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While long regarded as one of those extravagantly budgeted musicals that doomed the genre in the late ‘60s, there’s always been something appealing about the widescreen grandeur of PAINT YOUR WAGON (171 mins., 1969, PG-13), the Joshua Logan-Paddy Chayefsky “re-thinking” of the classic Lerner-Lowe musical which added a whole new book to augment its masterful songs. Now on 4K UHD from Kino Lorber, this uneven yet watchable, infamous box-office failure receives a beautiful Dolby Vision HDR master from the original camera negative, restoring the visual impact of Logan’s admittedly-bloated production.

Plus, we get Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin both warbling songs as a pair of Gold Rush miners who engage in the film’s fairly adult wife-swapping premise, kinky enough that the movie received an “M” rating back in its day (even today the film nets a PG-13). Despite the uneasy vocalizing of the leads (plus Jean Seberg, who plays the object of both men’s affection), excellent supporting turns are served up by Broadway vets Harve Presnell and Ray Walston. In fact, Presnell croons “They Call the Wind Maria” in a superb arrangement courtesy of Nelson Riddle that stops the show before the first 30 minutes are over, easily outclassing the thin vocals of Lee & Clint. Yet, the rest of the 164-minute epic still gets by due to William A. Fraker’s sweeping Panavision cinematography and the strength of its source material, even if Marvin has to mumble his way through “Wandrin’ Star.”

A more likeable film than similar musical duds that disappointed at the box-office around the same time (I’m looking at you “Star!,” “Dr. Dolittle” and, to a lesser extent, “Goodbye Mr. Chips”), “Paint Your Wagon” looks glorious in this 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative. The Dolby Vision HDR accentuates the big-screen vistas of the film with high clarity, warm colors and ideally pitched brightness levels. The 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack (a 2.0 track is also included) has loads of stereophonic presence enhancing, if nothing else, this certainly unique entry in the realm of stage-to-screen musical adaptations. For supplements, Kino has included an enjoyable commentary from C. Courtney Joyner, historian Henry Parke and Lee Marvin biographer Dwayne Epstein which explores, in detail, the (highly) problematic shoot, which was also documented in brilliant detail in Harry and Michael Medved’s “Golden Turkey Awards.” Recommended!

Three other Paramount catalog favorites premiere on 4K UHD this month from Kino Lorber.

Director Ted Kotcheff’s varied filmography is highlighted by a number of box-office hits including NORTH DALLAS FORTY (119 mins., 1979, R), a behind-the-scenes look at the pain of playing pro football. Adapted from Peter Gent’s novel and co-written with Kotcheff and producer Frank Yablans, “North Dallas” stars Nick Nolte as a fed-up, and beaten-up, football player whose conscience becomes clearer as he sees how he and his fellow teammates are treated within his sport’s win-at-all costs mentality.

Mac Davis and Charles Durning co-star in this memorable, atmospheric late ‘70s sports movie which ranks with the best of them. Certainly Paramount’s Dolby Vision HDR (2.35) UHD master is a big enhancement here over its previous DVD, with John Scott’s capable supporting score acquitting itself well in a strong DTS MA 5.1 remix (carried over from the DVD).

An accompanying Blu-Ray will also be of interest as Kino Lorber’s package offers the premiere release of “North Dallas Forty” in that format, while extras have been ported over from Imprint’s 2022 Australian Blu. These include commentary by Daniel Kremer and Daniel Waters with Kotcheff interviewed for a few minutes; an interview segment with the director; Kremer’s visual essay on “the Ted Kotcheff vision”; and the trailer.

Director Jonathan Demme’s filmography is certainly eclectic, the Oscar-winning “Silence of the Lambs” helmer moving on, late in his career, to a pair of ‘60s thriller remakes. First the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn spy favorite “Charade” became the poorly-received “The Truth About Charlie,” a movie whose failure didn’t stop Demme from subsequently boarding an unnecessary remake of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (129 mins., 2004, R).

