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Boasting an all-new “Final Cut” as well as director Francis Ford Coppola’s prior theatrical and “Redux” versions, Lionsgate’s truly spectacular 4K UHD/Blu-Ray edition of APOCALYPSE NOW (***½, 147/183/202 mins., 1979, R) is unquestionably the year’s most impressive home video catalog release to date. Coppola’s troubled yet intermittently brilliant, surreal film has never looked or sounded as dazzling as it does here, thanks to a UHD format release that marks another technological upgrade for Coppola and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s sumptuous widescreen images.

Debuting in the six-disc package is a new 183-minute Final Cut, one which fine-tunes Coppola’s overstuffed 2001 Redux version and offers something of a compromise between that 202-minute edit and the 147-minute original theatrical cut. No matter which way you go, viewers get all three versions of the film in a new HDR-enhanced, Dolby Vision/Dolby Atmos 4K remastered transfer that’s just outstanding. “The Final Cut” is housed on its own platter with the Theatrical and Redux versions combined on a separate disc, and all of them look more impressive than ever. Given how “Apocalypse Now” has often represented a measuring stick for the home video formats it’s appeared in, that truly says something – the work of Coppola along with Meyer Sound (which remastered the film) and Dolby Theater results in vividly saturated images and a sound design every bit as directional and immersive as it was decades ago.

Coppola provides a new introduction where he briefly talks about the Final Cut, though no matter which version you select, you’ll be treated to a somewhat meandering but visually intense and unique motion picture odyssey that remains — in spite of its flaws — a supremely memorable epic, a defining example of “auteurism” on a grand scale that may never be matched again in the cinema.

The movie is enriched by a marvelous array of supplements, a mix of new and reworked content from the previous “Full Disclosure” Blu-Ray release.

In addition to porting over Coppola’s Redux commentary, the set ports over the same disc of supplements from Lionsgate and Zoetrope’s 2010 Blu-Ray, starting off with Marlon Brando’s complete recitation of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men,” laid over a behind-the-scenes montage, plus a bizarre, creepy three-minute excised sequence, “Monkey Sampan.” Those who thought the “Redux” version restored most of the prominent footage that Coppola left on the cutting room floor might be stunned by an additional 26 minutes of deleted scenes, highlighted by 12 sequences offering more Brando, Dennis Hopper and Scott Glenn (these are taken from the legendary, 5-hour [!] early workprint assembly of the film).

Film music buffs will be interested in an in-depth text article by synthesizer guru Bob Moog reprinted from the January, 1980 issue of “Contemporary Keyboard Magazine.” This fascinating and technical article goes into detail about the work of the various artists (including Shirley Walker) who worked at great length (and expense!) to “modernize” the compositions of Coppola’s father — Carmine Coppola — for the soundtrack. There’s a mention of Isao Tomita’s influence on the design of the score, as well as the work of David Shire, whose work was quickly dismissed by Coppola (and has since been released by LaLaLand).

A six-minute featurette on “The Birth of 5.1 Sound” looks at the groundbreaking collaboration between Coppola and Dolby Labs for the film’s sound design, while a four-minute demo of the opening “Ghost Helicopter Flyover” is also on-hand. A 15-minute featurette on “The Music of Apocalypse Now” sports interviews with Shirley Walker, editor Walter Murch and others, discussing the approach Coppola took with the music and incorporating some marvelous archival footage of the composers butting heads over its direction! This is precisely the type of insightful featurette you’d expect to find on a Zoetrope supplement, and while Shire’s rejected music isn’t mentioned here, it’s nevertheless a compelling segment that answers many questions behind the strange, yet effective, music and effects Coppola utilized for the film.

Additional featurettes examine the editing of the film (18 mins.) with comments from Coppola and Murch about why certain scenes (i.e. the French plantation sequence) were dropped for the theatrical cut; a 15-minute look at the sound design; a brief, four-minute “Then and Now” segment on the film’s reception at Cannes in ‘79 and ‘01; another four-minute “PBR Streetgang” featurette with 2001 interviews with the movie’s stars; and a few additional goodies.

All of these extras are top-notch across the board, incorporating a wealth of interviews culled from then-new discussions, archival footage, and the work of Coppola’s wife, Eleanor, who shot miles of amazing behind-the-scenes material during the production…footage that was in turn used for the marvelous 1991 documentary HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER’S APOCALYPSE. That outstanding documentary is also included here (in Blu-Ray form) on the set’s sixth disc, along with plenty of all-new supplements.

The fresh extras are highlighted by a Q&A between Coppola and filmmaker Steven Soderbergh from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival; short featurettes on the Dolby Vision remastering and the work of Meyer Sound; Super 8 behind-the-scenes footage (nearly 20 minutes worth) that will prove fascinating for fans; and a fun reel of “Apocalypse Now”’s prior home video releases, from the early days of Beta and laserdisc through this 4K remastering.

Trailers (all in HD), the destruction of the Kurtz compound (albeit only here with credits) – all of it fills out a brilliant set that’s worthwhile for Blu-Ray owners since the same 4K configuration for the movie is also on-tap in a pair of remastered Blu-Ray platters as well. Add in a Digital HD code and you’ve got an absolute bargain for the price – and a must-own for movie buffs and fans of this one-of-a-kind Coppola epic. Unquestionably recommended!

