The various character subplots from the original “V” are at least respectably carried forth, the relationship between leads Faye Grant and Marc Singer is further developed, and the show gives you more vamping by Jane Badler’s evil villainess Diana and a howler of a cliffhanger at the end of Part 2 (which scared the hell out of me when I was a kid and made me giggle this time) involving the birth of Blair Tefkin’s….well, offspring. It doesn’t reprise the subtext and thoughtfulness of Johnson’s original, and is more of an explicit, Network TV-like “event,” with its cliffhangers and over-the-top dramatics, but it’s still enjoyable on that level (and is far superior to the wretched weekly series that followed).
As far as the music goes, it too was tarnished by the behind-the-scenes troubles. Barry DeVorzon and Joseph Conlan originally scored the entire production with an unappealing, Brad Fiedel-ish “Terminator” synth sound (the main theme is either a blatant rip-off of Fiedel or a very curious predecessor to it), so the producers wisely decided to have as much of the show re-scored as they could before it was aired. Dennis McCarthy was given a scant couple of weeks to re-score half of “The Final Battle,” his music primarily appearing in the climactic Part 3 (where the show needed it most) and most of Part 2 (I can’t tell if it’s his music or not, but there are also one or two spots in the first entry where McCarthy’s talents were apparently utilized). McCarthy deserves kudos for his lyrical work, however, since it really helps to smooth over some of the script’s holes far better than the dreary electronic music from Part 1.
After debuting “V” on Blu-Ray last year, Warner Archive has brought “V: The Final Battle” to HD in a two-disc set. Unlike the original “V” – which was reformatted to the 16:9 aspect ratio at Kenneth Johnson’s own urging – “V: The Final Battle” has been satisfyingly preserved instead in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. The detail is superb and only the stock footage shots (including miniature FX taken from “Superman”!) exhibit a noticeable degradation in the image. The punchy monophonic sound is also in healthy shape.
Frank Drebin fans rejoice! Not eve the Coronavirus can’t stop CBS’ Complete Series Blu-Ray edition of POLICE SQUAD! (1982, 150 mins.), which debuts in high-definition this month in all its comedic brilliance.
This short-lived (six episodes) ABC series ran in the summer of 1982 and garnered minuscule ratings in spite of positive reviews…a shame at the time, since this effort from the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker trio attempted to do for TV cop series what their “Airplane!” did for big-screen parodies in the early ‘80s: offer rapid-fire gags, hilarious fake “freeze frame” endings, and boast the participation of guest stars who never made it out of the opening credits! It was all ahead of its time, but the ZAZ crew clearly had the right idea: this detective saga would later be spun-off into “The Naked Gun” some six years later, recycling many of the same gags and offering Leslie Nielsen reprising his role (albeit co-star Alan North would be replaced by…O.J. Simpson!).
Three commentary tracks (two by the ZAZ guys and producer Robert K. Weiss; another by staff writer Robert Wuhl) are on-hand in CBS’ Blu-Ray, plus a gag reel and some extra “Freeze Frame” footage shot for an aborted attempt at editing all the episodes together for European theatrical exhibition. An interview with Leslie Nielsen, audition tapes, and other goodies round out a splendid high-def package, boasting clear 4:3 transfers plus 5.1 DTS MA and original mono soundtracks.
CRIMINAL MINDS: THE FINAL SEASON DVD (7 hours, 2020; CBS):The team at the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit takes on Chameleon, the master of disguise – while returning favorites David Rossi, Dr. Spencer Reid and Penelope Garcia reach a level of closure in their personal lives – in this final season of the long-running CBS prime-time crime drama. CBS’ DVD (1.78, 5.1) is out this week featuring the last 10 episodes of “Criminal Minds” with 1.78 transfers and 5.1 sound, deleted/extended scenes, The Final Table Read and behind-the-scenes featurettes…Also new on DVD from CBS this week is The Final Season of MADAM SECRETARY (7 hours, 2019), which closes the door on the trials and tribulations of former Secretary-turned-President Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni). CBS’ three-disc set includes 16:9 transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, but no extras.
STEP BY STEP: Complete Seventh and Final Season DVD (427 mins., 1997-98; Warner Archive): Seventh season of the fondly-remembered ’90s ABC sitcom brings back Patrick Duffy, Suzanne Somers and their blended family for one last go on the TGIF carousel. Warner’s DVD is now available featuring 4:3 transfers and 2.0 stereo soundtracks.
SLINGS & ARROWS – The Complete Collection DVD (14 hours, 2003-2006; Acorn/RLJE): A number of familiar faces – including Rachel McAdams and Sarah Polley – starred in this well-received Canadian series about a dysfunctional Shakespearean theater company. Paul Gross plays the artistic director of the New Burbage Theatre Festival who’s haunted by the ghost of the previous director (Stephen Ouimette) while dealing with both tempermental actors and equally combustible players behind the scenes. Acorn’s DVD offers the three seasons of the series (2003-06), all 18 episodes, with 16:9 transfers, stereo soundtracks and nearly 5 hours of extras: three commentaries, cast interviews, bloopers, deleted/extended scenes and a 24-page booklet…Also new from Acorn is MIDSOMER MURDERS: Series 21 (371 mins.), which has recently been released on Blu-Ray. Neil Dudgeon and Nick Hendrix return for four mysteries on two discs: The Point of Balance, The Miniature Murders, The Sting of Death and With Baited Breath. 1080P transfers and 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks are included alongside some 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes.