This updating of Richard Condon’s novel – which became a 1962 classic for director John Frankenheimer and star/producer Frank Sinatra – by Demme and writers Daniel Pyne and Dean Geogaris offers Liev Schreiber as the brainwashed POW/military hero being pushed into a Vice Presidential candidacy at the behest of his power player mother (Meryl Streep in the Angela Lansbury part). The role of Schreiber’s sympathetic fellow army vet is here embodied by Denzel Washington, who’s supported by a fantastic supporting cast featuring Demme ensemble players like Ted Levine and Charles Napier, not to mention the likes of Jon Voight, Jeffrey Wright, Kimberly Elise, Bruno Ganz and Vera Farmiga. Still, well made as it is, this “Candidate” just doesn’t have the punch of its predecessor with some of the changes in the script, particularly regarding the bad guys behind it all, diluting much of its predecessor's impact.

Kino Lorber’s 4K UHD yields another high-quality 4K scan of the 35mm OCN (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) with a number of archival extras (Demme/Pyne commentary; making of; deleted scenes, etc.) included in Kino’s now-available UHD/BD combo pack, the Blu-Ray also including a similarly remastered presentation.

CHANGING LANES 4K UHD/Blu-Ray (98 mins., 2002, R): Making something of a surprise release on 4K UHD, director Roger Michell’s “Changing Lanes” offers a one-note plot courtesy of writers Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin – sort of an update of the ‘90s “angry Michael Douglas” movie “Falling Down” to a certain degree – and dramatic situations that grow tiresome after the first half-hour.

This is despite solid work from leads Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson as two strangers who end up in an accident that brings their two disparate worlds together. Alas, the film constantly gives off the impression that it’s more important than it really is, and while it reaches a reasonably satisfying ending, “Changing Lanes” still rambles onto a seemingly tacked-on coda I could’ve lived without.

A solid Dolby Vision HDR master from the 35mm OCN is on-hand in Kino Lorber’s 4K UHD along with extras carried over from its DVD, including commentary from Michell, several deleted/extended scenes, a pair of featurettes and the trailer in HD. David Arnold’s decent score, meanwhile, sounds fine in the 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack.

New on Blu-Ray

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 the 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 that’s 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 U.S. Blu-Ray owners, it’s taken years for the film to land on Blu-Ray, with CBS only issuing the film in HD previously to European markets.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray offers the first release of “Target” in the U.S., sporting the same 1080p (1.78, 2.0 DTS MA stereo) image as that release. The transfer’s terrific, but high-def also exposes the picture’s technical shortcomings more than previous DVD and VHS releases. A new commentary is on-tap from Bryan Reesman and Max Evry with the trailer for good measure.

BRAIN DONORS Blu-Ray (79 mins., 1992, PG): Slender, lightly amusing attempt by The Zucker Brothers to recreate Golden Age comedy troupes (i.e. The Marx Brothers and Three Stooges) has developed a small cult following in the years following its brief Spring ‘92 theatrical release.

Certainly John Turturro especially channels Groucho as a would-be ambulance chasing lawyer with Bob Nelson as his Harpo-like associate and Mel Smith along for the ride as a cabbie who gets swept up in the duo’s latest endeavor: establishing a ballet school for rich widow Nancy Marchand.

A few gags hit, some misfire, but the manic energy of director Dennis Dugan fills in the gaps in “Brain Donors,” which was originally called “Lame Ducks” and clearly intended for an edgier PG-13 rating judging from some obviously dubbed-over lines and even a Playboy centerfold that was optically obscured after the fact. Part of those changes also included an added Claymation credits sequence and a tuneful theme from Mark Mothersbaugh – with credited “Additional Music” that replaced portions of composer Ira Newborn’s original score.

Despite its non-existent commercial performance (due in part to Paramount’s lack of promotion, reportedly stemming from the Zuckers having broken off from the studio by early ‘92), “Brain Donors” goes down light as a feather with Turturro being especially amusing. Kino Lorber’s premiere Blu-Ray of “Brain Donors” boasts a 4K scan of the 35mm OCN (1.78) with DTS MA stereo sound; extras include a commentary from Dennis Dugan moderated by Lee Gambin, the trailer, and another “historian” commentary by Staci Layne Wilson.

