG-13 / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Blu-ray Overview: When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

Blu-ray Verdict: After his grandfather's death, teenager Jacob (Asa Butterfield) decides to embark on a journey towards a Welsh island about which his grandfather used to tell him weird stories that he claimed to be actually true about his life. When Jacob gets there he is ready to accept that those were only fairy tales, yet when he discovers Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children he discovers he might just have found a world where he belongs and much, much more.

Bruno Delbonnel as DP, Jane Goldman as screenwriter, Eva Green as leading lady, Samuel Jackson as the villain and Tim Burton as director are all elements that combined to this quirky and fascinating premise, indicate towards something to be excited about. Unfortunately, this picture does not deliver the adventure we might have imagined, yet by all means it manages to carry you to a colorful, wacky world that I might actually want to revisit sometime.

If there is something you know you will get when watching a Tim Burton film that is impeccable production design and art direction, this one is no exception and quite the contrary it might just be his best looking film and I don't mean that lightly. The frame ratio is unusual and immediately helps in giving the movie this retro tone that really fits it. Moreover, the material is just perfect for interesting visual flare and the whole film making team rises to the occasion.

This film is simply beautiful to look at and in a way that really absorbs the viewer into the world. There isn't any flashy imagery or CGI extravaganzas thrown at the screen for the sake of it, it is brilliantly shot by Delbonnel who makes the most out of the magnificent design put together by the art team. The two just complement each other in what is a picture that oozes with stunning visuals that don't have the need to call attention to themselves and support the story in its every beat.

All of the beautiful imagery described above surrounds a world that is lively and believable, filled with great, unique characters that are easily distinguishable both because of their peculiarities, but even better because of their personalities. Jane Goldman is a fantastic screenwriter, especially in this kind of genre and once again she gives proof of being able to write instantly recognizable and vivid characters. The cast fills her pages perfectly and overall establishes great chemistry between each other and a dynamic that is jumpy and funny without ever losing a touch of emotion.

Eva Green is a great actress and when put in this kinds of roles she always shines distinctively. You feel for all of these people and really like being in their company in their quirky and adorable house. Furthermore, there is a really touching relationship established from the get go between Jacob and his grandfather played beautifully by the great Terence Stamp. It gives the film a deeply emotional value from the get go and never looses it going on.

Where the movie, really unfortunately, loses itself is in the forwarding of plot and story. It is just too bloody convoluted for its own good. The mythology established is way, way too complicated and just unnecessarily so. It starts delving into time traveling in a way that isn't clear in the least and then it adds another subplot for Jackson's villain that is even more convoluted. Halfway through I was already getting lost in the logistics of it all and started not even caring about the consequences of the events anymore. Fortunately it is a film that lends itself very much with the audience just rolling with it, but still there was no way to make heads or tails of so much that was going on.

And the worst part is that it was so frustrating, because the rest of the elements are just so good you would like to get lost in these characters, but you just can't and it is very unfortunate, this was a film that deserved slightly better than it got and it is sad to see it fall short of the amazing content it managed to grace the audience with. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

The Peculiar Story – Join author Ransom Riggs and the cast & crew as they discuss how this best-selling series was brought to life
The Peculiars – Meet the cast in this behind-the-scenes piece, including 15 character pods
Hollows And Ex-Hollows – Explore the role of the Hollows, led by Barron (Samuel L. Jackson,) and the process of creating these ferocious creatures
Map Of Days – Miss Peregrine’s Home & Blackpool Tower
“Wish That You Were Here” – Florence + The Machine Music Video
Gallery – Never-Before-Seen Sketches by Tim Burton and Photographs

The Official Tim Burton Facebook Page

'Coney Island: Cinema Archives'
(Betty Grable, George Montgomery, Cesar Romero, Charles Winninger, Phil Silvers, et al / DVD / NR / (1943) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: Set at the turn of the century, smooth talking con man Eddie Johnson weasels his way into a job at friend and rival Joe Rocco's Coney Island night spot. Eddie meets the club's star attraction (and Joe's love interest), Kate Farley, a brash singer with a penchant for flashy clothes. Eddie and Kate argue as he tries to soften her image. Eventually, Kate becomes the toast of Coney Island and the two fall in love. Joe then tries to sabotage their marriage plans.

DVD Verdict: Despite a slow start and trifling plot, "Coney Island" turns out to be One of Betty Grable's most sheerly exuberant musicals and another shimmering, glossily produced, exquisitely Technicolored Fox tuner set in the Gay 90s, directed with chic elegance by Walter Lang.

Betty is wonderful all the way and gave what she had as Kate Farley, the stage show entertainer/singer who is transformed by George Montgomery into a classy Broadway star with musical and vocal talents, despite the protests from Kate's manager, played by Cesar Romero. Charles Winninger, Phil Silvers and Hurst are the capably eccentric supporting players.

Brooklyn had two landmarks of note that the world knew about. One was Ebbets Field where the Dodgers played and the other was that entertainment mecca, Coney Island. The Dodgers are gone and Coney Island looks a bit frayed around the edges, but you can still see some traces of the glamor of the period that Betty and the cast are portraying. At least Nathan's Hotdogs is still operating though they wouldn't come into being until long after the era that this film is set in was over.

As expected, then and now, the songs and numbers are joyously, spectacularly staged, including the unforgettable "Cuddle Up a Little Closer", "Pretty Baby", "There's Danger in a Dance", "Beautiful Coney Island", "Put Your Arms Around Me", and "Lulu from Louisville." This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Sitting Pretty: Cinema Archives'
(Robert Young, Maureen O'Hara, Clifton Webb, et al / DVD / NR / (1948) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: Tacey and Harry King are a suburban couple with three sons and a serious need of a babysitter. Tacey puts an ad in the paper for a live-in babysitter, and the ad is answered by Lynn Belvedere. But when she arrives, she turns out to be a man. And not just any man, but a most eccentric, outrageously forthright genius with seemingly a million careers and experiences behind him.

DVD Verdict: Clifton Webb became a major star for a while on account of this film, in which he plays an eccentric genius who comes to live in the house of a young couple as a kind of general purpose servant-maid-tutor-savant-philosopher-critic. There was no end, it seems, to what Mr. Belvedere could do, and do extremely well. Walter Lang directs this pleasant picture with much skill, if not inspiration, and as Webb's employers, Robert Young and Maureen O'Hara make an attractive couple.

Webb was a strange case. A huge star on the stage, his film career lasted less than twenty years. He was well into middle age when he started making movies, and at first he tended to play snobs and supercilious characters in general, starting with Laura, in 1944. Till 'Sitting Pretty' came along he had appeared only in dramatic films, usually as a villain.

Overnight, it seems, he was transformed, from upper class bad guy to loveable eccentric, and for a number of years he became a quite popular and unlikely star of often nostalgic films. Along with Charles Coburn, he was one of the last true Victorians of the movies, and as such a reminder of a more formal but also more individualistic time during in the postwar years.

For some reason Maureen O'Hara gave this film a fast mention in her recent memoirs and didn't discuss it at all. I'm not sure why, she certainly did well enough in it. Richard Haydn is also not commented on too much, mainly because he was playing a very typical Richard Haydn part. Regardless, there are so many witty one-liners, and amusing touches in comparison to many modern films on the same themes of babysitting and American suburbia. This is one of the most enjoyable films of its era, of that you can be rest assured.

Indeed, 'Sitting Pretty' is an excellent showcase for Mr. Webb's unique brand of humor, as he managed to be superior and priggish but never mean-spirited. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Woman's World: Cinema Archives'
(Clifton Webb, June Allyson, Van Heflin, Lauren Bacall, Fred MacMurrary, et al / DVD / NR / (1954) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: The chairman of a large automobile maker is left to find a new second in command. Believing that an executive's wife is crucial to her husband's success he examines each of the men's spouses to learn about the candidates through their relationships. Clifton Webb, June Allyson, Van Heflin, and Lauren Bacall star in this 1954 classic.

DVD Verdict: Watching how the actors are strategically placed on screen while performing their chores in 'Woman's World' made me recall how seldom close-ups were used when CinemaScope was new. Instead, medium shots are used almost extensively so that the screen is filled by someone standing far left and the other far right. Occasionally the camera does move in a little closer for an over the shoulder shot, but it's obvious that CinemaScope was new and lensing a film in Wide Screen was not an easy matter.

The performances are all interesting, with Lauren Bacall and Arlene Dahl coming off best, while June Allyson is forced to play a klutzy housewife with too many slip-ups to be tolerable. Clifton Webb is the auto executive who wants to examine the wives of men he's considering for a top job at his auto plant. The men are well played by Van Heflin, Cornel Wilde and Fred MacMurray.

If you liked films like 'Executive Suite', all about climbing the corporate ladder, you'll enjoy this one. Oh, and furthermore it has sumptuous settings enhanced by color photography. Women will enjoy all the costumes and men will stay tuned to see which man Webb chooses for his open executive job.

Witty dialogue helps with Lauren Bacall handling her lines with the kind of skill she always brought to these kind of roles. Arlene Dahl shows a little more skill than usual as an actress with a strong confrontational scene with Webb. This is yet another Cinema Archives film that is well worth your time. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Zane Grey's Western Union: Cinema Archives'
(Robert Young, Randolph Scott, Dean Jagger, et al / DVD / NR / (1941) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: When Edward Creighton leads the construction of the Western Union to unite East with West, he hires a Western reformed outlaw and a tenderfoot Eastern surveyor.

DVD Verdict: I doubt if the real story of the development of Western Union would ever have gained a real audience. Instead of talking about the building of the telegraph system out west, it was the story of board rooms, dominated by one of the most interesting (and disliked) of the great "Robber Barons": Jay Gould. Gould picked up the struggling company and turned it into a communication giant - and part of his attempt at a national railway system to rival Vanderbilt's.

But this, while interesting, is not as exciting as the story of the laying of the telegraph lines themselves. At least, that is how audiences would see it. Jay Gould died in 1892. Had he lived into the modern era, and invested in Hollywood, he probably would have agreed to that assessment too.

The film deals with how the laying of the telegraph system is endangered by Indians, spurred on by one Jack Slade (Barton MacLane). Slade, a desperado, is not happy with the development of a communication system that will certainly put a crimp in his abilities to evade the police in the territories.

He is confronted by the man in charge of the laying of the telegraph wires, Edward Creighton (Dean Jagger), Creighton's associate Richard Blake (Robert Young), and a quasi-lawman Vance Shaw (Randolph Scott), who is Slade's brother. Blake, an Easterner with little understanding of the West, is romancing Creighton's sister Sue (Virginia Gilmore), but finds it hard to get used to his new surroundings. But he does become a close friend of Shaw, especially in trying to confront Slade.

Slade was a real Western criminal, by the way, and the subject of a section of Mark Twain's ROUGHING IT. He was hanged in the 1870s. But he did not have any involvement in stirring up Indians against railroads or telegraph companies. However, MacLane makes him a memorably evil, and totally vicious type. His killing of one of the major characters is done suddenly and from behind - and he views the corpse as though he has just got rid of an annoyance.

But Lang is responsible for that, as well as other touches. Look at the sequence with Chill Wills, where he is on a telegraph pole repairing it. He spits tobacco juice several times while talking to Young, who gets a little splattered. Then there is an Indian attack which we watch from the ground level. At the conclusion, Young suddenly gets splattered again, but it's not brown but red that covers him. He looks up at the pole's top, and there is Wills with an Indian arrow through him. Compelling, from start to finish. That's all you really need to know about this film. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Sentimental Journey: Cinema Archives'
(John Payne, Maureen, O'Hara, William Bendix, Cedric Hardwicke, et al / DVD / NR / (1946) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: A doomed actress adopts a troubled young orphan girl so that her husband will not be alone after she dies.

DVD Verdict: In truth, I LOVE this movie. I saw it first during the '60s when I was a child and I always remembered the little girls name - which was very strange more then anything else. Then I saw it later on and it was heartbreaking. I always cringed when I saw the way Bill treated Hittie after his wife died. She tried her best but he always seemed to blame her for the wife death.

William Bendix is very engaging as the friend/uncle who sees that Hittie needs some fun her life and tries his best to help her. He even gets a book about the psychology of children. He has a very funny scene with the maid about him looking in all the pet stores for a unicorn to no avail. So he gets the book so he can find out how to tell Hittie he can't find one. A very nice sweet scene. The maid is also very helpful.

John Payne who plays the father is very good, but I wanted to tell him to snap out of it! Yes he was in mourning, but he acted ridiculous treating his little girl like that and everyone else. If any character was in need of medication or therapy in a movie his character is it. But this movie was made in the '40s long before any thought of treatment for depression was used. Only when he thinks something bad happened to the little girl does he snap out of it. A very simplistic but sweet ending.

This movie has all the potential to be wonderful, but it walks a fine line that easily takes into kitsch. Sometimes, it is emotional and sweet, but the occasional lapse into over-sentimentality makes it a less than perfect film. Each actor tries hard though, which makes the characters interesting and enjoyable to watch.

Maureen O'Hara, one of my favorite actors, is also very good. But mostly she plays a ghost. I hope that doesn't give too much away for this is yet another wonderful movie that I am so glad is now here on remastered DVD via Cinema Archives and 20th Century Fox. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Duck Dynasty - Season 10'
(The Robertsons / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / Lionsgate)

Overview: The wildly unpredictable and entertaining Robertson family quacks on with a host of fun-filled family antics in Season 10.

DVD Verdict: Did you know that the Robertsons started out by producing a series of hunting videos. They then got their own series on the Outdoor Channel called, "Benelli Presents Duck Commander." They made a highlight reel and sent it to other networks. A&E was interested and ordered two episodes. They liked what they saw and continued to order more.

And then came, of course ... 'Duck Dynasty'! As they say on the show, authenticity is as rare as duck's teeth, and worth its weight in gold! This is by far the most underrated show on Television - STILL! It's got a simple and fresh plot based around on a nook in America that most people mislabel. For all you "Yayhoos" (city folk) here's your inside look to the lives of "Rednecks."

Phil Robertson is STILL the greatest character on reality TV. You won't hear quotes anywhere like the rare ones you hear from him. The antagonism between the brothers, Jase and his younger sibling and boss, Willie, is like watching two thickly bearded 9 year old's fight over guns, trucks, and control of the Nintendo joystick. You can tell they've been going at it over the years.

You'd think after 9 seasons they would run out of material, but this was full of a lot of fresh material. The fun of having a long-running series is that you can about predict how some of the actors/characters are going to act or react, which makes it all the more fun, especially since these are real people acting out their lives on screen!

When you add the outlandish philosophies of Uncle Si and contribute the genuine nature of the rest of the gang, you've got yourself one heck of a TV show. In truth, and having collected and watched all the seasons, and watching the show almost from the start, I was concerned that the best was behind us. But the Robertson's and company come roaring back here in season 10. It's possibly the second or third funniest and best season out of all of them, of that you have my word. It hardly gets better than this, folks. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs that contains all 14 episodes from Season 10, and comes with Special Features never seen on TV!

'NATURE: The Story Of Cats'
(DVD / G / 2016 / PBS)

Overview: Cats are among the most feared and revered creatures on the planet. Their power, strength, and enigmatic nature have fascinated us for centuries. They are one of the most studied mammals in the world yet only now is their real identity being understood. Take an in-depth look at what makes the family of felines unique and the evolutionary tricks and adaptions that truly make a cat, a cat.

DVD Verdict: The domestic cat (Latin: Felis catus) is a small, typically furry, carnivorous mammal. They are often called house cats when kept as indoor pets or simply cats when there is no need to distinguish them from other felids and felines.

Indeed, cats are often valued by humans for companionship and for their ability to hunt vermin. There are more than 70 cat breeds; different associations proclaim different numbers according to their standards.

With nearly 40 different species, thriving in almost any environment, the cat is one of the most successful predators since the dinosaurs. Using the latest camera technology and working with leading scientists, we are able to tell the story like never before. Join NATURE in this epic two-part event as we journey across the globe tracking down the origins of these diverse creatures

'NATURE: The Story Of Cats' takes an in-depth look at what makes the family of felines unique and the evolutionary tricks and adaptions that truly make a cat, a cat:

EPISODE 1: ASIA TO AFRICA - Discover how the first cats arose in the forests of Asia, how they spread across the continent and later came to conquer Africa. We reveal how cats evolved with an in-depth look at lions, servals, caracals, cheetahs, tigers, fishing and sand cats.

EPISODE 2: INTO THE AMERICAS - Track the story of cats into the Americas, from battles with their age-old rivals, the dog family, to the rise of domestic cats. Meet the mighty jaguar, the urban mountain lion, the curious ocelot, the Canada lynx, the nimble margay, the Siamese cat and the Sphynx.

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

'NATURE: Giraffes Africa's Gentle Giants'
(DVD / G / 2016 / PBS)

Overview: Dr. Julian Fennessy has spent the last 20 years studying giraffes finding that they are disappearing. Fennessy is rounding up some of the world's rarest giraffe to get them to safety, which means a special voyage across the mighty Nile River. The stakes are high in this daring mission against poachers, but if successful, the reward will be a brighter future for an animal we have overlooked.

DVD Verdict: The giraffe (Giraffa) is a genus of African even-toed ungulate mammals, the tallest living terrestrial animals and the largest ruminants. The genus consists of eleven species including Giraffa camelopardalis, the type species. Seven of these species are extinct, prehistoric species known from fossils, while four are still extant.

Whereas Giraffa once was thought to contain a single extant species with numerous subspecies, research into the mitochondrial and nuclear DNA of Giraffa has revealed four to six distinct extant species. The four-species taxonomic classification has the genus Giraffa composed of the species Giraffa giraffa (southern giraffe), Giraffa tippelskirchi (Masai giraffe), Giraffa reticulata (reticulated giraffe) and Giraffa camelopardalis (northern giraffe).

Putting it all into layman's terms, everyone loves giraffes, but what do we really know about them? Dr. Julian Fennessy has spent the last 20 years of his life studying giraffes. Now he's starting to reveal their secrets- the most important being that they are disappearing. The giraffe population in Africa is down by 40 percent in just two decades.

In collaboration with a determined Ugandan Wildlife Authority team, Fennessy wants to round up 20 of the world's rarest giraffes to get them to safety through the wild heart of Uganda, which means embarking on a special voyage across the mighty Nile River.

The stakes are high in this urgent and daring mission against poachers affiliated with organized crime, but if successful, the reward will be a brighter future for an animal we have somehow overlooked. Indeed, it is might thanks to Dr. Fennessy and the UWA for their remarkable work toward saving the species. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NOVA: Great Human Odyssey'
(DVD / G / 2016 / PBS)

Overview: Numbering no more than a few thousand, tiny groups of intrepid humans began to move out of Africa eventually dominating the planet. How did these early humans acquire the skills, technology, and talent to thrive in every environment on earth? Takes a global journey through the past, following our ancestors footsteps out of Africa along a trail of scientific clues to help unravel the mystery of how we got where we are.

DVD Verdict: Watching 'NOVA: Great Human Odyssey' you embark on an incredible journey around the world and back in time with anthropologist Dr. Niobe Thompson, and discover the miracle of our species.

This three-part documentary series and interactive web documentary 'Great Human Odyssey' explores the unlikely survival and the miraculous emergence of Homo sapiens as the world’s only global species. Ancient climate research has revealed that we evolved during the most volatile era since the extinction of the dinosaurs. Just like the many other kinds of human who once shared our world, we should have died away. Instead, our species survived to populate every corner of the planet, against all the odds.

Over 18 months of filming, Niobe followed in the footsteps of our ancestors across locations on five continents, working with 22 Canadian, American and South African cinematographers, including aerials, underwater, and ultra-slow motion specialists.

Equipped with the next generation of ultraHD 4K cameras, film crews worked in some of the most hostile environments on Earth, including Arctic Siberia, remote South Pacific islands, tropical rainforests and African deserts. You also travel back in time to the origins of our species, 4m years ago, and see how our planet’s shorelines, deserts and glaciers changed at key points in evolutionary history. Working with Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Sciences Lab, this animated visual representation of climate change is a first-ever. Watch this today. Learn from it today. Don't make the mistakes of yesterday again. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Secrets of the Dead: After Stonehenge'
(DVD / G / 2016 / PBS)

Overview: Archaeologists have long believed that while the Egyptians were building pyramids 3,000 years ago, nothing was happening in Western Europe but a new discovery shows something far different. Five years ago, the remains of an incredible, ancient site began to emerge from a quarry in eastern England. Due to its delicate nature, experts have largely been working in secret until now.

DVD Verdict: Taking it from the top, Stonehenge (one of the most famous landmarks in the UK) is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 miles (3 km) west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. Stonehenge's ring of standing stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC, although they may have been at the site as early as 3000 BC.

And so, and as aforementioned, just some five years ago, the remains of an incredible, ancient site began to emerge from a quarry in eastern England. Due to its delicate nature, experts have largely been working in secret until now.

What they've found is simply unheard of: a 3000-year-old settlement that would have risen above the marshy fens, made up of well-built houses on stilts. A thriving economic hub the size of a modern country town surrounded this settlement - complete with busy harbors and rivers packed with metalwork traders, selling their goods across Europe.

Shockingly, evidence suggests the town may have been attacked and set afire before being abandoned. The ancient artifacts - unprecedented in number and quality - are telling a dramatically new story about Bronze Age life in Britain. 'Secrets of the Dead: After Stonehenge' brings to light a possible new heritage of being from the UK, and ones that, perhaps, just maybe, the English were never fully aware of in the beginning. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Wild Kratts: A Creature Christmas'
(Martin Kratt, Chris Kratt / DVD / NR / 2015 / PBS Kids!)

Overview: It's Christmas time and the Wild Kratts are taking a break to celebrate. They are beginning to open their presents when the Wild Kratts alarm sounds. Just what is happening? Who knows, but you can bet it's gonna turn into a right royal Kratt fight for animal justice, that's for sure!

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 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. 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: A Creature Christmas', and just as those Wild Kratts alarm bells sound, it seems some villains - Zach Varmitech, Gaston Gourmand, and Donita Donata - are kidnapping all the baby animals to turn them into Christmas ornaments!! I kid you not! So, as always, the animals come first for the Kratts and so Christmas will have to wait as the Wild Kratts spring into action to save their friends and get them home for Christmas!

In short, 'Wild Kratts' is a great cartoon adventure show for kids 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: How much does a newborn polar bear weigh? [SPOILER ALERT! - The answer is a cute and cuddly 1 to 1.5 pounds]. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the four (4) Wild Adventures of: Octopus Wildkratticus, Tortuga Tune Up, and the bonus episodes, Speaking Dolpinese and Stuck on Sharks.

'The Man Who Skied Down Everest: Restored Classic'
(Yûichirô Miura, Douglas Rain / Blu-ray / NR / (1975) 2016 / The Film Detective)

Overview: Winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1975, this stirring chronicle tells the tale of Japanese alpinist Yûichirô Miura and his attempt to ski down Mt. Everest in 1970.

Blu-ray Verdict: Before I start let's clear one thing up - this quite stunning "film" is actually a documentary. It was filmed 30 years ago when things in the Everest region were quite a bit different than they are today. I have had this film for some time on VHS, and now that it is restored and on both DVD and Blu-ray, I have to say I am the happiest camper around right now!

'The Man Who Skied Down Everest' is an exceptionally well done work of cinematic art, but you have to be someone who can appreciate it. Its perspective is that of a Japanese skier and thus the film represents that culture and the Japanese outlook. It shows its age more than a bit, and Miura and company hike from Katmandu to Everest Basecamp, which is seldom done anymore. But that is a good point, as it has some beautiful shots of the walk in to Everest, and relationships with the people that inhabit the areas. Nowadays, people more often fly into an airstrip that is a few hours walk to Namche Bazzar, which is the last real town of any size before you reach Everest Basecamp.

The actual skiing incident, or should I say "accident," that gives the picture its title is not nearly as important, or as impressive, as the rest of the film. They could have almost talked about it rather than show it. The beauty of the film is in its cinematography and its Oriental viewpoint. There is some death in the film as there is a major accident in the Kumbu Icefall that takes the life of several Sherpas, sure, but the film isn't really about any of that.

The film is different from any other climbing film I have, and I have a great many; and I take it out and watch it at least once a year. It presents you a picture of a time and place that is long past. As for this record he set back then, it was later broken (of course). Indeed, Miura had two heart surgeries for cardiac arrhythmia in 2006 and 2007 and yet on May 26th, 2008, he once again successfully reached the summit of Mt. Everest at the age of 75!

He summitted with two other Japanese and eight Sherpas, but that's not the end of this INCREDIBLE man and his abilities, for on On May 23rd, 2013 Miura once again became the oldest person to climb to the summit of Mount Everest at the age of 80. This achievement is listed in the Guinness Book of Records, and rightly so. But, unlike all his other attempts, he was unable to make the descent after reaching the top, and was airlifted from Advanced Base Camp at 6500 meters in elevation to Base Camp.

If you enjoy the Japanese culture, you should enjoy the film. For me the film was never dull, except for the aforementioned ski accident. I love the mountains and wilderness. Perhaps my love for wild places gives me too much of a fondness for a film like this, but as you can guess, I can only say that 'The Man Who Skied Down Everest' is one of my favorite "films" of all time. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and has a running time of 85 Minutes.

'The Grinder: The Complete First Season'
(Rob Lowe, Fred Savage, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Hanna Hayes, Connor Kalopsis, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: Starring Emmy nominees Rob Lowe (The West Wing, Parks and Recreation) and Fred Savage (The Wonder Years), The Grinder is a comedy about two brothers: Dean (Lowe) is a spotlight grabbing actor who plays TV’s most popular lawyer, and Stewart (Savage) is a real-life, small-town attorney who has yet to find his spotlight.

DVD Verdict: The premise of 'The Grinder' is the courtroom comedy-drama equivalent of "Galaxy Quest". In "Galaxy Quest", a group of actors playing in a Star Trek-like show are solicited for aid by real aliens to help in a galactic cause because the aliens don't understand that the television show is entertainment and the actors are not real space heroes.

In a similar vein, Rob Lowe plays Dean Sanderson, an actor who has played a lawyer in a courtroom drama for 8 seasons in a show called, you guessed it, 'The Grinder'. The pilot episode begins with Sanderson watching the final episode of his show on cable television with his brother Stewart Sanderson (Fred Savage) and his family.

Dean's character is simply called "Grinder" I guess because he "grinds" his way through tough cases. At the close of the episode and the show's run, Dean is now uncertain what he wants to do next. Part of the premise is a "show within a show" as we see scenes from the television series. Strangely I found some of the scenes of the "fictional show" more interesting than the "real life" scenes.

His brother Stewart is in fact a real plaintiff lawyer who represents clients in small cases. However, unlike the charismatic television star Dean, Stewart is a stutterer when it comes to presenting cases in courtrooms. He acts like a deer caught in the headlights when he's making his statements to the court, and he relies on note-cards to aid him in remembering not only his arguments but what the case is all about. As the events play out we learn, poor Stewart is not just lousy at making his courtroom presentations, he gives his clients terrible advice often failing to support their side.

Television star and brother Dean then asks Stewart if he can accompany him to court since his television show having ended he has nothing better to do. While in the hallway, Dean overhears his brother giving mediocre legal advice to one of his clients who are in small claims court fighting with their landlord. The clients, a wrongfully evicted couple, want to keep their apartment, but Stewart wants them to settle with a lousy offering from the defense which would still entail them having to move out from their home.

Dean, sitting on a bench, then asks if he might intervene, and Stewart says it would be inappropriate. However, Dean having confidence in spades while his brother wasn't dealt a good charismatic hand, interrupts his brother and explains they should fight for the rights. The clients recognize Dean as the star of the hit television show and title character of the Grinder and immediately are star-struck and want him to present their case in court. Of course, Stewart is flabbergasted because his brother isn't a real lawyer and has never passed the bar exam. He's only played a lawyer on a scripted television show for 8 seasons.

When Dean appears as the attorney representing the plaintiffs, the courtroom becomes kangaroo. The defense objects because Dean does not have a law license not having gone to law school. However the judge is also enthralled recognizing "the Grinder" so she wants to play along. The courtroom scene of the pilot episode was just too unbelievable. The judge and audience are star-struck and the whole affair becomes a giant entertainment for all involved except for the defense. And you can probably guess the outcome.

While the premise of 'The Grinder' is an interesting one, actor-playing-a-lawyer becomes a real one, I don't know if the show's writing is strong enough to meet the demands of audience believability. I could almost imagine the writers first were contemplating a courtroom drama show starring Rob Lowe, which since Law and Order, Boston Legal, and LA Law have become a dime a dozen these days. Then they thought what if the main counsel was in fact an actor who plays a lawyer who decides to become a real lawyer.

The weakest link is Dean's brother Stewart who is portrayed as such an inept and goofy lawyer I never bought he was good enough to attract clients. I understand the idea is the real-life lawyer brother needs the help of his charismatic brother-turned-television-star to help him out, but he's almost too mediocre for his own good.

Lowe's acting also comes off just a bit too idealized. No, he doesn't really know anything about the law but having played a character he knows much more having been in a virtual law school on television. Overall not bad but it doesn't quite take itself seriously enough and therefore it comes off as closer to farce. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'New Girl - The Complete Fifth Season'
(Zoey Deschanel, Max Greenfield, Jake Johnson, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: The laughs continue as one of television’s wittiest comedies returns for a hilarious fifth season – and its landmark 100th episode. Although Jess (Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) remain broken up, Schmidt and Cece (Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone) are headed down the aisle. Disaster arrives when the loft becomes an Airbnb, Schmidt’s bachelor party hits the road, and Cece’s judgmental mom shows up.

DVD Verdict: From the very first episode of season one, I found 'New Girl' to be my favorite new series. The premise of the show, a girl living with three guys and hilarity ensues, is not the most original, nor the most realistic. But I find the characters to be intriguing, so that I keep wanting to return to see what happens next.

After a few episodes, the characters become more relative to my own life than in the pilot. Evolution of scripts once given the full episode green light, one imagines. Jess is totally awkward, and it seems half the time her head is in the clouds, and half the time she's the most down to earth character. Her extroverted nature becomes more manageable as the series develops, so don't let it put you off initially.

Nick is a 30-something drop out that still lives with a student mindset. He comes up with some creative ways to not spend money. He's portrayed as not living up to his potential, yet his manner draws you in, kind of like a helpless puppy that you find adorable and pitiful at the same time.

As for Schmidt, yes, initially, he reeks of douche bag. But he's an ex-fat-kid that now overcompensates for his lack of self esteem with douchey mannerisms. Given that, he's a fairly realistic character with a well developed history. His arrogance is always portrayed in a humorous way, and has become my favorite part of the show.

Winston had his 15 minutes of fame and now is dealing with just being a nobody in a big city again. Fair enough, token black guy. There is a lot of awkward humor in this show - the kind of moments that make you cringe, yet you can't look away, and feel guilty about wanting to laugh. But every episode does make me laugh out loud. There's a touch of light drama, for those that just want a lighthearted show that won't make you think too much.

And here in this fifth season, it starts off with Schmidt and Cici planning their wedding. Jessica's role as the central character on the series has long since vanished and she's become more of a background character. Personally I think that's a good thing because her character's ultra quirkiness was starting to get overplayed.

Indeed, she's only in half of this season though because Zooey Deschanel was pregnant during filming and left for a while. So there is a lot of hiding her belly, keeping her sitting down (she breaks her legs in the first episode!), to hide her belly. I've always enjoyed watching TV shows creatively hide the pregnancy of an actress who's playing a non pregnant character.

Schmidt and Cici have a more prominent role than in the past. And that's a good thing for the show as their relationship is funny and well done. Both characters transitions from complete side characters in the aforementioned season one to main plot drivers today. Sadly, and yes, this is only MHO, but I don't think Megan Fox brought much to the show - and I didn't really like the character of Reagan; but it was definitely a creative way for the writers to give the fans a full season. Anyway, I'm already looking forward to the new sixth season - as I hope y'all are too. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'I Am Rebel: National Geographic'
(Jonathan Cantor, Heidi K. Eklund, Shirley Huang, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: Rebels, radicals, mavericks, and change makers. 'I Am Rebel' is a documentary series about unfamiliar yet game-changing characters who prove that beneficial change can happen when you break the rules.

DVD Verdict: A backyard chemist invents the world’s most infamous club drug. A crime scene photographer changes the way police fight crimes. A civil rights activist hijacks a plane, causing sweeping airport security reforms. The first dark-side hacker revolutionizes computer security.

These seemingly disparate stories share a common thread: outsiders finding their voices by rebelling against the status quo. Originally airing Sunday, June 5th @ 9/8c on the National Geographic Channel, this incredible, indepth, and masterful show (now out here on DVD) takes viewers inside these relatively obscure stories with 'I Am Rebel'.

Each episode of 'I Am Rebel' centers on one individual and their unlikely impact on modern history, as told by their closest friends, confidants and often the people themselves. Perhaps my own favorite spotlight shone on Weegee, New York’s first crime scene photographer, whose work shined a light on organized crime at the height of the Prohibition-era gang wars in New York and changed police tactics in the fight against those crimes.

'I Am Rebel' is produced by Hypnotic and National Geographic Studios for National Geographic Channel. Doug Liman, Matt Wolf, Gene Klein, and David Bartis executive produce for Hypnotic. Jeff Hasler and Bengt Anderson executive produced for National Geographic Studios. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Rebel Pope: National Geographic'
(DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: Before the fame, Pope Francis was a boy from Buenos Aires, living in poverty and political unrest. After years of studying science and medicine, in 1956, he has a sudden epiphany that his place is in the church. After 12 years of studying, Jorge is now a priest and climbing the ranks. The rest, as they say, is now history.

DVD Verdict: 'Rebel Pope' is an incredible story that explores the forces of Argentina’s military junta and the dramatic choices that confronted and ultimately transformed a conservative young man of humble origins into arguably one of the most relevant and controversial Popes in history.

Produced by Fox Telecolombia, part of Fox International Channels, this hour-long special tracks the life of Jorge Mario Bergoglio – otherwise known as Pope Francis – from childhood to his rise through the church’s hierarchy. The docu-drama interweaves scripted accounts of his pre-Vatican life with exclusive interviews with those closest to him during this time.

Directed by Patrick Reams, filming on the biopic took place in Argentina and Colombia and the scenery that fits perfectly behind the "actors" is as cinematically beautiful as anything I've seen for a long, long time. But then again, we are talking about the National Geographic, after all. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'When Sharks Attack Season 3: National Geographic'
(DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: From America’s coastline to exotic beaches around the world, the number of reported shark attacks has increased in the last half century. Many of the attacks are popping up in new and surprising locations. 'When Sharks Attack' investigates these terror-filled events, with underwater photography, compelling news archives, and gripping testimony exploring recent attacks to see what is affecting some of nature’s most feared fish.

DVD Verdict: Here in 'When Sharks Attack - Season 3' we quickly learn through the three episodes shown that The Gulf of Mexico is home to over 49 species of sharks, and it’s not uncommon for locals and tourists to spot one swimming along the coast. More often than not, these usually docile creatures stay away from humans.

But in 2005, shark attacks along the Gulf of Mexico exploded, five times more than the average. The cause is a mystery to locals and experts, and the answer could devastate thousands of miles of American coastline. With this unprecedented number of incidents people are left wondering what has caused more sharks to attack; has something changed in the once calm waters of the Gulf? And if so, what is it?

In the first episode, "Cape Jaws", we learn that with 600 sightings and four attacks, the peaceful tourist destination of Cape Cod suddenly becomes a hotspot for terrifying shark encounters!

In the second episode, "Nightmare Island", we learn that the Bahamas is a nation of 700 islands with some of the most biodiverse marine life in the world. Despite being home to 40 species of shark, attacks on humans are unusual…until 2002. What caused this increase that left 36 people maimed or dead?

In the final episode, "Carolina Chaos," well this is where National Geographic excels, for they inform us, and in part show us, that shark incidents are heavily dependent on weather and currents and are much more likely when the water temperature reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit and when strong currents flow north along the coast, bringing bait fish. This given year, those conditions appeared in April, and sharks soon followed, coming from Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. And thus we come full circle, so to speak. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Return From The Dead: National Geographic'
(DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: In this groundbreaking documentary, world-leading neuroscientist and Doctor Steven Laureys embarks on an extraordinary and unique investigation into death and the human brain. He wants to investigate the extraordinary, intense and often life-changing tales of those who’ve been to the brink of death and returned.

DVD Verdict: In this revelatory documentary, 'Return From The Dead: National Geographic', world-leading neurologist and doctor, Steven Laureys, conducts an immersive investigation into the phenomena of Return from the Dead, staging a ground-breaking experiment to show that a scientific explanation could replace a supernatural one.

For those not in the know, Steven Laureys (born 24th December 1968) is a Belgian neurologist. He is recognized worldwide as a leading clinician and researcher in the field of neurology of consciousness.

Prof. Laureys graduated as a Medical Doctor from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, in 1993. While specializing in neurology he entered a research career and obtained his M.Sc. in Pharmaceutical Medicine working on pain and stroke using in vivo microdialysis and diffusion MRI in the rat (1997).

Drawn by functional neuroimaging, he moved to the Cyclotron Research Center at the University of Liège, Belgium, where he obtained his Ph.D. studying residual brain function in the vegetative state in 2000. He is board-certified in neurology (1998) and in end-of-life and palliative medicine (2004).

He currently leads the Coma Science Group at the Cyclotron Research Centre of the University of Liège, Belgium. He is clinical professor of neurology, at the Liège University Hospital and Research Director at the National Fund for Scientific Research.

Basically put, here in 'Return From The Dead: National Geographic', Professor Steven Laureys uses virtual reality to try and induce an out of body experience. It is fascinating to watch him at work, to see where his mind is headed, so try and understand not only why he does what he does, but to what end purpose. Some say that studying brain activity is not studying consciousness itself, rather it is studying the result of consciousness - because studying requires consciousness. Watch this new DVD and YOU decide. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet 3: National Geographic'
(Dr. Oakley / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: Dr. Oakley is the only vet in her area of the Yukon. She treats domestic pets, endangered wildlife, farm animals--basically anything that walks on fours, crawls, flies. All of that- plus she's a wife and a mom of three girls.

DVD Verdict: Dr. Michelle Oakley is truly a Vet to look up to. She certainly has a varied practice, and she doesn't talk baby talk like another one of those female vets on a similar program, she calls them sweet names, sure, but she treats them all with great respect. Her medicine is up-to-date, very thorough, and she's a credit to her profession.

I should also mention that people watching already know all the goodness, the love, the warmth that comes from watching this show, but I can also add that she has a great husband too. She teaches her daughters the profession, so Sierra now helps her in the office and in the field. Of course, she treats all animals with great care, from birds, mammals, to rodents and reptiles, alike, with TLC galore - and a great spirit.

I love the beginning where it shows the Eagle she's releasing, her hair blows with the great bird's wind in taking off ruffles her hair. Indeedm her greatest pleasure - aside from her family - is to set one of her patients free! Dr. Oakley is the only vet in her area, which keeps her busy, and requires her to have more than one office. Her talents include not only veterinary meds, surgeries, and vaccinations, but accuracy with a blow pipe loaded with an anesthetic dart! In short, Dr. Oakley is a beautiful person, of that there is no doubt. Keep up the great work, Doc! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Mygrations - Season 1: National Geographic'
(Dan Baird, Reza Allah-Bakhshi, Robin Arzon / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: For the first time, a human herd of Americans joins the great wildebeest migration across the Serengeti. They must use their expert survival skills to navigate without a map or compass – carrying limited food rations – and survive in the face of the world’s deadliest predators as they cross two hundred miles of brutal terrain. Do they have what it takes to reach the Mara River?

DVD Verdict: 'Mygrations - Season 1: National Geographic' is an indepth, six episode first season that I honestly enjoyed the whole series of via a binge! The herd (people) stayed strong and faced many difficult challenges no matter what, which I would like to see more of in our own society re: our new President Elect!

Indeed, I mentally tried to put myself in the group as they made their journey following the wild animal heard. A very tough group of people from all walks of life. The tension was real, so were the dangers. However, the ending was a little weird for me. With five minutes left in reaching their final destination, the people were surrounded by zebra's, wildebeest. But, when they reached the river at the very end of the show, there was none at their site. How could they be seen, in a virtual sea of animals a few hundred yards from the river and not at the river shore?

These questions kinda-sorta get answered as we progress, for these people are not all survivalists, some have nothing to do with it. But they persevere through very real danger regardless and their individual outcomes are as brave, as challenging, as raw to themselves as it is to the herd overall. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'StarTalk - Season 1: National Geographic'
(Neil deGrasse Tyson / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: Join charismatic astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as he hosts entertaining and thought provoking interviews with some of the world’s most fascinating people.

DVD Verdict: Featuring guests that include former president Jimmy Carter, television producer Norman Lear, publisher Arianna Huffington, filmmaker Christopher Nolan, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and actor George Takei – and with subjects that range from modern love to the future of space travel– National Geographic’s 'StarTalk' is a late-night talk show like no other!

Tyson amiably hosts the festivities out of his perch as director of the Hayden Planetarium, promising a discussion “where science and pop culture collide.” Given the initial guest roster — “Star Trek’s” George Takei and director Christopher Nolan, fresh off the space-and-time-bending “Interstellar” — so far, so good.

Still, what emerges is a disjointed affair, one in which Tyson is joined in each episode by different co-hosts — one a comedian, the other a fellow scientist — a format that dices the central interview into snippets, then features extended interludes in which Tyson and his fellow studio mates expand upon and dissect the conversation.

Honestly, though, a free-wheeling chat with Takei (even conducted without frills on the couch in Tyson’s office) about a life through the filter of “Star Trek,” or with Nolan about the science undergirding his films, doesn’t require, or much benefit from, the postgame analysis. And when Tyson tells Nolan that “Interstellar” is “an orgy of relativity,” it would be more fun to hear them explore that further than talk for 60 seconds or so before retreating back to the planetarium.

Regardless, Tyson still seems like the right person to host this kind of show, but as a host he can get better, in MHO. He deserves the chance, if only because effective science communicators are rare, and Tyson has a good track record. He has certainly earned the stage of this modest basic-cable chat show. Now he needs to act like his guests have earned it too. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Animals Gone Wild - Season 3: National Geographic
(Josh Goodman / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: How outrageous can the animal kingdom get? Whether it’s out-of-bounds behavior or savage instincts run amok, when animals act out they’re a force to be reckoned with. From the mysterious depths of the deep blue sea to the jungle’s untamed edge, see just how rough, rowdy, and lawless Mother Nature’s most unruly creatures can be.

DVD Verdict: Pulling only the best clips from Nat Geo WILD's fast paced, energetic series, 'Animals Gone Wild - Season 3: National Geographic' have mined their incredible back stock of clips as they once again drill into the most gripping moments ever captured in the wild. From incredible predator attacks to skin-of-their-teeth escapes to wild encounters between humans and wildlife, here in this third season all best are still off!

Complete with eight episodes spread over two discs, 'Animals Gone Wild - Season 3: National Geographic' my personal favorites are "Party Crashers", where we see that from the ocean’s fiercest predators to Africa’s biggest beasts, these animals are not afraid to get up close and personal. Another is "Angry Giants", where from tiny heroes to giant marauders, nature’s wildest show that each triumph of survival is a treacherous one. Especially those that like to sit on the hood of your car!

Another is "Hard knocks", where we discover fearless survivors risking it all to untamable wild spirits fighting for freedom, it can be frightening fighting to survive in the wild, nonetheless. Also the brilliantly titled "Fast & Furious", where Mother Nature’s meanest creatures prove that you can’t always go it alone, and only the most daring will face Impossible Missions. Other episodes included are "Double Trouble", "Rockin' Renegades", Deadly Game" and "Born To Be Wild". This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Missing Dial: National Geographic'
(2-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: In 2014, Cody Roman Dial, son of legendary explorer Roman Dial, vanished while trying to complete a solo trek in the most dangerous jungle in Central America. The evidence quickly led his family to believe foul play was involved. Now Roman Dial is going on his highest-stakes expedition ever. With a team of former FBI agents, he’ll retrace the steps of his son to solve the mystery of what happened to him.

DVD Verdict: 'Missing Dial: National Geographic' is a real-time documentary investigating the unexplained disappearance of a young adventurer, Cody Dial, in Costa Rica. In truth, this National Geographic movie delivers some closure to a tragic mystery with an unsettling conclusion, particularly for those close to Cody.

That said, and I know I'm not the only one saying this, but I cannot understand why they produced such a damaging program about the Osa peninsula in Costa Rica in the first place. They leave out crucial details of the investigation in the film. This leaves the viewer scratching his/her head and tail chasing. Rather than giving up important information, they spend plenty of time wandering around in the jungle, driving on dirt roads, re-showing the same clips of Cody as a teen, and cornering people.

I wanted to watch this show, now here on DVD for review, because I know the area very well and have owned property not far from Puerto Jimenez. I hated the way they portrayed the locals and their way of life. I wish they had spent some time showing how lovely the people are, and how magnificent the area is.

Regardless, and of course my heart goes out to this family and everything their long search has entailed. Indeed, if anything, please pay attention should you be one of those adventurous hikers determined to hike Corcovado. While it is, I know for a fact, an amazing experience for hikers, the jungle is not the only thing a person needs to be cautious of when traveling in parts of Costa Rica alone. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Hellraiser: Scarlet Box Limited Edition Trilogy'
(Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence, Claire Higgins, Kenneth Cranham, Terry Farrell, et al / 4-Disc Blu ray / R / 2016 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: The first three entries in the Clive Barker-originated series are presented in Hellraiser: The Collector's Edition, a box set which includes Barker's 1986 original, and the first two sequels, Tony Randel's Hellbound and Anthony Hickox's Hell on Earth.

Blu-ray Verdict: Watching the films run together, especially now here in this incredible new box-set, you can see the process whereby a twisted original vision from a British writer-director gradually spawns into the franchise we know, and love today.

For horror fans everywhere the release of the original 'HELLRAISER' (1987) was an exciting event. We had seen Michael Myers terrorize suburbia, Freddy Krueger haunt the dreams of youth, and Jason Voorhees make summer camp a living hell over and over. It was time for something fresh, something new and daring. And in '87 that something came care of world renowned author/painter/director Clive Barker. If it wasn't for him we wouldn't have witnessed the truly bizarre and truly horrifying and, dare I say, strangely beautiful world of 'Hellraiser.'

The pros for the film are that provides an elegant and very haunting score. A very original concept. As for the film itself, there are en masse of solid performances from all involved. Some really impressive, and extremely gruesome effects. A lot of striking imagery, some of which will make your skin crawl. If gore is your thing, then you'll find plenty of that here. Writer/director Barker makes a great debut; the film looks good and he gets some awesome shots. The Cenobites are the most original and frightening monsters in a long time.

The cons are that there are also some very unconvincing corpse effects. One really annoying plot hole stands out also, but I won't go into that here, of course. Anyway, since the '80s was nearing it's end, so was a big movement in horror: the era of the slasher. Then this film came along and proved there's still some great and original ideas out there.

As for the gist of the story, well, Pinhead is a Cenobite which are say, creatures from Hell. These creatures are summoned through a device, the device being a small puzzle box. Solving this puzzle box will bring Pinhead and his cronies to you to give you the ultimate of pain and pleasure. One man does it, and cheats the system being brought back to life afterwards. Scares ensue!

The Cenobites are back to bring more hell on Earth! Yup, 'HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II' (1988) was released just one year later and Kirsty wakes in the psychiatric hospital, where she is questioned about the events leading up to the destruction of her home; which involved her stepmother, Julia, and a bloody mattress! Kirsty tells the police that her uncle, Frank, opened a puzzle box to an alternate dimension populated by monsters named Cenobites who torture human quarry for sadomasochistic purposes.

The story amazes the detectives, who are incredulous and take the bloody mattress as evidence. Kirsty is turned over to Dr. Channard and his assistant, Kyle, who instantly becomes smitten with Kirsty. That night, Kirsty befriends another patient, Tiffany, a semi-catatonic young girl with an incredible skill for solving puzzles.

Later, in her room, Kirsty finds a message written in blood stating "I AM IN HELL. HELP ME." Believing it was sent by her father, Kirsty tells her story to Kyle, who encourages her to tell Channard about the Cenobites. Now with Kyle and Tiffany's help, Kirsty wants to get her father back from the sadistic Cenobites and must confront them once again!

Pushed forward by a strong cast (featuring the wonderful Kenneth Cranham), the film is a creepy ghost-train ride which reveals more about the world of the Cenobites. Like the original film, 'Hellraiser II' is as much about human emotion as it is about shocks and scares. It is a worthy successor to a horror classic.

As you have all read, and most likely already knew by now anyway, in 1987, Clive Barker brought to the cinema screen a vision of horror and degradation that was tightly wound around a fascinating mythology of sadomasochistic demons from another world who questioned our own desire for the ultimate pleasure. Sadly, 'HELLRAISER: HELL ON EARTH' (1992) signaled the series' rapid decline in quality and imagination!

Ambitious young reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell) is searching for that one big story to help project her career forward. While she wraps up a dull story at a hospital, a man covered in blood with metal chains protruding from his body held up by an unseen entity is rushed in, and is brutally ripped apart just as he is placed on the operating table. Knowing this could be her big break, she tracks down the woman who fled the hospital, Terri (Paula Marshall), and discovers her at a club ran by a slime ball named J.P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt), who has recently purchased a stone pillar possessing the trapped soul of Cenobite Pinhead (Doug Bradley).

'Hellbound', for all its flaws, at least attempted to further establish the mythology, giving us glimpses of Pinhead before he opened the lament configuration. Although Pinhead appears in his human form, dressed in World War I attire, we learn little about his history, and combined with the horror icon's inexplicable new found love of quips and shouting, 'Hell on Earth' feels completely disconnected from the films that came before.

It's also cheap- looking, in particular a scene which sees Joey fleeing from Pinhead and his fresh-out-the-oven new Cenobite recruits is badly edited, consisting of feeble explosions while the unconvincing Farrell screams repeatedly. Surely an embarrassment for Barker, 'Hell on Earth' contorted the idea of a visionary into money-grubbing franchise.

To prove that fact, I give you the subsequent production line chapters in the 'Hellraiser" arsenal of straight-to-DVD titles: 'Hellraiser: Bloodline' (1996), 'Hellraiser: Inferno' (2000), 'Hellraiser: Hellseeker' (2002), 'Hellraiser: Deader' (2005), 'Hellraiser: Hellworld' (2005), 'Hellraiser: Revelations' (2011), and due out in 2017, would you believe 'Hellraiser: Judgment'!

In conclusion, 'Hellraiser' is a true horror masterpiece and shouldn't be overlooked at all. Sure each one thereafter lowered the bar, but if you love horror, well, and even with the lesser body counts not being to the height of a 'Friday the 13th' and such, you will LOVE the original - and with all these brand new special features now included, well, once you have immersed yourself, there may not be time to get out before it's hooked you into the labyrinth! This is a new High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new 2K restorations
Uncompressed PCM Stereo 2.0 & Lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound for Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 sound for Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Limited Edition packaging
Set of 5 exclusive art cards
Fold-out reversible poster

Brand new 2K restoration approved by director of photography Robin Vidgeon Audio commentary with Clive Barker
Audio commentary with Barker & actress Ashley Laurence
Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser brand new version of the documentary featuring interviews with key cast and crew members
Sean Chapman on Hellraiser
The Story of the Abandoned Coil Score
vintage featurette including interviews with cast and crew
Doug Bradley on Hellraiser
Original EPK featuring on-set interviews with cast and crew
Draft Screenplays [BD-ROM content]
Trailers and TV Spots
Image Gallery

Brand new 2K restoration approved by director of photography Robin Vidgeon
Audio Commentary with director Tony Randel and writer Peter Atkins
Audio Commentary with Randel, Atkins and actress Ashley Laurence
Leviathan: The Story of Hellbound: Hellraiser II brand new version of the definitive documentary, featuring interviews with key cast and crew members
Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellbound actor Sean Chapman talks about reprising the role of Frank Cotton in the first Hellraiser sequel
Surgeon Scene the home video world premiere of this legendary, never before-seen excised sequence from Hellbound
Lost in the Labyrinth vintage featurette including interviews with Barker, Randel, Keen, Atkins and others
Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellbound: Hellraiser II
On-set interview with Clive Barker
On-set interviews with cast and crew
Behind-the-Scenes Footage
Rare and unseen storyboards
Draft Screenplay [BD-ROM content]
Trailers and TV Spots
Image Gallery

Brand new 2K restoration of the Original Theatrical Version [93 mins]
Alternate Unrated Version [97 mins]
Brand new audio commentary with writer Peter Atkins
Audio commentary with director Anthony Hickox and Doug Bradley
Hell on Earth: The Story of Hellraiser III making-of documentary featuring interviews with Atkins, Keen and actor Ken Carpenter
Terri s Tales brand new interview with actress Paula Marshall
Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
Raising Hell on Earth archival interview with Hickox
On-set interviews with Barker and Bradley
Never-before-seen Hellraiser III SFX dailies
Theatrical Trailer
Image Gallery
Hellraiser III comic book adaptation [Disc gallery]

Clive Barker short films Salomé and The Forbidden
Books of Blood & Beyond: The Literary Works of Clive Barker horror author David Gatward provides a tour through Barker s written work, from the first Books of Blood to the recent The Scarlet Gospels
a brand new documentary looking at the evolution of the hit horror franchise and its enduring legacy
A Question of Faith short film

200-PAGE BOOK DAMNATION GAMES LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE - Exclusive 200-page hardback book with new writing on Hellraiser and the Barker universe from Barker archivists Phil and and Sarah Stokes

'50 Years With Peter Paul & Mary'
(Peter Paul & Mary / DVD / NR / (2014) 2016 / MVD Visual)

Overview: '50 Years with Peter, Paul, and Mary' examines the era of the group’s emergence in Greenwich Village through the Civil Rights and Anti-War years where their anthems contributed to America’s soundtrack of social and political change and into the 21st century where their legacy and music continues to inform, inspire and enrich successive generations.

DVD Verdict: Peter, Paul and Mary was an American folk group formed in New York City in 1961, during the American folk music revival phenomenon. The trio was composed of songwriter Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers. After the death of Travers in 2009, Yarrow and Stookey continued to perform as a duo under their individual names.

Presented here on this highly informative '50 Years With Peter Paul & Mary' DVD (originally broadcast on PBS) are memorable performances interwoven with voice-over insights provided by Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and the late Mary Travers. Culled from hundreds of hours of radio and television interviews in an 80 minute performance-based documentary, it celebrates the impact of this preeminent trio. One that inspired America through its music and its advocacies.

Produced and directed by Four-time Emmy Award winner Jim Brown, the documentary takes us back to the early black and white days of TV right from the off. Indeed, the story begins when manager Albert Grossman puts the three individuals together in 1964, but if you're looking for indepth history of exactly who Peter, Paul and Mary were; their own journey's to being who they were then, well, sorry, for there is no such history of the individuals themselves.

This is about the group, as a whole. Indeed, when sitting on a sofa, they are asked how long it had taken them to be commercially successful in folk music. "We rehearsed for seven months and then we started to perform. Three months later we released our first album and three months after that is a number one album and the bestselling album in America. It hadn't happened because of a lot of promotion, or because a lot of people had seen us, because they hadn't. It was what we call an Underground Phenomenon."

The archival footage that Brown gathered – from commercial TV shows, PBS’s “25th year reunion” and even heart-rendering video from the memorial service for Mart Travers, who died in 2009 is very satisfying though, if you are simply looking to peak into their world back then. While not all the performance clips are complete, there is enough to satisfy most general fans.

All the hits are here, of course - "Leaving On A Jet Plane", "Blowin' In The Wind", "Puff, the Magic Dragon", "Five Hundred Miles", "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime", and more - and for those looking for the complete Peter, Paul & Mary "group" flashback, well, the “fourth member” of the band was indeed guitarist Paul Prestopino, who is shown in nearly every clip, but neither identified or interviewed. That aside, this is a very heartwarming and fulfilling story on one of America's most beloved and adored folk bands. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'A Frozen Christmas'
(Kj Schrock, Evan Tramel, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / MVD Visual)

Overview: 'A Frozen Christmas' is the perfect way to get the family in the Holiday spirit with the most beloved animated Christmas characters, including Santa Claus, the Snowman, Elves, Santa's Reindeer, and more!

DVD Verdict: Sure, we've had en masse of these types of animated films, and sure we've had much better in that animated department, but there's something very alluring about 'A Frozen Christmas', out now via MVD Visual.

Starting off with some rather great, it has to be said, opening graphics, it's when the actual story line takes ahold that you question how long the movie's run time is. Chock full of capable and above decent animation, in general, 'A Frozen Christmas' offers many lessons about believing in Christmas and loving others therein. But quite why, when each story is brought forth, they didn't create the same level of animation as they did in the opening sequences is beyond me!

That said, and let's get this straight from the off, just in case you buy this DVD and think something is wrong with your DVD player, 'A Frozen Christmas' is a narrated story over animated still pictures. So, let's not go expecting that lovely, free flowing opening credit animation to still be so prevalent once the stories are brought forth.

Still, for the wee ones, 'A Frozen Christmas' is the perfect way to get the family in the Holiday spirit with the most beloved animated Christmas characters, including Santa Claus, the Snowman, Elves, Santa's Reindeer, and more! So come one, come all and gather around and listen as Santa and his young elf pals narrate time honored Christmas story classics such as, The Elves and the Shoemaker, Little Girls' Christmas, The Fir Tree, the Brave Tin Soldier and more! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Sad Vacation: The Last Days of Sid and Nancy'
(Sid Vicious, Nancy Spungen, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / MVD Visual)

Overview: 'Sad Vacation' is an up close and personal account of the tumultuous and stormy relationship between Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen and how it ended in Room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel.

DVD Verdict: John Beverly, born John Simon Ritchie, later named Sid Vicious (10 May 1957 – 2 February 1979), was an English musician, most famous as the bass guitarist of the influential punk rock band the Sex Pistols, and notorious for his arrest for the alleged murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.

In turn, Nancy Spungen (February 27, 1958 – October 12, 1978) was basically known as the American girlfriend Vicious and a figure of the 1970s punk rock scene. Indeed, Spungen's life and death have been the subject of controversy among music historians and fans of the Sex Pistols.

Directed by Danny Garcia (The Rise and Fall of The Clash, Looking for Johnny), 'Sad Vacation: The Last Days of Sid and Nancy' pulls no punches and reveals the facts through personal friends, insiders and witnesses. Sadly, what we get to understand from the off about Vicious is that he had charm, he was a charmer, he wasn't all that "bad" of a boy.

Including many interviews with musicians of the time such as Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls), Bob Gruen, Walter Lure (The Heatbreakers), Leee Black Childers, Howie Pyro (D Generation), Kenny Gordon (Pure Hell), Cynthia Ross (The B- Girls) and many more, this funny, witty man known as Sid Vicious is shown here, shall we say, "make up free" as a young lad, lost, finding a "family" within the Sex Pistols, and then becoming a statistic to the burgeoning drug scene of the time.

Throughout we're told that Nancy Spungen was nothing more than a groupie, a junkie, even sometimes part of Vicious' "backing band" when he did solo stuff, but sometimes we get to see more of who she really was. Yet another lost soul, on a downward spiral with Vicious and anyone they touched, the jury is still out on whether or not Vicious did actually stab and kill Spungen.

And if you're looking for a killer punchline to this story, well, how about someone within the business revealing that once Vicious had died, and been cremated, that his "friends" would all snort his ashes! Only one did, but wow - he actually DID snort Vicious' ashes! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes complete with a very nice Sid Vicious poster inside!

'A Man and His Guitar – Live From The Franklin'
(Travis Tritt / DVD / NR / 2016 / Post Oak Recordings)

Overview: Travis Tritt has just released this incredible special live 2-CD and DVD, entitled A Man and His Guitar – Live From The Franklin Theatre, ‪this past November 18th, 2016.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, James Travis Tritt is an American country music singer, songwriter, and actor. He signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1989, releasing seven studio albums and a greatest hits package for the label between then and 1999. In the 2000s, he released two albums on Columbia Records and one for the defunct Category 5 Records.

Indeed, seven of his albums (and yes, that is counting the Greatest Hits) are certified platinum or higher by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA); the highest-certified is 1991's It's All About to Change, which is certified triple-platinum.

Tritt has also charted more than 40 times on the Hot Country Songs charts, including five number ones — "Help Me Hold On," "Anymore," "Can I Trust You with My Heart," "Foolish Pride", and "Best of Intentions" — and 15 additional top ten singles.

The man who has received two Grammy Awards, both for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals: in 1992 for "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'," a duet with Marty Stuart, and again in 1998 for "Same Old Train", a collaboration with Stuart and nine other artists, and who has received four awards from the Country Music Association, and has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1992, may have always had his musical style defined by mainstream country and Southern rock influences, but wow, what a career - and what a man, in general (as anyone who's ever met him).

Having released The Calm After... (2013), here in 2016 we now get a really wonderful double act of music and visual Tritt entertainment (although sold separately) on A Man And His Guitar, Live From The Franklin Theatre. Sold as a 2-CD set or a lovely DVD, the new musical performance package showcases one of the worlds greatest country stars, alone, perched on a stool, solo with his guitar, and still at his best.

1. “It’s All About the Money” (Donny Kees, Jody Harris) 2. “Where Corn Don’t Grow” (Mark Alan Springer, Roger Murrah) 3. “The Pressure Is On” (Hank Williams, Jr.) 4. “I’m Gonna Be Somebody” (Jill Colucci, Stewart Harris) 5. “Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man” [with James Otto] (Kostas) 6. “Country Club” (Catesby Jones, Dennis Lord) 7. “Country Ain’t Country” (Carson Chamberlain, Casey Beatherd, Teresa Boaz) 8. “500 Miles Away From Home” (Bobby Bare, Charles Williams, Hedy West) 9. “Here’s A Quarter” (Travis Tritt) 10. “Best of Intentions” (Travis Tritt) 11. “Drift Off to Dream” (Travis Tritt, Stewart Harris) 12. “Help Me Hold On” (Travis Tritt, Pat Terry) 13. “Whiskey Ain’t Workin’” [with Marty Stuart] (Ronny Scaife, Marty Stuart) 14. “Pickin’ at It” [with Marty Stuart] (Travis Tritt) 15. The Story of Anymore 16. “Anymore” (Travis Tritt, Jill Colucci) 17. “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” (Darrell Scott) 18. “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” (Jerry Chestnut) 19. “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde” (Walt Aldridge, James LeBlanc)

"Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome, Travis Tritt" are the words that open the recording, and after a subtle, quietly acknowledged "Thank you" back from Tritt, he settles onto his stool and eases into "It's All About The Money", which he backs up with both "Where Corn Don't Grow" and "The Pressure Is On".

As the album title reveals, the shows was recorded at the Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tenn., during an unplugged solo concert for all his fans. A Man and His Guitar brings forth more hits and favorite album tracks, such as "I'm Gonna Be Somebody", "300 Miles away From Home", "Help Me Hold On", but (sadly) missing from the DVD, but included on the 2CD set are some brilliant covers: such as "I Walk The Line" and a stunning Waylon Tribute Medley.

Also including personal stories from Tritt about his life and influences, and what he has learned during his long and successful career in the country music world, we get to listen to Marty Stuart joining Tritt on the second CD. Joining him on such songs as “Pickin’ at It” as well as for “Whiskey Ain’t Workin’,” James Otto also helps out on “Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man.”

As I paid mention to in my 2CD review of this live show, this live performance is a nicely balanced release of 24 tracks together with Tritt's still remarkable voice sounding as great as ever, which means that A Man And His Guitar, Live At The Franklin Theatre is one of those visual experiences that quickly becomes addictive viewing. More than that, you'll beg for it to be on vinyl (let alone the 2CD set), for this album fully deserves to be an LP - just to hear it on a turntable, man, now that's what I want for Christmas!

Travis Tritt @ Twitter!

Travis Tritt @ Facebook!

'In A Valley of Violence' [Blu-ray+Digital HD]
(Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, James Ransone, Karen Gillan, John Travolta, et al / Blu-ray+Digital HD / R / 2016 / Universal)

Blu-ray Overview: A mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drag a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody crosshairs of revenge.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, 'In A Valley of Violence' is a pretty low key western starring Ethan Hawke (in yet another cowboy pose re: 'The Magnificent 7' remake) as an unlikely hero out to avenge the death of his beloved dog. This part of the plot sounds similar to John Wick but that's where the similarities end. Hawke is a drifter who ends up in a run down town controlled by the Marshall played by John Travolta.

He has an altercation with the marshals son who is the town bully and is advised to leave town. Even though he does so he is still attacked and left for dead by the Marshall's son and his cronies who kill his only friend and companion Abby the dog. And from there the story becomes one of revenge.

From the opening credits and the music score it becomes clear that the director (Ti West) is a fan of the old spaghetti westerns. The story is pretty basic although what separates this movie from the old spaghetti westerns is that the hero at first tries to avoid confrontations. He just wants to be left alone. Even when he is pursued by a young girl running a hotel in the town. He is in fact not a brave hero but a mass murdering army deserter who left his wife and daughter to enlist in the army and never went back.

The Marshall who is portrayed as the main villain also tries to prevent bloodshed till the very end and never actually kills anyone. Even the other villains in the movie are not typical gun wielding psychopaths and in fact most of the people shooting guns end up missing their targets most of the time. There is also some comedic dialogue between the characters as well as great scenes of the dog interacting with Hawke's character.

Overall this is a fun western movie that does not go for all out gunfights or bloodshed and yet there is still enough fighting in it so it does not get bogged down in dialogue. Ultimately the whole plot is basic and there is no real reason for what occurs other than the fact that someone was at a wrong place in the wrong time. A nice homage to the more dramatic westerns of the '60s and '70s. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Behind the Scenes of 'In A Valley of Violence'
Digital Copy of 'In A Valley of Violence'
Includes UltraViolet

The Official Trailer

'Come And Find Me' [Blu-ray+Digital HD]
(Aaron Paul, Annabelle Wallis, Garret Dillahunt, et al / Blu-ray+Digital HD / R / 2016 / LGF)

Blu-ray Overview: When his girlfriend goes missing, David must track down her whereabouts after he realizes she's not who she was pretending to be.

Blu-ray Verdict: What do you call Zach Whedon's little gem of a film? It's part romance, part mystery, and part thriller, and all good and intriguing. It's not a loud film, despite the action sequences; it has nuance, and lovely touches in the Aaron Paul (David) and Annabelle Wallis (Claire) relationship.

The film begins with a misdirection, actually a long-standing motif with David and Claire, which creates tension from the get-go and almost a quality of premonition for the rest of the film. I never watched Breaking Bad but was impressed by how good Aaron Paul's Everyman was, doggedly putting himself though Hell to find an answer when something happens to Claire.

I was equally impressed with how Whedon took David from a Naif out of his element to a little more savvy the deeper he dug, trying to find information along the way on his quasi-detective journey. Nice acting from everyone involved. Indeed, you will probably recognize a few actors you've seen before in film and television.

Definitely watchable, and most definitely a grower, 'Come And Fine Me' ultimately raises questions such as, "What causes a woman, without any problems or fights, to disappear without a single trace" and, of course, "How well do we really know the person we share a bed with every night?" Think on those after you've seen this tremendously little movie that can. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Filmmaker commentary (with writer/director Zach Whedon and producer Chris Ferguson)
Unravelling the Mysteries of 'Come And Find Me' Featurette

The Official Trailer

'Glitter' [Blu-ray]
(Mariah Carey, Max Beesley, Da Brat, Tia Texada, et al / Blu-ray / PG-13 / (2001) 2016 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Blu-ray Overview: A young singer dates a disc jockey who helps her get into the music business, but their relationship become complicated as she ascends to super stardom.

Blu-ray Verdict: Even fans of bad movies will have a tough time with "Glitter", which commits a number of gross sins while it is on your screen. Unlike the similarly-panned "Showgirls", "Glitter" doesn't go far enough over the top to be of any interest, and it takes itself way too seriously. "Showgirls" made me feel giddy while I was watching it. "Glitter" made me feel as if I had been poisoned.

What an unfortunate mis-step for star Mariah Carey, who gets sucked up into the vacuum of this movie like a dust bunny under the Hoover. It's not that Mariah is terrible, exactly. She doesn't seem like much of an actress, and she definitely doesn't have much screen presence. But the real problem is that she doesn't really do much except smile, sing, and look pretty.

She simply exists. Perhaps since "Glitter" is touted as a semi-autobiographical film like "Purple Rain", the producers thought being Mariah Carey would be enough to carry the film. Her role is shallow and one-dimensional, despite the fact that the script tries to give her some depth by piling on the age-old "wayward childhood" cliché. The problem is we've seen all of this so often that it's very silly.

It only gets worse as the movie progresses. After Mariah's character, Billie, grows up, she meets an obnoxious club DJ who, much to our horror, turns out to be the movie's other main character. Carey and her costar, Max Beesley, have next to zero screen chemistry, but for some reasons she falls in love with him.

The director throws in a bunch of gimmicky techniques, like speeding up the film, as well as a hilariously awful cut that goes from Mariah's face to fireworks exploding. There is also a laugh-out-loud moment where the actress who plays the young Billie Frank joins her mother onstage and when she opens her mouth to sing, it is Mariah Carey's voice that comes out of her--pitched up until she sounds a little like Minnie Mouse. No wonder Mariah collapsed after this was released.

There are some absurd and awful moments in the film that have nothing to do with Mariah, most notably her two obnoxious friends who are directed as complete caricatures and seem to be intended for some sort of comic relief (there's plenty of that in other places, all of it unintentional).

Beesley is supposed to be a big-time club DJ, yet he plays more like a kid at a high-school dance. The role is all wrong for him. For some inexplicable reason, the film is set in the early 80s, yet more often than not it looks suspiciously like the early 00's (especially the furniture). The dialog is unmemorable and nobody has any real acting to do in this film, except for one or two "emotional" moments.

The drama is uninvolving, and it doesn't really spiral out of control until the conclusion of the movie, where it soars so far into the absurd that we finally get some good "bad movie" stuff (a big fight, a beating, a murder, a campy moment of triumph onstage). It's too little, too late though.

The one thing that "Glitter" manages to carry off is a cliché but somewhat engaging scene where Billie finally meets up her long-lost mother. Unfortunately, it is the final scene of the movie, and the camera sails right up into the sky just when we get to the one moment in the film that works. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Glitter' Trailer

'Scarlett - The Mini-Series Event'
(Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Timothy Dalton, Annabeth Gish, Julie Harris, et al / DVD / PG-13 / (2001) 2016 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: 'Scarlett', the eight-hour mini-series based on Alexandra Ripley's best-selling sequel to Gone With the Wind, takes up precisely where that story left off, and sees Scarlett O'Hara off on a journey from Atlanta to Charleston and Savannah, to London, and to her ancestral home of Ballyhara in Ireland.

DVD Verdict: In truth, and although, like most people, I fell in love with Scarlett in GWTW, I tired of her constant insipid infantiilism to the point of exasperation, and I was disappointed that Mitchell did not show Scarlett using that obvious intelligence to even make an attempt to grow emotionally.

Thankfully, someone finally did. I mean, after all, isn't that nagging immaturity that conflicted with her beauty and intelligence the very reason Rhett finally gave up on her in the first place? I think Ripley did an excellent job of describing that long-overdue process, and Whalley-Kilmer did a superb job of portraying it. Joanne W-K has all the fire, exuberance and intelligent sparkle as did Vivian Leigh, and she is certainly at least as, if not more, beautiful.

There was, is, and always will be only one Clark Gable. However, if I had to pick an actor out of the thousands to which I've been exposed to portray him in his biography, it would definitely be Timothy Dalton. Dalton possesses the same elegant charm that Gable did, which is essential for Rhett's character. I can't imagine anyone else who could come close.

In my opinion, both Joanne Whalley-Kilmer and Timothy Dalton were superbly cast and the only actors who could have possibly played Scarlett and Rhett. I think both their performances did justice to not only the late actors but also the spirit of their characters.

I enjoyed the whole cast. Julie Harris was her usual delightful presence, and Jean Smart was an adorable kick! Even Ashley's character was nicely played by Stephen Collins, and the progression of his relationship with Scarlett was totally believable.

The story became a little convoluted in Ireland, but so is life, after all, and I still found it entertaining. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'80s Beat - 8 Films'
(Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr., James Spader, Kevin Bacon, et al / 2-DVD / NR / 2016 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: The boys of the big screen who graced the covers of Teen Beat and Bop (and teenagers bedroom walls) are back and better than ever with this totally rad collection of Hollywood hotties in 8 unforgettable films! So, call your friends for a sleepover and feast your eyes on these hunky heartthrobs in career-defining performances worth cherishing!

DVD Verdict: OK, taking these great (for the most part) movies one at a time, first up is Flatliners - (1990) - Color R - Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt. The basic premise of Flatliners is fairly simple. Several medical students put themselves at the point of death in order to find out exactly what the brain does during the fact. It sounds like something a mob of bored students would do for a joke, but it forms the basis of some very creepy substories. In today's world, where Hollywood has to mine foreign markets for the ideas to make a horror film, Flatliners is one of those rare gems that show Hollywood can make something different when it tries hard enough. What separates Flatliners from a lot of films based on this premise that would come out today is that it does not stoop to being condescending or arrogant. Flatliners recognizes that people go to films to be entertained, not moralized to. In this kind of supernatural thriller, the difference this restraint makes is really incredible. What's even more incredible is that Julia Roberts appears without being annoying or demonstrating that she can only play Julia Roberts. The theory of obscurity, that performing artists do their best work with the smallest audience, is in force here.

Next up is True Believer - (1989) - Color R - Robert Downey Jr., James Woods, Margaret Colin, Yuji Okumoto, Kurtwood Smith. Edward Dodd (James Woods) is a run-down lawyer who no longer shines the way he did 10 years ago. Back then he was writing history, saving the Black Panthers and stuff of the like. Now he protects drug pushers and street peddlers. Nevermind what excuses he finds for this gradual decay of affairs, for a skilled speaker and lawyer Dodd never ceases to be - this can be seen even as he defends crooks. Roger Baron (Robert Downey Jr) arrives to clerk for him and realizes the idea he had of Dodd no longer suits the reality of the man. Thus he proceeds to ask him to take a prisoner case.

This courtroom thriller has all that kind of movie should have; we see a well-crafted pace that keeps you tied to your seat, the kind of acting from James Woods that is hard to find nowadays, Robert Downey Jr also dons the recently-graduated idealistic law student to a tee. The film is reminiscent of a John Grisham novel. Margaret Colin as Kitty Greer is also great. In fact, every actor in this flick does a better-than-average role.

Then comes The New Kids - (1985) - Color - Rated R - James Spader, Lori Loughlin, Shannon Presby, John Philbin. This is one of those movies about a bunch of psychotic weirdos trying to do as much damage as possible to two innocent victims, leaving you to wonder what the heck these kids did to push the antagonists so far over the edge.

Here, our innocent victims are Abby (Lori Laughlin) and Loren (Shannon Presby). After their parents died, the brother and sister go to live in an amusement park (how awesome is that?) where their relatives (surrogate parent-types) live and work.

The psychos are led by Eddie Dutra (James Spader) a sadistic albino, and his gang of merry men (one of which is the excellent John Philbin who 80s fans will remember as 'Turtle' from the surf adventure, North Shore). Anyways, Eddie wants Abby, and what Eddie wants, he gets. But when Abby pushes him away after several forceful advances, sadistic control-freak Eddie doesn't want it to look like he let a girl weaken him. He and the gang go after Lorren, Abby, and their family, in a do or die situation.

Next up is Little Nikita - (1988) - Color PG - River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, Richard Bradford. The plot of this film has more holes than Swiss Cheese and seems more than a little dated, even if the baton of the quintessential foreign bad guy has passed now from the Nazis to the Soviets to the Islamic terrorists or (perennial favorite) our own US government.

What if the most ordinary white-bread American parents (yours) turn out to be Soviet spies? That is the premise of this film. What if some renegade Soviet spy is blackmailing the KGB operatives in the US by killing its agents one by one for MONEY! How capitalist! How demented can you be? This is the kind of guy who would take your girlfriend water skiing just so he can see her get smooshed by an oil tanker or something. And what are the poor hapless KGB agents supposed to do? Send your Mom and Dad off to pay this guy off? Why? Almost all of the agents are dead. The only ones left are Mom and Dad. Considering that Mom and Dad are near useless as agents, hey, be our guest, comrade.

And Mom and Dad are sleepers biding their time running a flower shop while waiting for their orders, which finally come in a dead fish. But by this time their covers have worked so well they are now God-fearing Americans. It is as though Ozzie and Harriet were Russian spies. But of course there is blackmail.

The second disc begins with the brilliant The Legend of Billie Jean - (1985) - Color PG-13 - Christian Slater, Helen Slater, Keith Gordon, Peter Coyote, Yeardley Smith. This is an excellent movie for young people, in general. It shows how one has to fight for one's principles, as it's the case with Billie Jean, a girl living in the Texas coastal town of Corpus Christi. As directed by Matthew Robbins, this film will never cease to amaze.

After he brother's motorcycle is trashed by a group of rough teenagers. Billie Jean wants the father of the boy who gave a beating to her brother, to pay for the repair of the bike. This is a man who, knowing where Billie Jean comes from, tries to abuse the girl sexually. He doesn't know who he is messing with.

The movie deals with the way Billie Jean goes about in getting her revenge against all odds. In doing so, she becomes an instant celebrity to the young population in the area, who easily identify with the wronged girl and make her a folk hero.

Helen Slater makes a sunny appearance as Billie Jean. She is a girl who believes in justice, and demands it from the man who wanted to take advantage of her. A young, blond Christian Slater is Binx, the young brother. Peter Coyote is also seen as the chief of police who Billie Jean goes to present her complaint, but doesn't have enough sense to pay attention to her.

Then comes Private Resort - (1985) - Color - Rated R - Starring: Johnny Depp, Ron Morrow, Emily Longstreth. In Private Resort, Johnny Depp and Rob Morrow star as two single guys out to meet women at a resort hotel. Actor Hector Elizondo turns in a good performance as a jewel thief and con artist assisted by his wife, played by Leslie Easterbrook. Hilary (Shapiro) Shepard-Turner is very convincing as a religious fanatic and heiress to a fortune. The film is filled with classic slapstick comedy, and in places is both entertaining and funny despite a somewhat weak plot. Overall, Private Resort is a good comedy film of the 1980s and a great look into Depp's young acting world - floppy hair an' all!

Next up is Like Father Like Son - (1987) - Color - PG-13 - Kirk Cameron, Dudley Moore, Margaret Colin, Catherine Hicks, Sean Austin. Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I think this movie's great. There's lots of hilarious (and clean) sight gags, slapstick and laugh-out-loud situations.

Dudley Moore, obviously the far more superior comedian, is fantastic as a teenager stuck in an adult's body. He has many funny scenes and milks them for all they're worth, my favourite being the chewing gum/cigarette incident. The looks on his co-stars' faces is priceless. Watch also for Moore's date with Margaret Colin (that goes really badly) and when he does the rounds at the hospital!

Finally we get the little known gem (well, to me, at least) Side Out - (1990) - Color - PG-13 - C. Thomas Howell, Peter Horton, Courtney Thorne-Smith. Law student Monroe Clark (C. Thomas Howell) from Milwaukee moves to L.A. to work for his rich real estate lawyer Uncle Max. He's given a job to serve eviction notices. One of the tenants is beach volleyball player Zack Barnes (Peter Horton). He was the original local king of volleyball but he has been spiraling downwards.

His business partner Kate Jacobs (Harley Jane Kozak) is tired of him but there's more to their relationship. The new king is Rollo Vincent. Monroe befriends local Wiley Hunter and falls for Samantha (Courtney Thorne-Smith). Monroe and Wiley play in a tournament and Zack comes in to coach them.

Sorry, but C. Thomas Howell is not a believable volleyball stud. On top of that, his character is not appealing at all. I think he's trying to be Tom Cruise, but he's no Tom Cruise. His kissing scene with CTS made me involuntarily laugh. Peter Horton does have that washed-up beach bum vibe though and as much as this whole movie is terribly cheesy for the most part, if you shut your brain down for 70 minutes, it's definitely popcorn fluff perfect for an evening in. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Girl On The Train' [4K Ultra HD]
(Emily Blunt, Rebecca FergusonHaley BennettJustin Theroux, et al / 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray+Digital HD / R / 2016 / Universal)

Blu-ray Overview: A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Verdict: Before we begin the review, let's start by acknowledging the INCREDIBLE, brighter, deeper, more lifelike color that these 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays bring forth, each and every time. For they are, well, INCREDIBLE and truly allow you to see things that the generic Blu-ray vision simply cannot. I mean, the color alone on this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc - which comes as a two-disc set (1 BD-50, 1 BD-66) - is just so crisp, so clear, so crystal.

For those that wish to be in the know, let's break down some of the geeky stats, shall we. This is a Codec: HEVC / H.265, with a Resolution: 4K (2160p), and an overall Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1. The Audio is English: Dolby Atmos + English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 + Spanish: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 + French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1, and the Subtitles are: English SDH, French, and Spanish.

Finally, and leaving the best for last, this 4K Ultra HD movie experience means that we have a 4X sharper picture image than regular HD, HDR (High Dynamic Range) means we get brilliant brights and deepest darks within the film, and with Immersive Audio, we get that multi-dimensional sound experience throughout.

