“Victory” is rousingly old-fashioned if about as believable today as a Marvel comic. Stallone and Caine lead a group of Allied POWs in a German camp overseen by Max von Sydow’s general; also among their ranks are a series of real-life soccer stars from the ’70s and ’80s, from the great Pele to Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles and Mike Summerbee among others. Together they form a soccer squad that agrees to take on the Germans in a Parisian exhibition match as a means of not just fighting back against their Nazi captors, but also – much to Caine’s initial chagrin – an attempt to escape.
John Huston wasn’t making his best films during this era but “Victory” is lively and completely engaging. Yabo Yablonsky, Evan Jones, Djordje Milicevic and Jeff Maguire’s workmanlike script is awash in WWII cinematic cliches and bears more resemblance to “Hogan’s Heroes” than the horrors of actual POW camps, but the formula is irresistible and the cast appealing. The ace card, though, is the movie’s climactic soccer match, which remains one of the most exciting of all sports movie endings – the game footage, choreography and editing are nothing short of outstanding, and kudos to those who produced these sequences as it’s hard to envision that Huston – who made this film inbetween the lousy “Phobia” and stilted film version of “Annie” – alone was responsible for them.
Bill Conti’s triumphant score was heavily influenced by Shostakovich and it also functions marvelously in a Lorimar production theatrically released by Paramount (the first VHS releases were through MGM/CBS Home Video, in fact). Warner’s Blu-Ray is derived from a new remaster (2.35 AVC encoded) and it looks great – Gerry Fisher’s widescreen lensing is enhanced exponentially here compared to the older DVD edition with robust 2.0 DTS MA stereo sound and the original trailer.
Another early title I remember watching on our first VCR was A LITTLE ROMANCE (110 mins., 1979, PG), a wan tale of a French teenage boy (Theolonius Bernard), infatuated with American pop culture, who strikes up an immediate chemistry with an American girl (Diane Lane) staying in Paris while her actress mom (Sally Kellerman) shoots a new movie. A hammy Laurence Olivier is the elderly man who acts as a sage between them, Arthur Hill is Lane’s stepfather, and director George Roy Hill filmed it all on-location, working from a script by TV comedy writer Allan Burns (adapting a French novel by Patrick Cauvin).
“A Little Romance” was notable for being the first production of Orion Pictures – whose initial output was distributed by Warner Bros. – as well as a film that earned a well-deserved Oscar for Georges Delerue’s effervescent original score. That said, the movie feels like some of the “youth movies” from that era that haven’t aged all that gracefully. Make no mistake, it’s a perfectly pleasant and good-looking film, shot in sparkling scope by Pierre-Willam Glenn, with a couple of appealing kids and a breezy tone. It’s just not very compelling, with little dramatic momentum behind it, making you think director George Roy Hill had the locale in mind as his primary impetus for tackling the project. This lack of urgency was noted even at the time of the movie’s release, where the picture received generally enthusiastic reviews but a few outright pans from major critics like Roger Ebert and Vincent Canby.
Viewers nostalgic for the film’s charms, and its location work in particular, should savor Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray. The wide Panavision frame was badly cropped in the movie’s VHS releases and only somewhat redeemed by a DVD release that was presented in widescreen but derived from an old, lacking standard-def master. This Blu-Ray includes a lovely 1080p (2.41) AVC encode that is unquestionably the healthiest the film has ever appeared on home video by a wide margin, with an acceptable DTS MA mono track and the original trailer on-hand for extras.
Finally, debuting in high-definition also at last is Volume 1 of Warner Archive’s must-have TEX AVERY: SCREWBALL CLASSICS (138 mins.). After leaving Warner Bros. In the early ’40s, animator Tex Avery established a marvelous series of influential animated shorts at MGM – continuing the ribald humor from the Warner cartoons but in its own unique flavor with slapstick and all-new characters including Droopy, Screwball Squirrel and George & Junior brought into the fold. This single-disc Blu-Ray includes gorgeous 1080p (1.37) presentations of classic shorts Red Hot Riding Hood, Who Killed Who?, What’s Buzzin’ Buzzard?, Batty Baseball, The Hick Chick, Bad Luck Blackie, Garden Gopher, The Peachy Cobbler, Symphony in Slang, Screwball Squirrel, The Screwy Truant, Big Heel-Watha, Lonesome Lenny, Hound Hunters, Red Hot Rangers, Dumb-Hounded, Wags to Riches, The Chump Champ, and Daredevil Droopy. Unquestionably recommended!