RENT-A-COP Blu-Ray (96 mins., 1987, R): To give credit where it’s due, aging stars Burt Reynolds and Liza Minnelli do manage to strike up some chemistry in the box-office dud “Rent-A-Cop,” one of Reynolds’ many misfires from the mid/late ‘80s. Jerry London (“Shogun”) helmed this story of disgraced detective/ex-cop Reynolds trying to track down a killer (James Remar) with Liza the call girl witness he eventually safeguards in a script by scribes Dennis Shryack and Michael Blodgett (“The Gauntlet”) that’s undone by pedestrian direction and pacing; even a serviceable Jerry Goldsmith score and capable supporting cast (Richard Masur, Bernie Casey, Robbie Benson and Dionne Warwick!) fails to lift London’s lifeless staging of the material. Debuting on Blu-Ray in a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative (1.85), “Rent-A-Cop” has been treated well by Kino Lorber with a commentary featuring Richard Masur and historian Lee Gambin detailing the movie’s unusual production, with exteriors shot in Chicago but interior work lensed in Italy!

THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST Blu-Ray (103 mins., 1967): Terrific late ‘60s black comedy finds psychiatrist James Coburn burdened with analyzing the President of the United States, leading to him being literally chased across the country by disparate factions desperate for his unique inside knowledge. Highly regarded but absent from home video for many years, “The President’s Analyst” isn’t just a time capsule of its era but a hugely entertaining film that’s fresh and funny when viewed today as well. Writer-director Theodore J. Flicker provides Coburn with one of his strongest roles in a movie that presaged the paranoia-driven political thrillers of the ‘70s while touching upon similar thematic terrain – yet within a more comedic prism all its own. A new 4K scan from the 35mm OCN (2.35, mono) makes this Kino Lorber Blu-Ray the definitive release of “The President’s Analyst” yet, with two strong commentaries (one from Julie Kirgo and Peter Hankoff, another from Tim Lucas) and the trailer included on the supplemental side.

THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY Blu-Ray (90 mins., 1977, G): Sunn Classics specialized in a number of “speculative fiction” documentaries back in the ‘70s, most of which have been out of circulation for years. That especially pertains to “The Lincoln Conspiracy,” which posits that John Wilkes Booth (Bradford Dillman) hightailed it to Canada after the assassination as part of a vast conspiracy. If the subject is of interest then “The Lincoln Conspiracy” – which plays like a feature-length forerunner to a very special “Unsolved Mysteries” episode – may be worth checking out, though I’m certainly not versed enough in the history to state whether or not its claims have any merit at all! A Paramount catalog master (1.85, mono) preserves the plain, nearly TV-like appearance of the film with a commentary from director James L. Conway moderated by Howard S. Berger on the supplemental side.

FILM NOIR: THE DARK SIDE OF CINEMA XVIII Blu-Ray: Paramount’s ‘50s catalog is mined for Kino Lorber’s latest anthology of titles in their film noir Blu-Ray retrospectives. Kicking off Volume 18 is Victor McLaglen, playing a gangster working with a resourceful newsboy to push out his slot machine competitors in CITY OF SHADOWS (70 mins., 1955), while CRASHOUT (90 mins., 1955) offers an ensemble cast of William Bendix, Arthur Kennedy and Gene Evans (among others) in a prison break study shot by Russell Metty. Finally, Frank Lovejoy’s ex-con heads undercover to nail the gangster (Forest Tucker) who helped turn his sister into a drug addict in FINGER MAN (82 mins., 1955). All three low-budget B&W features sport fresh HD masters from Paramount and a trio of new commentaries: Gary Gerani on “City of Shadows,” Alan K. Rode on “Crashout” and Jason A. Ney discussing “Finger Man.”

Studio Classics Re-Issues

THE LION IN WINTER Blu-Ray (135 mins., 1968, PG): One of the seminal films of the late ‘60s, Antony Harvey’s film of James Goldman’s “The Lion in Winter” won widespread critical acclaim and an Oscar for Katharine Hepburn’s performance as Queen Eleanor, wife of King Henry II (Peter O’Toole in one of his best performances), who watches as her sons contend for the English crown at Christmas time. And, of course, what sons they are: Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry, and John Castle essay the brothers while Timothy Dalton appears in an early role as King Philip of France.