OK, now onto the movie. Well, in truth, and as I'm sure you all know by now, the book is a terrific and engrossing read, with a lot of tension and suspense, a clear timeline and while the characters are unpleasant you understand why they are.

In comparison 'The Girl on the Train' is down there among the most underwhelming book-to-film adaptations, with everything that made the book so good being completely lost in translation in the film. However it also is a failure on its own terms as an overall film, one doesn't even need to have read the book or have knowledge of it to still consider 'The Girl on the Train' a disappointment. If anybody likes the film, that's absolutely fine and good for them, as a huge mystery-thriller fan this was one of the year's biggest letdowns while not quite being bad enough to be one of the year's worst.

Comparisons to 'Gone Girl', which has a similar tone and a couple of similar themes, and almost universally negatively is understandable and inevitable. Will try and keep the comparison brief, to me 'Gone Girl' is the vastly superior film, actually being a good, no great, film. It isn't perfect, faltering at the end with a conclusion that feels abrupt and illogical, but it's better made and directed (the direction was one of the best things about that film, while the direction here dooms this film), the "Cool Girl" monologue alone is much better than any of the dialogue in this film, that had tension, suspense, emotion and delicious black but subtle humor and Rosamund Pike's performance is one of that year's best performances and in the top end of the best Oscar-nominated performances of this decade.

What saves 'The Girl on the Train' from crashing and burning completely is the acting, which is terrific on the whole. The women do fare better than the men, though the men, with Justin Theroux being the most believable, are no slouches either. Emily Blunt's lead performance in particular is sensational. The exceptions though are Rebecca Ferguson, who looks lost with a character completely stripped of what made her interesting before, and Edgar Ramirez who comes over as annoying. Danny Elfman's score is one of his more understated and memorable ones in recent years, not his best work by any stretch but tonally it fits very well, being soothing yet unsettling.

However, Tate Taylor as director is clearly ill at ease with the dark material, because throughout it's stiff, indifferent and far too much of one mood. The story is a complete mess, with no tension or suspense whatsoever and plot twists that are introduced abruptly and are executed confusingly, even incomprehensibly, due to the lack of a clear time line and with little surprises. The pace really drags on constantly so the film is constantly as dull as dishwater and there is an overload of sex scenes that are also tasteless as well as being melodramatic with the subtlety of an axe.

In the end, one doesn't care how it ends and the ending or the revelation of the culprit are not done particularly well. The culprit's identity is not that shocking and is revealed too early, and then the film meanders on for another half an hour when the film could easily have ended at the revelation. And sure, everything you've now come to expect from these wonderful 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays is true re: the HDR (High Dynamic Range) from brighter, deeper and more lifelike color on through the x6 picture clarity/resolution, but that doesn't stop this film from being everything outlined above. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Deleted and Extended Scenes
The Women Behind The Girl : Author Paula Hawkins and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson discuss their thoughts on writing the novel, the adaptation process and the importance of maintaining character integrity. Director Tate Taylor discusses working with these two incredible writers to make sure his vision for the film was represented in the script.
On Board The Train: A behind-the-scenes look at the strong ensemble cast of The Girl on the Train. Director Tate Taylor and Producer Mark Platt discuss the specific nuances associated with each of the cast members’ performances and Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Allison Janney, Laura Prepon, Lisa Kudrow, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans and Edgar Ramirez take fans through the process of creating their incredible characters.
Feature Commentary with Director Tate Taylor

The Official Trailer

Official Website

Official Twitter Account

4K Ultra HD™ is the ultimate movie watching experience. 4K Ultra HDTM features the combination of 4K resolution for four times sharper picture than HD, the color brilliance of High Dynamic Range (HDR) with immersive audio delivering a multidimensional sound experience.

Blu-ray™ unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.

'Roger Corman's Death Race 2050'
(Manu Bennett, Malcolm McDowell, Marci Miller, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / R / 2016 / Universal)

Blu-ray Overview: Legendary filmmaking icon, Roger Corman, is back with his most outrageous film yet in this sensational, action-packed and darkly humorous reboot of the original Death Race 2000!

Blu-ray Verdict: It's the year 2050 and America is controlled by an all-powerful corporate government ruled by The Chairman (Malcolm McDowell). The masses have been brainwashed with violent virtual-reality entertainment. The event of the year is the Death Race, in which a motley crew of violent drivers compete in a cross-country road race, scoring points for shamelessly running people over and driving each other off the road. The reigning champion and fan favorite, Frankenstein (Manu Bennett), who's half-man half-machine, wants to take the crown, but his rebel spy co-pilot threatens his legacy.

"Citizen's of the United Corporations of America", announces The Chairman (the unmistakable, and Fountain of Youth-sipping Malcolm McDowell) to the territories, and soon thereafter comes his - inclusive of one area slyly being named AmaZone, another OnePercentia, another Pharmatopia - opening welcome speech to the Death Race. Quite why he is wearing two massive white feathers as shoulder attire is anybody's guess though!

Now, I'm not here to give the whole plot away - what there truly is of it, that is - nor am I going to give away the ending, but I will say, having watched it twice now (as it's not that long of a movie, in truth) that 'Roger Corman's Death Race 2050' has no story, makes no sense along the way, and contains no actual real-life logic to most all its scenes!

I mean, if you are anything like me, as the scenes churn out one after the next, you'll wonder why certain characters are doing things. So much so, and so many times, that you'll wish your brain would just shut off for an hour! The main character was supposed to be a tough person, but he turns out to be a softy, and a hopeless romantic at that. The leader of the rebel party is the girlfriend of the ruling party, and their supports kill each other. Er, ok. And that not-to-be-revealed ending, well, let's not talk about the ending (as, and to my mind only, please know) it was completely bizarre and rather pointless! Knowingly campy, devoid of any money spent on any special effects, and with all but two of the actors in main roles seemingly giving a right royal crap about their acting paycheck (ie: Manu Bennett and Marci Miller), 'Roger Corman's Death Race 2050' is a money grabber of a film that went, of course, straight-to-DVD (well, these days Blu-ray, but you get the point), and will not be garnering much in the way of glowing press, sorry. That said, all press is good press for these guys so, well done Roger Corman. Well done. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

The Making of 'Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050'
The Look of 2050
Cars! Cars! Cars!
Cast Car Tours
Deleted Scenes
Digital Copy of 'Roger Corman's Death Race 2050'
Includes UltraViolet

The Official Trailer

Manu Bennett aka "Frankenstein" Explains the Rules of the Death Race Video (Uncensored)!

Manu Bennett aka "Frankenstein" Explains the Rules of the Death Race Video (Censored)!

Official Website

Official Facebook Page

'Battle for Incheon: Operation Chromite'
(Jung-ja Lee, Liam Neeson, Beom-su Lee, Se-Yeon Jin, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: A squad of South Korean soldiers fight in the Korean War's crucial Battle of Incheon against the North Korean army.

DVD Verdict: The more evolved synopsis of this movie, originally called just 'Operation Chromite" is that American General Douglas MacArthur (Liam Neeson) sends eight members of the Korean Liaison Office, led by a South Korean Navy Lieutenant (Lee Jung-Jae) on a secret mission far behind North Korean lines to carry out Operation "X-ray". This covert operation must succeed so that MacArthur can launch the daring Incheon Landing Operation.This is a fictionalized version of the historical CIA/military intelligence operation "Trudy Jackson", part of Operation Chromite.

Personally, I had honestly never heard of directer Lee Jae-Han prior to watching this little gem of a movie, but after this experience I will be eager to see what he cooks up next. Don't sit down and expect over the top visual effects for not every one has Michael Bay's budget! Then again, I will take a decent story over VFX any day, but hey that's just me. If you think otherwise feel free to skip this - but that would be a big mistake, trust me.

And so, for the people that have a keen eye for details and a rich backstory as I do, 'Operation Chromite' is definitely going to be right up your alley, so to speak. I will admit that I had little to zero knowledge before going into this of this real life battle and so it did end up teaching me a bit of history - which might not matter to a lot of people, but I do feel that a movie should be more then just a simplistic way to pass the time.

Indeed, I have been a mighty big fan of Liam Neeson's work for some time now, so his involvement in this might be affecting my review, granted. But not that much, and definitely not in any overly significant way, for the story line is quite vigorous and Neeson's role as MacArthur is played with all his usual passion and knowledge garnered from years upon years of both TV and stage work.

FYI: North Korea has described the film as "ridiculous bravado from ignorant lunatics", but that's only to be expected from that corner of the world, in my humble opinion. You seem 'Operation Chromite' was released in Korea on July 27th, 2016 and yet, with what has come out via their press, has already become a big hit of that year in Korea. It may not make waves at festivals over here, but it's not at all bad and is worth checking out. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Making Of Featurette

'The Lion Guard: Life In The Pride Lands'
(Max Charles, James Earl Jones, Rob Lowe, Dusan Brown, Sarah Hyland, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / Walt Disney)

Overview: Rough, tough and roarin' to go, your favorite heroes are back for more epic adventures based on the legacy of THE LION KING. Join Kion and his fearless friends as they celebrate within the Circle of Life and race to the rescue in five action-packed episodes also featuring King Simba, the spirit of Mufasa and the hilarious antics of Timon and Pumbaa.

DVD Verdict: Disney does it again!! Personally, I regard 'The Lion King' as not only my favorite Disney movie, but one of my favorite movies of all time. When I first heard about this show, I was skeptical about the idea of centering on Simba's son Kion. But, myself and my young family sat down and watched the first batch of episodes, followed that up with 'The Lion Guard: Return Of The Roar', and now we have just finished watching the five (5) episodes collected here in the brand new Walt Disney Junior set, 'The Lion Guard: Life In The Pride Lands.'

And so all my fears have flown away for you know what? We all I love this new animated series! It contains all the things that made the movie so successful: memorable characters, zippy music, and a well written story that has some deep themes as well.

This one is no exception. It may be a kids show, but there's plenty for adults to enjoy here as well as it contains themes of environmental conservation and racial tolerance (more metaphorical as it was shown in Don Bluth's Land Before Time). The characters are well drawn both in appearance and personality wise as each has his/her own strengths and weaknesses whether in defense or story-wise.

'The Rise of Maruu'
'The Kupatana Celebration'
'Bunga and The Ring'
'Never Roar Again'
'The Imaginary Orapi'

I think our collective favorite was 'The Rise of Makuu' where a young Crocodile Makuu (voiced delightfully by Blair Underwood) wins a Mashindano fight that secures his leadership of the crocodiles over the old Pua. Unlike the more humble, diplomatic Pua, Makuu is stubborn, ruthless, and selfish which causes problems in the Pride Lands, forcing animals out of their habitat. This makes Kion search for a middle ground to deal with Makuu's attitude, which takes the heavenly guidance of Mufasa. This is a solid episode, but in fairness, they each have their very own story to tell, knowledge to impart. Two thumbs (and paws) way up for 'The Lion Guard: Life In The Pride Lands'! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

2 Music Videos
· A Trail to Hope
· Teke Ruka Teleza
6 Shorts: "It's Un-Bunga-lievable!"
· Who’s Quicker?
· Who’s Hungrier?
· Who Has Better Hair?
· Who’s Cuter?
· Who’s Louder?
· Who’s Mightier?

This DVD also comes with 5 FREE WRISTBANDS in 5 DIFFERENT COLORS with 5 POWERS EACH for unlimited fun!

Own 'The Lion Guard: Life In The Pride Lands' on DVD on January 10th!

Official Trailer

'The Story of God with Morgan Freeman - Season 1'
(Morgan Freeman, et al / 2-DVD / NR / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: Today, for better or worse, the power of religion touches all of our lives, no matter what our faith. This is Morgan Freeman's journey to discover how our beliefs connect us all. This is the quest of our generation. This is the Story of God.

DVD Verdict: We begin in Greenwood, Mississippi where host and narrator Morgan Freeman details how he used to live there, on and off, between the ages of 7 to 17. This first episode, entitled Beyond Death may well be the most weighed down one of the six, sure, but those who judge the entire series on just this one episode are missing out on the rest of them, quite like nothing they've ever missed out on before, believe me.

Sure Freeman makes each episode about himself, rather than making this a big expose on God, shall we say, but as Freeman's stories come together, you quickly pick up on the fact that he has touched so many divine moments in his life that it's small wonder he has played God on the big screen - more than once!

While I may not agree on all aspects of each episode we encounter - Beyond Death, Apocalypse, Who Is God?, Creation, Why Does Evil Exist? and The Power of Miracles - I did learn a lot about religions I had very little knowledge about. I suppose you would have to be open minded in order to enjoy the show, in truth, which is fair enough. Given that this is Season One, I certainly hope they continue the series to explore other religions and go farther with exploring the possibilities of a God or a so-called Supreme Being.

So yeah, having now watched 'The Story of God with Morgan Freeman- Season 1' I can honestly say that I am more open to learn other religions and cultures than I was before. I believe that this series was designed to educate, explore, and make known other religions and cultures, not just answer the question if God exists and who he/she is. Sure, the six episodes doesn't begin to touch the realm of it all, but then again, some questions have no answers - but it's fun to talk about and discuss. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

THE STORY OF GOD WITH MORGAN FREEMAN Season 1 - Disc 1 Special Features Include:
First Play
Continent 7: Antarctica
Savage Kingdom
Q&A with Morgan Freeman and Talent
Reincarnation in Hinduism
Opening Your Mind
God in Different Cultures
Web Series: Man on the Street
Street Spirituality: What Happens After We Die?
Street Spirituality: How Will the World End?
Street Spirituality: Who Is God?
Web Series: Walks into a Diner
A Pastor, A Rabbi and an Imam… Resurrection
A Pastor, A Rabbi and an Imam… The Apocalypse
A Pastor, A Rabbi and an Imam… Who Is God?

THE STORY OF GOD WITH MORGAN FREEMAN Season 1 - Disc 2 Special Features Include:
First Play
Continent 7: Antarctica
Savage Kingdom
Q&A with Morgan Freeman and Talent
Science and Catholicism
Universal Knowledge
20 Questions
Web Series: Man on the Street
Street Spirituality: Where Do We Come From?
Street Spirituality: Where Does Evil Come From?
Street Spirituality: Do You Believe in Miracles?
Web Series: Walks into a Diner
A Pastor, A Rabbi and an Imam… Creation
A Pastor, A Rabbi and an Imam… Evil
A Pastor, A Rabbi and an Imam… Miracles

Own 'The Story of God with Morgan Freeman - Season 1' on DVD on January 10th!

'The Orphan Killer' [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Diane Foster, David Bachhaus, Karen Young, James McCaffrey, Matt Farnsworth, et al / Blu ray + DVD / NR / 2017 / Reel Gore Releasing)

Overview: 'The Orphan Killer' introduces us to Marcus Miller, a serial murderer hellbent on teaching his estranged sister Audrey what it means to have family loyalty. Only gore lies ahead - you have been warned!

Blu ray Verdict: OK, let's get this straight from the start: 'The Orphan Killer' focuses only on the depiction of diverse bloody and gory effects. Ergo, this fact separates it from the big mass of mainstream movies, but on the other hand only allows for a slimmer viewership to be able to, well, stomach it, shall we say!

That said, and chock full of "splatter effects", 'The Orphan Killer' might never be classified as a masterpiece of cinema, but what it will do is make sure that the bar to attain for movies such as this has been well and truly raised.

The director, and actor Matt Farnsworth loves his quality of murder depictions, that's for sure, as each one is seemingly bloodier than the last. Upping his game throughout, it soon becomes obvious this film is not about the quality of script, the acting chops on screen, but how intense, how bloody a filmed scene can end up. Which, again, is fair enough, given the genre of this film and what it sets out to be from the very start.

For the record, actress Diane Foster is incredible in her role here and wow, what a killer (all pun intended) body she has. Seriously, throughout the film, as the music pounds around every corner she runs, I wasn't watching the bloody tool-of-the-moment murders, I was thinking about her abs, her stunning looks - and a wee bit more, of course!

And therein also lies one massive problem with 'The Orphan Killer' - the incessant hardcore, pounding death metal that accompanies most all scenes. It takes away completely from any sense of dread that is trying to be shown, created for the viewer and just has them reaching for the mute button!

So, in closing, could 'The Orphan Killer' have a sequel sometime soon? Sure, there's potential for a sequel, but without a story there is nothing unique to come of such a thing. Perhaps this film is better off as a stand alone. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Behind The Murder - Exclusive Video Diary
Music Clip
First Pressing of 1000 Copies Include Collector's Card RGR004

'The Orphan Killer' Trailer

'The Light Between Oceans' [Blu-ray]
(Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson, et al / Blu ray + Digital HD / PG-13 / 2017 / Touchstone Home Entertainment)

Overview: Lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and radiant, spirited Isabel (Alicia Vikander) live together in married bliss on a remote, rugged island off the coast of Australia. But their windswept world is turned upside down when Isabel learns that she's unable to bear a child. One day, a drifting lifeboat washes ashore with a crying baby in it. The dilemma the couple now face will echo far beyond the island, engulfing and irrevocably impacting their world -- and that of a stranger (Rachel Weisz).

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, Derek Cianfrance, who directed the poignant 'Blue Valentine' and the riveting 'The Place Beyond the Pines', brought probably the best out of Michael Fassbender and Rachel Weisz in quite some time - even if the film pulls at your heart strings a few too many times.

Amidst the beautiful landscaping shots of sunsets, beaches, and oceanic views, Cianfrance crafts the story of a couple who desperately want a child but can't have one, extremely well. As much as this film deals with tragedy, grief, and sorrow there was something so beautiful about the way Cianfrance tells the story. It unfortunately becomes flooded with sadness and difficult circumstances, but I never stopped rooting for these characters. Even when they are at the brink of a bad decision, I wanted the best.

That can be directly contributed to the terrific performances from the cast, and particularly Fassbender, Vikander, and Weisz. Fassbender brings so much power and gravitas to his roles, but I've never seen him so vulnerable. We saw a peek at the emotional weight he can bring to his characters in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' last spring, but nothing can prepare you for his heartbreaking turn in this film.

Vikander and Weisz are just as good. All three characters have bad qualities and choices that could turn them into unlikable human beings, but Weisz and Vikander add a graceful human touch to their roles. Though Vikander doesn't have children in real life, I believed she could be a mother someday with her turn. Weisz on the other-hand is a mother, and that motherly instinct exudes onto the screen. Both performances are so mind-bendingly good.

One of the issues that's been brought up about this film is its over-reliance on pulling at your heart strings. It's a valid argument, especially considering all of the tragedy and horrible circumstances that occur. I can't really say it's a film I will revisit, but at the same time, I found Cianfrance's directing and the performances enough to get over the depressing nature of the film's plot. It's not an easy watch by any stretch of the imagination, but it's an important one for sure. Fully recommended. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Bringing The Light to Life - Experience Cape Campbell, New Zealand, with the cast and crew, and discover how director Derek Cianfrance's directing style influenced the actors' performances and accentuated the movie's themes
Lighthouse Keeper - Learn the history of the Cape Campbell Lighthouse and what a lighthouse keeper's life was like during those early days
Audio Commentary - With Director Derek Cianfrance and his film studies professor, Phil Solomon

'The Man Who Fell To Earth (Collector's Edition)'
(David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark, Buck Henry, Bernie Casey, et al / Blu ray + DVD + Digital HD / R / (1976) 2017 / LGF)

Overview: Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth to get water for his dying planet. He starts a high technology company to get the billions of dollars he needs to build a return spacecraft, and meets Mary-Lou, a girl who falls in love with him. He does not count on the greed and ruthlessness of business here on Earth, however.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' (1976) is very thought-provoking sci-fi, done without much in the way of special effects or special powers possessed by a being. David Bowie is admirably fit for the part. With the makeup he received and his slight build and ethereal quality, he does the job, even if he was stoned on cocaine during the filming. That probably worked in his and the film's favor.

The photography is lovely. The story is captivating; it seems to be reaching for more thematically than it actually accomplishes. The film is on the sad or downbeat side, rather bittersweet, because hanging over it is the separation of Bowie (the alien from another planet) from his wife and two children. He's not at home on Earth, and no amount of money or having an affair with Candy Clark can change that. He finds trust hard to come by. Furthermore, he becomes the target of the powers-that-be, who see his enterprise and inventions as a dire threat to their business concerns. The fascist/totalitarian nature of the system is a theme of the movie.

On the other hand, the film does portray in some ways Bowie's liberation in sex. The sex scenes in this film are frank and realistic; these are an intentional depiction done to make a point that stands apart from the sci-fi aspects. The point is to acknowledge the sexual nature of human beings.

The film's editing is advanced, often jumping around, and relying on the viewer's intelligence to sort things out. It sometimes lends a black comic tone to the goings-on. It's on the New Wave side. Both Buck Henry and Rip Torn are well cast and provide excellent support. Interestingly enough, Roger Ebert wrote that the film is "so preposterous and posturing, so filled with gaps of logic and continuity, that if it weren't so solemn there'd be the temptation to laugh aloud." He slightly revised this impression upward thirty years later, but it never quite hit him the right way.

But I can understand that. There are some strange plot elements, not least of which is how human the alien race is - fully comprehending English and even having the correct sexual parts. But that is never the point, and there is a deeper message here. I mean, sure, this is not dystopian sci-fi at any level. It's also not 'A Clockwork Orange' or '2001'. It might have a more 'Dr. Strangelove' feel, I'll give you that, for it's definitely humorous on the sly. Definitely a creative and novel outing, this newly restored and now Limited Collector's Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack is a must-have and there is fully recommended.

For the record, as I think it should be known, this brand new restoration of 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' is based on a 4K scan of the original camera negative, followed by a full 4K workflow, with the approval of cinematographer Anthony Richmond. There is also a standard blu-ray version of this film reissue, but it’s this Limited Collector’s Edition that is of real interest, since it has three discs and comes with other content.

Containing a blu-ray, a DVDs and a CD, the music element contains John Philips music from the soundtrack and has two tracks/versions of tracks not included in the version being issued separately. More so, this collector’s edition also contains an illustrated booklet with writings on the film, a reproduction of the original press book for the film, four art cards and an A4 poster of the new theatrical quad for this new 4K restoration of the film.

As for the delightful en mass of Special Features, the two that stand out to me (having watched them all) are the David Bowie Interview  on  French TV in 1977 where a very forthright, earnest, and totally relaxed Bowie chats freely, reflecting on his transition into film.

The other is the New Interview with Stills Photographer David James, because as much as I don't care much for the What he or she thinks today mode of featurette, this feature actually includes a number of unseen Behind-the-Scenes Stills from the movie set.

Well, ok, I'm on a roll here now, so another favorite of mine is actually not really Bowie related for it's a new Interview with Director Nicolas Roeg, where his personal insight into how how he got into the film industry is riveting, to say the least. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

David Bowie Interview – French TV 1977
New Interview with Costume Designer May Routh Featuring Original Costume Sketches
New Interview with Stills Photographer David James Featuring Behind-the-Scenes Stills
New Interview with fan Sam Taylor-Johnson
New Interview with Producer Michael Deeley
New "The Lost Soundtracks" Featurette, Featuring Interviews with Paul Buckmaster and Author Chris Campion
Interview with Candy Clark
Interview with Writer Paul Mayersberg
Interview with Cinematographer Tony Richmond
Interview with Director Nicolas Roeg

John Philips’ soundtrack music:
1 Jazz II (02:48)
2 Boys From The South (01:45)
3 Rhumba Boogie (02:01)
4 America (01:00)
5 Jazz (00:59)
6 Space Capsule (01:49)
7 Bluegrass Breakdown (01:38)
8 Desert Shack (02:02)
9 Window (01:45)
10 Alberto (01:38)
11 Liar, Liar (03:04)
12 Hello Mary Lou (02:25)*
13 The Man Who Fell To Earth (02:42)
14 Bryce*

* Unique versions/tracks not on the soon-to-be-issued soundtrack.

'The Man Who Fell To Earth' Trailer

'Shaun The Sheep: Seasons 3 & 4'
(Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Sean Connolly, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: Shaun, the world's favorite little sheep, returns with even more farm-tastic misadventures in seasons 3 and 4.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'Shaun the Sheep' is a British stop-motion animated television series, a spin-off of the Wallace and Gromit franchise. The series stars Shaun, a sheep previously featured in the 1995 short film A Close Shave and in the Shopper 13 episode from the 2002 Wallace and Gromit's Cracking Contraptions series, and his madcap adventures around a small farm as the leader of his flock.

Having first aired in the UK on CBBC in March 2007 and broadcast in 180 countries globally, the series consists of 150 seven-minute episodes. The fifth season contains 20 episodes and has been aired in the Netherlands from December 1, 2015 until January 1, 2016.

To my mind, there is no better television for children. Season 1 and Season 2 were both awesome and these third and fourth seasons are just as good, trust me. Shaun the Sheep is the kind of show Walt Disney himself might have approved of. You can see making the show must be painstaking. With no dialogue the claymation has to be full of expression. The characters have character. It's depth you don't see on television anymore.

The sense of humor in this claymation animation is unbelievably clever and witty, even though no words are ever spoken and it is mostly slapstick. I had my parents (in their 70s) watch some episodes and they nearly fell out of chairs laughing. Although we love Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep is sheer genius in our books, and it never gets old in our household.

Included in this 4-Disc DVD Box-Set are 5 Compilations:
Spring Cleaning
Shear Heat
Christmas Bleatings
Flock to the Floor
Picture Perfect

Once you learn the words of the jingle played at the start of each episode you'll quickly be singing along. Also, and I know this is cruel, but I loved the scene where the farmer flings open a door and splatters his poor dog against the outside wall, causing considerable pain to his nose! As I say, cruel, but the look on the poor dogs face gets me every time! But, as I'm sure you all know by now, there is no malice in these episodes. The "lesson" for the watcher is one of using cooperation to get things done. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with 50 episodes and over 6 hours of fun!

'Yoga Hosers' [Blu-ray]
(Johnny Depp, Lilly-Rose Depp, Kevin Smith, Harley Quinn Smith, Justin Long, et al / Blu ray+DVD+Digital HD / PG-13 / 2016 / Invincible Pictures)

Overview: Two 15-year-old yoga enthusiasts (Lily-Rose Depp, Harley Quinn Smith) join forces with a legendary man-hunter (Johnny Depp) to battle Canadian Nazis who take the form of deadly sausages, yup sausages!

Blu ray Verdict: Friends Colleen (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen (Harley Quinn Smith) are invited to a Senior party but they end up having to work at the local convenient store. They invite the boys back to the store for a party by they're attacked by some Nazi sausages.

Yes, writer/director Kevin Smith has followed the ultra-bizarre TUSK up with an even stranger movie that isn't nearly as creative. You know, I got the great opportunity to see Smith in person during one of his "conversations" and he's a terrific and fun guy. I mean, you gotta admire the man for what he has accomplished in his career and during the chat he talked about people questioning him and that he will do the type of films that he wants. I really, truly and 100% respect that and I admire any filmmaker who wants to take chances and do weird things.

With that said, just because I respect the filmmaker doesn't mean that I'm going to enjoy the picture. Sadly, 'YOGA HOSERS' is a really awful movie that doesn't work on any level outside of being weird, strange and in all reality original. Yes, Nazi sausages are on display here and you've got to at least admit that you've never seen that before. The problem is that Smith's screenplay is just weird and for a comedy it's never funny. That's the most shocking thing to me because Smith is one of the best dialogue writers out there yet this film just seems flat and lifeless.

I don't know if the point of this film is to give his daughter and Depp's daughter a film to go and if perhaps Daddy Smith and Daddy Depp are just here having some goofy fun. Perhaps that's the case but you still have to have some sort of laughs. At just 89-minutes the film is rather short but it drags on to the point where around the twenty-minute mark I was already looking at my clock. I will say that the two leads are actually good together and have a nice chemistry, which just makes you wish even more that they had something better to work with. Johnny Depp returns to his role from TUSK and adds to the weirdness. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of a Bonus Featurette!

'Arcade Fire - Reflektor Tapes' [2 Disc Blu-ray]
(Arcade Fire / 2-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2016 / Eagle Vision)

Overview: 'The Reflektor Tapes' is a visually stunning and hypnotic documentary about the making of Arcade Fire's hugely successful 2013 studio album Reflektor by director Kahlil Joseph (who also directed Beyonce's Lemonade film).

DVD Verdict: This incredible visual experience, 'The Reflektor Tapes' received its premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. The documentary captures recording sessions, live performances and the band's time in Haiti, a country with which they have a long-standing relationship. Indeed, the second disc in the set features Arcade Fire's full length live concert from Earl's Court in London on June 6th, 2014 during the Reflektor tour, which perfectly complements the documentary.

Oh, and for those not in the know, Arcade Fire is a Canadian indie rock band based in Montreal, Quebec, consisting of husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, along with Win's younger brother William Butler, Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury and Jeremy Gara. The band's current touring line-up also includes former core member Sarah Neufeld, frequent collaborator Owen Pallett, two additional percussionists, Diol Edmond and Tiwill Duprate, and saxophonists Matt Bauder and Stuart Bogie.

Disc One: The Reflektor Tapes (Documentary)

Disc Two: Live At Earl's Court: 1) Reflektor 2) Flashbulb Eyes 3) Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) 4) Rebellion (Lies) 5) Joan Of Arc 6) Rococo 7) The Suburbs 8) Ready To Start 9) Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) 10) Neighborhood #2 (Laika) 11) No Cars Go 12) Haiti 13) We Exist 14) My Body Is A Cage 15) Afterlife 16) It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus) 17) Sprawl II 18) Normal Person 19) Here Comes The Night Time 20) Wake Up

Bonus Features:
Disc One: Here Comes The Night Time Special / Promo Videos: (1) Reflektor (2) We Exist (3) Afterlife / Afterlife from YouTube Awards

Disc Two: Director's Cut Tracks: (1) Flashbulb Eyes (2) Here Comes The Night Time (3) Reflektor (4) Sprawl II (5) The Suburbs

Their critically-acclaimed studio album, Reflektor, which came out in 2013 would go on to debut at the top of the Billboard 200 all-genre charts. With that as its backbone, 'The Reflektor Tapes' showcases superbly Arcade Fire's rise to the top of the charts, what went into it, and also highlights the time they spent in Haiti; let alone their devoted love for it.

The concert portion itself is amazing, colorful, so visual and full of life, and if hearing all their great tunes wasn't enough, the Blu-ray and DVD collection includes additional bonus features such as alternate versions of several stand-out songs. In closing, 'The Reflektor Tapes' us an incredible, truly spectacular visual journey to take - for fans and lovers of great music alike - and containing over four hours of entertainment, is a must-have especially for the fans of Arcade Fire, of course. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Mumford & Sons: Live from South Africa'
(Mumford & Sons / Blu-ray / NR / 2016 / Eagle Vision)

Overview: When Mumford & Sons discussed the idea of touring South Africa, it struck them as an uncharted, mini adventure. They would announce a handful of gigs and see who showed up. No pressure. 5000 tickets went on sale, 5000 tickets sold out instantly. 85,000 ticket sales later, and the band were embarking on more than a little adventure. Overnight it had become a fully blown phenomena.

DVD Verdict: 'Live From South Africa: Dust And Thunder' chronicles the meeting of South Africa with their long-standing favorites, Mumford & Sons. A British band in huge demand, and a country extremely excited to welcome them. With a coachload of their close musical friends brought along for the ride, this exquisitely shot film captures the tour s conclusion with two nights in the beautiful Pretorian outback.

Airing new songs from Wilder Mind and the Johannesburg mini-album (a collaboration with Baaba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenburg) for the first time, and watching the expansive crowds hollering back the old favorites, Dust And Thunder gets to the very heart of what makes Mumford & Sons such a special act, with the stunning beauty of the Pretorian outback as their backdrop.

Oh, and for those not in the know, Mumford & Sons are an English rock band from London, formed in 2007. The band consists of Marcus Mumford (lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, drums), Ben Lovett (vocals, keyboard, piano, synthesizer), Winston Marshall (vocals, electric guitar, banjo) and Ted Dwane (vocals, bass guitar, double bass).

1. Snake Eyes
2. I Will Wait
3. Below My Feet
4. Wilder Mind
5. Awake My Soul
6. Lover Of The Light
7. Tompkins Square Park
8. Believe
9. Ghosts That We Knew
10. The Cave
11. Ditmas
12. Dust Bowl Dance
13. WONA
14. Lampenda
15. There Will Be Time
16. Little Lion Man
17. The Wolf

As for the set-list, well, that is as amazing as you would have hoped for, trust me. This night has also got to have been one of their most exciting shows to have played on their Wilder Mind tour. Indeed, they had just spent the preceding couple of days in a studio in Johannesburg with Baaba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenberg, so they also bring those session musicians out on stage to play a few of the songs they'd just written! Captured with gusto by award-winning live specialist Dick Carruthers, 'Mumford & Sons - Live from South Africa: Dust And Thunder' is an exciting and emotional document and a truly spectacular concert film that may well go down as their finest. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Sea Monsters: The Definitive Guide'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: The threat of sea monsters, real or imagined, has been a source of dread and fear for sailors ever since someone put a boat in the water and set out to explore. In this special the legends and lore come to life, as leading theories are explored and examined, and science has the final word. Join us as we create the definitive guide to sea monsters.

DVD Verdict: "Since the dawn of sea travel, mariners have recounted tales of mysterious monsters lurking in the deep. Today the mystery endures as mysterious creatures continue to wash up on our shores."

With any opening like that, it's sure to suck you in and so, as it must surely does, we then send the next hour learning all about both mythological and modern day really mysterious creatures - all found to have come from the sea!

The truth is revealed behind legends of Sea Monsters that have had their tales told throughout the ages. Could a Giant Squid be the Kraken, feared by Vikings? Using advanced hydrophones, scientists detect a baffling noise in Loch Ness. What are globsters – the mysterious monsters that wash up on our beaches?

'Sea Monsters: The Definitive Guide' enables the full length and breadth of your imagination take control here on this simply fascinating and wild ride, proving that life is chock full of surprises for good reason. Produced for National Geographic via 20th Century Fox, buy this DVD today and have an engrossing evening of viewing brought right into your living room at the push of a button! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Incredible Dr. Pol - Season 9'
(Dr. Pol / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: America’s favorite vet is back for a ninth season! Dr. Pol and his talented – and often entertaining – team work around the clock to handle central Michigan’s animal emergencies.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'The Incredible Dr. Pol' is a reality television show on Nat Geo Wild. The show follows Dutch-American veterinarian Jan Pol, and his family and employees, at his veterinarian office in rural Weidman, Michigan. The show premiered in 2011 and his son, Charles, appears on the show and is also one of the producers.

So, the show that set viewership records on Nat Geo Wild is back again for an incredible ninth season here via 20th Century Fox. Dr. Pol and his team are a very interesting veterinary team treating people's animals with compassion, care and respect. This is real folks, nothing is staged, and it all happens in "real time" when being filmed.

Here in the ninth season, we get eight (8) brand new episodes to fawn over: 1. Peacock-a-Doodle-Do, 2. E-I-E-I-Pol, 3. Flip 'N Stitch, 4. The Alpacalypse, 5. Mow, Mow, Mow Your Goat, 6. Dr. Franken-Pol, 7. Albert Ein-Swine, and 8. One Great Dane.

Personally, my three favorite episodes here in the ninth season are 'The Alpacalypse', where Dr. Pol hits the road to handle an emergency calving, where a bone has cracked and fallen into the cow's pelvis, blocking the calf's way out. Meanwhile, Dr. Emily must examine a bulldog and his terrible plastic-eating habit. Next, Dr. Pol must help reunite a moody family of alpacas, Dr. Brenda responds to an emergency call for a cow that can't stand, and Dr. Emily helps a cat get rid of maggots; 'Mow, Mow, Mow Your Goat', where before the Pols can relax and go work on their lake house, Dr. Pol must treat a wide array of clients including a camel, a bull, and hedgehog; and 'One Great Dane', where it's a highly emotional time for the Pols as they say farewell to their beloved Great Dane, Frija. But the clients keep flooding into the clinic and the show must go on.

Dr. Pol has an inspiring outlook and energy and I love seeing the farm animals and scenery. Dr. Brenda is both strong enough to get things done and she does it with sweetness and humor. Finally I appreciate the realistic approach to medical care for farm animals and pets. Most of us have limited financial resources despite our infinite love for our pets and unlike most veterinarians Dr Pol shows respect to all of his animal patients and human clients.

In closing, 'Dr. Pol' is fun to watch and obviously loves animals of all kinds. Hats off to him and all who support the well-being of our non-human friends! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Pinocchio: Walt Disney Signature Collection'
(Walter Catlett, Frankie Darro, Cliff Edwards, Dickie Jones, Charles Judels, et al / Blu ray + DVD + Digital HD / G / (1940) 2017 / Walt Disney Studios)

Overview: Now a part of the celebrated Walt Disney Signature Collection, the timeless story of 'PINOCCHIO' inspires a new generation with its masterful animation, award-winning music, unforgettable characters and exclusive, all-new behind-the-scenes Bonus Extras! With his faithful friend Jiminy Cricket by his side, Pinocchio embarks on fantastic adventures that test his bravery, loyalty and honesty until he triumphs in his quest for his heart's desire: to become a real boy.

Blu ray Verdict: After releasing a film that took years to make and not knowing what the end result would be, many wondered what Walt Disney could possibly create next after his 1st full-length animated feature, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937). Well, Walt Disney started lining up more possible projects including more full-length animated features. He was considering many options for his second animated feature including "Bambi" (1942), "Dumbo" (1941), "Alice in Wonderland" (1951), "Peter Pan" (1953), and "Fantasia" (1940), all of which would become animated features later. Then, due to difficulties figuring out how to adapt the other stories to the big screen, Walt Disney finally decided for his 2nd animated feature to be "Pinocchio" (1940).

This tale starts with a lonely wood carver named Gepetto finishing up on his newest marionette that he has called Pinocchio. He tells his two animal companions, a cat named Figaro and a fish named Cleo, that he wishes that Pinocchio was a real boy. One night, he gets his wish as a magical blue fairy brings this puppet to life. He isn't a real boy yet, but if he is able to prove his bravery, honesty and kindness, he will be one someday. Pinocchio is given a sidekick named Jiminy Cricket who will help him decide what's right or wrong and help make Gepetto proud. Now, Pinocchio is put to the test as he goes on many accidental misadventures such as becoming an actor, going to an island where you're allowed to do whatever you want (with a permanent price to pay, of course), and chasing down a monstrous whale.

As was the case with Walt Disney's previous picture "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Pinocchio" is exceptionally well animated. The backgrounds are so painstakingly well detailed that you practically notice something new in the backgrounds every time you watch it. In terms of its visuals, it pushed the envelope for what animated films could do with lighting, color, and other unique visual techniques. The music by Leigh Harline, Ned Washington, and Paul Smith is also worth commenting on. I think it's safe to say that all of us know how immortal and timeless the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" is. I think that playing this song during the opening credits was genius, since it's the best way to draw the audience's attention at the start of a film like this which is surprisingly darker than you might remember it being.

It's intriguing the way the story convinces us how wrong it is to do whatever Pinocchio is manipulated into doing. For example, when Pinocchio tells a lie about why he didn't go to school to the blue fairy, his nose keeps on growing whenever he tells lie after lie. Another noteworthy example is when Pinocchio is manipulated into going to Pleasure Island where young boys smoke cigars, drink beer, play pool and other frowned upon activities for kids to be doing. After too much time there, the kids transform into donkeys that will be taken to work at the salt mines. The reasons why they somehow turn into donkeys are surreal to say the least, but let's just say this scene will scare off kids from smoking and drinking - at least for a while.

I could have done without a few scenes at the beginning, which were solely devoted to showing off the sound effects and the details in Gepetto's workshop as opposed to continue telling the story. I also thought that the ending to this film was sort of ripping off the ending from "Snow White" in a way that was less credible. If you've seen the ending to this film already, you'll know what plot device was used during that scene that I personally don't care for. Also, I have to agree with Internet video film critic Doug Walker (of the Nostalgia Critic fame) when he said that Jiminy Cricket doesn't hold up that well. While I agree that his sense of humor wasn't that good, I also thought Jiminy was way too careless, gave up too easily, and yet usually thinks he knows everything. There are more than a few scenes that show just how blatantly inconsistent his character is.

Ultimately, what makes "Pinocchio" a great Disney movie some 76 years after its initial release is the animation, the music, and the way it reinforces the main morals of its story onto its young audience. Even though Jiminy Cricket's somewhat good intentions backfired on me, I still liked Pinocchio himself. I admired how curious he was about the world around him, how positive his attitude was, and how clueless he was about what's good and what's bad. In other words, he felt like a real kid personality wise. This aspect and the ones I've mentioned before are good enough reasons why "Pinocchio" is a film that any Disney fan should take a look at.

Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, this wonderful new Walt Disney Signature Collection release also contains hours of classic bonus material and exclusive, all-new features. These include never-before-seen artwork, archival recordings of Walt himself during Pinocchio production, and a reinvented rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star” created and performed by music influencers from Disney’s Maker Studios.

My personal favorite is Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island and the making of it therein. Wow, does this featurette tell some delightful and highly creative tales. It relates to us that in story meetings, between February 1938 and July 1939, Walt Disney and his story artists discussed the now infamous Boobyland sequence at length, and which would eventually become Pleasure Island! They then give us some voice recreations of how those conversations went, taken from real recordings preserved by the Walt Disney Archives (although quite why we couldn't have listened to the real thing is beyond me!).

Another favorite of mine, although they truly are ALL great, is In Walt’s Words – “Pinocchio” where he reveals via a scattered amount of interviews that there were, at one point, 78 artists working on the film. What struck him was that everybody was trying to turn their little sequence into a massive showcase! So by the time he asked them to show him what this film had turned into, it took an amazing two (2) days to pitch through all the material! So, with the great man sinking lower and lower into his seat, drumming his fingers, the noise and speed getting louder and louder, he knew letting loose so many artists on just the one project was a complete disaster! So came a total slashing and cutting of what would have been great stuff, because as far as the film was concerned, he wanted to keep it tight all the way through. This is a 1080p High Definition Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

The Pinocchio Project: “When You Wish Upon a Star” – Music influencers Alex G, Tanner Patrick and JR Aquino from Disney’s Maker Studios, a global leader in short-form videos, gather in a creative workspace to create their rendition of the film’s signature song, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and produce a fresh new music video.
Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island – The Pleasure Island scene in “Pinocchio” had much more development than what is seen in the film. Join Pixar’s Pete Docter and Disney historian and author J.B. Kaufman as they explore artwork recently discovered in Disney’s animation research library revealing some of the attractions, gags and games, which Disney animators created for this iconic location of the film, that never made it on screen.
In Walt’s Words – “Pinocchio” – Hear Walt himself discuss the making of “Pinocchio” through archival recordings and interviews.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in “Poor Papa” – This recently restored and scored 1927 short features Oswald the Lucky Rabbit who gets multiple visits from the stork and is forced to attempt various methods to help stop the onslaught of baby deliveries.

Classic Bonus Features – These offerings from prior home entertainment releases include hours of bonus material, such as the making of “Pinocchio,” deleted scenes, sing-alongs, storyboards and theatrical trailers.

'Gimme Danger'
(The Stooges / DVD / R / 2016 / Sony Pictures Classics)

Overview: American filmmaker Jim Jarmusch's documentary love letter to punk icons Iggy Pop and his band, The Stooges. Michigan-born Iggy's youthful music career wavered, until he found his Stooges soulmates in Dave Alexander (bass), and brothers Ron (guitar) and Scott Asheton (drums). Three ground-breaking albums and just a few years later, the band was literally falling apart. Iggy gleefully relates the story of those crazy years from "I Wanna Be Your Dog" to "Raw Power." 'Gimme Danger' is brimful of music, clips and anecdotes, including Bowie, Nico and the crowd-surfing Iggy himself.

DVD Verdict: As much as 'Gimme Danger' is fun at times, self-deprecating at times, boisterous at times, OTT at times, and beyond rivetingly revealing at tomes, it's also very dark at times also. Harrowing also springs to mind, butt hat all said, the most welcome thing to me is how director Jim Jarmusch starts with the Stooges at their (first) end in 1973.

They were broke, Iggy was missing gigs and often showing up so wasted on heroin he could "sometimes sing, sometimes not", and thus it changes things about face as to how we usually see these kind of rock documentaries. It often will start with the adulatory remarks. Here, Iggy Pop in the 1973 footage looks like he's about ready to puke all over himself ... while stage diving ... while probably slathering himself with some substance of unknown origin ... I think his genitals are most likely out for all to see/grab too!

This was an entirely fearless band, and they created art simply by virtue of only doing what *they* liked. F*** popular taste. Hell, if one follows Pop by his word (and how can you not?) there were many, many manufactured acts and that if nothing else the Stooges acted as a counterpoint to so much of what was going on in the late 60's and early 70's while being one of the hardest (working) bands of the era.

Jarmusch does an excellent job of showing us through Pop, the late Scott Asheton and other interviews, plus plenty of stock footage and, not unlike Julien Temple with Filth & the Fury, clips from old shows, movies and other rock acts (Soupy Sayles being one of them, of course) that make joke of what we're seeing, or at least reference.

Even as someone who thought he knew the Stooges, or at least Iggy Pop (real name Jim Osterberg), this gives as full a picture as you can get while, at the very end, showing us just how massive an influence they had. Think about it: they couldn't play (at first anyway, they got better as they went), and yet they changed things simply by the force of what rock and roll could do and has done when it's at its most pure.

In closing, 'Gimme Danger' is a film that reflects the aggression, the commitment to absurdity, and Pop's own madness in performance, which was an act depending on the night (or it was all of a piece). Oh, and at most all times it's done with Pop wearing his famous blonde locks like a Debbie Harry tribute statement! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Takashi Miike's Black Society Trilogy'
(Kippei Shiina, Tomorowo Taguchi, Kazuki Kitamura, Naoto Takenaka, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray / R / 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: After several years spent working almost exclusively in the direct-to-video world of "V-cinema" in Japan, Takashi Miike announced himself as a world-class filmmaking talent with this trio of thematically-connected, character-centric crime stories about violence, the underworld of Japanese society, families both real and surrogate, and the possibly hopeless task of finding one's place in the world.

Blu-ray Verdict: His first films made specifically for theatrical release, and his first for a major studio, the "Black Society Trilogy" was the beginning of Miike's mature career as a filmmaker and they remain among the prolific director's finest works.

Set in the bustling Kabuki-cho nightlife neighborhood of Tokyo, Shinjuku Triad Society follows a mixed-race cop (Kippei Shiina, Outrage) struggling with private issues while hunting a psychotic criminal (Tomorowo Taguchi, Tetsuo the Iron Man) who traffics in children's organs.

Now, and in truth, I found this a bit hard to follow to the extent that it seemed to dip in the middle while I tried to make head or tail of who was fighting who and why. One of the problems is the cultural/language one. Here we have a Chinese/Taiwanese/Japanese problem of which we know little and because we are simply reading English subtitles inevitably lose some of the subtleties.

Another problem is that there seem to be just too many only half explained twists and coincidences. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that there is a wholly bad Miiki film and this certainly is not that. Plenty of stylish and bone crunching violence, a window upon some less than orthodox sexual goings on plus the family aspect. All in all a decent ride but maybe checking out the story line might actually be helpful before watching this one.

Rainy Dog, shot entirely in Taiwan, is about an exiled yakuza (Dead or Alive s Show Aikawa) who finds himself saddled with a son he never knew he had and a price on his head after the Chinese gang he works for decides to turn on him.

Miike strays off the beaten path to do his own take on film noir here in 'Rainy Dog' re: limited dialog, moody settings, and deliberately slow development all make for a unique movie in Miike's immense filmography.

As surprising for its subtlety, pace, and precision as for its lack of the standard Miike moments, it is definitely not the director's best (for that see "The Bird People of China", "Ichi the Killer" or "Gozu"), but a great movie for a rainy Sunday afternoon, naturally if you don't mind the occasional yakuza violence!

The film focuses on the well-worn themes of love, life, family, responsibility, honor and retribution. The films tells the story of Yuuji; an exiled Japanese Yakuza living hand to mouth in a Taiwanese slum, trying to make ends meet by carrying out various hits for the local Triads so that he can afford to buy a fake passport to get him self back to Japan. So, you know, what could go wrong, right?!

Ley Lines moves from the countryside to the city and back, as three Japanese youths of Chinese descent (including The Raid 2's Kazuki Kitamura) seek their fortune in Tokyo, only to run afoul of a violent gang boss (Naoto Takenaka, The Happiness of the Katakuris).

Three young delinquents strive to do something with their respective lives, hopping on a train to Tokyo. Dan Li ('XX: Beautiful Beast') plays a hooker who tricks the young naive men getting away with their many. Karma's a bitch though and her pimp beats her up for having too much money. After a run-in with a truly sadistic john, she runs into the threesome yet again, but she's more susceptible to go along with their various plans.

For me, 'Ley Lines' is most certainly a controversial and inscrutable work - very much in tune with films like the aforementioned 'Rainy Dog', 'Birds' and the epic 'Agitator' (2001) with the continual themes of violence, loyalty, family and dislocation - but one that also manages to move the viewer on an emotional level; eliciting sympathy and understanding for these characters, as well as provoking more immediate reactions that still linger, long after the film has ended. These are all brand new High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Original uncompressed PCM stereo audio
Optional English subtitles for all three films
New interview with director Takashi Miike
New interview with actor Show Aikawa (Rainy Dog, Ley Lines)
New audio commentaries for all three films by Miike biographer Tom Mes
Original theatrical trailers for all three films
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
High Definition digital transfers of all three films
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the films

'Out Of Darkness'
(Graham Greene, John Lewis, Michael Joiner, Sherry Morris, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / IMDFilm Distribution)

Overview: Eli is a man in his twenties with a calling on his life from a young age, but he's been running from that calling - a modern day Jonah. After being fired by his father, arguing with his girlfriend in front of their daughter, and then a visit to the local pub, Eli decides to get out of town. On a lonely mountain highway Eli misses a turn and careens over an embankment, landing deep in the forest. It is a place of mystery with no way out, but it is there where God works on his heart.

DVD Verdict: Well, I have to fully admit that this movie was not what I expected! I go into most all I review without researching their background too much so as to not spoil it for me re: social media reveals and such. But, wow, I mean, 'Out Of Darkness' is a whole other movie to what I expected it to be from the cover and the synopsis on the back.

An engaging documentary that powerfully covers all aspects of Black life, from rarely discussed ancient times to the more popular, 'Out Of Darkness' is insightful and powerful both at the very same time. A collection of dynamic speakers leaves NO rock unturned here, covering every aspect of racial tensions between White and Black folks in America - in terms of psychology, history, economics, religion and more.

This is a must have for everyone, but especially the primary victims of the concentrated system of American White Supremacy. This is a message that adults and children need to see (Adults screen first to ensure the content is suitable for young children - The truth is tactful, but not sugar coated). Indeed, every disturbing and confusing racial event in America can and is explained on this DVD in clear and practical terms that anyone can understand. But as the title suggests, you will not find 'Out Of Darkness' in public schools where it belongs, which is one sad fact that you can definitely expect to take away from having viewed this movie, that's for sure. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Murder Rap: Inside The Biggie And Tupac Murders'
(Tupac Shakur, Mike Tyson, Snoop Dogg, Kidada Jones, Quincy Jones, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Filmrise)

Overview: The inside story behind the Biggie and Tupac murder investigations is laid bare using police case files, taped confessions never before shown on film and interviews with lead detective Greg Kading and other witnesses. Based on the book, Murder Rap: The Untold Story of the Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations by former dectective Greg Kading.

DVD Verdict: Over the years, I have seen many documentaries about the murder of Tupac and Biggie, which have all been conspiracy theories and made up stories from witnesses but this movie was very believable and quite shocking. The lead investigator, Greg Kading, put together a brilliant case against the real murderers of the two rap stars and the evidence was enough to put the major culprits, Puffy and Suge Knight, behind bars for a very long time but when the case got dropped and the evidence got shelved, it seems like Tupac and Biggie family will never get justice for there murders.

The step by step viewing of the assassinations were very believable and the interviews with the various gang members were quite shocking. I just can't believe that the evidence didn't come out on a worldwide scale, because people are still making up there own stories about what happened on both nights of the murders. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this in depth documentary, which doesn't look cheap like a lot that I have seen before. I honestly can't see why the law wouldn't take this evidence seriously because I am definitely convinced that Greg Kading has found the people who were involved and murdered Tupac & Biggie. Great!

In conclusion, this brilliant documentary was directed by Michael Dorsey, 37, who also brought you the Six Degrees of Helter Skelter, which is about the Manson family, Lost Airmen of Buchenwald, The Oyler House: Richard Neutra's Desert Retreat and Dearly Departed 1 & 2. The way that he describes how each murder took place, was great and the fact that he shows the real locations, made it even more believable. The real interview tapes that are used throughout the movie, also was a great touch, so I can definitely say that the cases have been solved, in my eyes. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'4th Man Out'
(Parker Young, Evan Todd, Chord Overstreet, Jon Gabrus, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Filmrise)

Overview: The true strength of friendship is put to the test when a small town car mechanic comes out of the closet to his group of gullible, blue-collar best friends. This award-winning buddy comedy stars Parker Young (Surburgatory), Evan Todd (Sydney White), Chord Overstreet (Glee) and Jon Gabrus (Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight, Awful Nice).

DVD Verdict: '4th Man Out' has a lot going for it. Well-written dialog, with a real sense of humor. Good acting from an appealing and attractive cast. An unusual and effective location. It's definitely worth a look for anyone interested in the so-called 'sub genre' of gay-themed movies. And for these reasons, it's far superior to many of its predecessors.

Evan Todd as "Adam", the main character, does a fine job of conveying the anxiety of someone in his position. It's a situation many of us can identify with. And it's treated in way consistent with the time period (current) and location (upstate NY, i.e. not San Francisco, NYC or Boston). Adam and his friends are in their late 20s and all have (or think they have) pretty open-minded views about homosexuality, but when Adam announces he's gay it still creates some ripples in their little network. Because the characters are pretty well drawn -- Adam and best friend Chris (played by Parker Young) in particular-- it's hard to condemn any of them for not immediately and fully embracing their friend's news.

It takes them a while. Yes, this is not taking place 30 years ago, so we can think they should have no problems. But they do love Adam as a friend and eventually they all come around. The film balances the awkwardness and initial homophobia pretty well, with no really mean-spirited humor. Adam's parents are also well presented, with expected surprise (or lack of it) and acceptance through love.

The single big drawback in '4th Man Out' is a dating montage sequence for Adam. He signs on to a gay dating site, or phone app and is quickly barraged with interested parties (he's very good-looking and charming). The problem with the sequence is that it trades in too many stereotypes. The one likely candidate gets as far as a pretty hot make-out session with Adam, but it's ruined by a crass event that seems out of place and unnecessary. Too bad, but this does not spoil the entire film, please know and understand that. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Silicon Cowboys'
(Rod Canion, Ross Cooley, Jim Harris, Bill Murto, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Filmrise)

Overview: Three friends dream up the Compaq portable computer at a Texas diner in 1981, and soon find themselves battling mighty IBM for PC supremacy. Their improbable journey altered the future of computing and shaped the world we now know.

DVD Verdict: As a HUGE fan of AMC's 'Halt And Catch Fire' TV series, I found 'Silicon Cowboys' to be a very interesting documentary about how Compaq computers took on giant IBM in the early days of the computer wars. Much in the same vein as David & Goliath, except that David was much more clever than clumsy old Goliath!

Taking us back to 1981, the 3 friends (and Texas Instruments co-workers) quit their jobs to start a new company – only they have no real plan on what that company should be or even what industry it should be in. There is a re-enactment of a conceptual drawing of a mobile computer on a diner's paper placemat … a drawing that helped them secure a big investment from Ben Rosen at a time when Venture Capitalism was non-existent for technology companies (yep, 35 years ago).

Those early days of a slow developing Silicon Valley featured more hobbyists and non-commercial efforts than anything going on these days. Mobile computing was not really even a product category when Compaq stuck a handle on their case … the visuals of businessmen toting them through airports is comical. This was truly the beginnings of the home computer era, and even the tech start-up. The film serves as a historical perspective of the times, while also documenting how Compaq fits into the evolution of the personal computer.

It's pretty easy to draw comparisons to the great and powerful IBM ignoring the "little guys" to the 1970's when GM and Ford overlooked Honda and Toyota. It's always easy to chuckle at the arrogance of big corporations, and when Compaq computers were more compatible with IBM software than IBM computers were, it's a real head-scratcher. The dawn of "clones" were more than a thorn in the side of Big Blue (IBM), and eventually it got worse for them. Head-to-head advertising campaigns of IBM's Charlie Chaplin vs. Compaq's John Cleese further emphasized the contrast between those out of touch with those who clearly understood the market.

Sure it ends on a relatively sad note, as the entropy that engulfs most companies comes to Compaq so that the company's initial familial corporate culture disappears under the pressure of being successful - and, of course, fierce competition. In closing, 'Silicon Cowboys' is cleverly done as we meet the human faces behind the corporate logos. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Jim: The James Foley Story'
(James Foley, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Filmrise)

Overview: 'Jim: The James Foley Story' is an in-depth look at the life and work of American journalist James Foley, who was killed by ISIS terrorists in 2014.

DVD Verdict: The emotional depth of this documentary is vast, impressive, immersive. In 'Jim', James Foley is beautifully dissected as one of the most honest and kind-hearted conflict journalists of any time.

Indeed, I'm finding it very hard to review this film because of how powerful the entire experience was. I teared up half a dozen times, I couldn't find many words to say to my friends afterwards and neither could they. The documentary seemed to have taken control of us. 'Jim: The James Foley Story' is an incredible, heartfelt and ultimately beyond sad film that documents a man on a mission - but one that would lead him into a situation that he simply couldn't win or get out of alive.

I'm not sure how else to explain it without giving anything away. It was hard to stomach some of the more graphic and real images from inside Syria. Overall it was an incredible viewing experience, one that needs to be shared with as many people as possible. Especially in 2016 when ISIS appears to be a real threat. Please watch this film, knowing as you might the ending beforehand, for it is much, so much more than just its end result, of that you have my word. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Addicted To Fresno'
(Judy Greer, Natasha Lyonne, Aubrey Plaza, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Filmrise)

Overview: Shannon (Judy Greer, Jurassic World) is just out of sex rehab when her younger, overly optimistic lesbian sister, Martha (Natasha Lyonne, Orange is the New Black) lands her a job as a maid at Fresno Suites, the local hotel. When Shannon jeopardizes her fresh new start in life by accidentally killing a hotel guest after a sudden relapse, Martha takes it as an opportunity to fix their relationship and helps her sister cover up the crime. Co-starring Malcom Barrett (Dear White People) and Ron Livingston (Office Space).

DVD Verdict: 'Addicted To Fresno' follows two sisters in Shannon (Judy Greer), a seemingly recovered sex addict who has very little moral compass, and Martha (Natasha Lyonne), an eternal optimist who is always going over the top to help her sister with her issues and devotes very little attention to her own well-being. The two work as maids at a local hotel in their hometown of Fresno--a city where not much happens and the people there hate it yet can't seem to get out. Shannon's antics come to a nadir when she accidentally kills a man. She and her sister attempt to escape the mess, which will prove to either help or harm their already rocky relationship.

It's definitely an anti-sibling movie--or at least it wants to be. I think mainly it strives to show us that the world is not as black and white as we have been brought up believing. Society tells us that as long as we hold on to family we'll be okay in the end. But sometimes they're the ones holding us back.

The small town trope plays on the whole "being held back" theme. The girls are two complete opposite personalities, yet they both manage to become complacent in a city that doesn't offer much for either of them.

The film is never hilarious, but does a good job of keeping the tone jovial throughout with some black comedy nuances and some enjoyable sequences thrown in, like a 13-year-old bar mitzvah boy performing a highly vulgar song filled with Jewish puns in front of his gasping relatives.

We get some nice scenes from the supporting cast as well, including Fred Armisen as Gerald, the owner of a pet cemetery, who doesn't get nearly enough screen time, and Aubrey Plaza as Kelly, Martha's personal trainer, who gets plenty of screen time but is mostly underutilized. Solid scenes from Molly Shannon, Malcolm Barrett, and Kumail Nanjiani are mostly what make this film watchable. The timing of the two leads compliments their chemistry very well, but they are given very little in terms of laughable material.

I understand that it's supposed to be somewhat of a black comedy, but it never fully commits. It's not obvious enough and most people may just chalk it up to being unfunny. The story line is intriguing enough and I like most of the decisions that it happens to make, but if we're going to be sitting down to view a comedy we need to know what we're watching.

Although a little uneven in terms of comedic tone, the laughs are there if you know where to find them. The story is one that hasn't really been told in quite this fashion before and the themes are relatable regardless of the impractical lengths of which it chooses to showcase them by. It helps that both characters are deep enough to attach ourselves to. It's not a terrible film by any means, it just speaks to a very specific crowd. And since its role as a comedy wears a bit thin, we may be tempted to dismiss the story as merely trivial. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Cinema Paradiso' [Blu-ray]
(Philippe Noiret, Jacques Perrin, Antonella Attili, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray / NR / (1988) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Giuseppe Tornatore's loving homage to the cinema tells the story of Salvatore, a successful film director, returning home for the funeral of Alfredo, his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. Soon memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena and all the high and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier.

Blu-ray Verdict: From beginning to end, 'Cinema Paradiso' is, of course, about various forms of love, but my favorite element of the story is not just the way movies are portrayed, but the way old movies are portrayed. I have a particular fondness of older films (and a particular distaste for the shallow, exploitative and unimaginative garbage constantly cranked out by Hollywood these days), and one of the biggest themes of this film is the loss of purity and truth and innocence that movies once had.

Obviously, I'm not talking about the glory days when kissing scenes were edited out of the projected version of a film, but the days when even a film that had the kissing and even minor, minor nudity scenes cut out of them would still draw a frantic crowd so eager to see films that they would sit for 30 minutes waiting for the second half the begin. Today, audiences would be up and asking for refunds within five minutes, and if there was no sex or explosions or car chases in the movie, many of them wouldn't be there in the first place, which is truly sad and is exactly what this movie rails against.

I particularly loved the scene where Toto finally goes back home when he learns about the death of Alfredo (which would have been a spoiler, except that you learn of Alfredo's death within the first five or ten minutes of the movie), and his mother tells him that just before he died, Alfredo asked her not to tell Toto, not to ask him to come back. In the next scene Toto is walking through the ruins of the Cinema Paradiso and sees how cruel time has been to it and, even worse, how cheap and derivative the movies have become that are now played there.

Alfredo didn't want Toto to come back because he saw what movies were becoming, and that is a direct message to the film industry the likes of which has never been seen like this. 'Cinema Paradiso' owns that message, and it's one of my favorite lessons about film history. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Restored from the original camera negative and presented in two versions the 124 minute Cannes Festival theatrical version and the 174 minute Director's Cut
Uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
Optional English subtitles
Audio commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus
A Dream of Sicily A 52-minute documentary profile of Giuseppe Tornatore featuring interviews with director and extracts from his early home movies as well as interviews with director Francesco Rosi and painter Peppino Ducato, set to music by the legendary Ennio Morricone
A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise A 27-minute documentary on the genesis of Cinema Paradiso, the characters of Toto and Alfredo, featuring interviews with the actors who play them, Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio as well as Tornatore
The Kissing Sequence Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with full clips identifying each scene
Original Director's Cut Theatrical Trailer and 25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet by Pasquale Iannone illustrated with archive stills, behind-the-scenes images and posters

'Masterpiece: Victoria - First Season' [Blu-ray ]
(Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Rufus Sewell, Daniela Holtz, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'Victoria' tells the tale of the early life of Queen Victoria, from her ascension to the throne at the tender age of 18 to her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert.

Blu ray Verdict: In years gone by, we Brits (and presumably others also) watched - rather addictively - such series as "Edward the Seventh" with Timothy West (1975), "Edward and Mrs Simpson" with Edward Fox (1978) and "Lillie" (also 1978) - about Mrs Langtry as Edward VII's lover while Prince of Wales, and hence covering some of the same ground. In each case they seemed to be well-done, featuring a host of stars and apparently looking for all the world like they were presenting the real thing.

In contrast, I find my adult self continually doubting the authenticity of historical recreations, which at times can seem to look quite lame. Presumably, this is the price one pays for greater knowledge and experience, and perhaps also increasing skepticism with age.

While part of Queen Victoria's reign was obviously covered in some of the aforementioned series, the doing of the whole thing was presumably considered too challenging an enterprise in the past, but once Jenna Coleman achieved a measure of stardom thanks to Dr Who, a realistic candidate for the starring role was found, and work on a series embarked upon.

Very visibly, the makers of 'Victoria' have tried to out-Downton "Downton Abbey" by throwing in a layer of upstairs-downstairs story lines in the Buckingham Palace household context. These include some real historical figures, though doubtless doing many completely invented things. This at times seems like an awful and cheapening mistake by the makers, but on second thoughts one realizes that many a story would have been quite difficult to present without it, and an opportunity for out-of-the-Palace background and social comment is also offered in this way. Fair enough, but the effect is not completely cringe-free!

More seriously (for the whole "suspend disbelief" thing), I simply ridiculed a scene in Episode 1 when Victoria took the salute with her soldiery in a very hammy-looking pseudo-military uniform, only to check on the Internet and find an early-Victorian sketch in which she is wearing EXACTLY such a uniform!

Further checks on further implausible-looking content from Episode 1 also revealed that they were actual events! Suitably chastened, but also much more enthusiastic, I turned to Episode 2 with vigor and very much enjoyed the rest of the series, which I recommend, even for those with a purist's interest in history, as well as lovers of drama.

Of course the viewer (myself included) may at times become over-trusting, as - for example - Prince Albert DID NOT increase his self-confidence and "find a role" by making a telling speech at the (real-life) World Anti-Slavery Conference convened in London in June 1840, fine story though that would have been, and most probably actually in line with the feelings of both Victoria and Albert, who were "progressive" figures in this field as in some others (as the series tends to make clear).

Other interactions between Victoria or Albert or both and other key figures of the day look more or less forced or phony, but overall there is a sense of the period conveyed here well enough, and many a true story told, in spite of everything. To that extent the series is educational, but it also works in its presentation of the royal couple as real, and quite remarkable people - all credit to Coleman, and to Tom Hughes for the role of Albert. There is even humor here, reminding us that - in her early reign at least - Victoria was sometimes "amused", was a lively enough girl and young woman, and was certainly deeply in love, and quite capable of feeling an appropriate measure of lust for her beau into the bargain. In short, a real and full human being, and a vigorous - and even quite talented - one at that.

This is all good stuff, well conveyed. Prior to Albert's appearance, the Victoria story is entirely dominated (as it seems historically to have been) by Lord Melbourne, and here Rufus Sewell does an extremely good job, dominating a great many of the scenes and conveying a complex, thoughtful, kind and world-weary figure with many a pithy line to utter. Perhaps this version of Melbourne is greater than the real thing, but the performance is very fine in and of itself.

Peter Bowles's Duke of Wellington offers us little more than a sour and condescending oldish man (Wellington was certainly grouchy, reactionary and opinionated, but surely always evoked more respect than this character does, throughout his life, given his irrevocable status as national hero from India, Waterloo and the effective Peninsular War?).

However, Nigel Lindsay's Robert Peel is a great deal of fun to watch, and his growing interaction with Hughes's Albert is endearing. But was it really like that? That question again, sorry.

And so back to the original point. Perhaps we expect more these days (and thanks to the Internet we certainly have more access to knowledge - a healthy state of affairs). But does that slightly spoil the work of those with the temerity to make historical series for us, or is this just a necessary process of keeping them on their toes? Ultimately it is hard to say, and the price is an occasional feeling of discomfort/embarrassment watching 'Victoria'.

But not to have attempted the series at all would have been sad, and as it is we have something interesting to watch, if mostly better at the small-scale, more intimate encounters than the large-scale national or state events, which do not always achieve persuasiveness. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Interviews with Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes and Rufus Sewell
Tour of the Buckingham Palace Set with Neil Hudson and Tommy Knight
Creating the CGI Magic

'Mercy Street - Season 2' [Blu-ray]
(Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Rufus Sewell, Daniela Holtz, et al / 2-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Allegiances blur and loyalties shift as the Civil War pushes the drama beyond the hospital. Follow the growing chaos at Alexandria's Mansion House, the precarious position of the Green family, and the changing situation of the burgeoning black population.

Blu ray Verdict: Catching everyone up, 'Mercy Street' takes place at the start of the Civil War, in a Union Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, where a newly appointed "head nurse" must contend with multiple issues in her attempt to organize services. There are all sorts of problem she must confront – how to care for Confederate troops in a Union hospital, how to deal with slaves and freed Blacks, the rivalries between different types of nurses, the hierarchical relationship with Physicians, the influence of European medicine, etc.

The settings are marvelous as are the costumes. The acting is very good, especially from head nurse and ardent abolitionist Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Confederate volunteer Hannah James. TV Stalwarts Gary Cole, Peter Gerety, and Cherry Jones are on hand as well. At times modernism creep into the dialogue, as well as the mannerisms, but generally speaking it has an authentic mid 19th Century feel. There is also some failings in the accents which seem to range all over the place, even among family members.

The first few episodes here in the second season still (thankfully) manage to keep the soap opera elements at a minimum while showing us what it must have been like to be a part of the process. This show is entertaining while it is simultaneously educational. It won't appeal to everyone, but anyone interested in Medicine, or the Civil War, will find it compelling.

At the beginning of this second season, Dr. Jedediah Foster (Josh Radnor) now runs the hospital as Dr. Alfred Summers (Peter Gerety) finally gets that desk job in Washington City and he puts Mary Phinney (Mary Elizabeth Winsted) in charge of running the rest of the hospital much to the frustration of Nurse Anne Hastings (Tara Summers) and Dr. Byron Hale (Norbet Leo Butz).

Another story line involves a black man named Samuel Diggs (McKinley Belcher III) who works at the hospital. He falls in love with the laundress, Aurelia, who is trying to locate her lost son Gabriel. By the end of the first season Samuel saves Aurelia from dying from a botched abortion and finds her mother and son, bringing them to her. He gets her on a boat to the north to safety and ties up loose ends in Alexandria so he can join them.

Samuel grew up in a house with a northern doctor and assisted him in many surgeries. But in this time frame, black men aren't allowed to be doctors. At the beginning of season two, Aurelia's husband shows up looking for Aurelia and Gabriel.

The other story line involves the Green family. The southern families in Alexandria are forced to sign a pledge of allegiance to the Union or suffer the consequences. The consequences being they lose everything as the Union Army takes and takes and takes some more. The southern families are not permitted to bury their dead in the cemetery until they sign this oath. So far the Green family has avoided signing.

One of their family friends signs the oath to bury their son and they are burned in their home by other southerners. Meanwhile, the oldest daughter Emma starts learning alongside Mary Phinney to be a nurse. At first she nurses only the Confederate soldiers in the hospital who are often ignored.

At the beginning of season two she asks Mary to nurse everyone. In season one, Emma knew that her boyfriend Frank Stringfellow was loose in town pretending to be a dentist. He is part of a terrorist group called Knights of the Golden Circle which Emma's younger sister Alice is part of. Emma knows nothing about this group, but in the beginning of season two she's starting to put the puzzle pieces together as Frank's lies catch up with him.

Personally, and in closing, I tend to steer clear of shows that focus so heavily on race and gender because often the content is more inflammatory than informative (or even accurate, sometimes)... but in this case it has been a powerful experience. So, just watch 'Mercy Street' as it will sit with you, for all the right reasons thereafter, This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of over 20 minutes of Deleted Scenes.

'The Gruffalo' + 'The Gruffalo's Child'
(Helena Bonham Carter, James Corden, Tom Wilkinson, et al, / DVD / NR / 2017 / Orange Eyes Limited - PBS)

Overview: 'The Gruffalo' tells the magical tale of a mouse who takes a walk through the woods in search of a nut. Encountering three predators who all wish to eat him a fox, an owl and a snake the plucky mouse has to use his wits to survive, creating an imaginary monster who then turns out to be only too real.

DVD Verdict: Having narrowly avoided a predator herself, a mother squirrel calms the nerves of her two young children by telling them a story of a plucky young mouse who travels deep into the woods in search of food only to find predators at every turn ready to trick him into becoming their next meal.

Based on the very successful children's book (which I've not read), the rhyming dialogue of the mouse's speech appears to have made it as has the look and feel of the film since the animation is very close to what I have seen of the book. In terms of substance it is very simple but effective – you know where it is going but it has an easy delight to it that one cannot help enjoying. I'm not sure if it is from the book or not but I felt that the narrative device of having us be told the mouse's story via another story teller (and being able to see her audience while also be the audience ourselves) really did work to make it a bit more engaging. The cast is fairly packed with famous voices as well (and not just for UK viewers, which is normally how it works).

Although I personally am yet to see what everyone likes about him, Corden does a good job as the mouse – despite the feeling that the BBC were putting him in everything (this was his first of three appearances at Christmas). He is quite restrained in his delivery, which suits the mouse and the clever little rhyming style of his speech. Carter's narrator is balanced and responsible, with Brydon, Hurt and Wilkinson doing good work in small bits as the predators.

Coltrane is the only one that really makes an impression though, since his voice is quite distinctive and he plays up the gruff aspect of it. In terms of the stars, they are all good without being so good that it explains their involvement, but I suppose it helps the film and also represented an easy time commitment from them.

What really made it for me though was the animation. The film looks great but it does it in a way that never feels showy or like it is being done for the sake of it. In terms of bringing it to the screen it somehow manages to be impressive and detailed but yet also keep the rounded colorful nature that one would expect with a children's animated book. To me, the animation did more than the star names in terms of creating the characters and while the casting is a coup that catches the eye, the animators deserve a lot of credit as well. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of a Behind The Scenes Documentary.

In the sequel, 'The Gruffalo's Child', a little Gruffalo ignores her father's warnings and tiptoes out into the snow in search of the Big Bad Mouse. Essentially reversing the plot of the original Gruffalo short, this time the squirrel tells her children a tale about the Gruffalo's child going into the woods to seek out the fearsome mouse that her father uses as a warning not to wander off. As before each animal encountered points the child onward to a new threat and as before the result is a cute and enjoyable little short film even if it never really excels in a great deal.

It perhaps lacks the Pixar sense of humor or a cynical edge to appeal to adults specifically but it is hard to dislike it for just how simple a tale it is. The animation is still impressive but yet retains the feel of a children's book – I feel no shame in admitting that I was watching this in a dressing gown at the end of a day of wine and food and it felt oddly comforting to be sitting being told this wholesome and simple little tale.

The dialogue still works well in this effect with it repetition and rhyming nature while the voice cast from the first film mostly return. Most of them only have a few lines apart from Shirley Henderson, who plays her usual "odd Scottish waif" role really well as the child – she was a good bit of casting and brought a lot of character to the child. As before Corden mercifully underplays and does good as the mouse. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of a Behind The Scenes Documentary and an Artwork Gallery.

'WordWorld: Let's Make Music!'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Emmy Award Winner for Outstanding Children's Animated Program, 'WordWorld' is a CGI animated television series that debuted on PBS Kids. It was produced by The Learning Box and WTTW-TV. The series premiered on September 3, 2007 and ended on January 17, 2011 with 80 episodes and 3 seasons. These eight (8) fun stories are grouped together and titled 'Let's Make Music!'

DVD Verdict: Duck encourages Shark to dance in his show called The Dancing Duck Bonanza. When Shark comes up on land, he flops all over the stage! Can Duck find a way to put on his show and include Shark? Later, Sheep is getting ready to put on a big musical show! While singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in front of his Friends, Duck gets a case of stage fright. Can Sheep and Ant help Duck overcome his stage fright?

The loveable WordFriends take children on adventures in a world of words where they encounter all sorts of situations that can only be solved by building a word! Playfully demonstrating the connections between letters, sounds, words and meaning, WordWorld empowers children to advance from learning letters to learning how to read.

The episodes contained on this brand new 'WordWorld: Let's Make Music!' DVD are: 'Dancing Dog,' 'Duck Plays the Piano,' 'The Dancing Duck Bonanza,' 'A Star is Born,' 'Boppin' with the Bug Band,' 'Radio Read-a-Thon,' Dog's Having a Party' and 'Bed Bugs.'

WordWorld, where words come alive in apps and games, videos, and printable activities also features a Watch & Learn section, which features three highly endorsed subjects: 1. Letter and word sounds, 2. Blending word parts into words, and 3. Build confidence - reading is fun! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Super Why - Puppy Power!'
(DVD / NR / 2015 / PBS KIDS)

Overview: Reading is power and Super WHY! helps kids learn the fundamentals of reading through interactive story book adventures!

DVD Verdict: For those of you that are not aware, Super WHY! is a new series that contains a breakthrough interactive approach to reading education. Classic fairy tales with an innovative preschool twist and colorful and empowering young heroes, Super WHY! is the only preschool property created to help kids learn the fundamentals of reading through interactive storybook adventures.

In truth, my 22-month old son loves this show. He loves it because of the singing and interactive nature of the show. I love it because I teach reading at an elementary school! I enjoy the premise of the show immensely - the ability to solve "every day" problems with solutions from a book or story. I also enjoy the fact that Whyatt's super power is the power to read and a big deal is made of it each and every time.

Each of the other characters has "control" over one aspect of reading - spelling power, word power, and alphabet power. All of these skills are important for thinking about letters and sounds as connected and a part of the reading process. Kudos to PBS for providing yet another powerful show that helps our kids learn!

The four (4) reading adventures featured on this new DVD are: Woofster Finds a Home, The Pupp-athon, Super Puppy Saves the Day and Woofster and the Pet Pack.

There's a dog adoption fair in Storybrook Village and Whyatt has made a new friend named Woofster! When Whyatt discovers that Woofster needs a new home, the Super Readers make it their mission to help out. Before they know it, Woofster has become part of the team! This fun-filled collection of four puppy-packed stories features tons of new furry friends and will have kids begging for more reading adventures! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Odd Squad: The Movie'
(DVD / G / 2016 / PBS)

Overview: When a rival agency called Weird Team arrives with a gadget that fixes any odd problem, Odd Squad doesn't have any cases to solve and goes out of business forcing the agents to go back to their lives as regular kids! After using math and teamwork to uncover that Weird Team's gadget isn't actually fixing problems, Olympia and Otis join forces with Olive and Otto to stop Weird Team and save the world from destruction!

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, The Odd Squad is a government agency that’s run by kids! Their mission is to investigate and rectify strange occurrences and to keep everyone safe. All of the agents have names that begin with the letter “O”.

'Odd Squad: The Movie' is a live-action series with the goal of helping kids ages 5-8 learn math. And for that reason alone, my boy enjoyed this show and its wacky humor tremendously! Besides entertaining, it teaches logic and math concepts like fractions and graphing/charting.

That said, and as much as I myself (an adult) found it very funny and entertaining for the whole family, a lot of the gags are going to go over the heads of younger kids. If you are looking for a lot of educational value, then you're going to be disappointed. There is really only one math lesson that focuses on the exponential growth of doubling and then continuing to re-double it. Kind of a fun fact, but not of great mathematical value. But my kids really enjoyed it, and the kids in the movie looked like they had a ball!

So yeah, I highly recommend this DVD to all parents of children interested in math, or otherwise. Either way it will definitely, 100% keep them occupied watching The Odd Squad figure things out -- and you parents also, most likely! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Pearl Harbor: Into The Arizona'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: The USS Arizona has been resting on Pearl Harbor's ocean floor for 75 years. For the first time since it was destroyed in 1941, scientists have the technology to take a look inside the ship.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, the USS Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship built for and by the United States Navy in the mid-1910s. Named in honor of the 48th state's recent admission into the union, the ship was the second and last of the Pennsylvania class of "super-dreadnought" battleships. Although commissioned in 1916, the ship remained stateside during World War I.

Shortly after the end of the war, Arizona was one of a number of American ships that briefly escorted President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference. The ship was sent to Turkey in 1919 at the beginning of the Greco-Turkish War to represent American interests for several months. Several years later, she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet and remained there for the rest of her career.

As this fascinating documentary from PBS goes to lengths to show, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Arizona was bombed. After a bomb detonated in a powder magazine, the battleship exploded violently and sank, with the loss of 1,177 officers and crewmen. Unlike many of the other ships sunk or damaged that day, Arizona was irreparably damaged by the force of the magazine explosion, though the Navy removed parts of the ship for reuse.

The wreck then lay at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, dedicated on 30 May 1962 to all those who died during the attack, straddles the ship's hull.

But now, and for the first time since it was destroyed in 1941, scientists have the technology to take a look inside the ship. The discoveries made inside the ship are a stark reminder of all those who paid the ultimate price for their country. The expedition retells personal stories of survivors who lived through Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. If you find all there is about Pearl Harbor to be fascinating, and you think you know all there is to know about the USS Arizona, well, think again. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'USO - For the Troops'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'USO - For the Troops' takes viewers behind the scenes and inside the life-affirming work the USO performs, year in and year out, to lift the spirits of American service personnel and to build and strengthen the ties that connect them to their families, their homes, and our nation.

DVD Verdict: For 75 years, the United Service Organizations (USO) has lifted the spirits of American soldiers and has kept service personnel connected to their families and country while abroad. 'USO: For the Troops' conveys the fast pace and complex logistics of a modern USO tour, and underlines the importance of the organization not just for service people, but for America as a whole.

