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With a pair of tremendous debut titles already under its belt (the 1980 Paramount hit “Little Darlings” and Nicolas Cage noir fave “Red Rock West”), Cinematographe returns this month with another 4K restoration for a film with a big star whose very infrequent directorial sojourns ran into difficulty: Jack Nicholson’s GOIN’ SOUTH (105 mins., 1978, PG), a “comic western” looked upon as a missed opportunity when it was first released in 1978. Sure enough, the years have been equally unkind to this oddball Paramount release – written by John Herman Shaner, Al Ramrus, Charles Shyer and Alan Mandel – that pairs Nicholson’s maniacal outlaw with virginal Mary Steenburgen (her first major role), who opts to marry Nicholson’s Henry Moon just as sheriff Christopher Lloyd and deputy John Belushi are about to hang him in the town square.

Now, any movie with that kind of cast is bound to be interesting (at least one would think so), but “Goin’ South” shoots more blanks than direct hits in both its comedic and romantic attributes. Belushi and Lloyd are sorely wasted here in minor roles (perhaps both bit the cutting room floor), while Nicholson and Steenburgen’s chemistry together is positively grating all the way to the “thank god it’s over!” final shot. Since “Goin’ South” was made back in the days when you could load up on sexual content in a PG movie, there’s even a moment when Nicholson ties Steenburgen to their bed in what amounts to a rape scene played for laughs – something apparently deemed funny (by some) back in ’78 (or at least funny to the folks who made this picture).

Sporting telling credits for “Additional Photography” and “Additional Score” (Ken Lauber and an uncredited Ry Cooder, in addition to front-credited composers Van Dyke Parks and Perry Botkin, Jr.), “Goin’ South” was a clear labor of love on the part of Nicholson. You can’t fault Jack’s effort here, with Nestor Almendros’ cinematography distinguishing his work behind the camera, but Nicholson’s mugging as an actor is mostly all the film has going for it. Belushi’s casting, a few months ahead of the release of “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” was a coup at the time, yet the Saturday Night Live star’s substance abuse issues and on-set demands reportedly took their toll on both his relationship with Nicholson and his role in the film itself – with his on-screen presence reduced basically to nothing in the final film. On the plus side, at least Nicholson can lay claim that he “discovered” Steenburgen, whose career was about to take off following this film’s box-office failure for brighter projects (i.e. Nicholas Meyer’s “Time After Time”) ahead.

“Goin’ South” is still a curio worth a look for fans of Nicholson and the cast (even Danny DeVito pops up in a few scenes), with Cinematographe’s 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray presentation (1.85, mono) offering a brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative. The UHD images are crisp and clear with HDR10 being respectful of the movie’s “dusty” western appearance and not overly amplified to give the movie an inappropriate “candy colored” type of look.

Extra features in the hardbound-enclosed package include a commentary by critic Simon Abrams; a visual essay by Samm Deighan on Nestor Almendros’ work; Daniel Kremer’s video essay on Nicholson’s three directorial features; and booklet notes by critic Chris Shields and Nicholson biographer Marc Eliot.

Fun City Editions’ unique ability to find a diamond in the rough, buried in the back alleys of long-forgotten VHS releases, generates another gem this month with the release of DEEP IN THE HEART, also known as HANDGUN (99 mins., 1983, R).

An EMI Films production from writer/director Tony Garnett, “Deep in the Heart” stars Karen Young (“Jaws the Revenge”) as Kathleen Sullivan, a fresh-faced Boston girl who takes a teaching gig down in the Dallas area. There, she finds herself acclimating to her new environment, from ladies wrestling in bars to football rallies and lots of locals interested in guns. This includes her would-be new beau, Larry (Clayton Day), a firearms enthusiast who ultimately wants as much of Kathleen as he can get his hands on – taking things, eventually, much too far.

“Deep in the Heart” is an offbeat movie that’s more successful in serving as a character study than it is the female vigilante picture Garnett’s premise suggests. The British Garnett apparently agreed, admitting in later interviews that the movie’s distributors didn’t think the movie was sexy or violent enough, and claiming Warner Bros. bought the EMI film and shelved it, just so it wouldn’t conflict with Clint Eastwood’s new "Dirty Harry" film "Sudden Impact." A quick VHS release from Thorn EMI Home Video would follow, likewise disappearing with barely a glance from the public.

The social commentary on America’s obsession with guns and Texas’ collective “passion” for firearms in particular is transparent from the get-go but, to his credit, Garnett doesn’t paint most of his characters in overly broad strokes – Garnett is interested in capturing time and place here, and while Kathleen is driven by revenge, the movie doesn’t entirely go where you think it’s heading. The picture’s resolution finds another way for Kathleen to seek solace beyond generating a heavy body-count, and the movie is all the stronger for it.

In fact, despite the movie alternately being called “Hangun” the picture is more about a woman being violated and seeking to regain control after having been decimated by a guy who turns out to be an arrogant, obnoxious jerk. Whether he used a gun or a knife, Larry reveals himself to be repugnant yuppie scum and the film would’ve worked with or without its portrait of Texas “gun culture” which Kathleen finds herself working her way into during the movie’s second half.

