by ANDY DURSIN
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A series of expensive, high-profile musical flops in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s (from “Paint Your Wagon” to “Lost Horizon,” “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” to “Man of La Mancha”) not only added to the demise of the genre, but very nearly bankrupted parts of Hollywood itself at the time. One of the first major titles to hasten the movie musical’s decline was CAMELOT (**, 180 mins., 1967, G; Warner), the big-budget adaptation of the hugely successful Lerner-Loewe Broadway musical.
Joshua Logan, who helmed “South Pacific” and “Mr. Roberts” among countless other popular films, was hired to direct producer Jack L. Warner’s pricey Warner-Seven Arts film production to the tune of a reported $17 million budget. What’s shocking about the film, though, is how cheap it looks: shot mostly in Burbank with just a few instances of European location filming, this stilted, crushingly dull film offers just a glimmer here and there of the brilliance of its source material, which made it to the stage with Richard Burton as King Arthur, Julie Andrews as Guenevere and Robert Goulet as the strapping Lancelot.
Movie audiences, regrettably, were saddled with Richard Harris as Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave as his fair lady and Franco Nero as the Frenchman who joins the Knights of the Round Table. While Harris is effective in the film’s straight dramatic scenes, his often hammy delivery and limp singing voice – along with some terrible eyeliner make-up that Harris himself reportedly hated – makes “Camelot” the film an endurance test, compounded by staging that’s stunningly claustrophobic and dominated by close-ups of the stars. Perhaps because the film ran so overbudget that Logan was told to film as much as he could before the plug was pulled, the movie visually is a turn-off with little camera coverage of the various set-pieces – and even straight dialogue scenes between Harris and Redgrave (who looks great but also can’t sing particularly well) are dominated by canned dialogue that was looped in post-production.
Lerner and Loewe’s songs (the title track, “If Ever I Would Leave You,” “What Do the Simple Folk Do?,” “How to Handle a Woman”) are still – in spite of the mediocre vocals – attractively orchestrated, with credit going out to Alfred Newman and Ken Darby for their arrangements (Newman’s underscore is also wonderful), but the movie – which lumbers on for some three hours in a solemn script, reworked by Lerner, that unwisely de-emphasized the stage version’s humor – is plastic and unappealing, a relic of its era that has little in the way of charm.
Warner’s Blu-Ray Digibook edition of “Camelot” does its best to bring the movie’s unattractive visual pallet to HD. The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is quite excellent, offering crisp detail and a well-engineered DTS MA 5.1 soundtrack. A few new extra features are also on tap, including a half-hour look at the production with comments from various historians, most of whom peg the blame for the film’s commercial failure on bad timing (i.e. the Vietnam war) and not on the picture’s abundant shortcomings. Stephen Farber provides a fairly engaging commentary while a vintage featurette and multiple trailers are also included. It’s a nice package for those fans of the film who can overlook its problems; others may be more inclined to stick to their memories of the various stage versions or the original cast album (which my uncle, James Gannon, happened to be a part of; he played Sir Sagramore in the original Broadway cast...and he wasn’t a fan of the movie either!).
Far more satisfying – and likewise new on the Warner catalog front – is JEREMIAH JOHNSON (***½, 115 mins., 1973, GP), a rugged, exciting western-adventure starring Robert Redford as a disgruntled war veteran who decides to leave his life behind and become a mountain man in the wilds of 19th century Utah. His trials and tribulations, triumphs and tragedies are documented in a film that bridges an old-fashioned entertainment (with its Overture and Intermission) with a “realistic” tone typical of the ‘70s.