During World War II, the USO became the GI's "home away from home" and began a tradition of entertaining the troops that continues today. Involvement in the USO was one of the many ways in which the nation had come together to support the war effort, with nearly 1.5 million Americans having volunteered their services in some way. After it was disbanded in 1947, it was revived in 1950 for the Korean War, after which it also provided peacetime services. During the Vietnam War, USOs were sometimes located in combat zones.

We learn that the organization became particularly famous for its live performances, called Camp Shows, through which the entertainment industry helped boost the morale of its servicemen and women. Hollywood in general was eager to show its patriotism, and many famous celebrities joined the ranks of USO entertainers. They entertained in military bases at home and overseas, sometimes placing their own lives in danger, by traveling or performing under hazardous conditions.

The USO has over 160 locations around the world in 14 countries (including the U.S.) and 27 states. During a gala marking the USO's 75th anniversary in 2016, retired Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the current chairman of the USO Board of Governors, estimated that the USO has served more than 35 million Americans over its history. Its motto is "Until everyone comes home" and with regard this new documentary, it's a complete and utter must-see experience. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Mind of a Chef: Ludo Lefebvre (Season 5)'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Season 5 of the Emmy® and James Beard Award-winning series The Mind of a Chef returns with the world-renowned Ludo Lefebvre retracing the inspiration for his culinary career and exploring what it truly means to cook, think, create, and live in today's food-obsessed world.

DVD Verdict: 'The Mind of a Chef' is a non-fiction television series on PBS narrated and executive produced by Anthony Bourdain, and combines travel, cooking, history, and science.

The first season premiered on November 9, 2012 with host David Chang, and now here we are onto Season 5 with Ludo Lefebvre. For those not in the know, Ludovic "Ludo" Lefebvre a French chef, restaurateur, pop-up impresario, author, and television personality. He trained with the great masters in France for 12 years before moving to Los Angeles.

He was quickly awarded the prestigious Mobil Travel Guide Five Star Award at two different restaurants, L'Orangerie in 1999 and 2000 and Bastide in 2006. He then went on to create his uber-popular LudoBites concept, a multi-city restaurant tour, followed by opening two restaurants in Los Angeles, Trois Mec and Petit Trois.

From Executive Producer Anthony Bourdain, this three hour long season focusing on Chef Ludo Lefebvre shines a light on the great man, the cooking genius as he stirs up the food scene in Los Angeles. Here in this fifth season of the hit TV show, Ludo retraces the inspiration for his culinary career and explores what it truly means to cook, think, create, and live in today's food-obsessed world.

So, why should you watch this delightful TV show? Well, in 2013, 'The Mind of a Chef' won a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Television Program, On Location. And in 2014, 'The Mind of a Chef' won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Culinary Program. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Searching for Augusta: Forgotten Angel of Bastogne
(DVD / NR / (2014) 2017 / PBS)

Overview: This true story begins with two nurses, Renee LeMaire and Augusta Chiwy, as they treat patients in the Bastogne aid station. Renee was killed on Christmas Eve and became famous as The Angel of Bastogne. Augusta s story was lost to history for sixty-five years. Augusta Chiwy s story is one of great courage and heroism in the face of racial discrimination.

DVD Verdict: 'Searching for Augusta: The Forgotten Angel of Bastogne' follows the story of Augusta Chiwy, a black Belgian nurse whose volunteer service in a US Army 10th Armored Division medical aid station during World War II's Battle of the Bulge exemplifies the best of the human spirit in the worst of times.

As mentioned in the Overview, this incredible true story begins with two nurses, Renee LeMaire and Augusta Chiwy, as they treat patients in the Bastogne aid station. Renee was killed on Christmas Eve and became famous as "The Angel of Bastogne." Augusta's story was lost to history for sixty-five years, until military historian and author Martin King found her living alone in Brussels. Augusta Chiwy's story is one of courage, compassion, and great individual heroism in the face of bigotry and racial discrimination.

As sorrowful and as passionate as anything that I've sat down to review in a decade, 'Searching for Augusta: The Forgotten Angel of Bastogne' is one of those films that proves humanity has a heart - well, those that aided, as opposed those that waylaid the situations at hand, of course. It is truly one woman's story of heroism and bravery during World War II and it will leave a mark on you afterwards, of that you have my word. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Masters: Eero Saarinen'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Explore the life of Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, whose visionary buildings include St. Louis Gateway Arch and the General Motors Technical Center in Michigan. Travel with his son, as he showcases the architect s body of timeless work, which continues to inspire amongst renewed interest in 20th-century architects and artists who exploded the constraints of the past to create a robust and daring American aesthetic.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Eero Saarinen was a 20th-century Finnish American architect and industrial designer noted for his neofuturistic style.

Eero Saarinen was born on August 20, 1910 to Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen and his second wife, Louise, on his father's 37th birthday. They immigrated to the United States in 1923, when Eero was thirteen. He grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where his father taught and was dean of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and he took courses in sculpture and furniture design there.[citation needed] He had a close relationship with fellow students Charles and Ray Eames, and became good friends with Florence Knoll (née Schust).

Saarinen began studies in sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, France, in September 1929. He then went on to study at the Yale School of Architecture, completing his studies in 1934. Subsequently, he toured Europe and North Africa for a year and returned for a year to his native Finland.

But as we discover, Eero Saarinen grew up to create some visionary buildings that include National Historic Landmarks such as St. Louis' iconic Gateway Arch and the General Motors Technical Center in Michigan. Saarinen also designed New York's TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Yale University's Ingalls Rink and Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges, Virginia's Dulles Airport, and modernist pedestal furniture like the Tulip chair.

Critics always want to analyze if an architect’s work embodies certain feelings like excitement or sense of belonging when in fact architecture is as simple as sense of belonging that humans feel with a human's creation. No one analyzed that feeling better than another genius architect called Cesar Pelli when he said "IF YOUR BUILDINGS REMAIN ALIVE, YOUR MEMORY REMAINS ALIVE.” Eero Saarinen's work WAS, IS and WILL BE alive for many centuries to come since Eero's work is valued, appreciated and more importantly, protected by its care takers. Watch this fascinating documentary and discover this fact for yourself. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

First Christ Church Scout
MIT Chapel Construction
Chapel Description
CBS Building Story

'NOVA: Treasures of the Earth'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Explore how precious gems, metals, and energy resources are forged under extraordinary circumstances deep within the Earth, and discover how their unique properties have helped lift humanity from the Stone Age to the stars.

DVD Verdict: All around us is Earth's bounty--spectacular mountains, Caribbean blue oceans and abundant, delicious food crops. But what we can see is only a part of the riches Earth provides. Its hidden assets are some of our most important natural resources and they have helped shape humankind. Treasures of Earth is a three-part series that takes us on a journey deep inside the Earth to uncover the mysteries of how these treasures were created and explores how they have allowed humans to evolve and build great civilizations.

Drill down to discover how Earth's natural treasures provide bountiful energy to power our modern world yet are also driving us to seek new, cleaner alternatives that can help us keep the lights on.

Discover how the unique properties of metals have made them a pillar of human civilization.

Gemstones like diamonds, rubies, opal and jade are, for many, the ultimate treasures. Discover how these precious stones are forged deep earth, learn the secrets of their sparkle, and see how they may also reveal answers to some of the biggest questions in the field of geology.

Personally, all this fascinates me, for I just purchased some gem stones for my daughters birthday. They were from her astrological birth month of October and wow, were they rather lovely upon their arrival here. So, gem stones, and learning all about them here in 'NOVA: Treasures of the Earth' took on a whole other level of curiosity for me - and I hope it will for you also. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Command And Control'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'Command and Control' presents the true story of what happens when weapons built to protect threaten to become the very source of our own destruction. Based on bestseller by Eric Schlosser, the film tells the story of a 1980 accident at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas, and explores the great dilemma or our time: How do you manage weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them?

DVD Verdict: In truth, I went into this documentary blind, as I didn't know what the title meant until I started watching this two hour long film. Well, 'Command And Control' out now from PBS is a well-established in the facts documentary that says that the US has over 70,000 nuclear weapons - wow! And now all at the fingertips of President Trump (Wow! Again!).

That coupled with the asserted huge number of hidden, associated accidents and mishaps over the years as well as the abject failure of command and control in this Arkansas disaster should serve as a warning to us all that greater care must be taken in managing, reducing and ultimately eliminating these weapons. Because otherwise our luck is going to run out one of these days.

Note how reprehensible the behavior of the Air Force brass was in handling this incident before, during and after -- as contrasted with that of the heroic personnel on site. Ergo, 'Command and Control' presents the terrifying, true story of what can happen when the weapons built to protect us threaten to become the very source of our own destruction.

Based on The New York Times bestseller by Eric Schlosser the film tells the story of a 1980 accident at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas in minute-by-minute detail through the accounts of Air Force personnel, weapon designers, and first responders who were there, revealing the incredible chain of events that brought America to the brink of nuclear disaster. Now that Donald Trump is in power, well, watching this might well worry you, sorry!! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and features both the Theatrical Release and the Extended American Experience Version also.

'FRONTLINE: Confronting ISIS'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'FRONTLINE: Confronting ISIS' is an investigation into those U.S.-led efforts to degrade and destroy ISIS.

DVD Verdict: In truth, ISIS was created in the wake of a power vacuum where Malikki, the US's stop gap measure for an Iraqi head of state who was anti- Saddam-Hussein, violently cracked down on a demonstration, which helped propel Iraq into its current violent state.

According to 'FRONTLINE: Confronting ISIS' this is where ISIS begins. Well, sort of. The whole reason Iraq exists as it does today is because we, the United States, went in to take out Saddam Hussein with the intent of defanging him and creating a kind of democracy; nation building. Regrettably the president did not heed General Shinseki's advice of going in with a combat force of at least a million men to put the nation under lock down.

The piece ignores the Iranian-Hostage crisis or the 70s and 9/11 as preludes to the Iraq war. Soldiers interviewed in other pieces about Afghanistan and Iraq all say that the natives point to Palestine and Israel as their motivation for hostilities.

Without any of that history, 'FRONTLINE: Confronting ISIS' really doesn't make much sense, much less the efforts of how to tackle ISIS. The piece interviews nearly everyone under the sun except the heads of state and other major players at the executive level. And fails to address Malikki's violent crackdown on demonstrators which led to the current military turmoil in the first place.

It also ignores Assad's efforts to push forward a more progressive nation, and how his father's political enemies tried to take advantage of that, and threw Syria into civil war. And then interviews the head of Saudi intelligence who concludes that Assad has to go, when Assad was the one trying to bring Syria into the modern world.

The piece, a Frontline production, didn't look at past Frontline productions to get the history right. Because if you view this, then you might conclude that ISIS was created by Malikki leaving power, and that Assad is responsible for all of the military action taking place in Northern Iraq, Lebanon, and so forth. But that's not the case. Please, do your homework before watching this, for as much as this film is relevant, sure, it is also slanted, of course. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'16 for 16 - The Contenders'
(2-Disc DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Every four years, bold men and women declare themselves the MVP uniquely deserving of America's highest office. Among the many contenders, there can only be one winner. This documentary series presented by OZY Media examines 16 of the most unforgettable candidates from the past 50 years of election history and demonstrates how previous elections still influence the American political landscape today.

DVD Verdict: In truth, '16 for 16 - The Contenders' from PBS is a wee bit behind the eight ball here, given we now have President Trump in office! But, that said, what this 2-Disc DVD still manages to get across is just how labored a task it truly is, spread over a four year period of non-stop handshakes and speeches to get to that MVP of America position.

From Shirley Chisholm's landmark 1972 presidential candidacy that forever altered America's view of what a candidate should look like to Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign which launched a brand of conservativism that would prove influential for decades to come, from Howard Dean's denouncement of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and innovative grassroots fundraising effort to Sarah Palin's surprising appearance on a Republican presidential ticket, this eight-hour documentary series presented by OZY Media examines 16 of the most compelling stories behind unforgettable candidates from the past 50 years of election history.

'16 for 16 - The Contenders' demonstrates, in some documentary style, just how previous elections still influence the American political landscape in unexpected ways today:

Episode 1: Chisolm/McCain - The Straight Talkers TV-PG + VL
Episode 2: Dean/Buchanan - The Flamethrowers TV-PG
Episode 3: Romney/Dukakis - The Technocrats TV-PG
Episode 4: Hart/Jackson - The Visionaries TV-PG + V
Episode 5: Goldwater/Reagan - The Conservatives TV-PG + V
Episode 6: Perot/Nader - The Independents TV-PG + V
Episode 7: Ferraro/Palin - The Trailblazers TV-PG
Episode 8: Bush/Obama - The Master Strategists TV-PG

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

'Smithsonian: The Weapon Hunter - Season 1'
(2-Disc DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: A shootout between five WWII sniper rifles and two Civil War cannons. A massive rebuild of a tank destroyer and the fierce Quad 50 mobile machine gun. An epic cross-continent hunt for an ultra-rare rifle and an operational flamethrower. Welcome to 'Smithsonian: The Weapon Hunter - Season 1'!

DVD Verdict: Here in 'Smithsonian: The Weapon Hunter - Season 1', military history buff Paul Shull is on a mission to touch, hold, and fire some of the greatest pieces of weaponry on the planet. Get an up-close look at some of the most iconic weapons of the last 150 years and witness the awesome firepower they still have.

In truth, with so many scripted "reality" shows concerning firearms, 'The Weapon Hunter' is a breath of fresh air! Paul Shull demonstrates a genuine enthusiasm and respect for these weapons and the people that used them (as well as collect and restore them). No politics or fake drama here, the focus is on the weaponry and how they made history.

Shull himself is also a great presenter, a down-to-the-earth guy whose passion and zest for military history is clearly evident, which makes the show even more enjoyable. His enthusiasm becomes the viewer's enthusiasm, and those who watch the show can experience what it is like to operate these weapons vicariously through him.

Shull is also no prima donna, he is not only willing to get dirty or even risk life and limb; but is also not beyond embarrassing himself a little in the process if that is what it takes. However, what is really appealing is that Shull clearly makes weapons the star of the show, not himself.

The Smithsonian Channel has a real winner in 'The Weapon Hunter' and Shull, I eagerly look forward to the next season and many more beyond that! And once you have watched this great TV show, I know you will also. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise'
(Henry Louis Gates, Jesse Jackson Jr, et al / 2-Disc DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: In this series, 'BLACK AMERICA SINCE MLK: AND STILL I RISE', Henry Louis Gates, Jr. embarks on a deeply personal journey through the last fifty years of African American history.

Joined by leading scholars, celebrities, and a dynamic cast of people who shaped these years, Gates travels from the victories of the civil rights movement up to today, asking profound questions about the state of black America and our nation as a whole.

DVD Verdict: Here in 'Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise' Dr. Gates has produced a 4 part mini series, each part an hour long, that discusses some of the changes and challenges to being black in America covering the period of Reverend Martin Luther Kings Jr assassination to the elections of 2016.

Much of the focus is from one point of view with occasional differing views but usually from people who will have their comments ignored because of their notoriety.

I didn't see any recognition to previous black pioneers and black communities prior to the reconstruction period after the American Civil War even though that period is mentioned. Would have been nice to have it mentioned that there were black political representatives up to the Congressional level previously.

It does focus on the issue of the "haves" versus the "have not's" and the spiral of poverty and crime and how the justice system has been subverted by politics so that it has become part of the problem. Some of the interviews explained this wasn't just a black issue but more of a class issue.

Personally, I would have liked to see a nod given to some non-blacks that were instrumental in some of the changes that have been made. Lyndon B. Johnson, Norman Lear, and even the show All in the Family which helped to break down some walls and start more communication.

Even if you lived through this period of change already it is worth taking the time to watch it. I would not take everything at face value but it does bring up some excellent points to consider. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Handmaiden'
(Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Tae Kim, Jin-woong Jo, Hae-suk Kim, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: From Park Chan-wook, the celebrated director of Oldboy, Lady Vengeance and Stoker, comes a ravishing new crime drama. Park presents a gripping and sensual tale of two women - a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance.

DVD Verdict: A masterwork of precision craftsmanship, 'The Handmaiden' is an exquisite blend of high-quality direction, clever writing, sumptuous production design, impeccable camera-work, tight editing and mesmerizing score that finds the revered filmmaker in sublime form, and is all the more uplifted by his sweeping cinematic vision to cement its spot among the finest films of 2016.

Set in Japanese-occupied Korea, the story of 'The Handmaiden' follows a pickpocket who's hired by a conman to assist him in seducing a Japanese heiress, who lives a secluded life in a countryside mansion with her uncle, in order to steal her inheritance but finds herself attracted to her beauty and innocence and after an unexpected encounter, starts having second thoughts about going with the original plan.

Co-written, co-produced and directed by Park Chan-wook (Joint Security Area), this sexually-charged erotic thriller finds the esteemed filmmaker returning to his roots after his stint at Hollywood and makes splendid use of all his trademarks, including his own touch of dark comedy, bizarre elements and graphic violence, and is possibly the most refined and beautiful film he's made to date.

The ornamental set pieces and lush locations provide its tale a setting that's as steeped in mystery as it is in beauty, which is further enhanced by its arresting cinematography that makes excellent use of fluid camera movements, fitting color tones and perfect lighting to radiate a sense of warmth and an undercurrent of ambiguity. The narrative employs a three-part structure and is tightly edited while its evocative score infuses flavors of its own into the final print.

Coming to the performances, 'The Handmaiden' features an interesting cast in Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo & Cho Jin-woong, with the two ladies impressing the most. While Min-hee illustrates the fragility and mysteriousness of the heiress with finesse, Tae-ri does a fabulous job at expressing the maidservant's shifting allegiance and the sexual tension between them is the core ingredient that drives this film and Chan-wook captures it with genuine intimacy and tenderness.

On an overall scale, 'The Handmaiden' finds the visionary filmmaker in complete control of his craft, and is an erotic thriller for the ages. As accomplished in technical scale as it is proficient in the storytelling department, it balances all its aspect with remarkable flair and makes them work in near-perfect harmony from start to finish. All in all, 'The Handmaiden' is another dark, twisted and deliciously thrilling cinema from an assured artist and is possibly his finest directional effort since Oldboy. Strongly recommended. These is a Widescreen Presentation (2:39.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Power Rangers: Dino Charge - The Complete Season'
(James Davies, Michael Taber, Brennan Mejia, Yoshua Sudarso, et al / 5-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: Catch all the dino-charged adventures of the world-renowned heroes, Saban’s Power Rangers, when Nickelodeon’s hit TV series 'Power Rangers Dino Charge: The Complete Season' arrives on DVD and Digital HD February 7th from Lionsgate.

DVD Verdict: I have to fully admit that I've been awaiting this complete adventure season on DVD for rather a long time now! The franchise, in general, is mostly about frenzied kick action, preposterous moments and general nonsense. But 'Power Rangers Dino Charge' changed all that thanks to polished effects, costumes, fights, acting, and most importantly writing.

Millions of years ago, an intergalactic bounty hunter named Sledge tried to capture the Energems – ten mysterious colored gems with incredible powers. Keeper, the guardian of the Energems, fled to Earth, where he entrusted the Energems to the dinosaurs for protection. After the dinosaurs went extinct, the Energems were lost. Now, Sledge is back, and it’s up to the Power Rangers Dino Charge to hunt down the missing Energems and defeat the vicious Sledge — once and for all!

The writing takes the cake as it implements a lesson/theme into each episode while simultaneously giving character development with an actual plot of how a small group of teenagers discover a new ally: the Purple Ranger!

In this series, one of the best plot lines (for my money) is that the teen superheroes must join forces to defeat an evil monster in order to save the day. But when the Purple Ranger decides to leave the team, it takes all of the collective Power Rangers’ skills combined to battle the villainous Sledge – and find a new hero fit for the Purple Energem! Oh, and Power Rangers fans will also have the chance to get into the holiday spirit with a special holiday episode, “Race to Rescue Christmas,” which features last on Volume 5.

Personally, my two favorites are the Red Ranger Troy (disciplined, serious, yet caring and knows that everyone has weakness) and the Pink Ranger Emma (one who deeply cares about the world around it and knows that there is always a way for everyone to work together).

All in all this is one that both fans and perhaps non-fans (including reluctant parents!) can enjoy, ranking along the veins of the underrated Lightspeed Rescue. However, and playing devil's advocate here, my biggest criticism in this series definitely have to go towards the villains Sledge and Poisandra who are very one dimensional and have very little character development which makes them little more than stereotypical Power Rangers villains.

For me, this is a downwards trend we have seen become obvious in seasons like Power Rangers Samurai and Megaforce and for the most part, makes the season somewhat unenjoyable to watch when compared to the glorious villains we have seen in previous seasons like Time Force, Lightspeed Rescue, Dino Thunder and RPM.

All in all though, 'Power Rangers: Dino Charge' is a definite step-up from the disgraceful seasons we've been handed since 2011. While there is still room to improve, it is a very good season and old fans who have loved the show will not be disappointed should they decide to tune in to watch it.

So come one, one and all, and dive into the epic battle as the Rangers fight against a massive alien Armada and discover legendary new special abilities at the same time!

"Power's From the Past", "Past, Present and Fusion", "A Fool's Hour", "Return of the Caveman"

"Breaking Black", "The Tooth Hurts", "Let Sleeping Zords Lie", "Double Ranger, Double Danger"

"When Logic Fails", "The Royal Rangers", "Breakout", "Knight After Knights"

RISE: Vol. 4:
"Sync or Swim", "True Black", "Rise of a Ranger", "No Matter How You Slice It", "The Ghostest with the Mostest"

HERO: Vol. 5:
"World Famous! (In New Zealand)", "Deep Down Under", "Wishing for a Hero", "One More Energem", "Race to Rescue Christmas"

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

'PJ Masks: Let's Go PJ Masks!'
(Jacob Ewaniuk, Addison Holley, Kyle Harrison Breitkopf, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / eOne - 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Overview: Join Catboy, Owlette and Gekko on their nighttime missions, into the night to save the day! It's up to Catboy, the real parade Leader, to save the day from Night Ninja. But he doesn't think he can lead the NinjaLinos without his drum!

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, PJ Masks is a British/French animated children's television series produced by Entertainment One, Frog Box, and TeamTO. The series is based on the Les Pyjamasques book series by Romuald Racioppo and debuted on Disney Junior in the United States on September 18th, 2015.

Indeed, further more, the love for this series is so, that it has been renewed for a second season consisting of 26 episodes, scheduled to air in 2018!

PJ Masks revolves around three 6-year-olds, Connor, Amaya, and Greg, who lead relatively normal lives by day, where they are neighbors, classmates, and friends. However, at night, they become Catboy, Owlette, and Gekko, and fight crime as the superhero team PJ Masks. Together, they go on adventures, defeat villains, solve mysteries, and learn valuable lessons.

Here in 'PJ Masks: Let's Go PJ Masks!' our intrepid trip - Catboy, Owlette and Gekko - have to undertake a daring mission in the night to save the day. So, first up, Catboy has to come up against Night Ninja, but due to one thing or another (no spoilers here!), he doesn't think he can lead the Ninjalinos without his drum. Luna Girl then turns a sleepwalking Cameron into her very own human puppet and so it's up to the PJ Masks to save the day. Well, that is if Gekko can stop messing around first!

1. Beat the Drum, Catboy
2. Bekko's Super Gekko Sense
3. Catboy Squared
4. Owlette's New Move
5. Catboy and the Shrinker
6. Gekko and the Snore-A-Saurus

Each episode is just over ten minutes long each, with an audio track in English Dolby Digital 2.0. This particular DVD, 'PJ Masks: Let's Go PJ Masks!' is a huge (for these type of animated children's shows) 66 minutes long and has the six (6) episodes noted above on it.

So, and in conclusion, whilst the main characters aren't the same, the ideas behind it are similar - such as keeping the community safe and going on adventures together. It's got a big Dudley Do-Right vibe to it for sure, but it works - and my kids have already fallen in love with each of the cute characters. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of a one-minute "Let's Go PJ Masks!" Music Video.

Following the pre-school phenomenon’s incredible success with toys, apparel, games, books and more, the hit series is now available to own on DVD!

'Justice League: Dark' (Limited Edition Gift Set)
(Matt Ryan, Camilla Luddington, Jason O'Mara, JB Blanc, Ray Chase, et al / Blu ray + DVD / PG-13 / 2017 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Beings with supernatural powers join together to fight against supernatural villains. This team of supernatural beings include John Constantine, Zatanna and Jason Blood also known as the demon Etrigan.

Blu ray Verdict: After the newly christened Justice League investigated a mysterious attack against a nuclear submarine, this particular story line follows the exploits of some of DC's biggest magical characters.

A simple yet well told story with enough intrigue and heart to keep one's interest, the visualization of magic was perfect and the abilities and variances of each character were well done.

So, if you've not been following along at home 'Justice League Dark takes the viewer on a mysterious journey into the unknown, drawing into the conflict master magician Zatanna, trapeze artist and acrobat Deadman, and Etrigan, a demon from Hell.

A personal worry for me before watching the movie was the amount of Batman, considering he was front and center on the cover. Yet the movie uses him well, as nothing more than an outsider; with some action scenes during the climax, of course. The voice acting is spot on from Matt Ryan's reprisal of Constantine to Camilla Luddigton as Zatanna.

Also, Jason O'Mara does a good job as Batman and although not as good as Kevin (sorry, but that's just my professional opinion) he is a good replacement nonetheless. It must also be mentioned that some may find it overwhelming to meet about 8-9 magical characters from the depths of DC's lore as this is the first movie outing for some of them. They range from straight forward to down right weird (again, my personal opinion), but they all have enough screen time and charm to win most, if not all of you over.

Indeed, as noted, there are so many good things that pull me back to DC's animation. In truth, I like the way they introduce each of the members of the Justice League here. Especially Demon Etrigan. The backstory of him could be another animated movie all unto itself! And should be! And the way they connect his backstory with the main plot is tricky and yet nothing I saw coming! So, for me, the idea to use such a scheme, for want of a better word, to pull someone like me back to the game should be applauded - and loudly!

Overall, a solid movie to add to DC's brilliant library of animation and one that has great potential for the future. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

The Story Of Swamp Thing
Did You Know? "Constantine Origin"
Did You Know? "Color Of Magic"
Did You Know? "Black Orchid"
Did You Know? "Deadman Casting"
2016 NY Comic-Con Panel

Batman vs. Shrouds - 'Justice League Dark' clip

Bruce Wayne Shaves - 'Justice League Dark' clip

'Justice League Dark' - Official Trailer

The film will be available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Blu-ray Deluxe Giftset, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on February 7, 2017, and on Digital HD starting January 24, 2017.

'Nerdland: Unrated' [Blu-ray]
(Paul Rudd, Patton Oswalt, et al / Blu ray / NR / 2017 / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: Two best friends (Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt) make a last ditch effort to become famous, stumbling into a series of misadventures that threaten their lives and dignity.

Blu ray Verdict: For those not in the know, the animated soon-to-be-classic 'Nerdland' (from Titmouse Productions) is based on a concept that has been pitched for several years in various incarnations: first as a live-action movie, then a television series, then a series of animated shorts, and finally an animated film.

Here in its feature-length animated form, the film brings us into the world of aspiring actor John (Paul Rudd) and wannabe screenwriter Elliot (Patton Oswalt). Slacker best pals who have seen their dreams of stardom slowly fade away, with their 30th birthdays coming up and desperation growing, they decide that in a celebrity-obsessed world, there are more ways to get famous than ever before.

So, they vow to become famous by the end of the day - at any cost! With the half-hearted support of an eccentric collectible store owner (Hannibal Buress) and a pair of equally fame-hungry women (Riki Lindome, Kate Micucci), John and Elliot travel to Los Angeles on an attention-grabbing series of publicity stunts and failed heroics.

During their exploits, they inadvertently become key witnesses in a high-profile crime that makes them household names. But their sudden fame is not what they anticipated. Complete with an 85-minute running time, 'Nerdland' is not your average animated quickie, of that have no doubt.

Its running time proves it wants to be taken seriously, its sharp-edge animation flawless, its dialogue perfect, its soundtrack chock full of pop bounce, and as they say, "Sometimes being a hero means being in the right place at the right time." (ie: police scanner!) This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Nerdland' - Official Trailer

The film will be available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on Blu-ray and DVD on February 7, 2017.

The Edge of Seventeen (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
(Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / R / 2017 / Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

Overview: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

Blu ray Verdict: In the vein of classic coming-of-age films like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, 'The Edge of Seventeen' is a poignant and hilarious look at what it's like to be a teenager today. Growing up is hard, and life is no easier for Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld, Pitch Perfect 2), who is already at peak awkwardness when her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson, Ravenswood) begins dating her all-star brother Darian (Blake Jenner, Glee).

All at once, Nadine feels more alone than ever. With the help of her reluctant sounding-board (Woody Harrelson, True Detective), she soon discovers that what feels like the end of the world may just be the beginning of growing up. Also starring Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), it's obvious to all that John Hughes is an unmistakable touchstone of the coming of age 1980s high school dramady - and 'The Edge of Seventeen' falls neatly within his genius scope.

'The Edge of Seventeen' begins somewhere in the middle of the story. Steinfeld's teen drama queen supreme Nadine interrupts her favorite teacher Mr. Brunner played by Woody Harrelson, "I'm gonna kill myself…" After a deadpan stare, Mr. Brunner reads Nadine his own drafted suicide note. Too funny. Steinfeld artfully invents Nadine as worthy of love, even when she says the vilest things. She tells literally her only friend in the world Krista (big hearted Hailey Lu Richardson) to choose between her and Nadine's brother Darian (dashing and surprising Blake Jenner).

On the Ferris wheel ride with Korean American Erwin (good-looking and whimsical Hayden Szeto), the charming animation nerd who is so in love with Nadine, she spews out a comical stereotype rift about of his parents. Then she admits, "All of it was racist." Craig and Steinfeld compassionately walk that fine line with inspired humor.

At a defining story arc, following a drunken indulgence Nadine weeps to Krista, "I've got to spend the rest of my life...with myself." This is heartbreaking. Her self-loathing is visceral and sad. Growing up in her eyes, older brother Darian was her parents' favorite. Not at all his fault. She constantly clashed with her Mom Mona (Kyra Sedgwick), who just did not 'get her'. Fortunately, her Dad Tom (patient and kind Eric Cooper) was not so much the buffer between Nadine and her Mom, rather the only one who could calm the fear deep in Nadine. As Nadine narrates everything tragically altered when she was 13 years-old. She was with her Dad when he unexpectedly passed way.

Now 17 years old Nadine is a junior in high school and in seemingly self imposed exile with her only friend Krista (Richardson). Darian (Jenner) is the high school teenage god—handsome, smart, popular, and captain of the football team. Mona (Sedgwick) is the overwhelmed single Mom, venturing in the perils of on-line dating, and grateful for raising her perfect son. Nadine yearns for "hot" mysterious loner Nick (Alexander Calvert), who works at the local Pet Land. She indifferently dismisses Erwin (Szeto), who wears the crush for her on his sleeve. History teacher Mr. Brunner (Harrelson) is Nadine's only adult confidant and caustic reality check.

Hailee Steinfeld is radiant, pretty, and killer smart as Nadine. She wears the uniform skirt and cool shoes as eclectic couture. Outwardly, she would not occur as social pariah. Steinfeld naturally realizes her social outcast with Nadine's merciless words and her tragic refusal to love herself. All are armor to cover the hurt buried within her.

Waking up from a hangover, Nadine catches Krista 'handling' Darian in a bedroom tryst. Nadine reacts like Nadine, and life spirals out of control. She loses her only friend. Her desired rendezvous materializes and is nearly costly—strikingly and gently envisioned by Craig and Steinfeld. On the bright side she begins to see the wonderful guy in Erwin. Now if she could only just shut up long enough. Nadine's words have a mind of their own: both a curse and an expression of her miraculous being.

Director and Writer Craig eloquently has Nadine's back. Darian and Krista might have been revealed as selfish jerks. Instead Jenner and Richardson only have unconditional love for Nadine. Jenner is impressively strong in the scene with his Mom. He reminds that though she is the only adult in the house, she calls him when there is trouble. The front room here was silent as he and Nadine say, "Goodnight."

Sedgwick's vulnerability strengthens the desperation and spirit of their Mom. Szeto is disarmingly brave and humorously clumsy as Erwin, who really sees Nadine's beautiful soul. Harrelson is subtle comic genius, and anchors 'The Edge of Seventeen'. As Mr. Brunner, we like Nadine underestimate him. Harrelson's hysterical cynicism masks the most generous soul. He sees the possibility of greatness in Nadine, even though she can't - yet.

In closing, for me 'The Edge of Seventeen' is a wonderful surprise. Hailee Steinfeld is witty and boldly human as Nadine reluctantly emerges as the hero in her own story. Her performance is raw — we feel her agony, fear, and joy. We pull for her Nadine to love thine own self. Above all Nadine deserves to love and be loved. We can all see the possibility of this for ourselves as well. Ergo, 'The Edge of Seventeen' is one of the best movies of the past few years. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Gag Reel
Deleted Scenes

'The Edge of Seventeen' - Official Trailer

Deleted Scene from 'The Edge of Seventeen'

The film will be available from Universal Studios Home Entertainment on Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Combo on February 14, 2017.

'Five Nights in Maine'
(David Oyelowo, Dianne Wiest, Rosie Perez, Teyonah Parris, Hani Furstenberg, et al / DVD / NR / (2015) 2017 / FilmRise)

Overview: A young African American man, reeling from the tragic loss of his wife, travels to rural Maine to seek answers from his estranged mother-in-law, who is herself confronting guilt and grief over her daughter's death.

DVD Verdict: Having sat down and just watched this 82 minute movie straight through, without a break, without even looking at my watch once (which is always the sign of a good movie), I can confidently say that 'Five Nights in Maine' is one of those movies that does not really have a directness of point to it, and nor does it express itself cinematically in such a way as to blind you to its subtext.

Indeed, filmed and acted in such a low key manner it allows the watcher to feel their own way into the position of the character, the person on screen. Gently urging them to reflect on what is going on, to grasp the severity of the played out emotions, it soon becomes obvious that not every scene has a situation easy to pin point.

Simply put, although there truly is nothing simple about this movie, a man loses his wife in a car accident and the only one who can relate is his Mother-In-Law. But she is a pain in the ass even after her child's death, regardless of the fact that she is dying from cancer.

I also can acknowledge that Rosie Perez was great in the small role she had. In fact, and as much as she has annoyed me in earlier films in her career, I wished we had seen and heard more of her here because I like seeing her on the screen a lot these days.

In closing, 'Five Nights in Maine' is well scripted and well acted and it helps tremendously that the director and writers had three really good actors to implement their material. watch it for yourself and find out just what I am talking about - you won't be disappointed. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Five Nights In Maine' - Official Trailer

The film will be available from FilmRise Entertainment on DVD on February 14, 2017.

'Lonestar: Stevie Ray Vaughan 1984-1989'
(Stevie Ray Vaughan, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Sexy Intellectual)

Overview: 'Lonestar' traces and reveals the full, previously un-told story of Stevie Ray Vaughan's glory years, the period between the release of his debut album and his tragic death in a helicopter crash in 1989.

DVD Verdict: OK, for those not in the know 9and shame on you if you fall into that category, honestly), Stephen "Stevie" Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. In spite of a short-lived mainstream career spanning seven years, he is widely considered one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of music, and one of the most important figures in the revival of blues in the 1980s.

Indeed, AllMusic describes him as "a rocking powerhouse of a guitarist who gave blues a burst of momentum in the '80s, with influence still felt long after his tragic death."

'Lonestar: Stevie Ray Vaughan 1984-1989' takes flight in the mid-1970s, when Stevie Ray Vaughan first emerged as a modern blues guitarist with unparalleled ability and passion - skills which distinguished his playing from that of just about all his contemporaries - the blues world he represented had little impact in the mainstream market place.

So despite his obvious gifts, he struggled to secure a record deal. But by the time his debut album, 1983's Texas Flood, was finally released, the tide had turned and Stevie Ray not only became an international phenomenon, but was also of paramount importance in the revitalization of the blues genre.

Featuring rare film footage, exclusive interviews with many close friends and confidantes, contributions from the industry professionals and music writers who documented SRV's career as it unfolded, seldom seen photographs and numerous other features, it all comes together to make 'Lonestar: Stevie Ray Vaughan 1984-1989' the finest documentary yet on the personal life and career of Stevie Ray during his most fertile and productive era.

A "sister feature" to Sexy Intellectual's previous documentary, 'Rise Of A Texas Bluesman - Stevie Ray Vaughan 1954-1983', this new documentary about the early career of Stevie Ray is spot on perfect - although, in truth, I'd liked to have seen more live shows with him performing.

That said, and as this DVD proves without a shadow of a doubt, Stevie Ray was one of the finest blue's musicians that ever was. Which makes this documentary very informative, showing photos of him when he was a kid, along with some nice, all-be-they short amazing live performances.

Just don't think that this new DVD is wall to wall Stevie Ray, for it isn't. They spend a lot of the time on interviews with various people that had worked with Stevie down the years, inclusive of some family members. Granted, these interviews are extremely interesting, but (and again, sorry), I would have much rather seen "previously-unseen" live performance footage from the man back before the plane crash. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Down on the Farm'
(Bill Oberst, Jr., William McNamara, Bobby Catalano, Jason Pascoe, KJ Schrock, April Rose, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / MVD Visual)

Overview: When a bale of hay goes missing on the farm, mystery-solving Oink The Flying Pig and his know-it-all pal, Boink the Owl, set off on an adventure to discover which of the farm animals is the culprit!

DVD Verdict: OK, I have to say from the off that I loved this little-film-that-could! So too, luckily, my children as they were glued to it from the very start also. It is a wonderful little animated children show that showcases how good intentions can not always lead you in the right direction, but will always bring you a joyous heart.

From the mind and direction of Kostas MacFarlane, 'Down on the Farm' is a colorfully, softly-animated story about Oink The Flying Pig and his partner in crime, Boink the Barn Owl in their quest to find the hay bale thief.

It's very cute from the off, and the relationship between both Oink and Boink is hilarious at times, it has to be said. Joining forces, they work together to uncover clues and inform the other animals of their findings along the way. Of course, not all the animals care, but the majority are fascinated by Oink's tales.

Containing facts about horses, rabbits, chickens, and many other farm animals as it progresses, 'Down on the Farm' is both educational and entertaining, and chock full of fun and wholesome goodness for the small audience that will be seated in front of it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

The film will be available from MVD Visual on DVD on February 14, 2017.

Psychomania: 2-Disc Special Edition [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Nicky Henson, Beryl Reid, George Sanders, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray+DVD / PG / (1973) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: A gang of young people call themselves the Living Dead. They terrorize the population from their small town. After an agreement with the devil, if they kill themselves firmly believing in it, they will survive and gain eternal life. Following their leader, they commit suicide one after the other, but things don't necessarily turn out as expected!

Blu-ray Verdict: "Everybody dies, but some come back. How do they come back, mother?" Tom Latham (Nicky Henson) asks his mum, that always-brilliant Beryl Reid. She responds, as all mum's should, that "When you die, you've got to believe that you're going to come back." As is also said many times throughout this wonderfully cheesy movie, "You can only die once and then nothing or nobody can every hurt you".

Tom Latham is the leader of a delinquent motorcycle gang known as The Living Dead – his fascination with the paranormal fed by the death of his father and the clairvoyant gift of his mother. When he is finally allowed into a room that has been locked since his father's death he learns a secret – that, when you deliberately die and totally believe you will return from the other world, then you will do so and will truly become one of the living dead.

During a high speed chase, Tom deliberately goes off a bridge and is buried by his gang in their way – on his bike in full leathers. And this is how he returns to life again, but more powerful than an human and with his juvenile delinquent streak now turned into a murderous callousness.

I've asked many a fan of these kinds of dated movies what their thoughts were on this one, and everyone is keen to stress how bad it is, but I personally don't think that that is fair, sorry. Sure it will not be challenging for the top of many "greatest film of all time" lists, but it is what it is and it works as such. What it is is a British b-movie, made cheaply and with a clear agenda to cash in on both the zombie and motorcycle youth genres by going for the base requirements of both groups.

Of course, outside of the world of the b-movie 'The Death Wheelers' (as it was originally titled) is no earthly good at all and, even as one, there are areas that could have been better. The main area of this for me is the fact that, once undead, the gang simply continue to terrify old ladies in shops, rather than becoming more ambitious in their actions. Otherwise though, the so-called problems are all part of the genre – bad dialogue, basic effects, average actors and so on. All of these are at the level one would expect, but add to the pleasure of the film as a b-movie ie: it doesn't ever take itself seriously, which again is part of it working.

The cast are mainly long-haired youths who can do limited work with the material, but probably would not do much better with more. Henson is in permanent "cocky" mode, but is good enough for the role of leader, while Mary Larkin as Abby Holman does a good genre performance of being freaked out and a bit frightened all the time. The rest of the gang are so-so biker types. The real surprise of the cast is George Sanders – for whom this was his last film as he was to commit suicide the next year - for he is an effect presence. It's just a great shame that more was not made of his part in the film and that he desired to take his own life a year afterward. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

2K restoration from preservation negatives
High Definition (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original 1.0 mono audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Brand-new interview with star Nicky Henson
Return of the Living Dead, an archive featurette containing interviews actors Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore, Roy Holder and Rocky Taylor
Sound of Psychomania, an archive interview with composer John Cameron
Riding Free, an archive interview with Riding Free singer Harvey Andrews
Hell for Leather, a brand-new featurette on the company who supplied the film's costumes
Remastering Psychomania, a look at the film's restoration from the original 35mm black and white separation masters
Theatrical Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet containing writing by Vic Pratt, William Fowler and Andrew Roberts

'Psychomania' - Trailer

And There Will Be A Next Time...Live From Detroit
(Def Leppard / DVD+2CD / NR / 2017 / Eagle Vision)

Overview: Def Leppard rock Detroit! In the summer of 2016, Def Leppard's World Tour rolled into the DTE Energy Music Theatre on the outskirts of Detroit. As the sun began to set over a packed crowd the huge video wall behind the stage came to life with the exploding image of the band's latest album cover and Def Leppard began to power their way through a stunning set-list of classic hits and new tracks.

DVD Verdict: Featuring superb surround sound and amazing visuals Def Leppard's stunning 'And There Will Be A Next Time...Live From Detroit' captures the full-on experience of the band from Sheffield, England live in concert like never before.

With their constant line-up of Rick Allen (drums); Vivian Campbell (guitars); Phil Collen (guitars); Joe Elliott (vocals), and Rick Savage (bass) to hand, all the hits and a few choice new tracks from their self-titled eleventh studio album were brought to the fore for the baying "Detroit" crowd.

And I put "Detroit" in air quotes because, well, and this pisses me off royally each and every time bands / marketing hobnobs do this, but this show was performed nowhere near Detroit! Indeed, the venue was the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI and is located some 30+ miles (if not more) away from the center of Detroit! It could well be a whole other State, but when bands actually come on stage at this venue and say hello to Detroit, and ask us how we're doing tonight, well, either they truly believe they are in fact in Detroit - or they are completely and utterly bus worn brain wise!

Anyhoo, moving on and as the lights go down and the curtain drops, the crowd begins their roar, the Def Leppard logo gets bigger and bigger, finally exploding as the band suddenly appear and launch into show opener 'Let's Go'. Phil Collen is already shirtless and oiled up like sex slave in an Amsterdam shop window and with everyone else raring to go also (especially Rick Allen on drums, with a Union Jack on his left shoulder patch and on both sides of his headphones) the show is well and truly underway.

DVD and CD:
CD Disc 1 1) Let's Go 2) Animal 3) Let It Go 4) Dangerous 5) Foolin 6) Love Bites 7) Armageddon It 8) Rock On 9) Man Enough

CD Disc 2 10) Rocket 11) Bringin On The Heartbreak 12) Switch 625 13) Hysteria 14) Let's Get Rocked 15) Pour Some Sugar On Me 16) Rock Of Ages 17) Photograph

Bathed in green lights, the massive hit single 'Animal' is next up and that's backed by 'Let It Go' and new track, 'Dangerous'. In truth, every single Def Leppard song known to man sounds just like anything the band has ever reached over the years, so these new tracks slip straight into the set perfectly.

The flashback classic 'Foolin' is brillint to still here, and couple with the deep down and throaty love song 'Love Bites', and this portion of the show is one for true fans to fall in love with. The rockin' 'Armageddon It' is backed by the David Essex cover 'Rock On' (a live track by them that I've always loved, the original also, of course), and then 'Man Enough' (which ends CD 1) is followed by an explosive 'Rocket' and a guitar searing 'Bringin' On The Heartbreak'.

'Switch 625' from their 1981 album High 'n' Dry is a lovely surprise, and that's backed by the power duo 'Hysteria' and 'Let's Get Rocked.' The almighty powerhaus of a live show then culminates with three of their biggest ever, world-known hits, 'Pour Some Sugar On Me', 'Rock Of Ages', and the always-great-to-hear all these years later, 'Photograph'. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and the DVD features five (5) Bonus Music Videos; all songs from their latest self-titled album:

'Let's Go' (Lyric)
'Let's Go'
'Man Enough'
'We Belong'

(DVD / NR / 2017 / Decca)

Overview: This is the first in a forthcoming cycle of Puccini operas conducted by Riccardo Chailly with La Scala. This 'Turandot' is unique in presenting the Luciano Berio completion of the opera - premiered by Chailly in 2001.

DVD Verdict: While I do prefer Tosca, La Boheme and Madama Butterfly (rather clichéd answers, I know) of Puccini's operas, I have to still say that 'Turandot', being the first opera that I sang in the chorus for, is still so very special to me. And as much as I adore the 1987 Met production, this newly-presented production is every bit as good - if not better.

Maria Agresta is rather good as Liu, but perhaps I would have much preferred a softer portrayal and a voice that was more luxurious. Indeed, she also sounded great when I heard her singing Lady Macbeth in Brussels, but this role requires a different sounding timbre – a quality she doesn’t hold too closely throughout though, it has to be said.

In truth, she was slightly tentative when starting “In questa Reggia.” If anyone saw the original broadcast, you know she made one serious note “flub” near its end. That was fixed via an edit for this release. Overall she sounded better months later singing the role at the Metropolitan Opera. So, practice makes perfect, for sure.

For me though, and as much as I enjoyed this performance overall, my biggest gripe is Aleksandrs Antonenko as Calaf. If he hits a note at the correct pitch, he frequently wavers off of it – going back and forth. Sometimes he is just plain flat. I admit to not being a technical expert when it comes to the singing voice, but it is quite clear that something is wrong here. He may be having a bad night her, but this is not the only poor performance I have heard from him in recent years.

That all said, as nobody is perfect and combined these two put a really great show on for us, the production meets the demands of the music more than admirably with the orchestra playing truly excellent, and the conducting too. The Chorus are wonderful too, particularly at the end of Act 2. The sets are colorful and of haunting quality, and the costumes are nicely oriental too. That said, and as you will all be well aware by now anyway, the Berio ending was used for the last scene - which I don’t particularly like. I much prefer the usual Alfano ending. But that's just me, of course.

In closing, and with all the Pro's and Con's lined up there for you all, I simply cannot fault 'Turnadot' musically. Indeed, 'Turandot' has several intense (the Riddles scene) and poignant (Signor Ascolta, Liu's death) moments, and the story and characters are very memorable. Sure it's not perfect, and sure some vocals cannot keep up (shall we say, politely), but come the end the performance is memorable - and that's what counts. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.


'Elena And The Secret Of Avalor'
(Aimee Carrero, Jenna Ortega, Lou Diamond Phillips, Lucas Grabeel, Chris Parnell, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Walt Disney)

Overview: See how it all began, and discover the secret behind the legend of Disney's most inspiring new Crown Princess!

DVD Verdict: Disney does it again!! Personally, I regard 'The Lion King' as not only my favorite Disney movie, but one of my favorite movies of all time. But here in the brand new 'Elena And The Secret Of Avalor', where Sofia discovers the incredible mystery behind her amulet, well, it has to be said that the animation combined with the story line and dialogue is as crisp and as enjoyable as ever.

Frozen in time and trapped inside the Amulet of Avalor for over forty years, Elena has finally found the one, brave princess who can set her free: Sofia! Yep, you read that right - Princess Elena from the Kingdom of Avalor has been magically trapped inside Sofia's amulet, waiting for another Princess to set her free, and Sofia is up to the task!

As they say, ever story has a beginning and so if you love 'Sophia the First' you'll love 'Elena of Avalor'! My girls have seen this movie at least a dozen times within its arrival - and that was only just before the weekend! It's on constant rotation and that's just fine with me!

If I had to steer you in a certain direction though, my son always watches 'The Lion Guard' and 'Paw Patrol' and the girls join in no matter. But with this beautifully-created 'Elena And The Secret Of Avalor' it was actually nice to find my daughters loving something more "for them", so to speak. Oh, and the inspiring "My Time" song is something to behold also! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

'Elena And The Secret Of Avalor' (Full-Length Adventure!)
Fingers Leapers
Prince Too Charming
Royal Retreat
"My Time" Music Video

Own 'Elena And The Secret Of Avalor' on DVD on February 7th!

"My Time" Music Video

'The Crooked Man'
(Michael Jai White, Dia Frampton, John Colton, Angelique Rivera, Dmitrious Bistrevsky, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: Olivia returns home after six years, and a string of unusual deaths leads her to believe that she's being haunted by a mysterious force from her childhood.

DVD Verdict: At a slumber party, twelve-year-old Olivia is blamed for the horrific and mysterious death of her friend after singing a song, created by a recluse called Milo, which summons the titular demonic figure. Returning home six years later, a string of unusual deaths lead Olivia to believe that she's still being haunted by whatever she saw that night.

You see, once the rhyme is sung, everyone in the house is cursed to die by his hands ...!

For a straight-to-TV horror movie, particularly one that aired on the mid-level-at-all-times CGI-based SyFy channel, this has really good production values, and harkens back to the slew of cheap but successful horror films that were released thanks to the success of Scream.

It's a simple premise: sing a song and you will eventually die at the hands of the titular demon ('Candyman', anyone?), who looks like a cross between The Babadook and Nosferatu, on a sketchy videotape. And sure, it's nothing more than your atypical horror film that ticks every box in the correct order, but it's all the better for not trying to be anything else. I mean, just watch the official trailer (below) and try to stop yourself from wanting to watch 'The Crooked Man' in full!

More or less every friend from her past she bumps into ends up having a visit from The Crooked Man, and thanks to the success of 'Lights Out', he can only attack you in the dark, and only you can see him; of course.

The origin story of The Crooked Man is nothing more than having an excuse to have someone fairly famous appear in the film, and this time it's martial arts star Michael Jai White who gets top billing here - and yet only appears on screen for about five minutes in total!

It doesn't matter though, because the rest of the cast are fine, and it's surprisingly nasty for a TV movie. So all in all, it's nothing special, but because it doesn't try to be anything more than what it is, it's all the better for it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Own 'The Crooked Man' on DVD on February 14th!

Official Trailer

'Frankenstein: The Real Story / The Real Wolfman'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: The horrors behind frightening legends come to life when History’s 'Frankenstein: The Real Story/The Real Wolfman' Double Feature arrives on DVD on February 7 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

DVD Verdict: This four-part collection includes over four-and-a-half hours of in-depth analysis of the crimes and cases that sparked the Frankenstein and werewolf mythologies. Furthermore, 'The Frankenstein: The Real Story' collection from History® (the most enjoyable one out of the two for me personally) examines how the tale of a brilliant but deranged scientist who builds a grotesque monster from the body parts of fresh corpses has its roots in reality.

The documentary follows the story of Frankenstein from book, to film, through the making of Kenneth Brannagh's film. Lot's of interviews from historians, actors such as Gene Wilder and experts on Mary Shelley, the 19th-century novel, the horror genre, cinema makeup, and much more.

“In Search of the Real Frankenstein” looks at scientists throughout history who experimented with reviving animal and human corpses to find the secret force of life.

This first feature also explores the fact-or-fiction origins of the tale that became the first science fiction novel. “It’s Alive! The True Story of Frankenstein” further traces the story through all its artistic renditions, from 19th-century stage adaptations to 1930s silent films to Mel Brooks’s satirical Young Frankenstein and Kenneth Branagh’s faithful horror interpretation.

In the mid 1700s, a mysterious beast viciously attacked and killed 102 villagers in the French village of Gevaudan. The victims, mostly women and children, were mauled and decapitated, their naked bodies all bearing the bite marks of a non-human creature. The killings mark the largest number of alleged werewolf attacks in history and are the basis of the Hollywood Wolfman legend.

Here in 'The Real Wolfman' we all get to venture deep into the mythology and folklore of werewolves with renowned cryptozoologist Ken Gerhardt and veteran criminal profiler George Deuchar as they investigate this reviled creature that brutally kills when the moon is full. In their investigation, they uncover intriguing paranormal transformations, diseases that make men look and act like animals, strange but true stories of children raised by wolves and, eventually, the dark side of human nature in the horrific truth behind the Gevaudan werewolf attacks.

In a time where the History Channel was trying to improve ratings with reality shows re 2012, this documentary came out. It's a fascinating romp for any of those out there who believe such things still exist. But the investigation kind of goes sour when they use a 44 marlin rifle to replicate silver ballistics. Such shots should be taken with a muzzleloader loaded with a round ball, preferably patched, a smoothbore most likely the tool of the French peasant. Hey, I'm just sayin'! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Available together for the first time, the 'Frankenstein: The Real Story/The Real Wolfman' Double Feature is out on DVD on February 7th!

'Heaven Sent'
(Christian Kane, Marley Shelton, Ryan McPartlin, Mallory James Mahoney, Ernie Hudson, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: Echoing in the deepest depths of space, a humble prayer ascends: One from Maire Taylor, a smart, beautiful businesswoman who asks that her husband find the strength and wisdom to let go of their 9 year old marriage - whilst a second prayer simultaneously comes from Billy Taylor, a hopelessly romantic artist who asks that his wife receive the strength and wisdom to hold on. From these humble pleas, comes an answer in the form of a little miracle (an 8 year old runaway from Heaven) who takes it upon herself to rekindle the once intimate friendship and romance that has slowly, but surely slipped away from Billy and Maire due to a heart-wrenching loss.

DVD Verdict: One of Lifetime®'s most anticipated movies of the year, this heart-warming family drama 'Heaven Sent' is releasing just in time for Easter promotions - and it's a doozy, trust me!

It's Christmas time and Maire and Billy Taylor have been married 9 years, but their marriage has gone by the wayside, and Maire has filed for a divorce, but Billy does not want it.

Enter one sweet, and precocious (but oh, so intelligent and witty!) little angel, Taylor! The couple is immediately smitten by this little one, as the audience will be too! (Mallory James Mahoney is AH-MAZING).

Maire and Billy are both in tailspin mode, as this little angel is opening their eyes to so many little things that add up to the big things in life. They begin to see each other in a new light, all because of little Taylor.

So many Christmas movies have the same old plot again and again, and yet, this one broke that mold! (I should've known it was a Michael Landon, Jr movie.) Don't miss this GEM. No trailer can do justice to the movie ALTHOUGH I have included it here on this page for your viewing pleasure.

Christian Kane, and Marley Shelton have phenomenal on screen chemistry, (and he's soooo cute and funny in this movie!!). Ernie Hudson, who plays Donatello was fantastic too! I'm getting teary eyed writing about how touching and sweet this movie is! So you're just going to have to see for yourself. Please. Do. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Own 'Heaven Sent' on DVD on February 21st!

Check out this oh-so-cute 'Heaven Sent' Christmas Greeting Trailer now!

'Hacksaw Ridge' [Blu-ray + DVD]
(Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD / R / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: This is the true story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people, and becomes the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.

Blu-ray Verdict: "It was a scene straight out of hell. There is no other way to describe it." This quote from Higa Tomiko, a survivor of the Battle of Okinawa when she was seven years old, may be the best description one can take away from 'Hacksaw Ridge', the most recent World War II film directed by Mel Gibson in a stunning return to prominence among his Hollywood peers.

It tells the story of Private Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who refused to handle a weapon, but felt it was his moral duty to serve his country in a time of war when many of his friends and neighbors opted to do the same. It's a story of perseverance, courage and sheer fortitude, and one bound to affect even the most hardened viewer.

In terms of battle imagery, this is probably the most relentless, bloody and vicious film yet, even more so than "Saving Private Ryan" or "Band of Brothers". The absolute carnage on display is not for the faint of heart, and there are more than one scene that come out of nowhere to jar the viewer upright in your seat. Director Gibson even utilizes the technique in a civilian scene when Desmond Doss and his brother wind up fighting each other as kids, and Desmond uses a brick to lay out his sibling in a frightening scene, one that establishes Doss's very first insights about the morality of taking a person's life.

I thought Andrew Garfield's portrayal of Desmond Doss was superb during the battle segment which dominated the latter part of the picture. Some of the boot camp scenes came across as somewhat unrealistic to me in as much as Doss seemed to defy his superiors with a smile on his face and sometimes without recrimination, although he did suffer the abuse of his fellow soldiers who thought he was a coward.

Another element that seemed to defy logic was how the entire company of men from training wound up in Okinawa together, including the officers from boot camp. Not having been in the military, I don't know how that works, but it didn't seem that likely to me.

Generally, I have a problem with war films that introduce a romantic element, however Desmond's relationship with future wife Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer) is handled with careful restraint. The interruption of Desmond's father (Hugo Weaving) at the military court martial proceedings was another one of those elements that seemed to defy credibility, so that's one I'll have to research.

Because of the film's central focus on Desmond Doss and his heroic actions at Hacksaw Ridge, one might be tempted to believe that this was the only battle he participated in. In fact, Doss also served in the Pacific Theater in the battle campaigns of Guam and Leyte Gulf, earning an entire host of citations for his bravery, including the Medal of Honor.

Totally unexpected, but a very welcome conclusion to the picture there are clips of the real life Desmond Doss speaking to his experience during the war prior to his death in 2006. Stills of the young Doss bear a remarkable likeness to the actor who portrayed him, thereby adding a further sense of realism to the story in retrospect. Over all, the movie is a remarkable tribute to a man who held a deep conviction and commitment to a higher power while stating "I figure I'll be savin' people, not killin'." This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

The Soul of War: Making Hacksaw Ridge -- a comprehensive documentary detailing the making of the film including the real life people and story, casting, filming, special effects and stunts with interviews from Mel Gibson, Andrew Garfield and more. Deleted Scenes
Veterans Day Greeting with Mel Gibson
The Soul of War: Making Hacksaw Ridge - Featurette [Blu-ray Exclusive]
Theatrical Trailer

Own 'Hacksaw Ridge' on Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD on February 21st!

Official Trailer

'Postcards From The Edge' [Blu-ray]
(Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis McQuaid, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1990) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: A substance-addicted actress tries to look on the bright side even as she is forced to move back in with her mother to avoid unemployment. First time available in High Definition!

Blu-ray Verdict: Based on actress Carrie Fisher's best-selling autobiographical novel, 'Postcards From The Edge' is a wickedly witty expose of life in the Hollywood fast lane. So, what do we already know about one of these leading ladies going in? Well, Meryl Streep can be the villain, the hero, the sister, the daughter, the mother, the spirit, the icon - that's all for damn sure!

However, In 'Postcards from the Edge', she is a flat out mess. Streep portrays Suzanne Vale, a successful actress who is about to hit the post-'I Know Who Killed Me' Lindsay Lohan stage of her career. She relies on cocaine just to get through the day. She partakes in casual affairs she doesn't remember the next day. She is like a robot, barely able to function in her daily job. She doesn't want to hurt anybody, but her habits are about to.

Suzanne is finally given a wake-up call when she accidentally overdoses on a deadly mix of narcotics. After getting her stomach pumped, she ends up in rehab, struggling to piece her life back together. But her shaky mind begins to rattle even more when her mother, Doris Mann (Shirley MacLaine), arrives on the scene. Doris is not just Suzanne's mother; she is a celebrated legend, a symbol of the '50s/'60s era of Hollywood musicals.

Doris means well, but she's possibly too self-centered for her own good. When she throws Suzanne a "welcome-home" party, she opens the front door, mugs for the varying cameras, and, with dramatic emphasis, declares, "My baby is home!" When the party is hitting its last legs, she pressures Suzanne to sing in front of everybody. Yet, the second her daughter finishes, she pulls one of those don't-make-me-sing (wink!) acts and one- ups her without even realizing that it may be just a little bitchy.

The rehab clinic advises that Suzanne live with Doris in order to have someone constantly watching her, but that probably isn't a good idea. Whether she'd like to admit it or not, Doris is an addict herself, popping champagne in the early hours of the morning or mixing in an absurd amount of vodka into her fruit smoothies. Within the important first months of Suzanne's recovery, the mother/daughter dynamic is challenged after years of repressed emotions and unexpressed opinions.

As aforementioned, 'Postcards from the Edge' originally began as an autobiographical novel by Princess Leia herself, the self-deprecating Carrie Fisher. As a film (which was also penned by Fisher), it contains a darkly funny sting. Deeply rooted in time-to-get-my-life-together reality and over-the-top, Norma Desmond-like expression, it's a comedy that is solidly entertaining but also bitterly true. One can only wonder how much of the film is lifted directly from the lives of Fisher and her famous mother, the inimitable Debbie Reynolds.

Mike Nichols has made movies that range from profoundly moving to breezily humorous, and Postcards from the Edge lands somewhere in the middle. It isn't as vigorously thought-provoking as many of his other undertakings, but it captures the mindset that, no matter how terrible life is, you can always find the laughter in it. Surely, Doris' diva attitude is sickening to the long-suffering Suzanne, but we see the events through Nichols' eyes.

We're laughing, uncomfortably of course, but there's also unrelenting sympathy for both Suzanne and Doris. Suzanne has never lived a day without stooping under Doris' grand shadow, and Doris has never been able to meet the expectations of her ever-grumbling mother (Mary Wickes). Nichols films these women through a comedic lens, but there's an underlying anguish that he captures with enrichment.

So, if 'Postcards from the Edge' is more scathing than it is meaningful, we have Streep, MacLaine, and the (sadly) late Fisher to thank for all of its successes. Streep and MacLaine immerse themselves in their roles, understanding the women they're playing with unforced ease, while Fisher's screenplay contains absolutely scintillating dialogue. It isn't without its faults, but 'Postcards from the Edge' rarely misses the mark.

Now released, for the very first time, on Blu-ray and in High Definition, 'Postcards From The Edge' deserves to garner a whole new audience. I truly hope it does for it is well worth the time invested in it, of that you can be sure. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of a Carrie Fisher Audio Commentary (2001).

'Postcards From The Edge' Trailer

'Doctor Strange' [Blu-ray Combo]
(Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD / PG-13 / 2017 / Buena Vista Home Entertainment)

Overview: A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

Blu-ray Verdict: The next franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes with mystical and magical powers in 'Doctor Strange', which is a damn good start to this new character. 'Doctor Strange' was created by Steve Ditko and first appeared in Strange Tales #110 back in 1963. 'Doctor Strange' or Stephen Strange is a highly intelligent surgeon who is in the top of his field.

In an accident, he loses the use of his hands, which leads him to seek out alternate methods of healing. This brings him to a mystical and magical place across the globe where he meets 'The Ancient One' amongst other sorcerers that help him heal spiritually and physically.

Whatever Strange had learned or knew before this, is out the window, as he learns of other worlds, universes, and powers beyond imagination. Soon enough, Strange has to help defend Earth, much like 'The Avengers' do, but on a different scale. While 'The Avengers' keep us safe from big monstrous physical threats on Earth, 'Doctor Strange' protects us from magical and mystical threats from other worlds – which in due time, we will see everyone come together and team up to fight some evil forces. At least I hope.

Filmmaker Scott Derrickson was chosen to direct 'Doctor Strange', which seems like a "strange" (all the pun intended) decision given his resume, which includes mostly horror movies – 'Deliver Us From Evil' and 'Sinister' to name a few, but it turned out to be a great decision along with his writing partner C. Robert Cargill, who was formally a film critic from AintItCoolNews, who co-wrote this film.

The result is simply fantastic and a great start to the 'Doctor Strange' universe. Derrickson and Cargill have done a swell job in conjuring up a great origin story and executing each character's development here. From showing what kind of man Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) was to his transformation to the superhero we see later on – it all works. Cumberbatch is excellent too here, hitting all of the right emotional notes as well as performing the physical aspects of the role nicely.

The script has a slow burn approach to it in the first half of the film, but is sprinkled with excellent comic bits and action sequences. This slower approach is necessary to really connect and feel for Strange and it works out perfectly, as if you went on this powerful journey together.

The only gripe I have, and mind you, it's a small one, is the relationship between Strange and Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), which feels rushed and tiresome, as it's been done before. Perhaps, there just wasn't enough time to really dig deep into it. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo was excellent and almost had a 'Serenity' quality to him, but was a very conflicted character, and he performed that very well.

Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius was also fun to watch, but not the best villain we've seen. His makeup looked great and he did a great job, but there needed to be something more from him. Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One was perfect for her role and Benedict Wong as Wong stole every scene he was in.

The visual effects were out of this world as some of the bigger action sequences had things I've never seen before in a movie. It was done on such a grand scale too that I was entranced in everything going on through the film. Now I'm not a fan of 3D, but if you have the option, see 'Doctor Strange' in 3D. The visuals are insanely good and it was indeed filmed with 3D IMAX cameras, and not converted like most movies are these days. It simply looks phenomenal. I can't wait for more 'Doctor Strange'.

As for a closer look at some of the wonder Special Features, well, the A Strange Transformation Featurette may well only be less than a minute long, but it reveals so, so much about the titular character. I mean, did you know Benedict Cumberbatch was the director's only choice for the role? The director even flew to the UK to meet one-on-one with him for the role! But, and get this, Cumberbatch was working on Hamlet at the time and couldn't work into their schedule, but they waited for him anyway!

The Marvel Studios Phase 3 Featurette shows us how the director set out to create a "mind trip action film" for Cumberbatch to star in (and succeeded in grand style, one can now say), and the truly divine Team Thor: Part 2 Featurette (starring Daryl and Chris Hemsworth) is as delightful, as down to earth as you'll ever see (given that one is a superhero!). The way Thor tries to pay his rent with gold Asgard coins (which are worth a gazillion human dollars each, but actually useless here on Earth) is priceless.

And, of course, the Gag Reel is chock full of lovely bloopers. Sadly lasting only a minute, as they unravel you just want to be able to watch the hilarity ensue for at least another 15 minutes! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

A Strange Transformation - Featurette
Strange Company - Featurette
The Fabric of Reality - Featurette
Across Time and Space - Featurette
The Score-cerer Supreme - Featurette
Marvel Studios Phase 3 [Exclusive Look]
Team Thor: Part 2
Deleted Scenes
Gag Reel

'Trespass Against Us' [Blu-ray]
(Michael Fassbender, Rory Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, et al / Blu-ray+Digital HD / R / (2015) 2017 / LGF)

Overview: Academy Award® nominee Michael Fassbender stars as the conflicted yet loyal son unable to escape from the crime empire led by his father, Golden Globe® nominee Brendan Gleeson.

Blu-ray Verdict: 'Trespass Against Us' is a British crime film directed by Adam Smith, and is about Chad, a husband and father of two who's trying to separate himself from his father, Colby who constantly drags him in his life of crime.

The film follows the conventional crime family story of son wanting to leave but father holding him back. Despite the film following a conventional narrative it was never the less a good watch. Michael Fassbender gives an excellent performance as Chad, and Brendan Gleeson is as up to par as the father, Colby. But I must say the kids in the film were excellent, they gave very impressive performances.

Despite me enjoying the film for it's characters, and acting, there were plenty of flaws I had with the movie. In the very beginning of the film we find out that Chad's brother was locked up in prison so the family decides to drive a car hazardously through the street which says "Free Bryan", Chad's brother. After that the brother is never mentioned of again and just felt like an idea that was tossed around and eventually forgotten of.

During the "action" parts of the film the cinematography gets very shaky and it's very hard to see what's happening. There's also a character in the film whose name is Gordon who was just annoying, I didn't get his character other than he's the "crazy" guy. Finally, the last twenty or so minutes of the film felt very loose and didn't have any sense of what it was doing. I felt that the movie really lost its steam and was just trying to keep on pushing up the tracks; sorry.

That said though, and overall I really enjoyed 'Trespass Against Us' for as much as it follows a very conventional story that we've seen many times before, but ultimately is saved by its performances by the entire cast. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Blood Bonds: On The Set Of Trespass Against Us
Heartfelt: Director Adam Smith On The Chemical Brothers

Own 'Trespass Against Us' on Blu-ray+Digital HD on March 7th!

Official Trailer

'We Are The Flesh' [Blu-ray]
(Noe Hernandez, María Evoli, Diego Gamaliel, et al / Blu ray / NR / 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: A visionary and bizarre slice of Mexican arthouse cinema, 'We Are The Flesh' is an extraordinary and unsettling film experience, a sexually charged and nightmarish journey into an otherworldly dimension of carnal desire and excess, as well as a powerful allegory on the corrupting power of human desire.

Blu-ray Verdict: 'We Are The Flesh,' aka 'Tenemos la carne' (original Mexican title) is an experimental art house feature from controversial Mexican director Emiliano Rocha Minter. Made for an extimated $400k only, the horror-fantasy film is gripping from the very first to the very last, trust me.

Simply put, 'We Are The Flesh' is a cinematic version of dark thoughts and ideas most people immediately remove from their train of thought. As long as you are human enough to understand what is right and wrong in reality, there isn't a single thing wrong with examining dark and even grim thoughts that every single human being has from time to time.

Ergo, 'We Are The Flesh' explores those themes and presents them in ways that are meant to be hard to watch. These are themes that you normally wouldn't bring up in random conversations with random people. These are themes that aren't meant to be visited often but should be explored at least once. Just to see what they look like. Just to see what dark and grim things you otherwise would not have in your life (by choice) but are curious to see the repercussions from the vile acts that go on in dark places.

For me, 'We Are the Flesh' depicts a rather horrible version of common, hopeless and deprived humanity. It's a brief example of those dark things I never would allow myself to act upon physically or emotionally. But I find those areas of the unknown panning out visually stimulating. Afterward, I can walk away when the film ends satisfied for experiencing a story that made me think of things I don't want to think about. But I can leave those dark questions answered by putting them behind me and leaving them with this film.

In closing, 'We Are The Flesh' is a bold slap in the face to the big studios who put out the same exercises in banality week after week. Sure it's a slow burn film, but it's one that pushes the bounds of taste and art - always in such a good way that you want to see more from this filmmaker. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

A new video essay by critic Virginie Sélavy
New Interviews with director Emiliano Rocha Minter and cast members Noé Hernández, María Evoli and Diego Gamaliel
Two short films by Emiliano Rocha Minter; Dentro and Videohome
Theatrical Trailer
Stills Gallery
Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) Presentation
5.1 Surround and Uncompressed Stereo 2.0 Audio Options
Optional English Subtitles
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Anton Bitel, and a note from the producer on the film

Official Trailer

'227 - The Complete First Season'
(Marla Gibbs, Hal Williams, Alaina Reed-Hall, Jackée Harry, Regina King, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / (1985) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: It's a hilarious look at family life in a Washington, DC, apartment building. 227, one of the most popular Saturday night sitcoms of the '80s, revolves around housewife Mary Jenkins and her close-knit circle of friends and neighbors, dishing about life, family and each other in this first season collection of twenty-two hysterical episodes.

DVD Verdict: I am so Blessed to have this show now on DVD for when this show originally came on in 1985 it was well after my bedtime! Therefore, I saw the first season episodes only in reruns. No matter though, as it still allowed me to see that Marla Gibbs had that same Florence Johnston personality about her from the off.

But she did not whine as much, that much I can recall! Hal Williams was the husband who was a construction worker. He was not funny. There, I said it. Regina King played Brenda, the spoiled daughter. Then there was Alaina Reed-Hall, the lady from Sesame Street, who had a daughter who disappeared (a la Judy Winslow) and fly Jackée Harry who also lived in the building. Helen Martin played Pearl, who was just a recurring guest star - who would seemingly just look out the window and make wise remarks the entire first season! [The second season she became a regular and finally came out of the window!]

She also had a grandson named Calvin who thought he was cool. I hated the episode when Bobby Brown appeared, but that might just be me over-reacting to a pop star who thought he could act and clearly couldn't, sorry. When Brenda got in trouble, she should have really been punished by not seeing Bobby Brown and yet she was still allowed to dance with him! Moving on and when Countess Vaughn came on the show the show got worse, in my humble opinion.

When Jackée got demoted to guest star and Toukie Smith, Paul Winfield, Barry Sobel, and Stoney Jackson became regulars, the show got even worse, again, in my humble opinion. I was still mad that the 227 characters didn't get to win on Wheel Of Fortune or Family Feud. I was also mad at the episode when Gary Coleman was a criminal on the show and Mary and Lester didn't get to go to Hawaii as planned. It's not their fault that they got robbed!

Yes, I know I'm too planted within the lives of these characters, but that's exactly what great TV shows should do to you. Have you invested and for all intents and purposes, down the years, 227 had most all of us heavily invested in everything they did. Which is the sign of a truly great show. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'It's Ernest!'
(Jim Varney, Gailard Sartain, Daniel Butler, Bruce Arntson, Mac Bennett, et al / DVD / PG / (1988) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: With the overwhelming success of Ernest Goes to Camp in 1987, Ernest-mania was in full force. The lovable southern bumpkin, a familiar face in numerous television commercials in the 80s, had finally reached the big screen and now it was time for a stint on television in 'Hey Vern, It's Ernest!'

DVD Verdict: In my humble opinion, Jim Varney was quite brilliant as an entertainer. He never received the acclaim that he was due and it often makes me sad now that he's gone. Anyways, his television show 'Hey Vern, It's Ernest!' was one of the zaniest, most imaginative programs imaginable and it filled many of my Saturday mornings with joy and wonder!

With its originality and poise, it's difficult to believe it only lasted a 13 episodes! The show truly chronicles Jim Varney's ability as an entertainer and his take on different characters is exceptional and always memorable.

Characters like Dust Bunny and George add the prefect element of fantasy to the world of Ernest P. Worrel and his neighbor, Vern. You also get to watch the antics of the likes of Bill and Coo, Existo the Magician, Lonnie Don, Chuck, Bobby and others.

The classic elements appeared in pretty much every episode, but you never got bored. It always stayed creative and funny. This is a fantastic program for young and old alike. If you now run out and buy this wonderful just-released DVD for yourselves, you will enjoy yourself over and over again, believe me.

In closing and in short, children's programming doesn't get any better than this. I grew up with Ernest P. Worrell. 'Hey, Vern! It's Ernest' was an excellent show and is still better than the children's programming they air today. As the song goes: "It's Ernest P. Worrell with a story and a moral." Just that entire song is as catchy as it can be and I find myself singing along with it when I pop in this DVD, each and every time. Buy it today and see what all the fuss was about in the late '80s. You'll be glad you did. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Joe Bullet - Special Edition'
(Ken Gampu, Abigail Kubeka, Cock Tlholthalemaje, et al / DVD / NR / (1973) 2017 / The Film Detective)

Overview: When local soccer team The Eagles fall prey to a series of onslaughts from a mysterious gangster only a week before the championship final, the team turns to one man that can help save their chances at victory - Joe Bullet (Ken Gampu).

DVD Verdict: Firstly, what a great title for a movie! I mean, it's straight to the point,to the heart of the movie without messing about. Love it. Secondly, what you should also know going into this movie experience is that it was actually banned for a long time quickly upon its release back in 1972/73. Then it was, well, "unbanned" again and has just now only re-appeared in the past couple of years.

Starring the highly imposing Ken Gampu as the titular character Joe Bullet, his roles beforehand in the Jamie Uys movies ("Dinkaka", "The Gods Must be Crazy" and "The Naked Prey") showcase just what a formidable and wholly plausible action hero he truly was. He could carry a movie on his back for miles, and here in this South African production, he did just that.

In truth, the film's overall ambitions are minimal. The paint-by-numbers plot about corruption in sport has the bad guys trying to get star players Tlhotlhalemaje and Chama away from the Eagles so that the the rival Team the Falcons take the big game; and the crooks get rich betting on them, of course.

Bullet comes, I kid you not, with his own song ("He's the man who won't let you down") and wins the manager's daughter Kubeka, who does a passable musical interlude when our hero is not rescuing her from various perils! Versatile director-cameraman Louis de Witt is most at ease covering the film's soccer matches, sure, but overall his eye is trained on the sub plot subject matter beneath the games being played.

In those sub plots, that thread together very nicely, it has to be said, Bullet has to battle against villainous henchmen, escape booby-trap bombs and bring his martial arts expertise to the fore in order to survive an attack from a deadly assassin. In the end he even has to infiltrate the mysterious gangster's hide-out in a dangerous cat-and-mouse rescue mission to save not only The Eagles' two kidnapped star players, but that of his beautiful love interest, the aforementioned Beauty (Abigail Kubeka).

Sure the odds are stacked against him (not in his favor, to needlessly quote a Hollywood blockbuster), but he's the man that fights crime, the man that no one can tie down! In closing, the production values are of a brownish "feel", but that melds nicely with the year it was filmed, where it was filmed, and the dirt caught in the air, each and every take, one imagines. Now lovingly newly restored by The Film Detective, 'Joe Bullet' is as good a movie as anything I've seen in the past decade and once you've watched it, I hope you will feel the same way too. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Audio Commentary Track (Tonie van der Merwe - writer/producer of Joe Bullet, Calum Waddell - documentary filmmaker, Benjamin Cowley - Gravel Road)
Before / After Restoration Demo
Closed Captions

'Moana - Ultimate Collector's Edition'
(Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, et al / Blu-ray+Blu-ray 3D+DVD+Digital HD / NR / 2017 / Walt Disney)

Blu-ray Overview: In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain's daughter's island, she answers the Ocean's call to seek out the Demigod to set things right.

Blu-ray Verdict: OK, let's get this straight from the start: 'Moana' falls in line next to 'Tangled' and 'Frozen' as an instant classic Disney Princess movie. The stand-out performance of Auli'i Cravalho as the voice of Moana carried the emotional weight of the movie through some of Disney's most beautiful songs to date, while Dwayne Johnson's experience as an actor provided the necessary humour and comedy to support the young Hawaiian-born actress in her acting debut. Dwayne Johnson's performance singing 'You're Welcome' was also a very pleasant surprise.

The supporting cast is also full of surprises, and so many of the lesser songs are still immensely moving. The film is certainly transported from scene to scene by the music, and the native languages featured in some of the numbers shows Disney's respect and appreciation of the culture they're exploring.

Disney's animation has also taken another leap, and the quality of the movie's visuals is surpassed only by the immense care and detail the animators showed in every scene.

The filmmakers also notably took plenty of time in researching the lives and culture of those living in the South Pacific, and it showed. Even if there were liberties taken, I loved learning about these people and how they lived their lives. It's a timeless adventure story that doesn't rely on pop culture references or screwball humor, instead, its layered lore and appealing leads pave the way for a glorious experience.

What also struck me was the immense detail that went into making 'Moana'. Everything from Maui's tattoos to the lively ocean, this may be the most beautiful animated film to date. I mean, simply put, 'Moana' combines groundbreaking animation, fantastical and mythological characters, and a coming of age story of a youth growing into a leader seamlessly.

It has its issues, of course, as all films do. The plot is predictable, and as bitter-sweet as the ending is, it's certainly not going to be a surprise. As is the case with all animated family films, there is rarely a fear of the protagonist being in any significant danger, and a happy ending is inevitable. 'Moana' is an amazing story so if you have not seen it, what are you waiting for?

Some of my personal favorites from the Special Features included are the Deleted Scenes, for the most part all still only drawn in black and white and showcase things like when Moana and Maui first entered the Underworld and they get to have a much more involved encounter with the eight-eyed bat! The Deleted Song 'Warrior Face' gets an intro from the songwriter and it details the way the song came to be - and it's a great watching/listening experience.

Another great Special Feature moment is the 'Voice of the Islands' Featurette. Although it only runs for less than a minute, it showcases how the director and crew wanted to cast locals from the island in the movie as much as possible. Another interesting Featurette is called 'Island Fashion' and at just over two minutes, it shows us how the costumes were made in visual development for 'Moana'.

By far the longest Featurette at nearly 15 minutes is 'The Elements of Moana' and it is chock full of fun revelations and brings us closer to the main characters and how some of the main effects seen within the film were brought to be. Especially here on the Blu-ray 3D, it showcases how the animation team brought Maui's tattoo's to life and how one of the main animator's from 'Aladdin' worked on those very same Maui tattoos for 'Moana.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Deleted Song: "Warrior Face"
Voice of the Islands - Discover how the heritage of the islands influenced the story, and how the people and their culture inspired the filmmakers
Things You Didn't Know About - Get to know the movie's stars and talent through a series of rapid-fire questions
Island Fashion - Find out how the costumes were designed using only materials and techniques native to the islands of Oceania
The Elements Of - Explore MOANA'S groundbreaking effects, in four featurettes
They Know the Way: Making the Music of MOANA - Learn how Opetaia Foa'I, Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda's involvement with the movie changed their lives
Music Video - "How Far I'll Go" by Alessia Cara
Deleted Scenes
Fishing for Easter Eggs
Audio Commentary, Short Film: "Inner Workings", Maui Mini Movie: "Gone Fishing" and More!