Young, whose career never really took off after a promising start in the ‘80s, gives a sympathetic and also believable performance; she certainly outclasses Day, who seems entirely stilted as if he’s reading “written lines” and not speaking believable words. The movie was shot on location in Texas and offers a surprising score from Mike Post, then in the midst of his ‘80s TV scoring heyday, with a few passages that could be mistaken for a cue from “The A-Team.”

Fun City’s Blu-Ray of “Deep in the Heart” marks its worldwide HD premiere and sports a 4K restored transfer from the original 35mm camera negative (1.85, mono). The disc features a commentary by Erica Shultz and Chris O’Neill plus a brief, archival interview with the director, but it’s the a/v presentation that truly stands out, as this is yet another flawless presentation from Fun City. Sporting gorgeous detail and natural color, the transfer enhances an unusual character drama worthy – as so many of the label’s releases are – of discovery.

Paul Schrader and Heywood Gould’s script for director John Flynn’s ROLLING THUNDER (95 mins., 1977, R), meanwhile, makes for a pungent slice of ‘70s cinema that Shout! Factory premieres on 4K UHD this month in a spectacular upgrade on its previous MGM HD master (and 2013 Blu-Ray release).

William Devane stars as a Vietnam vet who, after returning home from the war, loses both his hand and his family. Distraught and eventually fueled by revenge, he takes aim on their killers with the help of old army buddy Tommy Lee Jones, climaxing in a memorable showdown.

With the feel of an exploitation film but graced with strong performances – especially from Devane, who’s dailed back in a searing performance – “Rolling Thunder” is a mean, tough picture that had originally been produced by 20th Century Fox. After seeing the completed film, Fox dumped the movie and handed it over to Samuel Z. Arkoff’s American-International Pictures who, predictably, played up the film’s brutal elements (and its connection with “Taxi Driver”) in its advertising. The end result is an efficient, striking thriller that ranks with Devane’s best work, written by Schrader and Gould, with Flynn having taken the directorial reins after Fox wouldn’t allow Schrader to direct the picture himself. That results in a movie that’s more entertaining and pungent in its action sequences than it may have been otherwise, minus the sort of pretentiousness that marked much of Schrader’s directorial work.

Shout’s UHD edition of “Rolling Thunder” offers a dynamite new 4K Dolby Vision HDR scan (1.85, mono) from the original camera negative. The image is clear and superbly encoded, and one only needs to see clips from the old MGM master (in the disc’s bonus featurettes) to see how much of an upgrade this is.

Even better, Shout has included a number of new special features. These include two new commentaries: one from writer Heywood Gould and historian/screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner, plus another with filmmakers Jackson Stewart and Francis Gallupi. New interview segments include Barry DeVorzon, talking about his score and particularly the marvelous Denny Brooks song “San Antone” which bookends the movie (talk about a great title song, what a shame it never made any impact on the charts); and a longer talk with C. Courtney Joyner, discussing the early films of John Flynn. These are all included alongside a 2013 retrospective featurette that boasts comments from Devane, Jones, Schrader and Gould, along with TV/radio spots and the Percy Rodriguez-narrated original trailer.

ALL LADIES DO IT 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (97 mins., 1992, Not Rated; Cult Epics): There’s never a lot to say, necessarily, when looking at a film from prolific soft-core director Tinto Brass. “All Ladies Do It” is regarded as one of Brass’ “lighter” films but rest assured, aficionados, there’s loads of T&A on-hand courtesy of (among other naked bodies) the lovely Claudia Koll who stars here as a wife who’s had enough of her everyday relationship with her husband (Paolo Lanza). Opting to cheat and head out into the world for a variety of sexual encounters, Koll’s heroine tries to save their flailing relationship through physical liberation in what fans regard as one of Brass’ more likeable films all told.

Koll, certainly, looks good – clothes off or on – and was the main ingredient to keep my interest in “All Ladies Do It,” which debuts in a 4K transfer (1.85, mono) from the original negative with HDR10 courtesy of Cult Epics. This is a splendid catalog transfer with high detail, nicely rendered colors and contrasts – while Brass’ films were not expensive, he knew how to shoot even films of this sort with more technical polish than most of his, say, American counterparts, who by the early ‘90s were producing trash for the Cinemax circuit.

The double-disc set features a commentary from Eugenio Ercolani and Troy Hayworth; a 2011 interview with Brass; outtakes; a photo gallery; a 20-page illustrated booklet by Ercolani and Domenico Monetti; and a reproduction of four Italian lobby card prints.


New From Warner Archive

Kicking off the latest Warner Archive titles, available through Moviezyng, is the acclaimed Spring ‘88 Warner release STAND AND DELIVER (103 mins., PG). This mostly-true story follows the valiant efforts of Jamie Escalante, an East Los Angeles high school teacher who works tirelessly to improve the education of his under-privileged students including a conflicted gang member (Lou Diamond Phillips) who’s much smarter than he lets on. Olmos’ performance is wholly convincing and effective in what becomes something of a formulaic film – if you’ve seen the Zucker Bros. production “High School High” this is basically the straight version of that parody – yet director Ramon Menendez’s work with the cast results in a movie that’s nevertheless rousing and still socially relevant.

