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Debuting in HD for the first time this week is a superb, Complete Series Blu-Ray release of BATMAN BEYOND (1095 mins., Warner), the thrilling continuation of “Batman: The Animated Series” from the same producers of that critically-acclaimed, fan-favorite show (Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, and Paul Dini).

Set in a future where Bruce Wayne’s crimefighting days are long since past and Gotham City has become a Blade Runner-esque metropolis ridden with crime, “Batman Beyond” centers on teenage Terry McGinnis, whose father is ruthlessly murdered by a local gang. McGinnis’s run-in with an elderly Wayne results in the young man donning Bruce’s futuristic costume and suiting up as the new Dark Knight, battling the city’s latest villains and being prompted by Wayne’s advice from back at the manor all the while.

If you enjoyed B:TAS, you’re likely to love “Batman Beyond.” Once you get past the more “modern” musical accompaniment and new characters (which almost has more of a “Spider-Man” kind of feel, with Terry resembling the similarly-aged Peter Parker), the series displays the same brand of smart writing and visual design that marked its predecessor as one of the finest adaptations of a comic book in any visual format. The series ran for 52 episodes through 2001 and produced one memorable standalone, direct-to-video feature, “Return of the Joker,” which has also been included here in its uncut, PG-13 rated form.

Warner’s lavish Complete Series box-set houses 1.33 AVC encoded HD transfers and 2.0 DTS MA stereo soundtracks (“Return of the Joker” is 1.33 with a 5.1 DTS MA track). The image quality is as detailed as the animation allows, while extras include a pair of new featurettes: “Nostalgic Tomorrow: A Batman Gathering” and “Knight Immortal,” while other extras have been ported over from its previous DVD release – these include commentaries featuring the likes of Timm, Burnett, Dini, Glen Murakami and Curt Geda along with assorted archival interviews.

The limited-edition set also includes a Chrome “Batman Beyond” Funko Pop! figure and four exclusive lenticular collector cards featuring original animation artwork plus a Digital HD copy of the entire series. Highly recommended!


4K New Releases

One of the few Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘80s action vehicles that’s long flown under the radar, Walter Hill’s RED HEAT (104 mins., 1988, R; Lionsgate) is an agreeable “buddy movie” wherein Arnold’s steely Russian cop heads to Chicago in order to track down a drug smuggler. He’s paired with an irascible Windy City detective (Jim Belushi) as the duo create havoc on the Chicago streets, mowing down suspects and stopping just enough to offer an engaging “fish out of water” experience for audiences of the day.

A Carolco production, “Red Heat” performed moderately well at the Summer ’88 box-office but has never enjoyed the popularity of Arnold’s higher-profile hits, or the cult status of, say, “The Running Man.” Hill co-wrote the script with Harry Kleiner and Troy Kennedy Martin, and manages to include some laughs while adhering to just enough reality that the picture never totally goes over the edge. That may be what keeps the film from being as quotable or memorable as one of Arnold’s more outrageous genre efforts (“Commando”), but it also results in an entertaining film well worth seeing or revisiting – particularly now that it’s been given a respectable home video release.

Debuting in 4K UHD from Lionsgate, “Red Heat” has been fully restored and looks terrific. The movie was only released once in the early days of the Blu-Ray format in an aged, mediocre HD master, and this new presentation is infinitely superior in terms of detail, color, and overall appearance with HDR and 5.1 DTS MA sound. A smattering of extras – vintage featurettes and Making Of materials – have been ported over from both the previous BD (also included) as well as Studio Canal’s overseas format release. A Digital HD copy completes a highly recommended upgrade for Schwarzenegger fans.

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER 4K UHD (**½, 1992, 102 mins., R; Lionsgate): 4K UHD edition of the moderately entertaining 1992 Roland Emmerich sci-fi actioner, best known for its teaming of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren as robotized soldiers, killed in Vietnam, who are brought back to life as unstoppable super-combatants. With a better-than-average supporting cast (Ally Walker, Jerry Orbach), this dumb but passable B-actioner offers just enough entertainment value for its target audience, with well-executed action sequences and a fisticuff-laden finale.

“Universal Soldier” is yet another perfectly good Lionsgate 4K UHD catalog release, boasting nice color and overall contrast compared to its earlier Blu-Ray appearance, which was at least far more serviceable than “Red Heat.” Extras are highlighted by a commentary with Emmerich, Devlin, Lundgren and Van Damme (spliced together from different sessions), plus what appears to be a much more recent commentary with just Emmerich and Devlin recalling the shoot. Two Making Of featurettes, interviews, a (lousy) alternate ending and archival interviews are also included, with a 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack, BD and Digital HD copy rounding out the release.

FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW 4K Ultra HD (**, 137 mins., 2019, PG-13; Universal): This awkwardly-titled spinoff of the increasingly dumb – but profitable – “Fast & Furious” franchise offers a handful of just-for-the-money performances in an absurd action vehicle that was made, well, just-for-the-money. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham here reprise their F&F roles of ex-cop Luke Hobbs and ex-con Deckard Shaw, here partnered in order to go after a “cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist” (Idris Elba). Watching the likes of Elba and Helen Mirren in this brainless affair says something about the cinema in 2019, though a few minutes of “Hobbs and Shaw” manage to function along the lines of a stylish, silly timekiller – it’s the fact that the film runs an unseemly 137 minutes that makes it a chore to sit through. Universal’s 4K UHD (2.39) offers HDR10+ and Dolby Vision capability, rockin’ Dolby Atmos sound, over 80 minutes of featurettes, an alternate opening, deleted scenes, and a Digital HD copy.

CHARLIE’S ANGELS 4K UHD (**½, 98 mins., 2000, PG-13; Sony): A box-office hit at the time of its original release, this brainless 2000 retread of “Charlie’s Angels” is a generally entertaining vehicle for stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu despite its unevenness.

A cross between a broad, “Austin Powers” kind of spoof with well-choreographed action set-pieces inspired by “The Matrix,” this revamp of the ’70s TV hit features three bright young women fighting crime at a detective agency overseen by the legendary Charlie (the voice of John Forsythe), who of course, never appears on camera. Lending an able assist to the girls’ activities is Bill Murray, who provides plenty of comedic spark whenever the movie threatens to run out of gas at various points.

The material includes bizarre comic set pieces (such as Diaz’s appearance on “Soul Train”) that don’t really click, but to the movie’s credit, it keeps moving and moving, faring better during its action scenes. Menace, meanwhile, is provided by a gaggle of high-tech thieves including Crispin Glover and Sam Rockwell.

Star/producer Barrymore’s film offers a host of familiar faces in support, some stuck in its era (Tom Green), others hinting at the future (Melissa McCarthy), with the likes of Luke Wilson and Matt LeBlanc comprising the male portion of the cast. Though dated, the movie was a box-office hit in the holiday ’00 frame, and makes its 4K UHD debut from Sony sporting an HVC encoded, HDR enhanced transfer (2.39) that’s a crisp upgrade on its Blu-Ray, though the special effects sequences predictably look a bit blurry and soft. The Dolby Atmos audio offers little in the way of “height” effects and extras are included in the disc’s Blu-Ray (commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, bloopers), with a Digital HD copy and preview of the upcoming remake on-hand on the UHD.

The movie was followed by a Summer ‘03 sequel, CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE (**, 105 mins., PG-13, 2003; Sony), which focuses on the girls as they go up against an Angel gone bad (Demi Moore). Even more cameos (Bruce Willis, Pink, Carrie Fisher, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, McCarthy again) are interspersed in another McG-directed affair that’s more consistent tonally than its predecessor but comes off as over-extended at 105 minutes. Debuting on Blu-Ray from Sony, the disc sports both PG-13 and Unrated versions (running an extra minute), with loads of special features (commentaries, featurettes), a 1080p (2.39) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound and a Digital HD copy on-tap.


Shout! New Releases

Shout’s recent deal with Paramount is about to yield a number of big releases over the next few weeks for genre fans, including the guilty-pleasure classic “Prophecy,” the domestic debut of Stephen King’s “Silver Bullet” and the high-def premiere of THE FAN (*½, 95 mins., 1981, R), a weird and unsatisfying Robert Stigwood production that’s a little unsure what it’s trying to be.

Certainly there’s no lack of talent in front of the camera. Fresh from her “High Point Coffee” commercials, Lauren Bacall plays a Broadway star taking the lead in a new musical, complete with two original songs by Marvin Hamlisch and Tim Rice, when record store employee/crazy stalker Michael Biehn comes looking for more than autographs. James Garner (second billed but basically wasted), Maureen Stapleton, Hector Elizondo and early appearances from the likes of Dana Delany and Griffin Dunne augment the superb supporting cast in this adaptation of Bob Randall’s novel, but Edward Bianchi – a TV commercials veteran making his feature debut – brings little excitement to the film’s plodding pace.

In fact, “The Fan” is so pedestrian in places that it seems to have been made with older viewers in mind (“Bacall Sings Hamlisch!”), yet goes down enough “R-rated” avenues with its murders – most especially Biehn’s slaying of a gay man who tries to pick him up at a bar – that it likely alienated the central demographic that might’ve found it otherwise interesting. Horror fans, meanwhile, surely found the film not strong enough (and were turned off by the musical numbers), while Pino Donaggio’s score telegraphs all the predictable turns in Priscilla Chapman and John Hartwell’s screenplay. As it turns out, much of the violence was added in post-production in an effort to punch up the R rating – an ultimately futile attempt to avoid the dismal box-office the film was eventually released to.