The Official Trailer

'Mickey And The Roadster Racers'
(Bret Iwan, Russi Taylor, Daniel Ross, Tress MacNeille, Bill Farmer, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Walt Disney Junior)

DVD Overview: Welcome to Hot Dog Hills, where Mickey and his pals run the coolest garage on the planet. Join them for high-octane thrills as they power up their amazing, transforming cars for races through the town... and around the world!

DVD Verdict: I know that we all know who Mickey Mouse is, and we all know who is group of friends are too, but for those lil' 'uns new to the character, well, here is yet another terrific Disney Junior animaited show for your kids. Using his other popular show, the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse series as a spring board for this solo gig, once again it is a series for the preschool set of kids that want to smile, laugh and watch it over and over!

It actually airs on the wonderful Disney Junior channel and can count among its fellow TV shows of the same ilk both Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins.

'Mickey and the Roadster Racers' is, in and unto itself, an American computer-animated children's television series produced by Disney Television Animation. It is indeed the successor to the aforementioned Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and the series debuted on Disney Junior in the United States on January 15th, 2017.

Indeed, here in 'Mickey And The Roadster Racers' we experience quite a lot of rather high-octane thrills as Mickey and the gang power up their amazing, transforming cars for races through the town. But it's not just their local town that gets spotlighted here, no, for the gang go globetrotting on a huge scale also bu traveling and racing all around the world too!

Then we also get to team up with Minnie and Daisy, because when they're not zooming to victory, they're assisting friends in need at their fabulous "Happy Helpers" headquarters. Chock full of friendly competition and fun new inventions throughout (although I wouldn't set aside too much belief in most all of them working in real life!), 'Mickey And The Roadster Racers' is a wild ride from start to finish.

Oh, and lastly, aside from the great episodes contained (Mickey's Wild Tire! / Sittin' Kitty, Goofy Gas! / Little Big Ape / Race For The Rigatoni Ribbon! / Roaming Around Rome), it's important to know that this new DVD also comes with a FREE Create Your Own Personalized Metal License Plate feature! Very cool, I thin you'll all agree. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Mickey's Perfecto Day! / Running of the Roadsters!
2 Music Videos

"Goofy Gas" Clip

"Chasing Kitty" Clip

DVD Purchase Link

'The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-WrestleMania'
(Jeff Bergman, Trevor Devall, Grey Griffin, Danica McKellar, Tress MacNeille, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Warner Bros.)

DVD Overview: Blast off to adventure in this animated feature where our favorite space-age family, The Jetsons, meet the superstars of WWE!

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-WrestleMania' is brand new animated direct-to-video film starring The Jetsons. Indeed, it is actually the fourth co-production between Warner Bros. Animation and WWE Studios and was released on February 28th, 2017 on Digital HD and on March 14th, 2017 on home video.

It is also the first new Jetsons production in over 27 years since 'Jetsons: The Movie', which was 55 years after the original 1960s series! It is also the first Jetsons film without the original creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who both died respectively in 2001 and 2006.

In truth, and being a huge fan of the original Jetsons cartoon, I was wary going into this, but wow, trust me when I say I needn't have been and that it is very enjoyable! The animation, layout and especially the bright colors were really good! I mean, usually studios tend to update the art to accommodate today's viewers, but this kept the old look which I thought was a brave thing to do.

The story line might be simplistic, but it gets us into the heart of the movie quickly - and that's always a plus for me. A snowstorm freezes Big Show solid for decades, but when George unearths him and finally thaws him out, both George and Elroy help him build wrestle bots. But when Big Show uses them to take over the city, the Jetsons go back in time to enlist help from the WWE Superstars of today. Stars such as Sheamus, Alicia Fox, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and the Uso Brothers.

To my mind, this fabulous 'The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-WrestleMania' is also a much better quality animated work of art than the whole Flintstones / WWE crossover; sorry. I would highly recommend to all Jetsons fans and even those who don't know about the characters to buy this wonderful animated movie and settle in with the kids one night - to not only enjoy this new era of the Jetsons, but to showcase a new generation just what they had missed from their most distant past. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Welcome To Orbit City Featurette
The Dangers of Button-Pushing Featurette
The Jetsons: My Favorite Memories of the Future Featurette
3 Bonus Cartoons

DVD Purchase Link

'Robo-Dog: Airborne'
(Jonathan Silverman, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Campion, James Arnold Taylor, Brooklyn Prince, et al / DVD / G / 2017 / LGF)

DVD Overview: When a cool, cuddly, robotic dog runs off and has his memory chip erased, his clever boy and the boy's genius creator dad must track down this perfect pooch and bring him home.

DVD Verdict: Simply put, Robo-Dog is, quite easily the world’s coolest pet! He can run super-fast, grow a bionic arm, talk, and even fly! I mean, come on now, who in their right mind wouldn't want a pet that could do all that?

But, in truth and as we all quickly discover, what we have might also be wanted by jealous others and so after creating the perfect pooch for his son Tyler, genius dad Tom (Patrick Muldoon, “Days of Our Lives”) gets called away. So, when Tyler and his wacky nerd friend Barry head off to a science fair, Robo-Dog runs away and has his memory chip erased! Then, after starting a new life with a computer whiz and his adorable daughter, the search is on to not only find and bring home Robo-Dog, but, and more importantly, convince the high-tech terrier that they are indeed still, and always really have been his rightful masters.

A tale with plenty of heart and soul abounding (no pun intended), 'Robo-Dog: Airborne' is as cute as they come. For me though, the fact that the Dad invents a robot dog that looks exactly the same as the one that just died would be enough to freak me out as an adult - let alone a kid! As for the flow of this wonderful kids movie, well, it starts off sad (dead dog), gets quirky (robot dog), lots of butt jokes break out, and ends in just the way you would hope for. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Ruff Cut: Behind the Scenes of Robo-Dog: Airborne? Featurette
TV's 'Minuscule' Bonus Episodes:
A Cruel World
Insect High Velocity
A Rolling Snail Gathers No Moss
Infernal Anthill

Official Trailer

DVD Purchase Link

'Care Bears & Cousins: BFFs - Volume 2'
(Doug Erholtz, Olivia Hack, David Lodge, Stephanie Sheh, Melissa Mabie, et al / DVD / G / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: Join the Care Bears for fun-filled adventures n friendship, kindness and understanding! After many years away from Care-a-Lot, Care Bears Cousins finally fully return home in 'Care Bears™ & Cousins: Take Heart – Volume 2', arriving on DVD and Digital HD March 7 from Lionsgate.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'Care Bears & Cousins' is a computer-animated television series which premiered on November 6th, 2015, on Netflix.

There’s exciting news in the land of Care-a-Lot! The Care Bear Cousins – Brave Heart Lion, Bright Heart Raccoon, Lotsa Heart Elephant, and Cozy Heart Penguin – have returned home. In this second volume of the new series, the Cousins continue to ensure that the Share Cloud is always full of the Care Hearts that Care-a-Lot needs.

Here in this second volume, the Care Bears and their Cousins discover that best friends are forever in these all-new sweet and smile-raising adventures. Whether they're trying to help Brave Heart have the awesomest day ever, caring for an injured Grumpy or learning valuable lessons about jealousy and the importance of keeping promises, the Care Bears and their Cousins fill every moment with caring, sharing and fun!

Containing six (6) lovely, and just perfect for young children episodes from the all-new series, 'Care Bears & Cousins: BFFs - Volume 2' isn't exactly what I would call "groundbreaking" (or anything close), but what is does possess is a simple sweetness.

Nice and lovely in all the right places, and a little bit of fun to watch also, of course, your young kids will love it - and you parents may find some enjoyment while watching with them also. What do I think of it? I think it is a nice show that kids and their parents can easily enjoy together and that's all these are really created to be anyway. So, job done. Job well done.

The CGI is probably the thing that could turn people off, but once you get past that you'll find some enjoyment in this show. The characters are rather one-dimensional, but they're entertaining enough with their quirks. The writing is also quite okay, and there are some jokes that will give you some giggles know and then.

The voice acting is good, and actually feels like the actors/actresses are putting in some effort. Music, well, sorry, but not much to say about it, only that it works for the show as all. So overall, this series is a great watch for kids, as well as adults.

The six (6) endearing episodes included are: "Take Heart", "Return to Tender", "The Bright Stuff", "The Share Shack", "Belly Badgered" and "Wonder's Heart" If you have kids, then you should most certainly cheek out this delightful Care Bear series. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'For The Love Of Spock'
(Zoe Saldana, Chris Pine, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, J.J. Abrams, et al / DVD / R / 2017 / FilmRise)

Overview: 'For The Love Of Spock' celebrates the upcoming 50th Anniversary of Star Trek through a personal, intimate look at the life and career of Leonard Nimoy, and the enduring appeal of his alter-ego, Mr. Spock, as told by his son, Adam Nimoy. Includes interviews and clips with Jim Parsons, Zoe Saldana, William Shatner, George Takei and many more.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'For The Love Of Spock' is not just a documentary about Spock, per say, but also about Leonard Nimoy and his relationship with his son, Adam (the filmmaker). Indeed, a touchstone in this story is a letter Leonard wrote to his son in 1973. Adam reads portions of this and uses it as a launching pad to take the narrative in different directions. In truth, it is very well done and nicely, lovingly even put together by Adam.

Interestingly, the last time he reads it, he puts the letter back in an envelope and puts it on top of a copy of "I Am Not Spock." Leonard wrote this book out of frustration for constantly being pushed into the "Spock" box as he tried to make his way in his acting career (and other pursuits) after Star Trek. I mean, we're talking about a man, an actor who before Star Trek didn't have a regular paying job locked in for more than two weeks at a time! He arrived in Hollywood in 1949 and Star Trek began in 1966, so you do the math!

Yet, from this Tribeca Film Festival 2016 nominee film, you would never guess Leonard had a difficult relationship with the character he created. Yes, he eventually made peace with the notoriety that came with creating and being the Spock character, and came to accept the fan attention as an acknowledgement of the universal appeal of the character he created. But why is this absent from the film, I hear you ask?

I mean, we hear all about his records and his photography, but what about his poetry? We hear some about his drinking problem and hear allusions to the 30 years of smoking that killed him (COPD), but never the aforementioned missing elements of who he really was - and what made him tick, in some cases. Amazingly, for all the photos we see of him, I only saw one that showed him smoking, in relation to the fact of what finally took him.

That all aside, 'For The Love Of Spock' is a delightfully astute work of cinematic art and deserves to be seen around the world by every Trekkie there is. Some 50 years in the making now re: Spock, the documentary shows how the character changed his life back then (when even the press said, quote, "Star Trek won't work", unquote) and how he then went on to change our lives thereafter. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Leonard Nimoy's Boston TV Special
Star Trek Trivia with Jason Alexander
Commentary with Adam Nimoy, David Zappone & Scott Mantz
Kickstarter Video Galley
Tribeca Q&A with Adam Nimoy & Zachary Quinto
On Set with "The Big Bang Theory"
Subtitles: English, Spanish, German, Russian, French and More!

Official Trailer

'Sing - Special Edition' (Blu-ray+DVD+Digital)
(Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD / PG / 2017 / Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

Blu-ray Overview: Illumination Entertainment, the studio that brought you 'The Secret Life of Pets' comes an animated comedy about finding the music that lives inside all of us. 'Sing' stars, amongst other big name hitters, Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey as Buster Moon, an eternally optimistic koala who puts on the world's greatest singing competition to save his crumbling theater.

Blu-ray Verdict: 'Sing' is the new hit computer-animated comedy musical about a bunch of anthropomorphic animals that enter a singing competition. All hosted by a koala bear that's trying to save his theater! It was written and directed by Garth Jennings (who also helmed 2007's 'SON OF RAMBOW', and 2005's 'THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY'), and it was co- directed by Christophe Lourdelet (a veteran animator, and first time filmmaker).

It stars the voice talents of Matthew McConaughey (said koala bear), Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlet Johansson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, John C. Reilly, Nick Kroll, Jennifer Saunders and Jennings himself. It really is a rather cute animated movie, for all ages, I have to point out though. I stress that as there are some hard knock lessons in life here to be seen, so not just for the wee ones, trust me.

The story is set in a world inhabited entirely by humanoid animals. Buster Moon (McConaughey) is a hard working koala; who owns a classic theater, which hasn't been doing well financially (in quite some time). Buster is extremely optimistic that he can save it though, if he puts on a singing contest. When the $1,000 prize money is accidentally advertised as $100,000, many animals are eager to audition. Buster is determined to press on, despite not having the reward money that's promised. Multiple talented misfits ambitiously pursue their dreams, by participating in the competition.

I'm not a big fan of most animated kids' films, these days, but this is one of the better ones. It's entertaining, beautiful to look at, and it's pretty emotional, at times, and inspiring as well. The music is all catchy, and fun to listen to, and the voice cast all does a good job. The film is funny, without being too overly silly too. I really enjoyed it, and I think most kids will as well.

Indeed, Universal's animation has also taken another leap, and the quality of the movie's visuals is surpassed only by the immense care and detail the animators showed in every scene. So, what do you get, front and center? Well, first off you get a very tired, overworked, and under-appreciated pig mom, with 12 piglet children, who gave up on her dreams, while her husband is completely oblivious to her.

You then get a moody porcupine teenager who was selected over her boyfriend which she finds out later that is a complete jerk when he was "cheating." OK so the definition of cheating is weak, but he is caught singing with another girl in her apartment. A "swift and conniving" mouse guy who is only in it for the money, trying to hustle mobsters, but fails. All while living on his own standards.

An Elephant teenager who is just too scared and shy to get over her insecurities to sing in front of others, especially when she has the family supporting her. Oh and the grandfather that helps her get the courage to do so, because of his "birthday wish" to see her sing and excel in life. Oh, and my personal favorite, a gorilla teen who does not want to be like his father and not a part of his notorious gang who pull off a gold heist!

Some of my personal favorites from the Special Features included are, and for sure, the "Love At First Sight" Mini-Movie. What a pure delight this is from start to finish, inclusive of crocodiles, frogs and (when reality hits), a Gorilla playing the piano! Built cunningly around the world of online dating, it may only last just over four minutes, but hey, that's why it's called a "mini movie"!

Another one is "Gunter Babysits" Mini-Movie where Gunter, who claims to be the world's very best babysitter, piglet sits Reese Witherspoon's brood of 12 piglets - with, of course, disastrous results ensuing! But, lest we forget that movies like this are meant to teach us also, amongst the chaos and so come the return of Mama Pig and Papa Pig at 9pm sharp, well, let's just say normality (of a sort) has settled once more upon the household!

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

• "Gunter Babysits" Mini-Movie
• "Love At First Sight" Mini-Movie
• "Eddie's Life Coach" Mini Movie
• The Making Of The Mini-Movies
• "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" Music Video Starring Tori Kelly
• Making a Music Video with Tori Kelly
• "Faith" Music Video
• "Faith" Lyric Video
• "Set It All Free" Lyric Video
• The Making of 'SING'
• Finding the Rhythm: Editing 'SING'
• SING & Dance! - "Faith"
• The SING Network
• In The News
• The Best of Gunter
• Digital Copy of 'Sing'
• Character Profiles and More!

The Official 'Sing - Special Edition' Trailer

'Child Eater'
(Brandon Smalls, Dave Klasko, James Wilcox, Melinda Chilton, Jason Martin, Colin Critchley, Cait Bliss, et al / DVD / R / 2017 / MVD Visual)

Overview: A simple night of babysitting takes a horrifying turn when Helen realizes the boogeyman really is in little Lucas' closet.

DVD Verdict: In truth, 'Child Eater' is a pretty decent horror movie. Sure it's title was chosen to scare us into wanting to, nay having to watch it (as horror fans), but that promotional aspect aside, the film does take us down some rather scary avenues.

It comes complete with all the scary horror prerequisites (whether that be a big budget or B-movie horror film) of a scary kids closet (just keep the night light on kid!), a creepy old man (stop staring at him through your binoculars kid!), a terrified will-do-all-for-her-son mother, and, of course, a really spooky old house ... which can only seemingly be investigated in the pitch black of night!

In my book it should have been called 'Boogeyman 2' or some such nonsense, but that aside, the film was enjoyable and I stuck with it to the very end - which I urge you guys to do also. Again, 'Child Eater' doesn't provide anything new or original within the genre, it won't bowl you over cinematically, but the actual plot has a lot of merit to it.

The special effects were above par and the atmosphere throughout was quite creepy in its own right also. The soundtrack score, complete with creepily sung nursery rhymes was stoic enough to enhance the whole film to another level also, which was surprising (give that it is a B-movie, after all. So yeah, all in all, 'Child Eater' is a good, solid horror B-movie for fans of the genre. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Audio Commentary with Director Erlingur Thoroddsen and Stars Cait Bliss and Jason Martin
Deleted Scenes

Official Trailer

'The Creeping Garden: Director Approved 3-Disc'
(Mark Pagnell, Heather Barnett, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+CD / NR / (2014) 2017 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)

Overview: 'The Creeping Garden' is a feature-length documentary exploring the work of fringe scientists, mycologists and artists, and their relationship with the extraordinary plasmodial slime mold.

Blu-ray Verdict: "I've always been curious as to why things are the way they are and I think I've always been interested in the things that often get overlooked which is I think why I'm interested in the slime mold." These are Heather Barnett's words, not mine, but not ones to be ridiculed or taken lightly for Barnett, along with her co-companion on this riveting documentary bring us a wondrous work of cinematic exploration here on 'The Creeping Garden'.

And it truly doesn't matter if you're into this kind of thing, or find yourself on the outskirts of it looking in, perpetually wondering about all that is nature and its hidden, and ever-growing depths, for Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp’s uncanny documentary 'The Creeping Garden' has a way of growing (sorry) on you.

Taking its time to unfold before your very eyes, never one for rushing over, or overlooking a moment of evolution within the species being investigated, this engrossing award-winning feature-length creative documentary explores the extraordinary world of the plasmodial slime mold; as revealed through the eyes of the fringe scientists, mycologists and artists who work with them.

The whole idea of filming this was to enable the casual viewer (and those more attune, of course) to garner a much deeper understanding of the organism known as slime mold, in particular. Ergo, 'The Creeping Garden' not only provides oodles of scientific knowledge, but also glimpses of a kind of hive intelligence structured within each and every bound slime mold cell.

Basically put, 'The Creeping Garden' is a unique exploration into a hitherto untapped subject matter, immersing the viewer within the worlds of the observers and the observed. Indeed, at one point Barnett uses the Physarum polycephalum species to create wallpaper patterns and interactive art installations. Furthermore, we watch as she recruits volunteers among visitors to the "Biodesign" exhibition at the New Institute in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to simulate behaviors of slime molds by connecting to one another using yellow ropes and carabiners.

Inclusive of an original soundtrack composed by celebrated musician and producer Jim O'Rourke (Sonic Youth, Grizzly Man), that actual soundtrack CD is presented here as the third disc in this incredible collection. Something to be heard to be believed, for the most part it is what they call Biocomputer Music; where this first-created Biocomputer Music System was created to allow a two-way musical dialogue between man and slime mold! Again, it has to be heard to be believed! This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations Original 2.0 audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Audio commentary by directors Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp
Biocomputer Music, a short film by Grabham on the first Biocomputer Music System, allowing a two-way musical dialogue between man and slime mold
Return to the Fungarium, a featurette revealing further treasures of the fungarium at Kew Gardens
Feeding Habits of Physarum, a featurette on the feeding preferences and dislikes of slime molds
Three cinema iloobia short films: Milk (2009), Rotten (2012) and Paramusical Ensemble (2015)
Angela Mele's animated slime molds
US Theatrical Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring two pieces of original artwork
+ THE CREEPING GARDEN SOUNDTRACK [Limited Edition Exclusive] Bonus CD containing the rearranged soundtrack to 'The Creeping Garden' by legendary producer and musician Jim O'Rourke

+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet containing writing on the film by Jasper Sharp

Official Trailer

'Wolf Creek: Season 1'
(John Jarratt, Lucy Fry, Dustin Clare, Jake Ryan, Deborah Mailman, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)

DVD Overview: After her family is brutally murdered in the Australian outback, American college student Eve Thorogood vows to bring serial killer Mick Taylor to justice - or die in the attempt.

DVD Verdict: Simply put, 'Wolf Creek' (the new TV series) is as good as it gets in this genre. From the moment Eve Thorogood's (Lucy Fry) family are out-of-the-blue slaughtered in front of her, the following six terror laden episodes take you on a must-see nightmare trek into the Outback. Where the vicious, and always hungry prairie dogs are not the only things you have to be careful of!

And with that said, Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) is a hidden gem in the serial killer horror genre. An Australian marksman who prowls the outback looking for unsuspecting tourists to unleash his brand of sadistic torture and psychological mind games upon. This monster of a human is played to perfection by Jarratt, and from his dirty hat to his terrifyingly sardonic laugh, you don't disbelieve for a moment that this guy is bad news.

This TV mini-series had a lot of potential to become a yearly vehicle showcasing Mick Taylor's crusades against a wide variety of victims. Indeed, this devastatingly brilliant first season delivers everything that you would hope to find (given that it's brought to us from the makers of the films). Sure there are some inconsistencies and unnecessary plot points that drag down what we really want to see in 'Wolf Creek' ie: Mick Taylor in his native glory, but we're talking six hours of screen time for what was only ever a movie or two.

The premiere's pre-credit sequence sets up the season in a superb fashion. It mirrors some of the greatest moments from the 'Wolf Creek' films; Mick Taylor sharing an innocent chat with his unknowing victims, cracking jokes, laughing inappropriately, and sharing hunting stories to earn their trust before he strikes. And BOY, does he strike!

The one-before-last final showdown in particular is an enormous disappointment, for me personally. Now, and only because being a journalist I have to play Devil's Advocate here, but the gunfight at the OK coral scene was more like a duck and dive fest amongst a hail of randomly aimed bullets! I guess we can put a lot of that down to the fact that this final episode of the six delves into Mick's backstory; a huge no-no for horror villains, especially right at the final hurdle of the movie/TV show.

Chock full of flashbacks to Mick's childhood that reminded me a lot of Rob Zombie's 'Halloween', that remake was terrible, simply terrible; but at least these flashbacks don't sink it to its knees like Zombie's. To be honest, we don't need to know Mick Taylor grew up in a broken home for him to be scary. He's already bloody terrifying! Indeed, the less we know about him the more psychotic he seems, but the ultimate finale where our gal finally (seemingly) gets one over on her own personal demon played out decently - until she goes back to check on his burnt corpse!

Anyway, and aside from Jarratt's arresting performance, the acting is spot on throughout for me. Lucy Fry's frazzled and bleeding heroine lost in the Outback is a role undertaken splendidly and she should be mighty proud of this show. Quite why, in general, all female's on the run cut their long, luscious hair to a spiky bob is beyond me! But even more fascinating is how they all seem to cut it using a wing mirror or dirty bathroom mirror so damn salon perfectly!

The officer investigating the case, Sullivan Hill (Dustin Clare) could have been handled better though, but he's also given subplots that do absolutely nothing to advance the plot (ie: his family life) which drain the urgency from his veins. So, in truth, the only reason to watch 'Wolf Creek - Season One' is to see Mick Taylor and being that the ending is left, well, open ended, it seems Season Two will also have a little more Taylor lurking around its landscape! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Cinema to Series: The Legacy of Wolf Creek
Making a Television Series
Meet the Stars
Discovering the Outback
Visual Effects Featurette
Meet the Supporting Cast

Official Trailer

DVD Purchase Link

'Assassin's Creed' [Blu-ray]
(Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, Michael Fassbender, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray + DVD + Digital HD / PG-13 / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society.

Blu ray Verdict: Assassins Creed 15th century: "The Templars" wants an apple containing the genetic code to free-will and with it curb humanity to their bidding (The Ludovico Apple?). The "Assassins" try to stop them because people retaining their free-will is preferable to turning people into clockwork oranges, they also rescue the son of a Sultan (used as a bargaining chip by the Templars to get the Sultan to surrender the Apple). Fighting and jumping up and down buildings ensues until the Assassins finally kill the villains and hides the apple with Christopher Columbus whom takes it to his grave.

This plot - if fleshed out with some characterization, wit, exposition and depth - would probably require something like 110 minutes and could have been a pretty good adventure-film. In adapting this game there was an obstacle however, another element that needed to be included for as not to be unfaithful: The twist that outside of the period piece/adventure-tale we have a modern, high-tech kidnap/detective/conspiracy-plot.

Assassins Creed present-day: Callum Lynch (Fassbender), a criminal that saw his mother (Davis) murdered by his father (Gleeson) is arrested and sentenced to death. He is then saved by the "Abstergo Foundation", an organization run by Templar Alan Rikkin (Irons). Also working there is Sophia Rikkin (Cotillard), a leading scientist on the "Animus Project". The "Animus" is a machine that can be hooked up to humans and trace the memories of their ancestors and so gain information from history. Lynch happens to be a descendant from Aguilar, the Assassin involved in the plot to keep the apple from the Templars. Proceeding from here we get a stew of father/mother/son-drama, an uprising of assassins against their captors and some drama with the Templars (pressure from bosses, father/daughter-drama and discussions on their motives).

Now take a gander and decide which one of these plot-lines has the most potential to make a decent film. Then imagine them both squeezed into 110 minutes, then realize that only about 35 minutes of 110 is set aside for the 15th century, then get good with fact that even during the meager 35 we - in the most annoying way possible - has to cut back to the present for Fassbender-gymnastics and reaction shots.

'Assassins Creed' works as a game because outside of the Animus things take their time to be revealed and to move forward. It's a game so it can afford to do so, the player of the game will want to get past that stuff as fast possible anyway to get back into the Animus where things are more engaging. It's about playing to the mediums respective strengths, something this film wasn't allowed to do because it wanted to be a faithful adaption and not incur the ire of its fans.

The strength of a big-budget blockbuster would have been to focus on the plot back in the day rather than the present. Imagine the set-pieces, locations, armies, battles, plotting, spying, assassinations and betrayals and similar things that at the least could have made for a passable action-adventure-film. Instead, we're stuck with 75 minutes of disinterested actors showing up on set trying to explain what's going on and who everybody is. And the 35 minutes in the 15th century? it's underwritten to the nth-degree and completely butchered by the up close, shaky hand-held camera work and the aforementioned cutting to the present during action sequences.

The tone is depressing and lacks humor, the characters are weak and it's saddled with nonsense. Why have the silly father/mother/son- drama at all? Lynch could have been a regular person (with a penchant for violence if you need to keep the "violence is genetic-shtick") that gets captured by Abstergo and is subjected to experiments. Then he starts to despise them for the treatment he and his fellow test subjects receives (a rather good scene actually sneaks past the screenwriters where we see the damages that's been done to uncooperative subjects) and starts plotting escape with Moussa (Williams) and the other captives (the uprising is another section that's underwritten).

Instead we get a moment taken from a Harry Potter-film where Lynch has a vision of mom while hooked to the Animus (some kind of full-synchronization deal when Lynch becomes more attuned to the Assassins) and has a revelation that he belongs with them.

Thematically the film is ambitious. Violence as mankind's constant flaw, the question of free-will and identity are all held up for inspection. It's ambitious indeed, and I wonder if the idea was to get those themes working and so not need to spend so much time inside the animus (where they would put most of the action), have the film transcend the expectations of its genre and end up as something more profound. The theme of identity works better, even though it's rather dull considering the characters we're served with: Lynch is a lost soul, having drifted around from early age with baggage of seeing mom killed by dad and not having a place of belonging, and so Lynch latches on to the identity of a Templar for a short time after a confrontation with dad (also a captive) but later upon seeing mom while in full sync with the Animus, becomes an Assassin instead. It's textbook and "arc-ish", not interesting nor well done, but still something of a success in a movie that could have been so much more; so much better.

As for the special features, for my money the Five-Part Behind The Scenes (running at about an hour in total) are much better than the actual film, sorry! They reveal how Fassbender was kept safe underwater, how the CGI brought to life what-looked-to-be-at-the-time boringly shot "action sequences", and most importantly, how Fassbender does what he does through the air, after some diligent running!

The bits, entitled one and all, are cobbled together weirdly within each of the parts, but you soon forget that as they truly do reveal so much more interesting aspects to the movie than simply just watching it could ever bring to the fore. Like how some of the shots of the Templars fighting Fassbender were filmed, by simply adding a small camera to the sleeve of the person wielding the sword.

Also, the noisy noise you hear in some of the behind the scenes filming is the crews actual drone that films everything from terrific angles, and seamless, it has to be said. Also, the shots of the guys "jumping down" one of the many crumbing arcs is so fluid, so (again) seamless, that you forget for a second that they are wired also! Oh, and for the record, Marion Cotillard is very much a standout in her role as Sophia Rikkin! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Take the Pledge: Behind the Scenes of Assassin's Creed - Five-Part Documentary
Conversation with Justin Kurzel
Deleted Scenes Conversation with Justin Kurzel & Christopher Tellefsen
Gallery & More!

Official Trailer #1

Official Trailer #2

Own it on Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD March 21, 2017!

'Kate & Mim-Mim: Musical Mimiloo'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS Kids)

Overview: Kate and Mim-Mim know a special place filled with great music Mimiloo! After Mim-Mim accidently breaks a recording of the gang's favorite song, Kate, Mim-Mim, Tack and Gobble head off on an adventure to the Singing Seas to find Callie so they can re-record her wonderful tune. When they arrive and discover that Callie's Mega Music Maker is broken, Kate leads her friends on a quest to fix the instrument.

DVD Verdict: Kate & Mim-Mim (any edition in this collection) is a must own. Kate & Mim-Mim follows 5-year-old Kate and her toy bunny Mim-Mim as they travel to the fantasy world of Mimiloo, where Mim-Mim comes alive as a larger-than-life playmate! Together with their friends Lily, Gobble, Tack, and Boomer, Kate and Mim-Mim tackle a new challenge every day, set off on amazing adventures, and help the different friendly creatures they meet along the way.

Personally, I like how Kate figures out a problem with her imaginary friends that lines up with a real world problem she's trying to solve, and it's believable the way it's presented. It's not overwhelming yet keeps their attention with slightly shorter stories. I like the positive messages like friendship, problem solving, working together, helping each other and asking for help. Ergo, 'Kate & Mim-Mim: Musical Mimiloo' is yet another great addition to our collection - and it will be for yours too.

Mega Music Maker:
Kate is building a sand castle, but the wind chimes she places on top aren’t working. In Mimiloo, after Mim-Mim accidentally breaks a one-of-a-kind music recording, Kate, Mim-Mim and their friends head to the Singing Seas to visit Callie, a giant octopus. After learning that Callie’s Mega Music Maker is broken, Kate and the gang work to fix the island-sized instrument so they can re-record Callie’s wonderful tune.

Boom Chicka Bees:
Kate can’t get the timing right to jump rope. In Mimiloo, Gobble has a case of the sneezy snorts and needs Boom Chicka Bee honey tea to feel better. In order to get the honey, Kate must lead a concert for the Boom Chicka Queen.

Gobble’s Gift:
Kate and her parents are staging a talent show, but Mom is hesitant to perform. In Mimiloo, everyone is preparing for a dance party! While gathering crystals to make a disco ball, the gang gets trapped. Only Gobble’s beautiful voice can save them – but he’s too nervous to sing in public! Kate must show him there’s nothing to fear. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the aforementioned extra special Stories of:

Mega Music Maker
Boom Chicka Bees
Gobble's Gift

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Daniel Visits the Farm
(DVD / G / 2017 / PBS Kids)

Overview: Join Daniel Tiger for some grr-ific farm fun! Daniel rides a horse for the first time with encouragement from Dad Tiger, helps his sister Margaret feed adorable ducks, and plays farm with O the Owl. Have fun with Daniel Tiger as he learns how to help others, conquers his fears, and much more! Join Daniel on the farm with these four grr-ific tales!

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is an American-Canadian animated children's television series produced by The Fred Rogers Company, 9 Story Media Group and Out of the Blue Enterprises. It debuted on most PBS stations on September 3, 2012. The program, which is targeted at preschool-aged children, is based on the Neighborhood of Make-Believe from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, the long-running family-oriented television series created and hosted by Fred Rogers.

My five-year old grandson totally LOVES this DVD, and I think it's cute too. He's watched it several times and never stops trying to imitate Daniel in his quests for figuring things out. He just loves how Daniel has some big adventures out of small things and, importantly, learns about the world around him with his friends: O the Owl, Miss Elaina, Katerina Kittycat, and Prince Wednesday by his side. Oh, and lest we forget his loving and caring parents, Mr and Mrs Tiger!

What I also love about this show is that all his friends each have unique personalities and interests, that shows each and every person is special in his or her own way. Each of his friends has their own catch phrase which is just waaaaaaaay too cute, of course!

In closing, 'Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: Daniel Visits the Farm' contains four (4) episodes of adventure and fun, and is, without a shadow of a doubt, absolutely charming and a real BIG hit with my grandchildren, as mentioned. It's also a hit with daughters-in-law who remember watching Mr. Rogers and all the characters in the neighborhood. Very "gentle" and offering learning moments, Daniel Tiger is just what your restless kids ordered, trust me! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the following four (4) episodes:

Daniel and Margaret Visit the Farm
Clean Up Time
Daniel Uses His Words
Margaret's Bathtime

Dinosaur Train: What's at the Center of the Earth?
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Join Mr. Conductor and the Pteranodon family as they go on a very special underground adventure! As the family heads down into the Earth's crust on the Drill Train, they meet new friends, search for fossils, and learn how rocks are formed. The deeper into the Earth Buddy and his family go, the more they uncover and learn. All aboard!

DVD Verdict: The basic premise of this series, for the kids, of course, is that friendly dinosaurs climb aboard a train to visit different times throughout the prehistoric age ... learning about dinosaurs and having fun adventures!

And it has to be said, why were Trains and Dinosaurs never put together before?! I mean, Dinosaur Train completely changes how kids learn about dinosaurs. Finally, all the mistakes I was taught as a kid are repaired! Dinosaurs use tails for balance, have proper names, sometimes are tiny, have feathers, fly, are birds, swim, hunt, etc.

Mix in some really well done music and clear, quality animation, and you've got a great show. Best of all is a moment after each episode with a real paleontologist who clears up fact from fiction and even gives great details about what was learned in the cartoon - finally, a TV show is using standard teaching methods like reinforcement and repetition without boring us to death.

On this new collection from Dinosaur Train, 'What's at the Center of the Earth?' we get:
What's at the Center of the Earth? Layers!
What's at the Center of the Earth? Fossils!
What's at the Center of the Earth? Troglobites!
What's at the Center of the Earth? Minerals!
Nest Swap
The Herd is the Word
Spinosaurus Super Model
Where Have All the Lizards Gone?

Thank you, Dinosaur Train! You've created a show on a great subject that I can learn something new from right along with the kids! Well done! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Wild Kratts: Panda-monium'
(Martin Kratt, Chris Kratt / DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS Kids!)

Overview: Join Martin Kratt and Chris Kratt as they learn about some of the amazing creature features of giant pandas, red pandas, and other incredible animals! In four action-packed adventures, the brothers save giant pandas from the evil Zach Varmitech, find an adorable little lost red panda and help to reunite her with her mother, save animals captured in China from the villain Donita Donata, and more!

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 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. 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: Panda-monium', whilst checking out the endangered Giant panda, the Wild Kratts gets stranded in China without power to any of their vehicles! So, of course, the brothers must then figure out how to 'power up' in time to help save the pandas; who are being turned into roboticized stuffed toys by the nefarious villain, Zach Varmitech!

Might an ancient panda secret just possibly lead to the creature power that will restart their engines and save the pandas?! Well, check out these four (4) wondrous episodes and find out for yourselves, my friends. In short, 'Wild Kratts' is a great cartoon adventure show for kids 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: What food does a giant panda primarily eat? {SPOILER!: The answer is that a giant panda's diet is about 99 per cent bamboo! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the four (4) Wild Adventures of:
Panda Power Up!
Red Panda Rescue
The Colors of China
Snowy Owl Invasion

'Wild Kratts: Triple Feature'
(Martin Kratt, Chris Kratt / DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS Kids!)

Overview: Join Martin Kratt and Chris Kratt as they meet amazing animals from around the world. With wild creatures and dastardly villains, WILD KRATTS makes learning about animals and nature a fun-filled adventure!

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 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. 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: Triple Feature' we get three (3) most awesome tales from the brothers: "Predator Power", "Lost at Sea", and "Rainforest Rescue". Inclusive of content from the aforementioned three previously released DVDs bundled together onto one disc, 'Wild Kratts: Triple Feature' features eight (8) episodes overall.

These episodes, which feature amazing creatures and dastardly villains, are from the aforementioned "Predator Power," "Lost at Sea," and "Rainforest Rescue." From talking with dolphins in the story "Speaking Dolphinese," to working to save a black jaguar cub in Central America from Zach Varmitech in the episode "Shadow: The Black Jaguar," the 'Wild Kratts: Triple Feature' DVD is full of action-packed adventures.

No fun facts on the box cover art work, sadly, but running at approximately 205 minutes, the eight (8) stories included within this collection are: "Predator Power": Stuck on Sharks - Mimic - Little Howler - Raptor Roundup; "Lost at Sea": Speaking Dolphinese - Blowfish Blowout; and "Rainforest Rescue" Rainforest: Stew - Shadow: The Black Jaguar. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Super WHY! Triple Feature'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS Kids!)

Overview: Join Whyatt and the Super Readers for fun adventures set in some favorite classic fairytales. The fun starts when reading begins and the SUPER WHY gang save the day!

DVD Verdict: For those of you that are not aware, Super WHY! is a new series that contains a breakthrough interactive approach to reading education. Classic fairy tales with an innovative preschool twist and colorful and empowering young heroes, Super WHY! is the only preschool property created to help kids learn the fundamentals of reading through interactive storybook adventures.

In truth, my 22-month old son loves this show. He loves it because of the singing and interactive nature of the show. I love it because I teach reading at an elementary school! I enjoy the premise of the show immensely - the ability to solve "every day" problems with solutions from a book or story. I also enjoy the fact that Whyatt's super power is the power to read and a big deal is made of it each and every time.

Each of the other characters has "control" over one aspect of reading - spelling power, word power, and alphabet power. All of these skills are important for thinking about letters and sounds as connected and a part of the reading process. Kudos to PBS for providing yet another powerful show that helps our kids learn!

Here on 'Super WHY! Triple Feature', the three previously released DVDs bundled together onto one disc provides nine (9) episodes overall. First up is Humpty Dumpty where the Super Readers help Humpty get down from a wall by providing encouragement. It also includes: "Cinderella", "Pinocchio", and "Rumpelstiltskin."

In Hansel and Gretel: A Healthy Adventure the Hansel and Gretel Kids learn which foods taste great while providing long-lasting energy! This also features: "King Eddie Who Loved Spaghetti."

Finally we get Jack and the Beanstalk, where Whyatt learns about the soothing power of music. This also features: "The Princess and the Pea", "The Three Little Pigs", and "Little Red Riding Hood". This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Suburbans' [2017]
(Jennifer Love Hewitt, Will Ferrell, Donal Lardner Ward, Tony Guma, Craig Bierko, et al / DVD / R / (1999) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: There goes the neighborhood when The Suburbans, the height of cool back in the day, are rediscovered by an overly eager fan turned high-powered music executive (Jennifer Love Hewitt) determined to stage the comeback of her favorite eighties band!

DVD Verdict: Even fans of bad movies will have a tough time with "The Suburbans". Part comedy, part drama and all misfire! In 1981 the band of the title scores its one and only hit, and in 1999 the members are talked into performing at a wedding for a fan in the Navy. A representative for entertainment company EVI later approaches them about making a comeback ... the rest is "history", as they say!

Co-writer/director/co-star Donal Gardner Ward's movie positions the group as one-hit wonders who most people don't really want back, but the group itself is more problematic than intended; if their song had been either good (like the Wonders' "That Thing You Do" from the movie of the same name) or at least a believable 1980s pastiche, their status as one-hit wonders from the Neon Decade would have been plausible.

Unfortunately neither is the case, particularly the latter - as well as being a limp rock track, it sounds way too 1990s to be passable. This proves to have a knock-on effect on the movie; the person who brings them to EVI turns out to have had an obsession with one of the Suburbans since she was seven. The trouble is, she's played by Jennifer Love Hewitt - who looks as if she was barely out of Pampers in the early '80s (and she was, since she was born in 1979). Anyway, she plays Cate, a record company executive who comes up with the idea to revive the one hit wonder pop group from the '80s.

The band members are universally uninteresting (although some genuine comedy begins to manifest in the later stages with the guys as the big resurrection mania fails to live up to the hype and a couple of the guys start making the same kind of bad decisions they made the first time around), the music's boring, and it's impossible to see what the point of it all is! Oh, and it also looks like a home movie, for some strange reason.

It's almost never funny, it's never dramatic, and the appearance of A Flock Of Seagulls at the end (which is doubly nice for me, as lead singer Mike Score is a mate of mine in real life) marks the only true taste of/nostalgia for the 1980s in the entire movie!

The appearances of Robert Loggia as the father of the bride, Antonio "Huggy Bear" Fargas as a club owner, Ben Stiller and Jerry Stiller as EVI bosses, J.J. Abrams (creator of "Felicity" and "Alias") as a journalist, and JLH (whose display to Amy Brenneman in the kitchen is, to be honest, the high point of the movie!) liven things up, but not enough to raise the movies interest levels, sorry. Re-Released by Mill Creek Entertainment, this is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Suburbans' Trailer

'Levity' [2017]
(Billy Bob Thornton, Morgan Freeman, Kirsten Dunst, Holly Hunter, et al / DVD / R / (2003) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Manual Jordan (Thornton) is a convicted murderer who is unexpectedly released from prison after serving a 22-year sentence for killing a store clerk in a failed robbery attempt. Haunted by his past and seemingly lost in the present, Manual is drawn back to his old neighborhood. There he encounters three people that hold the key to his redemption: a self-destructive young woman (Dunst), an enigmatic inner-city man (Freeman) and the older sister (Hunter) of the boy he killed.

DVD Verdict: Simply put, 'Levity' is a very good movie. It's moving, emotive, and most important to me, real. I usually don't like artsy movies with their special characters, so much deeper than the rest of us, punctuated by some truly bizarre behavior - but this movie turned out to be nothing like that, thankfully.

Jordan (Billy Bob Thornton) is no hero. He's not smarter than the rest of us, nor is he deeper. He is just an ordinary person who has made a horrible mistake and has become obsessed with finding forgiveness for his mistake. And there is no Hollywood ending here. He is not granted this forgiveness at the end. That part was so real. What he does find is an acceptance. "Yes, we want you to live and can accept that, but, no, don't ever try to see us again."

This is what I enjoyed about the movie, that most of the characters could engage me so much, and yet be totally believable in their reactions. I guess, playing Devil's Advocate here for a second, the one exception was the Kirsten Dunst character. I've known people like this and believe me, they don't turn around as easily as she did. A much better reaction (and humorous too) was the way the neighborhood kids solved their money problem in the end - so different from what Morgan Freeman's minister had done; and so real for these character types, to my mind.

Which brings me to one final thing: the Morgan Freeman character of Miles Evans. Call me old-fashioned, but I love it when the author throws in enough foreshadowing to make any surprise at the end of something like this believable. Freeman's character (even his voice) gives you enough clues throughout, that this guy is no minister, sure, but wow, what an ending! So, in closing, 'Levity' is a gorgeous and thoughtful movie, outwardly somber, inwardly illuminated, of slow and deliberate pace, about messed up people who hit bottom and become whole instead of shattering. Watch it today and be blown away. Re-Released by Mill Creek Entertainment, this is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Levity' Trailer

Mary Higgins Clark - Best Selling Mysteries Vol.2
(Alison Eastwood, Bo Svenson, Iris Quinn, Emma Samms, Hannes Jaenicke, Leslie-Anne Down, Tony De Santis, Laura Leighton, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: MARY HIGGINS CLARK is one of the most critically acclaimed mystery writers of our time. 'The Queen of Suspense' has sold over 100 million copies of her novels in the U.S. alone. Known for her intriguing, clever and suspenseful writing style, now you can enjoy 5 more of her best-selling works adapted to feature films here in Volume 2.

DVD Verdict: We begin with "Pretend You Don't See Her" (PG-13, 2002, starring Emma Samms). When a Manhattan real estate agent witnesses a murder, she joins the Federal Witness Protection Program and starts a new life in Minnesota. Firstly, we have the beautiful Emma Samms, as British as they come, who has a sister with no British accent. Right off you know the attention paid to the casting (sorry). Secondly, I don't know if the use of British, Canadian, German, and American actors was a deliberate sop to the multi-cultural crowd or just a random occurrence. Anyway, the mystery is quite suspenseful at times, though some of the "twists and turns" are a bit pat.

Next up is "You Belong to Me" (PG-13, 2002, starring Lesley-Anne Down. A psychologist uses her call-in radio show to help lonesome women but finds out about a killer and when she delves deeper she becomes the next victim. So yeah, basically, this is all about a radio show that turns deadly because it brings up a case of international serial killing that had escaped the attention of the police, of many polices!

It's decent entertainment, for the most part, but too simple to be fascinating or outstanding. Unluckily, because serial killers are a lot more complex than that. In fact, they are not simply psychotic or neurotic, at least not in that paranoid plain way; or so TV and films would have us believe.

In "We'll Meet Again" (PG-13, 2002, starring Laura Leighton), two of Hollywood's most fascinating femme fatales join forces to expose deadly deception in a small town. The cast is mostly unknown this time, which is relatively rare for these type of MHC mysteries, save for the (not too great) exception of Laura Leighton. In truth, you should have no trouble figuring out whodunit, but that's only if you can stick around to see the ending! A true Made-For-TV work of cinematic art, it's relatively painless to watch, but (for me) the worst of the bunch here (sorry).

Then in "I'll Be Seeing You" (PG-13, 2004, starring Alison Eastwood and Bo Svenson), a young woman (Patricia) must identify the body of her exact double and ends up discovering the details of her father's death. However, upon identifying her, the police soon suspect the murder was committed by her father who has mysteriously gone missing. Meanwhile, doubting their suspicions, Patricia does her own investigations which leads to a scheme involving the father's scheming coworkers at a fertility clinic, a family from a double-life, and a subplot involving a psycho stalker obsessed with her!

Finally we get "Before I Say Goodbye" (PG-13, 2003, starring Sean Young. To catch a killer you've got to follow the money, no matter where, or to whom, it leads, so they tell us early on. Personally, I'm glad that (even back then) Sean Young got this leading role. Sure it's only half-decent B-movie of a thriller, but she remains an interesting and overtly watchable actress throughout.

The writing, however is horrible. There was no suspense. Every plot point could be seen miles ahead of time, even by TV movie standards, which are pretty low for B-movies. Characters seemed to learn things magically, as there was nothing shown to give basis to their conclusions. OK, I take what I said earlier back now - this is the stinker of the bunch (sorry, again). Newly released by Mill Creek Entertainment, this is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Marco Polo - The Complete Mini Series' [Blu-ray]
(Ian Somerhalder, BD Wong, Brian Dennehy, Desiree Ann Siahaan, Kark Jax, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2007) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Blu-ray Overview: His personal journey changed the European understanding of the world forever. This is the absorbing true story of Venetian explorer Marco Polo s arduous trek to the East and beyond. Literally, it s the adventure of a lifetime.

Blu-ray Verdict: 'Marco Polo' is a two-part Hallmark TV mini series chronicling the life and times of the famous Italian explorer who found himself at the court of Kublai Khan and famously wrote about his endless travels. Sadly the material is given an insipid, family-friendly feel in this resolutely silly and rather dull evocation of the material.

The silliness is to be expected given the pedigree of British director Kevin Connor, who made the likes of At The Earth's Core and The Land That Time Forgot back in the 1970s. Films that look like masterpieces in comparison to this dull-witted nonsense! The plot sort of slides from scene to scene, with lukewarm melodrama throughout and a distinct lack of realism despite location filming in China.

Ian Somerhalder is completely wooden as the uninteresting lead, although BD Wong (the scientist chap from Jurassic Park and TV's Law & Order) is a little better as his wise slave. The oddest casting choice comes in the form of the larger-than-life Brian Dennehy, playing Khan; surely the most inappropriate choice for playing a Mongol since John Wayne played Genghis back in the day?

For what it's worth, I much preferred the Shaw Brothers martial arts extravaganza Marco Polo made back in the 1970s, starring Richard Harrison as the erstwhile explorer; sorry. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Punchline' [2017]
(Sally Field, Tom Hanks, John Goodman, Damon Wayans, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1988) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Blu-ray Overview: Field stars as Lilah Krytsick, a New Jersey housewife and mother who desperately wants to make it big as a comedienne. Hanks plays Steven Gold, a self-centered Lenny Bruce-type who's been stealing the spotlight with his irrepressible, natural comedic talent. Drawn to one another, Steven helps the stumbling Lilah turn her routine from flat to funny, while Lilah helps Steven keep his anguished life together.

Blu-ray Verdict: Tom Hanks is absolutely brilliant as a former medical student who rebels and becomes a stand-up comedian. Hanks grants this movie with a heart and soul. His stage delivery is good but unfortunately hampered by really weak, unfunny material. In his acting, the sincerity, drive and passion for the job are strongly conveyed, as well as a fairly believable nature to his eventual love for Field's character. This performance, in my opinion, outshines much of his later work, including all of his Academy Award-labeled stuff.

Sally Field is miscast as a housewife who coincidentally decides to do stand-up. She is the weakest character of which I do not care about, nor will I ever care about. Her plight is totally meaningless compared to Hanks'. Her stand-up delivery is forced, and seemed too much like so-called acting. Yet she got slightly stronger material, and it confuses me so.

The pro comedians in this film are blindsided by crappy material. A few use their own stuff, but are still hurt by poor camera-work and bad editing. All of the acts should have been shot like a Richard Pryor concert movie. Incidentally, when not performing, all of the comedians are terrific actors. John Goodman is also superb as the supportive husband to Field. He brings a heart, charm and sensitivity to a thankless role, and makes it easier to view the moments when she's on screen.

Pre-dating Seinfeld's 'Comedian, 'Punchline' is actually a good look at the lives of a stand-up. However, when it should have been the funniest ever, in well-known fact, it is not. Everyone in the audiences was laughing far too much and way too loud. They may has well have been at the Apollo. It could have been comedy gold, but instead we got silt, sorry. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Comedy 20 Movie Collection'
(Sally Field, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Jennifer Love Hewitt, John C. Reilly, et al / 6-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: The 'Comedy 20 Movie Collection' is a premium, 20-Movie Collection of licensed films from Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures now out via Mill Creek Entertainment: Punchline, Postcards From The Edge, Hollywood Homicide, Hudson Hawk, The Freshman, Cops and Robbersons, Threesome, Wilder Napalm, The Velocity of Gary, Go!, Hexed, Jersey Girl, The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human, The Suburbans, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, The Brothers Solomon, Just Add Water, Can't Hardly Wait, High School High, Dancer, Texas - Pop. 81.

DVD Verdict: OK, well, of course I'm not going to review every single one of these incredible movies, but I will review five of my own personal favorites. Also, the titles above that are highlighted have already been reviewed as "new releases" on Blu-ray, so click those and check them out!

First off, 'Hudson Hawk" (1991, starring Bruce Willis, Andie MacDowell, and Danny Aiello) has always been one of my go-to favs for a night's entertainment. Nobody else seemed to enjoy it, or get it, but wow, it's just a delightful comedic romp where Bruce Willis doesn't take himself seriously - so why do you?!

The plot is simple enough: Eddie Hawkins, called "Hudson Hawk" has just been released from ten years of prison and is planning to spend the rest of his life honestly. But then the crazy Mayflower couple blackmail him to steal some of the works of Leonardo da Vinci. If he refuses, they threaten to kill his friend Tommy.

Willis was of course riding high after his success with the first two 'Die Hard' blockbusters, so Joel Silver must have given him total creative control because he must have been absolutely positive that Willis could not fail entirely. You can even see it in the credits where the name Willis is all over the screen. He even gets to sing, but not that great. Aiello does better.

Another under-rated movie is 1994's 'Cops and Robbersons', starring Chevy Chase, Jack Palance, and Dianne Wiest. When police discover that a mob hitman has moved in next door to the Robbersons, they want to find out what he is up to. So they set up a stakeout in the Robbersons' home. Hard-nosed, tough-as-nails Jake Stone is assigned to the stakeout. But now it's a question of whether Jake can last long enough to capture the bad guys. The Robbersons want to help so they are driving him crazy!

The film is a typical Chevy Case movie from the '80s and '90s. It's almost like the 'Fletch' movies or the National Lampoon's best vacation movies. But then, it's also from 'Fletch' director Michael Ritchie so that explains an awful lot, I guess. In truth, and as much as people have rated this as Ritchie's worst movie I laughed way more then I have in many movies of this ilk, believe me.

Here Chase is doing a great job of a cops and robbers story, where Chase's strange family, called the Robbersons, is encountered by and awful lot of challenges, as he is when on his best. Jack Palance is great as the old "Dr. Jeckyll and Mister Hyde"-detective, and so is Robert Davi as the scaring and dangerous Osborn, which is staked out from Robbersons house, as their new neighbor. Diane Weist is lovely naive is the wife, and the kids are also great; with extra kudos to Miko Hughes as the youngest son with a Dracula-mania!

'Go! ' (1999) is yet another panned film that is just, well, rather brilliant in its own sweet way. Starring William Fichtner, Katie Holmes, Jay Mohr, Sarah Polley, and Scott Wolf, 'Go!' is told from three perspectives: a story of a bunch of young Californians trying to get some cash, who do and deal some drugs, who score money and sex in Las Vegas, and generally experience the rush of life thereafter.

The narrative approach is similar to films like 'Pulp Fiction', wherein multiple story lines contain some common element(s) and intersect at times throughout the film. John August's script uses this approach well and manages to tell a story that is clever and unpredictable.

The film-makers assembled a pretty good mix of young talent to bring this story to life. There are no award caliber performances but the acting is decidedly above par for a teen-oriented film like this.

The direction by Doug Liman is also well-handled and shows some inventiveness without being overindulgent. Additionally, the soundtrack is skillfully assembled and fits the film's atmosphere perfectly.

Next up is 'The Brothers Solomon (2007), starring Will Arnett, Will Forte, and Kristen Wiig. John and Dean Solomon may have Ph.D.s, but they're socially inept after their widowed father home-schooled them in Antarctica. When their beloved dad falls into a coma, they hatch a plan to revive him using a positive emotional shock - giving him a grandchild.

Of course, things go drastically wrong from start to finish for the brothers, let alone the their chosen surrogate mother (Wiig). But, and much like Steve and Doug Butabi from 'A Night at the Roxbury', the Solomon's never let their spirits down; as if they're completely oblivious to their unwieldy social shortcomings.

Indeed, their chipper attitude remains constant, even when they disagree, and it casts a bizarre sense of satisfaction straight through to the moronic conclusion. To say that the events in the film are even remotely believable or sensible would be a gross exaggeration, yet one has to appreciate the inane degree of preposterousness the film achieves with its extremely over-the-top comedy.

Lastly we have, in my humble opinion, 'Can't Hardly Wait (1988) starring Ethan Embry, Seth Green, and Jennifer Love Hewitt. It's high school graduation and, like all seniors, they want to party. So, 500 high school seniors look forward to a party while, in the meantime, a boy wants to get a girl he's loved for years who just broke up with her boyfriend, and one head-case who wants revenge on a lifelong bully. So, the party comes, things develop. People have sex, drink, and go along with most of the guidelines of a high school graduation party.

What a sweet movie this is! Predictable all the way, but saved by it's extremely likeable cast: Ethan Embry, as the daydreamer nice guy, Seth Green, showing off is talent in his part as a wigger and the photogenic Jennifer Love Hewitt, who has the part of "perfect girl" down to perfection. (Is there any other way to describe it? She really is that good at it.)

Like most good films in its genre 'Can't Hardly Wait' has many witty moments, pace and charm. The parallels with 'Fast Times At Ridgemont High' are obvious. Without the everlasting stereotypes and standard story lines (nice boy wants girl - nerd gets cheerleader for one night or forever more) this kind of film might actually distinguish itself. These are both Full Screen/Widescreen Presentations (1.33:1/1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Action 20 Movie Collection'
(Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, John Travolta,Burt Reynolds, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Steve Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damm, et al / 6-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: The 'Action 20 Movie Collection' is a premium, 20-Movie Collection of licensed films from Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures now out via Mill Creek Entertainment: S.W.A.T., Basic, Maximum Risk, Stealth, Last Action Hero, Universal Soldier: The Return, The Russian Specialist, Into The Sun, The Stone Killer, Silent Rage, Shamus, The Anderson Tapes, Attack Force, The Point Men, Hunt For Eagle One, Walking Tall: Lone Justice, Pact of Silence (AKA: Le Pacte Du Silence), In The Cut, The Quiet, and Trapped.

DVD Verdict: OK, well, of course I'm not going to review every single one of these incredible movies, but I will review five of my own personal favorites. Also, the 'Last Action Hero' title above is highlighted (which means it has already been reviewed as a "new release" on Blu-ray), so click it and check it out!

First off is the highly under-rated 'Basic' (2003), starring Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Connie Nielsen, Giovanni Ribisi, and Tim Daly. A DEA agent investigates the disappearance of a legendary Army ranger drill sergeant and several of his cadets during a training exercise gone severely awry.

For most of this fabulous movie the situation is very serious: Dunbar's team mates from Special Forces trainees and their sergeant Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson) are all missing, presumed dead. The only other survivor aside from Dunbar is Kendall (Giovanni Ribisi), and he is lying in a hospital bed, in critical condition.

There is a big chance Dunbar is guilty but when he says he will only talk to another ranger like him, Osborne's supervisor Styles (Tim Daly) decides to call in a favor from his old friend/ex-Ranger Tom Hardy (John Travolta) - despite her objections. Ergo, 'Basic' is a very strong drama/thriller with a great cast. Now, that's my kind of movie.

Next up is 'Into The Sun' (2005) starring the one, the only Steven Seagal, Matthew Davis, and Takao Osawa. When the governor of Tokyo is killed in his campaign for election, the former CIA agent Travis Hunter (Seagal) is assigned to find the responsible working together with the rookie FBI agent Sean.

Travis was raised in Japan, has great connections with the underworld of the streets and is a master in sword and martial arts, trained by a former member of Yakuza. Travis discloses that there is a war between the old and traditional members of Yakuza and the new generation leaded by the deranged and sick Kuroda, who has associated to the Chinese Tong mobster Chen in a powerful drug dealing business.

'Into The Sun' is a westernized oriental action film with an interesting mingle of suspense, buddy movie, martial arts, ancient ritual with typical code of honor's attached and actual Japanese backdrops. Abundant fists fights as there are also sword struggles (in which arms and body parts are sliced off here and there), and scenes of limbs being slit open - or even, sometimes, blasted apart. So, it's just one of those feelgood movies, I guess!

Then comes an all-time fav of mine, 'Shamus' (1973) starring Burt Reynolds and Dyan Cannon. New York private eye Shamus McCoy (Reynolds) likes girls, drink and gambling, but by the look of his flat business can't be too hot. So an offer of $10,000 to finds some diamonds stolen in a daring raid with a flame-thrower is too good to miss. His investigations soon get pretty complicated and rather too dangerous. At least along the way he does get to meet Alexis (Cannon).

This film is worth viewing just for the pantomime Reynolds does during the opening credits; some really funny stuff. I also liked the fact that an old Twilight Zone alumnus, Buzz Kulick, directed. Reynolds is not a great actor and he knows it. He tends to play the same character in every film he appears in. The one exception is of course the masterpiece 'Deliverence', where he plays the stoic man of action to the hilt. Shamus is a fast breezy piece of work that is fun to watch and it appears that Burt Reynolds had fun making it.

Next up is 'The Anderson Tapes' (1971) starring Sean Connery, Dyan Cannon, Martin Balsam, and Christopher Walken. After Duke Anderson (Connery) is released from prison after ten years for taking the rap for a scion of a Mafia family, he cashes in a debt of honor with the mob to bankroll a caper.

For Sidney Lumet this must have been the dress rehearsal for the more famous 'Dog Day Afternoon'. Most of it is shot in a realistic style. But there is more to it, the absurdity of it all is pushed much further and converts realism into surrealism.

I do not want to give away the whole story. Only this much: The viewer sees people on both sides of the law engaged in heavy duty physical exertion. You can laugh and at the same time feel sorry for the poor fellows. The whole enterprise ends in utter disaster for the burglars. Towards the end of the story there is much police present on the street around the apartment house.

You can observe ambulance personnel relaxed like unfolding bed linen for their stretchers in front of the Guggenheim. Then some of the gangsters try to make a getaway in a car. The engine roars and the car crashes and overturns after a few yards. This is all filmed very undramatically from a distance, in a matter of fact way, without musical soundtrack. It could almost be a documentary. A brilliantly shot and directed documentary at that.

Lastly, my personal choice to what would be 'In The Cut' (2003) starring Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. New York writing professor, Frannie Avery, has an affair with a police detective who is investigating the murder of a beautiful young woman in her neighborhood. Meg Ryan gives what may well be the breakthrough performance of her career in 'In the Cut,' a violent, erotic thriller from maverick filmmaker Jane Campion. Ryan plays Frannie, a college English instructor who is instinctively drawn to the seamier side of life. When women in her Manhattan neighborhood start falling victim to a grizzly serial killer, Frannie, as a possible witness, becomes a prime source of interest, both professionally and personally, for a homicide detective named Malloy, who has some troubling sexual proclivities of his own to deal with.

Attracted by his edgy darkness and smoldering sexuality, Frannie succumbs to his advances, fully cognizant of the possible danger he represents. Is the law enforcement official as much of a threat to this young woman as the psychopath going about town decapitating and dismembering the local ladies? It is this kind of moral ambiguity that informs the entire movie. These are both Full Screen/Widescreen Presentations (1.33:1/1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Horror 20 Movie Collection'
(Sally Field, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Jennifer Love Hewitt, John C. Reilly, et al / 6-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: The 'Comedy 20 Movie Collection' is a premium, 20-Movie Collection of licensed films from Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures now out via Mill Creek Entertainment: Hostel, Hostel Part II, Anatomy, Anatomy 2, Hollow Man (Director's Cut), Hollow Man 2, The Hunt for the BTK Killer, The Tattooist, Anaconda, Black Water, Red Water, She Creature, The Breed, The Cave, The Forsaken, Vampires: The Turning, Bats: Human Harvest, Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America, Kaw, and Nightwing.

DVD Verdict: OK, well, of course I'm not going to review every single one of these incredible movies, but I will review five of my own personal favorites. Also, the Hollow Man (Director's Cut) title above that's highlighted means we have already reviewed it as a "new release" on Blu-ray - so click it and check it out also!

OK, first we have 'Anatomy' (2000) starring Franka Potente, Benno Furmann, and Anna Loos. Medical student Paula Henning wins a place at an exclusive Heidelberg medical school. When the body of a young man she met on the train turns up on her dissection table, she begins to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, and uncovers a gruesome conspiracy perpetrated by an Antihippocratic secret society operating within the school.

This German horror film stars Franka Potente, the breakout star of the 1998 film 'Run Lola Run'. It answers the question how do they really get the bodies for those amazing Body Worlds Exhibits? Real human bodies injected with a plastic like substance leaving their muscles and vital organs on display in amazing detail.

Although this movie is pretty dark and disturbing, their are several moments of dark humor that lighten the mood a bit. The effects used are pretty awesome and the highlight of the movie.

Then comes 'Anaconda' (1997) starring Jennifer Lopez, Eric Stolz, Ice Cube, and Jon Voight. When a documentary crew traveling through the Amazon jungle, picks up a stranded man, they are unaware of the trouble that will occur. This stranger's hobby is to capture the giant Anaconda snake, and plans to continue targeting it on their boat, by any means necessary.

Before there was 'Snakes on a Plane,' there was 'Anaconda,' a Hollywood B-movie from the late 90's that is as notorious for its mixed bag of actors as it is for the gruesome snakes that populate its plot. In the film, a group of documentary film-makers traveling through the Amazon jungle picks up a mysterious man who inadvertently becomes their tour-guide on an unexpected detour. It seems the man is totally crazy and intends to capture one of the Amazon's most notorious and deadliest inhabitants: The Anaconda.

Despite some bad looking CGI-snakes (not bad in a good way) and a horribly mis-matched cast (J-Lo and Eric Stolz? Really?) 'Anaconda' is simply a good, dumb time. Without a doubt, it's an utterly ridiculous film that can be insulting to your intelligence, but thankfully it knows not to overstay its welcome and the 90 minutes it takes up makes for a harmless and amusing ride.

Up next is 'The Cave' (2005) starring Cole Hauser, Eddie Cibrian, and Lena Headey. Decades after a rock church in communist Romania's Carpathians caved when an expedition caused a landslide and buried everyone, Dr. Nicolai's scientific team exploring the associated Templar Knights monster fighting-legend discovers a deep, flooded cave system and hires the brothers Jack and Tyler's brilliant divers team to explore it.

But, as you would have it another explosion traps them! So now they must use all their skills to find a way out, but the only problem is the inhabitants don't want them to leave. A creature feature that often gets mentioned in the same breath as 'The Descent', its certainly not as good as Marshall's film, but it's not as bad as has previously been speculated in the press (at that time).

Then comes 'The Forsaken' (2001) starring Kerr Smith, Brendan Fehr, and Izabella Miko. Sean is driving cross-country to deliver a vintage Mercedes and attend his sister's wedding when he picks up hitchhiker Nick, who just happens to be a vampire hunter, tracking down a group of youthful vampires who feed on unwary travelers. They run into Megan, who has been left for dead by the vampires. As they use her as a lure for the vampires, Sean becomes attracted to her. After Sean is infected with the vampire virus, he, Megan and Nick must race against time to kill the vampire leader Kit to stop Sean from becoming one of the undead.

'The Forsaken' is one of the best low-budget horror flicks I've seen in a while. The story concerns road-wary vampire hunters tracking down a group of the bloodsuckers to try to stop the spread of the "virus" they carry. Although the story is nothing new to the genre, it is handled with style by director Cardone and the cast is top-notch and carries the film along, despite an obvious low budget.

Lastly, I would ask you to take a second look at 'Nightwing' (1979) starring Nick Mancuso, David Warner, and Kathryn Harrold. A colony of vampire bats terrorize a small Indian community in New Mexico. Standard "Nature goes berserk" plot takes a twist toward the end when supernatural forces are discovered working through the bats.

Personally, I rather enjoyed this horror film. It succeeds at doing what it sets out to do - ratchet up the suspense and provide the viewer with reckless and unthinking entertainment. And on top of that, there is some wonderful New Mexico location shooting, which can't be dismissed out of hand. You have never seen such vast expanses of rugged buttes, sandstone canyons, and pink dunes, all carefully accessorized by the occasional pale green of a shrub!

Anyway, back to the review and have I mentioned this movie is so much dang fun, if based on a questionable premise, of course! We have the stereotypical menace - in this case, vampire bats - who have to be exterminated before they kill everyone. And we have pivotal character, here shown as an American Indian cop. So settle back, settle in and get ready for a fun, and at sometimes bloody hour and 45 minutes of cinematic B-movie wonderment, ladies and gentlemen! These are both Full Screen/Widescreen Presentations (1.33:1/1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD / PG-13 / 2017 / Walt Disney Studios)

Blu-ray Overview: This prequel to the very first Star Wars tells the thrilling story of how a ragtag band of freedom fighters -- including a former soldier-turned-prisoner (Felicity Jones), a Rebel Alliance insider (Diego Luna), an intensely spiritual believer in the Force (Donnie Yen), and a sentient robot (voiced by Alan Tudyk) -- worked together to steal the Death Star's secret blueprints.

Blu-ray Verdict: Wow! Having now seen those movie 15 times (with 12 of those having been at the actual cinema!) I can now claim to be rather an expert on the spectacular, yet ultimately sad "Rogue One." But let's start from the beginning, as they say. More often than not, spin-off and rip-off become distressingly synonymous. Not this one. But then, it is not really a spin-off , something you sense more and more throughout the movie, until you finally realize that by right, "Rogue One" can claim to be more of a prequel to "Star Wars" (1977) than the "Skywalker trilogy".

To those of us who have watched the original in 1977 (and probably numerous times on a TV screen since), the one most obvious plot deficiency has become so eroded over the years that it is now all but oblivion. I am talking about the question why would such a meticulously designed, formidable killing machine as The Death Star would have an Achelous's heel that is pivotal to the entire story. "Rogue One" provides a logical answer.

It starts with a family in hiding being sought out by the Empire, resulting in the mother killed and the father and young daughter captured. Some years later, we see grown up Jyn (Felicity Jones) in prison, a little trick the movie makers play on us. She has not been in captivity since the last shot we saw her in, but was in fact rescued by militant resistance Saw (Forest Whitaker) shortly after that. She then turned delinquent and is now in jail for some minor offence's, with a false identity. Nobody knows she is the daughter of top Empire scientist Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) whom we saw in the opening scene forced to come out from a quiet rural life to do some more research.

I wouldn't elaborate the plot here. While there are some twists and turns (including what has happened to Galen), it is in fact quite simple. The single most important thing is that Galen knows that if he does not complete the design of the Death Star, somebody else will. What he did was to secretly add a weak point through which the indestructible Death Star can be destroyed. It is quite predictable that before he dies, he tells Jyn where this map containing this vital information is hidden deep in enemy territory. The mission for our heroes is to find the map and transmit it back to the resistance base.

So who are these "heroes"? To make things simple, I'll just say who play them: Diego Luna plays the militant resistant fighter, Donnie Yan and Wen Jiang play an odd couple that embraces The Force – a blind monk and a wild warrior, Riz Ahmen plays a pilot with a conscience defected from the Empire, Alan Tudyk's voice is the most recent addition to the Star Wars robot collection, one K-2SO. Of course, in the grand finale set piece (which by the way is excellent) there is the company of resistance fighter pilots.

"Rouge One" is a slow tease of Star Wars fans that builds up gradually to a satisfying conclusion. You don't get the rousing Star War theme at the opening. Background music initially is only vaguely, but tantalisingly familiar. Then, slowly, all the familiar melodies emerge, one after another. Likewise, the vehicles you see at the start are not entirely familiar but in the end, you would almost believe you are watching the finale of Star Wars (1977).

Other familiar hardware that emerge towards the end include the giraffe-legged (two legs only) tanks from the original Star Wars trilogy. Characters? You see a very brief glimpse of C3PO and R2D2 with one line of dialogue (don't think I have to tell you spoken by which one). Chewbacca too, but make sure you don't blink whenever a bar scene starts, or you'll miss him.

Then somebody starts throwing around dialogues like "I've got a bad feeling about this". Light sabre too, wielded by Darth Vader, another cameo. And as I alluded to, in the grand finale set piece, you would almost feel that it is Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in the pilot seats – you have finally come home. And then ... [spoiler] here is that very last, 5-second shot. I cannot go on any more, as tears are blurring my eyes (still).

As for the slew of Special Features, I will now run over a few of them that I found rather fascinating. All contained, housed even under "The Stories" (an intimate collection of stories that take you behind the scenes with filmmakers and case to reveal how the film came to life), and in no particular order, Rogue One: 'The Empire' Featurette' (2:21) is a doozy! Director Gareth Edwards discusses how the sparse use of Darth Vader was crucial to the film and how if they had brought him on screen earlier it would have taken away the enjoyment of other things to view beforehand from the film.

Another couple are the Rogue One: 'Jyn: The Rebel' and 'Cassian: The Spy', which showcases how, in this case Jyn, had been all alone since the age of 15 and how she moved "through the ranks" to spearhead the largest rebellion the world had ever witnessed at that time. As for Cassian really wants to help Jyn achieve her goal via the rebellion, and knows that this is their one real chance to make a difference.

The last one for me, although the opener Rogue One: 'A Rogue Idea' is chock full of goodies throughout, and features some lovely behind the scenes/camera photography, is Rogue One: 'K-2SO: The Droid'. Yet another fantastic use of a buddy machine in these films, voiced by Alan Tudyk is/was a KX-series security droid originally created for use in the Galactic Empire's armed forces. As we watch his story unfold, we also see that like all droids, he could survive in the vacuum of space; amongst other places, and against (nearly) all other things too! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

The Stories:
• A Rogue Idea
• Cassian: The Spy
• K2SO: The Droid
• Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & the Revolutionary
• The Empire
• Visions of Hope: The Look of ROGUE ONE
• The Princess & the Governor
• Epilogue: The Story Continues

The Official 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' Trailer

'Story of Sin' (2-Disc Special Edition)
(Grazyna Dlugolecka, Jerzy Zelnik, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, et al / Blu ray+DVD / NR / (1975) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: The life of a beautiful, young and pious woman is thrown into chaos when her parents takes in a dashingly handsome lodger. Having embarked on a torrid affair, the lodger goes off to Rome to seek a divorce from his estranged wife. Unable to live apart from her beloved, our hero leaves home only to fall prey to the infatuations and lusts of a band of noble admirers, unsavoury criminals and utopian do-gooders.

Blu-ray Verdict: To my mind, this 'Story of a Sin' has way more depth to it that simply showcasing abundant nudity and open depictions of sexuality throughout. I mean, if you take it from the top and you give it your full attention there's no doubt in my mind that you will concur with me that this is a moral tale playing out before you.

Showcasing a taste of Polish society at the turn of the last century, it's also an impressive production of 1970s Polish cinema, and reminiscent of Wajda's The Maidens of Wilko and The Promised Land, for sure. Once again, I will fully admit that 'Story Of Sin' is a film that features a lot of sex, violence and nudity, but it's that moral thread that weaves its way through each scene that pulls it together as a much greater whole, for me.

Lavishly portray Ewa's degradation as a warning to everyone - especially young girls - yes, that one sin can lead to a sorry story of destruction; as has been detailed throughout life (both on screen and in reality). So, as well as being a cautionary tale, the film is also a stark portrait of Polish life in the early 1900s, when Poland was not an independent country.

Therein lies some of the film's most crucial moments, when it doesn't dare back away from showing violence, the restrictions of the copiers' lives by their manager, the vulgarity of the girls in the sweatshop, and the poverty in Warsaw and in the small towns. As a whole, 'Story Of Sin' has a convincing realist look throughout despite, or perhaps because of various references to contemporary schools of painting.

But what is in the end important about the film is the element of transcendence that is occasionally present through the music, to my mind. For it is that backdrop, that melodramatic at times, quietly pained at others rolling, lushly orchestrated art that this film lays upon throughout. Couple that with the visual beauty and you have a film begging to have your company, now on crystal clear Blu-ray. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

2K restoration from the original film negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations New subtitle translation
New 2K restorations from the original negatives of Borowczyk s ground-breaking Polish shorts: Once Upon a Time (co-directed by Jan Lenica), Dom (co-directed by Lenica) and The School
New introduction by poster designer Andrzej Klimowski
New interview with Story of Sin lead actor Grazyna Dlugolecka
New interview featurette on Borowczyk's career in Poland by Daniel Bird (co-founder Friends of Walerian Borowczyk)
New interview featurette on Borowczyk's innovate use of classical music in his films by writer and filmmaker David Thompson
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Andrzej Klimowski
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Fully illustrated collector s booklet featuring new and archival writing, including an exclusive interview with the producer of Story of Sin, director Stanislaw Rozewicz; a text by art historian and one-time Borowczyk collaborator, Szymon Bojko; and excerpts from Borowczyk's memoirs presented in English for the first time.

'Property is No Longer a Theft' (Blu-ray+DVD)
(Ugo Tognazzi, Flavio Bucci, Daria Nicolodi, et al / Blu ray+DVD / NR / (1973) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Having tackled the corrupting nature of power with 'Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion' and taken an angry, impassioned look at labour relations with 'The Working Class Goes to Heaven', Italian master Elio Petri next turned his attentions to capitalism for the darkly comic 'Property is No Longer a Theft.'

Blu-ray Verdict: Running at 1 hour and 44 minutes, 'Property is No Longer a Theft' tells the tale of a young bank worker, Total (Flavio Bucci) who witnesses a robbery in which one of the thieves gets caught and beaten by an avaricious, rich butcher (Ugo Tognazzi). However, Total cannot come to terms with the fact that in spite of being always a righteous man, he has never managed to gather as much money as all other people - including the above-mentioned man.

So, being this self-proclaimed self-righteous man, he vows to prosecute him and drive him insane by stealing everything that belongs to him, along with his lover Anita (Daria Nicolodi)! Of course he would. Why wouldn't he? I mean, the man's only called The Butcher after all!

As for the rest of the cast, well, they aren't too bad as a whole. That said, and unfortunately Flavio Bucci (the blind pianist in Dario Argento's 'Suspiria'), who is definitely a good actor, in general, appears to be a bit inexperienced here in comparison to Volonte, for example. Thus the film lacks a strong leading actor whereas both Daria Nicolodi and Ugo Tognazzi give very strong performances.

For me, one of the scenes that has since stuck with me is the movie-ending funeral scene. Shown with some urgency, at first, through the arrival of the hearse (and as it streamlines its way through the crowd of quickly-parting mourners), and with so many wigs and sunglasses on display, it's one for the memory banks, of that have no doubt!

As the eulogy about the departed Alessandro Marzo 'Albertone' is made by the brilliant Gigi Proietti (Paco), all he can quote are tales of how the man was a thief, even though he undertook many other legal jobs! How he robbed everyone and anyone for 43 years, but how his life as a dancer, stage painter, metalworker and such couldn't be swung into judgement today due to the fact that he was a, yep, thief! So the whole monologue on the importance of thieves in society is unspoiled for the gathering in a most bizarrely stunning manner.

Also featuring a wondrous and perfectly paired score from Ennio Morricone, inclusive of erotically-tinged atmospheric and strong direction, 'Property is No Longer a Theft' is, simply put, a great piece of political cinema that still holds up today. Let alone the fact that it is now available to view on crystal clear Blu-ray, of course. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

4K restoration from the original film negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
New subtitle translation
Brand-new interview with actor Flavio Bucci
Brand-new interview with producer Claudio Mancini
Brand-new interview with make-up artist Pierantonio Mecacci
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet containing new writing on the film by Camilla Zamboni

'Ludwig' (4-Disc Limited Edition)
(Helmut Berger, Romy Schneider, Silvana Mangano, et al / 4-Disc Blu ray+DVD / NR / (1973) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Ludwig. He loved women. He loved men. He lived as controversially as he ruled. But he did not care what the world thought. He was the world. A string of masterpieces behind him including Ossessione, Senso, The Leopard and Death in Venice the great Italian director Luchino Visconti turned his attentions to the life and death of King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1972, resulting in an epic of 19th century decadence.

Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the know, Luchino Visconti was an Italian theatre, opera and cinema director, as well as a screenwriter. Indeed, he is best known for his films The Leopard (1963) and Death in Venice (1971), but when it came to art house film projects such as this, well, he excelled quite like no other.

Shot just after the collapse of Visconti's long-cherished film of 'Proust', 'Ludwig' is rich in characters who reflect (whether consciously or not) the gilded Belle Epoque monsters that haunt the pages of A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu. As the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, poor Ludwig's magnetic but manipulative cousin, Romy Schneider might just as well be playing the Duchesse de Guermantes.

The opportunistic composer Richard Wagner (Trevor Howard) and his scheming wife Cosima (Silvana Mangano) stand in as the vulgar social-climbing Verdurins. The King himself is a kindred spirit of the Baron de Charlus - a doomed aesthete who refined tastes are at odds with his sordid love-life.

Funnily enough, and as time has passed and little notes have become available to know about these types of film, it's been said many times that Visconti had actually wanted Laurence Olivier for the Trevor Howard part. Seems unlikely now, but understandable at the time, one assumes.

Indeed, Helmut Berger was to make another movie with Visconti (gruppo di famiglia in un interno, 1975), but then his career quickly waned after Visconti's death. Which is really too bad, because he had shown he could be an impressive actor.

I mean, the sheer brilliance of Visconti comes to light through the performance of Helmut Berger. Quite known as an actor in both Italy and the German speaking territories, he really goes above and beyond in his role as King Ludwig, the boy destined to drown in himself as a man.

Finally, a shout out to the very talented Helmut Griem as the fantastic Count Durckheim; as great in his role undertaken as is Trevor Howard as Wagner. The odious Professor Dr.Gudden is also well played by Heinz Moog, with John Moulder-Brown also striking a chord of perfection as Ludwig's younger brother, Prince Otto. In closing, Luchino Visconti's expansive 'Ludwig' is a true gem, a true work of art; a cinematic masterpiece of the highest order; both then and here on crystal clear Blu-ray, even more so now. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

4K restoration from the original film negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Two viewing options: the full-length theatrical cut or as five individual parts
Original Italian soundtrack with optional English subtitles
Original English soundtrack available on home video for the first time ever with optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Brand-new interview with actor Helmut Berger
Luchino Visconti, an hour-long documentary portrait of the director by Carlo Lizzani (Wake Up and Kill, Requiescant) containing interviews with Burt Lancaster, Vittorio Gassman, Francesco Rosi, Claudia Cardinale and others
Speaking with Suso Cecchi d'Amico, an interview with the screenwriter Silvana Mangano: The Scent Of A Primrose, a half-hour portrait of the actress
Theatrical trailer
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet containing new writing by Peter Cowie

'Dead Or Alive Trilogy' (2-Disc Special Edition)
(Helmut Berger, Romy Schneider, Silvana Mangano, et al / 4-Disc Blu ray+DVD / NR / (1973) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Beginning with an explosive, six-minute montage of sex, drugs and violence, and ending with a phallus-headed battle robot taking flight, Takashi Miike's unforgettable 'Dead or Alive Trilogy' features many of the director's most outrageous moments set alongside some of his most dramatically moving scenes. Made between 1999 and 2002, the 'Dead or Alive' films cemented Miike's reputation overseas as one of the most provocative enfants terrible of Japanese cinema, yet also one of its most talented and innovative filmmakers.