While action fans eagerly anticipate Sylvester Stallone’s upcoming “Rambo: Last Blood,” Lionsgate has rolled out new 4K UHD upgrades for two Stallone vehicles: the under-appreciated August of ’89 release “Lock Up” as well as one of his finest genre achievements, the uncompromisingly violent, thrilling RAMBO (***, 91/98 mins., 2008, R/Unrated). Presented in both its R-rated theatrical version and more nuanced, not-quite-as-graphic Extended Cut, this is a superb presentation of one of Sly’s most satisfying efforts.

The film itself is a gripping, visceral action ride, another notch in the early 21st century Stallone “Comeback Tour” that began with the superb “Rocky Balboa.” This fourth outing in the series finds Rambo making a living by hunting and selling cobras in Thailand until a group of American missionaries come looking for help. Needing Rambo’s boat in order to take them up river into Burma where the Karen people (many of which are Christian) are routinely slaughtered in a still on-going genocide, the missionaries (including cute Julie Benz and Paul Schulze) think they’re going to make a difference. To Rambo, their naivete is surpassed only by their lack of weaponry — and our gruff hero ends up unsurprised once the group is captured in a brutal attack that slaughters nearly the entire village they were providing relief for.

“Rambo” doesn’t offer much plot (is there ever?) but the picture works due to its gut-punching action sequences, and make no mistake, this is a violent, graphic film that — quite unlike its second and third installments of some 30-plus years ago — shows the consequence of said violence, as well as takes a firm stand that there are times when it is necessary. None of it has the comic book feel of “Rambo” II or III and while this newer “Rambo” doesn’t have the strong character development of the original “First Blood” either, it’s surprising how well the film comes together. Stallone’s performance is more in-line with the John Rambo seen in the original “First Blood,” making this feel like a natural conclusion to Ted Kotcheff’s 1982 action classic instead of a re-run of the more outlandish, bigger-budgeted comic books that its sequels turned out to be.

Though the theatrical cut is arguably crisper, it’s also more explicit and misses some character beats that “Rambo”’s Extended Version provides – in fact its eight added minutes and slight trims improve the picture overall. Aside from one sequence where Rambo covers up the evidence from a flotilla he destroyed, the additions aren’t action-intensive but rather character building sequences between Stallone and Julie Benz’s character. In the original cut it seemed like Rambo’s primary motivation to helping the missionaries was driven through Benz being a pretty young woman; here, there’s still some of that, but their conversations carry more of a discussion about Rambo’s past, the price of freedom and call to action that adds depth the original cut was simply lacking.

“Rambo” isn’t a classic movie but it’s nevertheless a potent piece of action filmmaking through and through — a gritty and satisfying ride that marks some of Stallone’s finest work as a director, and one case where a few minutes of added footage makes a big difference.

Lionsgate’s 4K UHD of “Rambo” ’08 includes both cuts of the film in a HDR/Dolby Vision (2.35) enhanced HVEC transfer that offers potent upgrades on the movie’s prior Blu-Ray releases. The High Dynamic Range boosts the overall look of the film with several moments that stand out because of its application, while the already-thundering sound design has been effectively rechanneled as Dolby Atmos as well. Supplements have been compiled from previous releases, including the feature-length “Production Diary” (as seen in the Extended Cut Blu-Ray) and both the deleted scenes and assorted featurettes from the theatrical cut Blu-Ray. A Digital HD copy is also included.

Accompanying “Rambo”’s 4K debut is another superb Lionsgate UHD release of the 1989 Stallone prison thriller LOCK UP (***, 115 mins., 1989, R). This suspenseful, if slow-grinding, affair stars Sly as an auto mechanic who’s about to complete his sentence at a minimum-security prison when circumstances (i.e. plot contrivances) conspire to send him to a penitentiary run by sadistic warden Donald Sutherland — who knows Sly from his first prison tenure and won’t stop until Stallone is back behind bars for many years to come.

This relatively low-key film only did mediocre business at the box-office during the summer of ‘89, but, truth be told, “Lock-Up” is one of its star’s better efforts from the period. Credit director John Flynn with coaxing solid performances from its cast (including John Amos, Frank McRae and a young Tom Sizemore), as well as a satisfying score by Bill Conti which adds immeasurably to the action. “Lock Up” may not be as “gritty” as Stallone would’ve liked, but the Richard Smith-Jeb Stuart-Henry Rosenbaum screenplay manages to tell a convincing story with bouts of action that makes it one of the more believable, and comparatively serious, Stallone films of its era.

Debuting September 10th on 4K UHD with a remastered Blu-Ray accompanying it, this “Lock Up” is a massive improvement over its initial BD release from Lionsgate. The HDR/Dolby Vision transfer (1.85) boasts huge gains in detail and color over that disc – in fact it’s a more detailed image than I recall seeing from a dingy theatrical screening at the now-defunct Campus Cinema in Wakefield, R.I. as a teen. It’s much easier to appreciate the film in an improved transfer like this, and there’s more good news for Blu-Ray fans – Lionsgate’s combo pack also includes a fully remastered BD from the same, new Studio Canal restoration, making this worthwhile for 1080p owners as well. Extras are comprised of a number of vintage EPK interviews and brief behind-the-scenes footage, the trailer, and a Digital HD copy.

More modern action can be found in the pulse-pounding JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3: PARABELLUM (**½, 130 mins., 2019, R; Lionsgate), which debuts on 4K UHD and Blu-Ray September 10th.

