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Never did I think a movie could make Christian Bale’s Batman look like Adam West’s, but director Matt Reeves’ strenuously boring THE BATMAN (PG-13) manages to be the singular most humorless super-hero movie in cinema history. It’s also one of the dullest — a three-hour grind wrapped up in mystery that’s never involving, a group of characters that are never appealing, and an emotional flat-line that stays parked in neutral for its entire duration.
Already proclaimed as a masterwork by the same people who think every new comic-book movie is like the latest work from Lean, Welles or Truffaut in their prime, THE BATMAN looks the part — and pretty much nothing else. Robert Pattinson mopes about — and nothing else — as a glum Bruce Wayne trying to prevent The Riddler (Paul Dano) from slaying more of Gotham’s “elitist” political class, while solving a mystery involving his slain parents, Gotham’s main mafia boss (John Turturro), and Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), who’s also out to find her missing roommate. This Riddler is a would-be scary serial killer who uses social media to rev up his followers, but Dano’s performance isn’t exactly Heath Ledger-worthy — in fact, no matter how much he raises his voice, he’s about as scary as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Also failing to register is Colin Farrell’s Penguin, who’s just not very interesting either, even though he engages with Batman in one of the movie’s central action scenes: a car chase on the Gotham streets that’s so poorly choreographed it’s nearly impossible to follow what’s going on.
Fans will proclaim how marvelous it is to see Batman actually sleuthing for a change — but would it have killed Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig to make a movie where the mystery is actually involving? There’s lots of hushed talk about vengeance and the “sins of Gotham’s fathers,” but outside of Reeves trying to channel Christopher Nolan’s far, far superior Dark Knight movies with some “shocking” plot twists — one of which renders Andy Serkis’ turn as Alfred almost totally useless — his story just sits there and dies. The plodding pace and lack of humor become so grating and repetitious it’s like binging too many episodes of a Netflix series that you can’t turn off.
Reeves does deserve credit for the movie’s impressive look, which mixes a real world NYC with an occasional dash of “Blade Runner” — especially in some of Batman’s detective gear — and makes Gotham look like a real living, breathing entity all its own. It’s a notable visual achievement, but not one that’s backed by a story or characters worth following. In fact, this kind of “density” bogged down Reeves’ previous work on the “Planet of the Apes” sequels which were overrated by some — but not nearly as much as “The Batman.” Already you can sense the fanboy fervor coming for anyone who doesn’t think this is the greatest cinematic achievement of the last decade — but visuals aside, this is an empty, depressing, bleak viewing experience devoid of humor. As in, completely devoid of humor.
It used to be that movies provided an escape for audiences — back in the darkest days of the post-Watergate, Jimmy Carter-led ’70s, “Star Wars” became a pop-culture phenomenon with its upbeat derring-do and rousing sense of adventure. Despite the world around us at the moment, “The Batman” offers no such respite from two years of COVID, rising crime and the war in the Ukraine — in fact, it’s a virtual reenforcement of the world we’re living in. How many viewers are truly going to be enraptured by it — walking out I could hear moans of disappointment from others who also found it “boring” — may prove to be revealing, though the lack of competition at the global box-office means the film is going to make plenty of money anyway. At least someone’s going to be happy.
Aisle Seat Video Vault Reviews
Sometimes you come across a movie with a big star, an accomplished director, and an esteemed set of producers and it, for whatever reason, just doesn’t connect. Few misses, though, stray off the mark as much as the ironically-titled TARGET (113 mins., 1985, R), the reunion of Gene Hackman with his “Night Moves”/”Bonnie & Clyde” director Arthur Penn that’s one of the worst films of the mid 1980s considering the talent involved in its construction. Essaying a former CIA op who brings his perplexed, college-aged son (Matt Dillon) along to Paris after his wife is kidnapped, Hackman possesses all the intensity of a hotel guest looking to hit happy hour in a performance nearly as disconnected as the rest of this unfathomable mess which might’ve made more sense as a comedy – something that you wonder might’ve been the initial intent of “Get Smart” producer Leonard Stern, who’s credited with the picture’s story.