An unpleasant, dated curio from the early ‘80s that’s received few revivals on home video, Scream’s Blu-Ray is out November 19th featuring an excellent 1080p (1.85) transfer with fine detail and clear mono DTS MA sound. Extras include new interviews with Biehn, Bianchi and editor Alan Heim, plus a commentary with cult movie director David DeCoteau and historian David Del Valle. Bianchi’s conversation is particularly enlightening, detailing his work with Stigwood (who basically turned the film into a slasher pic) and the difficult Bacall, who wasn’t happy at all with the final film. Trailers and a still gallery round out the disc.

SPIRITED AWAY Limited Edition Blu-Ray (***, 125 mins., 2001, PG; Shout! Factory): Superb new GKids box-set offers Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar winner in an elaborately packaged Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition. This 2001 international hit was and remains one of Studio Ghibli’s crowning achievements, following young Chihiro’s adventures in a mystical land, trying to save her transformed parents while combating a vile sorceress. GKids’ package includes the 2017 Ghibli Blu-Ray with 5.1 DTS MA Japanese, English or French audio options and storyboards, the “Behind the Microphone” featurette, trailers, an exclusive 40-page hardcover tome recounting the production and, for the first time bundled with the movie, a copy of the CD soundtrack…Also new this month from GKids and Shout! Factory is the offbeat animated release BUNUEL IN THE LABYRINTH OF THE TURTLES (80 mins., 2018), Salvator Simo’s chronicle of the Spanish filmmaker and how producing a documentary about Spain’s poor Las Hurdes region transformed both him and his art. The feature-length documentary “Bunuel’s Prisoners” is included in GKids’ Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack along with an interview with Simo, a 1080p (2.35) transfer, trailers, and 5.1 DTS MA Spanish audio with English subtitles.

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Steelbook (***, 93 mins., 1979, PG; Shout! Factory): Allan Arkush’s manic “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School” stars “Halloween” vet P.J. Soles in the liberating tale of a group of cooky kids who rebel against the tyrannical rule of a new principal. Sole and her pals (Vincent Van Patten, Clint Howard among them) recruit The Ramones to strut their stuff in this highly entertaining pic, one of Roger Corman’s most satisfying productions, co-produced and written by Joe Dante and Michael Finnell. Shout! Factory’s new Steelbook edition of “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School” offers a brand-new 4K (1.85) transfer that surpasses their earlier format release, while also including a fresh documentary, “Class of ’79: 40 Years of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll High School’,” which boasts brand-new conversations with Arkush, Soles, Dante, cinematographer Dean Cundey and plenty more. This is in addition to all the fabulous extras from a myriad of previous laser/DVD editions, including multiple commentaries; audio outtakes, and numerous interviews.

POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING Limited Edition Steelbook (**½, 87 mins., 2016, R; Shout! Factory): Amusing faux documentary — which completely bombed in theaters  — centers on a former “New Kids”-like teen star who becomes one of the world’s highest-selling solo artists — only to flame out upon the release of his severely misguided new album. This production of “Lonely Island” — comedians Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone — does boast some big laughs and engaging song parodies, particularly considering the wide swath of real-life talent — from Pink to Seal and Justin Timberlake — who cameo in the film. However, it eventually fizzles out, like a Saturday Night Live sketch stretched too far (and indeed, one of the songs in the film was even performed as an SNL music video last season). Worth a rental though for its decent quotient of laughs, “Popstar” has developed enough of a cult following that Shout! has produced an attractive Steelbook limited edition. Out this month, the disc includes all the extras from Universal’s prior BD release (deleted scenes, gag reel, bonus footage, commentary, etc.), plus a 1080p transfer (2.40) and 5.1 DTS MA audio.

SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS Shout! Select Blu-Ray (**, 128 mins., 1999, PG-13; Shout! Factory): Gorgeously filmed adaptation of David Guterson’s novel was produced by a number of Hollywood heavy-hitters: Kennedy/Marshall, award-winning screenwriter Ron Bass, and making his U.S. debut after the breakout success of “Shine,” Australian director Scott Hicks. Hicks also co-wrote the film with Bass, sticking to Gutterson’s narrative about the relationship between a Japanese-American woman (Youki Kudoh) and an American WWII vet (Ethan Hawke), from their high school days before the war, to the murder trial that sweeps up both of them afterwards. Robert Richardson’s cinematography is mesmerizing to look at – especially here in Shout’s new 4K restored (2.39) AVC encoded transfer with 5.1 DTS MA sound – but the film is ultimately cold and uninvolving, despite all the talent involved. Shout’s Blu-Ray includes a new retrospective set of interviews, “Accident Rules,” sporting conversations with Hicks, Richardson, Guterson and composer James Newton Howard, who wrote one of his more effective, haunting scores for the 1999 picture.