LOOKING FOR ALASKA DVD (7 hours, 2019; Paramount): John Green’s highly acclaimed first novel becomes a well-reviewed TV adaptation about a teen who falls in love with a girl at his new boarding school, only to lose her in a tragedy. The ensuing fallout is the driving dramatic force behind Josh Schwartz’s TV adaptation, whose eight episodes are presented here by Paramount in a three-disc set sporting deleted scenes and two featurettes, a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
Also New & Noteworthy
ALASTAIR SIM’S SCHOOL FOR LAUGHTER Blu-Ray (Film Movement): Another sterling Film Movement Blu-Ray anthology, “School For Laughter” is a four-disc set offering a quartet of Ealing Studios classics starring the great Alastair Sim: the original “The Belles of St. Trinian’s” (1954); “School For Scoundrels” (1960), co-starring Ian Carmichael and Terry-Thomas; “Laughter in Paradise” (1951), which pairs Sim with Hugh Griffith; and Charles Crichton’s “Hue and Cry” (1947), one of the earliest Ealing productions. Film Movement’s digital restorations match up with Studio Canal’s international HD releases, preserving the original aspect ratios (1.37 for all except “School For Scoundrels,” preserved here in 1.66) with a 24-page booklet and over two hours of extras. Highly recommended…Also new from Film Movement this month on Blu-Ray is Alain Corneau’s SERIE NOIRE (116 mins., 1979), a black comic thriller starring Patrick Dewaere as a door-to-door salesman whose life is turned upside down after he agrees to help a sexually aggressive teenager (Marie Trintignant) kill her aunt and take off with her inheritance. Corneau adapted Jim Thompson’s “A Hell of a Woman” for this widely acclaimed French film, debuting on Blu-Ray (1.66, French with English subs) in a new 2K restoration with a featurette and interview with Corneau and Trintignant…Finally, coming May 19th is ZOMBI CHILD (103 mins., 2019), an unusual French effort that mixes a variety of genres — modern teen drama, gothic horror — into an ambitious if not entirely successful feature from director Bertrand Bonello. Bonello also provides a commentary in Film Movement’s DVD (1.85, 5.1/2.0 French with English subtitles), out next month also featuring Phillip Montgomery’s “Child of the Sky” short film.
LIKE A BOSS Blu-Ray Combo Pack (83 mins., 2020, R; Paramount): Extremely slight (check the running time) vehicle for Tiffany Haddish, who stars with Rose Byrne as friends who band together after a beauty mogul (Salma Hayek) attempts to steal their company out from under them. There’s little development of the scenario in Miguel Arteta’s film, which Haddish herself produced and sputters its way to a finish line that can’t even muster the 80 minute mark sans credits. Paramount fast-tracked “Like a Boss” to home video, and the Blu-Ray includes an AVC encoded transfer, 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio, deleted scenes, additional featurettes, the DVD and a Digital HD copy.
THE RHYTHM SECTION Blu-Ray Combo Pack (109 mins., 2020, R; Paramount): It’s an unusual occurrence to see Eon Productions listed on anything other than a James Bond film – but Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson were the producers of this misfired adaptation of Mark Burnell’s popular books, starring Blake Lively as a woman seeking vengeance for her slain family. Entering into the world of espionage and tutored by a former MI6 agent (Jude Law), Lively’s Stephanie Patrick emerges as a “Nikita”-like operative in a slow-moving, rather lifeless picture that infamously ranked as one of the lowest-grossing wide releases in cinema history. Paramount’s Blu-Ray is out April 28th with a 1080p transfer, 7.1 DTS MA audio, deleted scenes, featurettes, 40 minutes of bonus content, a DVD and Digital HD copy.
RIDE LIKE A GIRL DVD (98 mins., 2019, PG; Paramount): Australian drama helmed by actress Rachel Griffiths stars Teresa Palmer as Michelle Payne, who became the first female rider to win the coveted Melbourne Cup horse race. Sam Neill plays her father in this family-friendly picture co-starring Sullivan Stapleton and Magda Szubanski. Paramount debuts the film on DVD April 28th with a 16:9 transfer, 5.1 audio and a Digital copy.