Despite its polished visual scheme, this more-of-the-same third installment brings nothing new to the table — it’s just another stylish assembly of fight sequences and bone-crunching deaths, laid out with a longer running time than its predecessors and a bit of “down time” in its mid-section. That extended time doesn’t translate into anything meaningful in terms of story or additional emotional engagement for Keanu Reeves’ badass hitman — like the first two movies, Part 3 of the John Wick “saga” is less interested in character than a few amusing quips here and there and lots, and lots, and lots, of action. All of it is well-choreographed but grows increasingly repetitious, much as it was in the second outing.

Though still fun and well-executed — for a while — I have to say you could feel the collective groan from an otherwise engaged audience when this sequel ended…exactly the same way the last movie ended. Are they really going to keep cranking out these films every few years? I can see many viewers feeling, after this installment, that they’ve already seen everything this franchise has to offer, as it keeps hammering the same notes over and over again.

For Wick fans, Lionsgate serves up a powerhouse 4K UHD release with Dolby Atmos sound and Dolby Vision/HDR capabilities. A slew of behind-the-scenes featurettes are included plus trailers, a Blu-Ray and Digital HD copy.

The first decade of the 21st century was a dark time for the horror genre. If old classics weren’t being remade by the likes of Michael Bay (does anyone talk about his company’s wretched redos of “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “The Hitcher” among others these days?), then low-grade indie films were intent on carrying on the “torture porn” legacy made popular by the endless glut of “Saw” sequels.

All of that made a movie like the uneven but generally entertaining DAYBREAKERS (**½,  98 mins., 2010, R; Lionsgate) enjoyable. This Australian production from siblings the Spierig Brothers – which Lionsgate rolled out to decent box-office in January 2010 – offers fresh twists on old-fashioned genre conventions, and comes out a lively, entertaining brew with engaging performances from Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe, both laid back and seemingly quite content to be cashing a check.

In a future where a vampire virus has turned most of humanity into bloodsuckers, who in turn keep humans around only as food, Hawke plays a vampiric scientist who’s sympathetic to the living — but worried that the vampires’ blood supply is running low. Without any real blood to feast on, the vamps (who look pretty much like anyone else save for their interest in blood and glowing eyes) are beginning to mutate into freaky looking creatures with more bat-like attributes than human ones. Fortunately Hawke meets with a renegade assortment of humans led by Dafoe, a former vamp with a secret that could hold the key to the future of both species…

Though a bit uneven (the movie does play like one of those B-flicks from the ‘70s and ‘80s where American leads starred in internationally-produced genre affairs), “Daybreakers” is satisfyingly old-school, for lack of a better term. The film offers a pleasing mix of action and horror with gore that’s gross but not over-the-top (at least not until its blood-soaked finale), along with an interesting concept. Not all of it pays off, the social commentary doesn’t work and the movie’s modest budget plays at odds with some of its grander concepts, but for horror aficionados worn out by endless remakes and sadistic violence – especially those in the pre-“Conjuring” era – it’s worth a look.

Special kudos also go out to Christopher Gordon’s fine orchestral score. Big, stirring, mysterious, yet occasionally moving and just beautifully summed up in a long, flowing end credits piece, this is unquestionably one of the finest film scores from its time.

Lionsgate’s 4K UHD edition of “Daybreakers” streets this week. This is another pleasing Lionsgate catalog offering, sporting Dolby Vision/Dolby Atmos sound and extras carried over from the first home video release: commentary, a Making Of, a Spierig Bros. short entitled “The Big Picture,” posters and trailers, plus a Digital HD copy.


Also New on 4K UHD/Blu-Ray

Though not my favorite of Disney’s Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musicals, the ribald humor of Disney’s 1991 animated smash ALADDIN (***, 91 mins., 1991, G) still holds up as superior family entertainment, and Disney’s new 4K UHD edition of the film – issued alongside the 2019 live-action remake – comes recommended.

The movie itself looks smashing in its 4K debut, boasting a near-3D like presentation with stunning colors and pinpoint clarity with HDR and Dolby Atmos sound. While these Disney animated 4K UHD releases trend on the darker side, some of the colors involved with “Aladdin” pop here more than, say, Disney’s UHD of “The Little Mermaid” earlier this year. On the audio side, the Atmos audio and 7.1 DTS MA sound (on the Blu-Ray) provide a reasonable facsimile of the original stereo mix, though it’s the spectacular transfer that most will be raving about.

New extras include a half-hour profile on Aladdin’s voice, Scott Weinger, an alternate ending, and brief session recording footage. Some supplements, including “Genie Outtakes” with Robin Williams and a pair of commentaries, have been ported over from the Diamond Edition, but others are stored digitally and can only be accessed via a redemption of the included Digital HD copy.

Accompanying the original film on 4K and Blu-Ray September 10th is Disney’s live-action remake of ALADDIN (**, 131 mins., 2019, PG), director Guy Ritchie’s charmless exercise which nevertheless retained enough of its source material’s appeal to carry it to a tidy $1-billion worldwide box-office gross.

Despite the commercial performance, it’s unlikely this film – much like Tim Burton’s “Dumbo” and Jon Favreau’s critically lambasted “Lion King” – is going to resonate much beyond a year or two of home video and on-demand sales. The script by John August and Ritchie mostly keeps the plot from the original – as well as its Broadway successor – in line, with Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine providing a likeable enough pair of protagonists.

