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It seems as if cinemas are filled with two kinds of studio films these days: bloated franchises based on pre-fab brands, and modestly budgeted horror outings like last year’s hit “Get Out” where directors seemingly have more freedom to tell their stories. This year has brought another unexpected commercial success, John Krasinski’s A QUIET PLACE (***½, 95 mins., PG-13; Paramount), and this one is even better than Jordan Peele’s intriguing if overrated film, dabbling in some familiar genre elements but doing so in such a unique and effective manner that it’s one of the most exciting film-going experiences I’ve had in years.

Krasinski’s well-drawn screenplay, written with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, follows a farm family struggling to survive in a future overrun with alien creatures that kill anything they can hear. These fast-moving, seemingly indestructible beings are blind but act upon hearing so much as a footstep – making things difficult for Krasinski’s Lee Abbott and his wife Evelyn, whose children include a pair of young sons and their deaf older sister (Millicent Simmons). Trying to stay silent is hard for anyone – but doing so with kids while simultaneously trying to survive makes for a tension-filled affair where a wrong move means nearly instant death.

Though it’s not a profound film with much on its mind other than providing tension for its 90 minutes, “A Quiet Place” is still one of the best movies of recent years. Driven by a tightly constructed, well-written script that gives every character a purpose, Krasinski  — working on-screen with real-life wife Blunt – confidently moves cinematically through a realistic world refreshingly free of snarky dialogue (there’s hardly any) and with every scene conveying something important, either from a character or narrative standpoint, that connects at the end.

It’s really more suspense than horror, with the director playing to a hilt several dynamite set-pieces that are likely to linger long in the memory, without the need of excessive gore and violence. That element is certainly praiseworthy on its own (and undoubtedly one reason the film has been such a hit), but equally commendable is how Krasinski draws the viewer in not with a lengthy prologue about the aliens and how they got here, but rather how perilous every day is for the family. This is a movie that stays in its lane and doesn’t feel the need to plant constant “franchise seeds” in the hopes of establishing a “new cinematic universe,” but rather is driven to entertain and keep the viewer on the edge of their seats with character-driven tension.

While it’s easy to overrate a movie like this in today’s lackluster cinematic climate, “A Quiet Place” nevertheless is bravura filmmaking on its own scale – and that’s nothing to stay quiet about.

Paramount’s 4K UHD of “A Quiet Place” debuts on July 10th. As you’d expect, the HDR presentation (with Dolby Vision and Atmos) is dynamic, adding to the film’s accomplished cinematography and sound design in equal measure. HDR is usage isn’t overwhelming but the colors and crispness are both striking in a consistently strong transfer. A Blu-Ray and Digital HD copy are also included but supplements are light: just a trio of featurettes taking viewers behind the scenes are included, with the filmmakers wisely opting to let their picture mostly speak for itself.

Science fiction of an older kind is on-tap in THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES (293 mins., 1980), a Charles Fries-produced mini-series that starred Rock Hudson in a sprawling attempt to parlay off the success of “Star Wars” and the ensuing sci-fi craze of the late 70s.  Regrettably, this lengthy NBC broadcast is just one in a long line of disappointing attempts to cinematically capture the prose of Ray Bradbury, with writer Richard Matheson struggling to mix adventure and ecological preachifying, all under Michael Anderson’s indifferent direction.

It’s a nice try, at least, with Hudson leading one of several expeditions to Mars, nearly all of which meet with some kind of terrible fate, mostly related to mankind’s inherent shortcomings. The message is clear, but it’s interesting watching Matheson balance some “Twilight Zone”-esque twists with action that occasionally comes straight out of a “Star Trek” playbook – down to a score by Stanley Myers (and Richard Harvey) that’s alternatively terrific and terrible in equal measure. The cast, meanwhile, includes Bernie Casey, Darren McGavin, Roddy McDowall and Fritz Weaver, along with Bernadette Peters, Gayle Hunnicutt and the original TV “Spider-Man,” Nicholas Hammond (Fries produced that series as well). It’s mildly diverting in sections but much too long overall, and dramatically relies on the ridiculous conceit that the human arrivals on Mars would so quickly, and with such little hesitation, accept the fact that their dead/missing relatives are alive and well on the Red Planet, with neighborhoods that match their old hometowns to boot!