Shout! Factory New Releases
THE WIZARD Blu-Ray (100 mins., 1989, PG; Shout! Factory): One of Fred Savage’s starring vehicles during his time as a breakout child star on TV’s “The Wonder Years,” “The Wizard” offers viewers something of a “Junior Rain Man” to compliment a plot involving a whole lot of vintage Nintendo video-gaming.
Savage plays a fast-talking Nevada kid who springs his troubled, younger half-brother (Luke Edwards) out from being institutionalized and heads out on a road trip. While Dad (Beau Bridges) and his older brother (Christian Slater) are in pursuit, Savage and Edwards partner up with another young runaway (Jenny Lewis) while discovering Edwards’ amazing penchant for being a wizard at video games…and wouldn’t you just know a nationwide video game tournament is looming in California?
“The Wizard” was borne out of two primary concerns: with Nintendo facing a shortage of ROM chips needed for their game cartridges, the time was right to promote upcoming projects like “Super Mario Bros. 3” (which ended up being released in 1990) and the ill-fated “Power Glove” game controller (at least it looked cool). Meanwhile, Universal was up against a looming writer’s strike, and put “The Wizard” on a fast-track to be produced during Savage’s “Wonder Years” hiatus, complete with one of its producers (Ken Topolsky) and assorted crew members involved in its production.
Though writer David Chisholm’s script apparently wasn’t “inspired” by “Rain Man,” it’s hard not to note the similarities as Savage tries to coax an emotional response out of Edwards, traumatized by the drowning death of his sister a couple of years before. In fact, “The Wizard” offers a surprisingly downbeat story to go along with its formulaic “kids road trip” set-up with plenty of product placement (not just Nintendo but Hostess among other visible brands) on-hand throughout. Director Todd Holland gets capable performances out of the entire cast, but since so much of the story’s first act was cut, the film plays abruptly in its opening scenes, wanting to get the story moving at a cost to its dramatic momentum – which the movie never comfortably establishes.
Ultimately, “The Wizard” is a mostly charmless kid-flick that Universal released to tepid box-office in Christmas ’89. A rewrite would’ve tightened up and enhanced the picture, but since the film was both hastily written and shot, there are a lot of unfocused components that prevent it from being anything more than a movie fondly remembered by those who were younger kids in the late ’80s.
That group, though, has turned the movie into something of a cult favorite, and Shout’s two-disc Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray will be right up their alley. Some 40 minutes of extensive deleted scenes (half of them intended to go before the finished film even begins) are included in HD from a workprint, while Todd Holland contributes a new commentary. The second disc offers a retrospective doc featuring interviews with Holland, Chisholm, Topolsky and Luke Edwards (Fred Savage participates via a phone conversation). All note the expedited nature of the production as well as its effective use of Nevada and California locales. There are also panel discussions from a 2019 video game expo screening (featuring Chisholm, Topolsky and Edwards), featurettes with a former NES “video game counselor” and a psychiatrist who praises the movie’s characters, along with a photo gallery. The 4K-sourced new transfer (1.85) is generally solid (if a little soft in places) and a 2.0 DTS MA stereo track rounds out the release.
Also included in Shout! Factory’s roster of new March Blu-Rays is the latest entry in the label’s wonderful retrospective of Golden Age horrors, UNIVERSAL HORROR COLLECTION VOLUME 4.
This time out, Shout’s four-disc retrospective includes the fast-paced 1937 melodrama “Night Key” (68 mins.), which served as an audience reintroduction to Boris Karloff, here performing a different type of role: an inventor looking to cash in on the profits from an alarm system stolen to him by his rival. Jean Rogers from the Buster Krabbe “Flash Gordon” serials co-stars as Karloff’s daughter. There’s also the well-received “Night Monster” (73 mins., 1942), which melds horror thrills with murder-mystery tropes as Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill attempt to find the culprit behind a series of deaths near a rural swamp. The full-color “The Climax” (87 mins., 1944) offers Karloff again, this time as a Vienna doctor who murders his fiancee and finds himself gravitating towards an aspiring singer a decade later. What originally began its existence as a sequel to Universal’s “Phantom of the Opera” became a mediocre, mostly poorly-received picture that brought back that film’s female lead, Susanna Foster, but little of its positive attributes. Finally, “House of Horrors” (66 mins., 1946) is generally regarded as an exploitive programmer starring “The Creeper,” Rondo Hatton.