Less satisfying is, well, everything else: Will Smith’s autotuned Genie is neither as funny as Williams nor as musically capable as any number of talents who filled the role on-stage (like Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart). The big song addition, Jasmine’s late ballad “Speechless,” is a contrived popish number that functions as a #metoo statement instead of an organic part of the story. Ritchie’s direction lacks any sort of identifying characteristic and the green-screen laden production looks phony and unimpressive – not to mention cheap for a production that reportedly cost $183 million. While more watchable than the dark and dreary “Dumbo” recycle, it all adds up to another “so what?” exercise in Disney’s parade of “guaranteed 2019 hit remakes” that has yet to yield a worthy live-action counterpart to the animated classics that preceded them.

Disney’s 4K UHD of “Aladdin” includes Dolby Atmos sound and HDR capability – it’s an expectedly nice transfer with somewhat darker hues (and stronger reds) than the Blu-Ray presentation, which carries 7.1 DTS MA sound. Extras include bloopers, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes look at the production, a Digital HD copy and the excised song “Desert Moon.”

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (*½, 115 mins., 2019, PG-13; Sony): Yet another misfired attempt to resurrect a dormant franchise, “Men In Black: International” substitutes the (here non-existent) “Thor: Ragnarok” chemistry of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson for Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to (predictably) detrimental results. Much like “Independence Day: Resurgence,” this is an empty vessel of a studio product, with F. Gary Gray following the manic adventures of Hemsworth’s Agent H and Thompson’s newbie Agent M as they try to stop an invasion from aliens in “The Hive” and a mole inside CTU…oh wait, sorry, the Men In Black organization!

Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson (who was in the third MIB film, which I had forgotten to be honest) co-star with Kumail Nanjani voicing a diminutive alien that H & M befriend – but this is a labored, charmless concoction on most every creative level. The film looks good in Sony’s 4K UHD (with Dolby Atmos audio and HDR) and sports a slew of special features (deleted scenes, featurettes, gag reel, etc.) plus a Digital HD copy – yet this is one of those box-office disappointments that’s likely to end up in the same bargain bin as the 2016 “Ghostbusters,” offering even less laughs in the process.

 

 

TV on DVD

One of the most beloved of all Scooby-Doo series is SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU! (1969-70; Warner), Hanna-Barbara’s inaugural adventures of the sleuthing canine and his human pals – Shaggy, Daphne, Velma and Fred – who tooled around in their stylin’ Mystery Machine for a succession of series that have literally never ended. Initially debuting on CBS in 1969, “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” ran for some 41 episodes over a couple of seasons – yet those same shows would endure on Saturday morning, and in syndication, for literally decades to come.

After releasing a marvelous Blu-Ray release of the “New Scooby-Doo Movies” earlier this year, Warner has produced a magnificent, numbered Limited Edition of the Complete “Where Are You!” series in high-definition. This deluxe packaged set includes all 41 episodes (1080p 1.33, Dolby Digital mono sound) housed on four Blu-Ray discs – transfers and soundtracks are as spruced up as can be and offer gentle, HD upgrades over Warner’s prior DVD editions. Extras have been ported over from past releases, touching upon the genesis of the series, Scooby-Doo’s enduring legacy with fans, interviews with the voice cast, and Hanna-Barbara’s history.

What’s new are three featurettes, including a most welcome profile of voice artist extraordinaire Frank Welker, who has voiced Freddy since the beginning of the show and Scooby himself since 2002. Additional segments include a look at the different iterations of Scooby produced throughout the years for varying age groups, as well as a “50 Years of Scooby Snacks” featurette again profiling the legacy of the character from its origins through the upcoming movie “Scoob.”

A Digital HD copy is also included in a beautiful package that also offers a Funko Pocket Pop! Keychain, mini-reproduction of the “Scooby-Doo! Encyclopedia” and “haunted house” flip-top cardboard packaging. Another candidate for one of the year’s top catalog releases to date!

SUPERNATURAL – Complete Fourteenth Season Blu-Ray (838 mins., 2018-19; Warner). WHAT IT IS: Incredibly still going, “Supernatural” ranks as one of the longest-running dramatic series of all-time. In this 14th (yes!) campaign Sam and Dean have survived the bizarre alternate universe where they were never born. Yet their efforts to train Jack, the son of Lucifer, and still save mother Mary are thwarted by the threat created by their defeat of Lucifer and archangel Michael in the prior 13thseason. It’s “Supernatural” sized shenanigans for fans in these 20 Season 14 episodes, which include the historic 300th episode with the Winchesters holding a memorable family reunion. Three featurettes are on-hand in Warner’s Blu-Ray of Season 14 plus two commentaries, unaired scenes, a gag reel, Digital HD copies, 1080p (1.78) transfers and 5.1 DTS MA sound.

CBS New Releases: Season 3 of BULL (15 hours, 2018-19) finds the title hero (Michael Weatherly) jumping right back into the courtroom after his heart attack. Continuing to help the wrongly accused and/or misunderstood, Bull utilizes psychology, demographics and data analysis as he and his elite team tackle cases that run the gamut from a priest accused of a hit-and-run, to a sociopath accused of murder. CBS brings “Bull”’s third season to DVD this week with extras including three featurettes, deleted/extended scenes, 16:9 transfers and 5.1 sound…Season 9 of the revived HAWAII FIVE-0 (18 hours, 2018-19) includes the series’ 200th show as well as 24 other episodes featuring the gang — with guest stars including Joan Collins (as Danno’s mother-in-law), as well as Gladys Knight and Louis Gossett Jr. as Lou’s parents. A gag reel, deleted scenes, two featurettes and a special 200th episode segment fill out CBS’ six-disc DVD set (1.78, 5.1/2.0 stereo), available this week.