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray includes MGM-licensed 1080p (1.33) AVC encoded transfers that are all in decent shape – no question this Malta/Canary Islands-lensed production looks far better here than it ever did on TV. The DTS MA mono sound is passable, with an interview with actor James Faulkner provided on the supplemental side.


New From Twilight Time

Twilight Time’s latest releases take a deep dive into the catalogs of Columbia and Fox, including the Blu-Ray debut of TAKE A GIRL LIKE YOU (98 mins., 1970, R), one of several efforts by star Hayley Mills to break free of her younger Disney persona. Starring in an adaptation of Kingsley Amis’ novel, Mills gives a likeable enough performance in a dated period piece that still offers some interest for its seemingly oddball pairing of Mills with the always-intense Oliver Reed.

Mills plays a young virgin who moves to a village outside London and finds herself being the object of affection of several lads, including Reed’s tempestuous teacher. George Melly’s script is heavy on “mod” sex talk and Reed comes off as an overly intense, if not downright scary, match for Mills’ appealing heroine – she tries hard, yet Jonathan Miller’s film strains to be charming and offers little in the way of effective humor to offset the often arch tone.

Featuring an obnoxiously repetitive title song performed by “The Foundations” and a Stanley Myers score, “Take A Girl Like You” might be worth a view for ‘60s cinema aficionados thanks to its portrait of British sensibilities and the era’s increasingly free-wheeling sexual mores. There’s no denying Twilight Time’s attractive 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded transfer either, which is highly detailed and offers vibrant colors. While not a particularly attractive film from a visual standpoint (as Julie Kirgo mentions in her always-astute notes, “Take a Girl Like You” isn’t a picaresque picture by any means), this is yet another strong Sony-licensed property with an isolated score track and trailers for extras.

Also new from Twilight Time this month is MY GAL SAL (103 mins., 1942), 20th Century Fox’s war-time musical biopic of songwriter Paul Dresser, played here by Victor Mature, in a reportedly very loose adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s own essay about his brother. Seton Miller, Darrell Wade and Karl Turnbug scripted (and apparently mostly fabricated) this Technicolor-lensed production with Rita Hayworth in the title role: a musical star who catapults the Indiana-born and bred Dresser, along with his music, onto fame and fortune in Tin Pan Alley. Tuneful songs mix with the luminous Hayworth, then on-loan from Columbia Pictures, and Mature alternately romancing and arguing through the film’s 103 minutes. Twilight Time’s Blu-Ray looks very good for a film of this age, featuring a 1.33 full-frame transfer and a mono DTS MA track along with an isolated score mix.

Rosalind Russell and Jane Blair, meanwhile, starred in the 1942 Columbia release “My Sister Eileen” — a drama about a pair of sisters (a writer and actress) who step off the bus from Ohio and try to make it in New York. When Columbia remade MY SISTER EILEEN (108 mins., 1955) as a full-color Cinemascope musical in 1955, director Richard Quine and his co-writer, a young Blake Edwards, put their own comedic spin on the material. Here, Betty Garrett is the “brainy” sister with Janet Leigh the aspiring starlet, playing opposite future Edwards staple Jack Lemmon (a publisher) and Bob Fosse (a soda jerk). Fosse also choreographed this fun and vibrant musical which looks splendid here in a first-class Sony-licensed 1080p (2.55) transfer with either single-channel mono or 2.0 DTS MA audio. The trailer and an isolated score (with some dialogue and effects) track are also included.