The stone-faced nature of the end product – a Zanuck/Brown production, no less – is something movie buffs still might find fascinating for its incredible ineptness. It’s something that extends from its story through technical issues like cinematography that occasionally resembles someone holding a flood light off-camera and interior sets that look cheaper than a typical network TV episode from its era. Especially incomprehensible, though, are its narrative deficiencies: Stern’s original story, which was reportedly rewritten by Spanish filmmaker Jose Luiz Navarro (under the pseudonym Howard Berk) and Don Peterson, starts off on the wrong note with mild-mannered Texas lumberman Hackman at odds with college drop-out son Dillon, hanging out together after Mom (Gayle Hunnicutt) leaves for a Parisian vacation. Dillon was a hot commodity at the time so one can understand his casting, yet he and Hackman have no chemistry together, to degree that it’s impossible to believe they come from the same family tree.
No sooner does Hunnicutt land in France than Hackman gets a call that she’s been kidnapped. His complete nonchalance at this fact leaves the understandably confused Dillon dumbfounded but Hackman’s character, for reasons the script never makes clear, offers no resistance to him tagging along to Europe. You’d think if he’d want to keep his ex-CIA identity a secret – since they’re living in what sounds like witness protection – Hackman’s character would never allow his son to go with him in the first place, but reality is on a sabbatical in the world of “Target.” Nor does Hackman really try and stop Dillon from wandering along the streets of Paris after Dad contacts his old agency spooks – which brings me to Hackman’s entire performance here. The actor engages in his usual, good-natured mugging, but there is literally no fire, no intensity in his performance for much of the movie’s duration – so much that you wonder if the movie being such a wreck wasn’t obvious to the actor from the get-go.
Father and son’s bickering is entirely sub-network TV level stuff, and even once the action starts, the film remains wholly unconvincing – though, again, oddly compelling for its unintentional comedy. Hackman and Dillon’s ultimate rescue of Hunnicutt, strapped to a chair wired to a bomb, is near Zucker Brothers-level for its absurdity – all it needed was Leslie Nielsen subbing for Hackman – and positively shocking for the involvement of a director who was once regarded in Hollywood as an A-lister behind some of the more acclaimed films of the ’60s and ’70s.
The deficiencies of “Target”’s performances and script, with its weak, unconvincing dialogue, is further aggravated by the production’s surprising technical shoddiness. Lighting – which casts a noticeable amount of shadows behind the cast members, even in interior shots –seems to have been a challenge for cinematographer Jean Tournier, and between him and Penn, the movie also does a spectacularly poor job capturing its assorted locales (Paris, Berlin and Hamburg, not to mention Dallas) from a visceral standpoint. Even Michael Small’s heavily synthesized score is a disaster, a far cry from the composer’s trademark suspense scores from the ’70s, failing to instill any sense of excitement in the picture and coming off like a bad imitation of other electronic scores from the era.
Reportedly coming in under budget – and it shows, frankly – “Target” would be the last film for CBS’ theatrical arm and one of several duds for Penn coming at the end of his career. It’s a movie that almost needs to be seen to be believed, though for Blu-Ray owners, curiously only European markets received a 1080p (1.78) package of the movie from CBS. The AVC encoded transfer and DTS MA 2.0 stereo sound are fine, but high-def also exposes the picture’s technical shortcomings more than previous DVD and VHS releases.
FAIRY TALE: A TRUE STORY (99 mins., 1997, PG): What a strange movie that doesn’t really work, but still contains a subdued, laid-back, elegiac tone that proves infectious. That said, I didn’t really know how to feel about “Fairy Tale” until its satisfying ending put the picture over the top.