With John Barry’s memorable, Oscar-winning score supporting the action, rarely have filmed adaptations of stage plays been so utterly alive as “The Lion In Winter.” Goldman’s script — another Oscar winner — crackles with crisp dialogue, the performances sing, and Harvey adeptly utilizes the wide Panavision frame in crafting a classic film.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray is a straight reprise of their 2017 Blu-Ray, sporting a 1080p (2.35) AVC encoded transfer culled from Studio Canal’s 4K restoration from 2016. This presentation is generally quite acceptable even if some of the elements don’t appear to be in pristine condition – between that and some noise-reduction having been applied by Studio Canal, it’s not a flawless transfer (nor is it up to the level of most 4K restorations we routinely see on Blu-Ray), but it’s the best Kino could work with. Certainly it’s far superior to MGM’s last DVD edition of the film, offering more detail and a wider pallet of colors.

Kino also reworked the audio from the Studio Canal Blu-Ray for this release. The mono soundtrack on the Studio Canal disc was marred by jarring level shifts, often from quiet dialogue to ear-splitting music or sound effects, making one constantly reach for the remote to adjust the volume. Kino produced a new 5.1 track for their release as well as included the original 2.0 mix, both of which seem to have used some equalization to reduce the disparity in sound elements that afflicted the Studio Canal release. It’s not a radical overhaul by any means – the 5.1 track is not a stereo remix, and basically centers the dialogue while keeping other activity confined to the front channels – but it’s a gentle improvement if nothing else over the Studio Canal disc.

Harvey’s commentary from the old MGM release has been ported over while a 10-minute interview with sound recordist Simon Kaye is on-tap along with the trailer. Highly recommended if you missed the earlier disc!

THE WHIP AND THE BODY Blu-Ray (87 mins., 1963): Relatively obscure Mario Bava effort was made during American-International’s cycle of Vincent Price/Edgar Allen Poe chillers but offers ample gothic atmosphere all its own. Christopher Lee plays the son of a count who returns to his ancestral home; Daliah Lavi is the girl who enjoys his brand of sadism in a colorful and highly watchable (if minor) picture preserved here on Blu-Ray by Kino Lorber. This reprise of their 2013 format release offers a 1080p (1.85) transfer with both English and subtitled Italian audio, plus a commentary from Bava authority Tim Lucas.

Western Round-Up!

DEATH RIDES A HORSE Blu-Ray (114 mins., 1967, R): The brutal Spaghetti Western gallops back onto Blu-Ray this month in a straight reprise of Kino Lorber’s 2017 disc.

“Death Rides a Horse” is a rather unpleasant, albeit well-made and violent affair starring John Phillip Law as a man who’s family was wiped out at the hands of a quartet of bandits. The man they framed for the murders – a grizzled gunslinger played by Lee Van Cleef – joins him in his quest for revenge in this Luciano Vincenzoni-scripted, Gulio Petroni-hemed widescreen effort. Ennio Morricone’s score is appropriately offbeat and dissonant, but despite a straightforward story, I found that the film leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth.

This Kino Lorber disc features the same MGM (2.35, mono) master as its predecessor, which is a little rocky at times in terms of the source material but is still satisfactorily framed. Extras include “Repo Man” director – and frequent western commentator – Alex Coxoffering his thoughts on a commentary track.

A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE Blu-Ray (157 mins., 1971, PG): Sergio Leone westerns have been revisited in 4K over the last few years but not this 1971 affair also known as “Duck You Sucker.” A bit of a convoluted genre effort mixing the singular cinematic presences of Rod Steiger and James Coburn as Mexican and Irish revolutionaries, respectively, “A Fistful of Dynamite” has never enjoyed the success of Leone’s predecessors nor its visibility – elements that have likely precluded it from the same kind of 4K treatment as the “Dollars” trilogy or Paramount’s upcoming UHD of “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Here, Kino Lorber revisits their 2018 Blu-Ray which boasts a perfectly acceptable 1080p (2.35) MGM catalog master with its associated extras (commentaries by Alex Cox and Sir Christopher Frayling, featurettes, image galleries and trailers).

THE LONG RIDERS Blu-Ray (100 mins., 1980, R): One of Walter Hill’s most satisfying films, this 1980 western profiles the James-Younger gang and its three groups of siblings all portrayed, appropriately enough, by real-life brothers David, Keith and Robert Carradine (as the Youngers); James and Stacy Keach as Jesse and Frank James, respectively (they also co-produced the film); and Christopher and Nicholas Guest as the Ford brothers. Flavorful atmosphere, a fine Ry Cooder score and ample action make this a genre favorite, and Kino Lorber’s release offers a reprise of their superb 2017 disc which included a 4K (1.85) scan plus an exclusive commentary by Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson. Other extras are carried over from that disc with multiple featurettes and featurettes on hand.