THE GENTLEMEN 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (114 mins., 2020, R; Universal): Writer-director Guy Ritchie returns to the London gangster genre for this passable, if mundane, outing starring Matthew McConaughey as an American pot entrepreneur who finds attempting to cash out of his business to be a difficult — and potentially deadly — task. Ritchie assembles a tremendously capable supporting cast here, including Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan, and Michelle Dockery, but the film’s story takes a while to get going and never really rises to the cast’s potential as a whole. Mostly for Ritchie devotees only. Universal’s 4K UHD (2.39, HDR10, Dolby Atmos) is now available with Behind the Scenes featurettes, the Blu-Ray and an Itunes digital code also included in the package.
THE DARK RED DVD (98 mins., 2020, Not Rated; Dark Sky/MPI): Dan Bush’s horror outing follows a young woman who believes her newborn child has been abducted by a secret society dubbed the Dark Red, which covets a blood type that enables people to carry various telekinetic abilities. MPI’s DVD (2.39, 2.0) is available April 28th.
Mill Creek New Releases: Several Universal and Sony catalog titles are brand-new to Blu-Ray this month from Mill Creek.
ALL THE PRETTY HORSES (117 mins., 2000, PG-13) was a troubled but worthwhile endeavor from director Billy Bob Thornton that fell through the cracks upon its original release. This lyrical coming-of-age western saga, a Ted Tally-scripted adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 1992 bestseller, was reportedly cut down and left for dead by Miramax, then dumped into limited theatrical release with little fanfare in Christmas ’00.
Yet the 117-minute cut Columbia released is surprisingly cohesive (you can fill in the gaps where the excess of cut scenes could have been), and there is much to savor in the released version: the cinematography and music are outstanding, the lead performances assured, and the story itself a poignant and ultimately uplifting tale of a young man’s maturation at a time when the old west was fading away and the “modern” world beginning to set in.
Matt Damon seems a little old for his role as the hero here, but he still gives one of his best performances as a man looking to find his place in the world. With pal Henry Thomas by his side, the two head south to Mexico, where they end up being followed by a young teen (Lucas Black) with a questionable past, working on a ranch belonging to a wealthy Mexican land owner (Ruben Blades), and falling in and out of trouble — most of which comes in the form of Blades’ daughter, played by Penelope Cruz, whom Damon falls in love with.
The movie has some uncertain pacing and does feel at times as if scenes were left on the cutting room floor, from incidental characters like Damon’s father (played by prominently-billed Robert Patrick) to the entire relationship between Damon and Cruz. It’s likely that their lack of on-screen chemistry could have been the main reason for their scenes together being condensed, but they’re still functional enough for the drama to work.
Tally’s script includes a handful of exceptional sequences and dialogue interchanges, and Thornton’s direction is sturdy, adeptly capturing the time and place of the setting, which is marvelously rendered in Barry Markowitz’s cinematography (with second unit work turned in by Fred Murphy of “Hoosiers” fame).
The music by Marty Stuart, meanwhile, is another surprise. His score, which primarily utilizes guitar and strings, manages to perfectly evoke both intimacy and the epic scope of the material. With several memorable melodies and a strong finale, this soundtrack has always been a personal favorite. Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray is – like Sony’s old DVD of nearly two decades (!) ago – barebones but does offer a decent 1080p (2.35) transfer with 5.1 DTS MA sound.
A pair of Universal titles starring then-popular TV actors also bow on Blu-Ray this month.
One of Henry Winkler’s busted big-screen vehicles while starring as the iconic “Fonz” on “Happy Days,” HEROES (113 mins., 1977, PG) is a dreary, dull road trip drama following a troubled Vietnam vet (Winkler) who latches onto a soon-to-be-married woman (Sally Field) en route to starting a worm farm out west. While James Carabatsos’ script was apparently borne out of autobiographical events, Jeremy Paul Kagan’s film smacks of small-screen cliches, the movie rambling often aimlessly before reaching melodramatic heights and Winkler overreaching accordingly. There’s an early role for Harrison Ford and Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 2.0 DTS MA mono) does restore Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son” for the end credits (something fans will be happy to see), but the film itself is pretty much a slog…there’s a tiny bit more action in EDDIE MACON’S RUN (93 mins., 1983, PG), a Universal vehicle for “Dukes of Hazzard” star John Schneider, who stars as man unjustly imprisoned in Texas and just wants to reunite with his wife (Lee Purcell) and son and high tail to Mexico. Kirk Douglas – who had just departed “First Blood” – is the hardened detective on his trail in a formulaic outing that’s at least appealingly performed and executed with a brisk pace by writer-director Jeff Kanew. Like “Heroes,” Mill Creek’s AVC encoded 1080p (1.85) transfer is serviceable and the DTS MA mono sound is clear.
Also new from Mill Creek is ULTRAMAN X: THE MOVIE (72 mins.), a contemporary Ultraman adventure that carts out a series of past heroes: Ultraman X, Ultraman Tiga and the original ’66 Ultraman, all in order to take on a creature called the Zaigorg that wants a gem recently found by a reality TV host. Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray includes a 1080p (1.78) transfer and 2.0 Japanese DTS MA audio plus an English dub.
NEXT TIME: Whatever busts through the Quarantine Zone! If not, more old releases! Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address.