Andy Garcia has a small supporting role in “Stand and Deliver,” which was produced through PBS’ American Playhouse arm and released by Warner Bros. theatrically in March 1988. The film did modest business that still greatly exceeded its small budget and netted unanimous critical praise. An early DVD release, “Stand and Deliver” has been finally remastered in a gorgeous 4K restoration here with exceptional clarity in a high bit-rate Blu-Ray transfer (1.85) with mono sound, the movie featuring a dated synth score by Craig Safan. The trailer is included as an extra.

Director George Roy Hill’s esteemed filmography has few missteps like THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL (130 mins., 1984, R), a busted – albeit not uninteresting – attempt to capture John LeCarre’s espionage novel on-screen. Diane Keaton stars as a pro-Palestinian sympathizer and American actress who’s engaged by Mossad to help capture a suicide bomber – and while she seems stunned by her surprise recruitment, she likely should’ve known something was up when Klaus Kinski popped up on her radar (as an Israeli operative).

Veteran television writer Loring Mandel scripted this October ‘84 box-office disappointment for Warner Bros. and Hill, who would make only one more picture following this one (the underrated 1988 Chevy Chase comedy “Funny Farm”). While the movie with its Middle East plotline remains relevant (and was reworked into a 2018 mini-series with Florence Pugh), “The Little Drummer Girl” is helplessly tethered to its era with surprisingly flat direction from Hill that never generates the tension needed for the material to work. Keaton seems ill-suited for the film as well, with a lack of star support in the supporting cast (an early turn from Bill Nighy makes for one of the few recognizable faces in the cast) not helping matters. Even Dave Grusin’s score seems too “Lite FM,” more suited to “Terms of Endearment” than you’d expect from the subject matter.

While another, later LeCarre adaptation, “The Russia House,” had its own glaring shortcomings, at least the movie was graced with a sensational Jerry Goldsmith score and vivid location filming – two elements absent from “The Little Drummer Girl.”

Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray features one of their typical high bit-rate AVC encoded presentations, the movie having been shot “flat” in 1.85 and released in mono. The theatrical trailer is included.

Comedian Chris Tucker teamed up for the first time with director Brett Ratner in the 1997 New Line buddy comedy MONEY TALKS (96 mins., R), a movie that mixes Tucker’s comic shenanigans – as a ticket hustler wrongly accused of murder – with Charlie Sheen’s waning box-office appeal as a reporter who can clear his name. Coming at the end of Sheen’s streak of ‘90s leading man roles, “Money Talks” is mostly remembered today as a precursor to the “Rush Hour” trilogy of action comedies Ratner produced with Tucker and Jackie Chan.

“Money Talks” is a reasonable diversion for the formula comedy it is, with Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow’s script mining some laughs out of its situation, and Ratner benefiting both from a Lalo Schifrin score and a superior supporting cast including Heather Locklear and Paul Sorvino. “Money Talks” makes its Blu-Ray debut (2.39) in a no-frills Warner Archive release also including the trailer; note the promised 5.1 audio doesn’t appear here, only a 2.0 track instead, which is an error about to be cleared up by a repressing supposed to be on the market shortly.

A western both John Wayne and John Ford fans have been looking forward to seeing in a high-def transfer worthy of the film, 3 GODFATHERS (106 mins., 1948) has at last been remastered by Warner Archive in a gorgeous new Blu-Ray transfer.

This MGM Technicolor production adapts Peter Kyne’s story and saddles up Wayne, Pedro Armendariz and Harry Carey Jr. as a trio of bank robbers who come into the unlikely possession of a newborn that scuttles their escape plans. Echoing the story of the Three Wise Men through Ford’s company of stock players and lovely Winton Hoch cinematography, “3 Godfathers” has long been coveted by fans of the star and director – it’s a pleasant, if lengthy and sentimental film, and Warner Archive’s transfer is marvelous both for its freshly remastered color and high detail, captured again in a maxed-out bit-rate AVC encode (1.37, mono). Extras include the 1936 MGM B&W version of “Three Godfathers” featuring Chester Morris, Lewis Stone and Walter Brennan, along with trailers for both versions.

More western action is on-hand in a beautiful, lavish box-set of COLT .45 (638/320/692 mins., 1957-60), one of the early TV western hits that’s been meticulously restored from 4K scans of the original camera negatives in Warner Archive’s Complete Series Blu-Ray box-set. Sporting all three seasons of “Colt .45,” this is the kind of vintage television release fans have long hoped Warner Archive would tackle – and hopefully it will be successful enough to spur the release of the other series in a complete form, especially since TV-on-Disc content from the ‘60s-’80s has dried up in recent years.

One element about “Colt .45” that’s noteworthy is that the series was out of circulation for decades and has been rarely seen as a result. This HD remaster offers the first time the program – a follow-up to Warner’s hit ‘50s western “Cheyenne,” also produced for the ABC network – has even been released on home video, and genre buffs should enjoy seeing Wayde Preston playing an undercover U.S. Army intelligence officer working on the frontier during the 1870s.

As you’d anticipate, a massive array of soon-to-be-familiar faces pop up in guest bits, from Angie Dickinson and Leonard Nimoy to Adam West and future “Bonanza” star Dan Blocker. It’s conventional ‘50s TV action-adventure but the sort that fans should instantly gravitate towards, especially given the lovely B&W transfers (1.33, DTS MA 2.0 mono) that show off the restorative care Warner Archive invested in this project.