Also New & Noteworthy

THE BIG BANG THEORY: The Complete Series Blu-Ray (12 Seasons, Warner): CBS’ massively successful comedy, which mixes broad laughs with geek references and an ensemble cast that works in perfect synchronization with each other, recently completed its run with its 279th episode. Consistently high rated, “The Big Bang Theory” follows the adventures of Leonard and Sheldon, pals Raj, Howard, Bernadette, Amy and the savvy, less-geeky Penny with ample cameos and engaging storylines that made it a fan favorite for a dozen years in prime-time.

While you can easily find a rerun of the series probably right this second somewhere across the cable or streaming spectrum, Warner’s deluxe Complete Series box offers fans an even more convenient alternative: all 12 seasons of the series on Blu-Ray with a 32-page episode guide sporting creator Chuck Lorre’s introduction and behind-the-scenes photos. There’s also a glossy color book, all the extras from previous season releases, and a brand-new bonus disc with exclusive featurettes. These include “The Big Bang Theory: A Retrospective,” offering final reflections from the cast and producers; “All the Stars In the BBT Universe,” showcasing the series’ assorted guest stars; and “BBT’s Greatest Hits: 12 Years of Comedy in 24 Minutes,” with some of the series’ funniest gags reprised in a concise digest.

1080p (1.78) transfers and DTS MA 5.1 sound grace this lavish package, available this week with a Digital HD copy for, yes, the entire run of the show also included. Highly recommended for fans!

COBRA KAI Seasons 1 & 2 Collector’s Edition DVD (591 mins., 2018-19; Sony): Looking for the biggest surprise of the last couple of years? “Cobra Kai” fits the bill as not only that, but arguably the best of all the ‘80s/’90s sequel/remakes we’ve been inundated with.

This is a warm and very entertaining continuation of “The Karate Kid” set decades after the fact – and while it hails from the “Harold & Kumar” guys, the show takes its characters seriously at the same time it offers a generous assortment of laughs. Its brilliance comes in how it embraces the concept of the 1984 film and reworks it – placing both Ralph Macchio and newly-sympathetic William Zabka’s characters in deliciously contrasting circumstances – in a manner that’s quite irresistible for fans, while the “young teen stuff” is accessible and well done, if overly familiar. Still, the kids are good (Zabka’s would-be prodigy is really a variation on Daniel, and their relationship is fun to watch; the girl playing Macchio’s daughter, meanwhile, is certainly cute), and while there’s no Elisabeth Shue, there are echoes of the past in flashback footage featuring Pat Morita, flourishes from Bill Conti’s scores and the eventual reappearance of Martin Kove’s villainous Kreese.

A Youtube series that generated widespread acclaim and major hits for its premium-viewing service, “Cobra Kai” debuts on home video in a Season 1 & 2 Collector’s Edition DVD pack sporting a 2-sided headband, bonus scenes, a gag reel and ample special features. The 16:9 transfers and 5.1 soundtracks are fine, but a Blu-Ray would’ve been preferable. Still, “Cobra Kai” has a ton of heart and comes unquestionably recommended, no matter what form you see it in!

DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD Blu-Ray (102 mins., 2019, PG; Paramount): Attempt at updating the Nickelodeon kids series “Dora the Explorer” with a dash of irreverence from the “Muppets” team of director James Bobin and writer Nicholas Stoller met with just mediocre box-office last summer. Here, Dora is a teen played by Isabela Moner, but she’s lost little of her adventurous spirit, even with having to enter high school – all the while her parents (Michael Pena, Eva Longoria) go missing while searching for the Lost City of Gold. Viewers who watched the series as kids will be the target audience for this live-action updating of the cartoon, with Moner’s spirited performance being its strong suit. Paramount’s Blu-Ray/DVD is out in time for the holidays sporting a 1080p transfer, Dolby Atmos audio, deleted/extended scenes, bloopers, featurettes and a Digital HD copy.

CATCH 22 DVD (aprx. 5 hours, 2019; Paramount): George Clooney produced and stars in this adaptation of Joseph Heller’s novel, one which Mike Nichols previously brought to the screen – with mixed results – back in the early ‘70s. This longer-form adaptation met with mostly mixed reaction as well, though there’s no question the cast – featuring Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Kyle Chandler and Christopher Abbott as Yossarian – is terrific. For those without a Hulu subscription, Paramount’s DVD will be available November 19th sporting the new production with a 16:9 transfer, 5.1 sound, a three-part documentary, deleted scenes and outtakes.

GOOD BOYS Blu-Ray (89 mins., 2019, R; Universal): “Office” writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky wrote and directed this story of three pre-teen grade schoolers (Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon) who decide to cast responsibility to the wind and live out their wildest impulses – by getting involved with stolen contraband, a frat house, and running from both cops and girls. Seth Rogen and his production team brought “Good Boys” to the screen, but while the film does produce some low-brow gags that connect here and there, the cumulative effect of this moderate box-office performer is a bit arch and strained – forever looking to hit the R rating scorecard (profanity, drug use) that’s supposed to be funny here because the kids are in 6th grade. Yet, as we often see with Rogen productions, a little of “Good Boys” goes a long way. Universal’s Blu-Ray combo pack offers an alternate ending, deleted/extended scenes, a gag reel, 1080p (2.39) transfer, Digital HD copy and 5.1 DTS MA sound.