NCIS: Season 16 (17 hours, 2018-19) kicks off with a worldwide search for missing Director Vance (Rocky Carroll), while Bishop (Emily Wickersham) defies team’s orders to reopen a cold case, Gibbs (Mark Harmon) is confronted with a threatening ex-agent and a Naval hospital endures an active shooter lockdown. 24 episodes from the long-running series are housed here in CBS’ six-disc DVD set (16:9, 5.1) with a number of extras: four featurettes, commentaries on select episodes and pilots of “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Magnum PI.”…In Season 2 of SEAL TEAM (16 hours, 2018-19), Master Chief Jason Hayes (David Boreanaz) and the Bravo Team continue undertaking globe-trotting missions from Mexico (where they combat drug cartels) to tackling extremists in Saudi Arabia. This CBS series features 16:9 transfers/5.1 or 2.0 audio across five DVD discs, with an array of supplements including a gag reel, featurettes and deleted/extended scenes.

THE ALIENIST Season 1 DVD (440 mins., 2019; Warner): Lavishly filmed but grizzly, and often unsettling, adaptation of the popular Caleb Carr novel stars Daniel Bruhl and Luke Evans as the men trying to hunt down a serial killer during New York City’s “Gilded Age.” Dakota Fanning co-stars in this TNT mini-series, which earned six Emmy nominations and offers a number of Hollywood heavy hitters amongst its producers (Eric Roth, E. Max Frye, Cary Fukunaga) – it’s just not a production I found especially entertaining, despite all the talent involved. Warner brings “The Alienist” to DVD featuring 16:9 transfers, 5.1 sound, and three behind-the-scenes featurettes.


Shout! New Releases

JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES Blu-Ray (**½, 107 mins., 1998, R; Shout! Factory): Carpenter’s last “widely viewed” excursion in the horror genre is an assured piece of directorial craftsmanship, from its scenes of empty Southwestern landscapes and open vistas, yet it’s disappointingly derailed by a lackluster script and a ponderous pace.

James Woods gives his all as the head Slayer of a Vatican-sanctioned collection of vampire hunters driving through the Southwest, disposing of undead creatures in their often grimy habitats. Before you can say “Mission: Impossible,” and unbeknownst to Woods and partner Daniel Baldwin (trying to interject some very Alec-like method acting), the Master Vampire (Thomas Ian Griffith) that the team couldn’t find appears to slaughter Woods’s entire group at a dirty desert motel.

After a series of decapitations that ends with bitten hooker Sheryl Lee becoming the hunters’ psychic link to Griffith, Woods finds out from Vatican priest Maximilian Schell (if you have to slum in a horror film, it might as well be here) that this grungy fang is none other than the source for the vampiric plague itself that has quietly spread throughout the world – a former priest who was turned into a demonic creature after denouncing the church and an exorcism gone awry. Before you can say “Blade,” it turns out that Griffith is now after a power source (here a black crucifix) that will further transform him into an even more powerful form of evil, which naturally Woods is out to stop.

There’s a lot to like in “Vampires,” particularly the western-like atmosphere of the film, and the sense of camaraderie between Woods, Baldwin, and the subsequent Vatican priest who aids the duo. The film is free of the unrelenting cynicism that Carpenter brought to many of his late-career films (“In the Mouth of Madness” in particular), and the ending is surprisingly solid for one of the director’s efforts. Woods, in a rare heroic role, grits his teeth and has a grand old time, but too often he’s saddled with lame lines like “die! die! die!” while Carpenter spends the first half hour filling the frame with too many dissolves and slow-motion shots of Woods maiming corpses and the heroes walking along the side of a highway. This may be “cool” but it’s also boring.

Carpenter’s “mood” movies, like “Prince of Darkness” and “The Fog,” greatly benefit from the director’s keen sense of mounting tension – showing vacant backgrounds and using foreboding cinematography to create viewer apprehension without much happening on-screen – yet because “Vampires” attempts to tell a linear story with a handful of different characters, the very distinctive atmosphere and deliberate pace that Carpenter brings to the table also holds this film back from being something more than it is. The movie should be quicker, smarter, and louder – too often it tends to downplay the action, using montages instead of full-blown set-pieces, all of which are accompanied by a leaden Carpenter soundtrack.

Most of the fault, however, ought to be placed on the screenplay. Don Jakoby’s script lacks the panache and wit of a typical episode of “Buffy” or even “Blade,” and some of the performances are likewise poor — Baldwin (who must have been the third Baldwin sibling down on the casting wish list) gives a performance that’s funnier than anything else in the movie, especially when he finds himself burning his arm (and overacting), Rambo-style, to prevent the bad blood from spreading through his immune system.

It’s a shame that the film wasn’t tightened up and the script revised to bolster the dialogue, because Woods’s performance is on-target, and the cumulative effect of “Vampires” is that of a moderately entertaining horror film with some clever touches. Too bad it wasn’t more than that – but at least it’s better than “Ghosts of Mars.”

Making its second Blu-Ray appearance after a sold-out Twilight Time release in 2015, Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray includes what looks like the same Sony master (2.35, 5.1 DTS MA) as that earlier disc. It’s perfectly good with all the archival extras (commentary, isolated score, original Making Of) carried over and enhanced with all-new goodies. These includes interviews with Carpenter, producer/wife Sandy King Carpenter, James Woods, Thomas Ian Griffith, co-star Tim Guinee, cinematographer Gary Kibbe and makeup artist Greg Nicotero among them.