From Kino Classics

THE SOLDIER’S TALE Blu-Ray (56 mins., 1984): Famous New Yorker illustrator R.O. Blechman brought his unique visual design to this hour-long animated feature adapting Igor Stravinsky’s 1918 concert piece “The Soldier’s Tale.” A story of a soldier who trades his violin for wealth after selling his soul to the Devil himself, “The Soldier’s Tale” aired on PBS back in the ‘80s but has been little seen over the years – this Kino Classics restoration preserves Blechman’s artistry, melding Stravinsky’s music with some dialogue performed by the likes of Max Von Sydow and Brother Theodore among others, in a new 1080p (1.33, mono) transfer. Gerard Schwarz and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra performed the score, with Kino’s Blu-Ray including additional shorts and commercials by Blechman, the 2023 theatrical re-release trailer, and a commentary by Blechman, animator Tissa David, and associate producer George Griffin.

THE WIND OF AYAHUASCA Blu-Ray (84 mins., 1983): Peruvian import from director Nora de lzcue charts the life of a sex worker who vanishes in the Amazon jungle after participating in a “healing ceremony” along with a sociologist and curandero who subsequently attempt to find her. A look at an actual Amazon “healing ceremony,” this 1983 picture has been restored and presented on Blu-Ray by Kino with a 1080p (1.85) transfer, de lzcue interview, and theatrical re-release trailer.

Foreign & Special Interest

Carlotta Films and Kino Lorber bring Francophiles a double-disc Blu-Ray anthology from cherished star Jeanne Moreau, but this time saluting her behind-the-camera work with JEANNE MOREAU: FILMMAKER. This package includes the Blu-Ray debuts of the French star’s directorial efforts LUMIERE (102 mins., 1976), THE ADOLESCENT (94 mins., 1979), and LILLIAN GISH (59 mins., 1983), the latter a portrait of the great American star. Extras include Moreau’s 1994 interview with Clint Eastwood from Cannes plus several featurettes on Moreau produced on the set of “The Adolescent.” French (excepting “Lillian Gish”) soundtracks and English subtitles are included here plus 1080p (1.66/1.33) transfers in this Carlotta release.

Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddins’ second feature, ARCHANGEL (77 mins., 1990), offers, much like his debut film “Tales From the Gimli Hospital,” an offbeat mix of parody and melodrama. Here, a Canadian soldier believes a Russian woman is his dead wife in a WWI-set mashup of silent film parody and outright melodrama, all produced in the director’s stark, impressionistic B&W style. A commentary from Maddin is included in Zeitgeist and Kino’s new Blu-Ray (1.37, 2.0 stereo)…From Metrograph Pictures and Kino Lorber comes a Blu-Ray double-feature of works by director Djibril Diop Mambety: THE LITTLE GIRL WHO STOLE THE SUN (45 mins., 1999) and LE FRANC (46 mins., 1994)each presented side-by-side in 1080p (1.85) transfers with 2.0 stereo audio; commentaries on both films by scholar Boukary Sawadogo; and a 2022 documentary on the director.

PARIS POLICE 1905 (321 mins., 2022) follows the popular French series “Paris Police 1900” and brings back Jeremie Lahuerte’s Inspector Antoine Join as he’s tasked with an investigation into a dead body found in Paris’ Bois de Boulogne gardens. MHz Networks’ DVD includes 16:9 transfers and 5.1 French audio with English subtitles for this well-received Canal+ production…From Cinephobia Releasing comes “A Cruel Caye Casa Film” from Spain, THE COFFEE TABLE (90 mins., 2022), which finds a couple of new parents wishing they never listened to the salesman who promised them happiness if they bought a fake gold coffee table – one that brings them nothing but horror instead. Caye Casa’s off the wall film debuts here in a U.S. DVD from Cinephobia sporting a 16:9 (2.35) transfer and 5.1 Spanish audio.