Another Cinemascope musical from the era makes its way to Blu-Ray this month from Twilight Time. The notoriously troubled LET’S MAKE LOVE (118 mins., 1960) offers the one-of-a-kind pairing of Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand in a George Cukor picture that was plagued with behind-the-scenes turmoil, including strikes that delayed production, a flawed script, and the small fact that Montand couldn’t speak English. Somehow the picture was completed and performed moderately well at the box-office despite its reputation, and it’s an enjoyable, if slow-going, affair with splendid widescreen lensing, songs from the Cole Porter catalogue (with new material from Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen), and Tony Randall and Frankie Vaughan support. There are also several fun cameos that help to pep up the material, all of it sparkling on Blu-Ray in a fine Fox-licensed 1080p (2.35) AVC encoded transfer with 5.1 and 2.0 DTS MA stereo sound; an isolated score track; and the trailer.


 

 

Warner Archive New Releases

An interesting selection by the Warner Archive for Blu-Ray treatment, MGM’s DESIGNING WOMAN (117 mins., 1957) teams Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall in an entertaining, polished late ‘50s studio product. Peck stars as sportswriter Mike Hagen, who returns to his New York roots alongside a chic fashion designer (Lauren Bacall) he barely knows. Their whirlwind, barely-week long courtship is hampered by encounters with Peck’s ex (Dolores Gray) plus Chuck Connors, Jesse White and Mickey Shaugnessy as colorful types who all push and pull the respective duo in different directions. It’s light, breezy stuff — not a classic — but nevertheless a relaxing time-killer that looks nifty in Cinemascope with two great-looking stars to match.

Not an especially discussed film in director Vincente Minnelli’s prolific filmography, Warner Archive has brought a good-looking print of “Designing Woman” to Blu-Ray featuring a lovely 1080p (2.35) AVC encoded transfer with 2.0 DTS MA sound, the Andre Previn score featuring musical numbers staged by Jack Cole. The theatrical trailer and a “behind-the-scenes minidocumentary” featuring costume designer Helen Rose comprise the extras.

Also New on Blu-Ray: Sergio Leone’s first directorial credit came with the widescreen sword-and-sandal adventure THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES (128 mins., 1961), an MGM production that exported Rory Calhoun overseas for this lumbering tale of slave revolts, political intrigue and (finally) a massive statue toppling over into the sea. It’s not all bad – even within the confines of a genre that was turning out Steve Reeves hits around this time, Leone displays deft handling of the widescreen frame and executes a couple of nifty set-pieces, including a Hitchcockian homage in the climactic battle atop the title monument itself. Still, the movie’s needlessly protracted running time will likely be a turn-off to anyone but die-hard genre enthusiasts. At least Warner serves up a winning Blu-Ray for them, thanks to a 1080p (2.55) transfer with DTS MA mono sound. The horribly dubbed dialogue (credited to over a half-dozen writers) and Angelo Lavagnino’s score are each hampered by the limited scope of the source elements. A commentary from Sir Christopher Frayling is the disc’s sole extra…Kirk Douglas reteamed with director Vincente Minnelli, producer John Houseman and screenwriter Charles Schnee for a second tale of backstage Hollywood in MGM’s TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN (107 mins., 1962). Regrettably, despite its Cinemascope trappings, this companion piece to “The Bad and the Beautiful” isn’t as strong, with Kirk essaying an aging star who gets one last shot at the big-time by taking over direction on his new gig from an ailing Edward G. Robinson. Cyd Charisse, George Hamilton, Daliah Lavi and Claire Trevor co-star in this attractively lensed but overheated picture presented in a crisp 1080p (2.35) Warner AVC encoded transfer with 2.0 DTS MA mono sound…One of the essential Blackexploitation fan favorites, SUPERFLY (91 mins., 1972, R), nets a Blu-Ray release this month from the Warner Archive as well. In fact, this spirited Blu-Ray offers not only a superb 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded transfer from the Warner vaults, but the disc includes a number of extras, including “One Last Deal,” a retrospective documentary, commentary from Dr. Todd Boyd, and interviews with composer Curtis Mayfield, Les Dunham, costumed designer Nate Adams and star Ron O’Neal.