SCARS OF DRACULA Blu-Ray (**½, 95 mins., 1970, R; Shout! Factory): Debuting on Blu-Ray for the first time from Scream Factory is Hammer’s last “period” Dracula installment, one which Christopher Lee apparently hated (at least The Count talks here!) but has still carried a favorable rep amongst some Hammer fans for its nasty (compared to previous Hammer Draculas) sex and violence. It’s not nearly as good as its predecessor – “Taste the Blood of Dracula” – yet Roy Ward Baker’s film retains a certain potency considering the well-worn formula, which would be moved to contemporary times for Hammer’s final two sequels.

Shout’s Blu-Ray, out September 10th, offers what appears to be a fairly recent Studio Canal HD master in the viewer’s choice of 1.66 (recommended) or 1.85 aspect ratios. The transfer is rock-solid though the muted color scheme doesn’t result in a lot of eye-popping HD moments – just a general crispness that easily trumps the movie’s prior DVD from Anchor Bay. A new commentary with Constantine Nasr and Ted Newsom leads Shout’s array of extras, which otherwise have been reprised from prior releases (commentary with Christopher Lee and Roy Ward Baker; the trailer; still gallery; and “Blood Rites: Inside Scars of Dracula” documentary).

Available September 24th from Scream Factory is an eagerly awaited Blu-Ray of “Lady in White” director Frank LaLoggia’s earlier cult item FEAR NO EVIL (**, 99 mins., 1981, R). LaLoggia wrote, directed, produced and scored (with David Spear) this audacious supernatural thriller about an 18-year-old high schooler (Stefan Arngrim) who finds out he’s Lucifer himself; two reincarnated arch-angels — an older woman played by Elizabeth Hoffman, and one of the boys’ school mates (future soap opera star Kathleen Rowe McAllen) — are all that stand in his way in LaLoggia’s ambitious film, shot on a low-budget in Rochester, N.Y. The picture, which was distributed by Avco Embassy, doesn’t really work — LaLoggia was clearly constrained by the budgetary restrictions and the performances are mostly lacking — but it certainly has its moments. Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray (1.85, DTS MA mono) boasts a 4K master from original film elements and new interviews with Arngrim and makeup artist John Eggett, plus a new commentary from Arngrim. (Sadly, the disc does not contain LaLoggia's commentary from the Anchor Bay release, or some extensive behind-the-scenes footage from that DVD). 

SANTANA – Live at US Festival Blu-Ray (68 mins., 1982; Shout! Factory): Available September 6thfor the first time on Blu-Ray is “Santana: Live at US Festival,” a documentary from award-winning music chronicler Glenn Aveni. The “US Festival” was conceived by Apple’s Steve Wozniak and music impresario Bill Graham, and was held on September 4th, 1982, featuring Santana in a hugely acclaimed set that included hits Searchin’; Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen; Oye Como Va; Nowhere to Run; Incident at Neshabur; Savor; Jingo Lo Ba; Hold On; She’s Not There/Marbles; Open Invitation; and Shango. Additional interview segments with Santana touch upon his career and performance at the US Fest, with Shout’s Blu-Ray boasting a 1080p (1.33) transfer and 2.0 DTS MA stereo sound.

Also New From Shout! Factory: Debuting this month on Blu-Ray for anime fans is THE CASE OF HANA & ALICE (99 mins., 2015), a teen drama about a middle schooler who transfers to a new middle school and immediately hears urban legends about a student who was suspected of being killed by his peers. Living next door to a seeming haunted house, Alice befriends her new neighbor, Hanna, and together they solve the supposed mystery while forging a friendship. GKids’ Blu-Ray includes a 1080p (1.77) transfer, 5.1 Japanese audio and English subtitles, interviews with the voice cast, film premiere footage and interviews with director Shunji Iwai, trailers and more.


Independent Label Wrap

Film Movement New Releases Geard Oury’s worldwide hit THE MAD ADVENTURES OF “RABBI” JACOB (100 mins., 1973) stars Louis De Funes as a bigoted French factory owner who has to dress up as a Hasidic Jew in order to evade the police as well as assassins sent to rub out the Arab revolutionary who took him hostage. A wild slapstick farce ensues in this 1973 success, which generated plenty of acclaim on both sides of the pond even though it hasn’t been screened a whole lot over the years. Film Movement’s Blu-Ray (1.66) is highlighted by a new 4K restoration of the film, presented in mono (with English subs) and enriched by an interview with co-writer Daniele Thompson plus an essay from author Phoebe Maltz Bovy.

New on DVD from Film Movement this month is CASSANDRO THE EXOTICO! (73 mins., 2019), a documentary about one of the wrestling industry’s first openly gay participants. Marie Losier’s use of 16mm filming captures the grittiness of the sport with a sensitive portrait of the Lucha Libre legend afforded in the 73-minute feature. Film Movement’s DVD includes a 1.37 full-screen transfer and 5.1/2.0 Dolby Digital audio…Finally, Ash Mayfair’s THE THIRD WIFE (96 mins., 2019) is a Vietnamese import about a 14-year-old teen who becomes the third wife of a wealthy landowner. All bets are off, however, once she develops feelings for the man’s second wife in this story about forbidden love. Film Movement’s DVD includes an NYAFF chat with Mayfair and commentary with the director, a 16:9 (1.49) transfer and 5.1 Vietnamese audio with English subtitles.

ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME: IN CONCERT DVD (Time Life): Over 160 performances from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been collected in this 11-disc DVD anthology from Time Life.

The deluxe package, out this week, includes both performances and induction speeches from a wide swath of performers including Simon & Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, U2, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Rush, Cat Stevens, Chicago, Cheap Trick, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Yes, Alice Cooper, Randy Newman, Peter Gabriel, Pearl Jam, Journey and many others. Culled from the recent 2010-2017 ceremonies, this special set also includes the 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concerts, presented in their entirety from 2009. Time Life’s box-set houses the individual boxes “In Concert,” “In Concert Encore” and “Concerts” and presents them at retail this week for the first time. Highly recommended for music lovers.

MPI New Releases: Pollyanna McIntosh’s DARLIN’ (101 mins., 2019, Not Rated) serves up a tale of terror after a group of nuns attempt to tame a feral teen into becoming a good girl. It doesn’t work – especially once “The Woman” (also played by McIntosh) comes looking for her – a character McIntosh played before in films by collaborator Lucky McKee (who produced here). McIntosh’s directorial debut, “Darlin’” is out on Blu-Ray this week featuring a 1080p transfer (2:1), 5.1/2.0 Dolby Digital audio, a commentary with McIntosh, behind-the-scenes footage, the trailer, and a deleted scene…the highly acclaimed music documentary ECHO IN THE CANYON (83 mins., 2019) streets on September 10th from MPI. This Andrew Slater production chronicles the explosion of music that stemmed from Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon in the 60s, resulting in the birth of “electric folk” that came to define “The California Sound.” The Beach Boys, Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Mamas and the Papas are all on-hand in this fun retrospective with interview subjects ranging from Norah Jones and Beck to Jackson Browne and Tom Petty (in his final interview). MPI’s Blu-Ray boasts 1080p (1.78) widescreen and 5.1/2.0 stereo audio.

INTO THE ASHES Blu-Ray (97 mins., 2019, Not Rated; RLJ): Luke Grimes, Robert Taylor, James Badge Dale and Frank Grillo star in this urban thriller new on home video from RLJ. In Aaron Harvey’s film, the old crew of a reformed criminal show up to reclaim the money he stole – taking his wife as collateral – in a gritty underworld tale populated with dependable character actors like Grimes and Grillo. RLJ’s Blu-Ray includes a Making Of, “Shooting the South” featurette, 1080p (2.40) transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound.

CLARENCE CLEMONS: WHO DO I THINK I AM? Blu-Ray/DVD (90 mins.; Virgil Films): E. Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons went on a trip to China following the Bruce Springsteen-led band’s “Rising Tour” concluded in 2003. Director Nick Mead and his crew followed Clemons on a voyage of self-discovery to China until the musician tragically died of a stroke. This feature-length documentary from Mead pays tribute to Clemons and seeks to paint a personal portrait of the man away from the Springsteen phenomenon, boasting interviews with Joe Walsh, Nils Lofgren, and former President Bill Clinton among others. Virgil’s Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack is now available featuring a 1080p transfer and 5.1 surround audio.

Arrow New ReleasesOne of failed Bond George Lazenby’s more successful cinematic endeavors, WHO SAW HER DIE? (94 mins., 1972) is a well-regarded (if somewhat distasteful) “giallo” thriller debuting on Blu-Ray this month from Arrow Video. Lazenby stars as a sculptor who brings his young daughter (Nicoletta Elmi) over from his failed past marriage to Venice – right at the same time a child killer stalks the beautiful city’s underbelly. The timing’s bad, alright – his daughter quickly becomes one of the casualties, leading Lazenby and his estranged wife (Anita Strindberg) to try and piece together the mystery and catch the depraved lunatic, no matter how high they have to climb through Venitian society to get there.

A new 2K restoration (2.35) of the full-length Italian cut of the film (culled from the original 35mm camera negative) highlights Arrow’s Blu-Ray with uncompressed PCM mono sound in either English or Italian – all of it graced with a memorable Ennio Morricone score. Extras include a new commentary from critic Troy Howarth; new interviews with director Aldo Lado and Nicoletta Elmi, plus co-writer Francesco Barilli and critic Michael Mackenzie. Despite the seedy subject matter, this is worth checking out for genre fans.

Also new from Arrow is the first Blu-Ray of Billy Wilder’s inaugural Hollywood sojourn, THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (100 mins., 1942). This frothy comedy stars Ginger Rogers as a woman who tries to get a half-price train fare by pretending to be 12 (!). It somehow works, putting her in the compartment of a Major (Ray Milland) who promptly brings her to his military academy – where his fiancee (Rita Johnson) doesn’t buy Rogers’ ruse. Wilder and Charles Brackett’s script is packed with laughs and stays light on its feet, but it’s really Rogers’ show and she’s terrific in this memorable early ‘40s comedy. Arrow’s Blu-Ray, available September 24th, includes an Arrow exclusive restoration (1.33) from the original negative with PCM audio; a new commentary with scholar Adrian Martin; a new video appreciation from critic Neil Sinyard; archival interview with Milland; a rare 1943 radio adaptation with Rogers and Milland repeating their film roles; and the trailer.

Cinedigm New Releases: The comedy MISS ARIZONA (94 mins., 2019) stars Johanna Braddy as an ex-Miss Arizona turned housewife who teaches a “life skills” class to a group of women in L.A., eventually embarking on a wild ride through L.A. clubs and bonding with them. Dana Wheeler-Nicholson and Robin Lively are two of the familiar ‘80s faces who appear in this independent offering, now on DVD from Cinedigm featuring a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 sound.