Looney Tunes fans have been graced of late with several standalone “Collector’s Choice” Blu-Rays which each offer 2-3 hours of new-to-Blu-Ray vintage cartoons from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies stable. LOONEY TUNES: COLLECTOR’S CHOICE VOL. 3 (177 mins.) continues the happy trend with another 25 classic Warner Bros. cartoons (“some of which may not be suitable for children”) dating from 1934-64. Included shorts here are A Feud There Was; China Jones; Cinderella Meets Fella; Dumb Patrol; Egghead Rides Again; Elmer’s Pet Rabbit; Hobo Bobo; Honeymoon Hotel; Hop, Skip and a Chump; I Only Have Eyes For You; Mexican Joyride; The Mouse on 57th Street; Mr. and Mrs. Is The name; Of Rice and Hen; Pre-Hysterical Hare; Punch Trunk’ Quentin Quail; Riff Raffy Daddy; Saddle Silly; Sheep Ahoy; The Sheepish Wolf; There Auto Be a Law; Tugboat Granny; War and Pieces; and Wet Hare. Transfers and soundtracks are just fine for the material, 1.33 AVC encodes with 2.0 DTS MA mono sound.

Golden Age fans are represented this month with a rare Silent Classics Double Feature from Warner Archive, one that offers a pair of ‘20s comedies from MGM and First National, respectively. Included in this single-disc Blu-Ray is the 1926 MGM comedy THE BOOB (61 mins.) which stars Gertrude Olmsted, George K. Arthur – and most significantly – a young Joan Crawford as a revenue agent helping Arthur’s hapless, spurned boyfriend after his beloved runs off with a bootlegger. Colleen Moore, meanwhile, starred in WHY BE GOOD? (81 mins., 1929) as a shopgirl whose boyfriend (Neil Hamilton) attempts to prove her virtuousness by renting out a roadhouse room and seeing how “good” she actually is. Both movies include 1.33 B&W transfers in surprisingly good condition given their age; “The Boob” includes a 2003 music score by Arthur Barrow while “Why Be Good?”’s original Vitaphone soundtrack features its original synchronized music-and-effects track.

Last but not least, one of Warner’s most highly regarded dramas of the early ‘40s, THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (95 mins., 1940), makes its long-overdue debut on Blu-Ray this month. George Raft and Humphrey Bogart play brothers trying to carve their niche as independent truckers in Jerry Wald and Richard Macaulay’s script, one that eventually turns into a reworking of the ‘30s Paul Muni/Bette Davis hit “Bordertown” via Ida Lupino’s tremendous performance as an executive (unhappily) married to trucking business owner Alan Hale (Sr.). Raoul Walsh helmed this memorable, superbly acted WB studio product which was a box-office hit in its day; the Archive’s Blu-Ray boasts another pinpoint-detailed 1080p AVC encode (1.37 B&W) with mono sound and extras including the 1941 Lux Radio adaptation with Raft and Lana Turner; a featurette on the movie; WB short “Swingtime in the Movies” and the original trailer.

TORMENTED Blu-Ray (74 mins., 1960; Film Masters): Prolific low-budget director Bert I. Gordon’s movies were often subject for ridicule on “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” with his 1960 ghost story “Tormented” being one of them. Richard Carlson stars in this supernatural tale of revenge as a man whose former girlfriend dies while trying to stop him from marrying another woman. After she perishes from the top of a lighthouse, her ghost continues to haunt Carlson in a low-budget variation on “The Uninvited” and other chillers, one that makes for one of Gordon’s more memorable productions with a decent story (by Gordon and “Them!” co-writer George Worthing Yates).

Previously available in a Warner Archive DVD, “Tormented” has been here given a 4K restoration from 35mm archival elements in Film Masters’ Blu-Ray (1.85 B&W, mono). The result is pretty solid for the most part and I’d expect a sizable upgrade over what was not one of the stronger Archive DVD efforts of its time. Copious supplements include the MST3K version of the film; an archival interview with Gordon; a Ballyhoo doc on Gordon’s ‘50s and ‘60s output; a visual essay on the movie from “the Flying Maciste Brothers”; the unreleased TV pilot from “Famous Ghost Stories” starring Vincent Price; the original trailer also restored in 4K; notes from Tom Weaver and John Wooley, and an insightful new commentary from Gary Rhodes and Larry Blamire.


Eureka! New Releases

Devoted Blu-Ray enthusiasts have become familiar with Eureka Entertainment’s releases in the UK market over the years, making their U.S. debut titles this month something to celebrate for movie lovers.

Eureka’s domestic slate kicks off this month with BLACK MASK (99 mins., 1996), the Jet Li Hong Kong kung-fu thriller which hit the U.S. in 1999 after the decade’s martial arts craze kicked into high gear.

Although several of Jackie Chan’s films were cut-up and destroyed by U.S. distributors, the American version of “Black Mask” still packs plenty of entertainment, with its unpretentious comic-book action (great fight scenes!) and hilarious, intentionally over-the-top dubbing by American editors enhancing the “Terminator”-meets-“Batman” convoluted plot (the dubbing makes the picture feel like a Godzilla movie without Godzilla). While Chan’s movies were victimized by having much of their comedy removed, it could be that “Black Mask” had its humor accentuated by the presentation here — in any case, I’m not going to complain.