New on DVD from Warner Archive: Two additional MGM catalog titles also debut on DVD this month. THE BAND PLAYS ON (87 mins., 1934)features Robert Young and Stuart Erwin as reform schoolers who learn the ways of the gridiron after they’re taken in by Pacific University coach Preston Foster. The boys stumble on their way to the big game – and full redemption – in this very early football flick captured here in a B&W transfer and mono sound from the Turner vaults. Charles Laughton fills the title role in MGM’s THE MAN FROM DOWN UNDER (103 mins., 1943),a melodrama about a solider who adopts a pair of orphans in the waning days of WWI. After smuggling them out of Belgium, he’s forced to raise the little boy and girl alone (growing into Richard Carlson and Donna Reed, respectively), leaving his girlfriend (Binnie Barnes) behind, at least until they’re reunited at the onset of WWII. Tears, laughs, and a bit of war-time propaganda mix in this studio product, making its debut from the Archive also featuring a 4:3 B&W transfer and mono sound.


Lionsgate New Releases

Compelling and finely performed, CHAPPAQUIDDICK (106 mins., 2018, R) finally commits to film the harrowing sequence of events that occurred one fateful night in July of 1969, wherein an intoxicated Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) drove off a Martha’s Vineyard bridge, leaving his companion – Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara), a former staffer for his late brother Bobby – to drown. What happened thereafter – with Ted failing to corral his family’s political machine, much to the consternation of his cousin (Ed Helms) – has long been the subject of controversy and bestselling books, but never a dramatic rendering. This absorbing picture won’t add great insight into Kopechne’s death for those familiar with the subject, yet it’s still a satisfying dramatic work from director John Curran, offering a particularly strong turn from Clarke, effectively straddling the line here between being incompetent and outright detestable as the “last hope” for the Kennedy clan.

Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray is well worth a viewing, coming to disc on July 10th with a 1080p (2.39) AVC encoded transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound, along with a DVD, Digital HD copy and two featurettes. My only gripe is that the Blu-Ray audio is mixed very, very low, requiring the volume to be pushed up to extremely high levels in order to hear the dialogue (be aware when you jump back to any other source on your TV or receiver!).

It’s not like Sylvester Stallone to routinely commit to direct-to-video affairs, but Sly unwisely decided to appear in ESCAPE PLAN 2: HADES (94 mins., 2018, R), a cut-rate sequel to his moderately enjoyable 2013 on-screen pairing with fellow superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger. This lower-budgeted disappointment is an unfortunate grind, with Sly top-billed but appearing sparsely (his original deal was a cameo) in a story that more revolves around Huang Xiaoming and friends being detained in another supposedly fool-proof penitentiary. God knows why Dave Bautista is here, as his character serves little purpose, in a slapdash affair with a wide-open ending that will connect the film with the forthcoming (sigh) “Escape Plan 3.” Lionsgate’s now-available Blu-Ray includes a 1080p (2.40) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA audio, a Making Of, cast/crew interviews, additional featurettes, a DVD and Digital HD copy.

Chances are good you’ve stumbled across one of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week marathons over the last 30 years. Lionsgate commemorates three decades of sharks, science and some speculation with a pair of new home video releases this week.

SHARK WEEK: 30TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION is the superior value of the duo, though it doesn’t quite live up to its title. This three-disc set offers a single Blu-Ray featuring five “Fan Favorite Episodes” in high-definition: Ultimate Air Jaws, How Jaws Changed The World, Monster Mako, Monster Hammerhead, and Great White Serial Killer Lives. Strangely, this roster matches neither the back cover text nor the boast that the set includes these five episodes plus “5 Episodes of Vintage Shark Week” on Blu-Ray – the only episodes presented on Blu-Ray are, in fact, those five. There aretwo additional DVDs, including a total of 10 episodes, but high-def fans should be much more interested in the included Vudu code – a Walmart exclusive that includes 30 assorted “Shark Week” episodes, spread across the show’s various seasons. Among the latter are the superb “Blood in the Water” and “Ocean of Fear” docu-dramas from the series’ heyday, all in 1080p (HDX).