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN Blu-Ray (109 mins., 2019, PG; Fox): Saccharine adaptation of Gath Stein’s popular book is narrated by a canine voiced by Kevin Costner, who details his relationship with a racecar driver (Milo Ventimiglia) and wife (Amanda Seyfried)…from the good times through the bad…with the ultimate goal of being reborn as a human. Simon Curtis helmed “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” which is awash in good intentions and has some effective moments, but is just too heavy of a film emotionally to really click. Fox’s Blu-Ray is now available featuring a 1080p (1.85) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, featurettes, commentary with Curtis, and a Digital HD copy.

THE KITCHEN Blu-Ray (102 mins., 2019, R; Warner): Box-office disappointment strands Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss and Tiffany Hadish in an overly familiar story about Hell’s Kitchen housewives who have to step up to run their now-incarcerated husbands’ criminal activities. Andrea Berloff wrote and directed this adaptation of a “DC Vertigo” comic book series, but beyond the “me too” take, “The Kitchen” is a drab and surprisingly lifeless affair, even with comediennes McCarthy and Haddish toplining the ensemble. Warner brings “The Kitchen” to home video this week featuring a deleted scene, two featurettes, a 1080p transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound and a Digital HD copy.

AQUARELA Blu-Ray (90 mins., 2019, PG; Sony): Russian documentarian Victor Kossakovsky’s latest feature is a visually dazzling look at water – from frozen ponds and ice to iceburgs and its raging, powerful intensity during Hurricanes. Shot around the globe, “Aquarela” offers no real “form” or even much in the way of musical accompaniment – it’s strictly a visceral exercise with Kossakovsky’s images being captivating when seen here in Sony’s Blu-Ray (2.39). Available this week, “Aquarela” is HD eye candy served up with a high bit-rate and 7.1 Dolby Atmos sound. Unusual and recommended.

 

 

Arrow New Releases

Arrow’s November slate of new Blu-Rays is highlighted by a pair of remasters from the New World Pictures vaults.

FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC (93 mins., 1987, PG-13) is the well-remembered adaptation of V.C. Andrews’ bestseller about the Dollanganger family, with Kristy Swanson and Jeb Adams as two of the kids to nutty widow Victoria Tennant who end up being, literally, locked in the family attic. Louise Fletcher is the even-nuttier matriarch who tries to ruin them all in Jeffrey Bloom’s stripped-down rendition of Andrews’ book, which was heavily reworked in post-production and partially reshot by another director. In the end, the book’s infamous incest subplot was jettisoned as was the original ending, with the finished film being a lightly engaging, “Grand Guignol”-styled thriller with a few memorable moments but missing a defining directorial point of view.

This Arrow Blu-Ray includes a 1080p (1.85) transfer and lossless PCM stereo audio with extras including a new commentary from Kat Ellinger; interviews with cinematographer Frank Byers, production designer John Muto, composer Christopher Young, and co-star Adams. The original ending is also included off a Betamax master with the revised ending featuring commentary from its director, Tony Kayden.

A New World release that met with scant distribution a short time later, the Norwegian produced APPRENTICE TO MURDER (97 mins., 1988, PG-13) is an offbeat film set in 1920s Pennsylvania Dutch country, where Chad Lowe’s teen hero falls in with a supposed magic healer (Donald Sutherland) who’s been ostracized for his beliefs. With a sickness claiming the lives of the local townspeople, Sutherland’s Dr. John Reese is on the case and believes a local hermit may be to blame – but the ambiguity of what’s happening and what, if any, supernatural occurrences are going on is pretty much left up in the air, even at the end.

Mia Sara co-stars in this weird little film scripted by “Don’t Look Now”’s Alan Scott and Wesley Moore, helmed by Ralph Thomas and pigeon-holed as a horror movie by its distributor. It really isn’t – nor is it much of a thriller, but sort of an undefined genre outing with interesting Norway locales (subbing for Pennsylvania) and an occasionally overwrought Sutherland yielding some unintentional laughs. The story is muddled and the score by Charles Gross is all wrong too, but it’s a watchable little curio — in spite of, and because of, its flaws — just the same.

Arrow’s Blu-Ray includes a new 2K (1.85) restoration of the original interpositive with lossless PCM sound, commentary with critic Bryan Reesman, a featurette with Kat Ellinger and interview with cinematographer Kelvin Pike, plus a talk with makeup supervisor Robin Grantham.