Blu-ray Verdict: In the opening film, simply called 'Dead Or Alive' (although it also guys by the title of 'Dead Or Alive: Hanzaicha'), a yakuza of Chinese descent and a Japanese cop each wage their own war against the Japanese mafia. But they are destined to meet and that encounter will change the world.

In Japan, after a massacre of Japanese and Chinese gangsters, the tough and persistent Detective Jojima (Sho Aikawa) is in charge of the investigations, while dealing with a personal family problem. His daughter needs to be submitted to a surgery and he needs to raise twenty millions yens urgently. He finds that the Chinese descendant Ryuichi (Riki Takeuchi) has associated to a Taiwanese drug dealer and is eliminating the competition. In the end, their confrontation becomes a personal issue for both.

'Dead Or Alive' (1999) is a hypnotically bizarre, insane, sick and violent police story. The fast paced beginning is absolutely crazy, like a video-clip of unexplained violence. Takeshi Miike does not develop well the characters, with the exception of the ambiguous Jojima and the ambitious Ryuichi. He intends to shock the audiences with repulsive scenes, like for example the anal sex with a homosexual and with a dog, almost explicit oral sex, abusive use of drugs, perversions, sadism, drowning in feces and blood shed.

The result of this madness is like a modern western-spaghetti, with the death of all characters. I liked this film, but it is only recommended for very specific audiences. I won't ruin the finale for anyone who hasn't watched this movie yet, but I will say this ... I was told beforehand to expect a bonkers finish to the film, so I sat there fully expecting to be shocked. But that still didn't prepare me for the ending. I was still sat there gasping, mouth totally agape. You have been warned!

In 'Dead or Alive 2: Birds' (otherwise known as 'Dead Or Alive 2: Tôbôsha'), two contract killers cross paths in the middle of the same job and realize they are childhood friends. So, they do what any two hit men in their position would do and they decide to run a playground and reminisce about their shared childhood!

Show Aikawa undoubtedly steals the show from co-star Riki Takeuchi this time around, being far more animated and interesting. Takeuchi is brilliantly deadpan and stoic, but that doesn't work as well for him in this movie as many of his others. Both actors make their characters believable and engage the audience in their fates well though.

In truth, and a year on and quite a bit lighter in tone than the original 'Dead Or Alive' (which the sequel has, apart from the same two lead actors, nothing in common with, this film is still highly enjoyable in its own right. When I say 'lighter in tone', I of course mean for a Takashi Miike film. This movie is more about the wonders and joys of children growing up, not yet jaded by how the world really is. Fans of Miike's bizarreness won't be disappointed with it either. I myself like this film more then the first one and find that it is superbly acted throughout.

In 'Dead Or Alive: Final' (2002), the ace cop of a totalitarian police force and a drifting android play their parts in a post-apocalyptic society. They are destined to fight and, yep, once again, their encounter will change them forever.

Unlike the first two in the trilogy, 'Dead Or Alive: Final' plunges us into Yokohama of 2346, where a homosexual mayor has outlawed human breeding and keeps rigid control through use of birth control pills and his chief enforcer, Officer Honda (Takeuchi Riki). Standing in the mayor's way is a group of rebels, led by Fong (Terence Yin) and Jun (Josie Ho), who now have a new ally, a "replicant" by the name of Ryo (Aikawa Sho, still sporting his cool blond hair).

Immediately, the 'Blade Runner' references run rampant, right down to the terminology. The use of the word "replicant" to describe Ryo, the omnipresent floating blimp with the huge TV screens flashing advertisements, the decrepit rain-swept environment of a ravaged city, even the characters themselves, all homages to 'Blade Runner.'

Oh, but there are other sci-fi nods too. Elements of 'THX-1138,' 'The Matrix,' 'The Terminator,' and so many more are all here - lovingly incorporated though, one has to add. Thus, this kinda makes 'Dead Or Alive: Final' almost a satire, and even sometimes a parody of the sci-fi genre. But that said, the finale of the film tries to tie together the three 'Dead Or Alive' movies, which is quite unnecessary because each one is really self contained. Miike's explanation of the connection is very funny though, and caps the series off perfectly; if your brain allows it to. These are all Widescreen presentations (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

High Definition digital transfers of all three films
Original uncompressed stereo audio
Optional English subtitles for all three films
New interview with actor Riki Takeuchi
New interview with actor Sho Aikawa
New interview with producer and screenwriter Toshiki Kimura
New audio commentary for Dead or Alive by Miike biographer Tom Mes
Archive interviews with cast and crew
Archive making-of featurettes for DOA2: Birds and DOA: Final
Original theatrical trailers for all three films
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Orlando Arocena
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the films by Kat Ellinger

'House: Two Stories' (2-Disc Limited Edition)
(William Katt, Arye Gross, George Wendt, John Ratzenberger, Richard Moll, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray / NR / (1985/1987) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Step inside, we've been expecting you! At long-last, Arrow Video is proud to present the first two installments of hit horror franchise 'House' on Blu-ray for the first time!

Blu-ray Verdict: OK, right from the off you should all know I have LOVED these two movies ever since they first came out Sure, the first 'House' was always the better of the two, the sequel a late-in-the-day needless follow-up, but that said, it still managed to summon up as much cheery fright night silliness as its predecessor.

Six years after producer/director Sean S. Cunningham released the wildly popular (but highly overrated) 'Friday the 13th' in 1980, and several years after director Steve Miner helmed the film's two sequels, the pair reunited for the 1986 horror-comedy 'House.'

Still another hugely profitable outing for the team, 'House' is a more family-friendly affair, blending some effective jolts, rubbery-looking monsters and a great deal of silliness into a tasty but middling stew. In the film, we meet a Viet Nam vet - now a best-selling author - named Roger Cobb (appealingly and effectively played by William Katt). Cobb is going through a decidedly rough patch in his life - like the disappearance of his son, and his Aunt having committed suicide - when we first encounter him.

His wife (Kay Lenz) has just divorced him after the mysterious disappearance of their aforementioned young son, and aside from his Aunt Elizabeth's untimely passing, he's having trouble with the writing of his promised war memoirs. So, Roger moves into his aunt's supposedly haunted house to get a little "solitude" to further his writing. Too bad, however, that all those yucky-looking demons in the house will just NOT leave him alone!

The story is basically about a house which is involved in the disappearance of Katt's son years ago for not soon after moving in, he starts to hear and see strange things, primarily at the stroke of midnight. Monsters and other objects (like shovels) are soon attacking him so Katt falls back on his military training to battle the house and its "inhabitants." We eventually get a happy ending, of course, as he finally prevails in defeating the "monsters," rescuing his son, and it appears, reuniting with his divorced spouse.

George Wendt from Cheers plays the lovable neighbor that Roger befriends and helps. He isn't that much different than Norm, but provides lots of humorous moments. The only thing I wish they did better is to make the supermodel neighbor more interesting. She's fine for some T&A and the house does something with her (which I still can never get whether that was really her or if it was just the witch), but she never really serves the story well. It's little more than a cameo just to have a model in the movie.

Each of the actors do well in their parts. All are great, though Richard Moll hams it up just a little too much in his Vietnam scenes. Also, being that this film was made by the crew who did 'Friday the 13th', and Parts 2 and 3, it obviously has some of that very same visual styling to it - which is no bad thing, if you liked those movies.

'House II: The Second Story' (1987) brings forth a new owner of the said-same sinister house who gets involved with reanimated corpses and demons searching for an ancient Aztec skull with magic powers! In what is a completely non-related sequel, and a very sweet-natured, tame even one at that, this more family orientated sequel has its moments, but is only for true fans of the original; like myself.

The old mansion aka House now appears to be an ancient Mayan temple with gateways to other dimensions that is somehow protected (or kept in line) by an Aztec Crystal Skull. BTW, Johnathan Stark is great as the lippy wise ass best friend of Arye Gross and both guys really click together and make a formidable '80s duo; just like Makepeace and Rusler in 'Vamp'. Anyway, said skull is supposedly buried with one of the boys' great great grandfather so off they go to dig him up. Long story short Gramps (the zombie) befriends them and helps them defend the skull from the forces of evil. Oh and they gotta save the girlfriend Kate (Lar Park-Lincoln) who gets kidnapped along the way, of course.

If you think along the lines of 'Army of Darkness' then you get an idea what I mean. A shout out to the late Royal Dano who plays Jesse's long-dead great-grandfather, and John Ratzenberger (Cheers) gives a terrific, albeit brief, performance as Bill the electrician. Oh yeah, see if you can also spot Kane Hodder's little part in this in the days before he became Jason. Terrific fun, even if it was sub par compared to the original. These are both Widescreen presentations (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Brand new 2K restorations of House and House II: The Second Story High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing The House Companion limited edition 60-page book featuring new writing on the entire House franchise by researcher Simon Barber, alongside a wealth of archive material HOUSE:
Audio commentary with director Steve Miner, producer Sean S. Cunningham, actor William Katt and screenwriter Ethan Wiley
Ding Dong, You re Dead! The Making of House brand new documentary featuring interviews with Steve Miner, Sean S. Cunningham, Ethan Wiley, story creator Fred Dekker, stars William Katt, Kay Lenz, and George Wendt, composer Harry Manfredini, special make-up and creature effects artists Barney Burman, Brian Wade, James Belohovek, Shannon Shea, Kirk Thatcher, and Bill Sturgeon, special paintings artists Richard Hescox and William Stout, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder
Stills Gallery
Theatrical Trailers

Audio commentary with writer-director Ethan Wiley and producer Sean S. Cunningham
It s Getting Weirder! The Making of House II: The Second Story brand new documentary featuring interviews with Ethan Wiley, Sean S. Cunningham, stars Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Lar Park Lincoln, and Devin DeVasquez, composer Harry Manfredini, special make-up and creature effects artists Chris Walas, Mike Smithson, visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder
Stills Gallery
Theatrical Trailer

'Kidnapped' (Mini-Series)
(Armand Assante, Patrick Malahide, Michael Kitchen, Brian Blessed, Brian McCardie, et al / DVD / NR / (1995) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: When Scottish young gentleman David Balfour's father dies, he leaves school to collect his inheritance from uncle Ebenezer, who in turn sells the boy as a future slave to a pirate ship. When staunch Stuart dynasty supporter Alan Breck Stewart accidentally boards the ship, he takes David along on his escape back to Edinburgh. They part and meet again repeatedly, mutually helpful against the Redcoats and respectful, although David is loyal to the English crown, but learns about its cruel oppression. Both ultimately face their adversaries.

DVD Verdict: In my humble opinion, this version of 'Kidnapped' boasts the best cast yet. Led by Armand Assante, Brian McCardie (Rob Roy), Brendan Gleeson (Braveheart), David Kelly (Waking Ned Devine), and a brilliant portrayal by Patrick Malahide (Minder) as Uncle Ebenezer, it fairly moves along smoothly and quickly and never drags.

In fact, and a lot of people who have seen this fine Mini-Series don't even know this, but it was actually filmed in Ireland, which fills in perfectly for Scotland. Although it looks exactly like Scotland, I wonder why they didn't film there though? Production costs I'm guessing. At any rate, production values are superb, the music score is fine and director Ivan Passer did an exceptional job.

McCardie is perfect as David Balfour and is adept at both serious and comical scenes. Assante is as good a swashbuckler as ever there was and, as aforementioned, Patrick Malahide's portrayal of Uncle Ebenezer is spot on majestic, you have my word.

In closing, as this has been brought up several times now between us fans of the TV series, as much as this is truly an excellent Mini-Series in its own right, and one that seems to be quite faithful to the book, there are notable elements of the series that do not show up in RLS's Kidnapped. But, worry not for there is a sequel, entitled David Balfour, which I have yet to read, but will most assuredly will soon (so should you, of course). Re-Released by Mill Creek Entertainment, this is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Secrets of the Six Wives'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Historian Dr. Lucy Worsley travels back in time to the Tudor Court of England's Henry VIII to witness some of the most dramatic moments in the lives of his six wives. Combining drama based on eyewitness accounts and historical sources with Lucy's own contemporary historical commentary, it is these women's stories that Lucy sets out to uncover, witness, and explore.

DVD Verdict: So you know who she is, which is to love her, trust me, Historian Dr. Lucy Worsley is currently Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, but is best known as a presenter of BBC television series on historical topics, including Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency (2011), Harlots, Housewives and Heroines: A 17th Century History for Girls (2012), The First Georgians: The German Kings Who Made Britain (2014), A Very British Romance (2015), Lucy Worsley: Mozart’s London Odyssey (2016) and Six Wives with Lucy Worsley (2016).

Worsley speaks directly to the audience as a guide in this series that helps to re-enact the relationships of Henry the VIII to his six wives, and then steps back into time in costume and is a servant in a scene as if she's eavesdropping on Henry and his wives. "I play the most nosy servant in history," says Worsley regarding her role in this series. Worsley has an engaging manner of someone who revels in her topic, and shares the delicious - though tragic - details with her audience.

Indeed, she looks positively gleeful as she dishes out the details with a twinkle in her eye. She rides around England in an old VW bus to the different historical homes and churches where the wives lived, were banished to, died and were buried. If you enjoy historical fashion and architecture, you will delight in seeing the costumes and the Tudor buildings and rooms. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Transferring the setting of a brooding Hungarian play 'Carousel', to a remote fishing village, shaping their vision around themes of brutality, poverty and disappointment, Rodgers and Hammerstein composed some of the most glorious music ever written for the stage.

DVD Verdict: 'Carousel' is the second musical by the team of Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics). The 1945 work was adapted from Ferenc Molnár's 1909 play Liliom, transplanting its Budapest setting to the Maine coastline.

The story revolves around carousel barker Billy Bigelow, whose romance with mill worker Julie Jordan comes at the price of both their jobs. He attempts a robbery to provide for Julie and their unborn child; after it goes wrong, he is given a chance to make things right.

A secondary plot line deals with mill worker Carrie Pipperidge and her romance with ambitious fisherman Enoch Snow. The show includes the well-known songs "If I Loved You", "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" and "You'll Never Walk Alone". Richard Rodgers later wrote that Carousel was his favorite of all his musicals.

This semi-staged concert from the New York Philharmonic cuts some of the dance numbers, but the essence of Carousel is restored. Casting is key. Kelli O'Hara is perfection as Julie - beautiful voice, and enough character for audience members to understand why she's called "the queer one." Her love for Billie is clear and touching. Jessie Mueller is extremely charming as Carrie, and has a lovely voice as well.

Stephanie Blythe's cavernous mezzo is wonderful in "You'll Never Walk Alone." If there's one (small) weak link it's Nathan Gunn, who is excellent but not quite menacing enough as Billie. It's worth noting that Gunn, O'Hara and Blythe were all operatically trained, and they do justice to the demanding music.

The second act ballet is danced by NYCB stars Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, and it's one of the highlights of the show. Both Peck and Fairchild are excellent dancers. The full NY Philharmonic brings out the beauty of the score song after song and to miss this is to not know true beauty when it's performed for you at this level, believe me. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:

Carousel Waltz
Heaven's Ballet
Jigger Craigin
Mr. Snow
Nathan Gunn Soliloquy
Nettie Fowler

'Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Bob Woodruff traces the stories of veterans, surgeons, researchers, rehab experts, and families, from battlefield to military hospitals, from hi-tech research centers to rehab facilities, to homes and workplaces where this new generation of wounded warriors have a chance to live another life, after combat and after critical injury.

DVD Verdict: Ten years ago, Bob Woodruff’s role as co-anchor of “ABC World News Tonight” — and nearly his life as well — ended in a flash when he was wounded in a roadside IED attack while covering the war in Iraq. He was medevaced to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where he was stabilized, then flown to Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he regained consciousness and began a process of recuperation that continues to this day.

These past 10 years have also been packed and productive. Woodruff established a foundation in his name that has channeled more than $30 million to wounded veterans so they and their families can “meet emerging and long-term needs,” both financial and medical, per its mission statement.

Watching 'Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield' will make you realize, and quickly, just how someone, an ordinary man, can be placed into an extraordinary situation and then become, almost overnight, not only someone different, but someone who then strides to make changes for all around him.

Using the best science and technology available, we watch as the physicians and scientists in military medicine work to improve the lives of America's wounded, as well as their families. Woodruff takes viewers inside laboratories, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers, where military medical advances and technology are making artificial arms with life-like responses, 3-D printing new organs, adding robotic arms to wheelchairs, and giving damaged legs new strength.

Woven throughout the documentary are the personal accounts from active duty troops, veterans, civilians and military families who share how medical advances are both saving and changing their lives. Among the stories presented is that of retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Ramon Padilla, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Padilla participated in a trial of a robotic prosthetic arm that uses implanted sensors to stimulate movement.

Thanks to this groundbreaking technology, he can bend his thumb and play ball with his children, neither of which he could do with his first prosthetic arm. With more stories than just this on show, 'Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield' is one of the most inspiring PBS documentaries that I have ever seen. I hope it is for you also once you buy this DVD and watch it for yourself. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Talk: Race in America'
(DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: This film documents the increasingly common conversation taking place in homes across the country between parents of color and their children, especially sons, about how to behave if they are ever stopped by the police.

DVD Verdict: In many homes, "The Talk," as it is called, usually contains phrases like this: If you are stopped by the police: Always answer 'yes sir, no sir'; never talk back; don't make any sudden movements; don't put your hands in your pockets.

Here in PBS's latest documentary aimed at enlightening America, 'The Talk: Race in America' features a diverse set of filmmakers who speak to parents, children, family members, academics, police force members, and community activists, to illustrate the issue from multiple points of view and bring the discussion out of the kitchens and living rooms and into the public sphere.

The documentary present's six (6) personal stories to illustrate the issue from multiple points of view: parent, child, the police and the community. Filmed across the country, in communities including Long Beach, California; Oakland, California; St. Louis, Missouri; Richland County, South Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; and Cleveland, Ohio, the stories include interviews with academics, police force members, community activists and family members.

Geeta Gandbhir, Shola Lynch, One9, Erik Parker, Llewellyn M. Smith and Jennifer Maytorena Taylor are the segment producers. Sandie Pedlow is executive producer for Latino Public Broadcasting. Sam Pollard is the director and supervising producer. Julie Anderson is the producer and executive producer. Stephen Segaller is the executive-in-charge. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Craft In America: Nature'
(DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: CRAFT IN AMERICA, the Peabody Award-winning documentary series, is an inspirational journey to the artists, objects, techniques, and origins of American craft. NATURE celebrates the beauty, inspiration, and future of the American landscape and challenges viewers to reassess their relationship with the natural world.

DVD Verdict: Up next in this highly respected 'Craft In America' series is NATURE. NATURE features artists who explore the beauty and wonder of the natural world around us. Artists include sculptor Patrick Dougherty, fiber artist Mary Merkel-Hess, woodcarver Michelle Holzapfel, book artist Catherine Alice Michaelis, and glass artist Preston Singletary.

By emphasizing the profound connection between art and society, NATURE continues a hallmark of Craft in America: positioning artists as participants in larger global concerns while at the same time honoring them as pure visionaries. The women and men profiled in this hour are first and foremost artists, but in their direct inspirations from the environment, they are part of the important on-going conversation about the future of this planet.

First up is internationally acclaimed sculptor Patrick Dougherty of North Carolina who is committed to environmental issues, and his large scale installations stimulate the imagination and invite exploration.

Next we watch as Woodcarver Michelle Holzapfel uses New England's hardwoods to create work that honors Mother Nature at her finest, inspiring fanciful creations - sculpted boxes, bowls, and unusual trompe l'oeil pieces.

Iowa fiber artist Mary Merkel-Hess makes sculptural works with paper, reed, and paint, creating Landscape Reports that impart a sense of place and containment.

Then Preston Singletary captures the motion and magnificence of wild creatures in molten glass, which he then embellishes with symbols and designs from his Tlingit heritage.

Lastly, in Shelton, Washington, Catherine Alice Michaelis designs and prints broadsheets and books that are tactile, thoughtful, sensual, and imaginatively folded paper sculptures.

Oh, and if you were not aware, 'Craft in America' is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the exploration, preservation and celebration of craft and its impact on our nation’s cultural heritage. This DVD features subtitles in English (SDH). This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Dead Reckoning'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'Dead Reckoning' shows how the justice model conceived by the Allies in World War II evolved into a standard by which all conflicts are judged. Many decades separate those conflicts, all have been prosecuted according to protocols that the Allies devised for three unique situations: the determination of command responsibility; the pursuit of war criminals; and the accumulation of evidence and testimony at crime scenes.

DVD Verdict: From the off you should know going in that 'Dead Reckoning: War, Crime and Justice from WW2 to the War on Terror' may well be from PBS, but it is as revealing, as gritty, as dark in places as anything they have ever released before, trust me.

It's an astonishing new three-part series that reveals that the model of justice ingeniously conceived by the Allies in the wake of the Second World War has evolved into a standard by which all conflicts are judged. However, many decades and miles separate conflicts and however inhumane the underlying crimes, all have been prosecuted according to protocols that the Allies devised for three unique situations: the determination of command responsibility; the pursuit of war criminals; and the accumulation of evidence and testimony at crime scenes.

Phew, I know, right. Well, furthermore, this documentary explores the origins of the Allied response to these unique situations, along with transformative conflicts and atrocities that have, for seventy years, shaped conceptions of war and peace.

Taken as a whole, 'Dead Reckoning: War, Crime and Justice from WW2 to the War on Terror' is an unprecedented inquiry into how justice has been secured - and occasionally denied - for crimes that continue to plague the world. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Alzheimer's: Every Minute Counts'
(DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'Alzheimer's: Every Minute Counts' is an urgent wake-up call about the national threat posed by Alzheimer's disease. Many know the unique tragedy of this disease, but few know that Alzheimer's is also a major and rapidly growing public health crisis. This high-profile national PBS documentary powerfully illuminates the social consequences for America unless a medical breakthrough is discovered for this currently incurable disease.

DVD Verdict: As I'm sure you all know by now, at the very least one in three of you, Alzheimer's disease (AD), also referred to simply as Alzheimer's, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and worsens over time. It is the cause of 60% to 70% of cases of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events (short-term memory loss).

As the disease advances, symptoms can include problems with language, disorientation (including easily getting lost), mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self care, and behavioral issues. As a person's condition declines, they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Although the speed of progression can vary, the average life expectancy following diagnosis is three to nine years.

So, basically put, Alzheimer’s = the disease for which there is no cure. 'Alzheimer's: Every Minute Counts' illuminates the dramatic consequences for the country unless a medical breakthrough is discovered for this currently incurable disease. With power and passion, the documentary weaves together the sobering statistics about Alzheimer's, expert commentary, and compelling personal stories filmed around the country that represent previews of the future happening today. This documentary is a tearjerker, I give you fair warning, and is an eye opening reveal that manages to educate you without you realizing that you are learning something. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'City In The Sky'
(DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: At any one time, there are around one million people airborne somewhere in the world; that equates to an entire airborne city a city in the sky. Straddling whole continents, the fabric of this extraordinary construction consists of the 100,000 flights that crisscross the world every single day.

DVD Verdict: If you have ever thought to yourself, especially watching one of these PBS documentaries, that you wish you had thought of this for a show, well, join the club! Because here on my own list of Why-didn't-I-think-of-that-for-a-show documentaries is an unbelievable tale of, well, real life above our heads!

So, if you ever have to see what it takes to fly from airport construction to jet design to fuel transport to keeping you secure while in the air or on the land, do not miss this documentary. Unbelievable information, from start to finish, trust me.

A380 is 240 feet wide by 80 feet high and expected to fly some 60 million miles. Ghent, Belgium is one of the biggest jet fuel facilities in the world with 25 tank, each tank holding some 12 million gallons of fuel, enough fuel to fill up some 370 planes. Every tank needs to be cleaned from any yeast and mold that grows in the water in the fuel in the tanks before being transported to the airports in total of some 2.4 billion gallons of fuel each year through 3000 miles of underground piping called CENTRAL EUROPEAN PIPELINE SYSTEM or CEPS which was built by NATO in 1950s.

US goes through 63 million gallons of jet fuel a day. Frankfurt airport has to refill 230 aircraft a day. Yakutsk, Siberia is the coldest city on earth and aviation is its lifeline. At -53 F, they must wrap the tires of the planes in blankets and heat the plane with outside heaters to protect the plane from freezing. Frankfurt airport handles 60 million passengers a year but Atlanta airport in the US handles 100 million a year with some 300 thousand passengers just in the Thanksgiving weekend.

Flight is a remarkable achievement and with 100 thousand passengers taking to the sky across the world every single day, this BBC documentary is one very informative educational, entertaining and worthy documentary. A must-see documentary. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Secrets of the Dead: Van Gogh's Ear'
(DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Everybody has heard about when Vincent van Gogh looked into a mirror and cut into his own ear. Bernadette Murphy, an independent researcher, has uncovered definitive evidence, which reveals exactly what happened that night, and how it ultimately shaped van Gogh's remarkable art. Murphy's detective work finally provides answers to the mystery that has divided art historians for decades.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the complete know, Vincent Willem van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life in France, where he died.

They include landscapes, still life, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterized by bold colors and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. His suicide at 37 followed years of mental illness and poverty.

Here in the fascinating 'Secrets of the Dead: Van Gogh's Ear', the aforementioned Bernadette Murphy, an independent researcher, has uncovered definitive evidence, which reveals exactly what happened that night. So, just what did happen in the aftermath of this most peculiar incident?

Well, for a start, we learn that people tried to cover things up, downplay what happened. Indeed, generations have theorized about the actual events, but the details have never been clear - until now. Murphy, an independent researcher living in Provence, has uncovered definitive evidence, which graphically reveals exactly what happened that night, who was involved, and how it ultimately shaped van Gogh's remarkable art.

For those that have loved, adored Van Gogh's work throughout the ages, and for those that love when lifelong stories of personalities they grown to take for the truth are decades later given a fresh twist, will most definitely love this new PBS special. Come the end and Murphy's detective work finally provides answers to the mystery that has divided art historians for decades. Buy this DVD and be there when the conclusions are drawn (all pun intended, sorry!) This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Experience: Oklahoma City'
(DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'Oklahoma City' traces the events that led McVeigh to that day and recounts the stories of the survivors, first-responders, U.S. Marshals, FBI investigators and journalists who covered the events. The film provides an in-depth and provocative exploration of the white supremacist, extremist militia movement that rose to prominence in the early 1990s and still makes news today.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the complete know, The Oklahoma City bombing was a domestic terrorist truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, in the U.S. state of Oklahoma, on April 19, 1995. Carried out by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the bombing destroyed one-third of the building, killed 168 people, and injured more than 680 others.

The blast destroyed or damaged 324 other buildings within a 16-block radius, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroyed or burned 86 cars, causing an estimated $652 million worth of damage. Extensive rescue efforts were undertaken by local, state, federal, and worldwide agencies in the wake of the bombing, and substantial donations were received from across the country.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) activated eleven of its Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces, consisting of 665 rescue workers who assisted in rescue and recovery operations.

'American Experience: Oklahoma City', the new documentary from PBS showcases that within just 90 minutes of the explosion, McVeigh was stopped by Oklahoma State Trooper Charlie Hanger for driving without a license plate and arrested for illegal weapons possession. Forensic evidence quickly linked McVeigh and Nichols to the attack; Nichols was arrested, and within days, both were charged.

Michael and Lori Fortier were later identified as accomplices. McVeigh, a U.S. militia movement sympathizer who was a Gulf War veteran, had detonated a Ryder rental truck full of explosives parked in front of the building. McVeigh's co-conspirator, Nichols, had assisted in the bomb preparation. Motivated by his hatred of the U.S. federal government and angered by its handling of the 1993 Waco siege and the Ruby Ridge incident in 1992, McVeigh timed his attack to coincide with the second anniversary of the deadly fire that ended the siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

'American Experience: Oklahoma City' provides an in-depth and provocative exploration of the white supremacist, extremist militia movement that rose to prominence in the early 1990s and still makes news today. Indeed, this documentary played in a few theaters, but opened wide when it was shown on PBS' "The American Experience". As it most often the case with programs on "The American Experience", this documentary is well researched, restrained and very sobering. A must-see for anyone interested in the history of this country; albeit a very, very sad one. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

(DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: The first-person stories of refugees and migrants fleeing war and persecution for Europe. Told through camera-phone footage filmed by the families themselves as they leave their homes on dangerous journeys seeking safety and refuge.

DVD Verdict: As unsettling as it is jarring, 'FRONTLINE: Exodus' is a brand new two-hour PBS special documenting the experiences of refugees fleeing Syria, Afghanistan and Gambia. They hope their trials and tribulations will lead to safety and prosperity in Europe, but as we all know from the news reports on this and so many other stories alike, not everybody has a happy ending.

Directed by James Bluemel, the film provides a powerful first-person perspective of refugee journeys over many months, thousand of miles and dozens of international borders. On a quirky note, this documentary about immigrants searching for a new, safe place to call home, first aired two days after Christmas; a holiday celebrating the birth of a child whose parents were fleeing persecution.

Regardless, 'FRONTLINE: Exodus' steers clear of unearthing the fraught politics surrounding the migration crisis, which helped fuel the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union and has emboldened the nationalist right across the continent. Indeed, and one assumes for good narrative reason, the only Islamic extremists mentioned in 'Exodus' are the ones back in Syria.

'FRONTLINE: Exodus' cuts between five subjects, who seem carefully chosen to represent an array of experiences. All are Muslim and relatively young, and most are men, but otherwise their circumstances, personalities and backgrounds vary. The one that stood out for myself and those watching with me though was the tale of Isra. She is a plucky 11-year-old girl whose home in Aleppo, Syria, was destroyed by bombs. She is traveling with her family, including a disabled sister and her kindly father, Tarek, who used to run a falafel shop. There are many, oh so many stories like this here and in the real world, so watch this with an open mind - and perhaps it might soften you to what you may well be too overly harsh to already. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'FRONTLINE: President Trump'
(DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: An examination of the key moments that shaped President-elect Donald Trump. Interviews with advisors, business associates, and biographers reveal how Trump transformed himself from real estate developer to entertainer to president.

DVD Verdict: So, the big question asked here in this brand new and highly topical (not matter which political side of the fence you stand) new documentary from PBS is How did Donald Trump transform himself from real estate developer to entertainer to president?

Well, that's one doozy of a question to answer, as I think we all can attest to these days, but here in 'FRONTLINE: President Trump', and during a devastatingly open one-hour investigative biography, filmmaker Michael Kirk and his investigative team go behind the headlines to examine the key moments that shaped America's 45th president - from his childhood, to his tumultuous career in the public eye.

Drawing on the critically acclaimed PBS film 'The Choice 2016 - President Trump' features dozens of in-depth interviews from advisors, business associates, and biographers, and paints a revealing portrait of where Trump came from, how he leads, and why he sought out one of the most difficult jobs imaginable.

In one of my favorite segments of this documentary, New Yorker editor David Remnick comments, “He’s being treated like a pinata by the president of the United States,” and that just about sums it up for me, as an innocent bystander to it all, sure. But, of course, there's always more to this carnival than first meets the eye and so we delve into Trump’s hardscrabble upbringing in a palatial house in Queens. One that the family referred to as “Tara.”

His personality mirrors that of his father Fred, a driven real-estate developer who was cold to his children and defined people as either “winners or losers.” We find out that much like Tony Manero in 'Saturday Night Fever', Trump dreamed of making it big in Manhattan, and he finally did with the grandiose Trump Tower. The building was 58 stories tall, but in true Trump fashion, he claimed it was 60!

If nothing else, 'FRONTLINE: President Trump' showcases that over the past five years Trump has gone from being the loud mouth bully, puling stunts and saying crude things on his way to where be always believed he should be, whilst at the same time actually slyly installing himself within the famous Oval Office; now as The President of the United States of America. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Masterpiece! To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters
(Finn Atkins, Charlie Murphy, Chloe Pirrie, Jonathan Pryce, James Norton, et al / DVD / PG-13 / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte face a bleak future, with their father half-blind, and troubled brother Branwell in decline. As their situation worsens, Charlotte sees that writing could offer a way out.

DVD Verdict: At last, and after many months of waiting, I have finally seen what I knew would be an astronomical improvement over the embarrassing 'Les Soeurs Brontë'! Now, it's pitifully easy to make a better biopic than 'Les Soeurs', granted, so I found it best to approach 'To Walk Invisible' by comparing it directly to the history.

I had a feeling this film would excise the Belgium era of Charlotte and Emily's lives completely, and it did. (Monsieur Héger isn't even shown!) Many juicy incidents from before and after this film takes place are excised, but the narrower focus prevents the pacing issues 'Les Soeurs' had. Besides, no one recounted Charlotte's earlier life better than Charlotte herself.

Indeed, I have a feeling Ms. Wainwright knows that. The storytelling choices of this film only call attention to the need for a Villette adaptation (Villette was largely inspired by Charlotte's time in Brussels.) Ms. Wainwright, you know what to do!

Truth be told, I still am not very interested in watching Branwell's descent into nothingness, but I guess it should be there if it was so devastating to the sisters. The greatest joy of this film is the clear extreme love the people making it have for the subject matter. Anyone intimately familiar with the Brontë mythos will recognize little historical details woven into the background and dialogue, such as the "Gun Portrait" hanging in the house.

The most amusing of these is Arthur Bell Nichols, a minor character in this but Charlotte's eventual husband. I can tell they cast a noticeably handsome actor in that part so we wouldn't imagine Charlotte making whoopee with an unattractive man after all she suffered. Another great strength of the film is the way it looks. Both the cinematography and the 21st- century matte paintings convey the majesty and bleak beauty of the Yorkshire landscape. And, as with all good period pieces, I coveted the sister's costumes. While we're on the subject of looks, I was pleased that Anne was the only conventionally pretty sister.

My one big issue is the final scene, where we see the house as it is today. I'd wanted to save the surprises of Haworth for when I went there myself! That apart, the acting and directing were such that I was not conscious of there being actors separate from the historical figures. I was not bored at any point. If there is a better way to relay the story of the sisters' ascent to greatness, I can't think of one. Brava, Sally Wainwright! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Videos of:

The Bronte Story
An Authentic Look

Masterpiece! Home Fires - Season 2'
(Francesca Annis, Daisy Badger, Mark Bazeley, Leanne Best, Samantha Bond, et al / 2-Disc DVD / PG / 2015 / PBS)

Overview: Great Paxford's eclectic band of women return for more stories from the home front as they deal with imminent threat during the Battle of Britain.

DVD Verdict: From the moment the first season aired, it was an absolute delight to see a drama about the Second World War from the women's perspective. From the outset I was gripped by the characters. The anxiety among the entire village of what might be to come casts a pail over the country in the late summer of 1939. Stunning sets and achingly beautiful cinematography with sweeping shots of the glorious Cheshire countryside, this drama nevertheless holds the promise of great menace and danger to come.

Throughout the series, Simon Block has created characters that are emotionally intelligent and with great integrity and authenticity, translated effortlessly into outstanding performances by a stellar cast. In the first season we have the overbearing threat of the imminence of the war and the women's determination not to be cowed by whatever the next few months might bring.

Beautifully acted from the entire cast, there isn't a single weak link in the chain. I particularly loved the scenes between Samantha Bond and Francesca Annis, they had some great dialogue. The series in my opinion was stolen by Claire Rushbrook and Mark Bazeley as these two took it up another level. And although Bob's treatment of Pat made me feel genuinely uneasy, I can only assume that it was also meant to be as believable as possible, of course.

Here in the six (6) episodes that make up the second season, as the nation finds itself increasingly beleaguered, relationships, friendships, and loyalties within the community are continually tested as never before. Indeed, the women find they must heighten their efforts to boost morale amidst the chaos and uncertainty enveloping the village.

All the cast are believable and the clothing seems close to the period, with the ladies being more elegant, even the working class ones, it seems to capture those earlier days of the war. I feel that it truly captured people in the North West who lived through that period. Personally, I was a little too young to recall living through the Doodlebugs dropping on North London, but I would guess it would have "felt" a lot like this incredible TV show. 'Home Fires' is the epitome of strong femininity versus the brutal machines of war. I urge you, male or female to buy this 2-Disc DVD set from PBS today and learn more about it for yourselves. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Experience: Rachel Carson'
(DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'American Experience: Rachel Carson' provides an illuminating and inspiring portrait of a seminal figure whose writings changed the course of our nation and are still highly relevant today.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the complete know, Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist, author, and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.

Carson began her career as an aquatic biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won her a U.S. National Book Award, recognition as a gifted writer, and financial security. Her next book, The Edge of the Sea, and the reissued version of her first book, Under the Sea Wind, were also bestsellers. This sea trilogy explores the whole of ocean life from the shores to the depths.

Late in the 1950s, Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially some problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was the book Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people. Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides.

It also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.

Often called the mother of the modern environmental movement, Rachel Carson rocked the world in 1962 with her aforementioned book Silent Spring, and now 'American Experience: Rachel Carson' looks deeper into the aftermath that accompanied its release at the time.

The book that warned the American public of the impact of pesticides on the environment and unleashed an extraordinary national debate about science and safety firmly held Carson at the center of that firestorm. A strong, intensely private woman who balanced her love of the natural world and passion for writing with personal strife, including a heartbreaking battle with breast cancer, PBS's just-released 'American Experience: Rachel Carson' provides an illuminating and inspiring portrait of a seminal figure whose writings changed the course of our nation and are still highly relevant today. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Experience: The Race Underground'
(DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: In the late 19th century, as America's teeming cities grew increasingly congested, the time had come to replace the nostalgic horse-drawn trolleys with a faster, cleaner, safer, and more efficient form of transportation. Based in part on Doug Most's acclaimed non-fiction book of the same name, 'American Experience: The Race Underground' tells the dramatic story of an invention that changed the lives of millions.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the complete historical know, The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early-to-mid 19th century, and used by African-American slaves to escape into free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause.

As this brand new PBS documentary showcases during 'American Experience: The Race Underground', the term is also applied to the abolitionists, both black and white, free and enslaved, who aided the fugitives. Various other routes led to Mexico or overseas. An earlier escape route running south toward Florida, then a Spanish possession, existed from the late 17th century until shortly after the American Revolution.

However, the network now generally known as the Underground Railroad was formed in the late 1700s, and reached its height between 1850 and 1860. One estimate suggests that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the "Railroad".

But it wasn't an easy undertaking back then, by a long shot. Not only were the modern cities of the world filled with horses, they were filled with their excrement, along with all the billowing smoke and caked dirt that modern industry of the time could produce. Ergo, 'The Race Underground' offers a colorful and informative description of that bygone era.

Famous names surface throughout the documentary - men like Andrew Carnegie, Boss Tweed, and Thomas Edison. But the film ties the story together through two less famous, more essential brothers: Henry Whitney of Boston and William Whitney of New York. When the city of London built the first subway, it might have seemed only a matter of time before one was constructed in a major U.S. city. The truth is much more complicated and fascinating than that so I urge you to buy this new PBS DVD and watch history being made (and something we now take for granted) before your very eyes. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Million Dollar American Princesses: Complete Set'
(2-Disc DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Join Elizabeth McGovern as she takes an in-depth look at the young American heiresses whose real life stories inspired the acclaimed TV drama Downton Abbey. From the late 1800s, to the 20th century, when a new kind of American Princess wields power not through wealth, but through character, style, and wit. Through the decades, these women bring dramatic change to the European aristocracy and eventually the world.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, our TV host Elizabeth McGovern is an American film, television, and theater actor, and musician. She received an Academy Award nomination for her role as Evelyn Nesbit in the 1981 film Ragtime and she is now more well known for her performance as Lady Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham in the British drama series Downton Abbey; for which she has been nominated for an Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award.

Her other films may include Ordinary People (1980), Once Upon A Time In America (1984), The Handmaid's Tale (1990), The Wings of the Dove (1997) and such, but here on 'Smithsonian Channel: Million Dollar American Princesses, The Complete Series' McGovern delightfully delves into the true stories of American heiresses who traveled to England to marry titled English men in the late 1800s.

Indeed, to be more precise, the three-part series focuses on the stories of a clutch of the 200 or so American heiresses who married British lords at around the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. What the program persuasively shows is that Britain should be jolly grateful for the American women who alighted on its shores—one union produced Britain’s inspirational wartime PM, Winston, while another marriage, generations later, resulted in Princes William and Harry, and now Prince George. The Royal Family has benefited hugely from the American blood in its veins, which I'm sure behind closed doors they are well aware of, of course.

“The guilty secret of the British aristocracy is how much American blood runs through its veins,” McGovern says, in one of my favorite quips from this over six (6) hour long journey back through privileged times. That said, 'Smithsonian Channel: Million Dollar American Princesses, The Complete Series' features more guilty little secrets such as that, perhaps even as little-known down through history also to most. So it seems that the knowledge which can be usefully deployed by an American any time they scent even a whiff of British snobbery today is one rightfully owned; one can now attest upon this viewing. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Smithsonian Channel: Hell Below'
(2-Disc DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Chart some of the most dramatic and influential submarine patrols of World War II, from the perspective of the naval masterminds who plotted the strategies to the tenacious and aggressive commanders who carried them out here in 'Hell Below'.

DVD Verdict: They traveled alone and in packs. They collected intelligence and launched attacks. They rose above the ocean depths and ultimately changed the course of war. 'Smithsonian Channel: Hell Below' details some of the most dramatic and influential submarine patrols of World War II, from the perspective of the naval masterminds who plotted the strategies to the tenacious and aggressive commanders who carried them out.

'Smithsonian Channel: Hell Below' follows the ongoing challenges the Axis and Allies faced as they pushed the limits of their vessels in pursuit or in escape. Produced by Parallax Film Productions Inc. and narrated by Canadian voice-over artist Mark Oliver, over five (5) hours spread across 2 discs and covered by six episodes, 'Hell Below' charts the stealth game of subsea warfare, tracking the dramatic narrative from contact to attack of the greatest submarine patrols of World War II.

With six episodes from the rise of the Wolfpack to the drive for victory in the Pacific, the documentary is chock full of expert analysis and stock footage that is seamlessly woven throughout. With narrative driven re-enactments filmed on authentic Second World War era submarines to place the characters at the heart of the action, 'Smithsonian Channel: Hell Below' is at times gritty, at times explosively revealing, but at all times a must-see from PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Donnie Darko: Limited Edition' [2-Disc Edition]
(Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray / R / (2001) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview:Fifteen years before Stranger Things combined science-fiction, Spielberg-ian touches and 80s nostalgia to much acclaim, Richard Kelly set the template – and the high-water mark – with his debut feature, 'Donnie Darko'. Initially beset with distribution problems, it would slowly find its audience and emerge as arguably the first cult classic of the new millennium.

Blu-ray Verdict: This is one of these movies that not just bend but brake virtually every rule of cinematic storytelling in a way so unique, mind-boggling and satisfying at the same time, no else can follow. Do not expect to see another movie "inspired by" or "of the same sort" as 'Donnie Darko'. It is one of a kind and that makes it even more special. Richard Kelly set an impossible standard for himself with his very first feature, it will be extremely difficult to top this one, if ever.

The story is, well, simply inexplicable! This is the selling point of the movie. It blends a number of diverse elements, 80's nostalgia, teen angst, depression, insanity, death, romance, sacrifice, comedy, tragedy... and a little bit of time traveling by the way. And did I forget to mention the giant rabbit? How could all these combine into a meaningful and coherent whole? As it turns out, under the commanding hand of the writer/director, the result is far from coherent, but flooding - literally - with meaning in all kinds of levels.

The finished product is like looking at a painting. It isn't the original intend of the artist or the distinct parts of it that are the most important, but the emotional impact it causes on the viewer. There is a point about two thirds into the movie, were emotion just takes hold and doesn't let go until its incredible, chilling finale that has and will continue to fuel endless discussions. Is it easy to understand? Certainly not, at least with the usual sense of the word. Is it easy to feel? Definitely! And this is one of the reasons why DD has become such a cult phenomenon. Think of it as David Lynch but on one of his very good, lucid days.

In terms of execution, the movie shines in many ways and is not hampered or handicapped by its small budget. Performances are great from both lead and supporting actors. Patrick Swayze gives his best in years and Mary McDonnell is simply devastating. But the real star here is Jake Gyllenhaal, who totally owns the film, conveying emotion and maturity with exceptional confidence.

The screen couple of him and Jena Malone also has great chemistry and makes you deeply root for the characters and their dark fates. There is also a wonderful soundtrack, complete with vintage '80s tracks and a haunting score by Michael Andrews. The closing sequence with Gary Jules' cover of "Mad World" (Tears For Fears) playing easily qualifies as one of the most memorable pairings of music and film.

One certainly needs to see this movie at least three times to start making up his mind about what actually happened. But this is beside the point. Some things are better left unexplained. From the very opening scene, all eerie, mysterious and intriguing, 'Donnie Darko' is above all else an experience, one that provokes the mind and the heart, an existential fairy tale and an unforgettable journey in the dark alleys of the human soul. This is a Widescreen presentation (2:35.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Brand new 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut from the original camera negatives produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release, supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of both cuts
Original 5.1 audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary by writer-director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal on the Theatrical Cut
Audio commentary by Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick and actors Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross and James Duval on the Theatrical Cut
Audio commentary by Kelly and filmmaker Kevin Smith on the Director’s Cut
Brand-new interviews with Richard Kelly and others
The Goodbye Place, Kelly’s 1996 short film, which anticipates some of the themes and ideas of his feature films
The Donnie Darko Production Diary, an archival documentary charting the film’s production with optional commentary by cinematographer Steven Poster
Twenty deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Kelly
Archive interviews with Kelly, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, and cinematographer Steven Poster
Three archive featurettes: They Made Me Do It, They Made Me Do It Too and #1 Fan: A Darkomentary
Storyboard comparisons
B-roll footage
Cunning Visions infomercials
Music Video: "Mad World" by Gary Jules
TV Spots
Illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing by Nathan Rabin
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp

'Donnie Darko: Director's Cut' Limited Edition Blu-ray Box-Set ... Unboxing!

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract [Limited Edition]
(Stuart Allan, Sean Maher, Jake T. Austin, Brandon Soo Hoo, Christina Ricci, Taissa Farmiga, et al / Blu ray + DVD / PG-13 / 2017 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Tara Markov is a girl who has power over earth and stone; she is also more than she seems. Is the newest Teen Titan an ally or a threat? And what are the mercenary Deathstroke's plans for the Titans? .

Blu ray Verdict: Among the collection of young heroes and their mentors, what really shines in The Judas Contract is the villainous Deathstroke. More than just physical threat, he's brimming with delightfully despicable glow thanks to the writing and impeccable voice acting. New rendition of Terra also shows wide range of character spectrum, not many animations deliver a thin line between tragic heroine and crude villain this provocatively.

The early tone serves as reintroduction for the Titans, then slowly moves towards Terra and her questionable loyalty. Most of the portion goes to Starfire and Nightwing's romantic subplot. They have good chemistry and occasional kinky humor, mostly on Nightwing's expense. Starfire has attractive attribute which she is fully aware of, yet not overly displayed like in few comic interpretations. There's also a hint of her gullible self, a nice nod to the more juvenile side.

Some of the Titans are given more development, especially Beast Boy and Blue Beetle. These are mainly your typical self-acceptance routine, but still a kind exposure for the characters. Beast Boy's pun can be either amusing or rather cringe-worthy at times, a tad more than intended. Raven doesn't get the same amount of spotlight compared to the prequel, but I'm still amazed on how well the voice of Taissa Farmiga fits the character.

The main spotlight goes to new girl Terra, who is equally sympathetic and detestable. Her story is devastating enough yet her action is just short of being worthy of donning hero's cape. She and Deathstroke feed off each other malice, there's even one scene where it's made clear that she has romantic attraction to the much older mentor, inappropriately so. It's even more eerie considering that Terra look so very uncomfortably young. Miguel Ferrer as Deathstroke is simply amazing. The antagonist spews bile insults to any heroes he met in such authoritative nearly calming voice.

In closing, The Judas Contract shows a lot of relationships and family oriented ties, yet it's the dysfunctional one that really rises above them. Sinister it may be, not every good will can mend broken bond and sometimes a scornful betrayal is a more humane way to bring the best of superheroes. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, housed inside an incredible Limited Edition Gift Set (that comes with a "Deathstroke" action figure), and has the following Blu-ray Special Feature:

Titanic Minds: Reuniting Wolfman and Perez
Villain Rising: Deathstroke
2 Bonus Cartoons
Plus a Sneak Peak at DC Universe's Next Animated Movie: Batman and Harley Quinn

Own it on Blu-ray™ Deluxe Edition, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD & Digital HD April 18th, 2017

Official WBHE Trailer

'The Founder' [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, Patrick Wilson, et al / Blu ray + DVD + Digital HD / PG-13 / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: Directed by John Lee Hancock (SAVING MR. BANKS), 'The Founder' features the true story of how Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a struggling salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California.

Blu ray Verdict: 'The Founder' is a biographical drama film starring Michael Keaton based on the life of American businessman and founder of the McDonald's Corporation Ray Kroc. Whether you love the McDonald's brand or hate it, this film offers a compelling view into the way it has captivated us all with its worldwide presence.

In 1954, salesman Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) meets with brothers Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) McDonald, the owners of the hamburger restaurant known as "McDonald's". Fascinated by the brothers' ability to have burgers and fries cooked in a matter of seconds, Kroc suggests the idea of franchising the restaurant nationwide, hoping to use this as a way to take control of the company and earn money for himself.

Featuring yet another terrific performance from the ever-versatile Michael Keaton, his second best behind Birdman, 'The Founder' is an interesting look into the way one man helped turn a small hamburger restaurant into a global fast food empire. It is fascinating seeing how one simple idea - fast food - has changed the culinary world forever. However, one cannot help but feel sorry for the misfortune the McDonald brothers went through as a result of franchising their name and the exploitation they received.

I should also mention that the film reminded me of the 2010 film 'The Social Network', with its similar plot about one man exploiting a clever idea from two brothers for his own financial gain. 'The Founder' is a well shot, scored and acted studio film that tells a story worth telling (plus one of the best advertisements McDonald's has never paid for!). It offers a fascinating insight into the beginnings of the McDonald's brand that also gives us an equally fascinating real life figure and another chance for the career revival of Michael Keaton.

As for the Special Features, well, there are only two, but wow, one of them is well worth the value for money! Aside from some Behind-The-Scenes Still Photo Galley Featurettes, there is a near-hour long Press Conference for 'The Founder.'

Filmed on January 12th, 2017 in Los Angeles, 'The Founder' Press Conference opens up with the whole true story, before the 12-strong (and very, very long) table of stars and crew alike begin to recant their tales of both eating at McDonalds over the years and how the empowering story was prime to be told.

Inclusive of John Carroll Lynch (Mac McDonald), Nick Offerman (Dick McDonald), Laura Dern (Ethel Kroc), Michael Keaton (Ray Kroc), director John Lee Hancock, writer Robert Siegel, Jason French & Corey French (grandsons of the late McDonalds brothers), producer Jeremy Renner (yes, Hawkeye from Avengers), producer Don Handfield, producer Aaron Ryder and writer Jenelle Riley (who opens up the whole Press Conference by asking Producer Dan Handfield about how the script came across him and what it had been that had gotten him interested in the script as a movie. [For the record, it was an old Mark Knopfler song 'Boom Like That'!]. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the aforementioned Special Features:

Behind-The-Scenes Gallery (Featurettes)
Press Conference

Own it on Blu-ray Combo Pack & Digital HD April 18th, 2017

Official Trailer

'La La Land' [Blu-ray + DVD]
(Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie Dewitt, Finn Wittrock, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD / PG-13 / 2017 / LGF)

Blu-ray Overview: Winner of 6 Academy Awards® including Best Director for writer/director Damien Chazelle, and winner of a record-breaking 7 Golden Globe® Awards, 'LA LA LAND' is more than the most acclaimed movie of the year - it's a cinematic treasure for the ages that you'll fall in love with again and again.

Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the know, the premise of 'La La Land' is that Mia (Emma Stone) is a young actress who has moved to LA to wait tables while auditioning to try and "make it". Whilst Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz purist ("Anyone who doesn't like jazz just doesn't have the right ... context", he insists) who plays the piano in bars to make a living and dreams of opening his own Jazz bar. Or to put it succinctly: Two young artists meet and fall in love while chasing their dreams.

As one would fully expect, the musical flows thematically from first love to heartbreak and every other emotion between, with great music throughout. Indeed, the most impressive thing about the film, for me, is just how daringly it dances between the old-fashioned "Singing' In The Rain" style of musical, and a bolder, modern style. The song numbers are great (the opening number received a round of applause on my very first and even second viewing) and are an undoubted homage to classic musicals. Containing a thoughtful mixture of old school dance numbers you'd expect from a musical in the 50s, and emotionally-wrenching ballads that hit you where it hurts, it also comes complete with one particular sequence toward the end of the film which culminates in a real metaphysical gut-punch.

Stylistically the film skirts this same line; the film again looks and acts like a classic musical, but frequently we see low-key reminders that this is modern day; actresses using their iPhones, a video being seen on Youtube, etc to remind us that this is set in the present day. If we didn't have these reminders, the visuals would almost have you thinking that this is the 1950s.

The cinematography is beautiful and overall the film is visually stunning. There is also no doubt that it is wonderfully directed, with the same masterful control of pace and tension that we come to expect from Damien Chazelle thanks to 'Whiplash.'

Gosling, in particular is absolutely terrific, with a typically sardonic wit throughout. At the start of the film when his sister says she's worried about him as life seems to have him on the ropes, he simply responds, "I wanna be on the ropes. I'm just letting life think it has me and then before you know it - BAM. It's a classic rope-a-dope". His delivery of these sorts of lines can't be matched, and it's easy to see why the producers said in the post-film Q&A that he was the person they wanted for the role in their wildest dreams.

It's a role made for him with tons more of the above kind of lines. But more than that, Gosling captures a real emotional intensity at the film's emotional breaking points, more specifically in the sequence towards the end of the film that I mentioned earlier. He manages to convey such convincing emotion without so much as a word.

I'd feel bad if I didn't also praise Emma Stone, who has probably never been better. She has wonderful emotional range, from the ecstatic highs of love to the tearful, painful lows. Also, in terms of the Gosling/Stone films, this is by far the best. Their undoubted chemistry is given the full spotlight in this film with freedom to explore said chemistry without restriction.

The film is ultimately everything it had the potential to be - an unashamedly romantic musical, infused not only with great song and dance numbers, but with intense emotion and charisma from Gosling/Stone, wonderful visuals and a unique pacing and tension from Chazelle. Oh, and it's hilarious throughout too. A genuine achievement - must be one of the best films I've seen in a long while.

As for the vast array of small Featurettes that come with this stunning Blu-ray Combo Pack, well, yes, there are too many to recant in full in this review. But, that said, some that stood out in my mind, and in some cases were immediately rewatched were things like the extraordinarily BRILLIANT "Another Day of Sun: They Closed Down a Freeway". Here we watch in awe for over three minutes as Damien Chazelle captures the infectious opening number 'Another Day of Sun' on his phone during early rehearsals for 'La La Land'!

"The Look of Love: Designing LA LA LAND" is yet another stand out gem for me as they reveal how they used, color, and music, and sets and the costumes as expressionistic elements of old school movie making, Chazelle goes on to show us how all those visual elements and more came together to tell the emotional story at the heart of the film.

Finally, as both primary leads do all their own singing, Gosling had to train to be able to do all his own piano work - kinda! So in "Ryan Gosling: Piano Student", we watch as the talented actor is put through his paces on the keys, but not everything is as it seems. For Gosling only had to learn how to play to pre-records (which they did these pre-records with a jazz pianist beforehand). No doubles in the movie means that every time you see Gosling's hands hit the keys, it was he himself operating them! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Another Day of Sun: They Closed Down A Freeway
La La Land's Great Party
Ryan Gosling: Piano Student
Before Whiplash: Damien Chazelle's Passion Project
The Music of La La Land
John Legend's Acting Debut
The Look of Love: Designing La La Land
Epilogue: The Romance of the Dream
Damien and Justin Sing: The Demos
La La Land's Love Letter to Los Angeles
Ryan and Emma: Third Time's the Charm
Marketing Gallery
Song Selection
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Damien Chazelle and Composer Justin Hurwitz

Official Trailer

'Mars' [Blu-ray]
(Ben Cotton, Alberto Ammann, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: From Executive Producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard comes 'Mars', which follows a crew of courageous international astronauts on an exhilarating maiden voyage to colonize the red planet in 2033.

Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the know, 'Mars' is a fascinating, simply eye-opening six-part television mini-series produced by National Geographic.

Having first premiered on November 14th, 2016 on their channel, and FX subsequently thereafter, 'Mars' blends elements of real interviews with a fictional story of a group of astronauts as they land on the planet Mars.

As aforementioned, this new mini-series is not like most science fiction films or TV entries. Instead it is more like "science future" rather than science fiction – an extension of existing knowledge and techniques to the near future. More specifically, the authors envision what it would be like to travel to Mars in 2033. Because it is "science future" and not science fiction, most of what we're watching seems familiar.

Each episode looks like a documentary made in 2033 about the pioneers of the Mars movement. So we see interviews of people like Elon Musk and they talk about the Space X program. Then it switches to real time and we see the trials and tribulations of the first people to land on Mars.

As clever as the science future element is, there is a fictional story here as well, concerned with troubles that happen on the approach to Mars and the landing and the subsequent attempt to colonize the planet. This part of the series is lacking, not merely in character development, but also in action. It is slow going, but probably not unlike what it would be if you were there.

Among the most interesting elements are the decisions that have to be made about the program and comparisons between this future project and major exploratory projects of the past. Ergo, 'Mars' is a splendid change-of-pace from 2017-styled television, where mystery and supernatural now run amok, denying viewers good, simple stories about boring and real Reality and Science. [On January 13th, 2017, National Geographic announced it was renewing the series for a second season]. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Before Mars: A Prequel
Extra Episode Making Mars
Behind the Scenes
Interviews with Cast and Crew
And More!

'The Vampire Bat - Special Edition'
(Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1933) 2017 / The Film Detective)

Overview: When corpses drained of blood begin to show up in a European village, vampirism is suspected to be responsible.

Blu-ray Verdict: Well, I have to say I loved this great movie from 1933 so much that once it ended, I put it back on play and had another crack at it. It's just that good, trust me. Though not a horror film in the traditional sense, this creepy little film delivers the goods.

As one can garner from the title, it seems a vampire (bat) is loose in a small German town draining its victims of their blood. Police Inspector Karl Brettschneider, Melvyn Douglas in one of his early roles, is skeptical believing a crazed killer not a vampire is running amok. The only one who believes him is Ruth Bertin (Faye Wray) the inspector's girlfriend and lab assistant to Dr. Otto von Niemann (Lionel Atwill) - who though apparently an eminent scientist goes along with the vampire theory.

The townspeople suspect the weirdo Herman Gleib, played with his usual frenzy by Dwight Frye who seems to be having a lot of fun with his role. The film contains quite a bit of humor which helps relieve some of the intensity involved with all the murders being committed. One funny part has Gussie Schnappmann (Maude Eburne), Ruth Bertin's aunt, thinking weird Herman has turned not into a bat but into a dog. Maude Eburne and Dwight Frye make a good comedy team, of that you can always be sure.

This budget movie brings in elements from 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' with Dr. Niemann using the power of suggestion to make a somnambulist carry out his orders, from 'Frankenstein' by using the human blood to help create life in the laboratory, and, of course, 'Dracula' - since the murders are believed by everyone except the inspector and his girl to be the work of a bloodsucker.

These elements are mixed well by director Frank R. Strayer with a little aforementioned comedy thrown in for good measure. The concoction works. The restored version I viewed now via The Film Detective used tinting to increase the spooky atmosphere - and boy, what a difference that made. Anyway, in closing, please try to see this version if possible as TFD have brought out a rather masterful Blu-ray for your eyes (and ears) - so it would be a tad rude to avoid it, now wouldn't it. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the two delightful Special Features of:

- New Melvyn Douglas Featurette with his son, Gregory Hesselberg
- Audio Commentary by Film Historian Sam Sherman

'The Marine 5: Battleground' [Blu-ray]
(Mike Mizanin, Maryse Mizanin, Heath Miller, Trinity Fatu, Sandy Robson, et al / Blu-ray / R / 2017 / Sony Pictures)

Overview: After returning stateside and now working as an EMT, Jake Carter (Mike "The Miz" Mizanin) finds himself trapped with an injured, marked man he's sworn to save. As a ruthless biker gang bent on revenge gains speed, Carter must use his killer Marine instincts to end the rampage . . . or die trying!

Blu-ray Verdict: Talk about timing! With the next big Wrestlemania just brought forth, and one of the biggest match-ups having been the mixed tag match between John Cena & Nikki Bella against The Miz & Maryse, suddenly we get sent the brand new chapter of 'The Marine' movie series, 'The Marine 5: Battleground' - starring two of those aforementioned wrestlers!

Now, as much as I'm sure, being a fan of Wrestlemania that you already know of this very clever, very colorful, and very fun movie series, if for some reason you are unaware, allow me to quickly bring you up to speed: In the first one, John Cena plays a Marine. In the second one, Ted Dibiase Jr. plays a different Marine who is on vacation. In the third one, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, plays yet another different marine. In the fourth one, Mike "The Miz" Mizanin plays the same marine as before, but this time with a different job!

And so, here in 'The Marine 5: Battleground' we get a film this time written by the McHenrys. Award-winning British film-making brothers, their vision is obviously WWE inspired, but the fact it's directed by Joseph Nunn ('Tower Block') means you should know from the start that the tone of this fifth installment is a little darker than the previous ones.

As for the actual plot, and yes, of course I use that in as much of stretch as one would guess, Jake Carter (Mike "The Miz" Mizanin) is back as an EMT this time! Seriously, the guys takes on so many different jobs and yet gets involved in so much shit each time you'd think he would have quite the country and go to live in Canada by now!

Anyhoo, we get caught up on the "history" of the Marine from his partner (Anna Van Hooft) ie: two tours of Afghanistan, Bronze Star, private security company, etc. So, back to that plot. Well, some unknown bad guys do a hit on the leader of the Lost Legion biker gang, but it doesn't go according to plan, of course. For they get caught in a gun fight that moves from a parking structure adjacent to an off-season amusement park ('Great Peaks") - and it's actually there that the movie then sets itself firmly in place.

For the record, and those WWE fans amongst you tuning in, there are other WWE superstars who appear such as former Women's Champion Naomi as one of the gang's "prospects". Oh, and "The Miz"s wife, Maryse shows up for about 30 seconds to be saved from a ton of bricks by her husband! I kid you not, it's hardly worth the effort - on either one's part!

In closing, and I have to say this, sorry, but the casting of Bo Dallas is indeed utterly laughable. This must be the most unconvincing biker gang in the history of cinema. I'd be more afraid of the Wild Hogs than those guys! But, come the end and it was an enjoyable romp and one that should please all the WWE followers that the series has had since it began. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the two delightful Special Features of:

- Evening The Odds
- Superstar Studded

'The Great British Baking Show - Seasons 1, 2 & 3'
(Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Follow the trials and tribulations of passionate amateur bakers whose goal is to be named the UK's best. Each week, the bakers tackle a different skill, the difficulty of which increases as the competition unfolds, judged by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. And, for the first time this side of the pond, we now get three seasons worth of glorious cooking and baking, UK style!

DVD Verdict: 'The Great British Bake Off', often referred to as 'Bake Off' or 'GBBO', is a British television baking competition which selects from amongst its contestants the best amateur baker. The series was presented by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, and judged by cookery writer Mary Berry and professional baker Paul Hollywood. It has been broadcast under the name 'The Great British Baking Show' here in the United States, as Pillsbury owns the Bake-Off trademark in the US.

Each season follows the trials and tribulations of passionate amateur bakers whose goal is to be named the UK's best. Each week, the bakers tackle a different skill, the difficulty of which increases as the competition unfolds, judged by British cooking/baking icons, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.

OK, now is where it's going to get even more confusing, so hold on tight. For not only is it well known in the UK as the aforementioned 'The Great British Bake Off', but this "Season 1" DVD set is actually the UK's Season 5 series! "Season 2" is actually the UK's Season 4, but in a late twist of the tale, "Season 3" is actually now the UK's Season 6!

So, in this particular "Season 1" (2014), filmed at Welford Park in Berkshire, there are twelve bakers taking part. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood returned as judges, whilst Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc continued to present the series. [SPOILER]: Richard Burr was awarded the largest number of star baker designations of any series so far, but was beaten by Nancy Birtwhistle in the final.

The 10 episodes included are: Cake - Biscuits - Bread - Desserts - Pies and Tarts - Continental Cake - Pastries - Advanced Dough - Pâtisserie - The Final.

As for some additional fun information, a spin-off UK show 'The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice', hosted by comedian Jo Brand on BBC Two, was also launched as a companion series the same year. Each episode was broadcast two days after the main show, but later moved to the same night. The show includes interviews with eliminated contestants and was a big hit with the British viewers.

In "Season 2", which if you're following along at home now was actually the fourth UK series (of The Great British Bake Off) was filmed in 2013 at Harptree Court in East Harptree, Somerset. [SPOILER}: The all-female final was won by Frances Quinn, with Ruby Tandoh and Kimberley Wilson as runners up.

The hosts and judges are nice and while the criticism is sometimes harsh, it really does seem to be given in the spirit of helping the contestants become better bakers. The viewer also gets a lot of information about baking and the different elements that go into it. You definitely learn terms, techniques, and tips on how to improve your very own baking on this show.

Indeed, 'The Great British Baking Show' aka 'The Great British Bake Off' has most definitely inspired me and my friends to get several cookbooks for my young daughters. They have enjoyed improving their skills while producing tasty foods also, as I can confirm due to what my own daughter chose to cook for our family last night!

The 10 episodes included are: Cakes - Bread - Desserts - Pies and Tarts - Biscuits and Traybakes - Sweet Dough - Pastry - Quarter Final - French Week - The Final.

And in "Season 3", which when you watch them back to back like we did, gets very confusing seeing the crew go from UK broadcast Season 5 back to Season 4, and then jump to season 6, we watch as 12 amateur bakers don aprons and head for the tent in the British countryside for this NEW season, hoping to be named Britain's best.

Each episode brings challenges in three categories: a Signature Bake, to test the contestants' creative flair and baking ability; a Technical Bake, in which challengers receive basic recipes with ingredient lists and minimal instruction; and the Showstopper Bake, designed to display depth of skill and talent.

This sixth UK series (2015) was once again from Welford Park in Berkshire and ... [SPOILER] ... was won by Nadiya Hussain, with Ian Cumming and Tamal Ray as runners up.

This is perhaps my personal favorite of the three seasons released thus far (and always before only to be found, in bots and bobs on YouTube), because you watch as these Baker's Dozen of contestants (ie: 13) come together to, well, as they say in the UK "bake off" against one another. It's really all rather quaint and so whilst learning a few new cooking tips you also get entertained and dazzled by the wide range of possible things you yourself could make.

The 10 episodes included are: Cake - Biscuits - Bread - Desserts - Alternative Ingredients - Pastry - Victorian - Pâtisserie - Chocolate - The Final.

In conclusion, wonderful, informative and witty describes this awesome program from across the pond. I absolutely fell in love with this show because not only are the hosts and judges funny and helpful in their critiques, the contestants bring all sorts of ideas and personalities into the mix.

I have learned so much about classical cakes and baking techniques just by watching the episodes. I love learning about the history of dishes and this PBS show mixes in a little history with each new competition. Here's hoping that PBS can bring out the other seasons of this wondrous show - no matter in what order they choose! These are all Widescreen Presentations (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Frontline: Trump's Road To The White House'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Learn how Donald Trump defied expectations to win the presidency. Through interviews with key players, the film shows how Trump rallied millions of supporters and defeated adversaries, and whom he's taking into the White House with him.

DVD Verdict: The swagger, the ego, the outrageous claims ... the hair! This is the story of how a kid from Queens took New York City and then the nation by storm. So, what's his story? And what kind of leader might he now make, given that he actually made it into the Big Chair at the coveted Oval Office?

Basically put, 'Frontline: Trump's Road To The White House' is an investigation of how Donald Trump defied expectations to win the presidency — and what it suggests about how he will govern. Featuring interviews with key players who reveal how President-elect Donald Trump defied expectations to win the White House, the hour long documentary covers a lot of ground other Trump-PBS releases have chosen to, sure, but this is the first to actually acknowledge that Trump is now POTUS.

Also, since the film doesn’t really shed any new light on a story that hasn’t exactly gone under reported, so to speak, it originally airing less than a week after the inauguration and so kinda sorta pours salt into the wounds of the Americans who voted for Hillary. According to polls, that group counts roughly 3 million more than Trump's voters, so you do the math!

Anyway, love him or hate him, Donald Trump is a true American phenomenon (one way or another). As pollster Frank Luntz himself states, "Buckle your seat belts. Sit back, because this is going to be a wild ride.”. Amen, brother. Amen. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NOVA: Search for the Super Battery'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Join renowned gadget geek and host David Pogue sets out on a quest to discover how batteries work, and uncover what the future has in store for our gadgets, our lives, and even our planet.

DVD Verdict: We live in an age when technological innovation seems to be limitlessly soaring. But for all the satisfying speed with which our gadgets have improved, many of them share a frustrating weakness: the batteries. Even though there have been some improvements in last century, batteries remain finicky, bulky, expensive, toxic and maddeningly short-lived.

'NOVA: Search for the Super Battery' is a riveting hour long quest to show how people like host David Pogue are up the the challenge of looking for a so-called "super battery" - and the stakes in this hunt are much higher than the phone in your pocket. With climate change looming, electric cars and renewable energy sources like wind and solar power could hold keys to a greener future - if we can engineer the perfect battery.

During this 60 minutes host David Pogue (an American technology writer and TV science who was also the host of NOVA Science Now on PBS, and was also the host of the NOVA specials Making Stuff in 2011 and Hunting the Elements in 2012) explores the hidden world of energy storage, from the power--and danger--of the lithium-ion batteries we use today, to the bold innovations that could one day charge our world.

In a lab just outside Boston, we watch as Tufts University professor and engineer Mike Zimmerman and his team have created what might be the next generation lithium-ion battery that will safely power our phones, cars, and more. But, minutes later watch in awe as Zimmerman's battery endures abuse at the hands of David Pogue in a means to test it to its core and back.

Quite like no one else, Pogue wants to uncover what the future of batteries has in store for our gadgets, our lives - and even our planet. Might the lowly battery be the breakthrough technology that changes everything? 'NOVA: Search for the Super Battery' is a brilliant documentary, but more than that it is educational and should make you think about batteries the next time you handle them - and then subsequently throw them away a month or so later! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Gold' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD]
(Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez, Corey Stoll, Bryce Dallas Howard, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD / R / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: Kenny Wells, a prospector desperate for a lucky break, teams up with a similarly eager geologist and they set off on an amazing journey to find gold in the uncharted jungle of Indonesia.

Blu-ray Verdict: Longing for the American dream should never be inextricable from the determination of an individual. Dreaming about achieving a goal should go hand in hand with proactively doing it. Without veering off on a transcendentalist tangent, let me introduce Kenny Wells. Wells is a pot-bellied, greased up chain smoking alcoholic, perhaps uncomfortably seen as the heir to the throne of the Washoe Mining Company based in 'the biggest little city in the world' and where Johnny Cash sang of a prisoner shooting a man, 'just to watch him die'. The one and only, Reno, Nevada.

So maybe I haven't painted Wells in such a great light so far. He certainly isn't the godchild of Emerson, but that's what director Stephen Gaghan appears to try and convey. This is Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey as you've never witnessed before, presented in a way that's far from an idealized sharp-suited image of the American dreamer and stoically opposed to Ron Woodward's skeletal frame in his winning performance in 2013's 'Dallas Buyers Club'. However, he's the film's gleaming treasure in a somewhat clichéd quest for glory, even if the main aesthetic shine is only from his forehead in an Indonesian jungle.

'Gold' is loosely based upon the Bre-X mining scandal of 1993 with Gaghan confusingly transporting us straight back to the 1980s to a world of questionable suits, post-punk, Iggy Pop and the romantic aspirations of Wells. His journey is somewhat instigated by the death of his father, luring him further into the volatile and unpredictable world of gold mining, conducting the train through its successes and abrupt halts.

From the smoky testosterone filled bars of Reno to the sweat inducing tropics of Borneo, we realize how integral McConaughey's performance is to the success and believability of the narrative. Although somewhat charismatic through his wittiness and general naivety to the overall project, Kenny Wells is a man who is out to make money. Wells' sidekick, geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), is bestowed with elements of morality and spirituality, clearly seen in his proactive interaction with the Indonesian people. So therefore, Wells' financial determination combined with Acosta's endearing qualities and intelligence make the relationship such a strong focal point of the film. The strength of the characters makes the adventure seem almost tangible, yet still questionable.

Looking at McConaughey's transformation, you may just begin to question how Kaylene (Bryce Dallas-Howard) has fallen for such a downtrodden hopeless wanderer. However it's her innocent undying belief in him that makes Wells' decline even more forceful. There is an essence of the childhood sweetheart in her demeanor, the archetypal support mechanism to Kenny's weaknesses. Yes, she rides on the wave of success to its highest heights with Wells, lavishing herself in material riches but in a way, she is the moral spine of the film, never losing sight of the real Kenny Wells she's grown up loving.

Kaylene acts just as much as the voice of reason as Michael Acosta and it is the combination of powerful relationships that we will really take away from the screen. The dizzying heights of financial success ultimately lead to a strenuous, yet somewhat predictable breakdown between Kenny and Kaylene and we can't help but feel like she is completely unworthy of any of it. Whiskey plus money plus the inability to maintain your dignity…. Well you know the rest. That's not saying Kenny Wells is a vile person, despite his, for want of a better term, shabby look. We're willing everything to work out for both of them, yet the American dream just becomes too much to handle.

McConaughey's character compared to the regimental sharp suited Wall Street bankers is a deliberate contrast by Gaghan. Our willingness for the sugar coated American dream to work out is pitted against the cold-hearted capitalist intentions of Brian (Corey Stoll). Wells' resilience to counteract an offer made by Stoll and his legion of top button fastened, tight tied troubadours, can only be admired.

The ambition to fight against globalization, to hold onto your dreams, to recapture lost determination and to let nothing stand in your way in fighting for what you want, is made believable through McConaughey's stellar performance. However, in what should be an adventure full of undying speed to keep up with the lustful desire for success, the film's narrative is too slow to match the pace of Wells' dreams. McConaughey is the glitter in a film without much gold. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Deleted Sequence
Feature Commentary with Director Stephen Gaghan
The Origins of Gold
The Locations of Gold
Matthew McConaughey as Kenny Wells

'Kiju Yoshida Collection' [7-Disc Limited Edition]
(Mariko Okada, Toshiyuki Hosokawa, Yûko Kusunoki, Kazuko Inano, Etsushi Takahashi, et al / 7-Disc Blu ray / NR / 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: The work of Kiju Yoshida is one of Japanese cinema's obscure pleasures. A contemporary of Nagisa Oshima (Death by Hanging, In the Realm of the Senses) and Masahiro Shinoda (Pale Flower, Assassination), Yoshida started out as an assistant to Keisuke Kinoshita before making his directorial debut at age 27. In the decades that followed he produced more than 20 features and documentaries, yet each and every one has proven difficult to see in the English-speaking world.

Blu-ray Verdict: 'Kiju Yoshida Collection' [7-Disc Limited Edition] brings together three works from the late sixties and early seventies, a loose trilogy united by their radical politics and an even more radical shooting style. "Eros + Massacre", presented here in both its 169-minute theatrical version and the full-length 220-minute director s cut, tells the parallel stories of early 20th-century anarchist (and free love advocate) Sakae Osugi and a pair of student activists. Their stories interact and intertwine, resulting in a complex, rewarding work that is arguably Yoshida's masterpiece.

"Heroic Purgatory" pushes the dazzling cinematic language of "Eros + Massacre" even further, presenting a bleak but dreamlike investigation into the political discourses taking place in early seventies Japan. "Coup d'etat" returns to the past for a biopic of Ikki Kita, the right-wing extremist who sought to overthrow the government in 1936. Yoshida considered the film to be the culmination of his work, promptly retiring from feature filmmaking following its completion.

"Eros + Massacre" (1969) is considered to be his masterpiece and the peak of the Japanese New Wave (Nuberu Bagu), a movement that Yoshida himself never considered to be a part of. The film lasts 3 1/2 hours and may be the most experimental and ambitious of all of Yoshida's 1960s works. A bunch of things are discussed in the film, most notably anarchism, existentialism and feminism. It's the first installment in Yoshida's Trilogy of Radicalism.

It tells two stories - one fictional, one biographical - the latter concerns the Japanese anarchist Sakae Osugi and is set in the 1920s. It's centered about his theories, ideas and relationships with three women - his wife, his first lover (who tries to kill him), and his second lover Noe Ito (played by Yoshida's wife Mariko Okada).

The second story is woven into the first, is fictional, and is set in the '60s, following a young female student named Eiko who researches Osugi's life. We follow her relationship with three men (similar to Osugi's three lovers), a pyroman called Wada who joins her in her research, a suicidal film director and a policeman who investigates her in suspicion that she's connected to a ring of prostitution.

The way the stories are connected is very, very loose and feels like a dream. Similar actions are repeated in both time periods, characters from the two periods interact with each other in ironic sequences, etc. From what I gathered from it, the major point of the film is showing that history may be nothing like people imagine or romanticize it. Truth is illusive, complicated and ambiguous.

"Heroic Purgatory" (1970) is the second film in the trilogy and it's definitely avant-garde in the classic sense of the term; marching in the vanguard of utilizing fluid experimental dream language. For my money, the best of the trilogy, it is never dull, never uninteresting and is a visually masterful. The story, no matter how evasive and at times elliptical like an afterthought, is actually very interesting.

I definitely see, based on this one film, how Yoshida might have influenced Wong, or even Malick's "modern style" from "The Tree of Life" (2011) onward. And if not, having seen this one really does add to the aforementioned directors' films, trust me.

I'm not sure whether the experience would lend itself for a repeat viewing anytime soon, since because of the elliptical nature of the film, despite the complete mastery of the visuals, and Yoshida is clearly a master at work, the film is purposefully obscure. But if one approaches it like a dream, it's a wonderful audiovisual journey through some very unusual ways to see the world.

"Coup d'etat" (1973) is most definitely a strange biopic about a military obsessive and nationalist socialist named Ikki Kita (somewhat in the style of Hitler) who encouraged a coup against the Japanese government in 1936 (infamously known as the "February 26th incident".) I say strange because a number of choices were made which gave the film a unique place in the history of biopics and specifically historical reenactments of the coup. Rarely has a biographical film been done with such a confident and dramatic touch.

Personally, and what makes this last part of the trilogy so captivating is the musical choices of Ichiyanagi Sei, who worked on a number of Yoshida films. At times is recalls Jissouji's Mujo (or This Transient Life), which seems as interested in minor key fiddle flourishes as Takemitsu styled percussion explosions. The score also boasts a twice repeated analog keyboard motif, which shows the melancholy and absence of life among the militarists. It underscores both a reprehensibly dour dream sequence, and channels an avant funeral march before the credits roll. These are all Full Screen presentations (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Limited Edition Blu-ray collection (3,000 copies)
High definition digital transfers supervised by Kiju Yoshida
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations for all films
Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM Audio on all films
New translated English subtitles on all films
Yoshida ...or: The Explosion of the Story a 30-minute documentary on Eros + Massacre with contributions from Yoshida and film critics Mathieu Capel and Jean Douchet
Introductions to Heroic Purgatory and Coup d'etat by Yoshida
Newly-filmed discussions of Eros + Massacre, Heroic Purgatory and Coup d'etat by David Desser, author of Eros Plus Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave, recorded exclusively for this release
Scene-select commentaries by David Desser on all three films
Heroic Purgatory theatrical trailer
Coup d'etat theatrical trailer
Limited edition packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm
Illustrated 80-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the films by David Desser, Isolde Standish (author of Politics, Porn and Protest: Japanese Avant-Garde Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s) and Dick Stegewerns (author of Kiju Yoshida: 50 Years of Avant-Garde Filmmaking in Post-War Japan)

'Kiju Yoshida Collection' [7-Disc Limited Edition] is available for purchase on May 9th, 2017.

'Kiju Yoshida Collection' [7-Disc Limited Edition] Purchase Link

'The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave' [BR]
(Anthony Steffen, Marina Malfatti, et al / Blu ray / R / (1971) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: At the height of the Italian giallo boom of the early 1970s, scores of filmmakers turned their hand to crafting their own unique takes on these lurid murder-mystery thrillers.

In 'The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave', director Emilio P. Miraglia (The Red Queen Kills Seven Times) melds the giallo's trademark twisty whodunit storytelling with gothic chills, concocting a gripping horror/thriller hybrid.