Told with little dialogue (director Sydney Pollack referred to the picture as his “silent movie”), “Jeremiah Johnson” is a tonic to the hyper-edited commercial product we see in the movies today. The film unfolds at a leisurely pace, emphasizing both the beauty and the danger of its natural surroundings; between Duke Callaghan’s outstanding cinematography and the lyrical score of John Rubinstein and Tim McIntire (who took Pollack’s suggestion and integrated vocals to give the film a mythic, “ballad”-like feel), the movie is one of the most purely beautiful films of its era and one of the great “outdoors” movies in cinema history. The story is told in a somewhat disjointed manner, with the first half showing Jeremiah acclimating to the wild, inheriting a young boy from a settler family almost entirely massacred as well as a wife from a tribe of Christianized Indians; the second half, which starts after an Intermission at the 80 minute mark (keep in mind there’s only 35 minutes left in the picture!), deals with Johnson’s vendetta against the Crow tribe after his new, surrogate family perishes at their hands.
The script – written by John Milius and Edward Anhalt with actual historical figures worked into the narrative – could have been better fleshed out in its latter stages, but this is still a tremendously impressive picture in spite of its flaws. Pollack, working with what he described as a skeleton crew in a virtual “guerrilla filmmaking” manner, shows his diversity as a filmmaker in a movie that was a far cry from his prior outing in “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” Mountain vistas, flowing streams, flying eagles and the living world have never felt so alive cinematically as they do here. Despite Redford’s appearance, the film was produced on a tight budget – as Pollack mentions in his audio commentary, there wasn’t enough money to hire a name composer, which is how Rubinstein and McIntire got the job. Problems with the early Panavision lenses and the harsh wintry conditions also lead to numerous difficulties making the film – yet the end result was well worth the trouble, as “Jeremiah Johnson” ranks as one of the most authentic, and satisfying, films of its genre. It’s also a film that seems to improve with repeat viewing (knowing the film’s shortcomings, it’s easier to embrace its many positive attributes), a picture that embraces the natural world at a time when most studio fare seems completely disinterested in it.
Warner’s Blu-Ray edition of “Jeremiah Johnson” includes the debut of a commentary track, obviously recorded some time ago, with Pollack, Milius and Redford separately recounting their experiences working on the film. Pollack’s insight is fascinating as he divulges the many challenges involved in the picture’s production, with Milius and Redford also detailing the real-life history of Johnson himself. The trailer and the same vintage promotional featurette that were included on the old DVD are also on-hand here in standard-def. The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is generally excellent, showing fine detail with just a bit of DNR here and there. The 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack is even better, impressively mixed with the score flowing into all channels of the sound field. Highly recommended!
Also New on Blu-Ray
UNDERWORLD AWAKENING 3-D Blu-Ray (**, 89 mins., 2012, R; Sony): Vampire “death dealer” Selene (Kate Beckinsale) wakes from a cryogenic slumber in a future world where humans have nearly eradicated both vampires and lycans off the face of the earth. On the hunt for old flame Michael – the former human turned vamp/wolf hybrid – Selene comes in contact with a young girl (“Secret Life of the American Teenager”’s India Eisley, the lovely daughter of Olivia Hussey) with a certain “connection” with our heroine, while – of course – being pursued by a government scientist (Stephen Rea) with an agenda of his own.
Despite boasting the return of Beckinsale to the series after a one-film prequel hiatus, “Underworld Awakening” delivers precisely what you’d expect from a fourth go-around – namely, a film that plays to diminishing returns on nearly every front. Eschewing most of the convoluted backstory that dominated its predecessors (the first five minutes give casual viewers and newcomers all the info you need, so no need to revisit them either), “Awakening” plays like the kind of stripped-down Cannon sequel you’d see back in the ‘80s: at 78 minutes sans credits (73 if you take out the prologue), this is almost like an extended trailer for another sequel as opposed to a real movie. Beckinsale still looks good running around in her black leather outfit, but the story – credited to her husband, producer Len Wiseman, along with John Hlavin, Allison Burnett and J. Michael Straczynski – is remarkably threadbare. With so few faces returning from the earlier films (Scott Speedman’s character is a major part of the story, yet he’s nowhere to be found), the picture also feels more like a “Resident Evil” film as opposed to an “Underworld” movie, though the 3-D effects are occasionally effective. Fans, then, are more likely to be disappointed with this sequel than others who might appreciate this B-movie’s scaled-back story and accent on action set–pieces, though the film dramatically is a fizzle no matter how you approach it.