Li’s athletic assets are on full display and while little in this version is taken seriously (it wouldn’t be so much fun if it was), “Black Mask” makes for ideal brainless entertainment, with Eureka’s Blu-Ray including the original HK version in a 2K scan (1.85); the original export version, also in a 2K restored (1.85) transfer with Cantonese stereo audio, plus the U.S. theatrical dub and an English “export version” dub; new commentaries by Frank Djeng, plus a second track with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema; new interviews with stuntman Mike Lambert, critics Andrew Heskins and Leon Hunt; an archival Making Of and trailers. There’s also a bonus disc with an exclusive Taiwain cut made specifically for that market and an Extended Cut sporting unique footage from all the different releases (these versions include Mandarin/Cantonese audio as well as a remixed Mandarin track).

Also new on Blu-Ray from Eureka is THE CAT AND THE CANARY (86 mins., 1927), Universal’s silent classic that was the first of many, similarly themed mystery-thrillers which followed a disparate group of people who are called together to a dilapidated old mansion where their recently departed relative’s will is read. A heroine (Laura La Plante) is poised to inherit his fortune – provided she’s deemed legally sane – in a genre standard-bearer remade numerous times and a huge influence on countless others.

Sporting a 4K restoration (1.37) of the original negatives supplied by the Museum of Modern Art, “The Cat and the Canary” was a seminal work for its time and Eureka’s Blu-Ray offers numerous ways to appreciate the picture. Robert Israel’s score is included in a 5.1 DTS MA track while enlightening extras feature a new commentary by Kim Newman and Stephen Jones; another commentary with historians Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby; video essays by David Cairns and Fiona Watson; new interviews with film critics Pamela Hutchinson and Pheung Le; excerpts from John Willard’s original play; a Paul Leni endorsement for Lucky Strike; and a collector’s booklet.

Arrow New Releases

The classic TV crime drama “The Untouchables” found its way overseas as a theatrical feature with the release of THE SCARFACE MOB (109 mins., 1959), an assembly of the show’s original two-part pilot that was also released in the U.S. theatrically in 1962. For viewers of the original series, it offers the familiar face of Robert Stack as stalwart prohibition agent Eliot Ness, whose group of “Untouchables” is assembled to combat the vast crime empire of gangster Al Capone (Neville Brand). Walter Winchell’s narration, Phil Karlson’s taut, no-nonsense direction and a solid Paul Monash script provided the real-life story of Ness’ fight against Capone with a true Hollywoodized treatment, but fans never cared about the series’ lack of authenticity, eating it up for multiple seasons and re-runs all the way through the release of Brian DePalma’s terrific 1987 big-screen adaptation.

Arrow’s Blu-Ray includes a fine Paramount catalog master (1.33 B&W, mono) with extras including a video essay on the movie and Karlson’s career by critic David Cairns; another visual essay on Eliot Ness’ filmed depictions by critic Philip Kemp; the trailer; and six postcard-sized lobby card reproductions and a double-sided fold-out poster.

Anthony Mann’s westerns have established a firm cult following over the years, and Arrow has mined another gem this month with the Blu-Ray premiere of Mann’s short but sweet 1957 western THE TIN STAR (93 mins.). Though Mann himself wasn’t bowled over with the finished product, this is nevertheless a finely performed tale of a young, inexperienced deputy (Anthony Perkins) tasked with taking care of a local thug (Neville Brand – again!). Perkins, luckily, has some help from a former sheriff played by Henry Fonda whose veteran experience helps the next generation deal with an all too familiar type of menace.

Elmer Bernstein’s score is superb and the performances of both Fonda and Perkins with their respective styles makes “The Tin Star” well worth a look. Another Paramount license from Arrow, the Blu-Ray incudes a 1080p (1.85) transfer with mono and remixed 2.0/5.1 stereo options; a new commentary by Toby Roan; an appreciation from critic Neil Sinyard; a new interview with Peter Bernstein reflecting on his father’s work; and the usual poster, liner notes, and postcard-sized lobby card reproductions.


Also New From MVD

MEAN GUNS Blu-Ray MVD Rewind Collection (104 mins., 1997, R; MVD): Resourceful B-movie auteur Albert Pyun notched one of his more watchable cinematic excursions with “Mean Guns,” a Tarantino-esque affair where a disparate collection of criminals find themselves trying to stay alive at a prison’s opening – with $10 million of cash on-hand for the last three men (or women) standing. Effectively shot in scope, “Mean Guns” is an over-the-top, free wheeling minor action vehicle that’s respectably put together by Pyun, working from Andrew Witham’s script and effectively catapulting what must’ve been limited involvement from stars Christopher Lambert and Ice T into over-the-title credits helping to sell the finished product. It doesn’t end particularly well but genre fans should find sufficient action keeping their interest piqued through most of its run time. “Mean Guns” debuts here on Blu-Ray sporting a 1080p (2.35) transfer with 2.0 PCM stereo sound; Pyun’s introduction and commentary from an overseas release; exclusive new MVD interviews with producer Gary Schmoeller, executive producer Paul Rosenblum, and composer Anthony Riparetti, along with the trailer and a collectible mini-poster in MVD Rewind’s slipcover-adorned release.

