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The ‘60s were filled with “caper” movies, many of the international variety with stars from around the globe hoping to sell their respective collaborations to markets far and wide. The genre was wrapping up by the time THE BURGLARS (114/126 mins., 1971, PG; Sony) was made, which is unfortunate because this is an irresistible late entry in its field, filled with gorgeous Greek locations and exciting action set-pieces. And what more needs to be said than, at one point, star Jean-Paul Belmondo does his own leaping from one moving bus to another while trying to avoid corrupt local cop Omar Sharif?

Director Henri Verneuil – who was coming off the international hit “The Sicilian Clan” – shot “The Burglars” for Columbia, remaking the grittier 1957 Jayne Mansfield-Dan Duryea film “The Burglar” with more of an action flavor. In Verneuil and co-writer Vahe Katcha’s retooling of its predecessor (itself based on a David Goodis book), Belmondo leads a team of thieves (also including Robert Hossein and Nicole Calfan) to Greece in the hopes of stealing vaulted emeralds from a private home. Sharif is the crooked investigator who becomes – along with a drydocked escape vessel – a hindrance to their plans, with Omar pursuing Belmondo through the streets of Athens in a lengthy, bravura car chase sequence that may not have been “Bullitt” but still manages to get the juices flowing.

This is a terrific, thoroughly entertaining film with Belmondo and Sharif at the top of their game, sparring with one another in a movie that’s leisurely paced but never dull – besides the pursuit sequences, I even enjoyed one scene where Sharif describes the local cuisine to Belmondo in a bit you’d never see today. Meanwhile, Dyan Cannon provides the American (sex) appeal in what turns out to be – despite her third billing – little more than a cameo, while Ennio Morricone’s scoring gives off a breezy, popish Bacharach-styled vibe apropos for the time.

“The Burglars” isn’t a movie I’ve come across very often, with Sony’s new, double-disc Blu-Ray marking its high-def premiere in North America. Shot in both English and French, I wonder if the movie’s relatively poor looking U.S. theatrical version has been a reason for its lack of circulation – with its lifeless colors, it pales in comparison to the smashing, and clearly remastered, International Version, also included here on its own Blu-Ray disc. While both transfers are framed at 2.35, the International cut – in French with English subtitles – has notably better detail and unquestionably superior color.

The two versions have some other differences as well, including a longer (and more satisfying) ending in the International cut. Since there are long sections without dialogue and, when there is, Sharif speaks French live along with Belmondo and company, the Parisian edit feels more “natural” whereas much of the dialogue in the English cut is post-synced anyway.

A real discovery for movie buffs, “The Burglars” offers old-fashioned charm with foreign flavor, a zany score, solid action and lovely locations to match. Highly recommended!


New on 4K UHD

Shout! Factory kicks off summer with a 4K UHD remaster of Joe Dante’s MATINEE (99 mins., PG), a charming character piece starring John Goodman as Lawrence Woolsey, a William Castle-esque B-movie producer heading down to the Florida Keys right as the Cuban Missile Crisis is about to play out. His efforts to sell his newest epic – the B&W chiller “Mant!” – are contrasted with the lives of local teenagers, including an army brat (Simon Fenton) whose little brother is as excited about watching Woolsey’s new flick as he is terrified by its subject matter of a “half-man, half ant!” creature running amok.

Part coming-of-age comedy, part homage to the sci-fi/horror outbreak of the ‘50s and ‘60s, “Matinee” has always been one of director Dante’s most appealing and repeatable films. Though little seen at the time of its original release, the well-reviewed picture offers a pleasant mix of performances, gags and poignant moments, with Goodman having a ball as the affable genre promoter and Cathy Moriarty pitch-perfect as his long-suffering leading lady. The “Mant!” sequences are uproariously funny, and while the domestic scenes of “the kids” aren’t quite as compelling, there’s still a sweetness and simplicity to them as well, even if the male leads (Fenton and Omri Katz) are outclassed by their female counterparts (Kellie Martin and Lisa Jakub).