Meanwhile, DVD fans can get their fix with SHARK WEEK: SHARKTACULAR ADVENTURES (13 hours, 2017),which includes the entire 2017 “Shark Week” on DVD. This most recent season was notable for the highly-touted, highly-rated “showdown” between Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps and a shark…well, not really, but the episode is still entertaining if one’s expectations are dialed down. The three-disc DVD set includes 16:9 transfers and 2.0 soundtracks and also streets this week.

Coming on Blu-Ray from Lionsgate this July is LEAN ON PETE (122 mins., 2017, R), a lengthy and overwrought tale of a teen (Charlie Plummer) who forms a bond with an aging race horse named Lean on Pete. This isn’t “The Black Stallion,” though, as Plummer’s troubled hero finds out the horse is bound for slaughter, leading him on a sad journey in Andrew Haigh’s film, co-starring Chloe Sevigny and Steve Buscemi. Lionsgate brings the A24 release to Blu-Ray on July 10th featuring a 1080p (1.85) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, a Digital HD copy and a single Making Of featurette.

On DVD From Lionsgate: Rosario Dawson plays a recovering addict who becomes the object of affection of a withdrawn young man (Nick Robinson) with a heart condition in William H. Macy’s character drama KRYSTAL (96 mins., 2018, R). Macy directed Will Aldis’ script with a strong roster of supporting players (William Fichtner, Kathy Bates, Grant Gustin, and Macy and his wife, Felicity Huffman, as well) and a well-intended message. This uneven coming-of-age picture comes to DVD on July 10th from Lionsgate sporting a 16:9 (1.85) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound…Also on July 10th comes the Lifetime Original I AM ELIZABETH SMART (86 mins., 2018), a dramatization of the harrowing, much-publicized kidnapping of a 14-year-old Utah teenager (Alana Boden) by a fanatic (Skeet Ulrich) and his equally insane accomplice (Deirdre Lovejoy). This adaptation of Smart’s book makes for a better-than-average cable film, capably directed by Sarah Walker. Lifetime’s DVD boasts a 16:9 (1.78) transfer and 2.0 stereo sound…Danny Trejo makes an appearance in FRAT PACK (95 mins., 2018, R), the story of a 19-year-old (Richard Alan Reid) who’s dragged on an epic roadtrip along with his soon-to-be stepbrothers. They encounter a series of calamities in a film also written by Reid and co-starring Beverly D’Angelo as his mother, plus Tommy Davidson and Locklyn Munro. Lionsgate’s DVD is now available featuring a 16:9 (1.78) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

Finally, it’s bewildering why the likes of James Franco, Milla Jovovich, and Lucy Liu would want to sign up for a post-apocalyptic time-waster likeFUTURE WORLD (88 mins., 2018, R) and not have fun with it. After all, this C-grade “Fury Road” rip-off starring Jeffrey Wahlberg as a future Prince who has to find medicine for his wasteland’s ailing Queen (Liu) is as predictable as any other “Mad Max”-influenced affair from the ‘80s. Shockingly, though, “Future World” – which Franco also co-directed – is played straight down the line, resulting in a tedious outing that must have provided some decent checks to a cast that deserved better than this (and that says something, given Franco’s recent cinematic excursions). Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray includes some behind-the-scenes footage with Franco, a 1080p (2.40) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA audio and a Digital HD copy.