Blu-ray Verdict: Crazed wealthy English lord Alan Cunningham (well played by Anthony Steffen) frequents swanky clubs for beautiful redheaded women to take back to his remote castle in order to satisfy his deviant sexual practices. Alan meets, falls for, and decides to immediately marry the lovely Gladys (a charming portrayal by the fetching Marina Malfatti), who he hopes will pacify his troubled mind.

However, there are other forces at work to drive him insane. Director Emilio Miraglia does a bang-up job of creating and maintaining a genuinely creepy atmosphere while milking the twists and turns in the tricky plot for all they're worth.

Moreover, the full-on warped perversity gives the picture an extra sizzling kinky charge and the marvelous abundance of gorgeous gals aren't the least bit abashed about baring their fine bodies. The ravishing Erika Blanc positively burns up the screen as sexy stripper Susie; her coffin nightclub act is a real doozy.

The luscious Maria Teresa Tofano likewise makes a strong foxy impression as brash prostitute Polly. Despite all the depraved goings-on, director Miraglia somehow manages to add an element of posh elegance to the tawdry proceedings.

Kudos are also in order for the sound acting by the capable cast, with especially stand-out work from Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as concerned family physician Dr. Richard Timberlane and Enzo Tarascio as Alan's obsequious playboy cousin George Harriman. Gastone Di Giovanni's widescreen cinematography gives the picture a cool stylish look. Bruno Nicolai's groovy throbbing score hits the swinging spot. A total sleazy treat, 'The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave' [BR] is most definitely begging to be placed on your upcoming what-to-watch list this Halloween! This is a Full Screen presentation (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

• Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p)
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless DTS-HD Master Audio)
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Troy Howarth
• Exclusive introduction by Erika Blanc
• New interview with critic Stephen Thrower
• The Night Erika Came Out of the Grave – exclusive interview with Erika Blanc
• The Whip and the Body – archival interview with Erika Blanc
• Still Rising from the Grave – archival interview with production designer Lorenzo Baraldi
• Original Italian theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

'The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave' [BR] is available for purchase on April 18th, 2017.

'The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave' [BR] Purchase Link

'The Assassin (L'Assassino)' [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Marcello Mastroianni, Micheline Presle, et al / Blu ray+DVD / R / (1961) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Released within months of Fellini's 'La Dolce Vita' and Antonioni's 'La Notte', Elio Petri's dazzling first feature 'The Assassin (L'Assassino)' also stars Marcello Mastroianni, this time as dandyish thirtysomething antiques dealer Alfredo Martelli, arrested on suspicion of murdering his older, far wealthier lover Adalgisa (Micheline Presle).

Blu-ray Verdict: In 'The Assassin (L'Assassino)', the antiquarian Alfredo Martelli (Marcello Mastroianni) is brought to the precinct without any explanation to be interviewed by the Police Inspector Palumbo (Salvo Randone). During the questioning, Martelli learns that his wealthy mistress Adalgisa De Matteis (Micheline Presle), who is older than he, was stabbed to death and he is the prime suspect of the police officers.

While in jail, Martelli recalls moments of his life with Adalgisa and his love affair with the young Nicoletta Nogaro (Micheline Presle). Meanwhile the police proceed with the investigation.

A slow moving, although artistic triumph in most aspects, the cinematography in 'The Assassin (L'Assassino)' is excellent from start to finish and the background music is not only appropriate, but also essential in establishing the mood and atmosphere of the film. In terms of plot, it is rather interesting as a story of feelings of guilt and police interrogation, yet in seems a little short in plot substance, as at times the material really drags.

Indeed, the melding of flashbacks could also be improved on, as it is hard to distinguish between thoughts, memories and reality. However, the overall experience is excellent and the factors I've mention do not severely affect it, but it is not nearly perfect as a film.

In closing, 'The Assassin (L'Assassino)' is a dated thriller by Elio Petri in his debut as director. As it went on, the story line slightly recalled Franz Kafka's "The Trial" (where a man is arrested for an unspecified motive), but here Alfredo Martelli is a cynical man and the lack of communication between the characters keeps the atmosphere dark and gloomy. This is a Full Screen presentation (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

2K digital restoration from the Cineteca di Bologna
Uncompressed Mono 2.0 PCM Audio
Elio Petri and L’Assassino, an introduction by Italian cinema expert Pasquale Iannone
Tonino Guerra: A Poet in the Movies: Nicola Tranquillino’s documentary about the great Italian screenwriter
Theatrical Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring writing on the film by Petri expert Camilla Zamboni, Petri’s own critical analysis of 1950s Italian cinema, plus a selection of contemporary reviews

'The Assassin (L'Assassino)' [Blu-ray+DVD] is available for purchase on April 18th, 2017.

'The Assassin (L'Assassino)' [Blu-ray+DVD] Purchase Link

'The Red Queen Kills Seven Times' [Blu-ray]
(Barbara Bouchet, Sybil Danning, Ugo Pagliai, et al / Blu ray / R / (1972) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: At the height of the Italian giallo boom in the early 1970s, scores of filmmakers turned their hand to crafting their own unique takes on these lurid murder-mystery thrillers.

In 'The Red Queen Kills Seven Times', an age-old family curse hits sisters Kitty (Barbara Bouchet, Milano Calibro 9) and Franziska (Marina Malfatti, All the Colours of the Dark) following the death of their grandfather Tobias (Rudolf Schündler, The Exorcist, Suspiria). Every hundred years, so the legend goes, the bloodthirsty Red Queen returns and claims seven fresh victims. Was Tobias just the first... and are Kitty and Franziska next?

Blu-ray Verdict: This is a fascinating Giallo thriller from director Emilio Miraglia who returns to the genre after (The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave), and delivers something well and truly special. Presented in a psychedelic light, this little unknown gem 'The Red Queen Kills Seven Times' is a wonderful example of the genre with malicious murders, red herrings and everything the Giallo type can muster and all presented in such a fluid direction.

'The Red Queen Kills Seven Times' begins with two sisters Kitty and Evelyn who as children learn about a family curse that haunts The Widenbruck family every 100 years that a feud between two sisters ends in one of their deaths and the other one comes back as the Red Queen and kills seven people, before killing the remaining sister.

Then flash forward to 1972 where Kitty is now all grown up, and of course it seems that history is repeating itself with someone in a red cloak is murdering Kitty's friends, and Evelyn seems to be nowhere in sight, could it be her or has the ghost of the red queen come back for revenge.

In truth, 'The Red Queen Kills Seven Times' is a seriously loopy production, but it really wins outright when it's being its most unpredictable. There's a ruthless number of twists and turns and they all serve to up the stakes as people begin to get murdered one by one. The mystery surrounding the Red Queen is very intriguing, given the fact that she can kill and vanish without a trace, of course.

This concept is not squandered though as the director uses them to his advantage by incorporating creepy visuals and having everything filmed in a dream-like fashion. Such effects prove rather startling at times as a killer draped in a red cloak and a long black wig is a treat for the eyes in many a horror film.

All of these elements are handled beautifully and combined with a solid plot a many clever aforementioned plot twists and turns, it moves along at a brisk pace. It also features a wonderful score by Bruno Nicoladi that hits all the right notes, and sets nice tones for all the sadistic and bloody violence that we see. This is a Full Screen presentation (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

• Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p)
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless DTS-HD Master Audio)
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Alan Jones and Kim Newman
• Exclusive interview with actress Sybil Danning
• New interview with critic Stephen Thrower
• Archival introduction by production/costume designer Lorenzo Baraldi
• Dead à Porter – archival interview with Lorenzo Baraldi
• Rounding Up the Usual Suspects – archival interview with actor Marino Masé
• If I Met Emilio Miraglia Today – archival featurette with Erika Blanc, Lorenzo Baraldi and Marino Masé
• My Favourite… Films – archival interview with actress Barbara Bouchet
• Alternative opening
• Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

'The Red Queen Kills Seven Times' [Blu-ray] is available for purchase on April 18th, 2017.

'Django Prepare a Coffin' (2-Disc Special Edition)
(Terence Hill, Horst Frank, et al / Blu ray+DVD / NR / (1968) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Django the drifter returns in this classic sixties Spaghetti Western from Ferdinando Baldi (Texas Addio, Comin At Ya!), starring Terence Hill (They Call Me Trinity) as the wandering gunslinger, hired as executioner to a corrupt local politician who is framing innocent men, sending them to hang in an evil scheme to take hold of their land.

But Django has other ideas and, cleverly faking the deaths of the condemned men, he assembles them into a loyal gang who ll help him take down the boss, a man who had a hand in the death of Django s wife years before.

Blu-ray Verdict: Whilst 'Viva Django' is one of many Spaghetti Westerns to steal the "Django" moniker following the success of Corbucci's classic, this particular outing is a rarity in that it both captures the mood and effect of the original and actually contains the same character.

The story presumably acts as a prequel to the Corbucci movie, with Django (on this occasion played by Terence Hill) hellbent on revenge following the murder of his wife at the hands of Lucas (George Eastman) and his gang. Django was sold-out by his former friend and politician David Barry (Horst Frank).

Years have passed and Django is acting as the local hangman, whose job is to execute 'innocent' locals who have been framed by Barry for the thefts carried out on his behalf by the Lucas gang. Both are unaware that Django is faking the executions, and recruiting the condemned for his act of revenge.

Few of these men can be trusted however, and whilst Django's back is turned (during the rescue of the innocent wife of one of the group members from the hangman's noose) a number sabotage Django's plot and beat Lucas' gang to a proposed ambush of a cash shipment. I shall ruin the plot no more.

This is perhaps Terence Hill's greatest role (albeit in effect playing Franco Nero playing Django) as I personally often find his slapstick styling of later movies difficult to grasp. Here however he oozes class, clad all in black and convincingly playing the character second only to the Man With No Name for pure charisma.

The rest of the cast is also a real treat - with both Eastman and Frank as brilliant as ever. Eastman's characters always manage to be quite likable regardless of their bad morals and actions, whilst Frank just oozes with evil. Two of the great great supporting actors of the genre. This is a Full Screen presentation (1:66.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

New High Definition digital transfer of the film in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio
Optional English and Italian audio tracks
Newly translated English subtitles for Italian audio and English SDH for the deaf and hard of hearing on the English audio
Django Explained A new interview with Spaghetti Western expert and author Kevin Grant
Original Trailer
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet by critic and Spaghetti Western expert Howard Hughes

'Django Prepare a Coffin' (2-Disc Special Edition) is available for purchase on April 25th, 2017.

'Django Prepare a Coffin' (2-Disc Special Edition) Purchase Link

'Three Brothers (Special Edition)' [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Philippe Noiret, Michele Placido, Simonetta Stefanelli, et al / Blu ray+DVD / NR / (1981) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Francesco Rosi established himself as one of the greatest chroniclers of Italy's stormy postwar history with such riveting classics as Salvatore Giuliano, The Mattei Affair and Illustrious Corpses. 'Three Brothers (Tre fratelli)' explores similarly knotty social and political territory through the seemingly straightforward story of three siblings returning to their native southern Italy to pay homage to their late mother.

Blu-ray Verdict: 'Three Brothers (Tre fratelli)' opens with an old man going to the telegraph office and transmitting the news of the decease of their mother to his three sons (who live scattered all over Italy).

The sons, who then arrive one by one in the South Italian village of the father, are far apart from each other, not only concerning their age. They have also taken completely different roads in their professional careers and in their spiritual developments.

The first one, a judge, has to deal with terrorist cases and every day has to reckon with being killed cold-bloodedly by the mafia. The second one could almost be one of the terrorists himself, at least he strives for societal changes, being a worker and a trade union member. The third one has dedicated his life completely to the fulfillment of utopian educational targets and looks after maladjusted juvenile delinquents in a boarding school.

The Italy presented by Rosi is as disunited as the chosen family. It is not only geographically split into two incompatible halves, the North and the South, but also sociologically into different classes that stand facing each other irreconcilably. But "Tre fratelli" has more to offer than just regional or social conflicts.

Life itself becomes the center of attention, apart from the three brothers, who represent middle age, also the old father and his eight-year-old grand-daughter are dominating protagonists. These two are able to form a curious alliance of old age and youth, whereas the brothers are just talking at cross purposes in senseless discussions and only reach a sentiment of unison through the mourning at their mother's funeral.

The little girl wants to know a lot about the past, and the old man is willing to remember. He finally recalls the perhaps most blissful moment of his life: Shortly after his wedding he accompanies his wife to the beach, where they both enjoy a short spell of light-heartedness, just before the hard struggle of earning one's living will demand all their forces.

There the woman is playing in the sand, lost in thought, but then she suddenly rouses from her daydream and calls out the name of her husband: She can't find her wedding ring, which she has removed accidentally, and now it seems to be lost in the sand. Everything is at stake, but tragedy can be averted for the man keeps his cool, rushes to the next house and comes back with a sieve. A little later he holds the recovered ring in his hands triumphantly.

This event seems to have been meaningful for the further living together of the couple, only the late arrival of Death intervenes in this apparently undisturbed harmony. The feelings of the old man are now marked by sorrow and grief because of the loss, but not by bewilderment or anger. These are the laws of Nature, which he has to obey.

In the last take he therefore just slips on that ring again, the ring that signifies one thing in particular to this man who is about to reach the end of his journey. It shows him the reality of his life, that short spell of time that has slipped away so incredibly fast but of which at least he has the comforting certainty of having used it well. This is a Full Screen presentation (1:66.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

2K restoration from original film materials
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
Optional newly translated English subtitles
Archival interview with Francesco Rosi
Original theatrical trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring an essay by Professor Millicent Marcus, a 1981 interview with Rosi and a selection of contemporary reviews (first printing only)

'Three Brothers (Special Edition)' [Blu-ray+DVD] is available for purchase on April 25th, 2017.

'Three Brothers (Special Edition)' [Blu-ray+DVD] Purchase Link

'Caltiki The Immortal Monster (Special Edition)'
(John Merivale, Didi Sullivan, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, et al / Blu ray+DVD / NR / (1959) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: A team of archaeologists led by Dr John Fielding (John Merivale, Circus of Horrors) descends on the ruins of an ancient Mayan city to investigate the mysterious disappearance of its inhabitants. However, the luckless explorers get more than they bargained for when their investigation of a sacrificial pool awakens the monster that dwells beneath its waters the fearsome and malevolent god Caltiki.

Blu-ray Verdict: For those not in the know, much of the cinematography of the Italian-made 'Caltiki The Immortal Monster' is in black and white - and yet, for my money, is thoroughly noir in its detail. [Mario Bava is credited with it]. This is a sci-fi/horror/blob picture out of Italy and an extremely well-done movie, utilizing models at times for special effects in the Japanese style. While not a film noir, persay, it has the shadowy lighting in spades.

It shares also a certain politically-inspired paranoia of that period in which civilization, even mankind, is threatened. Quite often in these films, scientists have a hand in discovering this or even causing this but also a hand in conquering it. Radioactivity plays a role, but in this one it's linked to the periodic arrival of a comet.

The film's opening could not be more atmospheric, showing darkly lit volcanic landscapes and spires and a man fleeing. The shapes of the Mayan-era volcanic masses compete easily with the vampiric Carpathians. It's like a much more intense reworking of the opening to 'Kiss Me Deadly' (1955). A huge grotto accessed by a steep stone staircase weathered by age provides another stunning backdrop, in a remote way going back to sets in 'Son of Frankenstein' (1939), a great sci-fi/horror movie with a relation to noir.

In the climax, the all-absorbing blob, a single-celled genetic throwback with a taffy-like interior and a glistening coat-like exterior, threatens the chief scientist's wife and child, subliminal symbols of the nation, justice, earth, fecundity and the future. Able to absorb bullets and tanks, it can only be destroyed by something mythically as elemental.

In closing, I feel like I should point out that one ugly moment has one of the psychotic characters being shown inside Caltiki. Practically dissolving into a skeleton before your eyes an actual survivor of Caltiki also literally has their arm chewed off. This isn't going to be for everybody, sure, but I can see why it has a cult following. This is a Full Screen presentation (1:66.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

• XXXX (transfer)
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark
• New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava and So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
• From Quatermass to Caltiki, a new discussion with author and critic Kim Newman on the influence of classic monster movies on Caltiki
• Riccardo Freda, Forgotten Master, an archival interview with critic Stefano Della Casa
• The Genesis of Caltiki, an archival interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi
• Archival introduction to the film by Stefano Della Casa
• Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
• Alternate opening titles for the US version
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys

'Caltiki The Immortal Monster (Special Edition)' is available for purchase on April 25th, 2017.

'Caltiki The Immortal Monster (Special Edition)' Purchase Link

'The Jacques Rivette Collection' [Limited Edition]
(Joe Dallesandro, Bulle Ogier, Maria Schneider, et al / 6-Disc Blu ray+DVD / NR / 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: The Jacques Rivette Collection brings together some of the director’s hardest to see works, each restored, newly translated and debuting on home video for the first time in UK.

Blu-ray Verdict: In 1975, Jacques Rivette reunited with Out 1 producer Stéphane Tchal Gadjieff with the idea of a four-film cycle. He would create a quartet of interconnected films, each in a different genre. One was to be a love story, another a Western, and there was to be a fantastical thriller and a musical comedy starring Anna Karina and Jean Marais too.

Ill health intervened, and only two of the films were completed. 'Duelle' (une quarantine) (1976) was the first and sees Rivette in fantasy territory, cross-pollinating Val Lewton, Jean Cocteau and film noir as the Queen of the Sun (Bulle Ogier) and the Queen of the Night (Juliet Berto) search for a magical diamond in present day.

In truth, Rivette's overt and unmistakable belief in the eternal presence of God and Satan on earth makes this film unfashionable to the materialistic tastes of the cultured liberal brute. If it were less sincere, this film could have been one of Rivette's most popular. It's true that there is always something special about the first collaboration between a cinematographer and a director, and so William Lubtchansky righteously takes Rivette out of the scratchy 16 mm ghetto he was so fond of and plans him right into a glossy, bejewelled Euro trash-lit world.

This slight, ghostly tale of two goddesses of the sun and the moon who are permitted to spend only forty days on earth per year has a strange, ethereal quality which recalls the ambiguity and hidden menace of 'Cat People'. Playing the lead roles are Rivette regulars Bulle Ogier and Juliet Berto, the latter who is totally mesmerizing. Whilst the settings in a race-track, a run-down hotel, a deserted metro station, and a dance hall have a seedy, haunted feel and set the tone perfectly throughout.

Its parallel film, 'Noroît' (une vengeance) (1976), is a pirate tale and a loose adaptation of The Revenger's Tragedy starring Geraldine Chaplin (Nashville, Cría cuervos). That said, there are also some allusions to Hamlet by William Shakespeare in the scene of play-inside-play; including original text by Cyril Tourneur. The action more resembles a ballet than pirate adventures and the scenes of vengeful murders are symbolically histrionic and artfully conditional.

Usually, a lack of a coherent narrative can be compensated for through other means such as through a Beckettian abstract aesthetic or through a Bergmanesque dreamscape. There are numerous films that lack story enough that they allow you to discover the other facets of cinema, but this one does not sincerely arrive at any kind of relevant revelation.

With the liberty to fiddle with cameras and a cast, Rivette works out what cinema can't achieve more than what it can. It's viewing interest is comparable to reading the private notes of an established artist or author to better understand how he comes to put together his more meritorious works.

A third film began production Marie et Julien starring Albert Finney and Leslie Caron, but Rivette succumbed to nervous exhaustion and shooting was abandoned. When he did return to filmmaking, Rivette borrowed some of the elements of Duelle and Noroît and came up with 'Merry-Go-Round' (1981). Joe Dallesandro (Trash, Flesh for Frankenstein) and Maria Schneider (Last Tango in Paris, The Passenger) are summoned to Paris, which leads to one of the most surreal and mysterious tales in a career that was dominated by surrealism and mystery.

Again, in truth, this one is mainly for Rivette completists. There are gaps in the plot and a lack of commitment on the part of some actors, notably Schneider which ensure that this film will not be counted among Rivette's greatest. Overall, the story is not weak - it's an amalgam of film noir and road movie - but the way it is told, in a slap dash manner leaving too much up to chance, disappointed me.

The great pleasure in 'Merry-Go-Round' is provided by John Surman's mournful work on bass clarinet, which often seem more interesting than what the actors are doing. Joe Dallesandro exercised a fascination on more than one filmmaker and he does here too. His mad chase through the woods pursued by a knight in armor recalls the fight scene in 'Black Moon'! Overall, and in conclusion, and in my own humble opinion, the screenplay here looks like an assemblage of elements that were randomly picked out of a hat!

Also included is Out 1, one of the crowning achievements of Rivette's remarkable career. Conceived as a television mini-series, this near-thirteen-hour monolith consists of eight feature-length episodes revolving around two theatre troupes, blackmail and conspiracy. Multiple characters introduce multiple plot lines, weaving a rich tapestry across an epic run time.

Originally screened just the once in its full-length version in 1971, 'Out 1' was then re-conceived by Rivette as a four-and-a-half-hour feature and re-named 'Out 1: Spectre' to acknowledge its shadow-like nature. Both are presented in this boxed-set, fully restored and with newly-translated English subtitles. These are all Full Screen presentations (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Limited Edition Collection [3,000 Copies]
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of all films from brand new 2K restorations of the films with Out 1 supervised by cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn
Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-rays)
Optional newly-translated English subtitles for all films
The Mysteries of Paris: Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 Revisited – a brand-new feature length documentary by Robert Fischer and Wilfried Reichart
containing interviews with actors Bulle Ogier, Michael Lonsdale and Hermine Karagheuz, cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn, assistant director Jean-François Stévenin and producer Stéphane Tchalgadjieff, as well as rare archival interviews with actors Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and Michel Delahaye, and director Jacques Rivette
Scenes from a Parallel Life: Jacques Rivette Remembers – archive interview with the director, in which he discusses Duelle (une quarantaine), Noroît (une vengeance) and Merry-Go-Round, featuring additional statements from Bulle Ogier and Hermine Karagheuz
Brand-new interview with critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, who reported from the sets of both Duelle (une quarantaine) and Noroît (une vengeance)
Exclusive perfect-bound book containing new writing on the films by Mary M. Wiles, Brad Stevens, Ginette Vincendeau and Nick Pinkerton

'The Jacques Rivette Collection' [6-Disc Limited Edition] Purchase Link

'3:10 to Yuma' [4K Ultra HD Blu-ray + Digital HD]
(Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Logan Lerman, Ben Foster, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD / R / (2007) 2017 / LGF)

Blu-ray Overview: A small-time rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who's awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma. A battle of wills ensues as the outlaw tries to psych out the rancher.

DVD Verdict: Before we begin the review, let's start by acknowledging the INCREDIBLE, brighter, deeper, more lifelike color that these 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays bring forth, each and every time. For they are, well, INCREDIBLE and truly allow you to see things that the generic Blu-ray vision simply cannot. I mean, the color alone on this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc - which comes as a two-disc set (1 BD-50, 1 BD-66) - is just so crisp, so clear, so crystal.

For those that wish to be in the know, let's break down some of the geeky stats, shall we. This is a Codec: HEVC / H.265, with a Resolution: 4K (2160p), and an overall Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1. The Audio is English: Dolby Atmos + English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 + Spanish: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 + French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1, and the Subtitles are: English SDH, French, and Spanish.

Finally, and leaving the best for last, this 4K Ultra HD movie experience means that we have a 4X sharper picture image than regular HD, HDR (High Dynamic Range) means we get brilliant brights and deepest dark's within the film, and with Immersive Audio, we get that multi-dimensional sound experience throughout.

OK, on to the actual film review and the story pivots around Dale Evans, a dirt-poor farmer raising a family. One day he happens upon the charming outlaw Ben Wade, and then has the good fortunate to capture said outlaw. When it is declared that Wade will be escorted to Contention, to be put aboard the 3:10 train to Yuma Prison, Evans volunteers to help, in order to raise funds for his family. Things go wrong, of course, as Wade's gang is in hot pursuit.

Let the bullets fly! Christian Bale is a knockout as always; the man is a chameleon. Russell Crowe lightens the screen with his portrayal of the seductive Wade (as he declares in a deleted scene: "People like me!"). The scenes between these two great actors provide more tension than any gunfire director James Mangold has to offer (and he has a lot).

Peter Fonda adds a sense of class - not to mention plain old menace - as a corrupt Pinkerton detective. Ben Foster, as the psychotic Charlie Prince, is a delight to watch; he actually manages to steal some of the pivotal scenes. The film is layered with roles from actors you know; Alan Tudyk provides some jokes as the veterinarian-turned-doctor, and Luke Wilson shows a surprising knack for western menace in his cameo role.

The action is quick, of course. '3:10 to Yuma' is a western, after all, and so it never (thankfully) really tries to be anything else but. Sure, it's more a thinking-man's western in some regards; the budding relationship between Wade and Evans is the focal point of the movie. But if you want action, you'll get it; bullets fly, wagons crash, caverns cave in, and quite a few people die. The main focus, though, is on the acting, which is all top notch; as Peter Fonda says in one of the delicious behind-the-scenes Making-of Featurette: "I ride like the wind. I hate it, but I make it look good. That's acting."

Speaking of bonus features, this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray + Digital HD edition comes equipped with a bevy of really interesting Featurettes and such, the one that stood out for me being a documentary about the reality of what we perceive as the "Wild West." Hope you aren't too surprised to learn Hollywood blew things are of proportion! The addition of the documentary speaks volumes for Mangold's ideas for the movie; this is a western that never tries to transcend its genre - and by staying in place, it becomes great.

Sometimes, it's nice to see a movie revel in what it is, and never try to be more than it should. Plus, it's still nice to see a good contemporary western some 10 years on; they don't make 'em much anymore. It doesn't matter if '3:10 to Yuma' is a remake; it is a good movie on its own. See the original, of course; but watch this one too.

For you western purists, you'll enjoy it; while it does, in spots, try to be a bit more realistic, there's still plenty of the western bravado you've come to expect from Hollywood. If you like action movies look no further. Simply put, '3:10 to Yuma' is one of the best action films in recent years, with Oscar-worthy performances and enough bullets to satisfy even the most ruthless outlaw's blood lust. Enjoy!

Chock full with delightful Special Features, some of my own personal favorites were aforementioned, but another couple include both “The Guns of Yuma” Featurette and the Historical Timeline of the West. Wow, both are as exciting, for all fans of westerns as anything that has gone before; especially the latter, which details seemingly every step in the West's evolution.

Another great one, if you are into the musical elements of any film (which you should be as they make the film - I mean, imagine watching a film, any film, in complete silence save for the words spoken from the TV and speakers attached therein; you would go nuts, so that's where the score's importance comes in) is the “3:10 to Score” Featurette. Helming it is the talented Marco Beltrami who actually scored five movies released in 2007: the American thriller Captivity, the Danish comedy Vikaren, the American mystery called The Invisible, the Bruce Willis action-adventure comeback Live Free or Die Hard, and, finally, yep, this one from director James Mangold.

Beltrami made sure that this prestigious remake of the classic western was going to pulsate accordingly to the era, and so he created a fabulously engaging back track to '3:10 to Yuma'; one for the ages, in truth. In closing, watching it all unfold in the West once again, but this time on 4K Ultra HD it is truly an amazing viewing experience. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• Audio Commentary with Director James Mangold
• “3:10 to Score” Featurette
• “Sea to Shining Sea” Documentary
• “A Conversation with Elmore Leonard” Featurette
• “The Guns of Yuma” Featurette
• Historical Timeline of the West (Blu-ray™ Only)
• Inside Yuma: An Exclusive Blu-ray Disc™ Interactive Experience
• “Destination 3:10 to Yuma” Making-Of Documentary
• “An Epic Explored” Featurette
• “Outlaws, Gangs, and Posses” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes

'3:10 to Yuma' - Official 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack Trailer

'The Salesman' [Blu-ray]
(Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Babak Karimi, Mina Sadati, et al / Blu-ray / PG-13 / 2017 / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: After their old flat becomes damaged, Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), a young couple living in Tehran, are forced to move into a new apartment. Eventually, an incident linked to the previous tenant of their new home dramatically changes the couple’s life.

Blu-ray Verdict: Well, I have to say I loved this new movie. Indeed, I loved it so much I passed it along to a friend to watch, who has subsequently passed it along to her parents. That said, please be aware that the draw of director Asghar Farhadi's oeuvre at times feels very political. The widening cultural, religious and diplomatic gap between the United States and Iran has thus far been stabilized by chilly detente of necessity. Yet if we take our current political climate seriously, such distanced estrangement wont likely last past the New Year.

Still film artists like Farhadi, Mohsen Makhmalbaf and the late Abbas Kiarostami have been at the forefront of this complex sandbox of truces and tough talk, making films about Iranian society that easily find reception among America's leftist intelligentsia. Their work, while often critical of Iranian society, nevertheless channels some powerful messaging. They often feel like cries for temperance and peace in a world that becomes ever more belligerent with each passing moment.

'The Salesman' doesn't break that continuity, once again garnering a cultural exchange while engaging its audience with an innately human story. The film begins abruptly with a young couple, Rana (Alidoosti) and Emad Etesami (Hosseini) being forced out of their apartment in the middle of the night along with their neighbors. Their building has become unstable after an earthquake and they are desperate to find a place to stay. Babak (Karimi), a fellow player in the couple's production of "Death of a Salesman," suggests they replace one of his tenants who has been struggling to pay her rent.

To explain more would ruin the discovery of one of the most morally complex and painfully human stories since A Separation (2011) to come across the screen. All of the character choices seem genuine and perfectly understandable given the circumstances yet the buildup from those decisions come back in interesting and often devastating ways.

Emad, a schoolteacher, approaches most of his problems through an amalgam of analysis and judgment yet the implications of the script trap him in a doleful dilemma he simply can't shake. So too does the script trap the sensitive Rana, who at a pivotal moment becomes fractured like the windows of the couple's slowly collapsing apartment. She suffers through sullen drifts and withdrawals, angry outbursts and bouts of pity; and does so through a filter of feminine devoir.

As our female lead, and really, our emotional interpreter, Taraneh Alidoosti's is frightfully on point. Her continual work with Farhadi over the years seems to have given her the ability to really take chances with this role. Her every gaze feels like a provocation and her character's improbable honor wells with a sense of sad power thanks largely to her expressive face.

The fact that 'The Salesman' features Arthur Miller's ode to the common man is very appropriate indeed. While the play within the movie balances themes of justice, trust and the abstraction of political violence, the film takes those same themes and filters them through the emptiness of personal revenge. How appropriate then that Emad, plays Willy Loman, a character who's powerlessness leads to his ruination.

Much like About Elly (2009) however, 'The Salesman' has a habit of reaching its moral conclusion far before reaching its actual, physical conclusion. The third act, while strong and refreshingly classic in its humanism, can't help but feel like it's dawdling; leaving its human frailties exposed like bleaching bones. Additionally, in today's political climate, Farhadi's chase for universality can't help but look like he's purposely pandering to his western audience. Don't get me wrong, the film is still very much a depiction of modern Iran in microcosm, but now there's a lens of compromised diplomacy.

That said, 'The Salesman' is still a strong work of social commentary that approaches the staid, workmanlike zenith of Farhadi's best works. Shahab Hosseini and especially Taraneh Alidoosti are pitch perfect as a young, childless couple that struggle with tough moral dilemmas and the feckless invisible structures that force them to plow through them. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

- A Conversation with Writer-Director Asghar Farhadi

'Beaches' [2017]
(Nia Long, Idina Menzel, et al / DVD / PG-13 / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: Relive the powerful story of lifelong friendship in an all-new remake of the classic movie when 'Beaches' arrives on DVD at Walmart on May 9th from Lionsgate.

DVD Verdict: Well, I have to say I loved this new remake. Indeed, I loved it so much I passed it along to a friend to watch, who has subsequently passed it along to her parents. A remake of the 1988 original movie starring Bette Milder as CC Bloom and Barbara Hershey as Hilary, Tony Award® winner Idina Menzel's rendition of Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" was amazing and sung so beautifully. The film retells the story of a friendship between two women from different backgrounds that spans from childhood to adulthood and also serves up Nia Long in such a role one wonders if they held off remaking this all these years just to ensure she would be available to film it.

Indeed, NAACP Image Award Winner Nia Long's portrayal of Hillary Whitney was great, like Barbra Hershey in the original film her character goes through many changes beginning with befriending CC Bloom who wants to be a star to becoming a lawyer, wife and then eventually a single mother is handled well.

Fellow cast members Gabriella Pizzolo, Grace Capeless, Antonio Cupo, Colin Lawrence, Sanai Victoria , Jodi Capeless and Donny Lucas rounded out the cast perfectly.

In this contemporary remake, 'Beaches' follows the serendipitous meeting of two young girls on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, who, though worlds apart in lifestyle, embark on an unexpected and lifelong friendship. CC (Menzel) is an aspiring singer trying to make it in Los Angeles when she is discovered by a director who gives her her first big shot. Hillary (Long), the daughter of a prominent civil rights lawyer, struggles to find her own destiny. Their friendship — even with its ups and downs — sustains them for decades. Much like this movie remake, watching it will sustain your viewing needs delightfully - even if it is only for 90 minutes a day. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Frank Sinatra: The Timex Shows Vols. 1+2'
(Frank Sinatra / DVD / NR / 2017 / Eagle Vision)

Overview: 'The Frank Sinatra Collection' brings together some of Frank Sinatra's finest performances on television and in concert. This first volume combines his first two Timex TV shows from the late fifties, whereas the second volume combines his two final Timex TV shows from 1960 (To The Ladies + Welcome Home Elvis).

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'The Frank Sinatra Timex Show was first broadcast by ABC on October 19th, 1959 and was the first of four Timex sponsored television specials that Sinatra hosted. In truth, and having not seen or heard of these shows before receiving these DVDs for review, it's a really fun and energetic show that captures Frank Sinatra at the top of his game.

With recurring guests including friends old and (at the time) new, such as Dean Martin, Mitzi Gaynor, Nancy Sinatra, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis Jr, Bing Crosby (all who joined forces for an opening rendition of 'High Hopes', Jimmy Durante and more, this first volume features both THE FRANK SINATRA TIMEX SHOW and AN AFTERNOON WITH FRANK SINATRA.

First broadcast by ABC in late October of 1959, THE FRANK SINATRA TIMEX SHOW beings forth some incredible live performances from the music legend, and just continue to showcase what a voice the man truly had. Together with a host of celeb names popping in, such as the aforementioned Nancy Sinatra, Joey Bishop, Mitzi Gaynor, Sammy Davis Jr and co, it's Frank, Bing, Dean, and Mitzi who first do a tongue-in-cheek "Cheek to Cheek." Frank, Bing, and Dean then sing "Together" and back that up with a medley of "old" songs: "Down by the Old Mill Stream," "The Old Gray Mare," "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree," "That Old Feeling," "The Old Ox Road," "Rockin' Chair," "Old Devil Moon," "You're an Old Smoothie," "My Old Flame," and "Old Man River." They then combine once more for a medley of Jimmy Durante songs: "Start Out Each Day With a Song," "Inka Dinka Doo," and "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey" (joined on the latter by Mitzi and Durante himself).

AN AFTERNOON WITH FRANK SINATRA (the second of Sinatra's four Timex television specials) was first broadcast by ABC on December 13th, 1959 and included guest appearances from Peter Lawford, Hermione Gingold, The Hi-Lo's, Red Norvo's jazz combo, dancer Juliet Prowse and the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald.

A real delight, for the eyes and soul from start to finish, with vibraphonist Red Norvo and his combo, Frank does "Too Marvelous For Words" and "Here Is That Rainy Day." The Hi-Lo's sing "The Desert Song," and with the addition of Frank, "I'll Never Smile Again." Peter and Hermione do "Comes Love" before Ella sings "There's a Lull in My Life," "Just You, Just Me," and Frank joins her for "Can't We Be Friends?"

The whole cast performs a lip-synched medley of Gershwin "love" songs: "He Loves and She Loves" (Ella), "Love Walked Right In" (The Hi-Lo's), "Love Is Here to Stay" (Frank), and "Love Is Sweeping the Country" (Ella/Peter and Hermione/Juliet/Frank). As I say, a real, pure, honest and delightful gem of a show from start to finish.

Volume 2 (available separately) begins with TO THE LADIES, starred Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Mary Costa, Barbara Heller, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Juliet Prowse. The show was written by John Bradford and directed by Richard dunlap and, once again, by Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra.

First broadcast by ABC on February 15th, 1960, TO THE LADIES surrounded Sinatra with a host of wonderful female performers for his third Timex sponsored television special. It's a mix of comedy, opera, dancing and great songs and features some wonderful interactive singing moments.

Frank sings "To the Ladies," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Lonely Town," and "My Heart Stood Still" whilst Mary sings "Ouvre ton coeur" from Bizet's Vasco de Gama and "Yours Is My Heart Alone". Barbara performs Gershwin's "By Strauss" and "Afraid of Love" whilst Lena sings "Ring the Bell," "But Beautiful," "From This Moment On," and "My Heart Belongs to Daddy."

To commemorate Harold Arlen's birthday, Frank and Lena do a medley of the composer's songs: "As Long As I Live" (Lena), "It's Only a Paper Moon" (Frank), "One For My Baby" (Lena), "Ac Cent Tchu Ate the Positive" (Frank), "Stormy Weather" (Lena), "Get Happy" (Frank), "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" (Lena and Frank). Juliet then sings and dances to a variation on Frank's "Come Dance With Me," retitled "Come Cha Cha Cha With Me" and does a ballet to "My Funny Valentine." Finally, Eleanor Roosevelt recites the lyrics to "High Hopes" (I kid you not!)

WELCOME HOME ELVIS (the fourth, and final of the Timex Shows) was a 1960 television special on ABC starring Frank Sinatra and featuring, of course, Elvis Presley in his first televised appearance since coming home from his military service in Germany. The special was officially titled It's Nice to Go Traveling, but is more commonly known as Welcome Home Elvis. Featuring Elvis on his first TV appearance in three years, the special also featured Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, and Nancy Sinatra; who later starred with Elvis in his 1968 film Speedway.

Elvis performed "Fame and Fortune" and "Stuck on You", which were the two sides of his first post-army single and he also performed a duet with Sinatra. Elvis then performed Sinatra's classic "Witchcraft" while Frank performed the Elvis classic "Love Me Tender". For me, watching these two music icons swap vocals on each others hits was both surreal and award-winning TV right there!

However, and strangely, none of these performances were released on record until the 1980s. Presley also sings a verse during the opening production number, "Frank closes the show with a reprise of "It's Nice To Go Trav'ling," which has also yet to be commercially released. The remainder of the special consisted of performances by the additional guest stars. Guests such as Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr., who (after Davis does some impersonations) sing a duet together: "Shall We Dance". Davis also sings "There's A Boat Dat's Leaving Soon For New York" earlier in the show, and Frank closes the show with a reprise of "It's Nice To Go Trav'ling."

This particular Timex show was a great success grabbing 41.5 percent of the ratings, but with Frank widely renowned for being no fan of Elvis's brand of music (he had actually had a few choice words to say about it in the past), the producers were obviously worried about how their on screen camaraderie would pan out. They needed have worried, because for whatever reason these two were brought together - a ratings ploy or simply to placate his teenage daughter - Sinatra was feeling gracious enough to not only invite Presley to join him on his show, but to sing his songs! These are both Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Brain Damage' (2-Disc Special Edition)
(Rick Hearst, Jennifer Lowry, Theo Barnes, John Zacherley, et al / Blu-ray+DVD / R / (1988) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: One morning, a young man wakes to find that a small, disgusting creature has attached itself to the base of his brain stem. The creature gives him a euphoric state of happiness but demands human victims in return.

Blu-ray Verdict: One of the strange things about horror is the way it doesn't really cross over into other genres. You love it or hate it. If you hate it, read no further. Even within the horror medium, 'Brain Damage' is at the low-budget end - the grindhouse of horror. Its creative tension, daring story line and genuinely unsettling dreadfulness however, separate it from the comedy-loaded outrage of John Waters or the excessive caricatures of Troma. As many friends of mine have endlessly pointed out, it shares more with films such 'Bride Of Re-Animator' or lost classics such as 'Thundercrack'.

My first introduction to Henenlotter's weird and wonderful work was probably in an all-night horror screening of a film he made couple of years after 'Brain Damage', 'Frankenhooker'. I gasped at the sheer audacity of someone producing such dark humor with such outrageous themes. A mad student's girlfriend is mashed in a lawnmower. He keeps her head but is lacking the other bits. He wants to re-animate her. So he goes hunting in the red light district for missing body parts. By the time he made 'Frankenhooker', Henenlotter was already a legend to his fans. Partly because of his 1985 debut, 'Basket Case', and secondly due to this masterly film, 'Brain Damage'.

The soon-to-be-damaged hero is Brian (Rick Hearst). Brian inherits a monster from a nice little Jewish couple living nearby. The monster (named Elmer) attaches itself to the back of a host's neck. It can then either inject the brain with a drug halfway between LSD and heroin. Or it can suck the brains out and eat them.

Our Jewish couple had tried to 'tame' the monster by feeding it mere animal brains. Elmer doesn't let his new host get away with such meager cuisine. He gets Brian high and then suggests they take a walk together. Elmer's feeling 'hungry'.

"I never intended to offend," says Henenlotter on the commentary featurette. Indeed, he made one version for home consumption and an unedited version (only now released on DVD) for the world outside of the USA. It might not be totally tongue in cheek. The two scenes that are most controversial are a graphic brain-sucking scene and a fellatio gag (pun intended). In the latter, Brian picks up a girl at a nightclub and she comes on to him in an alleyway. Instead of a mouthful of Brian, she gets a mouthful of Elmer. Elmer thrusts through into her skull until he can suck out the contents.

Apart from the clever drug references ("What if God gave earth as a drug?" asks the writer), Elmer is clearly a phallic substitute and a masterpiece of low-budget inspiration. Although very ugly in appearance (imagine an outsized, very diseased penis), it speaks in a normal, intelligent and soothingly charismatic voice. Elmer is cheeky and persuasive. Pulling off such incongruity (between looks and the voice) is a remarkable achievement. Henelotter manages it by clever suspense and keeping us endlessly curious about how plot line and story will develop. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Digital transfer from original film elements
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary by writer-director Frank Henenlotter
Brand new interviews with cast and crew
Q&A with Henenlotter recorded at the 2016 Offscreen Film Festival
Theatrical Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY! Limited edition O-card with exclusive artwork
Collector's Booklet with new writing on the film by Michael Gingold

'Brain Damage' (2-Disc Special Edition) is available for purchase on May 9th, 2017.

'Wolf Guy' (2-Disc Special Edition)
(Sonny Chiba, Rikiya Yasuoka, et al / Blu-ray+DVD / R / (1975) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba is WOLFGUY, the only survivor of a clan of werewolves who relies on his feral, full-moon-activated superpowers to solve mysterious crimes. One night, a bizarre and bloody death in the Tokyo streets plunges him into a far-reaching conspiracy populated by crooked politicians, naked white women, bit-players like Hideo Murota, a phantom tiger, and -- best of all -- a shadowy organization.

Blu-ray Verdict: Shinichi 'Sonny' Chiba is a martial arts "manimal" in the ultra-70's, 100% bizarre mixture of horror, action and sci-fi that is 'Wolf Guy'; one of the rarest and most sought-after cult films produced by Japan's Toei Studio.

Based on a manga by Kazumasa Hirai (creator of 8 Man), and never before released outside of Japan, it's a genre film classic waiting to be discovered and a completely unclassifiable trip into phantasmagoric funk!

Chiba stars as Akira Inugami, the only survivor of a clan of ancient werewolves who relies on his supernatural powers to solve mysterious crimes. After a series of bloody killings perpetrated by an unseen force, Inugami uncovers a conspiracy involving a murdered cabaret singer, corrupt politicians, and a plot by the J-CIA to harvest his blood in order to steal his lycanthropic powers!

At the same time, Inugami also discovers the truth behind his family heritage, and that he may not be the last of his kind. Kicking things off in fine, uptempo style, 'Wolf Guy' contains wondrous acting flourishes galore. Chock full of violence, gore and excitement en masse, it's only a small scale splattering of the completely over the top "mess" that it will soon dissolve into.

And that's not to say that's a bad thing. No. I mean, sure, there's a semblance of a story at the beginning, however strange and bizarre it may play out, but what it formulates into is a movie of extreme violence and action sequences that will make your head spin!

Simply put, 'Wolf Guy' is a film that kept the excitement and tension relatively high, whilst at the same time keeps you very eager to continue to its messy conclusion. Directed by Toei action great Kazuhiko Yamaguchi ('Sister Streetfighter', 'Karate Bulfighter'), 'Wolf Guy' is right up there with his previous work - if not slightly better; in my own humble opinion. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition digital transfer
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original uncompressed mono audio
New optional English subtitle translation
New video interview with actor Sonny Chiba
New video interview with director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
New video interview with producer Tatsu Yoshida
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscoter
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Patrick Macias and a history of Japanese monster movie mashups by Jasper Sharp

'Wolf Guy' (2-Disc Special Edition) is available for purchase on May 23rd, 2017.

'Starlight' [Blu-ray]
(Denis Lavant, Iggy Pop, Natacha Régnier, Tchéky Karyo, Béatrice Dalle, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / MVD Visual-Cleopatra)

Overview: Set in the dunes near the North Sea, a small circus company is suffering from a serious lack of audience for their shows. The most to be worried of is the two love triangle among the troupe leading the desperate ones to call on magic and spells.

Blu-ray Verdict: To be honest, the thought of Iggy Pop watching over a troupe of troubled circus performers in some lazy, hazy dunes somewhere near the North Sea is enough to give me the shivers in and unto itself!

I mean, if you were looking to have a Guardian Angel, of sorts, watch over you would you be over the moon to learn that it would be the hellraising, hard drinking, drug taking Iggy Pop?! All that joshing aside though, here in this stark new French film 'Starlight', Director Sophie Blondy sure manages to get the best out of her folklore hero.

The film, that first made the festival rounds in 2013 and will arrive on Blu-Ray and video-on-demand May 9th via MVD Visual/Cleopatra follows these two love triangles among the troupe, which culminates in leading the desperate ones to call on magic and spells.

Angele, the diaphanous ballerina, her clown lover Elliot and the circus ringmaster, full of cruelty and disturbed by fits of schizophrenia on one side, and Zohra in love with Elliot, haunted by an uncanny conscience. Secrets, jealousy, envy all progressively take hold of them and trigger some irreversible acts. Acts that, even though are watched over by 70 year-old Pop, play out dramatically and systematically for all to see.

Also starring Natacha Régnier, Denis Lavant, Tchéky Karyo, Béatrice Dalle and Bruno Putzulu, 'Starlight' is a movie quite unlike anything that I've ever seen before. And so just for that experience, I beg you to undertake a watching of it for yourselves. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'A Street Cat Named Bob' [Blu-ray]
(Luke Treadaway, Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Froggatt, Anthony Head, Bob The Cat, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / MVD Visual-Cleopatra)

Overview: Based on the international best selling book, 'A Street Cat Named Bob' is the true feel good story of how James Bowen, a busker and recovering drug addict, had his life transformed when he met a stray ginger cat.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, and having just finished watching the movie, this adaptation of James Bowen's autobiography (his account of how he was saved by the unlikely companionship of Bob), is pretty likable stuff. Luke Treadaway's performance is perfectly fine; his depiction of a drug user who's lost everything and is living rough comes across as credible enough.

If there's a sense of fantasy about the effect Bob has on his fortunes - Londoners react to Bob as though they've never seen a cat before - then you just have to go with it to an extent. The film makes it clear that Bob personifies James's salvation, and it was a lovely detail to discover one of the feline actors playing the cat was none other than Bob himself.

Anthony Head doesn't need to do much to play James's estranged father, but he handles the emotional turmoil hidden beneath the character's austere exterior really well. Joanne Froggatt and The Strain's Ruta Gedmintas are memorable as James's doctor and distant love interest respectively.

Indeed, the latter is a bit too obviously 'hippy chick', but she just about gets away with it. Also, I really respected that the romantic undertones of her storyline climaxed in a bittersweet, realistic way. Well worth watching, and inclusive of some lovely London scenery, 'A Street Cat Named Bob' is about as heartwarming a story of redemption as you are going to find. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Cast Interviews
Behind The Scenes Bonus Footage
Slide Show

'Plasmatics - Live! Rod Swenson's Lost Tapes'
(Wendy O'Williams and the Plasmatics / DVD / NR / 2017 / MVD Visual-Cleopatra)

Overview: Nearly twenty years after the death of Wendy O. Williams, the controversial exploits of the iconic and trailblazing singer of New York's PLASMATICS are re-examined in a new DVD entitled 'Plasmatics – Live! Rod Swenson's Lost Tapes 1978-81.'

DVD Verdict: The rare Wendy O. Williams/Plasmatics live footage on this DVD has, in the main; and as the label suggests, never been released before. During the early years Plasmatics creator Rod Swenson (Wendy's partner for more than 20 years) directed and shot all the Wendy O./Plasmatics conceptual videos (AKA known for his footage of the Ramones, Dead Boys, Blondie, and Motorhead among others) and also shot numerous Plasmatics shows. The footage from which was never edited or released.

As is pointed out more than once throughout this highly in depth, and incredibly riveting set of live shows now on DVD, most all their live stuff he shot is covered here - save for some short excerpts. So, yeah, for all your Wendy O'Williams and Plasmatic fans out there (which includes me), most of this stuff was thought to be lost or degraded. Shot on VHS tape, which we now know degrades badly over even a short period of time, we are lucky to have these lives shows from 1978-1981 here before us.

01. Want You (Baby) (July 26, 1978)
02. Tight Black Pants (June 9, 1979)
03. Dream Lover (May 17, 1980)
04. Sometimes I Feel It (May 17, 1980)
05. Squirm (May 17, 1980)
06. Butcher Baby (May 17, 1980)
07. Living Dead (May 15, 1981)
08. Summer Night (May 15, 1981)
09. Fast Food Service (May 15, 1981)
10. Nothing (June 19, 1981)
11. Summer Night (June 19, 1981)
12. Sex Junkie (September 22, 1981)
13. Squirm (September 22, 1981)
14. Lunacy (September 22, 1981)
15. Black Leather Monster (September 22, 1981)
16. Monkey Suit (June 18, 1980) [Bonus Track]

In truth, a lot of what you see live is raw and much of the audio is the audio from ambient video deck mics, noise and all, but the energy and power is there throughout. I mean, if you aren't aware of Wendy and her Plasmatics, whether it be a live show or a music video, shit gets blown up (literally), shit gets chainsawed in half (literally), a microphone may or may not get shoved into a her lady parts, near-nudity from her at all times is a must, and so, so much more is brought to the live fore here!!

The material includes two tracks from CBGBs the first of which was among the first PLASMATICS shows ever as well as other footage from benchmark shows. A bonus track ("Monkey Suit") features footage shot by Swenson when he was shooting the iconic album cover for New Hope For The Wretched, but never released it.

In their heyday, the PLASMATICS actually opened for KISS on their Creatures pf the Night Tour in 1982 - and blew them away! And how did they get that gig? Well, when Gene Simmons is your Producer/Manager at the time (and was most likely banging Wendy also), you'll go anywhere KISS goes!

Dubbed "The Queen of Shock Rock," Wendy was widely considered the most controversial and radical female singer of her day. She was a humanitarian, a porn star, a junkie, but most of all a very smart and caring person. She was the epitome of punk. She made electric tape cool, and coined the phrase "A pig is a pig and that's that". Williams died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 6th, 1998, when she was 48. Long Live the memory of this punk rock Goddess. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'WWII - The Complete War Report'
(Allied Armed Forces, Axis Armed Forces, et al / 19-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: The chaos, sacrifice and heroism of WWII are presented through a day-by-day profile of the significant milestones that propelled and diminished the most terrifying regime of the 20th Century.

DVD Verdict: This compelling series, 'WWII - The Complete War Report' highlights the details and daily headlines of September 1939 through September 1945, showcasing the conflicts between the Axis and the Allies.

Comprehensive and insightful, these chronicles unravel the epic struggles and unimaginable horror that plagued the vast majority of the world's nations. From the front lines to the home front this exceptional series contains hours of wartime video footage, newsreels, photographs and much more.

With over 78 hours of richly detailed WWII history generously spread over 19 luxurious discs, 'WWII - The Complete War Report' is a stunning binge worthy entry into your lives, trust me. Each month of the war is individually featured as one hour segments filled with authentic historic photographs and archival footage.

However, if you are not quite up to date on your WWII history, this incredible box-set will immerse you in the knowledge - from the very first fist shook in anger to the very last hand on heart in thanks for silence gesture.

World War II (often abbreviated to WWII), and also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945; although related conflicts began earlier. It involved the vast majority of the world's countries — including all of the great powers — eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis.

It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. In a state of "total war", the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources.

Marked by mass deaths of civilians, including the Holocaust (in which approximately 11 million people were killed) and the strategic bombing of industrial and population centers (in which approximately one million were killed, and which included the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), it resulted in an estimated 50 million to 85 million fatalities. These made World War II the deadliest conflict in human history.

By the early part of 1939 the German dictator Adolf Hitler had become determined to invade and occupy Poland. Poland, for its part, had guarantees of French and British military support should it be attacked by Germany. Hitler intended to invade Poland anyway, but first he had to neutralize the possibility that the Soviet Union would resist the invasion of its western neighbor.

Secret negotiations led on August 23–24 to the signing of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact in Moscow. In a secret protocol of this pact, the Germans and the Soviets agreed that Poland should be divided between them, with the western third of the country going to Germany and the eastern two-thirds being taken over by the U.S.S.R.

Having achieved this cynical agreement, the other provisions of which stupefied Europe even without divulgence of the secret protocol, Hitler thought that Germany could attack Poland with no danger of Soviet or British intervention and gave orders for the invasion to start on August 26. News of the signing, on August 25, of a formal treaty of mutual assistance between Great Britain and Poland (to supersede a previous though temporary agreement) caused him to postpone the start of hostilities for a few days.

He was still determined, however, to ignore the diplomatic efforts of the western powers to restrain him. Finally, at 12:40 pm on August 31, 1939, Hitler ordered hostilities against Poland to start at 4:45 the next morning. The invasion began as ordered. In response, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3, at 11:00 am and at 5:00 pm, respectively. World War II had begun.

As 'WWII - The Complete War Report' continues through the remaining 19 discs, we learn that World War II altered the political alignment and social structure of the world. The United Nations (UN) was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The victorious great powers—the United States, the Soviet Union, China, the United Kingdom, and France—became the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

The Soviet Union and the United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the Cold War, which lasted for the next 46 years. Meanwhile, the influence of European great powers waned, while the decolonisation of Asia and Africa began. Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic recovery. Political integration, especially in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and to create a common identity. Fascinating. Truly Fascinating. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Soviet Spies - 4 Film Collection'
(Dolph Lundgren, Ben Cross, River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, Richard Jenkins, Ernest Borgnine, Kerwin Matthews, Colleen Dewhurst, Laurence Harvey, Tom Courtenay, Mia Farrow et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Who Can You Trust? 'Soviet Spies - 4 Film Collection' is a premium collection of licensed films from Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures now out via Mill Creek Entertainment: The Russian Specialist, Little Nikita, Man On A String and A Dandy in Aspic.

DVD Verdict: First off is the highly under-rated 'Russian Specialist' (2005), starring Dolph Lundgren and Ben Cross. Spetnaz (Special Ops) veteran Nick Cherenko leaves Russia after his son and wife are killed in a gunfight by drug lord Aleksandr 'Sasha' Popov's mob men.

He's threatened with exposure as illegal car mechanic in L.A. by a fellow ex-pat tycoon who offers him $500,000 to liberate her kidnapped daughter. He only takes the job when told the capturers are Sasha's goons again. The mission's long path to find the girl and escape over the Finnish border, where his team is to be paid, is littered with blood and corpses.

Dolph Lundgren made his directorial debut with the Defender. A great little action movie that was really what his fans could have hoped for, a triumphant return to his best. Now his second film shows that it wasn't merely a flash in the pan, or a fluke. Yes people, Dolph Lundgren, never considered much in the acting department has now proved he is a more than capable director, even suggesting that his new role deserves him a shot at the big time.

The film looks fantastic. The washed out colours, make this reminiscent of brutal 70's revenge flicks like Death Wish and Get Carter. Cinematographer Ross Clarkson has made sure this looks far beyond it's small budget. Similarly Dolph's visual style has developed even more since his exciting debut.

The music from Elia Cmirel is atmospheric, and delightfully reminiscent of his work in Ronin, simple, low key and effective. He doesn't go through the motions here, he creates a score, as if proud to be scoring this movie. This is possibly Dolph's best score, particularly in the context of it being a genuinely good little film.

Next up is 'Little Nikita' (1988) starring River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, and the always brilliant Richard Jenkins. An FBI agent works to uncover an All-American family as Soviet sleeper agents and gets caught up in friendship with their unaware son.

The Soviets suspect their agent nicknamed Scuba (Richard Lynch) is killing their deep agents and blackmailing them. They send agent Karpov (Richard Bradford) to stop him. In San Diego, FBI agent Roy Parmenter (Sidney Poitier) has been hunting Scuba for killing his partner. He discovers false information on the Air Force Academy application of Jeffrey Grant (River Phoenix) and suspects his parents Richard (Richard Jenkins) and Elizabeth (Caroline Kava).

In truth, there are a lot of dead bodies and it seems only Parmenter is on the case. The Russian characters are too Russian. They are literally meeting at the ballet. Despite having some great actors, this doesn't have the needed gritty realism. The idea of Russian sleeper agents in the suburbs could be interesting but this is not well executed. The late River Phoenix continues to be great throughout though, and it still haunts me today that we lost him at such an early age.

Then comes 'Man on a String' (1960) starring Ernest Borgnine, Kerwin Matthews, and Colleen Dewhurst. After 1919, Russian Boris Mitrov immigrates to the USA where he becomes an American citizen.Over the decades he builds a career in the film industry. In 1959, Mitrov is a movie producer with many rich influential friends. He continues to cultivate other Russian émigrés like himself and even some members of the Soviet Embassy in Washington.One of his Soviet friends is Embassy official Vladimir "Vadja" Kubelov.

In reality, Kubelov is a KGB colonel who finds Mitrov useful to the Soviet cause by providing certain services.For instance, Mitrov provides reference letters of employment for various Soviet sleeper agents in the USA. Mitrov throws parties for Soviet diplomats, spies and American Communists such as millionaire bankers Adrian and Helen Benson.

All these activities catch the attention of American intelligence agency CBI which places Mitrov and his entourage under close surveillance. When the CBI confronts Mitrov about his activities, he admits it but claims naiveté.

Based on the real life story of Boris Morros who was a musician instead of a film producer, Man on a String comes at the tale end of the Cold War espionage thrillers where there was absolutely no doubt as to who the good guys and bad guys were on the screen.

I can understand the reason for renaming the lead character that Ernest Borgnine plays Boris Mitrov and changing his occupation even, for dramatic purposes to give the character more scope. But for the life of me was anyone fooled when the agency he worked for was renamed the Central Bureau of Intelligence? Regardless, and given that this was filmed in 1960, this is a lovely little gem to get to know, once again.

Last, but not least is 'A Dandy in Aspic' (1968) starring Laurence Harvey, Tom Courtenay, and Mia Farrow. Double-agent Alexander Eberlin is assigned by the British to hunt out a Russian spy, known to them as Krasnevin. Only Eberlin knows that Krasnevin is none other than himself! Accompanying him on his mission is a ruthless partner, who gradually discovers his secret as Eberlin tries to maneuver himself out of a desperate situation.

Sorry, but 'A Dandy in Aspic' showcases what was a stand out feature of the late 1960s to make bleak and world weary spy movies. This film is in this mold. I saw the film upon it's release and quite enjoyed it, albeit it is slow and a little dull. Still, I think that it is an interesting piece of film making and enjoyed the performances of Laurence Harvey and Tom Courtenay who play British agents who do not like each other.

There are some good locations shots of 1960's London (mainly bleak) and Berlin (not so bleak). Harvey trudges around both capitals after been given an assignment to kill a Russian Spy - who is in fact himself. Mia Farrow is a trendy young thing (though a bit on the thin side) and adds love interest.

However, as she keeps turning up wherever Harvey goes, is she as innocent as she appears? A young Peter Cook also stars as a rather irritating junior British agent. John Bird and Lionel Stander add a little humor into an otherwise humorless film. Definitely worth a look. These are all Full Screen/Widescreen Presentations (1.78:1/1.85:1/2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Kung Fu Zombies - 7 Movie Collection'
(Chia-Hui Liu, Siu-Wong Fan, Eddy Ko, Panna Rittikrai, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: It's the Ultimate Genre Mash-Up in this Killer Kung-Fu Collection! 'Kung Fu Zombies - 7 Movie Collection' is a premium collection of films now out via Mill Creek Entertainment: Shaolin vs. Evil Dead, Shaolin vs. Evil Dead 2, Kung Fu Zombie, We're Going To Eat You, Spirited Killer 2, Spirited Killer 3 and Kung Fu From Beyond The Grave.

DVD Verdict: First off is 'Shaolin vs. Evil Dead' (2004) starring Chia-Hui Liu and Siu-Wong Fan. The plot thickens as the heroes, Pak and Hak, discover a horrible plan by the evil genius "DR.Magma" as he makes the evil dead come to life and fight the Shaolin monks that have mastered the art of fighting.

Throw a low-budget movie together with some Chinese vampires, likable kung-fu master, psychedelic special-effects, a good-looking babe and some funny sidekicks and what do you get? If you're lucky, you end up with a classic like 'Mr. Vampire'. If you're not lucky, you end up with 'Shaolin vs. Evil Dead'.

It isn't that the movie is a low-budget piece of garbage that is totally convoluted and incomprehensible (far from it) the problem is that it suffers from the medium budget mediocrity of most straight to video or made for TV fantasy movies. Although it contains all of the aforementioned fun ingredients (kung fu, zombies, babe etc.), it just doesn't contain enough of these elements in enough exciting or outlandish ways to be considered anything close to a cult classic.

Next up is 'Shaolin vs. Evil Dead: Ultimate Power' (2007) starring, once again, both Chia-Hui Liu and Siu-Wong Fan. It's more zombies and vampires as the Master Killer, Gordon Liu (Kill Bill 1 & 2) returns in this highly anticipated sequel to 'Shaolin vs Evil Dead'!mO< His fellow Taoist priest Hak has turned into a vampire and he must use all his power to stop Hak and his legion of vampires from bringing eternal darkness to the nation. Spectacular special effects and terrific fights make 'Shaolin vs Evil Dead: The Ultimate Power' the perfect conclusion to this martial arts horror thriller.

Trust me, this is way better than the other one and is brought to a more realistic level by better sets, better bit part actors (as weird as that sounds), and a much, much better script.

Then comes 'Kung Fu Zombie' (1981) starring Billy Chong. A criminal comes to town in order to kill Billy Chong over a past dispute. But instead of getting his own hands dirty, he hires a Taoist wizard to animate some zombies to do the job for him. The plan goes horribly awry, and the bad guy ends up getting killed in his own trap. Crazy possessions and vampire insanity ensues.

Luckily, Billy knows Kung Fu! 'Kung Fu Zombie' is one of those rare gems. It does nothing special, or even well, but the speed at which things happen and the utter madness you could only get from a HK release make this very appealing. The titular kung fu zombie is fun. He flies around pulls faces and, and this is the best bit, every time he is seen the camera pulls a close up to the 'da da dah-da da dah, da da da da da' part of the James Bond theme!

That's followed by 'We Are Going To Eat You' (1980) starring Eddy Ko. With a crazy over-the-top title like 'We're Going to Eat You', you should already know not to expect a cannibal film with nail-biting suspense and/or disturbing shock sequences, but more of a deranged black comedy with absurd situations and a light-headed ambiance.

It all depends on your personal sense of humor, of course, but I thought this was a truly relaxing and imaginative Hong Kong cult film! There's not much of a story line, but the gazillion Kung Fu fighting sequences are masterfully choreographed and indescribably spectacular.

'Spirited Killer 2' is next. Starring Panna Rittikrai, there are two sisters who want to get their grandad's corpse so he can be buried with his ancestors. There's a problem, though, as there are some gangsters in the same general area trying to take the blood from their dead leader's body and transfer it to a new guy.

That blood gets infected and both guys are now zombies. The grandfather comes back as well. There's a hopping vampire. There's ghosts. We also have an exorcist. There's also an evil wizard. And lots and lots of martial arts fights.

The comes 'Spirited Killer 3' (1998) and once again starring Panna Rittikrai. In this third of the series, we have teams from China and Japan seeking out a black stone that can create immensely powerful magic. There's some resistance and the local population calls up a shaman who announces he will be a shaman for a thousand years.

Yes, he's evil. So we're off to more wackiness with wizards, ghosts, zombies, and a few of those female ogres/ghouls. There are a few gut-munching scenes. It all ends up in a magical war, if truth be told, which wasn't my cup o' tea at all, sorry.

Lastly we get 'Kung Fu From Beyond the Grave' starring Billy Chong, once more. The gates of Hell open to let out the ghosts of the dead Chun Sing is visited by his deceased father, who tells the young man that his enemy is a priest who commands the dark forces of black magic.

Luckily, Chun Sing gets help from a magic book, a group of friendly ghosts, and a house full of hookers! It's a shame that almost nobody seems to have seen this. This is worth going well out of your way for. If you like kung fu and you like the bizarre this is the movie for you. Billy Chong must enlist a gaggle of hopping dead assassins to get revenge for the death of his father.

The boss of the villains is not particularly impressive, but his main henchman, an evil wizard, is one of the coolest villains I've ever seen, in or out of kung fu. These are all Full Screen/Widescreen Presentations (1.78:1/1.85:1/2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Decoy - The Complete Series'
(Beverly Garland, Frank Campanella, Simon Oakland, Phyllis Newman, Frank Sutton, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / (1957) 2017 / Film Chest Media)

Overview: Based on a variety of factual cases tackling controversial subjects, the 'Decoy' series was a significant marker in television history, undeniably ahead of its time. The talented and stunning Beverly Garland steals the show as the no-nonsense and uncompromising female crime fighter, Casey Jones, sharing the screen with a variety of up-and-coming talent such as Peter Falk, Larry Hagman, Martin Balsam, and Suzanne Pleshette.

DVD Verdict: In truth, one could easily call 'Decoy' a more female 'Dragnet' for the ages, I guess. I mean, sure, it simplifies what it was the producers were trying to aim for back then, but with the beguiling Beverly Garland ("My Three Sons", "Scarecrow and Mrs. King") and the city of New York filling in for Jack Webb and sunny Los Angeles, it's most certainly an honest observational comment.

In its all-too-brief run, 'Decoy' contained an assortment of routine sensibility as well as captivating psychological drama that directly influenced later crime drama shows like "Police Woman" (1974), and would remain an archetype for crime drama shows that followed decades later.

But once you get caught in its premise, it's easy to overlook other aspects of the show. Such as the fact that Ms. Garland is required, in her role as undercover policewoman Patricia "Casey" Jones, to play a different role in each of the 39 episodes filmed. In one episode, she could play an exotic dancer in a carnival, in the next, she can play an addict, and so on and so on, all in the guise of a crime fighter.

Whether Angie Dickinson, as Pepper Anderson ("Police Woman") took her cues from Beverly Garland is open to debate, but it's clear to say that Ms. Garland's Casey Jones is clearly a trailblazer for other lady lawmen to follow.

As for the other co-star, New York City, well, 'Decoy' wasn't the first series filmed on location in the Big Apple, nor was it the last, but it was certainly one of the most effective in terms of its film noir look and fully fleshed characters. This isn't the "Naked City", but it's as close a similarity as you can get on a shoestring budget.

And boy, scene after scene, it most assuredly does the city justice, as "Naked City" would do the next year, of course. So, I urge you to go buy this incredible, ground-breaking, 3 disc DVD set, 39 episode full series out now via Film Chest Media (when you get the chance, of course), because watching Beverly Garland quietly, episode by episode break ground on almost every television front, one half hour at a time is a trip back in time most well spent. Of that you have my word.

These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Feature Inside: 16-Page Episode Libretto Including Photo Gallery, Extended Synopsis, Trivia, Historical Information, and Episode Synopses.

'Cops vs Thugs' (2-Disc Special Edition)
(Bunta Sugawara, Reiko Ike, Hiroki Matsukata, et al / Blu-ray+DVD / R / (1975) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Acting boss Hirotani of the Ohara gang uses his friendship with corrupt cop Kuno to usurp a staged land deal that rival yakuza gang Kawade had arranged through local politicians. Open warfare erupts between the two gangs.

Blu-ray Verdict: Director Kinji Fukasaku (also known for his successful movie 'Battle Royale') began his career with Yakuza movies and soon become the most representative director of the genre; and deservedly so. Now considered the master of this kind of film, inspiring well-known authors like Kitano and Miike along the way, here in 'Cops vs Thugs' he breaks free somewhat from his ethos to distort the lines between said cops and thugs; thus making it not so easy to determine who is good and who is bad.

In general, the actors give good performances, the main character has the great Bunta Sugawara playing a superb role struggling between the law and, well, commonsense, I guess you would call it. He alone stands against the world like Dirty Harry, but the humanity of his character still manages to cause a lot of doubt in all those he faces; good or supposedly bad.

Sure some actors appear to strain to provide varied performances, and the repetitious nature of the script and direction yields a fair amount of you looking at your watch, and ok, sure, the overall plot of the movie isn't very original, but what's more important (at least I think so) is if the movie can still jet along regardless of those facts; keeping you attention in those need-to-watch moments. And 'Cops vs Thugs' does just that, and very nicely, I might add.

A rousing score inspired by blaxploitation movies and a welcome and strong performance from the always-lovely Reiko Ike means this movie definitely gets two thumbs up from me. Chock full of violence, fist fights, shoot outs and so much more associted with films like this, 'Cops vs Thugs' is highly recommended to fans of the genre. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition digital transfer
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original uncompressed mono audio
Optional English subtitles
Beyond the Film: Cops vs Thugs, a new video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane
A new visual essay on cops & criminals in Fukasaku's works by film scholar Tom Mes
Theatrical Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Patrick Macias

'Cops vs Thugs' (2-Disc Special Edition) is available for purchase on May 23rd, 2017.

Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America [Blu-ray]
(Rolling Stones / Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / Eagle Vision)

Overview: 'Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America' follows The Rolling Stones on their 2016 tour through ten Latin America cities whilst at the same time trying to stage their first ever concert in Havana, Cuba, a colossal once-in-a-lifetime open air free show the likes of which Cuba had never seen before.

Blu-ray Verdict: Wow! I mean, seriously. Can this band do no wrong? How are they still even recording new material let alone playing all these hundreds of live shows every year? And yet as much as they are all spread around the world, Mick and the guys still sound so incredible live (trust me, I caught them live in early 2016 here in the US).

'Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America', a film by Paul Dugdale follows the Rolling Stones across South America and Mexico and finally ends with their historical concert in Cuba. It begins with the band rehearsing and discussing what it takes to "get the rust out" before they tour. Trust me, they genuinely seem to hit all the major countries in South America before moving onto Mexico.

Clips of them performing their most famous hits in huge concert venues are effectively interspersed with shots of the local culture and scenery of the various countries they toured. The energy of their fans is contagious, because without them, well, it would just be four old men trying to relive their youth. But with these sold-out stadiums of baying fans time after time after time, there is simply no stopping this legendary British band.

For my money, although I was kindly sent this Blu-ray by the label for review purposes, 'Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America' is really quite fantastic to watch. That and the fact that as much as I never went to the infamous Cuba concert, I still purchased that show's tour tshirt from their website, not only because of the significance of the show, but the fact it was just so damn colorful and emotive!

Anyway, moving on and throughout the movie you can see the different personalities and interactions with all four of them. They seem so happy nowadays. Ergo, this is a very humorous look at the fellas on tour in their 70's. Believe it or not, Mick Jagger comes off particularly well.

There is some delightful footage of Mick and Keith alone discussing their previous visit to South America in the late 60's. They discuss the origin of "Honky Tonk Women" and other famous RS songs. I've heard all this before, sure, but the best part was of Keith and Mick performing "Country Honk" acoustically before the camera.

It was clearly obvious that these two performers know exactly what each other bring to the table and it was a beautiful thing to see. Just Keith with a guitar and Mick sitting next to him singing an old Stones throwaway from 69'. Wonderful. Simply wonderful.

'Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America' also documents the great difficulty they had being the first rock and roll band to perform (for free) in Cuba for many decades. Only one of their setbacks included being preempted from their original concert date by President Obama's historic visit. (Hint: when you see the credits start to roll, stay seated! The Rolling Stones perform several more songs after the credits have rolled as a nice little bonus for their loyal fans).

Now, and I want to stress this, 'Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America' is not a concert film, as it only shows them performing clips of a song or two along their South American tour dates (save for the Bonus Feature full-length songs), but what it does highlight is the fact that South America is CRAZY for the Stones!

Oh, and I also love the fact that this film provides one of the best yet RS documentaries that I've ever seen. This 2016 Southern Tour of the Americas is one to behold, ladies and gentleman and I urge you to purchase it today. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:

Seven (7) Full-Length Performances from the 2016 Latin American Tour: 1) "Out Of Control" (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 2) "Paint It Black" (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 3) "Honky Tonk Women" (São Paulo, Brazil), 4) "Sympathy For The Devil" (São Paulo, Brazil), 5) "You Got The Silver" (Lima, Peru), 6) "Midnight Rambler" (Lima, Peru), and 7) "Miss You" (Lima, Peru).

The Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger (Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica); Keith Richards (Guitar, Vocals); Charlie Watts (Drums); Ronnie Wood (Guitar) With: Darryl Jones (Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals); Chuck Leavell (Keyboards, Musical Director); Karl Denson (Saxophone); Tim Ries (Saxophone, Keyboards); Matt Clifford (Musical Integrator); Bernard Fowler (Vocals); and Sasha Allen (Vocals)

(Danny Glover, Barkhad Abdi, Bethany Joy Lenz, Eion Bailey, et al / DVD / R / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: When a Caribbean family vacation takes a disastrous turn, a father finds himself at the mercy of a cold-blooded fisherman, and a desperate race against the clock to save his wife and son.

DVD Verdict: Well, if you're looking for a film to keep you on the edge of your seat, your heart racing throughout, pure unadulterated excitement minute after minute, coupled with some stunningly beautiful cinematography, wonderful great acting, and a thrilling plot, 'Extortion' is the movie for you!

Eion Bailey stars here as Dr. Kevin Riley, who is about to embark on a much anticipated Caribbean vacation with his wife Jules (Bethany Joy Lenz) and their six-year-old son Andy (Mauricio E. Alemany). Upon arrival,they rent a boat from a local, but, at the urging of Andy, end up exploring a deserted island far out at sea. However, with their outboard motor failing and with no food or water, they will find themselves in a most precarious and dangerous predicament.

From there, a series of wild and life threatening events begin, and without giving away too many spoilers I will say that a local fisherman named Miguel sees a golden opportunity for extortion here. Hence the title of the movie, of course. Barkhad Abdi, who was nominated for and won numerous awards for his motion picture debut in 'Captain Phillips' again turns in an amazing and most believable performance as Miguel.

In closing, 'Extortion' is well filmed, well written and directed by Phil Volken, was way better than I had anticipated by looking (judging) at the cover art. It kept my full attention throughout, and yes, sure, paying Devil's Advocate, there are some extremely implausible plot elements along the way, but hey, that just makes the movie that much more fun and enjoyable. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Phil Volken and Producer Alina Shraybman
Behind the Scenes of Extortion
Photo Gallery
Trailer Gallery

'The Who: Live at The Isle of Wight Festival 2004'
(The Who / Blu-ray+2CD / NR / 2017 / Eagle Vision)

Overview: In 2004 The Who returned to the Isle Of Wight Festival for the first time since their legendary performance in 1970. After a long absence, the festival had been reborn in 2002 and continues to this day.

DVD Verdict: The Who's UK concerts in 2004 were the first in their home country since the death of founder member John Entwistle. As the evening shadows lengthened across the festival site, The Who took to the stage and delivered an incendiary performance packed with hit singles and classic album tracks; and the concert more than lived up to the fan s expectations and memories of 1970.

CD 1: 1) I Can't Explain 2) Substitute 3) Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere 4) Who Are You 5) Behind Blue Eyes 6) Bargain 7) Baba O'Riley 8) The Punk And The Godfather 9) 5:15 10) Love, Reign O'er Me 11) Eminence Front 12) Drowned

CD 2: 13) Naked Eye 14) Real Good Looking Boy 15) You Better You Bet 16) My Generation 17) Old Red Wine 18) Won't Get Fooled Again 19) Medley: Pinball Wizard / Amazing Journey / Sparks 20) Medley: See Me, Feel Me / Listening To You 21) Magic Bus

Once introduced to the stage, to the baying audience, The Who launch into back to back hits with 'I Can't Explain' and 'Substitute', back that up with 'Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere', but really start to get into their rock stride with the excellent 'Who Are You.' After thanking the massive, blanketed in darkness crowd, Townshend cheekily puts on his shades, Daltrey rolls up his short sleeves, straps on his guitar, the stage lights turn bright red, and they then launch into the near seven minute long CSI theme tune.

A soulful 'Behind Blue Eyes' is another highlight of this incredible Blu-ray and 2CD set, and that's followed by one of my all-time Who favorites, 'Bargain' and the always-great-to-hear 'Baba O'Riley.' From Quadrophenia comes the guitar thrash of 'The Punk And The Godfather' ("You declared you would be three inches taller. You only became what we made you", and that's followed by my own personal stand out from this 2004 live set, a thunderously rousing '5:15.' 'Love, Reign O'er Me' and then 'Eminence Front' (from It's Hard) are then played to a crowd lit up by flashing strobe lights of all colors, before the first CD rounds out with 'Drowned.'

Taking the show down a notch as we begin the second CD, Daltrey straps his acoustic guitar back on, plucks some strings, and soon we have a completely different version of 'Naked Eye', a song that I've grown to know and love over the years. This acoustic version (which Daltrey explains is incorporated into the show "just to give me ears a rest"), along with the acoustic version of 'Real Good Looking Boy' is incredible, breathtaking, refreshing, and Daltry's vocals are still as raw, as lived in as ever. Indeed, they could simply to an entire acoustic show of their hits and it would pacify any and all fans completely.

The move forward after that quietness by cranking the noise out of the amps once again, by charging through a quite brilliant 'You Better You Bet.' They then back that with a by-the-numbers 'My Generation,' the rarely heard 'Old Red Wine' (which was originally released in 2004 on the compilation album Then and Now), and then a ferocious 'Won't Get Fooled Again.' Bringing the show to a close with the uber long 'Medley: Pinball Wizard / Amazing Journey / Sparks' which then cruises seamlessly into the uber long 'Medley: See Me, Feel Me / Listening To You', their final song of the night is a delightful 'Magic Bus.'

Line-Up: Roger Daltrey (vocals); Pete Townshend (guitars, vocals); Simon Townshend (guitars, vocals); Pino Palladino (bass); Zak Starkey (drums); John Rabbit Bundrick (keyboards, piano). This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Bambi - 75th Anniversary Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Hardy Albright, Peter Behn, Tim Davis, Donnie Dugan, Ann Gillis / 2-Disc Blu ray+DVD+Digital HD / G / (1942) 2017 / Disney)

Overview: A timeless classic that has been loved for generations, 'BAMBI' now joins the Walt Disney Signature Collection. In this life-changing adventure, Bambi sets off with his best friends Thumper and Flower to explore the wonders and challenges of the woods -- and fulfill his destiny as prince of the forest.

Blu ray Verdict: Disney's 'Bambi', which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, joins the Walt Disney Signature Collection. The Collection release includes a variety of new bonus material, including recordings of Walt Disney discussing the challenges and triumphs during the production of “Bambi;” deleted scenes and characters; stories and effects that “Bambi” had on the Studio, other films and artists; and much, much more.

Additionally, the Digital HD release includes an exclusive, heartfelt feature on the incredible artist, Tyrus Wong, who inspired the film’s soft watercolor backgrounds and beautiful palette.

As for the movie itself, well, having just re-watched it in all its glorious Blu-ray crystal clear quality, impeccable soundscape attached, the inner kid still wants to tell it like it is; so here goes. Simply put, 'Bambi' is both heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal cinematic measures.

'Bambi' starts off with a sleepy feel, but gets going once all the forest animals spread word of the birth of the newborn Prince. Indeed, we see Bambi grow up with his childhood friends Thumper and Flower. One day Bambi's mother takes him into the thicket to meet more deer and she warns him not to jump right out because there might be danger; or in other words hunters. So, Bambi goes into the thicket and meets more deer friends along the way.

At one point in the movie Bambi and his mother are starting to enjoy the first signs of spring, but (as we should all know by now) unfortunately a hunter shows up and we see perhaps one of the most traumatic scenes in thematic history. Bambi's mother leads him to safety only to be shot. While we don't see it we know what happened and Bambi's father tells him that he can't be with his mother anymore.

The scene after this is more jubilant and seems to quickly breeze over the sadness of the last part. Here we see animals start to fall in love during the spring season. Bambi has now become an adolescent deer and he meets up with his childhood companions. The Owl that lives with them in the forest warns them about spring infatuation. Flower, Thumper and Bambi all agree that it will never happen to them; or so they say.

Not to give too much away in this latter third of the movie, the last few moments showcases a fire that breaks out after some hunters carelessly leave it. Bambi has to leave and he barely escapes in time along with his father. At the end of the film Bambi has fathered two fawns with Faline and he sits proudly watching on the hill along with his father.