Sony’s 3-D Blu-Ray looks great, offering a good array of depth-of-field effects throughout. A 2-D version is also housed on the single-disc release, which includes all the extras from its standard BD release, including commentary from directors “Marlind & Stein,” a blooper reel, music video, five behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a 3-D BD exclusive set of “previsualization sequences.”
HAYWIRE Blu-Ray/Digital Copy (**, 93 mins., 2012, R; Lionsgate): MMA star Gina Carano certainly holds her own – and looks more than fetching in the process – against the likes of Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum and Michael Douglas in Steven Soderbergh’s winter box-office disappointment “Haywire.” Unfortunately, this over-written, sterile thriller could’ve used a dose of o’l fashioned Cannon-like exploitation thrills to liven it up.
Carano plays a government op on the run from a double-cross; her story is told in flashback (visual clues, lest anyone confuses the timeframes, are signaled by the length of Carano’s hair) as she seeks revenge on the bad men who set her up.
Soderbergh has directed a myriad of films in different genres, and his attempt at making a “fun” throwback action film here is halfway there, mainly because Carano – electronically-enhanced voice and all – has a certain screen presence (she also seems like she has some charisma as well, judging from one of the disc’s feaurettes). She’s unable to inject much personality, though, in Lem Dobbs’ script, which is fairly basic but is presented here like it’s another entry in Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” series, with cross-cutting used to convolute the otherwise straightforward story.
Ultimately, “Haywire” isn’t much fun – and most of the big-name cast seems disinterested outside of its lead actress, who hopefully will find the right B-movie vehicle to strut her stuff in the future. This is one instance where “dumbing down” the approach (and lightening the tone) would’ve made for a more entertaining picture.
Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray offers a 1080p transfer that’s slick and glossy but doesn’t display a whole lot of detail – chalk that up to the director’s love of shooting with HD cameras. Two featurettes are on-hand along with a DTS MA soundtrack.
THE INNKEEPERS Blu-Ray (*½, 103 mins., 2011, R; Dark Sky/MPI): Ti West, who scored a modest success with his “House of the Devil” indie horror fave, returns with this interminable supernatural thriller that sounds a lot more exciting than it plays.
A pair of workers at a New England inn (Sara Paxton, Pat Healy) decide to have fun with the closing of their establishment by exposing its supposedly haunted past. In addition to a new guest (Kelly McGillis) who seems like she knows more than she’s letting on, the duo conduct various ghost-hunting experiments that, of course, let the spectral happenings out of the bag...albeit very, very slowly.
West’s keen eye for widescreen composition is once again on display in “The Innkeepers,” but the film itself is crushingly dull. Almost nothing happens in the movie’s opening half-hour, with the banter between Paxton and Healy meant to be lighthearted yet neither performer is engaging enough to make you interested. Once the assorted bumps, creeks and noises start up, the movie feels like any episode from TV’s “Ghost Hunters” before West, predictably, shakes things up in a loud, noisy ending that’s far too little and late in happening.
Dark Sky’s Blu-Ray does include a very attractive 1080p transfer with DTS MA audio. West shot the film on location in Connecticut and the movie, at least, feels “authentic.” Extras include a crew commentary, another with West and the cast, plus one featurette and the trailer.
CLUELESS Blu-Ray (***½, 97 mins., PG-13; Paramount): Amy Heckerling’s delightful 1995 teen comedy hits Blu-Ray in a satisfying package that’s just as bubbly and colorful as it was nearly two decades ago (can it be that long?).