Also New & Noteworthy

RAMPAGE 4K UHD Combo Pack (108 mins., 2018, PG-13; Warner): Back in the late ‘80s, one of my favorite video games was “Rampage” – an appealingly designed, if decidedly simplistic, destruction game wherein you played as one of three giant monsters wreaking havoc on cities in every state of the fruited plain (they all looked, pretty much, identical though).

There was a time when a “Rampage” movie might’ve been a lot of fun – but these days, with studios shooting for the moon with every release a would-be franchise igniter, the resulting “Rampage” film is a by-the-book actionfest that mixes “Mighty Joe Young” with “Godzilla,” and isn’t as much fun as either.

Dwayne Johnson tries valiantly – as always – to inject some energy into a workmanlike script (credited to four different writers), playing a primatologist who finds out the government has tinkered with genetic codes and caused the giant mutation of a number of different creatures. These include his silverback gorilla, George, who has to save the day when Chicago is imperiled by several beasts that look like refugees from Godzila’s most recent cinematic adventure. Director Brad Peyton takes no chances with the material, denying viewers the goofy humor the material demands – which, ironically, the video game itself offered in spades. While still watchable, “Rampage” is so routine that not even abundant explosions, roaring monsters and Johnson’s inherent charisma can bring it to life.

Warner’s 4K UHD of “Rampage,” out July 14th, boasts all the bells and whistles technically you’d expect: Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision, HDR and a great looking transfer that makes good use of the latter. The Atmos sound is always working to keep your speakers busy, with a usual assemblage of extras including deleted scenes, a gag reel, featurettes, a Digital HD copy and accompanying Blu-Ray.

DOCTOR WHO: TOM BAKER – Complete First Season Blu-Ray (1974-75, BBC): One of the earliest viewing memories I can recall is sitting by a small black-and-white TV in our summer vacation home during the late ‘70s and being consistently freaked out by the opening of “Doctor Who” every Saturday. The combination of the theme music with Tom Baker’s massive head coming into the frame scared the heck out of me – and still to a degree gives me the creeps even today!

It’s certainly an iconic opening to an iteration of the series that many American viewers likely recall, seeing as the Tom Baker years accompanied the “Star Wars” phenomenon on U.S. broadcast TV. For Who fans or just casual viewers who might recall the program from their childhood, BBC has given them a fresh new starting point into the long-running series with a beautifully preserved Season 1 Blu-Ray of the Baker years – including transfers that (1080i upscales, 4:3) surpass their respective DVD editions thanks to the heightened clarity of the format. Outside of the “Revenge of the Cybermen” cycle (which offers optional, updated FX), these shows haven’t been fully restored but instead faithfully transferred with 5.1 and 2.0 DTS MA audio to match for the season’s 20 episodes.

As if the technical presentation wasn’t sound enough, BBC’s extras include a superb, hour-long new interview with Baker; classic clips with cast introductions; brand-new Making Of documentaries; the TV-movie version of “Genesis of the Daleks,” seen for the first time since 1975; the 1991 VHS release “The Tom Baker Years”; PDF material from the BBC archives, and plenty more. Add in commentaries, featurettes and numerous other goodies and you’ve got one of the year’s top Blu-Ray releases to date.

FINDING YOUR FEET DVD (111 mins., 2018, PG-13; Sony): British comedy provides a nice vehicle for Imelda Staunton, the veteran actress who here stars as a long-married woman who finds out her husband is having an affair. She subsequently ventures into London where she holes up with her estranged older sister (Celia Imrie) and strikes up a relationship with a guy (Timothy Spall) from her community dance class in a genial dramaedy from prolific helmer Richard Loncraine. Sony’s DVD is now available, featuring a 16:9 (2.39) transfer, 5.1 sound, and a top-notch supporting cast, including David Hayman, John Sessions and Joanna Lumley.