Though these four films are varied in terms of quality, Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray box again comes recommended for Universal genre enthusiasts. “Night Key” offers a 2K scan of a fine grain film element with a new commentary by historians Tom Weaver and Dr. Robert J. Kiss; “Night Monster” likewise boasts a new 2K scan with a fresh commentary by critic Gary Rhodes; the color “Climax” includes a new 2K scan of the interpositive with commentary from critics Kim Newman and Stephen Jones; and “House of Horrors” features a new commentary with historian Scott Gallinghouse and the set’s lone featurette, “The Creeper: Rondo Hatton At Universal.” A booklet completes the release.
APRIL FOOL’S DAY Blu-Ray (88 mins., 1986, R; Shout! Factory): ‘80s character names aren’t any more apropos of the era than “Muffy St. John,” the heroine (Deborah Foreman) of this fondly-remembered 1986 Paramount genre exercise. When Muffy brings a group of her college classmates to her parents’ posh island home for Spring Break, she unwittingly exposes them to a deadly succession of pranks that turn deadly – or do they?!?! Amy Steel, Thomas F. Wilson (“Back to the Future”), Clayton Rohner and Griffin O’Neal co-star in this Frank Mancuso, Jr. production with a Danilo Bach script that Fred Walton (“When a Stranger Calls”) helmed to moderate box-office – yet it’s the movie’s twist ending that truly sold it to fans, leading to “April Fool’s Day” gaining a decent cult following over the years since.
Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray is out March 24th. The 1080p (2.35) Paramount-licensed transfer is solid, the DTS MA stereo sound perfectly fine, and all-new extras include interviews with director Fred Walton, cast members Deborah Goodrich Royce and Clayton Rohner, plus cinematographer Charles Minsky and composer Charles Bernstein. The trailer and several TV spots put the finishing touch on this Scream release.
BONES Blu-Ray (96 mins., 2001, R; Shout! Factory): Silly urban horror exercise stars Snopp Dogg as Jimmy Bones, a neighborhood icon murdered by a bad cop (Michael T. Weiss) in 1979, who returns as a vengeful spirit decades later after a group of teens renovate his now-ghettoized home into a nightclub. Ernest Dickerson, Spike Lee’s cinematographer, helmed this passable New Line release, treated here to a Scream Factory Blu-Ray (2.35, 5.1 DTS MA). Extra features include all-new interviews with Dickerson, writer Adam Simon, cinematographer Flavio Labiano and FX artist Tony Gardner; the DVD commentary with Snoop, Dickerson and Simon; vintage extras from that release (deleted scenes, featurettes, music video); plus the trailer and EPK materials.
MUNSTER GO HOME! (97 mins., 1966) spun the cast from the fondly remembered ’60s TV comedy off to the big-screen with the gang moving to England after Herman inherits a mansion. Terry-Thomas, Hermoine Gingold and Richard Dawson join Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo and Al Lewis for this entertaining big-screen outing, here preserved in a good-looking Universal master (1.85) on Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray. As a bonus, Shout has included the 1981 TV movie “The Munsters’ Revenge,” here debuting in HD via a 2K scan (1.33) that’s as valuable as the main feature itself. A commentary from cast member Butch Patrick (“Eddie Munster”) and Rob Zombie (!) is included for extras alongside vintage radio interviews and ads, trailers and extensive still galleries.
MYSTIFY MICHAEL HUTCHENCE Blu-Ray (107 mins., 2019, Not Rated; Shout! Factory): Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of ’80s super-group INXS, is chronicled in this superb documentary from Richard Lowenstein – one that examines his work not only on-stage with the band, but his poetic and more sensitive persona away from the spotlight. Interviews, home movies, and archival footage punctuate this well-reviewed and thoroughly entertaining personal profile, on Blu-Ray from Shout! on March 31st. In addition to a 1080p transfer and DTS MA sound, the Australian production includes eight additional scenes and a myriad of featurettes. A recommended view for documentary lovers and, of course, INXS fans…Kate Winslet and Willem Dafoe provide voices for SWIFT (90 mins., 2018), a German animated movie (known throughout the world as “Manou the Swift”) about a little bird who grows up believing he’s a seagull, only to find out he’s a really one of the “swifts,” whom he retreats to after he fails to guard a nest of eggs. Themes of adoption and acceptance are included in this treacly outing that does make for a nice looking Blu-Ray (1.78) with English 5.1 & 2.0 DTS MA soundtracks. An interview with Dafoe, a Making Of featurette, and the trailer are on-tap in this BD/DVD, out April 7th.