Alicia Silverstone’s star-making performance is just one of the numerous pleasures to be found in Heckerling’s casual application of Jane Austen’s “Emma” to the Beverly Hills high school scene circa 1995. The movie’s often hilarious script and energetic tone is infectious, and superb supporting performances from Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy, Donald Faison, Wallace Shawn, Jeremy Sisto and Dan Hedaya make for a movie that’s just as much fun now as it was back then.
Paramount’s Blu-Ray includes all the extras from its 10th Anniversary DVD, with a surprisingly good 1080p transfer and DTS MA soundtrack sweetening the pot. I’ve always enjoyed David Kitay’s unreleased score for “Clueless,” which thankfully gives the movie a “timeless” feel that off-sets its copious modern rock songs. A multi-part featurette includes 2005 interviews with the cast and crew, basically everyone EXCEPT Silverstone. Even Brittany Murphy shows up, but not Silverstone, for whatever reason.
Outside of that minor disappointment, this is otherwise an engaging look back on the movie’s creation (Heckerling originally developed the project as a TV series, which it ironically became AFTER the film was released), sporting all sorts of interviews and fun anecdotes. Basically, it shows that Heckerling knew exactly what she wanted with “Clueless,” and the result is clearly (along with “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”) her most satisfying film (and as a developed story, it might just be better as well).
SHOGUN ASSASSIN 5-Film Blu-Ray Set (AnimEigo): I’ve found that the older I get, the more appealing vintage exploitation films become. Perhaps it’s my growing disinterest in most manufactured studio films we’re seeing these days, and maybe just my tastes have changed a little bit with moving into my 30s. Either way, a release like Animeigo’s bew Blu-Ray edition of SHOGUN ASSASSIN (***, 85 mins., 1980, R) and its four sequels feels like an oasis of undeniably fulfilling cinematic junk-food.
These Americanized, re-edited, dubbed versions of Japan’s vintage ‘70s “Lone Wolf and Cub” films are one of those rare instances where trimming the fat and hacking up the narrative of its source results in a lean, efficient, gleefully entertaining blast of action.
Director Robert Houston and producer David Weisman first reworked “Sword of Vengeance” and “Baby Cart at the River Styx” for the 1980 New World Pictures release SHOGUN ASSASSIN, which follows a crazed samurai-turned-assassin and his young son (who sits in a baby cart with some weapons of its own) as they fight a bevy of warriors across feudal Japan.
“Shogun Assassin”’s dubbing, which was performed by the likes of Marshall Efron and Sandra Bernhard among others, is effectively handled, the pacing non-stop, and the power of the original movie’s action sequences retained in this stripped-down, no-nonsense release – one which has had a lost-lasting influence on pop culture, whether it’s modern music samples or references in Quentin Tarantino productions. W. Michael Lewis (“In Search Of...”) and Mark Lindsay’s electronic scoring, meanwhile, adds further punctuation to a picture that’s long been a favorite of genre fans, and which has received a terrific Blu-Ray release courtesy of AnimEigo – this time in a box-set also offering SHOGUN ASSASSIN 2: LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH, SHOGUN ASSASSIN 3: SLASHING BLADES OF CARNAGE, SHOGUN ASSASSIN 4: FIVE FISTFULS OF GOLD, and SHOGUN ASSASSIN 5: COLD ROAD TO HELL.
For the original “Shogun Assassin,” the independent label’s Blu-Ray disc boasts a terrific AVC-encoded, noise-reduction-free 1080p transfer with uncompressed stereo audio; the movie has been restored from the finest surviving elements, licensed through Toho, and boasts a number of extras, including two different commentaries (one with Weisman, graphic designer Jim Evans and Gibran Evans, voice actor; and another with experts Ric Meyers and Steve Watson), a featurette and a recent interview with fan Samuel L. Jackson. The original New World trailer (featuring voice-over from the guy who did “Superman” 1 & 2) is also on-tap, also in widescreen. The sequels, meanwhile, have been contained in their own separate disc with 1080p AVC encoded transfers similar to the original.
It’s a marvelous package for a series that’s wild, woolly, violent and almost spellbinding in its inherent madness.