The big problem with this 1997 Icon production is a screenplay that really tries to work in too many narrative elements for its slender 90+ minute run time: the true story of two British girls who claimed to photograph fairies outside their country home during WWI would, you would think, be enough to fuel the entire narrative, but writer Ernie Contreras also packs in the dead young brother of one girl, the missing father of the other, grieving parents, a meddlesome reporter, not to mention Harry Houdini (Harvey Keitel) and Arthur Conan Doyle (Peter O’Toole) for good measure! Veteran British director Charles Sturridge is unable to successfully corral all of these elements — in fact, dramatic crescendos seem to happen at all the wrong moments — but I can’t say the movie didn’t have a curious pull to it despite its missteps.
Really though it’s a mixed bag until the picture’s ending — which has the definite feel of “A Little Princes”’ conclusion — emotionally connects its disparate strands and offers a welcome, unbilled cameo from the superstar whose production company produced the film. “Fairy Tale” has never made it to Blu-Ray in the U.S. but is available in an older German release with passable 1080p (1.78) video and PCM stereo audio, along with some EPK interviews.
THE GETAWAY (115 mins., 1994, R): I’m not sure what possessed me to watch a film with Alec Baldwin running around guns-a-blazin’, but this slick 1994 remake of “The Getaway” proves to be a completely functional if somewhat seedy re-do of the Steve McQueen-Ali McGraw ’70s thriller.
Using Walter Hill’s script – minus original director Sam Peckinpah’s alterations and with a few additions from Amy (Holden) Jones – this “Getaway” finds thief Baldwin and on and then-off-screen wife Kim Basinger trying to pull off another heist after their previous assignment goes all wrong. Taking a job for crime boss James Woods – who slept with Basinger as part of his assistance freeing Baldwin from prison – Baldwin tackles another assignment that likewise misfires, with cohorts Michael Madsen and Philip (Seymour) Hoffman pulling the trigger a little early and killing a security guard during a botched racetrack robbery.
Roger Donaldson’s career is filled with perfectly competent, reliable films like “Species,” “Dante’s Peak,” “No Way Out” and “The Bounty,” and “The Getaway” – despite being a box-office bust upon its original Winter ’94 release – is actually pretty solid. The film moves at a good clip, the action scenes are well choreographed, and there’s enough of Hill’s original story structure and dialogue present to offset the fact that the writer abandoned directing the film himself after he and Baldwin reportedly clashed (as a side note, I had no idea, previous to them working here, that the duo was also set up to make “The Fugitive” before Warner Bros. replaced them with Andrew Davis and Harrison Ford, respectively).
What bogs the film down is Madsen’s character – there’s too much of him and his relationship with a mob doctor and his wife (Jennifer Tilly), which serves as a counterpoint to Alec and Kim’s adventures. Speaking of that, there are a few steamy sex scenes but not a lot of chemistry between the duo on-screen, and Woods’ energy is sorely missed after he’s disposed of after the first act. Still – and compared to today’s action filmmaking especially – there’s enough grit and grime in this “Getaway” to make it a worthwhile watch.
Despite being issued on HD-DVD by Universal, “The Getaway” never made it to the Blu-Ray format in North America, meaning you’ll have to go overseas for a copy. Though there are a handful of format releases available internationally, the best is Concorde’s strong 1080p AVC (2.35, 5.1 DTS MA) encode of the R-rated theatrical cut, which is minus some nudity, but has a much stronger appearance than the older HD-DVD master which surfaced in a few other territories. Given Baldwin’s well-publicized issues at the moment, it’s doubtful Warner (which currently distributes the catalog of the film’s production company, Largo/Intermedia) would want to dust this off as an Archive release, so importing is likely a safe bet at the moment.
New Catalog Remasters
BILITIS Blu-Ray (95 mins., 1977, R; Fun City Editions): Fun City Editions switches things up a bit with a gorgeously presented Blu-Ray of “Bilitis,” a softly-shot romantic drama starring Patti D’Arbanville as a school girl who spends her summer with an older family friend (Mona Kristensen) whom she shares a lesbian relationship with, all the while finding out about the opposite sex with a local boy her own age.