TV on Video
THE AFFAIR: The Complete Series DVD (52 hours, 2014-19; CBS) /THE AFFAIR: The Final Season DVD (12 hours, 2019; CBS): Showtime’s generally superb adult drama started off well and endured through several up-and-down seasons before making a difficult decision to part with several of its most prominent stars – including Ruth Wilson – at the end of Season 4.
Carrying on undaunted, the fifth and final season of “The Affair” brings back Noah Solloway (Dominic Cooper) and his troubled clan for one last hurrah. Outside of a weird and mostly unsatisfying future-set story where Anna Paquin trots along a washed-out Long Island coastline, this uneven season wraps up with a lovely last couple of episodes. In fact, the series definitely improves over the last few shows to an unexpected degree, with some lovely moments that speak to how much the actors (namely Cooper and especially the superb Maura Tierney as Solloway’s estranged wife Helen) did to make often selfish and even detestable people likable.
The finale (and its penultimate episode) does feel as if it came out of a different show — or at least a different place — than the tenor of “The Affair” as a whole. Perhaps if the series had given more thought to its ending “The Affair”’s fifth season could’ve been consistently good from start to end. As it is, it wasn’t, but there are nevertheless many wonderful moments in its final couple of shows, the finale ranking with the most satisfying concluding episodes of any series I’ve watched in recent years.
CBS has brought “The Final Season” of “The Affair” to DVD this week featuring a 16:9 transfer, 5.1 sound and a featurette where creator Sarah Treem opines on the end of her series. For those who haven’t seen any of the series, CBS has also issued a terrific Complete Series DVD box sporting the same a/v presentation and all the extras (interviews, featurettes) from prior releases of the program on disc. Highly recommended!
TITANS: The Complete Second Season Blu-Ray (599 mins., 2019; Warner): Season 2 of DC’s streaming series again boasts a “darker, edgier” version of their younger-skewing Teen Titans franchise. The results, as they were with its initial season, are a mixed bag with some exciting action scenes bogged down by a contrived, overly “mature” take on “B-teamers” like Raven, Beast Boy, Starfire, and an older, wiser Dick Grayson, who team up to fight evil while trying to figure out their respective origins and powers. The debut program of DC’s premium online streaming service, “Titans”’ Season 2 separates the group while adding new members Conner Kent (Superboy) and Rose Wilson (Ravager). Warner’s Blu-Ray is out this week featuring fine 1080p (1.78) AVC encoded transfers, 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks, a Digital HD copy, and featurette on Jason Todd’s history in the DC Universe.
Also New & Noteworthy
CHARLIE’S ANGELS 4K UHD Combo Pack (118 mins., 2019, PG-13; Sony): Busted resurrection of the ’70s TV series/millennial film franchise was a big disappointment for writer/director/producer/star Elizabeth Banks. This updating offers Kristen Stewart and Ella Balinska as two of the new Angels who welcome an analyst (Naomi Scott) into the fold after she attempts to blow the whistle on new energy conservation tech that causes seizures. With that tech free to be weaponized, the ladies – along with their new Bosley (Banks herself) – try to stop the bad guys from using it for their own nefarious purposes.
Barely grossing $17 million domestically, this “Charlie’s Angels” was a huge flop but it’s a lot more watchable than its poor commercial reaction would lead you to believe. Banks gets likeable performances out of the girls, especially Scott and Stewart, who’s a lot looser here than usual, and the film manages to be moderately entertaining, while avoiding the overblown action scenes from the McG features. Yes, Banks’ script has a little too much in the way of girl-power/empowerment messaging, and the plodding pace proves to be a turnoff in hour two – yet this isn’t an entirely unattractive viewing proposition if you’re in the right mood for it.
Sony’s UHD of “Charlie’s Angels” includes a very nicely textured HVEC (2.39) encoded transfer with HDR and DTS: X audio. Extras include deleted/extended scenes, a gag reel, a host of featurettes, Digital HD copy and the Blu-Ray.