SHAME Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy (**, 101 mins., 2011, NC-17; Fox): Michael Fassbender bares all – and gives a committed performance deserving of the critical kudos it received last year – in an unpleasant, grimy and ugly film about a New York businessman who spends his dough on hookers and porn. Carey Mulligan co-stars as Fassbender’s equally troubled, suicidal sister, who also spends nearly five minutes painfully performing “New York, New York” in Steve McQueen’s latest film, which sparred with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” last year for the honors of Most Inappropriate Christmas Release of All-time. Fox’s Blu-Ray includes a number of featurettes, a fine 1080p AVC encoded transfer and a DTS MA soundtrack, plus a DVD and digital copy.
MEN IN BLACK Blu-Ray/Ultraviolet (**½, 98 mins., 1997, PG-13; Sony)
MEN IN BLACK II Blu-Ray/Ultraviolet (*½, 88 mins., 2002, PG-13; Sony): As big a hit as “MIB” was back in the summer of ‘97, I distinctly recall being underwhelmed when I first saw it: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and big-eyed aliens should have equaled the '90s version of “Ghostbusters” for “The X-Files” generation. Unfortunately, director Barry Sonnenfeld's movie -- while a huge blockbuster success -- is a watered-down comedy with some good ideas and a few laughs, but also a complete absence of character development and dramatic tension. Sure, Will's interrogation sequence is memorably amusing, and the film coasts along on the chemistry between its stars, but one gets the sense a better film could’ve been produced from the material...a feeling further hammered home by the total incompetence of its troubled 2002 sequel. For the most part, the less said, the better about “Men in Black II,” which fails to hit the 90-minute mark and offers an uninteresting rehash of its predecessor no thanks to a weak Robert Gordon-Barry Fanaro script (troubled shoots seem to run in this franchise’s history, with the upcoming “Men in Black III” having shut production down due to a script that the filmmakers didn’t have a handle on).
Packaged with Ultraviolet digital copies and movie cash for “MIB III,” Sony’s single-disc Blu-Ray editions of MIB 1 & 2 – the second film making its debut in the format here – look terrific. The AVC encoded transfers are smashing, the Dolby TrueHD audio (DTS MA on 2) is top-notch, and various extras include a BD-Live trivia game, an alien subtitle track, and another interactive game involving Frank the Pug. A solid array of extras from prior DVD editions also include technical and “telestrator” commentaries, extended and deleted scenes, documentary materials, music videos, trailers and the proverbial “whole lot more.”
MOTHER’S DAY Blu-Ray/DVD (*½, 112 mins., 2010; Anchor Bay): Remake of the forgettable 1980 horror programmer from “Saw” II/III/IV helmer Darren Lynn Bousman basically throws out Charles Kaufman’s original movie in lieu of a new script by Scott Milam that’s heavy on violence and light on thrills.
In Milam’s screenplay, a trio of brothers (Patrick Flueger, Warren Kole, Matt O’Leary) returning home after a failed bank robbery, only to find out that their ancestral house has been foreclosed upon. The new owners (Jaime King, Frank Grillo) soon become their hostages – and things really take a turn for the worse once dear old Mom (Rebecca DeMornay) shows up to really trash their party plans.
Despite having Brett Ratner as one of its producers, “Mother’s Day” failed to interest the major studios, who opted to bypass the 2010 picture and send it straight to video. Clearly it’s not hard to see why, based on the picture’s off-putting gore and tone, which is a 180 from the slasher-like thrills generated by its predecessor.
Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray of “Mother’s Day” includes a fine 1080p transfer and Dolby TrueHD soundtrack with a DVD and commentary from Bousman and co-star Shawn Ashmore as the sole supplement of note.