JOYSTICKS Blu-Ray MVD Rewind Collection (87 mins., 1983, R; MVD): ”Joysticks” was one of many “Porky’s”/”Fast Times” ripoffs, this one hailing from low-budget auteur Greydon Clark, who manages to at least incorporate the attractive aesthetics of the ‘80s video game arcade for its story of hapless teens doing more than just greasing up Atari joysticks. Eventually, some semblance of a story surfaces when a slumming Joe Don Baker shows up, vowing to shut the arcade down – but it’s mostly an excuse for juvenile ‘80s teen comedy shenanigans, only handled in a workmanlike manner by Clark. MVD’s Blu-Ray offers a 2K scan (1.78) from 35mm film elements and PCM 2.0 mono sound. Extras include a new “fan commentary” by MVD’s Eric D. Wilkinson, podcaster Heath Holland and Diabolik DVD owner Jesse Nelson; there are also legacy extras from Scorpion’s earlier disc including Clark’s commentary and interview; Newt Wallen’s “Coin Slots” faux movie trailer/short; and hugely attractive, Atari 2600-styled slipcover artwork!

Radiance New Releases: Luigi Comencini’s profoundly moving MISUNDERSTOOD (104 mins., 1966) finds a grieving father (Anthony Quayle) able to tell his oldest son about his wife’s death – but unable to relay the same sentiment to his ailing younger brother – in what was widely regarded as one of the most memorable Italian dramas of the late ‘60s. Later remade (quite ineffectively) as an ‘80s Gene Hackman/Henry Thomas vehicle that’s all but disappeared, “Misunderstood” was based on Florence Montgomery’s 19th century novel and has been here restored in another stellar Radiance release. The Blu-Ray includes an attractive new 2K restoration (1.66, Italian with English subtitles) from the original negatives with extras including interviews featuring screenwriter Piero De Bernandi and Cristina Comencini, along with critic Michel Ciment; and a visual essay by David Cairns on the director.

Noboru Nakamura’s THE SHAPE OF NIGHT (106 mins., 1964) offers striking scope visuals and vivid color, beautifully captured in a new high-def (2.35) digital transfer in Radiance’s Blu-Ray. “Shape” is viewed as one of Japan’s “New Wave” pictures, echoing its downbeat story of a young woman who becomes a prostitute after falling in love with a low-life crook. Radiance’s Blu-Ray includes an interview with Yoshio Nakamura; a visual essay on Shochiku Studio by Tom Mes; newly translated subtitles and booklet notes; and a PCM mono soundtrack.


Blu-Ray New Releases

AMELIE Steelbook Blu-Ray (122 mins., 2001, R; Sony): In 2001’s “Amelie,” French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet abandoned his nightmarish visions from “The City of Lost Children” and “Alien: Resurrection” for a kinder, gentler fantasy that smashed box-office records in its home country and garnered critical acclaim around the world.

The delightful Audrey Tautou plays Amelie, a shy Parisian waitress who stumbles upon a toy box left by a young boy living in her apartment some 40 years before. Amelie subsequently decides to play guardian angel for a day: she tracks down the now-grown boy and sees if the box itself still holds any significance to him. If it does, she’ll remain a doo-gooder, a crusader for good (Jeunet even has Amelie play Zorro for a brief second or two) and justice in a dream-like Paris where anything is possible.

Jeunet’s fantastical visions are back – photos and lampshades that momentarily come to life and offer their own commentary on the action – but this time he’s substituted the dark (literally and figuratively) edge of his previous work for a more upbeat but no less eclectic filmmaking approach. From its opening, offbeat scenes of young Amelie growing up to the satisfying conclusion, “Amelie” is a light and airy — and visually beautiful — film that boasts one alternately hilarious or heartwarming scene after another. Tautou’s charming performance sustains the tone for the Jeunet-Guillaume Laurant script to operate on, with excellent performances turned in by a terrific cast.

Viscerally, “Amelie” offers an evocative visual design courtesy of Jeunet, production designer Jean-Marc Deschamps, Aline Bonetto’s sets, and director of photography Bruno Delbonnel. Similar to what the Coen Brothers did on “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” Jeunet and Delbonnel used computer color-correction to give the movie green hues and strong primary colors in post-production. The look and feel of the film resemble a modern fairy tale come to life, and for that alone “Amelie” is highly recommended.

If there’s any quibble I have with the film, it’s that the second half tends to drag a bit, losing some of the momentum established during the opening hour. Still, “Amelie” is one of those rare foreign films that captivates international (and American) audiences every few years, with a unique atmosphere and story to enthrall young and old alike. (Speaking of that, the film’s completely unnecessary R rating — for a comical, 10-second montage of couples having sex — shows everything that’s wrong with the ratings system in the United States).

“Amelie” is back in-print on Blu-Ray thanks to Sony, which has released a beautiful Steelbook package. The disc itself looks like the same, previously issued HD master but it holds up well here (2.35) with 5.1 DTS MA sound, backed by Yann Tiersen’s flavorful score. Extras include a new featurette, “Jean-Pierre Jeunet Looks Back,” plus commentary (in both English and French) by Jeunet, a handful of featurettes spotlighting everything from cast auditions to how the picture’s look was achieved, two lengthy interviews with the director, a Q&A session with the cast, and more.