THE GRUDGE Blu-Ray (93 mins., 2020, R; Sony): The era of J-Horror remakes has been over in the U.S. for a while, but the need to regurgitate old IP of any type continues – hence this unnecessary reworking of “The Grudge.” Nicolas Pesce’s remake, again produced by Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures, stars Andrea Roseborough as a detective who runs afoul of the insidious curse and long dark-haired spirits that powered a couple of prior U.S. versions to box-office success. This “Grudge,” however, failed to hit the same marks, offering rehashed thrills and an especially deadly ending that spelled doom for the film’s commercial prospects just a couple of months ago.
Sony fast-tracks “The Grudge” to home video this week. The Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) includes over 40 minutes of special features – including an alternate ending apparently used in some overseas markets – plus a Making Of, behind the scenes featurette, extended/alternate scenes, an Easter Egg section (with homages to the other “Grudge” flicks), and a Digital HD copy.
SPIES IN DISGUISE 4K Ultra HD (102 mins., 2019, PG; Fox/Disney): One of the saddest developments in Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox’s film assets is the likely shuttling of Blue Sky Studios, which produced a myriad of hits for Fox (“Ice Age,” “Rio,” “The Peanuts Movie”) over the years but may well find itself on the outside now that Disney has fully absorbed one of its acquisition’s more profitable film subsidiaries.
That would be unfortunate, since while Blue Sky’s latest effort, “Spies in Disguise,” isn’t one of their best efforts, it’s still an entertaining enough kid-feature. Will Smith provides one of the lead voices as a suave secret agent who, after working with a young scientist (voiced by Tom Holland), is accidentally transformed into a pigeon while working on a top-secret mission to save the world! A predictable array of colorful antics ensue, but at least the film moves along with enough humor to engage adults while entertaining the younger demographic.
Fox’s 4K UHD (2.39) offers beautiful animation in stunning HDR with immersive Dolby Atmos audio, a 1080p Blu-Ray, Digital HD code, a number of featurettes, music videos, still galleries and more.
A HIDDEN LIFE Blu-Ray (174 mins., 2019, PG-13; Fox): The life of an Austrian conscientious objector during WWII is the subject of Terrence Malick’s latest film – once again buoyed by sumptuous cinematography and James Newton Howard’s music. Nearly three hours in length, “A Hidden Life” tells a direct and more personalized story than some of Malick’s recent fare, with August Diehl as Franz Jagerstatter, a farmer who refused to swear allegiance to the Nazis and was ultimately imprisoned and executed as a result. His relationship with his wife and children is the focal point of a typically “Malickian” presentation, but one that’s much easier to grasp onto than much of his work of late. Fox’s attractive Blu-Ray (2.39) includes a lovely transfer and 7.1 DTS MA sound plus a Digital HD code.
SUPERMAN: RED SON 4K Ultra HD (84 mins., 2020, PG-13; Warner): The DC Comic “Superman: Red Son” posited a world where Jor-El’s son doesn’t crash land in middle America but rather Soviet Russia. There, he doesn’t preach Truth, Justice & The American Way, but rather the positive attributes of Soviet Communism. No, there’s no cameo from Bernie Sanders in this animated rendition of the popular “DC Elseworlds” story (which also features appearances from alternate-universe incarnations of Wonder Woman and Batman) but a streamlined story that simplifies its source and makes for something of a rocky view without prior knowledge of the source material.
Warner’s 4K Ultra HD release of “Red Son” is available this week featuring 5.1 DTS MA audio and an HDR-capable HVEC transfer that’s quite outstanding. A new DC Showcase Short, “Phantom Stranger,” is included along with the two episodes from the motion-comic version of “Red Son,” a pair of archival cartoons, a featurette, and a sneak look at “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War.” The Blu-Ray and a Digital HD copy are also on-hand.
RICHARD JEWELL Blu-Ray (131 mins., 2019, R; Warner): One of director Clint Eastwood’s best films in several years, the absorbing “Richard Jewell” tells the tragic, powerful story of its a lead character: an Atlanta security guard who discovered a bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics but was turned, thanks to the FBI and a hungry press, into the bombing’s highly-publicized primary suspect. Paul Walter Hauser gives a convincing performance as Jewell, with Kathy Bates as his mother, Sam Rockwell as Jewell’s attorney, Jon Hamm as the lead FBI analyst working the case, and Olivia Wilde as a local Atlanta journalist whose initial reporting lead the public to believe Jewell was first and foremost responsible for the crime. Warner’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) is available this week featuring a Digital HD copy, a Making Of and a look at the real Jewell, who passed away at age 44, not long after the actual culprit for the crime was found.