Finally, the westerns of Anthony Mann are often worth revisiting, as is the case with THE FAR COUNTRY (97 mins., 1954), one of five genre exercises he directed with the great Jimmy Stewart.

This 1954 Universal-International offering finds Stewart and Walter Brennan’s adventurous friends in the midst of a cattle drive when they run afoul of a vile judge (John McIntire) and his henchmen. Ruth Roman and Corrine Calvet are the women who vie for Stewart’s affections in this Gold Rush-era set western with splendid cinematography (some of it capturing the Canadian Rockies) and a patchwork score with an uncredited Henry Mancini, Frank Skinner and Herman Stein contributing cues…but also some silly plot developments that keep it from being the best of Stewart and Mann’s collaborations.

Arrow’s Blu-Ray offers both 1.85 and 2:1 aspect ratios for their 1080p Blu-Ray with mono audio and supplements including a new commentary from critic Adrian Martin; an all-new documentary with numerous historians paying tribute to Mann’s work at Universal; a new appraisal of the film from Kim Newman; and the original trailer.


Warner Archive New Releases

Warner Archive returns this month with a trio of new releases, including one of Blake Edwards’ best dramatic films, DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (***, 117 mins., 1962). This searing melodrama was adapted by J.P. Miller from his earlier “Playhouse 90” teleplay and stars Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick as a San Francisco couple who become dependent on their alcohol consumption during the evolution of their relationship, from marriage to the birth of their daughter. Lemmon’s attempts to work with AA and try to recover himself is contrasted with Remick’s refusal to do the same in this 1962 film, which is moodily shot in B&W by Philip Lathrop and memorably scored by Henry Mancini, capped with the classic title song written with Johnny Mercer. Lemmon and Remick are, of course, both superb in this actor’s showcase, presented here by Warner Archive with a superlative 1080p (1.85) transfer and 2.0 DTS MA mono sound.

FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE Blu-Ray (**½, 98 mins., 1973, PG): Decent Amicus anthology film (in the same vein as “Vault of Terror” and “Tales from the Crypt”) offers a number of horrific tales with a solid cast (Ian Bannen, Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasance, David Warner and Lesley-Anne Down among them). If you’re a fan of those ‘60s/’70s horror anthologies, this Kevin Connor-directed, workmanlike effort is decent enough, if offers few surprises that aren’t telegraphed in advance. Warner Archive’s 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded Blu-Ray transfer is fine and the 2.0 DTS MA mono sound is serviceable.

MR. NICE GUY Blu-Ray (**½, 97/88 mins., 1996, PG-13): Quite welcome Jackie Chan Blu-Ray gives fans the opportunity to see the original 97-minute cut of his “international” effort “Mr. Nice Guy,” as originally scored by Clarence Hui and nearly 10 minutes longer than its abbreviated U.S. release. This isn’t one of Chan’s best features but is an engaging enough vehicle with Chan as a celebrity chef who gets mixed up with rival Aussie crime lords – especially if you can get past the rocky opening third, after which Sammo Hung’s film is mostly comprised of crackerjack Chan action sequences. Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray (2.41, 5.1 DTS MA English audio) also includes the New Line release print (88 mins.), which was released in the wake of Chan’s breakthrough North American hit, “Rumble in the Bronx.”


Quick Takes

Also New From Lionsgate: Looking for a quality original film that’s not another regurgitated Disney Intellectual Property? Lionsgate bows a pair of acclaimed indie offerings on Blu-Ray in the next week that both fit the bill.

Debuting November 12th on home video, THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON (97 mins., 2019, PG-13) is a finely-acted and affecting film from writer-directors Tyler Nelson and Michael Schwartz. Zack Gottsagen plays a young man with Down Syndrome who leaves the North Carolina facility he resides in to find his wrestling idol (Thomas Haden Church). Along the way he meets and befriends a small-time outlaw (Shia LaBeouf) who helps him on his journey in a feel-good, character-driven piece co-starring Dakota Johnson, John Hakwes and Bruce Dern. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray is out next week sporting a Making of featurette, trailer, photo gallery, 1080p (2.39) AVC encoded transfer, DTS MA 5.1 sound and a Digital HD copy.

Awkwafina gives a strong dramatic turn in the equally well-reviewed THE FAREWELL (98 mins., 2019, PG), Lulu Wang’s touching story about a Chinese-born, U.S.-raised woman who returns to China upon hearing the news that her family’s matriarch has been given just weeks to live. What she finds is a wedding hurried in order to provide a celebration instead of a funeral, and a new connection to the country, and extended family, she’s moved apart from. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray is out November 12th sporting a 1080p (2.40) AVC encoded transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, a Digital HD copy, commentary, a pair of featurettes, and deleted scenes.