Photographer David Hamilton – whose controversial off-camera history warrants an article of its own – shot “Bilitis” apparently like some of his still photos, resulting in a dreamy, hazy piece of fluffy, sex-filled filmmaking. If you like D’Arbanville “Bilitis” boasts good-looking love scenes, all set to the strains of an appropriately lush Francis Lai score. Fun City’s informative commentary from Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson tries to dissect where this film falls in terms of genre – it’s certainly more upscale than the Cinemax “After Dark” video dreck we’d see a decade later, but not quite on the level of a studio picture. Likely it’s part of the quasi-soft core genre that “Emmanuelle” and its sequels were a part of, and if that’s something that appeals to you, “Bilitis” looks great with its 4K restoration (1.85) from the original camera negative.
Fun City’s disc also houses French audio and an English dub track; a Samm Deighan essay; and a video interview with camera operator Noel Very. My favorite part of this release is actually the packaging, with one side of the cover art replicating an old RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video cover, the other side lovingly recreating the grid-like pattern of a classic Warner Home Video clamshell VHS box.
THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER 4K UHD/Blu-Ray (99 mins., 1982, R; Shout! Factory): Released a few weeks ahead of “Conan the Barbarian” — and improbably coming within a fraction of its U.S. domestic gross — this slapdash cash-in on the early ’80s fantasy genre catapulted by the success of Dungeons & Dragons and movies like “Excalibur” has been fully remastered in a brand-new Shout! Factory 4K UHD.
This independently-made picture from Group 1 and producer Brandon Chase (“Alligator”) stars Lee Horsley (yep, “Matt Houston” himself) as a mercenary who goes up against evil King Richard Lynch in order to save lovely belle Kathleen Beller (“Dynasty”) and restore the kingdom’s true heir (Simon MacCorkindale) to the throne. Plenty of slimy effects and cheap action scenes abound in this “Brandon Chase film,” one of the few examples I can think of where the producer (not the director) takes full credit for the production! (Of course, given director Albert Pyun’s checkered career output, perhaps the movie’s box-office gold wasn’t entirely the director’s doing).
Despite getting an “A” for effort under the circumstances of a highly troubled shoot, the movie provides only sporadic moments of entertainment with a TV-centric cast that also includes familiar faces like George Maharis, Joe Regalbuto (“Murphy Brown”) and Richard Moll (“Night Court”) trying to have fun — but the entire production is let down by the movie’s meager budget. Endless, claustrophobic scenes of poorly-staged, dimly-lit action abound here along with a running time that feels bloated (even at 99 minutes), while Pyun’s helming, as Kathleen Beller notes in a new interview, shows evidence of how out of his depth he was.
A nostalgic trip back to the ’82 multiplex for some, “Sword and the Sorcerer” was last seen in an Anchor Bay DVD that’s somehow now over 20 years old. Shout’s new 4K scan from the original negative (1.85) with Dolby Vision HDR is satisfying and as helpful as it can be to source material that’s not especially well-shot or visually appealing. More potent is David Whitaker’s hard-working orchestral score, which I appreciated much more on this view — the British composer’s efforts give the threadbare production a much-needed touch of class and energy, though its fidelity here is hampered by a compromised stereo track (2.0 DTS MA) that was the only surviving audio element Shout could locate. Yes, the disc does include the 5.1 Anchor Bay DVD remix, but it’s less effective and piles noise reduction onto the excessively bright but still more satisfying original Dolby Stereo sound stage.
Extra features really shine here: Beller’s lengthy interview kicks off with the actress noting the first day of shooting was marked by cast and crew running to a nearby pay phone, asking their agents if they could somehow get off the movie! Her honesty about the film’s shortcomings and enduring appeal amongst some fans make for an enjoyable conversation while other insightful interviewees include editor Marshall Harvey, who notes working with Whitaker; Albert Pyun himself; co-writer John Stuckmeyer; make-up artist Allan Apone; FX artists the Chiodo Brothers; and a remembrance of stuntman Jack Tyree. Pyun also contributes a new commentary while a Trailers From Hell segment, trailers, TV spot, and a still gallery grace a supplemental section exclusively found in the set’s contained Blu-Ray platter, offering a likewise well-executed 1080p (1.85) presentation of the 4K restoration.