Though widely acclaimed, the strident UNCUT GEMS (135 mins., 2019, R; Lionsgate) is a near-torturous tale of a New York City jeweler (Adam Sandler) attempting to balance his work, gambling addiction, debts, disintegrating marriage (to Idina Menzel), and mistress (Julia Fox) all in equal order. Josh and Benny Safdie’s caustic film relies heavily on the viewer being able to penetrate its assortment of wholly unappealing characters and grating tone – plus an abhorrent score by Daniel Lopatin that’s one of the worst I’ve heard in recent years. Sandler tries hard – and there are appearances by everyone from Mike Francesa to Kevin Garnett, playing himself – yet this is a one-note piece whose failure to be widely embraced on an audience level is all too easy to understand. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray is available this week featuring a single featurette, 1080p (2.39) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound and a Digital HD copy.
BOMBSHELL Blu-Ray (108 mins., 2019, R; Lionsgate): While we anxiously await “Under the Desk: The Matt Lauer Story” to never be produced, Hollywood serves up a heap of red meat to those on the left side of the political spectrum with this slickly performed but also mostly vapid expose on the Fox News sexual harassment scandal. Charlize Theron does “become” Megyn Kelly in a convincing recreation of the ex-primetime host, with Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson and a heavily-made up John Lithgow as the monstrous, late Roger Ailes. Yet, with “Austin Powers” director Jay Roach’s expertise stemming from comedic fare, the tone ends up being a lot lighter and more frivolous than you’d expect, while the inclusion of a totally fictional Fox staffer (Margot Robbie) ends up detracting from its truthfulness. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 Dolby Digital) is out this week featuring a seven-part Making Of, the trailer, a DVD and Digital HD copy…the crime drama INHERIT THE VIPER (84 mins., 2019, R; Lionsgate) pairs Josh Hartnett with Margarita Levieva as two members of a family of opioid dealers. When Harnett tries to go straight, his own blood stands in the way in this gritty but also underdeveloped film from director Anthony Jerjen, co-starring Owen Teague. Dash Mihok and Bruce Dern. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) is now available offering a Digital HD copy.
INTRIGO: DEATH OF AN AUTHOR (108 mins., 2019, R; Lionsgate): Weirdly titled thriller is an adaptation of Hakan Nesser’s international bestseller, shot in English by Swedish filmmaker Daniel Alfredson. Alfredson also co-wrote this twisty exercise starring Ben Kingsley as an author who plots the seemingly accidental death of his wife, only to have her body never recovered – while at the same time translating the final novel of a man who’s wife also died mysteriously, and becoming attracted to his widow. Muddled thrills abound in “Intrigo,” which debuts on home video from Lionsgate sporting a 1080p (2.39) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, two featurettes, a DVD and Digital HD copy.
New on DVD from Lionsgate: THE ADVENTURES OF A.R.I. MY ROBOT FRIEND (89 mins., 2019, PG) focuses on Noah, a young boy who finds a super-powered friend in a broken robot at his father’s tech job. After putting “A.R.I.” back to working condition, the creators who produced him want him back in a familiar yet cute family picture from director Stephen Shimek. Lionsgate’s DVD of the Ace Entertainment production is out this week featuring a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 sound…Coming March 24th from Lionsgate is HUNTERS MOON (82 mins., 2019, R), a home invasion thriller with a trio of teenage girls throwing a shindig in their family’s new country abode when they’re terrorized by not only a group of local yocals but “something else” out in the woods. Thomas Jane, Sean Patrick Flanery and Jay Mohr make appearances in Michael Cassie’s independent outing, available later this month on DVD featuring a 16:9 (1.78) transfer and 5.1 sound.
Season 12 of ANCIENT ALIENS (9 hours, 2019) completes its run on DVD in a 2-disc, 12-episode “Volume 2” release next week. Episodes include The Trans-Dimensionals, Islands of Fire, The Constellation Code, The Nuclear Agenda, The Alien Mountain, The Alien Brain, The Secrets of Stonehenge, Food of the Gods, Human Hieroglyphs, The Storming of Area 51, Countdown to Discloure and Secrets of the Exoplanets. 16:9 transfers and 2.0 stereo soundtracks comprise Lionsgate’s DVD…the latest adventure of NORM THE NORTH: FAMILY VACATION (88 mins., 2020, Not Rated) finds the title Polar Bear trying to balance his kingly duties for his ice kingdom with trying to spend time with his family. He mixes both when he decides to track down a thief who stole his crown at the same time he takes his clan on a vacation. Lionsgate’s DVD (1.78, 5.1 Dolby Digital) is out now.