BEIRUT Blu-Ray Combo Pack (110 mins., 2018, R; Universal): Convolutedly plotted period piece from director Brad Anderson and writer Tony Gilroy proves to be a disappointment. Playing a US diplomat in Beirut during the early 80s, Jon Hamm is called upon to negotiate the release of a terrorist leader in exchange for a kidnapped CIA agent. Anderson is adept at capturing time and place, and Hamm is compelling to watch, but “Beirut” is severely let down by both Gilroy’s overwritten script and a weak supporting turn from Rosamund Pike as a CIA agent supervising the operation. Universal’s Blu-Ray is available this week featuring two featurettes, a 1080p (2.4) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, a DVD and Digital HD copy.

Despite “Beirut”’s shortcomings, it’s absolutely preferable to 7 DAYS AT ENTEBBE (107 mins., 2017, PG-13), a weak film that intersperses a chronicle of the rescue mission to free hijacked airplane passengers being held at a Ugandan airport in 1976 with….dance sequences. A bizarrely directed film from helmer Jose Padilha and writer Gregory Burke, with Daniel Bruhl and Rosamund Pike (again) failing to register in the cast. This Working Title production comes to Blu-Ray this week from Universal sporting a handful of featurettes, a 1080p (2.40) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, and a Digital HD copy.

THE VIRGIN SPRING Blu-Ray (90 mins., 1960; Criterion): Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film, Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring” concerns a father (Max Von Sydow) in medieval Sweden who tracks down the men who raped and murdered his daughter. Ranking as one of his most accomplished works, Bergman’s film is leisurely paced at even 90 minutes and has been impressively stored in a 2K digital transfer (B&W 1.37) housed in Criterion’s new Blu-Ray. Extras include a 2005 commentary from Bergman scholar Birgitta Steene, interviews with Gunnel Lindblom and Birgitta Pettersson, an Ang Lee intro from the 2005 release, audio recording of a 1975 Bergman AFI seminar, and an alternate English dubbed soundtrack.

Ron Shelton’s BULL DURHAM (***½, 108 mins., 1988, R) also makes its way to the Criterion Collection this month in a superb new 4K remastered transfer.

Shelton’s 1988 hit drew upon his own experience as a minor league ballplayer, represented in the film by semi-veteran Kevin Costner and aspiring Tim Robbins. Susan Sarandon memorably portrays the team groupie who “tutors” (sexually and otherwise) one member of the Durham Bulls each season — and predicaments naturally arise once Costner grows jealous of Sarandon’s exploits with Robbins.

Filled with not only some kinky sex scenes but a genuine understanding of minor league baseball, “Bull Durham” has long been regarded as one of the top sports movies of all-time. Certainly Costner counted this as one of his many hits of the late ’80s, a salty comic contrast to the genteel, fantasy baseball world that “Field of Dreams” would offer just a year later. The performances are all excellent, with Sarandon’s Annie Savoy representing one of the actresses’ most memorable roles, while Bobby Byrne’s cinematography captures the essence of the game.

Criterion’s Blu-Ray, out this week, benefits from a new 4K digital transfer supervised by Shelton, one which greatly improves upon MGM’s Blu-Ray, which was hampered by an older master and muddy MPEG-2 compression on top. The colors and details are all enhanced by Criterion’s disc, with 5.1 and 2.0 DTS MA tracks included on the audio end. A new conversation between Shelton and critic Michael Sragow is the main addition to Criterion’s supplemental package, which otherwise mostly recycles extras from MGM’s release. Those include two commentaries: one featuring Costner and Robbins, the other with writer-director Shelton (a track which I believe was recorded way back when for the Special Edition laserdisc), along with a documentary featurette. There’s also a 2008 retrospective, a 1993 NBC News piece on the Durham Athletic Park, a 1991 Today Show interview with Max Patkin (aka “The Clown Prince of Baseball), and the trailer.