NIGHTMARE Blu-Ray (83 mins., 1964; Shout! Factory): Another superb Hammer restoration from Scream Factory, “Nightmare” ditches vampires, zombies and ancient curses for a “Psycho”-inspired suspense thriller that’s one of the better imitation vehicles of its type from the early/mid ’60s.
Jimmy Sangster’s original script stars Jennie Linden as Janet, a young woman plagued by nightmare visions from her father’s murder at the hands of her mother. Hoping she’s not going to follow suit in going crazy, she enlists the help of her school teacher (Brenda Bruce) when she heads to her caretaker’s (David Knight) home – but he’s brought along his own surrogate, a companion (Moira Redmond) for Janet, as the poor girl’s nightmares continue.
Freddie Francis helmed “Nightmare,” which is a short but effective variation on the likes of “Psycho” and “Diabolique,” filtered through a Hammer B-level. The B&W scope cinematography is a major asset and the picture manages to provide a good amount of entertainment for genre fans and Hammer devotees in particular.
Shout’s Blu-Ray (2.35, DTS MA mono) is out on March 15th and provides a crisp, new 2K remastered transfer that’s a notable enhancement on Universal’s older format release from their 2016 “Hammer Horror” box-set, marked by comparatively refined detail. Extras include a new commentary from historian Bruce Hallenbeck; fresh interviews with actor Jonathan Rigby, actress Julie Samuel, and a Making Of featurette; archival extras including an interview with Jennie Linden, a retrospective featurette; the trailer; and more.
Coming March 22nd is a special Steelbook edition of Satoshi Kon’s well-reviewed follow-up to “Perfect Blue,” MILLENNIUM ACTRESS (87 mins., 2001, PG), a fascinating look at the life and times of actress Chiyoko Fujiwara, as seen through the lens of documentary filmmakers literally thrust into her past – experiencing her lifetime memories and experiences in an emotionally rich and varied journey through her life. Shout’s Blu-Ray Steelbook includes an exclusive 16-page booklet and interview with Kon; the disc itself boasts interviews with the producers and voice talent, a newly restored 1080p (1.85) transfer and 5.1 English and Japanese sound.
Also new from Shout! is A WRITER’S ODYSSEY (130 mins., 2021), a big Hong Kong fantasy that opens in the present where father Guan Ning – whose daughter has gone missing – is hired by a mysterious corporation to murder the writer of a popular fantasy novel. This is no ordinary “hit,” though, as the writer’s environment is coming to life and impacting the real world around us. Well-reviewed by regional critics, this Chinese import offers an abundance of action and effects as well as a mostly engaging story that’s accessible for western audiences. Shout’s Blu-Ray (2.39/1.85) contains both Mandarin 5.1/2.0 audio (subtitled) plus an English dub track (5.1/2.0) and is available March 8th…Coming March 15th is SIGNAL: THE MOVIE COLD CASE INVESTIGATION UNIT (122 mins., 2021), an adaptation of an earlier Japanese TV series about a police officer (Kentaro Sakaguchi) who is improbably able to contact, and work with, a detective from the past (Kazuki Kitamura) to solve present-day crimes – this one involving government officials dying in suspicious highway crashes and corruption inside their own police department. Shout’s Blu-Ray (1.85) offers Japanese audio, English subtitles, plus an English dub (all in 5.1), along with a DVD (16:9. 5.1 Japanese/English).
MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL Blu-Ray (71 mins., 1957; The Film Detective): Grade-C ’50s monster excitement generates a high degree of entertainment just the same due to “Monster From Green Hell”’s cheapjack production values and overall unintentional comedy. Future “Dallas” star Jim Davis plays a scientist who inadvertently unleashes a horde of giant mutated wasps on the world – yes, it’s another “horrors of radiation” genre exercise from the decade, but this slender affair is no “Them!” Still, baby boomers and other genre fans of the time have carried an appreciation for this silly film, and The Film Detective’s new 4K scan – in both welcome, selectable 1.33 and 1.85 B&W aspect ratios – includes its original, color-tinted climax plus welcome extras. These include a commentary with Stephen R. Bissette dissecting the picture; a career profile of Davis with C. Courtney Joyner; and an essay from Don Stradley.
New & Noteworthy
THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS 4K UHD/Blu-Ray (148 mins., 2021, R; Warner): Self-indulgent, overlong, exhausting though occasionally “interesting” follow-up to “The Matrix” series from half of its original filmmaking tandem could go either way with fans – you’re likely to either jump onboard with the movie’s “meta” components or will be turned off by its self-awareness and far less elaborately conceived action sequences.
The good news? Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss fit comfortably back into their roles of Neo and Trinity – albeit in new “real world” guises – while Lana Wachowski, who directed and co-wrote, goes about revisiting the cinematic world that catapulted her and her sibling into the ’90s A-list with a different type of perspective. Gone are the slickly choreographed action scenes – everything here looks lower tech and less impressive from a visual scale – and in their place is a meditation on not just life and love and the Matrix but “The Matrix” itself. It’s a strange gambit that, at least, separates it from the purely mindless rehashes of endless series we’ve seen in recent years – though there’s a lot of flab to the pacing and dramatic stakes which never feel high. In the end, does “Resurrections” actually feel like it was necessary? Probably not, but if you’re a hardcore “Matrix” fan and accept the film for what it’s attempting to say, it’s likely worth a viewing.
Warner’s 4K UHD is a stunner in terms of its clarity and Dolby Vision HDR while the immersive Dolby Atmos soundtrack shimmers with effects and occasional doses of Don Davis’ original themes. A Blu-Ray and Digital HD code are included in the package along with some basic Making Of material that’s not particularly compelling.
BELFAST Blu-Ray (98 mins., 2021, PG-13; Universal): Kenneth Branagh goes introspective for this semi-autobiographical tale of his growing up and family life in Belfast circa the turbulent late ’60s. Caitriona Balfe (“Outlander”) and Jamie Dornan play the Protestant parents of Branagh’s on-screen alter-ego (Jude Hill), whose neighborhood begins to experience friction amongst Catholics after a riot breaks out. “Belfast” is a watchable and intensely personal film but it feels a tad overrated with the picture’s drama feeling weakened somewhat by its abbreviated run time – the performances though are likeable across the board, with Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds essaying Branagh’s grandparents. Van Morrison is credited with the music – and not Branagh’s usual collaborator Patrick Doyle – for “Belfast,” which debuts on Blu-Ray (1.85 B&W) this month from Universal sporting commentary, deleted scenes, an alternate ending featuring Branagh, Making of, and a Digital HD code.
Also new from Universal is Ric Roman Waugh’s NATIONAL CHAMPIONS (116 mins., 2021, R), a definite change of pace from the director of “Greenland.” This drama about a pair of college football QB’s (Stephan James, Alexander Ludwig) who decide to lead a strike amongst their fellow student-athletes in order to get paid isn’t at all about on-field action but rather the money and power leveraged by schools who reap profits off the current (and soon to be changing) college sports model. Slow-going though well-cast and played, with J.K. Simmons as a frustrated coach and an appearance from executive producer — and current Seahawks QB — Russell Wilson on-hand. Universal’s Blu-Ray (2.40, 5.1 DTS MA) is now available sporting a Digital HD copy and Making Of featurettes.