Arrow New Releases: Robert Altman’s KANSAS CITY (116 mins., 1996, R) stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as the wife of a low-level thief (Dermot Mulroney) who’s been nabbed trying to steal from local crime boss/jazz club owner Harry Belafonte. Trying to tilt the scales to set him free, she kidnaps troubled socialite Miranda Richardson – wife of an influential local politician – in a typically “Altman” concoction with a lot of good music, uneven writing and a host of erratic performances (Leigh’s affected delivery on the downside, Belafonte being one of its strongest assets). This Altman effort met with mixed critical reaction upon its 1996 release and debuts here on Blu-Ray for the first time from Arrow featuring 2.0 and 5.1 DTS MA sound, a nice 1080p (1.85) transfer, archival commentary by Altman, a newly filmed appreciation from critic Geoff Andrew, a visual essay by critic Luc Lagier, a pair of vintage featurettes, EPK interviews; four trailers, TV spots, and an image gallery.
Finally, Brendan Fraser, Ashley Judd and Viggo Mortensen comprised the leads in Philip Ridley’s little-seen 1995 follow-up to his cult favorite “The Reflecting Skin,” THE PASSION OF DARKLY NOON (101 mins., 1995, Not Rated). Fraser plays the only survivor of an attack on a religious fundamentalist community who is nursed back to healthy by a free-spirited local woman (Judd) – at least until her mute lover (Mortensen) appears, subsequently causing tragedy for all involved. Ridley’s films are always an acquired taste and this one is no different, with Arrow’s Blu-Ray boasting a new 2K restoration (2.35) from the original camera negative; 5.1 DTS MA and 2.0 PCM stereo sound; a new commentary from Ridley; an isolated score track of Nic Bicat’s score with cues not used in the picture; a newly filmed interview with cinematographer John de Borman; new interviews with editor Les Healey and Bicat; an archival featurette; and musical demos provided by Bicat.
PLAYMOBIL: THE MOVIE DVD (100 mins., 2019, PG; Universal): Agreeable knockoff of “The Lego Movie” from another world-famous toy brand – Playmobil – didn’t make the same commercial noise, yet functions reasonably well as a kid flick. Serving as much as a feature-length advertisement as a standalone entity, “Playmobil” brings together a group of representative types from different “worlds” (voiced by the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Jim Gaffigan among others) as they set out to rescue kidnapped Playmobil citizens. The animation is a lot more basic than its Lego counterparts and the writing is much more pedestrian as well, yet this is still a fairly likeable effort for what it is. Universal’s DVD (2.39, 5.1 Dolby Digital) is now available.
CRASHING: The Complete Third Season Blu-Ray (234 mins., 2019; HBO): Third season of the HBO series finds Pete Holmes’ cinematic alter-ego having returned to NYC after a campus comedy tour. Back home, he finds himself battling other stand-up comics as he attempts to work his way back up the ladder. Judd Apatow produced this raw look at the world of stand-up comedy which Holmes recently said has concluded with this third season – now on Blu-Ray – though the comedian isn’t ruling out a future feature extension. HBO’s Blu-ray (1.78, 5.1 DTS MA) includes commentaries and a featurette.
THE SONATA Blu-Ray (88 mins., 2018; Screen Media): Disappointing gothic-styled thriller stars the lovely Freya Tingley as a young musician, estranged from her recently-deceased father (Rutger Hauer), who finds his final composition awaiting her – along with a direct communication line to Old Scratch himself. Hauer’s final film role is a waste of time – he’s barely in it to boot – and the film’s relentless predictability culminates in a distressingly rote conclusion. Screen Media’s Blu-Ray is now available sporting a 1080p transfer and 5.1 sound, along with a single featurette.