Also new from Sony, Jeymes Samuel’s THE BOOK OF CLARENCE (129 mins., 2023, PG-13; Sony) offers a revisionist, diversified take on the Biblical movie. LaKeith Stanfield stars as Clarence, who seeks knowledge along with wanting to live a more virtuous life around the time of Jesus and His apostles in Samuel’s original script, which didn’t quite hit the box-office mark of other religious-oriented films of recent years. Sony’s Blu-Ray includes a 1080p (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) soundtrack plus deleted scenes, commentary with Samuel and Stanfield and numerous featurettes.

LISA FRANKENSTEIN Blu-Ray (101 mins., 2024, PG-13; Universal): Once at the top of A-list screenwriters, Diablo Cody’s work has become far less visible on-screen over the years, with the “Juno” scribe returning – to scant box-office returns – with her script for “Lisa Frankenstein.” This goofy horror comedy – that’s mostly more comedy than anything else – stars Kathryn Newton as an introverted, frizzy-haired ‘80s teen that reanimates a Victorian era corpse (Cole Sprouse) after the death of her mother. “Lisa” is a bit all over the place, with Cody evoking memories of everything from “Weird Science” to “Heathers” with a tone that’s just as messy as the subject and the era would indicate. The two leads fare well but it’s mostly a miss dramatically under Zelda Williams’ direction (Robin’s daughter). Universal’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) includes deleted scenes, a gag reel, a “Resurrecting the ‘80s” featurette, and a Digital HD code.

NIGHT SWIM Blu-Ray/DVD (99 mins., 2024, R; Universal): Wyatt Russell moves from the uneasy “Godzilla” TV spinoff “Monarch” to this tepid Blumhouse horror outing – low-rent even by the company’s standards. Playing a washed-up pro baseball player who moves to a new home with his wife (Kerry Condon) and kids, Russell finds out there’s something in the pool beyond this world – and no amount of chlorine is going to make it right. Bryce McGuire wrote and directed “Night Swim” which becomes increasingly ridiculous as it spins towards a hugely unsatisfying ending; even Blumhouse devotees may have a hard time accepting even this picture’s premise. Universal’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 7.1 DTS MA) includes several featurettes, a Digital HD copy and the DVD.

HALF BAKED: TOTALLY HIGH Blu-Ray (97 mins., 2024, R; Universal): Pot’s growing legalization in certain states across the country makes this revisit to the 1998 stoner comedy “Half Baked” well timed if nothing else. Dexter Darden, Moses Storm and Ramona Young star as a trio of buddies whose friend dies after inhaling some bad weed; the duo then mix it up with a drug lord (David Koechner) as they travel through the L.A. cannabis world in this loose sequel which does offer a cameo by original star Harland Williams. Universal’s Blu-Ray (2:1, 5.1 DTS MA) is now available.

THE LAST KINGDOM: SEVEN KINGS MUST DIE Blu-Ray (117 mins., 2022; Universal): Follow-up movie to the early Brit historical series “The Last Kingdom” finds Alexander Dreymon reprising Uhtred of Bebbanburg, trying – along with his friends – to form a united England in the wake of King Edward’s death. A featurette is included in Universal’s Blu-Ray (2.35, 5.1 DTS MA), debuting on disc April 16th.


Also New From Shout Factory

AFFLICTION Blu-Ray (114 mins., 1997, R; Shout! Factory): James Coburn’s memorable turn as an abusive parent who pushes his troubled son (Nick Nolte) over the edge is the main reason to revisit “Affliction,” one of Paul Schrader’s downbeat domestic dramas. This one, admittedly, is better performed than most, with Sissy Spacek and Willem Dafoe supporting the powerhouse turns from the two leads, whose poisonous father/son dynamic fuels Schrader’s adaptation of Russell Bank’s novel. Shout Select’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1/2.0) debuts the film in HD for the first time, likely due to some messy rights between Largo Entertainment, which produced the film, and Lionsgate, who ended up distributing it. The new 2K scan (1.85) from original film elements is fine but no other special features are included in the Shout! Select release.

WINNIE THE POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY Blu-Ray (84 mins., 2023, Not Rated; Shout!): Watching classic characters like Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan and, even more recently, Mickey Mouse enter the public domain has yet to result in any interesting uses of the material – except as fodder for low-rent horror movies like Rhys Frake-Waterfield’s “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.” Eschewing the loving Disney characters for a ridiculous slasher exercise wherein the Hundred Acre Wood gang has devolved into killers after being abandoned by Christopher Robin, “Blood and Honey” does as little with its premise as you could possibly imagine, resulting in a genre exercise that quickly becomes dull and repetitive. Scream has nevertheless picked up the film for a Scream Factory Blu-Ray sporting a 1080p (2.39) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, and a Making Of dubbed “Something’s Wrong With Piglet.” Kids (and anyone who loves these characters) beware!

 KAMEN RIDER GEATS: THE COMPLETE SERIES Blu-Ray (aprx. 21 hours, 2022-23; Shout!): The long-running Toei series is back in a new incarnation, this one assembling past and present Kamen Riders who are slated to compete with each other in the “Survival Games.” This hybrid of classic Kamen Rider tropes with “The Hunger Games” still manages to pack in the usual action sequences and series formula throughout its 49 episodes – all of which are included here in Shout’s Blu-Ray box set. Featuring 1080p (1.78) transfers and 2.0 DTS MA sound, the eight-disc set bows on April 23rd.