COMING 2 AMERICA Blu-Ray (108 mins., 2020, PG-13; Paramount): Woeful sequel to the 1988 Eddie Murphy hit was one of the many would-be theatrical releases of 2020-21 that was sold straight to streaming instead. Not that audiences missed much: this over-written follow-up involving King Akeem (Murphy) hitting New York City again to find the son he never knew is all plot, no development – and also no location shooting outside of an obvious Atlanta-area building (doubling for the Big Apple!). Director Craig Brewer had mined a couple of hits with “Hustle & Flow” and the underrated remake of “Footloose” but this is a weak revival across the board. By comparison, John Landis’ original had a lot of heart and an actual story — this is just a group of fragmented scenes in which a plot finally forms, but where no real natural narrative line ever fully develops. It’s all just random scenes and cameos strung together, mostly shot in someone’s home (apparently some rapper’s mansion), with Murphy and old co-star Arsenio Hall trying to act like they’re having fun. Paramount’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) is available this week featuring a commentary from Brewer and a featurette (since this was sold to Amazon, there’s no digital copy – you’ll have to find it on Prime Video…or, better yet, not).
TV on DVD
YELLOWSTONE: Season 4 Blu-Ray (533 mins., 2021; Paramount): Paramount Network’s smash hit series has managed to become one of the most popular franchises on television – cable or network – generating huge swaths of viewers spanning multiple demographics. It’s a gritty, R-rated family drama from creator-producer Taylor Sheridan, who unfortunately hits a bumpy road in this fourth season of “Yellowstone” – whether it’s because of COVID shooting schedules or a drop in creative energy, there’s no question this is the weakest season of the Dutton family’s adventures in and around their gorgeous Montana ranch.
Picking up from the end of its previous season’s bloodbath, John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and the rest of his clan stage an improbably quick recovery just as adopted son Jamie eyes a gubernatorial run at the behest of his birth father (Will Patton), son Casey heads out on a journey of self-discovery, and more outsiders land, hoping to exploit their valley for political and financial gain. All of this is fine, but the introduction of another teen character – a surrogate child for tempestuous daughter Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly) – feels like a warmed-over rehash of previous season story lines that involved Casey’s young son, while worked-in elements from Sheridan spin-offs “1883” and a future “6666” spin-off feel like old-time “backdoor pilot” advertisements.
Paramount’s Blu-Ray (1.78, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD) offers great looking transfers and soundtracks plus over four hours of special features which should appeal to “Yellowstone”’s fan base, even if they may be let down by the fourth season itself.
THE BATMAN: The Complete Series Blu-Ray (1385 mins., 2004-08; Warner): Even if the plots tend to be a little more juvenile than, say, the Bruce Timm-produced “Batman: Animated Series” of the ‘90s, “The Batman” is a solid follow-up series that improved over time and presented ample comic book action for young viewers and fans alike. Airing on the CW and Cartoon Network from 2004-08, “The Batman” features both Batman and Robin – plus Batgirl – as they take on Gotham adversaries The Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler and Mr. Freeze in some 65 episodes that have been beautifully remastered here (1080p, 2.0 DTS MA) with a Digital HD copy and extensive extras. These include “The Dark Dynasty Continues” and a number of archival featurettes included in Warner’s four-disc Blu-Ray.
SUPERGIRL: The Sixth and Final Season Blu-Ray (846 mins., 2021; Warner): The final 20 episodes of the CW “Supergirl” starts with Kara banished to the Phantom Zone, where she has to deal with Nyxly, who’s on a quest to set herself up for world domination. This is in addition to Lex Luthor’s Obsidian having successfully “rewired” half of the planet’s population, turning them into pre-fab Luthor supporters. After Nyxly and Luthor team up, it’s up to Supergirl and the Superfriends to save the Earth in the last cycle of episodes from a series that was reliably entertaining when it wasn’t being overly preachy. Warner’s Blu-Ray (1.78, 5.1 DTS MA) is out on March 8th sporting deleted scenes, a featurette, and Digital HD copy.