Pham Thien An’s INSIDE THE YELLOW COCOON SHELL (178 mins., 2023) won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and debuts on DVD this month from Kino Lorber. A sprawling three-hour character-driven story about a man tasked with transporting his young nephew to his rural hometown, “Cocoon Shell” is an existential epic worth tracking down (1.85, 5.1/2.0 Vietnamese with English subtitles)…SKIN DEEP (103 mins, 2022) hails from director Alex Schaad: a film about a young couple who switch bodies with the girl (Mala Emde) ultimately deciding she doesn’t want to return to the body she once had. A different take on the usual body-switching formula from writers Alex and Dimitri Schaad (who also appears in the cast), “Skin Deep” earned positive reviews on the indie circuit and debuts on DVD in a no-frills disc from Kino Lorber (16:9, 5.1/2.0 German with English subtitles).

Cohen New Releases: Dany Boon plays a taxi driver who can’t believe the stories that are spun by his latest passenger, a 92-year-old woman (Line Renaud) who helps him overcome some of his own insecurities, in DRIVING MADELEINE (90 mins., 2022), the delightful new film from “Joyeux Noel” director Christian Carion. “Driving Madeleine” debuts on Blu-Ray this month from Cohen sporting a 1080p (2.35) transfer, 5.1/2.0 audio in French with English subtitles, and an interview with Carion…Bernard-Henri Levy’s GLORY TO THE HEROES (89 mins., 2023) finds French documentarian/philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy visiting Ukraine after Russia destroyed the country’s Kakhovka dam in June 2023. This look at Ukraine’s efforts to combat Putin’s forces is new on DVD sporting a 16:9 (1.78) transfer and 2.0 French/Ukrainian/English audio with subtitles as necessary.

Documentary & Additional Special Interest Titles

A documentary charting how a Tunisian woman’s two eldest daughters were radicalized by Islamic extremists, FOUR DAUGHTERS (107 mins., 2023) is an especially relevant documentary utilizing artistic recreations and real interviews to good effect in its portrait of Olfa Hamrouni and both those two girls as well as her other pair of daughters. An interview with director Kaouther Ben Hania is included in Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (1.78, 5.1, Arabic with English subtitles; note the DVD was released/reviewed last month).

Greenwich New Releases: THE FOX (117 mins., 2023) is based on the true story of director Adrian Goiginger’s great-grandfather during WWII: an Austrian who volunteered for his army only to find himself wrapped up in the Nazi regime, and whose bond with an injured fox sustains him as he’s ordered into Nazi-occupied France. Greenwich and Kino’s DVD includes a 16:9 (1.33) transfer with 5.1/2.0 French/German audio and English subs…Also new from Greenwich, INSHALLAH A BOY (113 mins., 2023) takes viewers to Jordan where a widow pretends to be pregnant in order to save her young daughter and home from a relative attempting to utilize the country’s specific “patriarchal inheritance” laws to his advantage. This well-reviewed character study is now on DVD (1.85, 5.1/2.0 Arabic with English subtitles)…SPACE: THE LONGEST GOODBYE (87 mins., 2024) is an interesting look at a NASA psychologist already training prospective astronauts for a three-year journey to Mars and the isolation that’s likely to result from that first-ever sojourn. Ido Mizrahy’s Sundance-premiering doc is new from Greenwich and Kino Lorber this month on DVD (2:1, 5.1/2.0).

First Run’s RADIOACTIVE (88 mins., 2023) is Heidi Hunter’s examination of the four women who took their case against the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown to the Supreme Court. Jane Fonda appears in this well-reviewed 2023 doc (2.0, 16:9) now on DVD…Also new from First Run is UNDERDOG (82 mins., 2023), a moving documentary about Doug Butler, a Vermont farmer with a passion for dog mushing. A decades-long chronicle of the modern American farmer and rural life, “Underdog” is a compelling work from director Tommy Hyde out on DVD this week (16:9) from First Run and Kino.

Bustin’ Makes Me Feel “Meh” Department

GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE (**): Sequel to 2021’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” isn’t completely terrible and, with a solid rewrite or two, may have proven to be the first franchise sequel to measure up to Ivan Reitman’s 1984 classic.

Alas, I think we’ve by now seen the best efforts of writer/producer Jason Reitman and his cohort, Gil Kenan (here stepping into the director’s chair), and they’re simply not capable enough to deliver a satisfying comic fantasy of this sort.