It’s been a few weeks since either Nicolas Cage or Bruce Willis popped up in a new low-grade action flick. This time it’s Willis’ turn in 10 MINUTES GONE (88 mins., 2019, R), playing a crime boss who hires Michael Chiklis and his crew to steal some jewels – before Chiklis is knocked out and wakes up to find the jewels gone and Willis ready to take him out. A bland supporting cast rounds out this technically OK but stylistically (too) familiar exercise. Lionsgate’s BD boasts a 1080p (1.85) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, a Making Of, cast/crew interviews, the trailer, and a Digital HD copy

Stella Meghie’s film THE WEEKEND (86 mins., 2019, R) is new to Blu-Ray this month from Lionsgate. Saturday Night Live’s Sasheer Zamata plays a woman who heads out on a weekend getaeway with her ex (Tone Bell) and his new girlfriend (DeWanda Wise) at a B&B. There, she meets a handsome new man (Y’lan Noel) and rom-com sparks fly. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray includes commentary with Zamata, Wise and Meghie, plus a 1080p (1.85) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound and a Digital HD copy…Finally, kids might enjoy GO FISH (73 mins., 2019, PG), an animated offering about a parrotfish who gets his chance to be a super-hero when a black goo floats near his coral reef. Mark Hamill, Ron Perlman and Youtube star iJustine provide the voices for this family-friendly release, presented on DVD November 19th from Lionsgate sporting a 16:9 (1.78) transfer, 5.1 sound, a music video, sing-along and digital comic book.

THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2 4K UHD Combo Pack (97 mins., 2019, PG; Sony): The world probably didn’t need “Angry Birds: The Movie” – much less this sequel, which grossed less than half as much as its predecessor. Yet, as innocuous kid movies go, “Angry Birds Movie 2” is in some ways superior to the original, featuring even more of a disarming tone as the residents of Bird and Pig Island have to get together in order to take on a mysterious new threat. Zany jokes and assorted references are bandied about – and it all goes on too long at 97 minutes – but younger viewers shouldn’t mind. Sony’s attractive 4K UHD presentation includes HDR and DTS X immersive audio, the all-new mini-movie “Live Stream,” six “hatchling mini-movies,” a Digital HD copy and the Blu-Ray, which houses a number of other supplements (featurettes, interactive games and more).

STEVEN UNIVERSE: THE MOVIE DVD (90 mins., 2019; Cartoon Network/Warner): Fans of the popular Cartoon Network series will undoubtedly enjoy this feature-length “special episode” wherein Steven has to save the day again, even after returning to Earth where a new Gem arrives and threatens life in Beach City. Some 16 original songs are the centerpiece of this good-natured, upbeat and message-filled affair, presented on DVD by Warner sporting animatics, featurettes, a 16:9 transfer and 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo sound.

CROSS: RISE OF THE VILLAINS DVD (100 mins., 2019, R; Sony): Follow-up to “Cross” brings back Brian Austin Green and friends as they defend Los Angeles from its newest threat: a pair of villains played by Danny Trejo and Manu Intiraymi. Vinnie Jones, Lou Ferrigno, D.B. Sweeney, Jeremy Roberts and Jason London also appear in this indie action effort on DVD November 12th from Sony sporting a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 sound.

THE WAVE/THE QUAKE Blu-Ray Combo Pack (Magnolia): Blu-Ray package houses both of Magnolia’s previous format releases of Norway’s hit disaster movies “The Wave” and “The Quake.” Check out the Aisle Seat Archives for full reviews of both discs, which have been presented here with the same transfers, soundtracks and special features as those earlier releases.

MS. FISHER’S MODERN MURDER MYSTERIES Series 1 Blu-Ray (353 mins., 2019; Acorn/RLJ): Even Australian TV series aren’t immune from the prequel/sequel franchise “extensions,” as the popular Miss Fisher is here repositioned as a swingin’ 60s heroine played by “Wanted”’s Geraldine Hakewill, who takes to Melbourne as she follows her aunt’s footsteps as a budding detective. Colorful trappings and a lot of period music make these “Modern” mysteries entertaining enough, but hardcore fans of its predecessor may find them a bit superficial compared to the real thing. RLJ’s Blu-Ray includes 2.0 DTS MA stereo sound, 1080p transfers and an 11-minute featurette.

WHEN WE WERE KINGS Blu-Ray (87 mins., 1996; Criterion): Leon Gast’s celebrated documentary assemblage of the footage he shot at “Zaire ’74,” a music festival meant to accompany the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle,” receives the Criterion treatment this month. Gast’s 1996 feature offers all kinds of spellbinding behind-the-scenes material showcasing Muhammad Ali in his battle with George Foreman, coming across as a supremely memorable portrait of time and place. Criterion’s Blu-Ray boasts a new 4K (1.78) restored transfer with 5.0 DTS MA audio, a 2008 documentary on Zaire ’74, a new interview with producer David Sonenberg and the trailer.