Aside from the movie itself, 'Bambi' also has a fantastic music score along with sounds of crashing cymbals and slow violin music that build up during the climatic scenes when danger is near. All the songs are decent and don't border on anything that might make your head pound.

So, yeah, for my money 'Bambi' is a great film, but playing Devil's Advocate there are some things that I don't like. The background animation was not the best and that may be in part due to the fact that World War II was still going on and the studio may have suffered some financial problems. Also I think that the hunting scenes get a little out of control and can be hard to watch for younger viewers. Aside from that, 'Bambi' is beautiful, wonderful and well worth your money spent on this delightful '75th Anniversary Edition' Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD.

As for those aforementioned Disney Special Features included, they are all -- for Disney fans and admirers of old school art -- very interesting. Showing us exactly how certain scenes were made, and watching as they did just that with the age old (although most likely new to them at the time) equipment, it's amazing that anything ever got created like this, in all honesty.

Reviewing a couple of the stand out's, 'THE BAMBI EFFECT' is a delight unto itself. I didn't know that so many (oh so many) of today's Disney films have "borrowed" from the artistry of the talented 'Bambi' illustrators. But that aside, something bigger to come out of what the animators created for our enjoyment was that there is now, here today, something actually called "The Bambi Effect"! It is a term used anecdotally or in editorial media that refers to objections against the killing of charismatic megafauna (animals that are perceived as "cute" or "adorable", such as deer or dolphins).

DELETED SCENE: BAMBI’S ICE AND SNOW is as cute as it gets and still today I have no idea why the team at Disney had it removed. It begins with Bambi gently testing the depth of the snow, in awe of her own hoof prints, before Thumper comes-a-calling with a "Hi ya Bambi. Watch what I can do". With that he flies across the iced up lake, enticing Bambi to do the same. Splat! So Thumper helps her, one end at a time, but that goes nowhere fast. It is a very, VERY cute scene. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

THE BAMBI EFFECT – “Bambi” was full of innovations for its time. Let’s take a look at how those past innovations affected future Disney animated titles all the way up to today.
STUDIO STORIES: “BAMBI” – Recordings of Walt Disney. Listen in on intimate moments where he discusses the challenges, pitfalls and triumphs during the production of “Bambi.”
DELETED SCENE: BAMBI’S ICE AND SNOW – Bambi coaxes Thumper and his brothers and sisters to come play on the ice during the first snow.
DELETED SCENE: THE GRASSHOPPER – A grasshopper confronts Bambi and Thumper and finds himself in quite a predicament.
BAMBI FAWN FACTS – Think you know everything there is to know about Bambi and his forest companions? Well, it’s time to discover some fun real-life facts about the creatures that live in the forest he calls home.
CELEBRATING TYRUS WONG (DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE) – A heartfelt look at the man who played a key role in the success of “Bambi.” Much like Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle, Tyrus Wong had a unique signature style all to his own. The soft water-colored backgrounds and beautiful palettes in “Bambi” were inspired by Tyrus’ concept art paintings.
DELETED SCENES – Two Leaves, Bambi Stuck on a Reed, Winter Grass, Twitterpated

'Bambi: 75th Anniversary Edition' arrives home on Digital HD, Disney Movies Anywhere, May 23rd and on Blu-ray™, DVD and On-Demand on June 6th.

Official Trailer

'Voodoo Black Exorcist: Restored Classics'
(Aldo Sambrell, Tanyeka Stadler, Alexander Abrahan, et al / DVD / NR / (1974) 2017 / The Film Detective)

Overview: The mummy of long dormant, but powerful Caribbean voodoo priest Gatanebo gets revived on a luxury South Seas ocean liner as a big buff bald guy and proceeds to terrorize the passengers. Gatanebo beheads several folks, occasionally reverts back to his prune-faced mummified state, and falls for the ravishing Sylvia, who reminds him of his old flame Kenya.

DVD Verdict: 'Voodoo Black Exorcist' (aka 'Vudú sangriento') was directed by Manuel Caño ('Siempre en mi recuerdo', 'Tarzan and the Brown Prince', and 'Carta a nadie') and is total gem of its own C-movie making!

The mummy of long dormant, but powerful Haitian voodoo priest Gatanebo (a chromedomed Aldo Sambrell, who's appeared in countless Italian spaghetti westerns) gets revived on a luxury South Seas ocean cruise liner as a big buff bald guy and proceeds to terrorize the passengers.

Gatanebo beheads several folks, occasionally reverts back to his prune-faced mummified state, and develops the hots for Sylvia (ravishing redhead Eva Leon), who reminds him of his old lady love Kenya (the equally gorgeous Tanyeka Stadler).

In truth, 'Voodoo Black Exorcist' is beautifully bad and tightly berserk, possessing all the right wrong stuff to qualify as an enjoyably dreadful mess of a clunky, badly shot movie. And yet, I and my friends, well, we love this type of movie to the moon and back! Sure it has a plodding pace, a talky, rambling script by Santiago Moncada, laughably lousy dubbing, garish cinematography by Roberto Ochoa, incredibly cheesy make-up f/x (the paper mache decapitated heads are uproariously phony and unconvincing), a groovy swingin' psychedelic lounge score by Fernando Garcia Morcillo, plenty of cheesy red-tinted flashbacks of Gatanebo frolicking on the beach with Kenya, and lots of hysterically bad dialogue ("I am a homemade cop; a little clumsy and a little old"), but that's what makes it just so damn appealing!

The cast of colorful supporting characters further adds to the unintentional hilarity: Fernando Sancho as the lazy, cigar-chomping Inspector Dominguez, Alfredo Mayo as stuffy anthropologist Dr. Kessling, Maria Antonio del Rio as an irritating shrew, and Enrique del Rio as her long-suffering husband. Moreover, Leon takes a bath and a voluptuous native exotic dancer really shakes her awesomely ample figure several times throughout the picture.

In closing, keep your eyes peeled for the wondrous moment when the cameraman's reflection can be clearly seen in a mirror during an attack scene. A shamefully unsung schlock riot,'Voodoo Black Exorcist' is as good as they come, given that it was filmed in 1974, of course and is one movie you have to bring everyone you know around for and watch this year; trust me! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Spotlight On A Murderer' (2-Disc Special Edition)
(Pierre Brasseur, Pascale Audret, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Marianne Koch, et al / Blu ray+DVD / NR / (1961) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: When the terminally ill Count Herve de Kerloquen (Pierre Brasseur, Goto, Isle of Love) vanishes without trace, his heirs are told that they have to wait five years before he can be declared legally dead, forcing them to devise ways of paying for the upkeep of the vast family chateau in the meantime. While they set about transforming the place into an elaborate son et lumiere tourist attraction, they are beset by a series of tragic accidents ... if that s really what they are!

Blu-ray Verdict: The little-known third feature by the great French maverick Georges Franju ('Eyes Without a Face', 'Judex') is a delightfully playful romp through Agatha Christie territory, whose script (written by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac of 'Les Diaboliques' and 'Vertigo' fame) is mischievously aware of the hoariest old murder-mystery clichés and gleefully exploits as many of them as possible.

The actors, for the most part, are not big names and may not be recognizable to American audiences. Star Pierre Brasseur had previously appeared in Georges Franju's aforementioned 'Eyes Without a Face'. His co-star, Pascale Audret, was less well-known in film, but happens to be the mother of Julie Dreyfus, who appeared in the Quentin Tarantino films 'Kill Bill' and 'Inglourious Basterds'. In what could so easily be better described as a rehash of Agatha Christie's wonderful, timeless 'Ten Little Indians' (amongst others), 'Spotlight On A Murderer' is much more than that. With scenes "borrowed" from the great lady's work in a more tongue in cheek style (for my money), the overall acting of the principles is what I would call flat, but the plot and direction therein more than make up for them. This is a Full Screen presentation (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of the feature, restored by Gaumont
Uncompressed French Mono 1.0 PCM Audio
Optional English subtitles
Vintage production featurette from 1960, shot on location and including interviews with Georges Franju and actors Pascale Audret, Pierre Brasseur, Marianne Koch, Dany Saval and Jean-Louis Trintignant
Spotlight on a Filmmaker, a look at Franju s wayward career presented by Michael Brooke, author of the Midnight Movie Monograph on Eyes Without a Face. (TBC)
Original theatrical trailer
Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Chris Fujiwara

'Spotlight On A Murderer' (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] is available for purchase on May 30th, 2017.

'Spotlight On A Murderer' (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] Purchase Link

'The Climber' (2-Disc Special Edition)
(Joe Dallesandro, Stefania Casini, et al / Blu ray+DVD / NR / (1975) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: A hungry young buck who aspires to be a career criminal starts out working at a warehouse for a gangster, and because of his ruthlessness and dependability he begins to ascend the ladder of organized crime.

Blu-ray Verdict: A hungry young buck (Joe Dallesandro) who aspires to be a career criminal starts out working at a warehouse for a gangster, and because of his ruthlessness and dependability he begins to ascend the ladder of organized crime.

Writer-director Pasquale Squitieri is not one of the better-known Italian directors. But he did come up the right way, being mentored by Vittorio De Sica and then going through a very brief (two film) spaghetti western phase with Klaus Kinski. By the time of 'The Climber' (1975), he had already honed his action / crime film skills with 'Camorra' (1972) starring Jean Seberg.

The star of 'The Climber' (aka 'L'ambizioso') is, of course, Warhol protégé Joe Dallesandro, who is something like a more handsome Peter Fonda. In fact, Squitieri personally stopped by the set of 'Flesh For Frankenstein' to make sure he could get Dallesandro. Opposite him is Stefania Casini, who is today probably best known for 'Suspiria' (1977), but interestingly enough had just appeared in Paul Morrissey's 'Blood for Dracula' (1974) - with Dallesandro! The pair actually ended up dating for a while, but that's by the by now.

There is a rumor going around that this film was a big influence on Brian DePalma's 'Scarface'. These social media rumors suggest it to be true, but no source is cited beyond the fact that the plots have some vague similarities. Whether the inspiration story is true or not, I do not know, but if it is, that is more than enough reason for this film to be preserved and studied.

In closing, another reason for you to dive head first into this glorious gem of cinematic creation is the score from Franco Campanino. He had been a popular musician alongside his brother since 1957, especially the song "Naples Dock", and his work here on 'The Climber' (aka 'L'ambizioso') is simply stunning. This is a Full Screen presentation (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original Italian soundtrack in uncompressed PCM mono with optional newly-translated English subtitles
Alternative English-language soundtrack with optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Little Joe s Adventures in Europe, a brand-new interview with Joe Dallesandro on his numerous European film appearances during the 1970s and early 1980s
Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Roberto Curti, author of Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980

'The Climber' (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] is available for purchase on May 16th, 2017.

'Spotlight On A Murderer' (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] Purchase Link

'Evil Ed' (3-Disc Limited Edition) [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Johan Rudebeck, Per Lofberg, et al / 3 Disc Blu ray+DVD / R / (1975) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: A blood-soaked love letter to the splatter films of the '80s, mild-mannered film technician Edward enjoys his job - that is, until he finds himself transferred from his regular post to the Splatter and Gore department. There he's forced to edit hours upon hours of grisly video nasty footage. Traumatized by the onscreen violence, Ed starts to lose his grip on reality with ghastly (and bloody) consequences!

Blu-ray Verdict: OK, let's get this out of the way from the off - the title is an obvious play on 'The Evil Dead' (1981) and the character name Sam Campbell is another reference to that movie: the director of 'The Evil Dead' (1981) is Sam Raimi and the star is Bruce Campbell!

Alrighty then, let's continue onward and upward here for 'Evil Ed' is one of those true cult classics that could well do with a new generations worth of eyes on it! The story is simple, but effective: Edward works for some television studio and cuts out violent stuff from movies and such. That's his job. But when he gets to watch an entire film series of 'Loose Limbs', cutting out the blood and gore left right and center, well, after a while he cannot handle it anymore and simply goes insane!

He starts to see visions of monsters and characters from the films, and in his dreams a bandaged figure tells him to start killing off the "unpure". Well, it just so happens that everyone seems to be "unpure"! So, after this Ed goes after several other people that are more known to him, in his murderous rampage - including his wife, his daughter, a delivery guy, two thieves and a SWAT team!

But lest you think that 'The Evil Dead' is the only movie director Anders Jacobsson sets out to spoof, for there is also a 'Gremlins' style puppet monster that repeatedly cusses at Ed in his refrigerator! That said, my personal favorite is when he chases his wife around the house, screaming "I'm coming to get you, Barbra", which, in case you didn't know, is Barbra's brother's main line in 'Night of the Living Dead'!

In closing, 'Evil Ed' is a above average schlock '80s horror flick with some fun dialogue, lots of gore (LOTS of gore), cool characters, funny stuff (ie: the 'Gremlins' puppet), scary stuff (ie: the demon doctor), excellent effects (ie: exploding heads), and a fair amount of female nudity (for those that like that kind of thing amongst their bloodied flesh piles!) This is a Widescreen presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Two versions of the film!
Original Stereo and 5.1 Audio Options
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
Collector's booklet with new writing on the film by critic James Oliver

World premiere of the newly-extended version of the feature [95 min]
Keep Em Heads Rollin making-of documentary
Reconstructing Edward featurette on the creation of the Special EDition cut
Deleted Scenes
Teasers and Trailers
Still Gallery

Original Cut [93 mins]
Lost in Brainland never-before-seen extended 3 hour version of the making-of documentary

'Evil Ed' (3-Disc Limited Edition) [Blu-ray+DVD] is available for purchase on May 30th, 2017.

'Evil Ed' (3-Disc Limited Edition) [Blu-ray+DVD] Purchase Link

'Madhouse' (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Trish Everly, Michael MacRae, Dennis Robertson, et al / Blu ray+DVD / NR / (1981) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Julia has spent her entire adult life trying to forget the torment she suffered at the hands of her twisted twin Mary - but Mary hasn't forgotten! Escaping hospital, where she's recently been admitted with a horrific, disfiguring illness, Julia's sadistic sister vows to exact a particularly cruel revenge on her sibling this year promising a birthday surprise that she'll never forget!

Blu-ray Verdict: Not to be confused with the 1974 Vincent Price/Peter Cushing movie also entitled 'Madhouse' (a fun, underrated film, by the way) and certainly not with the 1990 John Larroquette/Kirstie Alley comedy sporting that same name, the 1981 Italian horror outing called 'Madhouse' (whose original titles was 'There Was a Little Girl') is another story entirely.

I say that the film is Italian, although the average viewer might never realize it. Despite being an Italian production, with an Italian crew and composer, the picture was shot in English, features an American cast, and was filmed in Savannah, Georgia; although the filmmakers could certainly have included more of that city's picturesque charm, had they chosen to do so.

In this film (perhaps inspired by Brian De Palma's 1973 classic 'Sisters'), the viewer makes the acquaintance of a very pretty redhead named Julia Sullivan (very well played by Trish Everly). A teacher at a school for the deaf, Julia is thrown into something of a tizzy when she learns, a few days before her 25th birthday, that her twin sister Mary has just escaped from the hospital/sanitarium - where she had been ensconced for the past seven years.

"It's not the dead that scare me. It's the living," Julia remarks early on, and with good reason, as it turns out! Although her hunky doctor boyfriend, Sam (played by Michael MacRae), and her uncle, a priest named Father James (memorably portrayed by Dennis Robertson), don't believe her, she is convinced that Mary, and a killer dog who she has long been the master of, are responsible for some of the horrible things that begin to transpire around her. And as future events prove, Julia is only partially correct in this surmise, but I won't spoil that particular twist for you here.

Suspenseful and at times shocking, 'Madhouse' is well named, featuring as it does some truly sick and twisted characters. The film dishes out any number of violent set pieces, including three throat-ripping canine attacks (the one in which a cute little deaf kid is murdered is mercifully not shown on screen) and three truly surprising homicides via knife. But surely, the scene that most gore hounds will appreciate the most is the one in which Sam goes up against that killer dog armed "only" with an electric power drill!

The house where Julia resides is a beautiful old mansion that is in the process of being renovated, its only other occupant being Julia's ditzy landlady, and this darkened, unfinished abode is a suitable backdrop for some truly maniacal goings-on, culminating in one of the grisliest birthday parties ever shown on film!

Director Ovidio G. Assonitis, whose work on the 1974 Devil possession flick 'Beyond the Door' had recently impressed me, and who others might appreciate as the director of the 1977 'Jaws' rip-off 'Tentacles,' does a good job here of ratcheting up the suspense; whilst composer Riz Ortolani, whose work on such gialli as 'Don't Torture a Duckling' and 'Seven Deaths in a Cat's Eye' was so integral, provides still another memorable score.

Here, the lullaby "Rock A Bye Baby" backed by gorgeous strings, is used to good effect, while electronic bleeps and echoes in other spots add greatly to the eeriness on screen. But best of all, for my money, is Trish Everly herself; a truly photogenic actress with a winning screen presence. How odd that 'Madhouse' seems to be Ms. Everly's only film appearance. With her super good looks and fine acting chops, a career would have seemed assured as, at the very least, a so-called "Scream Queen." This is a Widescreen presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition presentations
Original Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
Brand new interviews with cast and crew
Alternate Opening Titles
Theatrical Trailer, newly transferred in HD
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing on the film

'Madhouse' (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] is available for purchase on June 13th, 2017.

'Madhouse' (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] Purchase Link

'Head to Head - Seagal v JCVD'
(Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, et al / 2-DVD / R / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Two of the biggest action stars of all time face off in this new powerhouse movie 2-Disc DVD collection!

DVD Verdict: OK, taking these entertaining (for the most part) movies one at a time, first up are four from JCVD. Universal Soldier: The Return - (1999) - Color R - JCVD and Bill Goldberg. The basic premise is Jean-Claude Van Damme returns as Luc Deveraux, the former Universal Soldier who now trains others of his kind. The military intends to shut down the Universal Soldier program, and all-powerful computer intelligence SETH gets wind of this somehow. It rebels against its creators, uniting all of the UniSols against the Army and waging all-out war. Luc is virtually the only one who can save the day. Meanwhile, SETH finds itself a handy human body (charismatic Michael Jai White, "Spawn") to use in moving around.

Next up is Second in Command - (2006) - Color R - JCVD and Julie Cox. The film sees Van Damme star as Sam Keenan who is given the task of protecting the new president of Moldavia from violent protesters and ardent supporters of the country's previous regime. Essentially this is a siege movie, and with a plot somewhat resembling Dolph Lundgren's 'The Defender'. Both movies are very similarly toned, however while Lundgren received mostly positives from that film (and more so from his directorial follow up 'The Mechanik' aka 'The Russian Specialist') Van Damme did not earn the plaudits on this one.

Next is Maximum Risk - (1996) - Color R - JCVD and Natasha Henstridge. 'Maximum Risk' is the second film that has Jean Claude Van Damme play identical twins, and while, it might not be saying much, it's better than the latter (1991's 'Double Impact'). If you've seen a Van Damme film before you'll know exactly what to expect here, though he can make good films ('Timecop', 'Kickboxer'), he clearly hasn't done much here, the acting is okay for a mediocre actioner with a by the numbers plot with the exception of the lacklustre villain played by Zach Grenier.

The last of the four disc one JCVD movies is The Hard Corps - (2006) - Color R - JCVD, Razaaq Adoti and Vivica A. Fox. 'The Hard Corps' reunites Jean-Claude Van Damme with frequent collaborator Sheldon Lettich for the fourth time. The first time was 1991's 'Lionheart,' followed by the classic 'Double Impact,' then 2001's interesting, but flawed 'The Order.' The film concerns an Afghanistan/Irak veteran (Jean-Claude Van Damme), he's living at hospital when he is hired as a bodyguard. He must protect an ex-heavyweight champion, now a building magnate (Adoti) and his sister (Vivica A. Fox) against a dangerous rapper (yup, you read that right) recently out of prison. The war veteran sets up an experienced team (Mark Griffin, among others) called Hard Corps to save the menaced ex-boxer.

A double punch from Steven Seagal is up next and kicks off with Into The Sun - (2005) - Color R - Steven Seagal and Takao Ohsawa. Governor Tokio is murdered and an agent, Travis Hunter (Steven Seagal) and his partner FBI Agent Sean Mack (Matthew Davis) are assigned by CIA Chief (William Atherton) to resolve it and going to track down the responsible terrorist; a Japanese version of the Mafia (Yakuza). However, the terrorist killing is only a string part of violence and corruption. A new leader Yakuza is planning a scheme to create an enormous dealing drug organization with the Chinese Mafia (The Tongs). 'Into The Sun' is a westernized oriental action film with an interesting mingle of suspense, buddy movie , martial arts, ancient ritual with typical code of honor and actual Japanese places. But, be aware there are abundant fists fights and as swords soon fly within these struggles, arms and body parts are sliced off here, there and everywhere!

Next is Attack Force - (2006) - Color R - Steven Seagal and Lisa Lovbrand - Three members of an US Special Forces team are killed in their hotel room by a woman they had brought with them for some fun. Their boss, Commander Marshall Lawson (Seagal), tries to track down the killer, only to find that the woman was infected by CTX, a substance created by a covert arm of the US military in order to turn ordinary people into mindless killers. With government agents after him, Lawson teams up with the scientist who created CTX in order to stop the spread of the substance. In truth, the fight scenes (much like everything else) in the film are horrible! Half the time when Seagal fought you can not even see what is going on around him. There are ever-so tight shots of him flapping his arms at the camera and then the person flying through a wall or something! It is actually highly reminiscent of the old Kung-Fu series on television!

Then we weirdly revert back to two more from JCVD (which mean, yes, if you're playing along at home, the final score here will be: JCVD 6 Steven Seagal 2) - Knock Off - (1998) - Color R - JCVD and Rob Schneider. It's 1997 Hong Kong. Marcus Ray (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Tommy Hendricks (Rob Schneider) buy and sell cheap knock off merchandises. They get entangled in a deadly conspiracy when their rickshaw race is attacked by the Russians. Tommy knocks out police detective Ling Ho and they get detained. Karen Lee is an executive at V-Six jeans and she's angry at them trying to pass her their knock offs. She's raiding a factory leased by their friend Eddie Wang and threatens to send them to prison. Ray is shocked that his four-year partner Tommy works undercover for the CIA under Harry Johannson (Paul Sorvino). End of story!

The final movie amongst the eight is Double Team - (1997) - Color R - JCVD and Dennis Rodman. Watching 'Double Team', I thought it was pretty clear than even Van Damme realizes that his movies are a joke to all but the most hardcore of action fans. Australian sketch comedy show 'Full Frontal' (featuring a not-so-famous Eric Bana) regularly took stabs at Van Damme for a good year or so, coincidentally around when 'Double Team' would have been released. At no point does 'Double Team' make any attempt to be taken as a serious action movie. All the fight scenes are played for laughs, if only slight chuckles. Van Damme gets to fight a tiger and use a coke-machine to shield himself from an explosion. All it really amounts to be is 90 minutes of action fun; but what more would you expect or even hope for from the wonderful JCVD? These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Salma Hayek - 4 Movie Collection'
(Salma Hayek, et al / 2-DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: For all fans of the delightful actor Salma Hayek comes four of her under-the-radar movies on 2-discs for the first time ever!

DVD Verdict: OK, taking these lovely movies one at a time, first up is Living It Up (La Gran Vida) - (2000) - COlor R - Salma Hayek and Carmelo Gómez. A poor bus driver on the verge of killing himself is persuaded by another person to "postpone" his death for a week, borrow 100 million dollars from the Mob and live like the rich men. And after the week is up, when he'll have to pay back the loaned money, he can easily kill himself. That's the concept. You have to admit, it's pretty damn interesting. But from this point everything changes. Sometimes the characters are very interesting. Both the bus driver and his new love are okay, well built, you get to care from them a lot. They have strong life concepts, opinions about the rich and the poor, and they follow these concepts. But, well, sometimes the characters change so much and so fast you start to care less. I'll leave it up to you to make your choices about how you thought it should have ended, once you watch it for yourselves.

Next up is Timecode - (2000) - Color R - Salma Hayek, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Stellan Skarsgård. Mike Figgis does a Robert Altman. Except, instead of creating a large narrative of interconnecting plot strands, he puts them all on four split screens. Is this therefore more subversive than Altman? I don't think so - Altman's method is an attack on Hollywood linearity, on conventional methods of 'connection'; his characters exist is the same space but are emotionally etc. miles apart. The characters in 'Short Cuts', like the city of L.A. itself, are a mass without a center. Figgis, for all the supposed diffusion of his visual strands, actually reunites, glues together Altman's ruptures. In this way it might seem a more optimistic kind of film. It isn't. What I'm saying is, 'Timecode' is not a difficult experience - after the initial adjustment, you watch the film as you would any other, especially as all the stories converge and are really only one story. Even at the beginning, the feeling is less one of Brechtian alienation than akin to being a security guard faced with a grid of screens.

Then comes Lonely Hearts - (2006) - Color R - Salma Hayek, John Travolta and Jared Leto. Directed by Todd Robinson, the grandson of detective Elmer Robinson (played by John Travolta), the story alternates between that of Fernandez and Beck, and pursuing detectives Robinson and Hildebrandt (Gandolfini), with Gandolfini handling the connecting voice-over narration in traditional film noire patter.

Although some details are condensed for narrative purposes, the story largely sticks to the facts of the couple's actual murder spree, the only glaring discrepancy being the casting of Hayek as Beck, who in reality was a rotund, unattractive, battleaxe of a woman who maintained Fernandez's loyalty by granting his every sexual wish. The producers can be forgiven for opting to cast Hayek instead of a more credible Rosie O'Donnell type, however, as Hayek brings more than mere eye-candy to her role. She plays a sadistic, manipulative, cold-blooded murderer to the hilt, and practically serves as the driving engine for the film's story.

Lastly we get The Velocity of Gary - (1998) - Color R - Salma Hayek, Thomas Jane and Vincent D'Onofrio. If death is all around you, if the people you know are dropping like flies, and you figure the remedy is to get along with the people who are left (because they may be gone tomorrow) and have children of your own (so you feel death has not defeated you), why stay among people whose habits issue in death? Why impose the specter of sexual caution and responsibility, when what makes the people in this movie who they are flies in the face of this appeal?

I don't think the main characters Valentino, Mary Carmen, and Gary form a bisexual triangle, because they want to lead wary, conventional lives. The thought presented here that bisexuality can be the common ground on which homosexuals and heterosexuals can come together is sly pontificating, and when you consider the way the camera languishes over the lip lock Vincent D'Onofrio is made to plant on Thomas Jane, you get the feeling that the heterosexual side is taking a back seat to the flip side of the triangle. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1/2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Highway to Heaven - Messages from Above'
(Michael Landon, Victor French, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Angelic Jonathan Smith (Michael Landon) and his friend, ex-cop Mark Gordon (Victor French), travel the country on assignment from God -- whom they call The Boss. In each episode, they wander into the lives of men and women who need some help coping with grief, anger, or guilt. Jonathan and Mark establish relationships with their subjects, gain their trust, and lend a hand which changes the lives of those he meets.

DVD Verdict: As I'm sure you are all well aware by now, and as the Overview above kinda runs down for us also, Jonathan Smith is a probationary angel sent back to Earth to help people. During the series' first episode (1984), he meets embittered ex-policeman Mark Gordon (as Jonathan is walking along a little-used road, on which Mark happens to be driving).

Jonathan helps reform Mark, with the grateful Mark agreeing to become Jonathan's right-hand associate in carrying out the heavenly mission. The two begin traveling the country as itinerant workers, receiving assignments from "the Boss" (God), with their mission being to deliver love, understanding and humility to the people they encountered.

This past June 6th, 2017 Mill Creek Entertainment brought out a single-disc release titled 'Highway to Heaven - Messages From Above' on DVD. Here we get to see four (4) stories, each of them originally broadcast as either a double-length episode or a two-parter:

Season One - Episode 1 Pilot
Season One - Episode 24 Thoroughbreds
Season Three - Episode 1 A Special Love
Season Five - Episode 2 Hello and Farewell

In the first episode, the 'Highway to Heaven' infamous "Pilot", Jonathan (an Angel, remember) arrives at a retirement home to help not only the occupants but also the administrator Leslie Gordon. However, Leslie's brother Mark, a jaded and bitter former police officer, is suspicious of Jonathan. It features guest turns from Helen Hayes (Airport, The Snoop Sisters) and Eddie Quillan (The Grapes of Wrath, Julia).

In Episode 24, "Thoroughbreds", Lizzy (Helen Hunt) is a farmhand's daughter who falls in love with the boss's son; who in turn falls in love with her. But he is rather spoiled in the beginning, which Jonathan quickly steps in to allow him to see the error in his ways. With guest stars Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets, Mad About You) and Noble Willingham (City Slickers, Walker: Texas Ranger), this is one of my favorite episodes, for sure.

Then comes Episode 1 of Season 3, "A Special Love" where Jonathan and Mark persuade a youngster with Down's Syndrome to join the Special Olympics. Coached by his older brother and, because of their parents' keeping the mentally handicapped child a secret, doesn't even know of the boy's existence. At the same time they try to help their friends Scotty and Diane, who can't have children. Featuring guest stars Paul Walker (Fast & the Furious films, Varsity Blues) and Josh Brolin (W., The Goonies) it is yet another powerful learning episode.

Finally, we round out this mighty fine quartet of 'Highway To Heaven' episodes with Episode 2 from Season 5 "Hello and Farewell", where a former Vietnam nurse suffers from PTSD while a teenage by awaiting to enter pilot training, learns he is adopted. Starring Matthew Perry (The Whole Nine Yards, Friends) and Cristina Raines (Flamingo Road, Centennial), this rounds out the collection never nicely. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Stan Lee & Kevin Smith Save the World'
(Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, et al / 2-DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: 'Stan Lee & Kevin Smith Save the World' is an Evening of Conversations with your favorite Nerd Heroes!

DVD Verdict: As I'm sure you are all well aware by now, Stan Lee is an American comic-book writer, editor, publisher, media producer, television host, actor, and former president and chairman of Marvel Comics. And Kevin Smith is an American filmmaker, actor, comedian, public speaker, comic book writer, author, and podcaster.

'Stan Lee & Kevin Smith Save the World' features three evenings spent with the legends, that truly encompass all that is great about the two icons. First up is 'An Evening With Kevin Smith' (2002). It documents the director's 2001/2002 speaking tour through 5 stops, including Cornell University, Indiana University, Kent State University, University of Wyoming, and Clark University. Students from all 5 schools ask Kevin about anything ranging from his takes on religion to his relationship with Jason Mewes.

As a fan of Kevin Smith (The Man), and not Kevin Smith (The Director), I found it to be three and a half hours of sheer bliss. The adoring fans are seen rapt in what their idol has to say. He is a man that doesn't B/S these kids and therefore gains their trust from the moment he first opens his mouth. What comes out of that mouth is some of the funniest and most irreverent talk one has heard in presentations such as these.

Then comes 'An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder' (2006), where Smith takes us on a roller-coaster ride of sexual innuendos, rapid-fire wisecracks, and riffs on Tim Horton's, writer's block, and organized religion. Guest shots by Jason Mewes, a special delivery of Timbits from an audience member, and Smith's take on how he would have written the 'Passion of the Christ' round out just one disc of pure Kevin Smith gold!

Finally we get 'Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters and Marvels' (2002), where the history of Marvel comics is told through Stan Lee's answers to Kevin Smith's very informed questions. You can feel the love for the craft and medium come through in the interview and overall, although it's just two guys talking in a comic shop. You can, at times, entirely visualize what it must have been like to be at ground zero for a pioneering art form that is still going strong today. That said, please know this particular "film" is a love letter to Stan Lee, so don't expect anything incisive or controversial. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Simple Minds - Acoustic in Concert' (DVD/CD)
(Simple Minds / DVD+CD / NR / 2017 / Eagle Vision)

Overview: On the eve of the release of their acclaimed Acoustic album, Simple Minds took to the stage of London's famous Hackney Empire to perform a special show for BBC Radio 2's renowned In Concert series.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Simple Minds are a Scottish rock band that formed in Glasgow in 1977. The most commercially successful Scottish band of the 1980s, they have achieved five UK number one albums during their career and have sold 60 million records worldwide. Despite various personnel changes, they continue to record and tour today.

And so, and as aforementioned in the Overview above, come the eve of the release of their as-it-was-to-be highly acclaimed Acoustic album, Simple Minds took to the stage of London's famous Hackney Empire to perform a special show for BBC Radio 2's renowned In Concert series.

The band performed re-imagined acoustic versions of some their greatest hits and best-loved tracks along with cover versions of some of the songs that influenced them; including a stunning finale of 'Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)' which sees them joined by Steve Harley.

1) 'New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)'
2) 'See The Lights'
3) 'Glittering Prize'
4) 'Stand By Love'
5) 'Waterfront'
6) 'Andy Warhol'
7) 'Chelsea Girl'
8) 'Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)'
9) 'Dancing Barefoot'
10) 'Speed Your Love To Me'
11) 'Promised You A Miracle'
12) 'Don't You (Forget About Me)'
13) 'Sanctify Yourself'
14) 'Long Black Train'
15) 'Alive And Kicking'
16) 'Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)'

Simply put, and this also applies to me as a HUGE fan of theirs, the just-released, and fantastic companion to their aforementioned Acoustic album Acoustic In Concert DVD+CD is Simple Minds as you've never heard nor seen them before!

I was actually sent last year, over from the UK, their Acoustic album on 2LP vinyl and boy, it was on repeat (albeit I had to flip it each time over the two vinyl LPs, of course) for a full week, trust me! There was just something so incredible, so alive, so new and fresh about the way Jim Kerr and company had chosen to re-record their songs. Like they are here for this BBC Music In Concert series, the songs we have all grown to know and love are now stripped down the their collective core, their hearts exposed, their open and honest chord progressions and vocal ambiance now visible to all those wishing to re-embrace their soundscape of youth.

Sure Kerr may not be packing quite the same vocal punch that he has been able to deliver in the past, but he’s found more nuances in the way that he sings/ emotes some of these lyrics. The one criticism that I have is that with such a deep (and diverse) discography with so many big and little hits their chosen set list is comparatively thin; narrowly focused mostly between the early-mid-80’s album.

That said, there in not one song, not one original or cover that isn't forthright and brilliantly without its heart on its sleeve, trust me. From the opening of the old school trio 'New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84),' 'See The Lights,' and 'Glittering Prize,' the album grabs your attention and never lets it go on through to 'Alive And Kicking' and the Steve Harley cover collaboration 'Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me).'

For me though, it's one of their lesser known tracks combined with a left of center cover that are the stand outs on the album. Done acoustically, both 'Chelsea Girl' (off their debut album Life in a Day, 1979) and a cover of Richard Hawley’s beloved song ‘Long Black Train’ are simply stunning. And as much as the Simple Minds chart hits are most definitely a joy to behold in these new recordings, these two tracks sum up Kerr and company's ongoing musical pedigree to a tee.

The DVD is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS Digital Surround Sound.

Simple Minds @ Facebook

'Enter The Warriors Gate' [Blu-ray + Digital HD]
(Mark Chao, Ni Ni, Dave Bautista, Sienna Guillory, Uriah Shelton, et al / Blu-ray+Digital / PG-13 / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: A teenager is magically transported to China where he must transform his video game skills into those of a Kung Fu Warrior to battle the empire's tyrannical ruler.

Blu-ray Verdict: OK, and first things first, I especially like Dave Bautista as the villain in this movie. Bautista's proving to be a very entertaining guy. Not on the level of The Rock just yet when it comes to wrestlers turn actors, but definitely someone I will look out for if he's in a movie.

'Enter The Warriors Gate' is the wishful fantasy of all gamers: That the skills they required while putting in long hours in front of a game screen could possibly pay off in real life! Of course, we don't want gamers going around mimicking Grand Thief Auto or thinking combat from your couch playing Call of Duty is as real as real combat, of course.

Which is why the movie uses a backdrop of ancient China. It's a classic game plot of a young hero having to battle an army of warriors, and get to the Last Master in order to save the Princess; and free her world thereafter. Indeed, the movie plays out like a group of geeks talking about the stereotypes of video games on some YouTube video, but in a lot better visual fashion!

Aiding this gamer is a Chinese Kung Fu warrior, bred form birth to protect the Princess and a wizard who gives you special potions and more along the way. Both of these characters are actually greatly underused in this film, if I'm being honest; and perhaps a wee bit over critical. Anyway, the movie holds a resemblance to 2008's 'The Forbidden Kingdom', which also under uses it's primary characters (those characters being played by superstars Jackie Chan and Jet Li). That said, I would actually recommend seeing that movie over this one, sorry.

In closing, the best part of 'Enter The Warriors Gate' is the relationship between the gamer and his Kung Fu master guide. The gamer is suppose to be a fish out of water, but mostly the movie is about the gamer trying to loosen up his uptight warrior friend. Like I said, the film's whole persona is basically geeks talking about the basics of every game; which works, for the most part, on a lesser level of acceptance in today's straight-to-DVD world. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Audio Commentary with Director Matthias Hoene
Beyond the Gate: Making Enter The Warriors Gate
The Journey East: Bridging the Cultural Divide
Deleted Scene

(Rico Rodriguez, Kate Del Castillo, Edward James Olmos, Cheech Marin, Erik Estrada, et al / DVD / G / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: When his father's bird circus is stolen by a cruel rival, a brave young parrot takes flight for Hollywood in order to find his TV hero, AMERICANO and save the day.

DVD Verdict: With a general premise such as "A Mexican parrot named Cuco sets off on an adventure to defend his family," you kinda know where this cute little animated feature is already headed before even watching the first few minutes of it. Which is now bad thing, as 'Americano' is a very cute, and at times very funny (in a kids animated kinda way) new movie from Lionsgate Films.

Cuco is a Mexican boy parrot that would rather imitate the crazy stunts of his TV super-parrot hero, El Americano, than help with his chores at the family bird circus. Yet when a gang of bully birds threatens his ringmaster father and takes over the circus, Cuco sets off on a hilarious and perilous journey to Hollywood to enlist his hero in his fight, only to discover the true hero within himself.

Of course, as mentioned, the film features an ensemble voice cast of mostly Hispanic American and Mexican actors led by Rico Rodriguez, Edward James Olmos, Cheech Marin and others, but then throws in the vocal curve ball of lily white 'Friends' alum Lisa Kudrow as "Lucille". Billed as the first major U.S.-Mexico animated feature co-production, 'Americano' is now the fourth feature and first CG movie from Puebla Mexico-based Animex Studios. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Beauty And The Beast' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD]
(Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray+DVD+Digital HD / PG / 2017 / Walt Disney)

Overview: 'Beauty And The Beast' is a brand new live adaptation of the fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.

Blu ray Verdict: To kick things off, let me say I've been a Disney fan since the beginning. 'Beauty and the Beast', the original animated version, was leaps and bounds more enjoyable. However, and sadly, as I really wanted to like it; love it even, this version removes the soul of the story.

Disney didn't seem to want to be bothered by what would actually be enjoyable to watch, or more, what would be important to keep you engaged. Emma Watson simply was a poor representation of Belle. She tried, I'll give her that, but it would've looked more natural seeing the strings the director tied Watson's appendages to make her move about the scenes.

Beyond Watson's contribution to the film, the Beast was just a plain bad design. Disney has been pushing out films for decades, but can't get the CGI remotely on par with today's standards? Luke Evans provided a great representation of Gaston however, so the film has that going for it.

Pointing out the topic which received the most controversy, the forcefully presented sexual affiliation of character Lefou was just bad taste on Disney's part. While the banter and side context between Gaston/Lefou was somewhat entertaining, the portrayal of homosexual desire designed by Disney in this children's film was bad judgment and part of a seemingly larger agenda.

In short, if you are expecting to see a wholesome family film, this isn't it. I've got no problem with homosexual references in adult films, but this is for kids. Disney was previously unbiased and was successful. If this new direction continues, I can say Disney will more than likely lose a good deal of business from a much larger, more value-driven number of communities.

For me, personally, it's a great shame that Disney had everything to make a decent film (the budget was tremendous, the sets were fine, the cast could have been better, the special effects were good in some parts), but missed their chance and decided to destroy the childhood memories of those who once loved 'Beauty and the Beast'.

I mean, and this isn't just me griping, but my friends also, but the producers made a HUGE mistake in casting Emma Watson as Belle. With her usual 'too knowing' look and unmistakable accent, watching the film is like watching the Harry Potter star making a parody appearance!

The strong English accent is cringe worthy throughout the film and Emma clearly is not a believable Belle. One of the original Belle's main features are her big luscious eyes batting gracefully and innocently. Whether the producers were simply looking for a modern Belle or not, the casting failed miserably here.

In closing, with the plot and characters already well known and predictable, they should have captured other aspects of making it a big modern classic - such as going 'outstanding' on vocals and emotional pulls. But, there was no effort here and the main characters are heavily set on auto tune and heavily lacking of real emotions.

Taking a look at some of the more stand out Special Features, my favorites are such ones as The Women Behind 'Beauty and the Beast' where Emma Watson introduces several of the talented women in all aspects of production who helped bring this enchanted tale to life. It's an engrossing little featurette and one that shines amongst the wealth of others here.

Another one is Making a Moment with Celine Dion where the Canadian songstress shares what it’s like to sing “How Does a Moment Last Forever” – and be a part of the legacy of 'Beauty and the Beast,' in general.

One last one is From Song to Screen: Making the Musical Sequences, where we go behind the scenes into the making of some of the best-known moments from 'Beauty and the Beast.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Bonus Features Include*:
Enchanted Table Read – Join the cast for the movie’s elaborately staged table read, complete with singing and dancing to live music, set pieces and more.
A Beauty of a Tale – Explore the process of transforming a beloved animated film into a new live-action classic.
The Women Behind “Beauty and the Beast” – Emma Watson introduces several of the talented women in all aspects of production who helped bring this enchanted tale to life.
Making a Moment with Celine Dion – Celine Dion shares what it’s like to sing “How Does a Moment Last Forever” – and be a part of the legacy of “Beauty and the Beast.”
From Song to Screen: Making the Musical Sequences – See what goes into making some of the best-known moments from “Beauty and the Beast.”
“Belle” -- Filmmakers and cast reveal how it felt to shoot this memorable scene.
“Be Our Guest” -- Discover all that went into creating this epic, primarily virtual performance.
“Gaston” -- Join the cast for rehearsals and filming of this rousing, high-energy number.
“Beauty and the Beast” -- You’re invited on set for the filming of this beloved, classic scene.
Deleted Scenes
Introduction by Director Bill Condon -- Director Bill Condon presents a collection of scenes that, for one reason or another, ended up on the cutting-room floor.
Gaston Courts Belle -- Pleased with himself after settling a disturbance with the townspeople, a triumphant Gaston attempts to woo Belle.
Bread and Jam for Agathe -- On her morning market rounds, Belle stops by to see Agathe, the village beggar woman.
Storming the Ice Gates -- The angry mob of villagers, led by Gaston, overwhelms the castle’s defenses.
Lumière Torches LeFou -- As the fight rages around them, LeFou scuffles with Plumette … until he experiences a sudden, extremely heated interruption.
Monsieur Toilette -- LeFou escapes from the brawl into a small room, where he's startled by a castle resident.
Cogsworth Rescues Lumière -- When Clothilde the fishmonger threatens Lumière, Cogsworth leaps into the fray.
Treacle the Lasses -- Three village lasses chase Chip and Froufrou – Madame Garderobe’s dog-turned-footstool – into the kitchen, where a surprise awaits.
LeFou and Monsieur Toilette Reunite -- After the spell is broken and the castle residents are returned to human form, LeFou and his new acquaintance meet again.
Extended Song: “Days in the Sun” – Learn more about Beast’s childhood in an alternate version of this beautiful song, introduced by director Bill Condon.
“Beauty and the Beast” Music Video – Award-winning artists Ariana Grande and John Legend perform a moving version of this iconic song.
Making the Music Video – Go on set to capture the magic as it happens in Ariana Grande and John Legend’s “Beauty and the Beast” music video.
Disney Song Selection – Jump directly to all your favorite songs and sing along with the movie.
“How Does a Moment Last Forever” (Music Box)
“Belle” (Reprise)
“Be Our Guest”
“Days in the Sun”
“Something There”
“How Does a Moment Last Forever” (Montmartre)
“Beauty and the Beast”
“The Mob Sing”
“Beauty and the Beast” (Finale)

“Beauty and the Beast” Music Video

'Beauty And The Beast' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD is released everywhere this June 6th, 2017.

'Everybody Loves Somebody'
(Karla Souza, José María Yazpik, Ben O'Toole, K. C. Clyde, et al / DVD / PG-13 / 2017 / LGF)

Overview: Karla Souza ('How to Get Away with Murder') stars as a young single doctor who's torn between two lovers - and two futures - in this fun-filled romantic comedy.

DVD Verdict: So, the basic premise is one that's steeped in the cinematic and TV history of thousands that have gone before it: A successful and single career woman asks her co-worker to pose as her boyfriend at a family wedding back home in Mexico. Her situation gets complicated when her ex shows up at the ceremony and suddenly said career single woman seems to have two handsome admirers standing right in front of her!

As much a "rom-com" as I think I have ever seen, 'Everybody Loves Somebody' still manages to add some nice, unexpected even twists and turns into the mix, which certainly elevate it above most within the genre. That said, you know the ending a mile off, but it's how you get there, or how we get there that makes the big difference here.

Indeed, the road taken by the lovely, sexy Clara (Karla Souza, 'How to Get Away with Murder') is one not made of your usual stereotypical stuff. we have a seeming successful doctor, with a loving family and an empty life who fills said void with alcohol. So, as an invite lands in her lap for a wedding, she quickly realizes she needs a date. And voila, there's your movie!

At said wedding her ex boyfriend shows up and, of course, comedic problems ensue. Her date, a saint, is a man of straight up good character and so the ex is built of completely other beliefs. The dynamic between our trio is really well defined, honestly, and the family dialogue is not bad either. Indeed, there is a late scene between the sister and brother-in-law which is quite lovely also ie: it helps explain love and marriage (to us all!) This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Official Trailer

'A United Kingdom' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD]
(Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo, Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD / PG-13 / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: The story of King Seretse Khama of Botswana and how his loving but controversial marriage to a British white woman, Ruth Williams, put his kingdom into political and diplomatic turmoil.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, and in the hands of a lesser director than the hugely talented Amma Asante, 'A United Kingdom' might have been nothing more than another inter-racial romance cloaked in a veil of sickly sentimentality. But, like 'Belle' before it, this remarkable film works both as a genuinely moving love story, but more significantly, as a powerful political tract that draws attention to a very shameful period in recent British history; with neither the Tory nor Labour governments coming out of it smelling of roses.

It is the story of Seretse Khama, heir to the throne of Bechuanaland, now Botswana, who whilst a student in London, fell in love with and married Ruth Williams; English and, more crucially, white. Bringing her back to his homeland as his Queen, much to the chagrin and disapproval of both the British and South African governments and his own people, this is when the tale really begins to be told. However, like all good love stories, if not quite all fairy tales, Ruth's tenacity soon wins over the people of Bechuanaland while the jaundiced, racist government of the UK proves a somewhat greater obstacle.

The events portrayed in the film actually took place in real life, but until now haven't been much discussed on a wider platform. Even today, inter-racial love stories can be unpopular and sadly racism remains a major issue that has yet to be eradicated. It is testament to both Seretse and to Ruth that their actions were finally instrumental in bringing democracy to Botswana with Seretse renouncing his kingship and becoming the first democratically elected president of his country.

In these roles both David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike are superb and there is sterling work from an outstanding supporting cast. If the feelgood factor seems at times a tad on the heavy side in Guy Hibbert's screenplay it is still heartening to see a movie about love and about race that is largely unsentimental and politically astute. It is also gorgeously shot by Sam McCurdy and is a credit to all involved. I simply cannot recommend this film any more than by adding that seeing it should change the way you see life through certain rose-colored glasses that you might have been previously wearing. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Making Of Featurette
Filming in Botswana
The Legacy of Seretse and Ruth
London Film Festival Opening Night Gala Premiere

Official Trailer

'Kill 'Em All' [Blu-ray]
(Jean-Claude Van Damme, Autumn Reeser, Maria Conchita Alonso, et al / Blu-ray / R / 2017 / Sony Pictures)

Overview: After a massive shootout, a mysterious stranger (Van Damme) arrives at a local hospital on the brink of death. Then, a foreign gang brazenly comes to the hospital to kill him ... but things don't always go their way, of course!

Blu-ray Verdict: Simply put, 'Kill 'Em All' is what I would call a Sunday afternoon hang-over movie! There is almost no story line connected to the movie, and it is basically just martial arts and action from the very first moment of the movie right up to the end credits. Which is fine, if you're into that stuff, but our beloved JCVD doesn't quite move like he used to in all these go-go gadget kung-fu scenes, trust me!

So, you want to know more about this so-called story line, I hear you ask. OK, well, JCVD is seeking revenge for the group of powerful me who killed his father, and so infiltrates an elite security team. But his cover was blown in spectacular style and so now in hospital after a near-fatal shoot out with his own team, they come to hunt him down.

And there it is - for, like 80 more minutes. They come at him in this hospital one after the next. Oh, and his nurse, the sole surviving witness to the follow-up shootout, must also face an FBI interrogation that unlocks a plot of international intrigue and revenge! The fact that one of these elite assassins is a stunningly beautiful, long black hair swept back in a pony tail model is beyond delicious eye candy though, it has to be said!

Anyway, and back on track, the twists and turns do keep dropping around the corners and for them alone this B-movie is definitely not a bargain bin wannabe. JCVD looks pretty decent for his age, a bit plastic in certain shots, at certain angles, but weather worn is something he makes looks sexy, I guess.

As for Peter Malota, he makes his directorial debut and is also a long-time friend of JCVD. Indeed, he was involved in 'Double Impact', 'Universal Solider', 'The Quest' and 'The Order' with him. In closing, 'Kill 'Em All' is good brain fodder for some fun when you need to unhook your brain and just watch some senseless action. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Official Trailer

'The Story of China with Michael Wood' [Blu-ray]
(2 Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: As he conveyed 'THE STORY OF INDIA', Michael Wood provides a historical and cultural context for another of the two civilizations that is going to be predominant in the 21st century, and therefore has real meaning and importance.

Blu-ray Verdict: Sometimes aggressive, sometimes defensive, most of the time suspicious and definitely condescending (well, it is, sorry), 'The Story of China with Michael Wood' is a decent evenings viewing, sure, but one that will leave you with more questions than answers.

So much so that the joy of watching a good documentary - the exploration, the admiration, the feeling of opening up a door to a brand new world - were all lost here, for me and my friends that sat with me for the viewing. Nowadays "documentaries" about China are no longer documentaries, but excuses for us to criticize it.

But that is not true for this series. It takes as little political position as possible, it speaks of China in ways that both the host and the Chinese themselves can agree with, all with understanding eyes instead of suspicious ones. And that, is the top notch documentary that so many of us are drawn to.

The promotional stand behind 'The Story of China', written and presented by historian Michael Wood, is that it explores the history of the world's oldest continuous state, from the ancient past to the present day. Home to over a billion people, China is the new super power, a country we all want to understand now, and Wood argues that to do so we have to look at its history.

Sure, he does that, but as aforementioned, the curve balls of fairness don't come fairly; neither do they stop when they humanely should. Traveling across the country he explores the landscapes, peoples, stories, and cultures that have helped create China's distinctive character and genius over more than four thousand years.

Again, that's true, but does he meet the correct talking heads along the way; no. Indeed, Wood meets people from all walks of life, explores ancient cities, and traces some of the great moments in Chinese history - from their extraordinary voyages of exploration, to amazing scientific inventions. But, and again, Wood is an experienced and well known host/historian, but for anyone who has studied eastern cultures/history it is simply amazing that he can go through the history of China in just six (6) episodes; and yet still point out the essential and important turns of events.

To my humble mind, it takes more than just knowledge to condense such a long story into a compact one, it takes years of refinement and understanding, years of critical analysis and discussion to find out the absolute key points. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Xi'an City Walls
A Crane and a Goddess
Anyone for Coffee?
The Pleasures of Filming
A Noodle Bar

'NATURE: Forest of the Lynx'
(DVD / G / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Travel to the abandoned forests in Austria, where what appears to be devastation is the process back to its natural state. The most salient change is the return of the lynx. The feline's presence is a testimony to nature's power of revival.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, a lynx is any of the four species within the Lynx genus of medium-sized wild cats, which includes the bobcat. Indeed, the name "lynx" originated in Middle English via Latin from the Greek word λύγξ, derived from the Indo-European root leuk- ("light, brightness") in reference to the luminescence of its reflective eyes.

However, and as a point of context, neither the caracal, sometimes called the desert lynx, nor the jungle cat, called the jungle lynx, is a member of the Lynx genus.

In 'NATURE: Forest of the Lynx', we quickly discover that forests are far more complex than previously imagined. Here we travel deep into the remote forests of the Kalkalpen National Park in Austria - the largest area of wilderness in the Alps.

Abandoned and unmanaged by man for close to a quarter of a century, the forest's dramatic cycle of growth and decay now rules the landscape. What appears at first to be devastation and destruction is in fact part of the fundamental process of the forest's regeneration and transformation back to its natural, primeval state - along with pygmy owls, woodpeckers, and colorful insects.

One of the most salient changes in the forest, however, is the return of the lynx. After 150 years of absence, the feline's elusive presence is a testimony to nature's power of revival, making the lynx the symbol of the forest. 'NATURE: Forest of the Lynx' is as good as they come with regard putting forth the mystique behind the lynx, and showcasing the beautiful animal and its rightful place on this Earth we inhabit together. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'NATURE: Hotel Armadillo'
(DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: The Giant armadillo digs a new burrow every other night. Once this termite-eater moves on, it leaves behind one of the hottest plots of real estate in the Brazilian wetlands for 80 species of diverse and ever-changing animal clientele.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Armadillos are New World placental mammals in the order Cingulata with a leathery armour shell. The Chlamyphoridae and Dasypodidae are the only surviving families in the order, which is part of the superorder Xenarthra, along with the anteaters and sloths.

Indeed, the actual word armadillo means "little armoured one" in Spanish. The Aztecs called them āyōtōchtli, Nahuatl for "turtle-rabbit": āyōtl (turtle) and tōchtli (rabbit). The Portuguese word for "armadillo" is tatu which derives from the Tupi language. Similar names are also found in other, especially European, languages.

In 'NATURE: Hotel Armadillo,' well, you won't find this hotel on the beaches of Rio. Deep in the heart of the Brazilian wetlands, the mysterious and secretive Giant armadillo digs a new burrow every other night. Once this termite-eater moves on, it leaves behind one of the hottest plots of real estate in the tropical Pantanal for 80 species of diverse and ever-changing animal clientele.

Here in this truly fascinating new PBS documentary we get a never-before-seen look as guests walk, squawk, slither, and crawl from far and wide to get the best room available. From families of nursing anteaters to foraging coatis, the "Hotel Armadillo" showcases all the grasslands have to offer along with the scientists who "check in" these exotic guests.

Trust me when I say you have NEVER, ever seen anything as up close and personal in the world of Nature than this documentary! I was blown away by the intense camera work and overall documentary styling. Well done, PBS. Bravo. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Masters: Alice Waters'
(DVD / G / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Follow Alice Waters through a year of shopping and cooking, and discover the vision of an artist and advocate, who has taken her gift for food and turned it into consciousness about the environment, nutrition and a device for social change.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Alice Waters is an American chef, restaurateur, activist and author. She is the owner of Chez Panisse, a Berkeley, California restaurant famous for its organic, locally grown ingredients and for pioneering California cuisine, which she opened in 1971.

Waters has been cited as one of the most influential figures in food in the past 50 years, and has been called the mother of American food. She is currently one of the most visible supporters of the organic food movement, and has been a proponent of organics for over 40 years.

Waters believes that eating organic foods, free from herbicides and pesticides, is essential for both taste and the health of the environment and local communities.

As aforementioned, 'American Masters: Alice Waters and Her Delicious Revolution' follows Waters through a year of seasonal shopping and cooking, where we discover both the recipes and vision of an artist and an advocate.

She and her now-famous restaurant Chez Panisse became a major force behind the way Americans eat and think about food, launching the explosion of local farmers' markets and redesigned supermarket produce departments.

Distressed by the food she saw in public schools, Waters started an organic garden with an integrated curriculum at the Martin Luther King Middle School near her house, an idea inspired by The Garden Project at the San Francisco county jail.

The idea of an Edible Schoolyard has now spread across the US - and inspired similar programs worldwide. She is an activist with a flawless palette who has taken her gift for food and turned it into consciousness about the environment and nutrition, and a device for social change. This new PBS DVD is fantastic, truly a joy to behold and one for all to watch - of all culinary ages. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Masters: James Beard'
(DVD / G / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Experience a century of food through the life of James Beard, who spoke of the importance of localism and sustainability long before those terms had entered the vernacular. A cookbook author, journalist, television celebrity and teacher, Beard helped to pioneer and expand the food media industry.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, James Beard (May 5, 1903 – January 21, 1985) was an American cook, cookbook author, teacher and television personality. Beard was a champion of American cuisine who taught and mentored generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts.

His legacy lives on in twenty books, other writings and his foundation's annual James Beard awards in a number of culinary genres.

Beard was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1903 to Elizabeth and John Beard. His mother operated the Gladstone Hotel, and his father worked at the city's customs house. The family vacationed on the Pacific coast in Gearhart, Oregon, where Beard was exposed to Pacific Northwest cuisine.

Common ingredients of this cuisine are salmon, shellfish and other fresh seafood; game meats such as moose, elk, or venison; mushrooms, berries, small fruits, potatoes, kale and wild plants such as fiddleheads or young pushki (Heracleum maximum, or cow parsnip).

Indeed, Beard constantly spoke of the importance of localism and sustainability long before those terms had entered the vernacular. At a time of "all things French," Beard appreciated what America had to bring to the table, and was the first chef to go on television to teach not only women, but men, how to cook. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

American Masters: Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft
(DVD / G / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Discover the story of Chef Jacques Pépin, a young immigrant whose American journey took him through the kitchens of Howard Johnson's, bringing his commitment to great taste and craftsmanship to American food. With his landmark cookbooks and television shows, he ushered in a new era in American food culture.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Jacques Pépin is an internationally recognized French chef, television personality, and author working in the United States. Since the late 1980s, he has appeared on French and American television and written an array of cookbooks that have become best sellers.

Pépin, the second of three sons, was born in 1935 in Bourg-en-Bresse, near Lyon in France. After World War II, his parents, Jeannette and Jean-Victor Pépin, owned the restaurant, Le Pélican, where Pépin worked and later became known for his love for food.

He went on to work in Paris, training under Lucien Diat at the Plaza Athénée. From 1956 to 1958, during his military service, Pépin was the personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle.

In 1959 Pépin came to the United States to work at the restaurant Le Pavillon. Soon after his arrival, Craig Claiborne, noted food editor at the New York Times, introduced Pépin to Helen McCully, who took him under her wing.

The rest, as they say is cuisine history, for 'American Masters: Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft' from PBS is yet another home run when it comes to showcasing an early food icon - joining James Beard and Julia Child among the handful of Americans who transformed the way the country views the food world.

Not content cooking in French palaces, where he was the personal chef to three French presidents including Charles de Gaulle, Pépin's American journey took him through the kitchens of Howard Johnson's, bringing his commitment to great taste, craftsmanship and technique to American popular food. With his landmark cookbooks and television shows, he ushered in a new era in American food culture - a story that continues to unfold.

1) Jacques Pépin demonstrates omelettes
In this timeless excerpt from his 1995 television series Jacques Pépin's Cooking Techniques, Jacques definitively demonstrates two traditional techniques for making omelettes - country style and classic French fines herbs.

2) José Andrés on a memorable Pépin moment
Renowned Spanish chef/restaurateur José Andrés remembers the profound effect of watching Jacques performing a public cooking demonstration.

3) Rollie Wesen on his iconic father-in-law
Chef-educator (and Jacques' son-in-law) Rollie Wesen describes the experience of having a professional legend in the family.

4) Filmmaker interview: Producer/Director Peter L. Stein
Documentary maker Peter L. Stein describes some of the special on- and off-screen challenges of bringing Jacques' story to the screen, and recalls his longtime collaboration with Jacques as producer of many of his early public television series.

5) Flashback: the first episode of Today's Gourmet 1990 (excerpt)
Jacques' television career took off with his 1990 series Today's Gourmet. This excerpt from the very first episode ("My Mother's Favorites") includes a cameo by Jacques' mother Jeannette, the delightful title sequence, and Jacques' preparation of potato-leek soup.

6) 80th birthday tribute
On the occasion of Jacques' 80th birthday in 2015, his longtime producer Tina Salter created this tribute video complete with bloopers and fond memories from food-world luminaries.

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

'Masterpiece: King Charles III'
(Tim Pigott-Smith, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Adapted from the Tony-nominated stage play, this is an examination of contemporary Britain part political thriller, part family drama. After the Queen's death, Prince Charles finds himself wrestling his conscience over a bill to sign into law, resulting in a constitutional and political crisis.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Charles III, also known as Charles the Simple, reigned as king of France from 893 to 922, during which time he implemented the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte.

After initially being overlooked for the throne as a child, he was crowned king of France by nobles in 893, and became the solitary ruler after the death of King Eudes in 898. Charles III is best remembered for having created the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte.

A new king, Robert I, was crowned in 922. Robert I was killed by Charles III the following year. Charles III was imprisoned and died in 929.

'King Charles III' is a 2014 play in blank verse by Mike Bartlett. It was premiered at the Almeida Theatre, London, in April 2014 and centers on the accession and reign of King Charles III of the United Kingdom, the possible regal name of the real Charles, Prince of Wales, and the limiting of the freedom of the press after the News International phone hacking scandal.

Indeed, a 90-minute television adaptation was broadcast on BBC Two this past May 10th, 2017.

In this newly-released by PBS fantasy with pseudo-Shakespearian conversations, Queen Elizabeth dies and Charles is made king. None of the characters in the film, which is based on a play, behave as we have come to believe they think and act in real life. This adds to the interest in the film, of course.

King Charles' first confrontation is with Parliament which proposed a law to restrict the Press. British procedure is that a proposed law does not become effective until the monarch signs the document. Charles refuses to sign saying the Press should not be restricted. Unable to get Charles to change his mind, the Prime Minister proposes a decree that allows a law to become effective without the monarch's signature.

This would weaken the monarchy. It creates division in the Parliament and in the country. Charles responds by invoking an ancient edict, which makes matters worse.

Meanwhile Charles and Diana’s son Harry falls in love with a black woman and wants to marry her, and asks Charles for permission. Beside the racial issue, newspapers revealed that she sent a nude picture of herself to a former boyfriend.

The film is filled with betrayal and we are left to decide who of the royal family are acting better. Starring Tim Pigott-Smith ('Jewel in The Crown'), who himself reprises the title role, this new adaptation by Mike Bartlett of 'Masterpiece: King Charles III' is a timely examination of contemporary Britain - part political thriller, part family drama. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

(DVD / G / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Naturalist and 19th century painter, John James Audubon was one of the most remarkable men of early America. The program brings to life his timeless paintings with dazzling footage of the living birds he immortalized - and celebrates visually the natural world he described in his writings.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, John James Audubon (born Jean Rabin; April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851) was an American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter.

He was notable for his extensive studies documenting all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats.

His major work, a color-plate book entitled The Birds of America (1827–1839), is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed. Audubon identified 25 new species.

A contemporary of Lewis & Clark and Davey Crockett, he explored the American frontier in search of "the feathered tribes" he loved and studied. A self-taught artist and ornithologist, he left a legacy of art and science that made him famous in his lifetime and endures to this day.

His portrait hangs in the White House, his statue stands over the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History, and his name was adopted by the nation's first conservation organization.

This delightful, and for the uninitiated (much like myself) truly fascinating new PBS documentary, filmed in locations where Audubon painted, brings to life his timeless paintings with dazzling footage of the living birds he immortalized - and celebrates visually the natural world he described in his writings. With actor Sam Elliott as the voice of John James Audubon, PBS have yet again worked some historical visual and audio magic here.

Interviews reveal the man, explore his art, and put his groundbreaking work in modern perspective. Don't miss out on this new PBS documentary as it is beyond brilliant and historical, and yet lite entertainment at its finest. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and features the Theatrical Release alongside The Broadcast Version.

'T2 Trainspotting' [Blu-ray+Digital]
(Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Miller, Ewan McGregor, Kelly Macdonald, et al / Blu-ray+Digital / R / 2017 / Sony Pictures)

Overview: First there was an opportunity - then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the only place he can ever call home.

Blu-ray Verdict: As we are frequently reminded during the course of 'T2 Trainspotting', it's been 20 years since Danny Boyle's iconic and culturally eye-opening 'Trainspotting'.

Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) and his cronies, in a monologue no doubt quotable to anybody who was a teenager in 1996, famously decided not to choose life, and instead were on course for a wasted existence of heroin addiction and crime.

The main question asked by this sequel is: Was it worth it? The group fans were so eager to see back together may have less hair and more body fat, but they have finally put aside personal squabbles (McGregor and Boyle made up after the former was overlooked in favor of Leonard Di Caprio for The Beach) and worked around ongoing contracts to reunite. While 'T2' struggles to find a consistent tone and somewhat falls apart during its final act, it will no doubt put a smile on any fan's face.

The fragility of male machismo and the sudden emergence of middle- age are key themes running throughout the film, constantly harking back and reminding the audience with sly nods of how much fun these guys were 20 years ago. 'Trainspotting' began with a skinny, pale- faced Renton running from store security, but here he runs dead-eyed on a treadmill. Although it would seem that Renton successfully put himself on the straight-and-narrow in Amsterdam after robbing his friends blind at the climax of the first film, he finds himself compelled to visit his past after suffering a medical scare.

Returning to Edinburgh, not much has changed. Simon, aka Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), is still running scams, now with his Bulgarian 'girlfriend' Veronica (Anjela Nedyalkova); Spud (Ewen Bremner) lives alone and is hated by his embarrassed son, successfully getting himself off heroin before making his way back to it; and the psychopathic Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is behind bars serving a 25 year jail term.

Irvine Welsh's sequel to the hit novel, Porno, has been talked about as a film adaptation ever since the first film struck so many chords with its audience. 'T2' is not this adaptation, but instead takes inspiration from Porno, as well as unused material from its predecessor, to create an original story. A straight-forward follow- up would not have done the fans justice.

The cultural impact was so significant that 'Trainspotting' played a big part in many young people's lives, to the point where just to hear the opening few seconds of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" or Underworld's "Born Slippy" could transport any 30-40 year old back to their youth. Boyle knows this, and teases us in a scene where Renton re-visits his childhood home and fiddles with a record player.

The stomping drums of Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" pumps out before he suddenly takes the needle off the record. In that split second, the excitement comes flooding back. Yet 'T2' isn't just a trip down nostalgia lane, it confronts you with the difficult question of whether or not you are where you thought you'd be when life seemed more care-free.

Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle infuses the sequel with a modern energy, opting for a more colorful palette made dirtier with digital grain. It contrasts the films' two different styles by slotting in actual scenes from the original, often juxtaposing events happening now with the characters' memories. The main conflict revolves around Begbie's escape from prison and his learning of Renton's reemergence in Edinburgh, as well as Sick Boy's resentment of his former best friend robbing him of his share in the drug deal gone right.

Begbie uneasily shifts between comic relief and genuine antagonist, and Boyle seems unsure what to do with the character. The biggest revelation is Bremner's Spud, who is still the most sympathetic reprobate ever to emerge from Welsh's text. Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge ingeniously find a way to make him front and center, turning this into his story, and Bremner's performance is truly heartbreaking.

A mishandled climax and a lack of development for Veronica means that 'T2' falls way short of its predecessor, and this will perhaps not have the same impact on any audience members who saw 'Trainspotting' outside of the '90s. But for those of us who did, this is a very welcome send-off. Bravo. Bravo, indeed. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Deleted Scenes (over 30 minutes worth!)
20 Years In the Making: A Conversation with Danny Boyle and the Cast
Commentary with Director Danny Boyle and Writer John Hodge

Official Trailer

'Bones - Season 12, The Final Chapter'
(David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, Ryan O'Neal, T.J. Thyne, et al / 3 Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: First there was an opportunity - then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the only place he can ever call home.

DVD Verdict: In my humble opinion, the last season of 'Bones' (11) had it all: personable and engaging actors (from top to bottom), fast action plots that continue to focus on the Jeffersonian cases, imaginative writing, and a continued focus on balancing the characters' job skills and and personal emotions.

Indeed, it sure looked like one of the best 'Bones' seasons in the series, even given the death note of cancellation hanging over them as they filmed it. While 'Castle' floundered and played soap-opera mind games with audiences, 'Bones' strode on with partnerships intact and even building new ones; keeping the focus where it has always been: forensics and mystery.

So here in this 'Bones: Season 12, The Final Chapter', and given the creepy ending to the last episode of Season 11, are we still invested in the characters' lives and struggles? Of course we are, even more so that an old lab tech comes back to engage Dr. Temperance Brennan; let alone Booth now lands himself in the cross hairs of a serial killer!

As I'm sure you all know by now, this last season of 'Bones' was agreed upon to allow the team to create a "Happy Ending" for our beloved TV team, and for the fans to sign off without unrest rearing its ugly social media head. Containing just 12 episodes, as always, the show relies on stable characters and a cast ensemble that evolves normally because the focus has never hidden from the forensics.

So, and not to spoil your enjoyment of this final chapter, or to give anything much away, in the premiere episode of the 12, the team searches for Brennan, who was kidnapped by former intern Zack Addy. What I think was really clever here was that this premiere not only brought things full circle on a few outstanding 'Bones' subject matters, but picked up straight away after the Season 11 conclusion.

No need to wonder what happened at the end of that Season 11, for we are brought kicking and screaming back into the action as the reunion between a returning Zack (Eric Millegan) and Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) takes control of the episode.

Also nice was that some original members of the principal cast come back to help with solving some of the crimes along the way. Sure, some of the twists and turns of the story lines were as formulaic, as guessable as ever, but one more than one occasion, trust me, the big reveal of the true murderer came as an unexpected surprise!

And so, come the end, 'Bones: Season 12, The Final Chapter' never once strays from what made it what it is today in our TV folklore. To boast that level of integrity after a dozen years is quite rare and speaks volumes of the cast and crew. This, at times, darkly amusing procedural entering its 12th and final season here showcases the destruction of their infamous Jeffersonian lab, the joining of many forces to come together to bring sanctuary back to their collective lives, and a few Easter Eggs scattered throughout for the fans from over the years also.

So run out and buy this culminating last season of 'Bones' today and then start watching it all over again from Season 1' - you won't regret it, trust me! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Back to the Lab: A Bones Retrospective
Gag Reel

Season 12 Gag Reel

'This Beautiful Fantastic'
(Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Tom Wilkinson, Jeremy Irvine, et al / DVD / PG / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: A young woman who dreams of being a children's author makes an unlikely friendship with a cantankerous, rich old widower.

DVD Verdict: They say for a good story you need to put ordinary people in unusual conditions. Ergo, in 'This Beautiful Fantastic' all that norm is done exactly in the opposite — extraordinary people trying to live a normal life. Very gentle and sensitive, sometimes melodramatic, sometimes a little fantasy story about friendship.

Bella Brown is portrayed by the excellent Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey, 'Winter's Tale' and 'Victor Frankenstein'). Through her, Bella's character gets depth and stands as the beautiful and subtle woman who never gives up. This happens despite the fact that she is an orphan, her galloping OCD, and her fear of nature.

The film centers on the singular plot line (at first) that Bella's landlord will throw her out if she does not do something about her neglected garden. This is the beginning of a friendship with her neighbors Alfie Stephenson and his chef Vernon.

The film is driven by stunning performances by Tom Wilkinson ('Shakespeare in Love', 'Batman Begins' and 'Michael Clayton') as the neighbor Alfie. He is a loner who, for the most part, is simply waiting to die. Meanwhile he amuses himself with his garden, good food and snide remarks to everyone around him.

Andrew Scott ('Sherlock', 'Pride' and 'Spectre') is the chef Vernon, giving life to an otherwise dull character. Thanks to Bella leaving Viktor from his position with Alfie, in order to be employed as a cook with her. As she, and we quickly discover, it turns upside everything in her world upside down in her "perfect" OCD world of loneliness, order and structure.

Director Simon Aboud's ('Come Here Today' and 'Comes a Bright Day') reflection and commitment rubs off on the film, although it's sometimes extremely predictable. But that does not change the fact that Aboud has created a successful and charismatic movie where humor; and OCD transforms and unite at the end of the movie.

The film's focus on the wonderful weird people gives a new and different tale, with its alternative approach to (wo)man's daily struggle, the movie manages to approach reality in a whole new way. Simply put, 'This Beautiful Fantastic' is the reason why we love movies. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Birdy' [2017]
(Matthew Modine, Nicolas Cage, John Harkins, Sandy Baron, Karen Young, et al / DVD / R / (1984) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Academy Award®-winner Nicolas Cage (Best Actor, 1995, 'Leaving Las Vegas') and Matthew Modine ('Full Metal Jacket') star in this riveting drama about two childhood friends and the physical and mental wounds they suffer in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

DVD Verdict: 'Birdy' is a difficult film to describe. It's about the developing friendship between Al (Nick Cage) and Birdy (Matthew Modine), but it's also about a descent into madness, and the lengths to which Al goes for his friend.

The film starts in the late 60's, in a US military mental hospital. Cage has been seriously wounded, and has had reconstructive surgery on his face, but he's been brought in because Birdy is here. He's uncommunicative and appears to recognize no one, spending all day squatting on the floor of his cell squinting up at the window.

The story is mostly told in flashbacks, either Al recounting incidents in their growing friendship as neighborhood kids or, later, Birdy remembering other incidents. From the start the two are pretty dissimilar - Al is athletic, outgoing and popular while Birdy is quiet and introverted - a typical nerd. The two are, paradoxically, brought together by Birdy's love of birds, and the stupid things they do - making suits out of pigeon feathers to befriend more pigeons, climbing on (and falling off) factories trying to capture more birds.

Al tries to set Birdy on a 'normal' track; they buy a wrecked car and fix it up, and head off to the beach. But Birdy is just too wrapped up in himself for this to work, and it's a wonder he doesn't alienate Al with his strange behavior.

In the present, the doctor is putting more pressure on Al to get Birdy to respond; if he doesn't, then Birdy will be written off and sent to a permanent mental institution. The flashbacks continue, and it becomes clear that Birdy's love of birds has turned into an obsession, and then into the darker realms beyond that.

The final few minutes of the film cover a lot of ground; Al finally realizes that Birdy is pretty well off the deep end; they both go off to fight in the war; Al gets his injury, while we see the incident that left Birdy in his present state. Meanwhile the doctor finally decides that time has run out, but Al decides he's not leaving.

The ending of the film is incredibly powerful, and it should be a criminal offense to give it away. Is it appropriate to the rest of the film? I honestly don't know, but I thought it was pretty damn good, nonetheless - and I hope you do too.

The film stands or falls on the performances of Cage and Modine - and, for me, it stands tall. Cage is excellent in his role, capturing the bravado of his character perfectly; but Modine is simply brilliant. During the flashbacks he portrays his nerdy character completely believably, but it's the way he handles the scenes in the asylum that amazed me. As soon as you know his obsession, it is crystal clear that he's not squatting in his cell, but perching, wishing to fly. Alan Parker has made some great films; surely this might just be his best. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Beast' [2017]
(Jason Patric, Steven Bauer, Stephen Baldwin, George Dzundra, Don Harvey, et al / DVD / R / (1988) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Afghanistan, 1981, and the Soviet Union is locked in a futile and bloody battle with the Mujahedeen guerillas. Separated from their patrol, the crew of a Russian T-62 tank engages in a deadly game of cat and mouse with the local insurgents led by Taj (Steven Bauer).

DVD Verdict: That a film as good as 'The Beast' (originally known and released back in 1988 as 'The Beast of War') is so unknown to the masses is nothing short of criminal. The film is tragic, exciting, suspenseful, and intelligent. From detailed depictions of the Soviet military to the rare glimpse inside the Afghan social structure, this film takes the viewer to places that few films have ever dared to venture. The film is compelling on many levels, and it will stick with you for a long time after you see it.

The film centers around a five-man Soviet tank crew hopelessly lost in Afghanistan after taking part in a vicious raid on a tiny village. The survivors of the village vow to chase this tank to the edge of the earth in order to achieve "badal"; which is a fancy word for revenge. Steven Bauer (of 'Scarface' fame) plays their young leader.

The tank crew is led by a hard-nosed commander who would seemingly trade the lives of his crew for the safety of his tank. He's played by a slimmed-down George Dzundza who you may recognize, but not be able to name the other films he's been in ('Deer Hunter', 'No Mercy').

Also on board is an idealistic young driver played by Jason Patric ('Speed 2'). He and the commander are at odds from the very beginning, and that conflict takes a turn you would never guess at the film's outset.

The tank crew and those in pursuit have numerous skirmishes as the film plays out. The film is so well-crafted that the viewer can emphasize with whatever characters are in the camera lens. We know the Soviets are pigs for the way they have behaved during their invasion, but it's amazing to see what the commander will come up with next to keep the tank running fast enough to keep them just ahead of the rebels who are hot on their tail. Scene after scene punctuates the tragic human cost of such an invasion, and the devastated lives left in its wake.

The film is extraordinarily violent. Director Kevin Reynolds leaves nothing to the imagination regarding the brutality of the Soviet invaders, and the destruction that their weapons have brought to Afghanistan. The film is technically astounding in many respects.

Filmed in Israel, the vast desert landscape is a beautiful but desperate backdrop for a film about the savagery of military conflict. I'll bet you won't be able to get some of the violent images out of your head for days after seeing this film.

Nor will you be unable to imagine yourself in the shoes of the tank crew completely cut off from help and at the mercy of a merciless commander and an unforgiving desert. In truth, what this film leaves with you is more than visual; and isn't that the true sign of a great movie? This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'King Solomon's Mines - The Complete Mini-Series'
(Patrick Swayze, Alison Doody, Gavin Hood, John Standing, Roy Marsden, et al / DVD / NR / (2004) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: No one knew if the fabled tomb existed. Those who have searched for it never returned. It's been said that whoever finds it will become the richest soul on the face of the earth some say, the most cursed. Now, one brave man, renowned safari hunter Allan Quatermain (Golden Globe nominee Patrick Swayze, 'Ghost') has been hired to find out what is true, what is myth, and what is really buried in the darkness of King Solomon's Mines.

DVD Verdict: In truth, this is a sprawling four (4)hours (spread over two episodes) remake of the Rider Haggard story, with the usual added female and an extraneous subplot with Russian soldiers seeking a "Stone of Power" buried along with the treasure of King Solomon.

That said, to my mind it's very well shot, giving a vivid sense of the wide open spaces of Africa, and very well acted. Patrick Swayze is an excellent Alan Quatermain, and Allison Doody ('Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom') is attractive as Elizabeth Maitland, who hires Quatermain to help rescue her father.

Sidede Onyulo as Umbopa, Gavin Hood as McNabb and the leader of the Russian soldiers are also memorable. OK, sure, I loved the Stewart Granger/Deborah Kerr version and have seen it dozens of times. But this mini-series is every bit as good, only different. I won't detail the differences because it would spoil the film, but suffice to say that the cinematography is splendid and the score is perfect. If you are looking for entertainment, you won't be disappointed here with this brand new 2017 re-release of 2004's 'King Solomon's Mines - The Complete Mini-Series'.

Oh, and for those purists out there, when the word "Nomolos" is spoken, simply know that this so-called name of the fight to the death, is meaningless in Zulu! It's simply Solomon backwards! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Rick Wakeman Live at Starmus'
(Rick Wakeman, Brian May / DVD / NR / (2014) 2017 / RRAW)

Overview: Starmus Festival was born with the aim of making the most universal science and art accessible to the public. Traditionally the perfect symbiosis between astronomy, art and music, Starmus brings together not only the brightest minds from these areas, but many others besides.

DVD Verdict: In truth, I had no idea such a Festival, let alone stunning Rick Wakeman live show was every performed; let alone recorded! So to be sent this for review, well, I was very eager to have at it visually - and I was not let down in the slightest, no sir.

Obviously not a massive Wakeman follower, if you are a casual one like myself, let me fill in a few points on the Starmus/Wakeman compass here for you now: The Starmus International Festival is an international gathering focused on celebrating astronomy, space exploration, music, art, and allied sciences such as biology and chemistry. It was founded by Garik Israelian, an astronomer at the Institute for Astrophysics in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.

Indeed, the Festival has featured Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Alexei Leonov, Jim Lovell, Brian May, Jill Tarter, Kip Thorne, and, of course, Rick Wakeman, among others.

In 2007 Brian May, founding guitarist of the rock band Queen, completed his PhD dissertation, which was left unfinished in 1974 when Queen began to achieve significant success. May’s work focused on zodiacal dust in the solar system.

He had studied at Tenerife earlier through Imperial College in London, and resumed work there more than 30 years later. In 2007, his new advisor was Garik Israelian, and the two struck up a friendship, Israelian also being a musician.

This led to the founding of the Starmus Festival — the name paying homage to stars and music — and the stage was set for the first Festival, which would occur four years later.