Their plot kicks off stumbling out of the gate, by having the “Afterlife” Spengler family (Mom Carrie Coon, kids Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace, plus Paul Rudd’s “Gary Grooberson”) already established as the new NYC Ghostbusters, working with the old guard hanging around (i.e. whenever time permits for a Bill Murray or Ernie Hudson cameo). A better idea for this movie might’ve been actually showing that transition from farm country to the big city, but Reitman and Kenan press the fast-forward button instead, and have to spend more than half of this film on exposition. Endless exposition, introducing new characters, old characters, side characters, over half of which serve no purpose — it’s so over-written and over-populated with people that it’s surprising another writer wasn’t brought in to clean up the script, which has the gang taking on a new menace that eventually breaks free and causes havoc — albeit only in the movie’s final half-hour.

With an unmanageably large cast, it’s not just “the old folks” who really don’t have much to do — even Carrie Coon serves no purpose being in this movie. A smarter rewrite might’ve had Coon and Rudd’s characters relegated to cameos as they “dropped off” the juvenile “Afterlife” cast to a “Ghostbusters” internship program, which would’ve enabled the younger players from its predecessor to be more effectively integrated with Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz and crew. Yet an opportunity like that goes by the wayside here, so Finn Wolfhard gets a couple of scenes with Slimer but that’s it as they throw all the focus onto “Phoebe Spengler” and her relationship with a sassy female ghost. The other returning Afterlife kids are “along for the ride” but pretty much the movie has too many players and not enough heft to any of it, with most scenes functioning like a “spot the actor” game where characters come and go as they please, often completely arbitrarily.

What’s more, all the set-up is a lead-in for a, no pun intended, busted climax, where a lame looking CG’d demon walks around for a few seconds and then is beaten in a matter of minutes. All of the “spectacle” the movie has to offer is shown in the trailers and confined to an underwhelming, too-little-too-late climax.

At least there’s more of an attempt at humor in “Frozen Empire” over the previous movie — the weepy element of “Afterlife” is thankfully absent pretty much — but only Kumail Nanjiani nails it, bringing the comic energy this movie desperately needs, as an “everyman” who gets swept up in the adventure (shades, if only a bit, of Rick Moranis’ role in the original movie). If anything there should’ve been more of him — and less of everyone else — which is disappointing because even with a few good scenes here and there, “Frozen Empire” just doesn’t come together, while also tossing in some poorly judged PG-13 jokes (what’s a “sex dungeon” reference doing in a film clearly marketed towards family audiences?).

While the series is unquesionably "aging," this time it’s just bad writing that sends this sequel into the pit of mediocrity along with all the other follow-ups in this franchise. (115 mins., PG-13)

Animated “Ghostbusters” fans will do better checking out Sony’s long-awaited DVD release of EXTREME GHOSTBUSTERS (877 mins., 1997). A series that followed the hugely popular ’80s cartoon “The Real Ghostbusters,” this follow-up program finds Egon having moved on to being a college professor and inheriting the old gang’s firehouse — along with Janine and Slimer himself. Egon ends up recruiting four of his students to form a new ghostbusting crew, with an “edgier ’90s” attitude that mostly means garish fashions and a renovation on Ray Parker, Jr.’s classic theme song.

“Extreme Ghostbusters” came at a time when Sony was attempting to relaunch the franchise to no avail seeing as Bill Murray vetoed numerous scripts for a “Ghostbusters III” (of course, there’s a certain irony now seeing him slumming in these new movies after having tossed aside countless efforts to keep the movie series going). The show was not nearly as successful as “The Real Ghostbusters,” obviously, with its episodes airing in syndication during the fall of 1997 before the plug was pulled.

Sony’s DVD includes all 40 episodes of “Extreme Ghostbusters” with 2.0 stereo sound and 1.33 transfers. Seeing as the show was put together likely on video this merely serviceable transfer may be the only master in existence, so fans will have to take what they can get here. Packaging is spartan with the multi-disc set employing an oversized clamshell case, but it still comes recommended for die-hards.

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In relation to Frozen empire ,the problem with movies these days is the over reliance on CGI and a lot of it looks poor . Remember the original Ghostbusters , the effects worked, and were good. I just dont get why they have to fill the screen with it less is more !!

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