ADVENTURE TIME: DISTANT LANDS Special (186 mins., 2020-21; Warner): Four “Distant Lands” specials from the long-running Cartoon Network franchise receive a Blu-Ray release this month from Warner. “Obsidian,” “Together Again,” “Wizard City” and “BMO” are the four adventures compiled here with 1080p (1.78) transfers, 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks and a collectible slipcover all on tap.
AMERICAN GODS: Complete Series DVD (Aprx. 23 hours, 2017-21; Lionsgate): Starz adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book offers raunchy sex and violence plus an eclectic cast throughout its three seasons — a Season 1 that’s most elaborate but also highly uneven, followed by a second season boasting a number of subplots that involve a whole lot of social-justice sermonizing that also impacted its first season. Meanwhile, the just completed Season 3 picks up its storyline with the war continuing to build between the Old Gods (mythology) and New Gods (technology). Declining ratings canceled the series at this point, leading to Lionsgate’s 9-disc compilation of the complete series (1.78, 5.1 Dolby Digital) on DVD with all the commentaries, interviews and other extras from its previous DVD releases.
SILENT NIGHT Blu-Ray (90 mins., 2021, Not Rated; RLJE Films): It’s an unconventional Christmas party when unhappy couple Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode stage a yuletide gathering at their British country home – just in time for an environmental apocalypse that’s about to kill all life on the planet. Holding onto their suicide pills until the last minute, the disparate characters try to set things straight before the end arrives in Camille Griffin’s acidic black “comedy” that’s not very entertaining – especially if you’re looking for an escape from the actual problems we’ve been engulfed in for the last couple of years. Deleted/extended scenes and alternate endings are present in RLJE’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA), which streets on March 8th.
THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR Blu-Ray (89 mins., 2021, Not Rated; RLJE Films): Superior suspense-thriller about a pair of teen boys (Lonnie Chavis, Ezra Dewey) who are abducted on the way home from school and are terrorized by a mysterious figure named The Creep. Disturbing but extremely well-executed on the part of writer-directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell, “The Boy Behind the Door” received strong reviews on the indie circuit and debuts on Blu-Ray March 15th (2.38, 5.1 DTS MA) sporting a music video and bloopers.
THE PILOT Blu-Ray (106 mins., 2021, Not Rated; Well Go USA): Well-executed Russian film retells the story of Soviet fighter pilot Aleksey Maresyev, here portrayed as “Nikolai Komlev” – a stalwart soldier who crashes deep in German territory, and has to avoid not only Nazis but brutal winter conditions, wolves and hunger in order to survive. This is a compelling drama that repurposes a number of inspiring true stories for a slick picture by Renet Davletyarov. Well Go’s Blu-Ray (1080p) includes 5.1 DTS MA Russian audio with subtitles as well as an English language dub…Coming March 15th from Well Go USA is PROJECT GEMINI (99 mins., 2022), another Russian import about an outerspace crew that’s tasked with finding a new place to live after the Earth is deemed uninhabitable. They venture into a deep, dark planet with an alien life form that’s been waiting for them in Serik Beyseu’s film, on Blu-Ray with a 1080p transfer and 5.1 DTS MA English-only audio.
THE WHALER BOY DVD (94 mins., 2021; Film Movement): Lyrically shot story of a teenage boy who lives in the Bering Strait and becomes infatuated with an American webcam model – to the point where he’s willing to undertake a dangerous trip across the sea to find her. This Russian/Polish co-production (1.33, 5.1/2.0) debuts this month on DVD from Film Movement featuring Russian audio and English subtitles, plus Chen Yun’s smilarly-themed Chinese short “Before the Typhoon Comes” as a bonus feature.
HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN DVD (87 mins., 2021; Lionsgate): Feature-length Lifetime reboot of the popular Michael Landon ’80s NBC series stars Jill Scott as an angel sent down to earth in order to here help a junior high student struggling since the death of his mother. Barry Watson co-stars in what was reported to be the first of several movies, though to date, a second installment has yet to be announced. Lionsgate’s DVD (1.78, 5.1) is now available.
NEXT TIME: Kino Lorber’s March releases! 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!