The first Starmus Festival took place June 20–25, 2011, on Tenerife, and La Palma, Canary Islands. The primary site of the event was the Ritz-Carlton Abama Hotel in Tenerife. The theme was “50 Years of Man in Space,” and featured as speakers a blend of astronaut-explorers, astronomers, biologists, chemists, and artists.

The second Starmus Festival occurred September 22–27, 2014, again on Tenerife, and La Palma, Canary Islands. This time the theme was “Beginnings: The Making of the Modern Cosmos.” Again, the primary site of the event was the Ritz-Carlton Abama Hotel in Tenerife.

This second Festival is what we are witnessing here today on this brand new DVD, 'Rick Wakeman & The English Rock Ensemble Live at Starmus' featuring special guest, Brian May. This second Starmus features, among other scientific things, a Sonic Universe Concert. This time featuring Rick Wakeman at its helm, the man celebrated for his years in the rock band Yes, was joined for several songs by the aforementioned Brian May.

This once in a life time performance was originally included as part of the delegate package for the Starmus Festival attendees, but now released worldwide as a stunning DVD, well, everyone can now immerse themselves within the sonic universe that Wakeman and May created that night. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

1. Arthur
2. Catherine Parr
3. The Visit
4. (Extracts From) Journey To The Centre of The Earth
5. (Excerpts From) No Earthly Connection
6. Last Horizon (Guitar Solo)
7. Catherine Howard
8. 39
9. Merlin The Magician
10. Starship Trooper (2 Hours 21 Minutes)

Bonus Material:
1. Rick Wakeman - Auditorium Presentation
2. Rick Wakeman - Starmus 2014 Video
3. Starmus 2014
4. Starmus Slide Show

'Rick Wakeman & The English Rock Ensemble Live at Starmus' DVD Purchase Link

'FRONTLINE: Last Days of Solitary'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Follow what happens to recently released prisoners when they go from solitary to the streets. With extraordinary access to the Maine State Prison, the film examines the long-term effects of solitary confinement and efforts to reduce its use.

DVD Verdict: The U.S. is the world leader in solitary confinement, with more than 80,000 American prisoners being held in isolation. But in recent years, more than 30 states have begun to experiment with reforms aimed at reducing the use of solitary.

PBS's brand new documentary 'Last Days of Solitary' is a searing, two-hour documentary that offers American television's most comprehensive exploration of this controversial practice, and goes inside one state's ambitious attempt to decrease its use.

Filmed over three years, with immersive, unprecedented access to the solitary unit at Maine State Prison, this documentary portrays -- almost in real-time -- the psychological disintegration of human beings, and the challenge of how to deal with men considered the most dangerous and difficult in the state. It's a haunting portrait of life in solitary, and a unique document of a risky reform experiment.

As for the lead character, shall we say here in 'Last Days of Solitary,' the Maine State Prison was erected in Thomaston, Maine in 1824 and relocated to Warren in 2002. Some residents in Thomaston actually objected to the relocation of the prison because it was a part of their history and local economy.

The prison that was founded 178 years ago was razed in the summer of 2002. The site of the prison in Thomaston is now a field. This maximum-security prison has a capacity of 916 adult male inmates with an average daily population of 900.

With intensity, depth and clarity, 'Last Days of Solitary' shines an unblinking light on a world that until now has been largely hidden from public view. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Bird With The Crystal Plumage: Limited Ed.'
(Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Eva Renzi, et al / Blu ray+DVD / NR / (1970) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante, 'We Own the Night'), an American writer living in Rome, inadvertently witnesses a brutal attack on a woman (Eva Renzi, 'Funeral in Berlin') in a modern art gallery. Powerless to help, he grows increasingly obsessed with the incident. Convinced that something he saw that night holds the key to identifying the maniac terrorizing Rome, he launches his own investigation parallel to that of the police.

Blu-ray Verdict: In 1970, young first-time director Dario Argento ('Deep Red', 'Suspiria') made his indelible mark on Italian cinema with 'The Bird with the Crystal Plumage'; a film which redefined the 'giallo' genre of murder-mystery thrillers and catapulted him to international stardom.

As for the juice of the story, as aforementioned, Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is out taking a night time walk when he spots a women being attacked in an art gallery. Quickly running to her aid, he causes the attacker, dressed all in black, to flee before he can finish the job on the woman in question, Monica Ranieri (Eva Renzi).

Indeed, it's Monica who just happens to be the wife of the owner of the art gallery Alberto (Umberto Raho). Left in a state of shock after the assault, it's not only her who is know affected by the incident. For, in trying to leave the country with his Italian girlfriend Julia (Suzy Kendell), Sam's passport is taken away from him by police Inspector Morosina (Entico Maria). This is done in order to keep him on hand as a material witness, for it turns out he is the only one who can identify Monica's attacker; an attacker who is suspected in a number of murders of women in the area.

Having no choice but to help the police find Monica's attacker, Sam goes full-tilt in trying to track him down only to later become, together with Julie, targeted by him for elimination. Indeed, the attacker goes so far as to call Sam and leave him cryptic massages with what sound like a bird chirping in the background! But, as you can already guess by now, as the plot is hardly entangled in red herrings, nor twists and turns, it soon becomes very clear to Sam that the bird is the clue to where the attacker, and later proved serial killer, is calling from re: outside the Rome Zoo, where it's there as an exhibit!

Looking backwards, we can see that director Dario Argento was fashioning a new creative way to tell a mystery and crime story. He creates a story that relies on a complex psychological foundation that's revealed rapidly at the end. This movie is neither film noir nor conventional murder mystery with a conventional detective. The movie borrows at times from these sources, but its entire tone differs and it tends more to the garish. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone interested in having friends around to enjoy something that's just not of the norm nowadays - and yet most definitely something to talk about afterwards (for all the good reasons, of course). This is a Widescreen presentation (2:35.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the camera negative in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
The Power of Perception, a new visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Devil's Advocates: Suspiria and Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study
New analysis of the film by critic Kat Ellinger
New interview with writer/director Dario Argento
New interview with actor Gildo Di Marco (Garullo the pimp)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp
Limited edition 60-page booklet illustrated by Matthew Griffin, featuring an appreciation of the film by Michael Mackenzie, and new writing by Howard Hughes and Jack Seabrook

'The Bird With The Crystal Plumage: Limited Edition' [Blu-ray + DVD] is available for purchase on June 20th, 2017.

'The Bird With The Crystal Plumage: Limited Edition' [Blu-ray + DVD] Purchase Link

'Prison Break Event Series' [Blu-ray]
(Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Sarah Wayne Callies, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: Seven years later, thanks to information provided by T-Bag, Lincoln and Sara discover that Michael is still alive in a Yemen prison. The break is back on ...!

Blu-ray Verdict: Being one of those who watched the original series, I was rather looking rather forward to this show. Although the show had become a shadow of its former self during season 4, many had hopes that this show would return to former glories.

However, if like me, you can't really remember everything that happened back in 2009 and prior to this, then the first episode will have you saying, 'What the heck is going on?' So, I would recommend at least reading the 'plot so far' online somewhere or even watching the first 4 seasons again (which I actually did!)

Well, and being Devil's Advocate (as us journalists are paid to be), there's good news and bad news here for the show that also goes by the name 'Prison Break: Resurrection.' The story begins to unfold rather quickly and in an uninspiring manner, if truth be told. Though the first episode was promising, there is definitely no 'wow' factor to it.

Too many coincidences, such as Lincoln discovering Michael is in Yemen and C-Note miraculously learning Arabic (because he knew he'd be needed in 5th season to help the brothers!) Oh, and the fact that Fernando reaches the airport at just the right second/minute to confront Lincoln and C-Note is beyond Hollywood for my liking (I can't even find a parking spot at those damn places, let alone walk in and find the person I am seeking in that huge complex right there in front of me!)

Anyhoo, moving on and the fact that there are only 9 episodes here is a shame in and unto itself. There were actually meant to be 10, but they cut a plot point and that led to an "event series" trimming. That said, and given the crammed episodes here spread over 3 discs, it is fair to say that the lack of any real plot development is very evident. Clues are solved in a jiffy and I still am puzzled about how Michael was able to send mail out of the Yemen Prison (which is supposed to be the most notorious prison in the Middle East).

But, and aside from the fact that the set up of the prison is laughable I mean, from any angle, it never looks like a high security prison, sorry - the new Event Series of 'Prison Break' is, at the very least, a real treat for its fans. Sure there aren't any thrilling moments in this 9 episode "series event", and sure the plot just moves from point A to point B without any surprising moments or smart twists, but these are the actors you've grown to love over the past four seasons.

Ok, sure, most all those same actors can't save the bad script, a real lack of any real emotion or empathy towards anything that happens to/for any of the on screen characters completely missing, but hey, that's why they didn't option an old school full season, I guess re: testing the waters here first in his "event series" manner. Anyway, in closing, and although nothing feels authentic in this mess, every scene feeling like it just needs to end so the plot can progress faster towards its ultimate destination, come that end, well, for me, 'Prison Break Event Series' is still well worth the nostalgic trip that it pertains to be; for true fans only though, of course. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

A Return Home: The Making of Prison Break Event Series

'Prison Break Event Series' is available on Blu-ray and DVD 6/27 and you can also now purchase your very own 'Prison Break Collector's Set' on Blu-ray too!

Official Trailer

'Correspondence' [DVD+Digital HD]
(Jeremy Irons, Olga Kurylenko, Simon Johns, et al / DVD+Digital HD / NR / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: 'Correspondence' is a film focused on the relationship between an astronomer and his lover, who spend their years apart; but soon discover that both are harboring shameful secrets.

DVD Verdict: OK, let's get this cleared up from the off: 'Correspondence' aka 'La Corrispondenza' is a good movie, just not as good as, say, another movie of the same ilk, the great 'Cinema Paradiso.' But that's really quite ok as they are different pieces of art, just like The Pieta and the David.

That said, the photography for this movie is really beautiful. York, Edinburgh, and Piemonte impregnates the movie with a melancholic atmosphere, perfect for the setting. Maybe Edinburgh was the weakest location, but it may be just me, and even so it has it's own sparks.

While York show us lots of green and earth, and Piemonte lots of blue and water, Edinburgh's shown through harsh greys. But there is more in here for the untrained eyes. There is texture, like the wood on the door on Piemonte or the one induced by the water on the lake (also in Piemonte); contrasts, like the water drops in the ground of a rainy city, the character of Ed and the severity of Ed's doctor; light and darkness and the not so subtle hints of hope and despair.

The performances range from good to just ok, but let's be clear about something: this is a movie about Olga and Irons, the rest of the cast is just there to fill blank spaces. So, and focusing solely on Olga and Irons, Olga Kurylenko is more than just a great pair of breasts and a nice ass, trust me!

She can act too! For me, for two-thirds of this movie she delivers a good, solid performance. There is a scene where she is taking a shower and you can see the emptiness in her face, but then again, there is another scene where she is talking about her father and you wish director Giuseppe Tornatore had pushed her a bit more to get a great performance out of her; and, at that point, not just a decent one.

However, Jeremy Irons takes his acting in a different direction and just like Olga, you can't stop feeling there was something missing. They both feel authentic and plastic at the same time; which is rather a nice trick if you can pull it off. But, no matter what is said here, the final product re: 'Correspondence' is still impressive as an independent piece of visual art; of that you have my word.

Oh, and lastly, the music is very nice also. Certainly not the brightest work of Ennio Morricone, but only because it kinda melts into the general feeling of the movie that you barely notice it at all. Which, agreed, in some cases is nice, but worryingly not here. What it does do though is easily fill the blank spaces with a sweet feeling of sadness, sorrow, loneliness, and loss; all things that are so subtle, that are not overly powerful enough to catch your mind. For the record, no pun intended, this is Ennio Morricone's twelfth collaboration with director Giuseppe Tornatore. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Monster Hunt'
(Baihe Bai, Boran Jing, Wu Jiang, Elaine Jin, et al / DVD / NR / (2015) 2017 / Film Rise-MVD)

Overview: In an ancient world where monsters rule the land while humans keep to their own kingdom, a baby monster, Wuba, is born to a human father and monster queen. When mortals and creatures alike set out to capture the newborn, Wuba's adventure begins.

DVD Verdict: If I have one compliant about this movie, it is the misleading title; specifically the use of the word "monster". Right at the beginning, voice-over narration spares no pain in making the point that members of this other race, regardless of how strange they may look, are in every way human's equal.

Ergo, just like humans, there are good guys and bad guy, and that is all there is to it. And yet, using the word "monster" to denote them completely sabotages the all-too-obvious subtext of racial harmony. Why can't a special, neutral-sounding name be invented? Laziness? The guess I would venture is marketing considerations.

Anyhoo, and despite the big opening about conspiracy and power conflict at high places in the monster's realm, the plot line surprisingly oozes domesticity. There is no colossal clash of two kingdoms/races as you might be led to expect at the beginning. This is how it works: the obviously pregnant queen in the monster kingdom finds herself on the losing side of a power struggle and escapes into the forbidden human kingdom, hotly pursued by her enemies from back home. We never see the monster kingdom again as the story takes on a culinary flavor. A monster baby of royal lineage, you see, is considered by humans to be multi-star Michelin fare.

While there is no lacking in Asian movie stars, many in various degrees of cameos (including lovely TANG Wei), the story is essentially about a guy and a girl who kind of adopt the new born royal monster Bupa (name given only at the end of the movie). The girl is actually a professional bounty monster-hunter with a profit motive. Eventually, they end up saving him from the fate of being the ultimate highlight of a lavish "monster feast".

The little twist (*** SPOILER ALERT ***) is that Bupa is physically born by the innocent nerdish guy, having been implanted into him by the dying pregnant monster mother. The girl eventually gets emotionally attached to the guy and the monster baby, in that order.

The two leads beautifully deliver their scenes with both outlandish tomfoolery and subtle nuances. BAI Baihe, arguably China's current princess of rom-com, is in equal measures coquettish and cocky, a sheer delight. JING Boran is about the most lovable nerd you can find today for any Asian cast.

There are exciting action sequences aplenty, offered up by a pageantry of celebrity stars, with superbly delivered animation blending so seamlessly that sometimes you totally forget that you are watching animation.

While not a major part of the movie, the background music contributes. In particular, the songs, whether a tender love duet, an uplifting spirit-raiser or outright comedy, are pitch-perfect (no pun intended), enhancing the moods of the movie at just the right moments. There is a good reason for this success: they came from the pens of a pair that can deservedly be called Hong Kong's Lerner and Lowe (or Rodgers and Hammerstein, if you prefer), Leon Ko and Chris Shum. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Doberman Cop (2-Disc Special Edition)'
(Trish Everly, Michael MacRae, Dennis Robertson, et al / Blu ray+DVD / NR / (1981) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: A tough-as-nails cop from Okinawa investigates a savage murder in Tokyo's nightlife district. Originally dismissed as a bumpkin, he soon proves more savvy than the local police.

Blu-ray Verdict: Released just as the popularity of yakuza movies was waning in Japan, and as the country's film industry was undergoing some fundamental shifts, 'Doberman Cop' is a unique entry in the career of director Kinji Fukasaku ('Battles Without Honor and Humanity', 'Cops vs Thugs'), and reunited him with star Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba ('The Street Fighter', 'Wolf Guy') in an American-style crime movie that mixes gun play and pulp fiction with martial arts and lowbrow comedy to create one of their most entertaining films.

Based on a popular manga by Buronson (creator of Fist of the North Star), 'Doberman Cop' follows the fish-out-of-water adventures of Joji Kano (Chiba), a tough-as-nails police officer from Okinawa who arrives in Tokyo's Kabuki-cho nightlife district to investigate the savage murder and mutilation of an island girl who had been working as a prostitute.

Sure, the plot and the characters are by the book, but since this is a Sonny Chiba film that doesn't matter; does it now. Actually, there are several outstanding action set pieces which are, quite frankly, superb. And while Chiba may lack the elegance of more traditional martial arts stars, he more than makes up for it with sheer power.

The way, like when he fires at bad buys coming down a very high set of stairs out from a back door area, and they all seemingly want to jump higher over the rail guard, either backwards to their deaths or with a gun blazing, is comedic at best; mighty fun cinematic style at second best.

Even when he's being interrogated about how he got his nickname "Doberman" back in Okinawa, Chiba is always thinking, always alert, and in most cases, ready to find a gun, fire and blow up cars, let alone people! Sometimes dressing like a pale imitation of Indiana Jones, sometimes even carrying around a black pig with a nose ring (don't ask), Chiba carries this film quite like no other I have seen from back in the day.

Chock full of serial murders and arson, death and mayhem galore, 'Doberman Cop' is still today one of the best cinematic fun rides I've had in a long, long time. Fukasakus' verite style captures a sleazy side of Tokyo wonderfully, yakuza, psycho cops, bikers, strippers and pimps that populate the film. The strong cast give excellent performances throughout and, for me, it's the way Chiba exposes the truths behind the lies that ground this movie just perfectly. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

High Definition digital transfer
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original uncompressed mono audio
Optional English subtitles
Beyond the Film: Doberman Cop, a new video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane
New video interview with actor Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba
New video interview with screenwriter Koji Takada>br> Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s book featuring new writing on the films by Patrick Macias

'Doberman Cop (2-Disc Special Edition)' [Blu-ray + DVD] is available for purchase on July 4th, 2017.

'Doberman Cop (2-Disc Special Edition)' [Blu-ray + DVD] Purchase Link

'Gospel According To Al Green' [Blu-ray]
(Al Green, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1984) 2017 / MVD Visual)

Overview: The 'Gospel According To Al Green' is the story of R&B singer Al Green, who gave up a successful singing career to become a gospel minister.

Blu-ray Verdict: Running at a lengthy hour and a half, the 'Gospel According to Al Green' is a documentary quite like no other that I've ever had the pleasure to watch. In truth, I never knew the great singer gave it all up to become a gospel minister, let alone all he went through to make that move.

Written and directed by the infamous Robert Mugge, the documentary (although some might call it an actual film) is a thoroughly interesting snapshot of a career that spans almost half a century. As we learn early on, Green was born in Arkansas in 1946, began making a name for himself in music in the mid-60s, and the became a worldwide smash hit artist soon thereafter.

The American singer, songwriter and record producer, best known for recording a series of soul hit singles in the early 1970s, including "Take Me to the River", "Tired of Being Alone", "I'm Still in Love with You", "Love and Happiness" and his signature song, "Let's Stay Together", was even (and rightly so) inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

One of the most gifted purveyors of soul music to this day, the 'Gospel According To Al Green' [Blu-ray] showcases the line between God's music and the Devil's music in stark, and concise measures here. As I'm sure you have all considered also, if you are fans of music and back stories much as this one, is the fascination in me with regard a perpetual search for the untold stories of Robert Johnson, Robert Lockwood Jr. and Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) and all the others. The lengths and depths that these stories must delve should surely engross an audience of any demographic.

Regardless, and moving swiftly onward, and as we discover it was in 1974 when the change happened for Green. A personal life incident (described by Green in the documentary in quite some detail) triggered a process of returning to religion. Then, and in only a couple of years we saw Green becoming a Reverend and even buying his own Church (Full Gospel Tabernacle, located at 787 Hale Road, Memphis TN 38116).

The documentary opens on Green playing guitar on "I Love You With All My Heart", and it has to be said that I never knew Green could play the guitar in quite such a truly devoted manner. It's music clips like this that permeate the documentary, giving it not only a knowledgeable background, but style also.

Green, who was included in the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, ranking at No. 65. then slips comfortably into his gospel work. I didn't know, as aforementioned, all that much about this transition, but it's not like he left music behind when he became a Reverend, because his gospel singing is as infectious, as contagious in spirit as anything he recorded in the mainstream music world.

Listening to his words in this compelling documentary, hearing all the classic soul hits alongside his inner soul being placed on his sleeve within the constructs of his southern rooted gospel sounds, and you quickly realize the man has been speaking to us all along. There's no one who sounds like Reverend Al Green, and there probably never will be. The performances contained here along with audio and visual commentaries from friends and working colleagues of Green's, all sharing their memories of their time spent with the great man, all culminate in this should-be-treasured, the 'Gospel According To Al Green' [Blu-ray]. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

New 4K Transfer of the 96 Minute Film
17 Minute Commentary by Director Robert Mugge
90 Minute Audio interview with Al Green
Film and Audio Concert and Church Service Out-Takes

'Pulse' (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD]
(Haruhiko Kato, Kunmiko Aso, Koyuki, et al / Blu ray+DVD / R / (2001) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Two groups of people discover evidence that suggests spirits may be trying to invade the human world through the Internet.

Blu-ray Verdict: Not to be mistaken with the empty and misdirected Aphex Twin video-styled American remake, the original 'Pulse' is one of the creepiest films ever made. It's one of those horror films that catches you off guard by first coming across as an orthodox kind of ghost story before taking you way beyond the barriers of abnormal and just outright chills you to the bone.

Japanese University students happen upon a phenomenon of student suicides triggered by something on the internet. Considering that Japan is rife with suicide among the young, this becomes the theme for much of the film.

Lives become entwined when the close friends and family of the leads either disappear off the face of the earth or go on to kill themselves as the vastly overpopulated city they live in quickly becomes the loneliest place on earth, but then it becomes a global phenomenon.

The few people left go about their lives regardless, getting lonelier by the day as the city becomes a haunting ground for the dead but it isn't long before they discover that somebody used the internet to find a way to look into the afterlife, which started the phenomenon. In a desperate race against time, the survivors look for a way to survive even though their will grows weaker every day as the haunting ghosts of the passed away quickly come to outnumber the living.

Kiyoshi Kurasawa makes a point of living being no better than being dead if you become lonely enough. When the dead reach out to their victims, it isn't death that takes them but the loss of their will to live in loneliness when life becomes defeatist. By the characters' refusal to let their loved ones go and the refusal to see death as a tangible threat or something that exists where it shouldn't, they repel death although they don't want to live in this world anymore.

Not only is loneliness unacceptable to the young, they cannot face the fact that in life, it comes to consume us all at one point sooner or later and so it seems to be about the fear of losing one's soul and identity to a life worse than death.

The film takes its time in delivering the story and the shocks like a true ghost story and the little chills sometimes work the best or at least help to deliver the creepiest moments in film history. There's something about Japanese acting that sets you up for every moment realistic or absurd. It's all so well delivered and even if you're reading from subtitles, the point is put across in all devastating simplicity, making Pulse not only a creepy horror but also a tragic drama of epic proportions.

The scenes of the city streets deserted and looking war torn when civilization has simply vanished deliver some of the most impacting scenes in film and I guarantee that after this film you will be left feeling haunted.

No cheap thrills, 'Pulse' works hard to get into your mind and deliver an important message at the same time! Oh, and on one final note, you might also be interested to learn that the Japanese title written in Kanji means "the road back". This is a Widescreen presentation (2:35.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

High Definition digital transfer
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original 5.1 audio (DTS-HD on the Blu-ray)
New optional English subtitle translation
New interview with writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa
New interview with cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi
The Horror of Isolation: a new video appreciation featuring Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett (Blair Witch, You're Next)
Archive Making of documentary, plus four archive behind-the-scenes featurettes
Premiere footage from the Cannes Film Festival
Cast and crew introductions from opening day screenings in Tokyo
Trailers and TV Spots
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tommy Pocket
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Chuck Stephens

'Pulse' (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] is available for purchase on July 11th, 2017.

'Pulse' (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] Purchase Link

'Stormy Monday' (2-Disc Special Edition)
(Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones, Sting, Sean Bean, James Cosmo, et al / Blu ray+DVD / R / (1988) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: A crooked American businessman tries to push the shady influential owner of a nightclub in Newcastle, England to sell him the club. The club's new employee and the American's ex lover fall in love and inadvertently stir the pot.

Blu-ray Verdict: First-time director Mike Figgis wrote the script and composed the score for this wonderfully atmospheric thriller that's set in his hometown of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The action takes place predominantly in the Quayside area where the large number of restaurants, bars and clubs ensure that the nightlife is always vibrant, even at a time when the northeast of England is experiencing a period of economic decline. The events that take place in this environment involve conflict, romance and violence and four diverse characters whose paths cross and lead to a series of surprising consequences.

Newcastle's annual America Week is a colourful celebration of all things American (with flags, majorettes and a giant inflatable Pepsi bottle in the middle of one of the city's roundabouts) and also, significantly, it acts as a vehicle for attracting much-needed investment into the area. Brendan (Sean Bean) is a young jazz fan who's in need of a job and so, when he sees that there's a vacancy for a cleaner at a local jazz club, he applies immediately. Finney (Sting), who's the owner of The Key Club is surprised at Brendan's interest in the job and takes him on as a cleaner and driver.

Cosmo (Tommy Lee Jones) is a Texan businessman with big plans for redeveloping the Quayside and to this end, wants to persuade Finney to sell his club. The local council are keen to support the project and Cosmo has a track record of using whatever method of persuasion is most effective to achieve his aims. His relationship with Kate (Melanie Griffith) is based on her effectiveness in using her charms to win over the support of men in influential positions to ensure that when important decisions are made, they go Cosmo's way.

Brendan and Kate accidentally walk into each other in a shopping mall and by coincidence, meet again in Weegee's Café where Kate works as a waitress. When Brendan's eating his meal, he overhears two men at a nearby table discussing their plan to visit Finney to threaten him or even possibly kill him. Brendan arranges to meet Kate after she finishes work and they go to Hopper's Bar together.

Brendan tells Finney what he overheard at Weegee's and so, when two vicious thugs visit the club owner and begin to threaten him, the way that he deals with the situation comes as a major surprise to them and also acts as a form of education for the naïve Brendan. Brendan and Kate fall in love and find themselves caught up in the middle of the struggle between Cosmo and Finney which inevitably ends in further violence and tragedy.

The exquisite visual style of this movie with its noir-esque lighting etc contributes significantly to its mood which is often melancholic, unsettling and haunting and many of the shots are beautifully set up. One such example is the view through the window of Hopper's Bar at about closing time which is strongly evocative of Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" (1942).

The presence of a café that's decorated with pictures by tabloid photographer Arthur "Weegee" Fellig is also inspired as it adds character to the place and acknowledges the talent of the man who provided the inspiration for Joe Pesci's character in 'The Public Eye' (1992).

Some fine performances ensure that all four of the main characters in 'Stormy Monday' make a strong impression. Cosmo is actually a gangster involved in a money-laundering exercise and Tommy Lee Jones is convincingly ruthless as the forceful criminal who totally underestimates Finney. Sting is suitably low-key in his portrayal of the laconic club owner and Sean Bean makes the unassuming Brendan a likable person with a lot to learn.

Kate is deeply troubled, doesn't sleep well and wants to get away from her past. Melanie Griffith does extraordinarily well in this role projecting Kate's unusual mixture of toughness and vulnerability in a way that's both powerful and sympathetic.

Bizarrely, for reasons explained in the story, an avant-garde group of Polish musicians called The Krakow Jazz Ensemble find themselves featured in the America Week celebrations. They provide some of the film's most humorous moments which ironically add to the poignancy of what happens in the movie's climax. More predictably though, the Otis Redding and B.B.King tracks featured are sensational and a perfect fit for this immensely enjoyable romantic thriller; and one that is now re-released and remastered here by MVD Visual come July 18th, 2017. This is a Widescreen presentation (2:35.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original stereo audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray Disc)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary with Mike Figgis, moderated by critic Damon Wise
New video appreciation by critic Neil Young, and a "then and now" tour of the film's Newcastle locations
Theatrical trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacey
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing by critic Mark Cunliffe

'Stormy Monday' (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] is available for purchase on July 18th, 2017.

'Stormy Monday' (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] Purchase Link

Terror in a Texas Town (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
(Sterling Hayden, Sebastian Cabot, Carol Kelly, Eugene Mazzola, Nedrick Young, et al / Blu ray / NR / (1958) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: A Swedish whaler is out for revenge when he finds out that a greedy oil man murdered his father for their land.

Blu-ray Verdict: Director Joseph H. Lewis was something of a B-movie king, with his best directorial efforts coming via Westerns and film noir. After this Sterling Hayden-starring movie, he signed off from Hollywood for good. Ergo, as a legacy, it's difficult to say if it's a fitting point of reference to Lewis and his talents, or entirely apt for his career? It's an often quirky, even bizarre, picture that manages through its surreal like tendencies to detract from its formulaic Western plot.

Set in Prairie City, Texas, the tale revolves around George Hanson (Hayden), a Swedish whaler who after 19 years away, returns to Prairie to find his father has been murdered. As he delves deeper with a staunch undaunted determination, he finds that the law is corrupt and a horrible land baron called McNeil (Sebastian Cabot), aided by gunslinger for hire Johnny Crale (Ned Young), is behind his fathers death.

It appears there is oil in the land and McNeil is using force to buy up the land at ridiculously cheap prices. But if he thought George was going to be forgiving? Or going to be easily frightened? Well he and Crale are in for some big shocks.

Shot in stark black and white, Lewis' film throws up the always interesting conflict between homespun virtue and greedy evil. There's compelling villains and some nicely drawn characterizations for the decent citizens of the town, such as those who are on the periphery of the protagonists struggle (note Victor Millan's poor Mexican farmer and Carol Kelly's downbeat girlfriend of Crale).

What of Hayden, though? It's a fascinating performance, where saddled with the task of trying to do a Swedish accent, and wearing a suit a size too short for him, it's difficult to know if he is in tune with the off-kilter nature of the film, or he's just on robotic auto- pilot while Lewis chuckles to himself off camera.

Either way Hayden gives us a character to root for with our every breath. Hanson is a bastion of good and well meaning, we ache for him to outdo the lobster eating land baron and the metal clawed outlaw.

There's some controversy in the small things here though. The script was credited to Ben Perry, but actually was written by Dalton Trumbo; who was blacklisted from the industry at that time! Hayden, although not blacklisted, appeared before the House of Un-American Activities Committee and simultaneously admitted past communist affiliations and named names.

However, Lewis was not involved in this most unsavory chapter, but was a close friend of Ned Young, who he himself was blacklisted for taking the fifth. His impact on the film was to not only be in it, but to also be instrumental in getting Lewis to direct it.

An interesting time in American history, for sure, it's also the opening scene which still to this day is as powerful as ever. Opening to George Fried's (to me bizarre) score, the Swede George Hansen (Sterling Hayden) walks down a dirt road in the middle of Prairie City, Texas. George is mad as hell, he means business ... and he's carrying a big whaling harpoon over his shoulder to prove it! You just can't write, or direct stuff quite like this any more and come even close to getting away with it on a serious tonal level! This is a Widescreen presentation (2:35.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

Brand-new 2K restoration from original film elements produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p)
Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM Audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Introduction by Peter Stanfield, author of Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s: The Lost Trail and Horse Opera: The Strange History of the Singing Cowboy
Scene-select commentaries by Stanfield
Theatrical trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Vladimir Zimakov
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing by Glenn Kenny

'Terror in a Texas Town (Special Edition)' [Blu-ray] is available for purchase on July 11th, 2017.

'Terror in a Texas Town (Special Edition)' [Blu-ray] Purchase Link

'Love By The 10th Date'
(Meagan Good, Kelly Rowland, Keri Hilson, Cat Deeley, et al / DVD+Digital HD / TV-14 / 2017 / Lionsgate Films)

Overview: The race is on for love when 'Love by the 10th Date' arrives on DVD July 18th from Lionsgate. The irresistible romantic comedy follows four friends - played by Meagan Good, GRAMMY® Award-winner Kelly Rowland, GRAMMY® Award-nominated Keri Hilson, and Kellee Stewart - navigating the ups downs of dating while on the journey toward the elusive 10th dates.

DVD Verdict: As could well be a reality-based story line of the here and now, four friends (Meagan Good, Kelly Rowland, Keri Hilson, Kellee Stewart) balance their dating adventures with their career ambitions at an upscale magazine. Stories of success and failure abound between them on a regular, and fully divulged manner, with each of them "teaching" themselves; and more importantly each other how to get the most out of love - and life.

I think the best two words to describe this movie are Motivational and Inspirational. I have many reasons for saying that, none more so than going into 'Love By The 10th Date' I was assuming it was one thing and, delightfully so, got something complete different!

Another stand out reason is that, well, as I think we all know now, women are not known to go after what they want. Sadly, women are still till this day intimidated by the ones above them. Ergo, Meagan Good's character (Gabrielle Fateful) was that way until she realized she's not going to wait for love - she's going to search for it.

Sure, love doesn't always show up at your door step unknowingly so she embraced her worth whilst taking a huge step and chance with her job - and she ended up coming out on top; because she realized she was worth it. Come on now, how fantastically wonderful is that as a spur to all those out there in similar situations - male and female, of course.

Keri Hilson's character (Billie) I also liked, because she knew what she wanted when she married her husband she wasn't ashamed to let her wants and likes to be known. She embraced herself as well. Women are known to put their feelings and wants on hold because of being ashamed of how something may seem to look to others, but here Billie is way more determined, more forthright within her soul to be doing such a thing.

As for Kellee Stewart (Nell) I liked her character as well, but on a lesser level, I guess. She showed that love is love and that it doesn't matter who you end up with. Humans are humans and so there's nothing wrong with having an attraction to both sexes. So, they fell for each other's hearts, minds, bodies and souls - not the fact that one had dealt with both sexes prior. A bit messy in places, on screen, in the plot, but hey, that's life too, am I right!

It's obvious her friend's character was just trying to find himself. I liked that it wanted people to see no one's life is perfect, nothing comes easy and life is all about taking chances - hence the reason Meagan Good's character did what she did at the end of the movie regarding her job (no spoiler's here, trust me). This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

The 'Love by the 10th Date' DVD will be available at Walmart for the suggested retail price of $14.98.

'The Fate of the Furious' [4K Ultra HD+Blu-ray]
(Vin Diesel, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD / NR / 2017 / Universal Pictures)

Overview: Now that Dom (Diesel) and Letty (Rodriguez) are married and Brian and Mia have retired from the game—and the rest of the crew has been exonerated—the globetrotting team has found a semblance of a normal life. But when a mysterious woman (Oscar winner, Charlize Theron) seduces Dom into the world of crime he can't seem to escape and a betrayal of those closest to him, they will face trials that will test them as never before.

Blu-ray Verdict: Before we begin the review, let's start by acknowledging the INCREDIBLE, brighter, deeper, more lifelike color that these 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays bring forth, each and every time. For they are, well, INCREDIBLE and truly allow you to see things that the generic Blu-ray vision simply cannot. I mean, the color alone on this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc - which comes as a two-disc set (1 BD-50, 1 BD-66) - is just so crisp, so clear, so crystal.

For those that wish to be in the know, let's break down some of the geeky stats, shall we. This is a Codec: HEVC / H.265, with a Resolution: 4K (2160p), and an overall Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1. The Audio is English: Dolby Atmos + English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 + Spanish: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 + French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1, and the Subtitles are: English SDH, French, and Spanish.

Finally, and leaving the best for last, this 4K Ultra HD movie experience means that we have a 4X sharper picture image than regular HD, HDR (High Dynamic Range) means we get brilliant brights and deepest darks within the film, and with Immersive Audio, we get that multi-dimensional sound experience throughout.

OK, on to the actual film review and, well, let's face it, who doesn't like or even simply root for the "heroes" portrayed within the celluloid wonderment of these incredible 'Fast and the Furious' movies?

Indeed, the whole 'Fast and the Furious' franchise has always made its way with being fun entertaining films. Cool cars, crazy insane action sequences that usually breaks the laws of physics, and lastly, the story always focuses on the theme of family. That is usually the case with the most of these movies, and the code that Dominic Toretto lives by.

Old enemies become good and good go bad, so it seems when Dominic (Vin Diesel) betrays his team and family during an extract mission in Berlin. Stealing an emp device, and reporting to cyber terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron). Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and the rest of the team that we all know from the previous films have to track down Ciphers next move and stop Dom. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and the new addition (Scott Eastwood) will need Hobb and his team and the help from their former enemy Deckard (Jason Statham).

I feel like the fast movies are getting better as it goes on from every movie and amazing to see how it went from a street racing movie to a heist film to a spy action. Also one that should not be taken seriously. It's a blockbuster action movie that you should leave brains and logic out before seeing the movie.

Seeing these characters as a team go on glide trotting missions to stop cypher terrorism using sporty cars and tactical fast tanks. Does these missions even require them to use cars? Probably not, sure there is other ways they could have handled it. But than it wouldn't be a fast movie, would it. The action sequences are big, loud, and insane. From the opening sequence, in Cuba, seeing Dom race with a burning car was fun. Until he meets Cipher that persuaded him to betray his team. Without giving away details, on Doms motivation to do such a thing against his family, it's best to see for yourself.

The film also takes place in New York and has one insane scene when Cipher hacks into computerized cars for her own control and leading a wave of cars to invade a convoy. Last, the chase sequence with the cars being chased by a submarine was fun in a overlong battle that takes place in Russia. The cast was still great and it was fun to see Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham taunt each other when working on a team. Helen Mirren has a brief appearance and is well worth it. Scott Eastwood was also a fun addition as a rookie to Mr. Nobody. Charlize Theron as the villain was a perfect choice. But sadly, she does not have much to do besides her menacing threats and being in a command room throughout the whole movie.

The film does have its twist and turns in the direction, when characters family limit is tested. But in the end, the central theme will always be about family coming together.

In closing, 'The Fate of the Furious' is awesome and does best for what it is trying to do which is entertain with crazy action sequences. Great cast. Fun to see these characters work together. Has its cheesy dialogue humor. And I hope to see more. I'm sure you will too once you add this incredible 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray to your collection.

Chock full with some delightful featurettes, some of my own personal favorites were The Cuban Spirit, where we get to see the F&F gane travel to Cuba for the opening scene of the movie. "One of the best things about making these Fast and Furious movies," explains star Michelle Rodriguez, "is being able to take our fans around the world with us". She explains, and then showcases, how they brought a taste of the Cuban culture to their audience.

In Car Stunts, director F. Gary Gray explains how he did his homework before even picking up a camera to shoot some of the most incredible stunt scenes in the series yet. He further explains what he deemed to be missing from the series since the first one were more car races. So here we follow Dom's car race to try and win back his cousin's car - and all the excitement that goes with that.

It showcases how a lot of motorbike stunts are orchestrated now throughout along with a quite brilliant, and well timed, letting go of a motorbike in front of Dom's car to try and put him off winning the race - and yes, it was a real motorbike and yes it really hit that car Dom was (supposed) to be driving!

In Car Culture, Vin Diesel (Dom) explains how Dodge really stepped up to the plate with their cars and trucks throughout the series, but here on F8 he felt they achieved a whole new level. The horsepower, the craftsmanship, the workmanship in general was just unbelievable to both the actors and the film crew.

The one car they all talk about is the Ice Charger, blasting through the snow, and which Diesel himself calls "pretty spectacular". Delivering everything you've been accustomed to seeing on a Fast & Furious film, the all-wheel drive road car built from scratch was an amazing clip to behold too. It was a one-of-a-kind vehicle and filmed in Iceland, well, put the two together and you've got yourself one of the most dangerous, and yet scenic chapters of the entire franchise.

In conclusion, watching it all open up before my very eyes on this 4K Ultra HD it truly is amazing viewing. And together with all these special features included here (although the regular Blu-ray should be pretty nice to watch these on also, I would imagine), this is one NOT to be missed. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, includes the EXTENDED DIRECTOR'S CUT of the film ONLY on Digital, and comes with the Special Features of:

The Cuban Spirit (Featurette)
In The Family (Featurette)
Car Culture (Featurette)
All About The Stunts (Featurette)
Extended Fight Scenes (Featurette)
Feature Commentary with Director F. Gary Gray
Digital Copy of 'The Fate of the Furious'
Features High Dynamic Range (HDR) for Brighter, Deeper, More Lifelike Color

'The Fate of the Furious' - Official Trailer

Official Website

Official Facebook Page

'FRONTLINE: American Patriot'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: In 'FRONTLINE: American Patriot' we see how one family's fight against the government invigorated armed militias and "Patriot" groups thereafter. We get inside the Bundy family's standoffs over land in the West, and see who the groups aligned with them that grew to levels not seen in decades.

DVD Verdict: 'FRONTLINE: American Patriot - Inside The Armed Uprising Against The Federal Government' is a paralyzing hour long documentary that showcases the various Militia's and their various fights against the Federal Government.

Indeed, more than that, PBS's FRONTLINE goes deep inside the battle between the Bundy ranching family in the West and the federal government, examining how a simmering fight over land in Nevada and Oregon became deadly; invigorated a wider armed militia movement, and continues to challenge law enforcement.

Drawing on deep access to key people on all sides of the battle, 'FRONTLINE: American Patriot', and for those not in the know, the aforementioned 2014 Bundy standoff was an armed confrontation between supporters of cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and law enforcement. It had followed a 20-year legal dispute in which the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had obtained court orders directing Bundy to pay over $1 million in withheld grazing fees for Bundy's use of federally owned land adjacent to Bundy's ranch in southeastern Nevada.

In truth, the ongoing dispute started in 1993, when, in protest against changes in grazing rules, Bundy declined to renew his permit for cattle grazing on BLM-administered lands near Bunkerville, Nevada. According to the BLM, Bundy continued to graze his cattle on public lands without a permit.

In 1998, Bundy was prohibited by the United States District Court for the District of Nevada from grazing his cattle on an area of land later called the Bunkerville Allotment. In July 2013, the BLM complaint was supplemented when federal judge Lloyd D. George ordered that Bundy refrain from trespassing on federally administered land in the Gold Butte area of Clark County.

'FRONTLINE: American Patriot' examines the battle between the Bundy family - including Ammon and Ryan's Nevada cattle rancher father, Clive; and who turned out to be the focal narrative spine throughout - and the government, as well as the larger so-called "patriot" movement, and its anti-government beliefs.

It is enthralling from start to finish and if you don't know the story, well, come the end of this documentary you'll want to find out more, trust me. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and features the Theatrical Release alongside The Broadcast Version.

'Re-Animator' (2-Disc Limited Edition) [Blu-ray]
(Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray / R / (1985) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: A dedicated student at a medical college and his girlfriend become involved in bizarre experiments centering around the re-animation of dead tissue when an odd new student arrives on campus.

Blu-ray Verdict: With a reported budget of just $900,000, director Stuart Gordon (From Beyond), and with a run time of just 86 minutes, 'Re-Animator' featured Jeffery Combs as Herbert West, a young physician who works up a full head of steam with his views on cheating death.

Indeed, his headstrong opinions lead to clashes with his new med school teacher Dr. Hill, forcing him to continue his experiments in his basement. At first, Dr. West's housemate Dan, is shocked by the experiments, but his curiosity compels him to join forces with West and eventually the two put their heads together to conduct further experiments.

Dan also enlists his girlfriend Megan in their strange activities and although she is repulsed by them, she agrees to help because she is head over heels in love with him. The re-animations begin to spiral out of control and Dan comes to realize that he's in over his head. Soon the erstwhile corpses develop minds of their own, leading to a head-on clash between re-animated and re-animators.

As for the dark humor embedded within the film throughout, well, ... SPOILER ALERT!! ... West chopping off Dr. Hill's head with a metal shovel and then immediately being annoyed when it won't sit up in the metal dish is just morbid humor gold! Also, when Hill's head wakes up after being injected and hisses "Wessssssst, you bassssstard" as his body lumbers behind him, that to is comedy gold!

Then we get to see Hill walking around carrying his own head with him, feeding himself pouches of blood, sneaking into the morgue in his ridiculous disguise! Oh man, come on now ... genius comedy at its finest, given the year, of course.

'Re-Animator' had a big head start (sorry, pun most definitely intended there!) over other horror films of the '80s and still retains its shock value today. The gore and demented sense of humor on display did not endear the movie with the theater chain's head offices and consequently it was poorly distributed in its day.

But, and rightly so, 'Re-Animator' has become a cult hit since, moving the film to the head of its class in the annals of outré horror. We can file this one under the heading: Terrific. This is a Widescreen presentation (2:35.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with en masse of Special Features:

4K restorations of the Unrated and Integral versions of the film
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 Audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Digipak packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Justin Erickson
Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by writer Michael Gingold
Re-Animator the original 1991 comic book adaptation, reprinted in its entirety

Unrated version [86 mins]
Audio commentary with director Stuart Gordon
Audio commentary with producer Brian Yuzna, actors Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and Robert Sampson
Re-Animator Resurrectus documentary on the making of the film, featuring extensive interviews with cast and crew
Interview with director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna
Interview with writer Dennis Paoli
Interview with composer Richard Band
Music Discussion with composer Richard Band
Interview with former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone
Barbara Crampton In Conversation the Re-Animator star sits down with journalist Alan Jones for this career-spanning discussion
Deleted and Extended Scenes
Trailer & TV Spots

Integral version [105 mins]
A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema brand new featurette looking at the many various cinematic incarnations of writer H.P. Lovecraft's work and More!

'Re-Animator' (2-Disc Limited Edition) [Blu-ray] is available for purchase on August 8th, 2017.

'Re-Animator' (2-Disc Limited Edition) [Blu-ray] Purchase Link

'FRONTLINE: The Fish on my Plate'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'FRONTLINE: The Fish on my Plate' is, at its principle core, a story of "What fish should I eat that's good for me and good for the planet?" That's the question bestselling author and lifelong fisherman Paul Greenberg (Four Fish; American Catch) sets out to answer.

DVD Verdict: As part of his quest to investigate the health of the ocean -- and his own -- Greenberg spends a year eating seafood at breakfast, lunch and dinner, eating over 700 fish meals in hopes of improving his health through a dramatic increase in his Omega-3 levels.

With people worldwide consuming more seafood than ever, Greenberg also explores questions of sustainability and overfishing, traveling to Norway, where modern fish farming was invented; Peru to witness the world's largest wild fishery; Alaska, where 200 million salmon can be caught each year; and Connecticut to visit a sustainable ocean farming pioneer who is trying to transform the fishing industry.

'FRONTLINE: The Fish on my Plate' isn't just the story of one man's journey. It's a must-watch documentary for any consumer who cares about both his or her own health, and the health of the planet. It is enthralling from start to finish and, as a whole, is a very well done documentary that not only covers the fishing industry, but more importantly the impact of fish on human body medically.

nformative and well worth the ninety minutes of your time, trust me on that. If you value your health, well, 'The Fish on my Plate' is the documentary for you. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'FRONTLINE: Poverty, Politics and Profit'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'FRONTLINE: Poverty, Politics and Profit' tells the story of how more working Americans are struggling to make rent than at any time since the Great Depression. FRONTLINE and NPR join forces to investigate the crisis in affordable housing and why so few are getting the help they need.

DVD Verdict: In an investigation that stretches from Dallas to Miami, to an upscale resort in Costa Rica, FRONTLINE and NPR examine two of the government's key affordable housing programs to see whether they're working as they should.

We quickly learn that housing segregation is the practice of denying African American or other minority groups equal access to housing through the process of misinformation, denial of realty and financing services, and racial steering.

Housing policy in the United States has influenced housing segregation trends throughout history. Key legislation include the National Housing Act of 1934, the GI Bill, and the Fair Housing Act. Factors such as socioeconomic status, spatial assimilation, and immigration contribute to perpetuating housing segregation.

The effects of housing segregation include relocation, unequal living standards, and poverty. However, there have been initiatives to combat housing segregation, such as the Section 8 housing program.

From exploring why even those who receive Section 8 vouchers often struggle to find housing, to examining charges that developers have stolen money meant to house low-income people, Poverty, Politics and Profit is a timely and probing exploration of a system in crisis -- and who's being left behind. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'BBC Earth: Nature's Great Race'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'Nature's Great Race' showcases how every year, millions of animals embark on epic journeys on an astonishing scale, crossing hostile landscapes, traveling hundreds of miles, overcoming fearsome obstacles, and facing intense dangers and voracious predators in a race to reach their destination.

DVD Verdict: In this truly fascinating BBC Earth documentary, we follow along as three iconic animals -- caribou, elephants, and zebra -- undertake three of the world's most breathtaking wildlife adventures. Journeying across hundreds of miles of Canadian arctic wilderness and African bush, they are solid together, within their clan, they are strong, butt hey are also prone to the elements.

Every decision could mean life or death, and for the first time ever, we watch along (albeit from the safety of our own homes and sofas) with the animals every step of the way. Using the latest tagging technology, the scientific team tracks individual animal journeys precisely, ensuring that camera teams on the ground can follow and film key animals, capturing all of the action, the close calls, the successes, and the failures.

'BBC Earth: Nature's Great Race' uncovers the true driving forces that compel these animals to risk everything, and why they must win these great races. It is chock full of stunning photography and is as cinematic with regard its landscapes as you would fully expect from a BBC Earth documentary. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Great Yellowstone Thaw: How Nature Survives'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Yellowstone is home to North America's most iconic wildlife, and every year these animals must survive the Thaw one of the harshest seasonal changes on Earth when temperatures can swing from minus 40 F in winter to almost 100 F in summer.

DVD Verdict: 'Great Yellowstone Thaw: How Nature Survives' is a wondrous, well documented documentary centered within and around Yellowstone that showcases animals that inhabit it, and what happens when temperatures swing from minus 40 F in winter to almost 100 F in summer.

We quickly learn how animals cope with this range, and witness the impact on individual families of wolves, grizzly bears, beavers, and great gray owls. All very up close and personal, trust me, as only BBC Earth can do.

To understand how the animals cope with this range, and to witness the effects of our changing climate, this series is following the Thaw during 2016 -- a year when the unpredictable weather broke new records.

Many animals, from wolves and bears to the family dog, growth thicker coats for winter. Some, such as walruses and whales, favor an insulating layer of blubber. Birds may migrate to warmer climes. But not all animals fend off the big chill. Some just give in and, well, freeze.

Geologist Kirk Johnson is joined by a team of scientists and wildlife cameramen to capture the wildlife dramas as they unfold over the course of the Thaw. We watch, enthralled, if you're anything like me, as they analyze the impact on individual families of wolves, grizzly bears, beavers, and great gray owls. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'BBC - Food: Delicious Science'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Dr. Michael Mosley and botanist James Wong celebrate the physics, chemistry, and biology hidden inside every bite of your next meal. Learn how the hidden chemistry of food keeps our bodies fit and healthy; take a global culinary adventure to reveal the science that makes our food taste delicious; and discover how the chemistry in our food affects our brains and creates our deepest cravings.

DVD Verdict: 'Food: Delicious Science' may well be the scientific story of your next meal, but just looking at all this, well, delicious food on offer here through this magnificent BBC documentary, you'll wonder how you ever viewed food any differently.

Dr. Michael Mosley and botanist James Wong celebrate the physics, chemistry, and biology hidden inside every bite here and boy, are they really into their trade and craft. I've followed, and been a fan of ethnobotanist (as that's his actual title) James Wong for many years now.

A television presenter and garden designer in the United Kingdom, best known for presenting the award-winning television series Grow Your Own Drugs, being a panelist on the long-running Radio 4 series Gardeners' Question Time, and reporting on the popular BBC rural affairs series Countryfile, Wong's bright, sunny demeanor has been front and center on my TV for years.

Broken down into three chapters, Food On The Brain is up first and here we discover how the chemistry in our food affects our brains and creates our deepest cravings. We learn about a whole new way of thinking about our relationship to the modern diet, and the wonderful effect it has on our minds.

The second chapter is A Matter Of Taste' where we undertake a global culinary adventure to reveal the science that makes our food taste delicious; and the powerful effect it has on our tongue and nose. As we quickly discover for ourselves, taste is far more than just being delicious - it's a matter of survival.

The last chapter of this wonderful, truly fantastic new DVD is We Are What We Eat, where we travel the world and step inside the UK's leading food laboratory to deconstruct our favorite meals, going inside the food to the molecular level. Revealing how the hidden chemistry in every mouthful of food keeps our bodies fit and healthy, it's an insight that will have you second guessing everything you eat from here on in - believe that. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Weekend in Havana with Geoffrey Baer'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: In 'Weekend in Havana', host Geoffrey Baer travels to Havana to explore Cuba alongside the people who live there. Join him with three young and high-octane local guides: architect and restorationist Daniel de la Regata; one of Cuba's top flamenco dancers, Irene Rodriguez; and Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca as they take you on a tour of Cuba's fascinating and colorful history.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Havana is Cuba’s capital city. Spanish colonial architecture in its 16th-century Old Havana core includes the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, a fort and maritime museum.

The National Capitol Building is an iconic 1920s landmark. Also in Old Havana is the baroque Catedral de San Cristóbal and Plaza Vieja, whose buildings reflect the city’s vibrant architectural mix.

In 'Weekend in Havana', host Geoffrey Baer travels to the capital city of Havana to explore Cuba alongside the people who live there. Joining him are three loveable, hi-energy young local guides: architect and restorationist Daniel de la Regata; one of Cuba's top flamenco dancers, Irene Rodriguez; and Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca.

As for Geoffrey Baer himself, well, Baer is an American television personality, actor and producer best known for hosting the 10 That Changed America series, the Chicago By Boat architecture series, and other television programs produced by WTTW in Chicago for Illinois PBS stations.

His programs offer an enhanced understanding of the history, culture, and people of the Chicago area as well as American architecture. Well, usually, for here in Havana taking in all the sights and sounds he is like a kid in a candy store.

'Weekend in Havana' takes us on a wonderful whirlwind tour of Cuba's fascinating and colorful history quite like no other program I've seen on the beautiful, and historic city. You experience a hands-on introduction to Afro-Cuban music and dance, a primer on Havana's varied architecture and efforts being made to restore the city's ruins, and an inside look at how everyday Cubans live in this "old city trying to find its place in the modern world"

A place off-limits to Americans for decades, 'Weekend in Havana with Geoffrey Baer' is a wondrous adventure from start to finish and his three guides are as fun, as informative, as upbeat as you could ever have wished for. This DVD features subtitles in English (SDH) and is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'American Epic' [PBS]
(2-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'American Epic' goes inside one of the greatest-ever untold stories: how the ordinary people of America were given the opportunity to make records for the first time.

DVD Verdict: 'American Epic: The First Time America Heard Itself' is, without a shadow of a doubt, a superb recollection of the early American electric recording scene. The amount and quality of the research needed to pull this together is remarkable, as is the production quality.

As much for the music extracts, as well as the feelings conveyed, I knew this is something I will want to reference, view and enjoy repeatedly. Directed by Bernard MacMahon, this 2-Disc DVD is as good as they come with regard this topic - a topic that, for the love of me, I don't believe I've seen outlined and brought forth quite like this ever before; weirdly.

THE BIG BANG: At the height of the Roaring Twenties, music scouts armed with cutting-edge recording technology set out across America to capture the unsung voices of everyday folk. This is the Big Bang of modern popular music-the first time America hears itself.

BLOOD & SOIL: America's poor-cotton field slaves, mine workers, sharecroppers-find freedom through music, creating gospel, protest songs, and Delta Blues.

OUT OF THE MANY, THE ONE: Exotic cultures spanning America are captured on record for the first time-inventing new instruments and new cultural identities as disparate voices harmonize in a musical melting pot.

Here on 'American Epic' Jack White (the White Stripes) and renowned producer/songwriter T Bone Burnett have produced an epic recording session using the only working 1920s recording device in existence in this tribute to the artists celebrated in the documentary.

Also starring Alabama Shakes, The Americans, Ana Gabriel, Ashley Monroe, The Avett Brothers, Beck, Bettye Lavette, Bobby Ingano, Elton John, Frank Fairfield, Jerron Paxton, Los Lobos, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Nas, Pokey LaFarge, Raphael Saadiq, Rhiannon Giddens, Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, Taj Mahal, Jack White, and Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, 'American Epic' is a must see for all those who think they know the origins of music - and more. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

The Tunnel: Sabotage - The Complete Second Season
(Clémence Poésy, Stephen Dillane, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: Our investigative duo -- pragmatic and meticulous Commander Elise Wassermann and laconic but brilliant DCI Karl Roebuck -- are reunited to investigate a lethal mystery that will change both Karl and Elise's lives. And see many more lost before they can unravel the dangerous and corrupted forces at play.

DVD Verdict: Wow! Totally absorbing! Yup, one of those rare moments when you think I just can't put this down. Not what I'd call a special series, but that said I watched ALL the episodes continuously with rare breaks. It all revolves round an middle-aged English detective and a younger, prettier french one!

When these two first met it was because of crimes occurring on both sides of the channel tunnel, and one right in the middle! The odd pairing along with their respective teams had to collaborate to save lives back then and here in season two, 'Sabotage' they have to come together again.

With even more twists and turns, and a red herring or three, season two quickly evolves into yet another compelling set of episodes, all culminating in yet another strange end. But hey, no spoilers here. Let's just say that if you like intrigue, carefully thought out plots with a small amounts of sex and violence strewn about, then you will love 'The Tunnel: Sabotage - Season Two'.

Here in the second season, our intrepid duo are reunited to investigate the case of a French couple abducted from the Eurotunnel, leaving behind their traumatized young daughter. But when a plane carrying British and French passengers crashes in the Channel, killing everyone on board, they have far bigger questions to answer.

The pair pick their way through clues thrown up by a vast field of debris, forging connections as they go. But sinister and complicated forces are at play and in a terrifying game of brinksmanship, Karl and Elise will have to risk everything in the pursuit of true justice.

While there are connections to the first series of 'The Tunnel', 'The Tunnel: Sabotage' does tend to be accessible to new audiences. Friendships are easy to pick up, and if themes are continuing and have an effect on the character, this are explained enough so as to keep people from being lost.

For the most part, Elise’s story keeps the audience invested in the events that are occurring. We are some of the few people who realize what lies underneath her robotic character, and see what lies behind those eyes.

In truth, it's Clémence Poésy’s performance that adds layers to a complicated character, and really makes us empathize for her. She is the one we want to succeed, no matter if she is making a mistake, or just trying to live through her strange life. That said, man does she look worse for wear on the front cover art!

In closing, all this (and what happens personally to Dillane's DCI Karl Roebuck on the home front - for that implodes big time also) continues the story of both 'The Tunnel' and Elise. And even if the investigation she is a part of can’t live up to her own personal story, it is her that will keep you invested. For that reason alone this is well worth a watch, of that you have my word. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Making of The Tunnel: Sabotage
Anatomy of a Scene
An International Production
The Evolution of Karl and Elise

'Masterpiece: Prime Suspect Tennison'
(Stefanie Martini, Sam Reid, Blake Harrison, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: 'Prime Suspect: Tennison' is the much-anticipated prequel to award-winning global hit Prime Suspect. Rewind to 1970s London to portray the early career of the formidable DCI Jane Tennison (Stefanie Martini), the role that established Dame Helen Mirren as a household name.

DVD Verdict: Yes. Yes. Yes. I know I've said this before, but ... wow! Totally absorbing! Most definitely another of those preciously rare moments when you think I just can't put this down. To my mind, a very dear and special series for all those who have followed the career/character of Tennison through the footsteps of Dame Helen Mirren.

Funnily enough, in its homeland in the UK it was known as 'Prime Suspect 1973', but I rather like this US-version of the title. As for the 6 episode plot/story line, well, 'Prime Suspect: Tennison' tells the story of 22-year-old Jane Tennison's first days in the police force, in which she endured flagrant sexism before being thrown in at the deep end with a murder inquiry.

A drug-addicted prostitute is found dead and DI Len Bradfield leads the investigation. Bradfield takes her under his wing and develops a romantic relationship with her. Meanwhile, lifelong criminal Clifford Bentley (Alun Armstrong) is in prison waiting to get released as his family plans a big heist.

In 'Tennison', Stefanie Martini looks to take over the prequel version of the iconic TV character created by Helen Mirren. The biggest question is that if she can match the legendary Mirren. The character maintains her personal flaws and superior mind. She struggles with murky ethics which leads to her later mistakes.

So, sure, yes, Martini shows flashes of acting power, but time will tell if she is up to the task. She's definitely plenty cute enough. There is good 70's settings with dirty earth tones. I'm glad they kept the smoking although it's a little toned down. The murder mystery is perfectly fine. Alun Armstrong holds the other end of the story quite well. This is a solid start although a second series is unlikely, in MHO, sorry. This a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Cars of the 70s
Dressing the 70s
Grading the 70s
Hair of the 70s
Policing in the 70s
Prime Suspect: The Legacy

'Masterpiece: My Mother and Other Strangers'
(Hattie Morahan, Owen McDonnell, Aaron Staton, Fiona Button, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, et al / 2-Disc DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)

Overview: With her English accent and her London ways, Rose Coyne is the only stranger in her rural Northern Ireland town, until 4,000 Americans arrive at the nearby WWII airbase. As Rose finds herself acting as peacekeeper between the disgruntled locals and the soldiers, she is also drawn to the engaging young Captain Dreyfuss. Will Rose risk her family for this forbidden love?

DVD Verdict: The varied fortunes of the Coyne family are played out here in the quite brilliant 'My Mother and Other Starngers' as the US Army Air Corps sets up a base next to their home town.

Moybeg is home to English woman Rose (Hattie Morahan, The Bletchley Circle), her Irish husband Michael Coyne (Owen McDonnell, Dominion Creek) and their three children, Emma, Francis, and Kate.

Narrated by the grown up son, Francis, the focus is on Rose Coyne the displaced Englishwoman, A loyal wife, mother of three children who has left a glamorous and educated world behind to be in Ireland with her husband Michael who runs a pub.

Michael might run a few scams but he is a decent man and but the dullness she feels in her life hits home when she encounters the thoughtful and educated US air base liaison officer Captain Ronald Dreyfus.

At first they have casual chit chats, the Americans are seen as being brash and their presence in the village meets with resentment from the locals and it is Captain's Dreyfus's job to smooth things over. Over time both feel passion for each other which they try to keep in check as both are married.

This is a nice, albeit sugary-at-times British drama, not very original and rather predictable, but highly watchable, that's for sure. Indeed, I'm so glad to say that the fifth and final episode hints that there is more to come. Which is nice as perhaps this show can up its game a wee bit and come back stronger. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

Go behind the scenes with Hattie Morahan, Owen McDonnell, Aaron Staton, Eileen O'Higgins and Des McAleer.

'Arthur: Brothers and Sisters'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS Kids!)

Overview: Based on the bestselling children's books by Marc Brown, ARTHUR follows the adventures of eight-year-old Arthur Read. So come join the world's most famous aardvark and friends as they go back to school!

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 I.Q.

Then there's also how Binky can be a bully and how Fern isn't very social. Well, anyway, back to my point: They're all friends even though none of them are perfect, which is one of the main reasons why I love this show so much.

Trust me when I say that 'Arthur' is not like one of those many everything is perfect and happy all the time "kiddy shows". Now, far from it for 'Arthur' represents life's imperfections and how to deal with them.

Arthur and his friends have so much fun together because they accept each other for who they are, which I think is definitely a message kids should learn early in their lives.

'Arthur: Brothers and Sisters' brings together eight stories about the joys - and challenges - of having a brother or sister. From D.W. copying her big brother's every move, to the Tibble twins discovering one of them is two whole minutes older, this DVD features loads of sibling fun!

The eight (8) stories included here on this brand new DVD are:
D.W. the Copycat
Arthur's Baby
D.W.'s Baby
Arthur's First Sleepover
Francine Redecorates
Sue Ellen's Little Sister
Two Minutes
The Pageant Pickle

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

'Caillou: Things That Go!'
(DVD / TV-Y / 2015 / PBS Kids)

Overview: Vroom, Vroom! Explore all types of things that go with Caillou from trains and planes to boats and cars!

DVD Verdict: Since 1997, 'Caillou' has brought us the entertaining misadventures of a four year old boy - named Caillou. Each day he discovers something new and interesting with his mommy, daddy, and Rosie.

Here on the brand new 'Caillou: Things That Go!' we join Caillou on his first plane ride and as he explores, and helps steer, a big sailboat! Caillou also takes the subway with Mommy, watches a big bulldozer at a construction site, and rides the school bus for the first time!

Oh, and trust me, there's so much more to view as in addition to these stories there are other tales included for your kids' enjoyment.

The 13 episodes included here on this brand new DVD are:
Caillou Flies on a Plane
Caillou's School Bus
Caillou Learns to Drive
Caillou Goes to the Car Wash
Caillou's Test Drive
The Big Boat!
Trip on the Subway
Caillou and the Bulldozer
As Good as New
Our Rocket Ship
All Aboard!
The Lightning Ball Express
Caillou's Big Dig

As you would expect from a PBS Kids show, 'Caillou' (in general) deals with issues like fear of the dark, patience, being a good friend, being a good sibling, and other important facts of life. These traits all come to the fore here in 'Things That Go!' where our central character may well get to have a fun time with some big machinery, but using his imagination and creativity also manages to learn important life lessons too.

BUT, be warned as Caillou can come across as simply the biggest brat you've ever sat your children down in front of! Allow me to explain further. Caillou is constantly whining and disobeying. Granted, his parents do correct him eventually, but that all comes late in the day, of course.

Anyway, and aside from the vocal characterization of Caillou - whose whiny little voice is like nails on a chalkboard (personal opinion, sorry!) - 'Caillou: Things That Go!' does provide good story lines and creditable outcomes for kids. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.77:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'Minnie's Happy Helpers'
(Bret Iwan, Russi Taylor, Daniel Ross, Tress MacNeille, Bill Farmer, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Walt Disney Studios)

DVD Overview: When Minnie and Daisy aren't racing around Hot Dog Hills, they're helping their friends with fun, odd jobs as The Happy Helpers. And no task is too big or too small for them to tackle! With a quick spin in their Turn-Styler, the Happy Helpers are ready for anything that comes their way.

DVD Verdict: I know that we all know who Mickey Mouse is, and we all know who his group of friends are too, including the lovely Minnie Mouse, but for those lil' 'uns new to this Disney Jr. show, this, along with the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse series is a show for the preschool set of kids that want to smile, laugh and watch it over!

It actually airs on the wonderful Disney Junior channel and can count among its fellow TV shows of the same ilk both 'Sofia the First' and 'Doc McStuffins'.

Here in 'Minnie's Happy helpers,' whether they're babysitting an egg that's about to hatch, planning the perfect luau for a client or fixing London's Big Ben just in time for tea, Minnie and Daisy are ready to go the extra mile, with a song and a smile!

With a stunning voice cast of Russi Taylor as Minnie Mouse; Tress MacNeille as Daisy Duck; Bret Iwan as Mickey Mouse; Daniel Ross as Donald Duck; April Winchell as Clarabelle Cow; Jim Cummings as Pete; and Bill Farmer as Goofy, there isn't one weak link in this wonderful seven episode adventure.

1. Egg-Xasperating!
2. Happy Hula Helpers!
3. Tea Time Trouble!
4. Happy Birthday Helpers!
5. Bed, Breakfast and Bungled!
6. Gone Fishin’!
7. Teed Off! [Bonus Episode]

The Happy Helpers make friendship fun; going around town helping their loved ones with a song and smile. From antics like babysitting an egg about to hatch to planning the perfect party, “Minnie’s Happy Helpers” is an entertaining tale fueled by friendship, fun, and going the extra mile!

Chock full of funny and highly entertaining moments for the pre-teens, it will 100% keep your kids occupied before dinner or on a sunny week day or even a wet Sunday afternoon.

Bring home the adventures on Disney DVD July 25th, 2017 and know that it also includes a FREE Exclusive Magnetic "Helper" Chart! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.


DVD Purchase Link

'Devil's Domain' [Bu-ray]
(Michael Madsen, Madi Vordane, Linda Bella, et al / Blu ray / NR / (2016) 2017 / MVD Visual)

Overview: After becoming the victim of vicious cyber bullies, Lisa makes a deal with the devil to exact revenge on her tormenters.

Blu-ray Verdict: Everything that comes to the fore here in 'Devil's Domain' sure isn't anything new, but it does stir up a lot of interesting moments of What If's, that's for sure.

Personally, I loved the whole concept of The Devil being online, in his own "domain" and add to that the woman playing Satan (yes, that's right, it's a woman here!), and you instantly know why the movie world fell in love with Linda Bella.

Lisa Pomson (Madi Vodane) is a teen girl who is bullied at school. She also has bulimia and gets secretly filmed doing her own thing and doing her other thing. The shame is unbearable as she contemplates suicide. She has two options for help: Satan (Linda Bella) and spend all eternity in hell and watch all her shaming friends perish in horrible deaths ... or her step-father, Michael Madsen, who has trouble giving up smoking; amongst other more shameful things

I guess, like most of us, Lisa chose Hell and Satan over a dirty smoker - and boy, does it all go, well, to Hell soon thereafter! In a lot of ways 'Devil's Domain' is a highly relatable story about a teen (male or female) who needs a way out of their lives; one way or another. Making a pact with The Devil isn't always a choice, sure, but in these kind of films it is - and man, come on now, does it ever end well?!

Chock full of new music from such artists as Iggy Pop, DMX, Brainticket, The Onyx and more, it's actually the latter that seem more out of place in the movie than any of the actual actors. I won't give it away, but the American hardcore hip-hop group from South Jamaica, Queens, and New York have a role to play here in the film, and it just doesn't work for me, sorry. Too OTT. Too cheesy, even for these movie standards!

Also, the music played throughout is just too much, too loud. Never shrinking into the shadows, never playing as gentle background music, it's always to the fore, loud and proud. It's ok to be that uptight, that angry, for the music fits the acting, but why so loud? This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

• Slide Show
• Extended & Behind the Scenes
• And Much More!

'Devil's Domain' [Blu-ray] is available for purchase on July 11th, 2017.

'Devil's Domain' [Blu-ray] Purchase Link

Seijun Suzuki's The Taisho Trilogy (6-Disc Box)
(Yoshio Harada, Naoko Ôtani, Kisako Makishi, Yûsaku Matsuda, Michiyo Ohkusu, Mariko Kaga, Kenji Sawada, Tomoko Mariya, Masumi Miyazaki, et al / Blu ray+DVD / NR / 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: After over a decade in the wilderness following his firing from Nikkatsu for 'Branded to Kill' (1967), maverick director Seijun Suzuki returned with a vengeance with his critically-praised tryptic of cryptic supernatural dramas set during the liberal enlightenment of Japan's Taisho Era (1912-26).

Blu-ray Verdict: In the first of the trilogy of tales, 'Zigeunerweisen' (1980), this rather surreal period film follows an university professor and his eerie nomad friend as they go through loose romantic triangles and face death in the most peculiar of ways.

Suzuki's first independent production (co-produced with the Art Theatre Guild) is a mesmerizing combination of the absurdly irrational, painterly beautiful, and fiendishly historic. Setting the film during the Taisho period (a relatively small Japanese period which can effectively be compared to the Weimar or "roaring twenties" in the US), it's anarchic and sexually attuned characters reflect not only their time, but the revitalization of such things, in a much more brazen form, during the '60s.

In this way, the film shares a great deal with Yoshida's Eros Plus Massacre, a film set simultaneously (in every meaning of the word) in the '20s and '60s. Insanity plagues this film, and in some ways I believe it's about losing control of one's ability to perceive the world around them. It pursues the question What is real? and What is imagined?, and is, eventually, a Japanese ghost story about friendship and lust.

In truth, for my money, what really sets this film apart from so many of Suzuki's others, is his blatant disregard for letting the viewer know what is happening in "real life" and what is going on in someone's head. By the end of the film, much is thrown into question, and we're better off for it.

Next up is 'Kagero-za' (1981) - more widely known as 'Heat-Haze Theatre' - and which tells the story of a 1920s playwright who meets a beautiful woman ... who may be the ghost of his patron's deceased wife.

Much like it's predecessor, this ghost tale is also set in Tokyo in the early '20s. The haunting, episodic narrative follows a playwright and his growing obsession with a beautiful woman who floats in and out of his life (quite literally, at times).

The overall plot of the film is actually difficult to describe, because it is told almost without a cohesive narrative and totally non-linear and disjointed. I've never seen a film that resembles a feverish dream so closely.

Anyway, he first encounters her when she asks for his company on her way to the hospital, as she is afraid of the Chinese Lantern Plant vendor - the plant is said to contain female souls. He refuses, but his desire for the woman gradually overpowers him, so that by the time he realizes she is luring him to his demise, it is too late to stop her.

Besides the narrative's distorted uniqueness, which allows the characters to jump from one location to the next or pop up here, there and everywhere (even within the same shot), the other interesting aspects of the film are the locations. These visuals and inter-textual connections are what makes 'Kagero-za' the great movie that it truly is.

The last film of this fascinating trilogy is 'Yumeji' (1991) where a painter and poet Yumeji Takehisa (1884-1934) gets involved with a beautiful widow, becoming a rival of her dead husband's ghost and the jealous lover who murdered him.

As most that have reviewed it before over the years have also paid judgement to, 'Yumeji' is most definitely, and without a shadow of a doubt, maverick director Seijun Suzuki's most absurd, and yet deeply mysterious ghost story to date.

Taking its name from the real-life painter Yumeji Takehisa, our cinematic Yumeji (Kenji Sawada) strays from his lover when he falls for the beautiful and freshly widowed Tomoyo (Tomoko Mariya), whose husband was slain by the jealous Onimatsu (Kazuhiko Hasegawa).

Yumeji pursues Tomoyo despite the evident danger, which grows even more pronounced when Wakiya (Kazuhiko Hasegawa), Tomoyo's murdered husband, returns from the dead.

In closing, and unlike many trilogy's of its time, 'Seijun Suzuki's The Taisho Trilogy' features three movies that are not even sequels to each other. They are only related in approach, style, and historical setting, but that's enough, trust me. I true gem of a film set to watch one wet Sunday afternoon, I highly recommend this new 6-Disc box-set to fans, old and new to this genre of foreign cinema. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original stereo audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles
New introductions to each film by critic Tony Rayns
Making-of Featurette
Vintage interview with Seijun Suzuki
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring writing on the films by critic Jasper Sharp and more!

'Seijun Suzuki's The Taisho Trilogy [6-Disc Box]' is available for purchase on August 8th, 2017.

'Seijun Suzuki's The Taisho Trilogy [6-Disc Box]' Purchase Link

'Shooter: Season One'
(Ryan Phillippe, Omar Epps, Shantel VanSanten, Josh Stewart, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Universal Pictures)

Blu-ray Overview: From executive producers Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson and John Hlavin, 'Shooter' is based on the best-selling Bob Lee Swagger novel by Stephen Hunter, Point of Impact. Ryan Phillippe stars as Bob Lee Swagger, a highly-decorated veteran coaxed back into action after learning of a plot to kill the president. When Swagger's former commanding officer, Isaac Johnson (Omar Epps), solicits Swagger's expertise for the clandestine operation, Swagger discovers that he has been framed and must do everything in his power to protect his family and clear his name.

DVD Verdict: In truth, the 2007 film 'Shooter' was pretty good, especially the first half. So why would 'Shooter' film star Mark Wahlberg want to make a TV series based on the very same film, I hear you ask. Well, TV series' based on films sometimes do well ('M*A*S*H', 'Nikita', et al), but more often than not they don't ('Alien Nation', 'Tarzan') - and it's a rare series that outdoes the original (maybe 'M*A*S*H', maybe 'Fargo', and maybe 'Hannibal').

Based on the first episode, I feared this one wasn't going to equal the film. Ryan Phillippe is no Mark Wahlberg, and since the film/series heavily depends on the central character, this was a BIG problem to me. The addition of the family doesn't seem to add anything to the concept, nor is the back story ("I made a mistake") relevant. The core concept is the betrayal and revenge, with the added attraction of a focus on the abilities of a sniper.

What interests me personally about snipers is their personality. The job is a unique one, requiring a combination of perceptual motor skills, advanced math, mechanical skills, and more important, the ability to disguise oneself and to wait for long periods of time. There is really no other "job" that resembles this one.

So how does one become a sniper, and what does this strange profession do to your social life, your inner life, etc. These are the types of issues I'm looking for in films or books about snipers, and while I don't expect answers to any of these questions, I like to see them reflected in the material.

Hence, here in the TV series 'Shooter' we do now get more back stories on the things that matter to the viewer - friends, family, jobs, missions, etc. The trouble is what we also get alongside all that, gelling it together, is episode after episode of a bare-bones script that gives the actors scant opportunity to express anything other than the most basic plot points.

The photography over-emphasizes the cold rationality of minds unpicking the threads of a conspiracy, and the fights look so staged, so clumsily that they're hard to follow. Or care about, in truth.

That all said, sure, playing Devil's Advocate, 'Shooter' has taken way too many liberties with Bob Lee Swagger, and that's obviously disappointed a lot of people, but throughout this first season the characters and plots do start to even out and become more realistic. More grounded. More believable. Ergo, it improves so give it a chance. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:

Making of Shooter Featurette

'LEGO Scooby-Doo! Blowout Beach Bash'
(Frank Welker, Grey Griffin, Matthew Lillard, Kate Micucci, Jeff Glen Bennett, et all / Blu-ray+DVD / NR / 2017 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Mystery, Inc. heads to Blowout Beach for a real swinging beach party. But when the Ghost Pirates threaten to harsh the good vibes, it's up to the Scooby Gang to get the party back on track and save the day!

Blu-ray Verdict: My 4 year old LOVES both Lego Scooby-Doo Knight Time Terror and Haunted Hollywood, so when I told him that there was a brand new Scooby-Doo adventure for us to watch last night, well, he almost bust a gut in being a good boy all day to be sure of watching it with me!

So, with him as genuinely excited as I've ever seen him and me having had a good boy around the house all day, we settled in for this brand new adventure last night.

Well, I can happily report that 'LEGO Scooby-Doo! Blowout Beach Bash' is as good as it gets with this gang! Aside from the fact is also comes with three Bonus Cartoons (listed below) the guys at Warner Bros. have brought in modern day voice actors for each of our beloved characters.

Watching LEGO Scooby-Doo, if you're not used to the LEGO version, can be a little jarring on the eyes at first, but you get used to him and the gang pretty soon thereafter. Each one of these tales tells a new Scooby-Doo story and each of them especially this headline one, are still feeling very fresh and unique.

Complete with some up to date gags, sure, I would rather have had this as a normal animated adventure, but LEGO animation seems to be the way Hollywood is leaning currently, so I guess I'm not surprised that the home entertainment market is being constructed the same way.

As for the actually plot, well, based on Shaggy asking the Mystery, Inc. shouldn't they all go to somewhere fun, they all head to Blowout Beach for a real swinging beach party. But upon arrival, and as Daphne herself perfectly sums it up, she gets a very creepy and abandoned feeling from their chosen destination.

So when Ghost Pirates ransack a pier and threaten to do worse to all the tourists and inhabitants of the town, all because of some long lost treasure trove of gems, it's up to Scooby and the gang to get the party back on track and save the day. Funny jokes like when they introduce themselves as Mystery Incorporated and the reply comes back, "Oh, is that your band name?" may well be low brow, but hey, this show is for kids, remember that.

Me, well as you can guess, I'm a long time Scooby Doo fan ever since I was a kid, I'm happy that they're still making new movies and cartoons as I still enjoy watching them. "It's so good to see young people so undeterred by the threat of ferocious ghost pirates", says the lady who checks them into their hotel! From then on it, well, let the games begin, as they say here in this brilliant haunted mystery. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

3 Bonus Cartoons: 'Go Away Ghost Ship,' 'A Clue for Scooby-Doo,' and 'Party Like It's 1899'.

'LEGO Scooby-Doo! Blowout Beach Bash' DVD Purchase Link

Official Trailer

'S.W.A.T.: Under Siege' [Blu-ray]
(Sam Jaeger, Adrianne Palicki, Michael White, et al / Blu-ray / R / 2017 / Sony Pictures)

Overview: When a D.E.A. and S.W.A.T. cartel take down ends in a shootout, S.W.A.T. Agent Travis Hall seizes a mysterious prisoner and takes him into custody. Before long, the S.W.A.T. compound is under siege by wave after wave of assault teams attempting to recover the prisoner known as “The Scorpion” for the tattoo blazed across his back.

Blu-ray Verdict: In my humble opinion, any action movie that can keep you from looking at your watch or a clock in the room for 80 minutes is a friend of mine - especially on a wet and windy Sunday afternoon!

'S.W.A.T.: Under Siege' is just one of those movies, of that have no doubt. Overall the film's basic plot, complete with a minor twist (to say the least) and an ending battle that, well, with regard ALL the fight scenes (to the death, most times) you know exactly who's gonna win and how, still ensures that the momentum of the movie is bountiful.

Nothing special is brought forth on the overall visuals, or the script, to be fair, but that said it manages to exceed being a B-Movie - just. In truth, a lot of the movie is annoying close ups of all the characters "getting in each others faces" not to mention an over abundance of close ups and extreme visuals of their actual S.W.A.T. gear!

The scenery and environments shown for battle are nothing to chime in about, as they either flash by or are wooden set ups for the fist fights and such. The color schemes are nice enough, but without any real blaze of colors the whole thing remains a very neutral palette.

But, and again, that's all fine given that the movie is more about the hand-to-hand battles and flash, bang wallops of the guns fire and explosions scattered throughout. Oh, and for those wanting a little depper information, well, 'S.W.A.T.: Under Siege' features a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack.

In closing, and not as good as 2003's big-named actors 'S.W.A.T.' (which itself was based off of a one time T.V. show about two Los Angeles S.W.A.T. officers Jim Street and Brian Gamble (Colin Farrell and Jeremy Renner), or 2011's 'S.W.A.T.: Firefight' (Robert Patrick), this new addition to the fold is entertaining and enjoyable for what it is: an explosive, action-packed, one-liner, 80 minute escape from reality. And who doesn't need one of those a few times a month! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Official Trailer