Mill Creek New ReleasesAmongst Mill Creek’s latest releases are a handful of bargain-priced Blu-Ray titles, most of which are new to the format.

DUPLICITY Blu-Ray (**½, 125 mins., 2009, PG-13): Has Julia Roberts lost her box-office touch? Is Clive Owen not a box-office draw to begin with? Is writer-director Tony Gilroy crafting convoluted scripts that sometimes only he can figure out? The answers to those questions may sum up why this moderately entertaining (and also quickly forgotten) 2009 tale of former spies (Roberts and Owen) who hook up in the midst of a corporate war failed to catch fire at the box-office. The stars are fine, the supporting cast top-notch (Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti), but the dense nature of Gilroy’s script makes it all a bit more complicated than it needs to be. Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray (2.40, 5.1 DTS MA) is perfectly serviceable, but seeing as the prior Universal disc is still in-print (with extras), this doesn’t seem to be a necessary release.

“Duplicity” has been released alongside the format debut of the 2002 box-office flop I SPY (**, 97 mins., 2002, PG-13), a misfired TV-series adaptation with Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson slipping into the roles of Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, respectively. A labored Thanksgiving ‘02 affair from director Betty Thomas, Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) marks the movie’s initial Blu-Ray release. So, too, does TRUE BELIEVER (**½,  109 mins., 1989, R), a courtroom drama pairing James Woods’ civil liberties lawyer with Robert Downey, Jr. as his idealistic associate, who urges him to re-open a cold case involving a Korean prisoner (Yuji Okumoto) serving time for a gang killing. Woods is the whole show in Joseph Ruben’s passable time killer, which only mustered limited box-office in February ’89. Boasting another respectable Sony 1080p master (1.85, 2.0 DTS MA stereo audio), “True Believer” is entertaining enough for Woods’ performance and his interaction with a young Downey, here carrying one of his first lead roles.

Finally, two more Andy Sidaris Cinemax-broadcast favorites are new to Blu-Ray. GUNS (95 mins., 1990, R) and DO OR DIE (96 mins., 1991, R) each star Dona Spier and Roberta Vasquez as undercover federal agents butting heads, guns and everything else with the likes of Erik Estrada (both films) and Pat Morita (“Do or Die”) in sun-drenched T&A flicks recommended for Sidaris completists. Mill Creek’s Blu-Rays feature 1.78 4K restored transfers and 2.0 DTS MA sound along with archival extras (Sidaris’ intros, commentary, and featurettes).


Quick Takes

CURIOUS GEORGE: ROYAL MONKEY DVD (87 mins., 2019, G; Universal): The latest adventures of Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat puts a spin on “The Prince and the Pauper,” with George trading places with royal monkey Philippe. Shenanigans ensue in this fun outing with music by Andy Grammer and voices provided by long-running PBS series vets Frank Welker (George) and Jeff Bennett (The Man). Universal’s DVD (1.78, 5.1) is now available featuring the four new songs and included stickers.

Also New From Lionsgate: Judd Nelson stars as a former marine who takes on a modern-day pirate in DEAD WATER (90 mins., 2019, R) after hitting the high seas with his wife (Brianne Davis) in their pal’s (Casper Van Dien) yacht. Slow moving, low-budget “thriller” from director Chris Helton washes ashore September 17th from Lionsgate. The Blu-Ray includes a 1080p (2.40) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound and a Digital HD copy…Coming September 10th from Lionsgate is MAYDAY (76 mins., 2018, R), an extremely short thriller starring Michael Pare (yes!) as an air marshal trying to piece together the disappearance of a traveler and a mysterious man with a briefcase who may be to blame – or not! Massimiliano Cerchi’s film is out on DVD featuring a 16:9 (1.78) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

ADVENTURES OF DALLY & SPANKY DVD (84 mins., 2019, PG; Sony): Family film based on the true story about an unlikely friendship between a Jack Russell Terrier named Dally and a miniature horse named Spanky – a dynamic duo whose owners, a pair of teen half-sisters, create an internet sensation and high school talent show-winning act out of them. This feel-good effort stars Brenna D’Amico, Denise Richards and Trace Adkins, and comes recommended for children of all ages. Sony’s DVD includes a 16:9 (1.78) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

BOTTOM OF THE 9TH DVD (111 mins., 2019, R; Paramount): Joe Manganiello produced and stars in this story about Sonny Stano – a baseball prodigy who’s incarcerated for two decades. Once he gets out, Stano tries to get his life, his lost love (Sofia Vergara) and his baseball career back on-track in this Raymond De Felitta-helmed story co-starring Michael Rispoli and Denis O’Hare. Extremely formulaic but nicely performed, “Bottom of the 9th” bows on DVD September 17th featuring a 16:9 transfer, 5.1 sound, a Digital copy and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

THE IRON ORCHARD DVD (All About The 360): Independently produced adaptation of Tom Pendleton’s novel is set in the West Texas oilfields of the late 1930s, where a young man (Lane Garrison) tries to maneuver through the politics and rough physical challenges standing before him in his quest to drill liquid gold. Ty Roberts’ film is new on DVD and includes a 16:9 transfer and stereo audio.

NEXT TIME: Warner Archive New Releases: V, THE JETSONS, THE WITCHES and more! 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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