With Dante regulars both behind (Jerry Goldsmith contributes a splendid score; cinematographer John Hora captures the mostly-Florida shot locales with a nostalgic flair) and in front of the camera (Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, Belinda Balaski), “Matinee” not only fits comfortably within the director’s filmography but stands out with its personalized, character-driven storyline. Earlier drafts of the script apparently included a supernatural component that was wisely dropped by “Gremlins 2” writer Charlie Haas, enabling the characters to drive the piece instead of Dante’s offbeat humor. There’s plenty of that here, too, but “Matinee” ranks as one of his most satisfying films for its balance of nostalgia and comic energy, and memories of a movie-going era long since past.

“Matinee” previously became part of Shout’s “Shout Select” Blu-Ray line in 2018, and this new 4K UHD is a big improvement over not just that edition but all previous releases of the movie on disc. John Hora’s warmly hued cinematography benefits from the new, Dante-approved transfer and Dolby Vision HDR (1.85), giving dimension to the image and clearing up encoding issues that plagued previous HD master(s) on earlier Blu-Rays. The fresh Dolby Atmos audio gives a little more punch to the “Rumble-Rama” on the soundtrack too, with the original 5.1 DTS MA and 2-channel stereo tracks also on-hand, enabling viewers to pick and choose their audio format (note the accompanying Blu-Ray is also remastered for those without 4K compatibility, albeit lacking the Dolby Atmos track).

Supplements were where Shout’s previous disc shined, and the new UHD ups the ante with even more extras. These include new interviews with Kellie Martin and co-star David Clennon, plus a historian/fan commentary by Drew McWeeny and Eric Vespe.

Retrospective interviews from the 2018 disc include conversations with Dante, Jakub, Moriarty, editor Marshall Harvey, cinematographer John Hora, and “Mant!” performer Mark McCracken among others. The participants talk about shooting in Florida (Hora laments the lack of local construction elements) while Dante outlines the movie’s lengthy development process, along with Universal saving the day when the independently-financed project’s producers fell out, taking their funding with them. Dante’s comments are augmented with a longer interview that was shot by Fiction Factory for Carlotta’s French BD release, and has been wisely reprised here by Shout. Other extras include vintage EPK behind-the-scenes materials (including a short featurette) and the trailer (note the standalone "Mant!" sequences are not included this time). Warmly recommended!

Paramount has released a highly satisfying 4K UHD of one of their bona-fide classics, CHINATOWN (130 mins., 1974, R), Roman Polanski’s noir masterwork that requires little discussion in regards to its placement in both the decade’s cinematic pantheon as well as the genre it hails from. With outstanding performances, rich atmosphere, a classic Jerry Goldsmith score and John A. Alonzo’s golden-hued cinematography, “Chinatown” is a powerful, captivating viewing experience each and every time out.

Paramount’s “Paramount Presents” 4K UHD remaster is one of their better efforts of late, showing clear detail and strong colors with Dolby Vision HDR enhancement (2.35). The 5.1 DTS MA sound is the same stereo remix we’ve heard before, while the Dolby Digital mono sound restores the original theatrical mono track for purists.

Extras include a brand new featurette, “A State of Mind: Author Sam Wasson on Chinatown,” plus the supplements from the studio’s previous Blu-Ray. These include “Water and Power: The Aqueduct,” which includes a history of L.A.’s water system with screenwriter Robert Towne visiting various locales. Polanski, star Jack Nicholson (whose role as private eye Jake Gittes ranks as one of his best performances), and writer Towne adorn an hour-long look at “Chinatown,” split into four different segments and packed with insight into the film’s creation. The director discusses his issues working in Hollywood while all involved mention how the original score (by Philip Lambro) was universally disliked and tossed just days before the film’s release — leading to Jerry Goldsmith’s phenomenal “rush job” that became one of the composer’s most celebrated works.