SESAME STREET: MECHA BUILDERS DVD (10 hours, 2022-23; Shout!): Elmo, Cookie Monster and Abby Cadabby are robotic, CGI’d characters in this STEM-focused children’s show offshoot of the long-running franchise. Shout’s DVD includes the complete run of episodes from the “Mecha Builders” show which looks to have emulated a Disney Jr.-styled look for its colorful visuals as opposed to the traditional Muppet characters (stereo, 4:3).


Foreign Fare

THE CRIME IS MINE Blu-Ray (102 mins., 2023; Music Box Films): Acclaimed, effective French period piece is set in Paris during the 1930s, where Nadia Terezkiewicz’s struggling actress is accused of murdering a philandering theatrical producer. To her rescue comes her roommate – a similarly struggling lawyer (Rebecca Marder) who proceeds to turn the tide of public sentiment onto their side…at a price. Francois Ozon’s films are always interesting and “The Crime is Mine” is a worthwhile new feature from the director, new on Blu-Ray from Music Box. The disc includes a 1080p (2.39) transfer, French 5.1 DTS MA sound with English subtitles, and a full run of extras: interviews, deleted scenes, bloopers, and a Making Of featurette among them.

MONSTER Blu-Ray (126 mins., 2023, PG-13; Well Go USA): Acclaimed Japanese import from director Kore-eda Hirokazu stars Ando Sakura as a mother trying to piece together the reasons for her son’s odd behavior – starting with a bullying teacher at his school. Sakamoto Yuji’s sensitive script is handled in a compelling manner from the director, who employs multiple perspectives as it eventually lays out a gay relationship at the film’s center. Ryuichi Sakamoto scored “Monster,” which debuts on Blu-Ray this month from Well Go sporting a 1080p transfer and 5.1 DTS MA Japanese audio along with an English dub.

Film Movement New Releases: Kamila Andini’s YUNI (95 mins., 2023) profiles the life of an Indonesian high-school student who spurns a marriage proposal and now faces an uncertain future with a limited number of avenues following her graduation. A fascinating look at contemporary life for a young woman in Indonesia, Andini’s film debuts on DVD from Film Movement on April 16th (1.85, 5.1/2.0 Indonesian with English subtitles).


Quick Takes

THE ROUNDUP: NO WAY OUT Blu-Ray (105 mins., 2023; MPI): Don Lee is back as Detective Ma Seok-do, who’s joined a new investigative squad on the trail of a murderer when they run into a larger issue – a drug trafficking ring presided over by the Japanese Yakuza – in this third entry in the popular “Crime City” series. Debuting this month on Blu-Ray from MPI, “The Roundup” includes a 1080p (2.39) transfer with either an English dub or the original Korean audio with English subtitles.

MONOLITH Blu-Ray (94 mins., 2023, R; Well Go USA): Matt Vesley’s independent film stars Lily Sullivan, the lead from “Evil Dead Rise,” as a journalist with a damaged reputation. Attempting to dig up a fresh conspiracy theory through a new investigative podcast, Sullivan ultimately finds herself being drawn to her own home in a compelling, well-acted thriller that, like too many other films of its type, fails to stick the landing. Still watchable enough (and I like watching Sullivan apparently regardless of the picture), “Monolith” debuts on Blu-Ray April 23rd from Well Go sporting a writer/producer/director commentary, behind-the-scenes featurette, 1080p transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound.

GOOD BURGER 2 DVD (90 mins., 2023, Not Rated; Paramount): The ‘90s Nickelodeon live-action comedy series “All That” starring Kenan Thompson (who’s basically been at SNL ever since) and Kel Mitchell produced a big-screen spin-off of one of its sketches – “Good Burger” – that became a cult favorite in 1997. Seeing that retro-sequels are all the rage these days, Paramount greenlit – with the help of Brian Robbins, who directed the original and now serves as the studio CEO (that helps!) — this Paramount+ sequel bringing Kenan and Kel back to their original roles with loads of cameos and slapstick laughs. This Rhode Island-lensed affair follows another Ocean State-shot streaming sequel (“Hocus Pocus 2”) but doesn’t quite hit as much of the mark, as the mileage for one’s fondness of “Good Burger 2” is mostly going to be predicated upon their enjoyment of/nostalgia for its predecessor. Now on DVD (16:9, 5.1), Paramount’s “Good Burger 2” disc also includes numerous featurettes and behind-the-scenes clips plus a blooper reel.

STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS Season 4 DVD (aprx. 4 hours, 2023; CBS/Paramount): The crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos returns with its crew engaged in the usual Starfleet shenanigans at the same time an unknown force is barreling through the universe taking down starships along the way. Fans of the “Lower Decks” animated series and its comic sensibilities (and they know who they are by now) will likely appreciate this fourth season of the series, new on DVD April 16th from CBS and Paramount (16:9, 5.1). Extras include episode commentaries plus “Old Friends” and “Lower Decktionary: Setting Up Season 4” featurettes.

THE MYSTERIES OF BRADSHAW RANCH DVD (95 mins., 2024; Mill Creek): Aliens and the potential for some kind of weird other-dimensional portal (or portals) are on the roster for this documentary by director Ron Meyer, which takes viewers to Sedona, Arizona and its Bradshaw Ranch. Mill Creek’s DVD (1.78, 2.0 stereo) is now available.

NEXT TIME: New discs from OCN Distribution & more! Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!

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