PBS New Releases: A pair of new releases are available from PBS. THE JAZZ AMBASSADORS (90 mins., 2018) looks at how the U.S. government, spearheaded by African-American congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., used jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and Benny Goodman to travel the world in an effort to promote the U.S. and help thaw the Cold War – all the while simultaneously helping the Civil Rights movement at home. A fine documentary narrated by Leslie Odom Jr., and now available on DVD featuring an extended director’s cut with 30 minutes of additional material…Coming July 10th is THE TUNNEL: VENGEANCE (300 mins., 2017), the third and final entry of episodes in the acclaimed British series starring Stephen Dillane and Clemence Poesy. PBS’ DVD includes the extra “How We Made The Tunnel: Vengeance,” along with 16:9 transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks, spread across two discs.

From Film Movement: Shubhashish Bhutiani’s HOTEL SALVATION (100 mins., 2018) makes its North American home video debut on July 10th from Film Movement. “Life of Pi”’s Adil Hussain plays an overworked businessman who brings his dying father to Varanasi and the Hotel Salvation, where residents are given two weeks to live out their final days or return home. This interesting travelogue/human interest drama is intriguingly filmed and moody, captured here in a 16:9 transfer (2.35) with 5.1 sound (Hindi with English subs). Frederic Recrosio’s “May the Night Be Sweet” short is included as an extra.

Magnolia New Releases: DON’T GROW UP (80 mins., 2014, R) attempts to put a spin on the well-worn post-apocalyptic formula by following a group of teens, living in a youth center, who wake up alone – and with the only adults surrounding them infected with some kind of plague. Their newfound freedom turns to horror in a weak outing from director Thierry Poiraud, now on Blu-Ray from Magnolia. The 1080p (2.39) transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound are both fine and three featurettes comprise the supplemental slate. New on DVD from Magnolia is ISMAEL’S GHOSTS (134 mins., 2017), Arnaud Desplechin’s drama about a film director (Mathieu Amalric), the love who left him behind (Marion Cotillard) and who suddenly returns, and the woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who’s filled the gap since. There are nods to Desplechin’s other works in “Ismael’s Ghosts,” which bows on DVD this week from Magnolia offering a 16:9 (2.40) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital French audio with Spanish subtitles.

CLASS RANK DVD (103 mins., 2015, Not Rated; Cinedigm): Eric Stoltz directed this engaging high school rom-com starring Olivia Holt as a #2-ranked student who decides to propel a fellow teen (Skyler Gisondo) to the local school board in order to abolish the ranking system. Holt and Gisondo have some nice chemistry in a breezy affair co-starring Kristin Chenoweth and Bruce Dern, which only stumbles with some needlessly “adult” moments that obscure what would otherwise be an acceptable film for fans of Holt’s prior Disney Channel work. Cinedigm’s DVD includes commentary with Stoltz and writer Ben August, deleted scenes, a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 audio.

RUSTY RIVETS DVD (97 mins., 2016; Nickelodeon/Paramount): Rusty, Ruby and their robotic helpers think their way out of eight episodes from the popular Nickelodeon animated series. Episodes in Paramount’s single-disc DVD include Rusty’s Rex Rescue, Rusty’s Park ‘N Fly, Rusty’s Sky Trip Blip, Rusty’s Penguin Problem, Ruby Rocks, Rusty’s Balloon Blast, Rusty Dives In and Rusty Marks the Spot. There’s also a bonus Paw Patrol episode among the 16:9 transfers and 5.1 soundtracks.

A CIAMBRA Blu-Ray (119 mins., 2017; MPI): Martin Scorsese presented this second feature from “Mediterranea” helmer Jonas Carpignano. Pio Amato stars as a 14-year-old whose emulation of his older brother extends to his criminal activity. Once he’s arrested, Amato’s character steps up to take care of his family in a tumultuous Southern Italy where migrants from Africa mix with locals. MPI’s Blu-Ray includes a documentary, featurette, deleted scenes, short film, the trailer, a 1080p (1.85) transfer and 5.1 Italian DTS MA audio with English subtitles.

NEXT TIME: Shout’s Summer Madness, including MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN and GRAVITY FALLS. Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!

 

 

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