A commentary between Robert Towne and David Fincher is also on tap plus a Digital HD copy and a welcome bonus: the previously-released Blu-Ray of THE TWO JAKES, Nicholson’s ill-fated 1990 sequel which is convoluted, overlong and yet still worth seeing, at least once as a companion piece to this film. Alas, the 1080p (1.85) HD master Paramount used for the disc is marred by extensive edge-enhancement and is in need of remastering.

TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (98 mins., 2004, Unrated/R; Paramount): Gross, crass, frequently uneven and often uproarious, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “Team America” must have hit me at just right the moment.

Though less focused – and therefore not as satisfying – as the duo’s “South Park” movie, “Team America” nevertheless boasts a solid share of belly laughs, especially if you’ve watched any one of Gerry Anderson’s “Supermarination” shows like “Thunderbirds.”

Parker, Stone and Pam Brady’s script offers a ribald look at a team of American superfighters (with a definite Anderson look and feel) who run up against South Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il. Kim-Jong has recruited a handful of Hollywood stars — from Alec Baldwin to Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon — to help him take over the world, which allows for ample ribbing of celebrity liberalism.

Though taken on the surface as a direct commentary on the role of the U.S. military in world affairs, “Team America” takes as many shots at the Hollywood left, mocking the self-righteous and misguided tone of Sean Penn and others. Mainly, though, any target is grist for the mill, though “Team America” isn’t so much a political spoof as it simply mocks big-scale Hollywood blockbusters (especially Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbor”).

The puppeteering by the Chiodo Bros. and the team of technicians is superb, as are the visual effects and Bill Pope’s cinematography in full scope widescreen. Even better is the movie’s hilarious collection of songs, again penned by the creators alongside Marc Shaiman (whose score for the movie was tossed out at the last minute). With sharp lyrics that satirize various genres (including ‘80s movie montages, big love ballads, country tunes and even the G.I. Joe theme song), the songs help “Team America” breeze over some of its rough spots, including a longer-than-necessary running time and misfired gags.

Special kudos also go out to Harry Gregson-Williams for his hysterical soundtrack, which basically reprises every Media Ventures cliche in the book. Here, though, the score works wonders when set against the film’s comedic backdrop. You’ll never laugh so hard at a vomit scene again!

Paramount’s 4K UHD offers the theatrical cut of the film in a marvelous Dolby Vision HDR (2.35) presentation plus the Unrated cut on Blu-Ray (I preferred the slightly more disciplined theatrical version). Both offer 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks, while special features count a handful of Making Of featurettes, heavy on the technical detail that went into the production, along with deleted/extended scenes, storyboards, a puppet test, and a pair of trailers.

Speaking of “South Park,” SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT (81 mins., 1999, R; Paramount) also makes its 4K UHD debut from Paramount this month. This hilarious big-screen spinoff is a little dated with its scattered references to Windows 98 (!) but the core satire remains – as do the fantastic songs from Parker, Stone and Marc Shaiman. Paramount premieres another strong Dolby Vision HDR (1.85) transfer here with 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio and a Blu-Ray sporting the Sing-A-Long version and commentary from Parker/Stone, trailers, and the “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” music video.

THE KARATE KID 40th Anniversary Edition 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (127 mins., 1984, PG; Sony): Over 30 minutes of discarded dailies, a new commentary from the producers of “Cobrai Kai,” a retro slipcover and loads of archival goodies mark this 40th Anniversary package of the Summer of ‘84 classic.

John G. Avildsen’s smash hit needs little introduction, having spawned three sequels (with another on the way), one remake, and the best streaming “reboot” of all-time, and has been released and re-released on every home video format in existence. Even on 4K UHD the movie has been released twice already (once solo, then in a box-set), making this one of the first UHD titles to garner a threepeat.

At least it’s a good one – from the RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video retro artwork on its slipcover to the same high quality Dolby Vision HDR/Dolby Atmos presentation, “Karate Kid” fans will want to indulge in this latest 4K foray.