STAR TREK DISCOVERY Season 2 Blu-Ray (12 hours, 2019; CBS): If the future of Paramount’s Star Trek franchise is going to rely on the work of producer Alex Kurtzman, the prognosis is grim indeed. This second season of the CBS All Access streaming series continues to chart the voyages of Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham, who’s reconfigured here as the sister of young Spock (Ethan Peck) while working alongside Christopher Pike (Anson Mount). Occasionally the series does something interesting (as with a revisit to “The Cage”), but was still greeted with a mixed reaction it seems from most Trekkies. Season 2 of “Discovery” nevertheless beams down on Blu-Ray this week from CBS sporting 1080p transfers, 5.1 DTS MA sound, deleted scenes, select-episode commentaries, nine behind-the-scenes featurettes and other extras.

LITTLE WOMEN/MARIE ANTOINETTE Blu-Ray (Mill Creek): Long overdue Blu-Ray of the wonderful, Gillian Armstrong-directed version of “Little Women” (118 mins., 1994, PG) manages to be a big disappointment. Mill Creek’s single-disc BD pairs the film with Sofia Coppola’s uneven “Marie Antoinette” (122 mins., 2006, PG-13), but sticks both with no more than serviceable compression and, what’s worse, plain 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. Both films – the former especially – deserve better.

GOOD OMENS Blu-Ray (342 mins., 2019; BBC): David Tennant and Michael Sheen have a ball in this free-wheeling adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantastical 1990 book, centering on an angel (Sheen) and demon (Tennant) who find themselves working together to find a diminutive Anti-Christ that threatens to bring the Apocalypse to Earth. Plenty of laughs and a game cast sell this BBC adaptation of “Good Omens” with the likes of Miranda Richardson, Jack Whitehall, Nick Offerman, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jon Hamm lending an enormous amount of appeal to the dark humor of the series. BBC’s Blu-Ray of “Good Omens” boasts 1080p (2.35) transfers and 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks along with a wide array of supplements: featurettes, interviews and plenty more for fans.

BLISS Blu-Ray (80 mins., 2019, Not Rated; Dark Sky/MPI): Joe Begos’ trippy new film focuses on a painter stuck in a creative funk who resorts to sex, drugs and murder in order to get her latest masterwork completed. A horrific tale of contemporary obsession, “Bliss” is an unsettling independent offering now on Blu-Ray from Dark Sky and MPI. The features-rich Blu-Ray includes commentary with Begos and star Dora Madison; a separate commentary with Begos, the Russell FX team and producer Josh Ehtier; a deleted scene; trailers; a 1080p (2.39) transfer and 5.1 sound.

New this month from the Cohen Film Collection is TEL AVIV ON FIRE (97 mins., 2019), an Israeli import about a Palestinian man who becomes a soap opera writer, and promptly ends up in an argument between an Israeli soldier and his show’s backers over how it should end. Sameh Zoabi directed “Tel Aviv On Fire,” which hits Blu-Ray this month from Cohen featuring a 1080p transfer and Arabic/Hebrew audio with English subtitles. It’s not often we see a lot of Israeli comedies on domestic Blu-Ray but this one is worth tracking down.

YESTERDAY WAS A LIE Blu-Ray (89 mins., 2009, PG; Indiepix): Blu-Ray edition of James Kerwin’s 2009 arthouse hit is new to Blu-Ray. Indiepix’s Blu-Ray serves up a 1080p B&W (1.78) transfer with commentary from Kerwin and stars Chase Masterson and Kipleigh Brown, trailers, featurettes, interviews, a Wondercon panel, exclusive camera tests and outtakes.

Coming From Film Movmement: Philippe Lesage’s debut feature THE DEMONS (118 mins., 2017) is a French-Canadian story set in Montreal where a number of young boys have been kidnapped. The imaginary fears of a 10-year-old are contrasted with the real terrors surrounding him in this disturbing, if not pretentious (and extremely slow-moving) picture debuting on DVD November 19th from Film Movement featuring a 16:9 (2.39) transfer and French 5.1 audio with English subtitles. Also debuting November 19th is Lesage’s follow-up, GENESE (130 mins.), featuring the same lead character (again played by Edouard Tremblay-Grenier) meeting his first girlfriend at a summer camp while two half-siblings (Theodore Pellerin, Noee Abita) attempt to acclimate to a boarding school and the real world, respectively. Film Movement’s DVD includes a 5.1 track (the film offering a mix of French and English dialogue) with Lesage’s commentary and Tristan Aymon’s short “The Lesson” as a bonus feature.

PREY DVD (89 mins., 2019, PG-13; Cinedigm): Blumhouse co-produced this story about a young man (Logan Miller), left stranded on a remote jungle island as part of a “Lost and Found” program, who encounters a mysterious girl (Kristine Froseth) and a creature stalking them both. Franck Khalfoun’s film is out this month from Cinedigm on DVD featuring a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

NEXT TIME: Kino Lorber new releases and 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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