New From Well Go USA: South Korean director Park Hoon-jung remixes elements of “La Femme Nikita” and “Hanna” in THE WITCH: SUBVERSION (126 mins., 2019), an action-adventure about a young girl who escapes from a government lab and is subsequently adopted by an older couple. They nurse her back to health, only to – years later – have elements from her past come rearing back, causing her to reclaim her memories and latent abilities. The action scenes are crisply delivered in a potent Korean import on Blu-Ray this week from Well Go sporting a 1080p transfer and DTS MA 5.1 Korean audio with English subtitles… the Russian fantasy adventure ABIGAIL (111 mins., 2019) offers a heavily CG’d adventure where a girl (Tinatin Dalakishvill) sets out on a grand journey to find her father, whom she presumed was executed after their village was ravaged by a plague a decade before. This Alexander Boguslavsky-helmed production is presented on Blu-Ray in English (DTS MA) with a 1080p transfer next week from Well Go…based on the true story, THE CAPTAIN (111 mins., 2019) serves up something of a Hong Kong “Sully.” This drama follows the courageous efforts of a captain who manages to save his Airbus flight after the cockpit windshield shatters after take off, causing temps to plummet, passengers to lose consciousness and his co-pilot to be nearly sucked out the cockpit window. Well Go’s Blu-Ray includes Mandarin DTS MA audio with English subtitles and streets March 31st.
STUFFED DVD (84 mins., 2020; Music Box Films): A new documentary from Erin Derham, “Stuffed” seeks to celebrate “the wonders of art and the secrets of science” by objectively profiling the world of taxidermy. This doc comes out on the pro-nature, pro-art side with its usage in modern art being the focus of Derham’s new feature. Commentary from the director, a Making Of, poster/art gallery, 16:9 transfer and 5.1 sound are included in Music Box’s now-available DVD.
GHOST KILLERS VS BLOODY MARY DVD (109 mins., 2018; Dark Sky/MPI): Horror-comedy from director Fabrico Bittar focuses on a group of amateur ghost hunters who decide to rid a local school of a supposedly vengeful spirit named Bloody Mary. Unfortunately, their little hoax turns out to be a real haunting, and soon the would-be ‘Busters are fighting for their lives. Gore, mayhem and comedy mix in this spirited attempt at blending laughs and terror, but the film is ridiculously overlong. Less, as we say, would’ve been a lot more here. MPI’s DVD is available this week featuring a 16:9 (2.39) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
LITTLE JOE DVD (105 mins., 2019, Not Rated; Magnolia): Emily Beecham plays a plant breeder working on genetically-engineered species when she decides to bring home one of the latest specimens – a crimson flower that responds to the right temp and human engagement…and harbors a sinister undercurrent which only manifests itself when her teen son grows attached to it. Ben Whishaw co-stars in Jessica Hausner’s creepy new film, on DVD this week from Magnolia (1.85, 5.1) sporting a Q&A with Beecham and the director.
SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL (***, 111 mins., 2020, R): Easy-going and quite likeable vehicle for Mark Wahlberg offers a Boston-set (of course) crime story that repurposes the character names from Robert B. Parker’s long-running novels but applies them to an otherwise unrelated, very different story — based on a likewise unrelated, recent mystery-thriller novel named “Wonderland”.
Essentially serving as an “origin movie”, Wahlberg’s Spenser is a former Boston cop just out of prison for assaulting his commanding officer. After that same Boston police supervisor is executed — with another cop framed for his death — Spenser goes about trying to piece together those responsible for the crime. A gaggle of suspects related to casino gaming, drug dealing and crooked cops, of course, follows, but Spenser’s journey is surprisingly light on its feet, as he’s surrounded by his father-figure landlord (Alan Arkin), an aspiring MMA fighter named Hawk (Winston Duke), and aggressive ex-girlfriend (comic Iliza Shlesinger, dialing up her local accent and persona to the nth degree).
Making his fifth movie with director Peter Berg, “Spenser Confidential” is clearly intended to launch a series of films — which, for a change, doesn’t seem like an entirely unattractive proposition. This may be the most purely entertaining of all the Netflix original movies to date, offering plenty of laughs, crisp action scenes, and a compelling central mystery to go along with the local Boston flavor and occasional regional accents. The movie is fashioned as a perfect franchise for Wahlberg, who manages to be appealing but also convincing here, and he’s surrounded by a very likeable group of supporting players in a movie that’s not going to appeal to fans of the old TV series — who would be undoubtedly turned off by the R-rated raunchiness and lack of connection with Parker’s books — yet offers solid, undemanding entertainment for those looking for a good time with enough of a solid mystery attached to maintain interest.
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