The transfer and soundtrack are identical to its last release, making the extras its unique element. Here, that means a group commentary from the “Cobra Kai” creators/producers, plus over 30 minutes of deleted scenes culled from dailies.

There are also additional deleted scenes and even more extras from its previous UHD, led by an uproarious DVD-era group commentary with stars Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, writer Robert Mark Kamen, and Avildsen, plus the 45-minute “Way of the Karate Kid” documentary. In addition to (then) freshly-conducted interviews with all the creative personnel (sans Elisabeth Shue), the documentary includes copious home video footage shot by Avildsen during pre-production and shooting, plus plenty of revealing anecdotes (like how Kamen didn’t particularly care for the first studio choice for Mr. Miyagi — Toshiro Mifune!). Additional featurettes examine the movie’s application of martial arts and use of the Bonsai, while composer Bill Conti is on-hand to discuss the soundtrack in “East Meets West: A Composer’s Notebook.” Conti discusses his relationship with Avildsen and how the choice of a symphonic score wouldn’t date the film (unlike the picture’s source music, as he points out), and remains satisfied (deservedly so) with his efforts on the picture.

The Blu-Ray and a Digital HD copy round out another superb Sony catalog release.

AMERICAN GIGOLO 4K Ultra HD (93 mins., 1980, R; Arrow Video): One of Richard Gere’s breakthrough performances came in this hard-nosed Paul Schrader film which follows a young Los Angeles gigolo (Gere) on his various adventures with older women. Eventually, he takes an unfortunate trip to Palm Springs where he’s hired to make love to the wife of a local high roller – only for her to end up dead, with Gere’s Julian Kay framed for the murder.

Schrader had entrenched himself on the Hollywood director’s “A list” for a time with movies like this and “Hardcore,” “American Gigolo” being aided immeasurably by John Bailey’s cinematography and the slick scoring of Giorgio Moroder. Gere provides the star power opposite Lauren Hutton as one of his clients, the wife of a prominent politician who, at first, refuses to provide an alibi to help save Julian once he’s accused of murder.

Arrow’s 4K UHD box-set includes a dynamic new Dolby Vision HDR (1.85) transfer that’s a big-time improvement from Paramount’s old Blu-Ray. A slew of audio options ranges from the original mono to 2.0 and 5.1 remixes with extras including a new interview with Schrader and commentary from Adrian Martin. There are also welcome new conversations with co-stars Hector Elizondo and Bill Duke, editor Richard Halsey, camera operator (and later cinematographer) King Baggot, music supervisor Dan Wilcox, and professor Jennifer Clark, detailing the movie’s use of fashion. The trailer, booklet notes, six postcard-sized lobby card reproductions and Arrow’s customary superb packaging complete the release.

John Waters’ cult-favorite CRY-BABY (92 mins., 1990, PG-13/Unrated; Universal) gets the 4K treatment this month from Kino Lorber.

Waters’ 1990 film was the most expensive and elaborate studio film the filmmaker would produce (in the wake of “Hairspray” every studio wanted a crack at it), and it’s a dizzying, colorful salute to the kinds of B-grade, juvenile delinquent films Waters grew up on in the ‘50s. Johnny Depp anchors the thread-bare plot as a greaser-rocker who falls for squeaky-clean good girl Amy Locane. Depp angers her “square” friends by bringing Locane out to his posse’s “backwoods” hang-out, singing songs and acclimating her with his tough gal-pals (including Traci Lords, Ricki Lake, and Susan Tyrell).

“Cry-Baby” boasts several toe-tapping musical numbers, energetically performed and scored, and Depp’s appealing performance helps a great deal. Like many Waters films, though, “Cry-Baby” is maddeningly uneven, with not enough plot to sustain its 92-minute running time. It’s a movie of moments that never gels into a satisfying whole, though I’m sure Waters fans will love this new 4K scan of the 35mm OCN from Kino Lorber. Featuring Dolby Vision HDR (1.85) and its previous DTS MA audio track, the PG-13 theatrical cut has never looked or sounded better.

Waters’ unrated cut has been remastered for Blu-Ray here also. This 2005 re-edit expanded the movie by seven minutes, with at least one song restored and one glaring (but hilarious) f-bomb added into the movie (hence the well-deserved “Unrated” tag). Otherwise, the movie is still an obviously PG-13 effort as mainstream as any of Waters’ works.

Special features include additional deleted scenes (including an alternate climax that reportedly airs when “Cry-Baby” is shown on broadcast TV), commentary with Waters, and an excellent DVD-era featurette “It Came From Baltimore,” looking back at the production with comments from Waters, Depp, Amy Locane, Traci Lords, Ricki Lake, and numerous members of Waters’ creative team.

All-new extras include interviews with Amy Locane, Traci Lords, Iggy Pop, Ricki Lake, Patricia Hearst, Darren E. Burrows, Stephen Mailer, and Barber Howard “Hep” Preston, plus the featurette “Bringing Up Baby,” with casting director Pat Moran, cinematographer David Insley, actress Mink Stole and Waters himself involved.


Blu-Ray Premieres

BEVERLY HILLS NINJA Blu-Ray (89 mins., 1997, PG-13; Sony): Chris Farley’s run of big-screen comedies petered out pretty fast after the likes of “Tommy Boy,” with “Beverly Hills Ninja” faring as a predictable slapstick affair that was quickly forgotten at the box-office. Farley expectedly engages in his typical physical comedy here as an unlikely (and hapless) ninja who has to save Nicolette Sheridan in order to prove himself to the Japanese clan that raised him as a child. Chris Rock co-stars with Robin Shou in this formulaic outing that has a few scattered laughs under the direction of comedy specialist Dennis Dugan but not much else to comment on. Sony’s debut Blu-Ray of the film (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) is now available sporting Dugan’s commentary and the trailer.

HOMEWORK Blu-Ray (89 mins., 1982, R; Unearthed): Something of a controversial early ‘80s entry into the teen sex comedy genre, “Homework” was most notable for the amount of lawsuits it generated – mainly from top-billed star Joan Collins, whose supporting role was trumpeted as incorporating a nude scene in the movie’s original advertising. Collins was then red hot after the premiere of ABC night-time soap “Dynasty” and sued the movie’s producers for its deceptive marketing – as did a few of her co-stars including Betty Thomas, then appearing in “Hill Street Blues,” who claimed she participated in the movie’s original shoot some four years prior. Despite all of this, “Homework” is a low-rent film even for its genre, albeit a fascinating one for its behind-the-scenes history. Unearthed’s Blu-Ray (1.85, mono) offers the premiere of the film in HD with an interview with producer Max Rosenberg included.


On DVD

Gabe Kaplan’s seminal ‘70s sitcom WELCOME BACK, KOTTER is back on DVD with its second Complete Series package, this time from Warner Home Video itself (Warner issued a Season 1 DVD years back with Shout releasing a Complete Series box).

This James Komack-produced, smash hit ABC series was one of the most memorable of all situation comedies that aired in a decade filled with unforgettable series, thanks mainly to the fact that it’s actually funny. Kaplan’s dry delivery as a teacher and former “Sweathog” from Brooklyn who returns to his school to instruct the next generation of kids pegged as under-achievers (led by Vinnie Barbarino himself, John Travolta) forms the centerpiece of the show, while the chemistry between the cast and the quality of the writing keeps the material fresh and amusing even today.

Having grown up on the series via re-runs in the ‘80s, it’s gratifying to see “Kotter” in Warner’s Complete Series DVD. The box offers all four seasons of the series, even its only intermittently shown later seasons – these include the inferior final year of the show, where Kaplan is seen only sporadically (due to behind the scenes bickering and contract issues) and Travolta pops up as a “Special Guest Star” for a few episodes. Since the series was videotaped, these 4:3 transfers have their limitations, though curiously, the frame-rate seemed smoother in Shout’s DVD.

DEXTER’S LABORATORY: The Complete Series DVD (1995-2003; Warner): Cartoon Network favorite following the 3rd grade genius – who’s still firmly a kid – hits DVD in a deluxe “Complete Series” release on June 25th. “Dexter’s Laboratory” was a fan-favorite early hit for the Cartoon Network, with Dexter playing off his decided less scientifically-inclined sister, Dee Dee, while taking on rival Mandark. Solid transfers and stereo sound comprise this package, wrapped up by Warner in a clamshell case.


New Releases

MONKEY MAN 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (121 mins., 2024, R; Universal): Dev Patel directed and stars in this formulaic, “Wick-ian” action outing about a disenfranchised young man who fights for the oppressed. A strange vanity project for Patel who also co-wrote and produced alongside a litany of financiers including Jordan Peele, without much in the way of humor and appeal. Universal’s UHD includes Dolby Atmos sound and HDR10 (2.39), with an alternate opening/ending, deleted scenes, commentary, a Blu-Ray and a Digital HD code.

IMMACULATE Blu-Ray (89 mins., 2024, R; Decal): Sydney Sweeney gives a convincing performance as a Nun who heads to the Italian countryside where Disciples of the Anti-Christ await the birth of Damien…well, wait a second. This isn’t “The First Omen”? You might be hard pressed to tell the difference at times in this similarly-themed thriller which goes to pretty much the same narrative places as that spring-released prequel. Sweeney, though, fares well here and that last scene is at least more satisfying than anything in the Disney-backed “Omen” cash-in. Decal’s Blu-Ray (2:1, 5.1 DTS MA) is now available sporting commentary with director Michael Mohan.

THE FIRST SLAM DUNK Blu-Ray (124 mins., 2022; GKids/Shout!): Anime sports drama chronicles an Okinawan teenager on the Shohoku High School basketball team as they fight for the national Japan championship. Pretty entertaining Japanese twist on the usual sports movie formula with sufficient character development and pacing to spare. GKids' Blu-Ray (1.78) features both a subtitled Japanese audio track or an English dub with interviews, color commentary with the English dub team, a dub featurette, teaser/trailers and other goodies on-hand for extras.

FOUNDER’S DAY Blu-Ray (106 mins., 2024, R; MPI): Following the lead of Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving” comes another black comic horror movie wherein a group of killings mar a local town’s hotly contested mayoral election. Director/actor Erik Bloomquist’s movie, made with his brother Carson (writer/producer/editor), is now out on Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1/2.0) sporting a group commentary with the Bloomquists and DP Mike Magilnick, plus a concept trailer and other behind-the-scenes materials.

Cohen New Releases: Matteo Garrone’s IO CAPITANO (121 mins., 2022) was a Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee that charts the travels of a teenage boy and his cousin after they leave their native Senegal for a better future, they hope, in Europe. Their trek from the desert to Libya and the ocean is captured in an unadorned, documentary-like manner by Garrone, who shot the picture on location with amateur actors over a 13-week span. An impressive cinematic work from the director of “Gomorrah,” “Lo Capitano” streets from Cohen featuring a 1080p (1.85) transfer, 5.1/2.0 audio in French and Wolof with English subtitles, the trailer, and a Q&A with cast/crew…Uberto Pasolini’s NOWHERE SPECIAL (95 mins., 2020) stars James Norton as a single father who finds out he only has a short time left to live. This is an unrelentingly sad but well acted film, premiering on Blu-Ray from Cohen with a 1080p (1.85) transfer, 5.1/2.0 DTS MA sound, interviews, the trailer, and a Making Of featurette.

NEXT TIME: OCN June/July rundown! 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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Re American Gigolo, there was an advert for it in a film magazine I'd bought when much younger and I said to my Mum 'what's a gigolo'? and she said 'You know, [singing] 'A toot on the flute and a jiggle on the gigolo', paraphrasing the Irish folk song, to save explaining it to me!

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