W.E. Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy (**, 119 mins., 2011, R; Anchor Bay): Madonna’s feature directorial debut was trashed by most critics and failed to find an audience, but it’s not an entire waste of time. Madonna and Alex Keshishian’s script charts the real-life romance of King Edward VII (James D’Arcy) and American Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) as seen through the eyes of a frustrated New Yorker (Abbie Cornish) who becomes enchanted with their lives – but finds, as she digs through their decades-long relationship, that things were far from perfect.
The performances are sincere but the drama is limp in “W.E.,” which Anchor Bay brings to Blu-Ray in a combo pack this month. The 1080p transfer and DTS MA soundtrack are both highly acceptable, and the combo pack also includes a DVD, digital copy, and one Making Of featurette.
New From Criterion
Yasujiro Ozu’s LATE SPRING (1949, 108 mins.) is viewed as one of the Japanese director’s most acclaimed works -- an uncluttered story of marriage, a woman’s role in that institution and particularly in post-WWII Japan, as it charts the relationship between a widowed father (Chishu Ryu) who pushes his content daughter (Setsuko Hara) into a union she doesn’t need, much less want.
It’s a powerful film that Criterion brings to Blu-Ray this month in a new HD transfer that looks exceptionally crisp in its 1080p AVC encoded transfer (the film is presented in Japanese with English subtitles).
Extras are reprieved from Criterion’s two-disc, 2006 DVD including commentary from Film Society of Lincoln Center director Richard Pena; improved English subtitles; essays from critic Michael Atkinson and Japanese cinema historian Donald Richie; and Wim Wenders’s 1985 picture “Tokyo-Ga,” a loving tribute to Ozu that scouts the locales of the filmmaker’s work and offers interviews with Ryu among others.
Catalog Titles New to Blu-Ray
THE ODESSA FILE Blu-Ray (**½, 128 mins., 1974, PG; Image): Frederick Forsyth’s bestseller was adapted by Kenneth Ross and George Markstein in “Poseidon Adventure” helmer Ronald Neame’s somewhat meandering 1974 espionage thriller. Set in Germany during the early ‘60s, Jon Voight stars as a journalist tracking down a nefarious SS captain (Maximilian Schell) in a film scored by none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber – one that opens with a patently mediocre Christmas tune crooned by Perry Como! Although the story is mostly slow-going and uneasily mixes in ‘60s/’70s espionage cliches with a realistic account of Nazi crimes (with Simon Weisenthal used as an advisor), “The Odessa File” is, if nothing else, well-shot in scope and benefits enormously from Image’s 1080p transfer culled from the Sony vaults, which is highly detailed and just terrific. The uncompressed PCM audio is fine, and no extras are included.
Also new from Image is a Blu-Ray of the highly forgettable 2001 Jean-Claude Van Damme actioner THE ORDER (89 mins., R), with the Muscles from Brussels taking on an underground sect in Jerusalem. The better-than-average cast includes Charlton Heston and Ben Cross and is accompanied by a serviceable Pino Donaggio score, but the film itself isn’t one of Van Damme’s better vehicles. The 1080p transfer is decent at least and DTS MA audio completes the release.
PILLOW TALK Blu-Ray/DVD (***, 103 mins., 1959; Universal): The palpable chemistry between Doris Day and Rock Hudson remains the prime reason to check out Universal’s 1959 romantic-comedy “Pillow Talk,” a glossy Ross Hunter production featuring an engaging script by Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin. Universal’s 100th Anniversary Digibook package of “Pillow Talk” includes a 1080p transfer that looks vibrant for the most part – there does seem to be a bit of processing involved but there’s still a healthy amount of grain present, and the widescreen framing (essential to enjoying the picture) is perfect. The DTS MA mono soundtrack is acceptable, and Universal has included a few new extras to sweeten the package, most notably a group commentary with friends Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo and Jeff Bond that’s a pleasure to listen to. Other extras include two featurettes on the film and three previously-released featurettes on the history of Universal studios.
TV on DVD
LOGAN’S RUN Complete Series DVD (711 mins., 1977-78; Warner): Remember the days when big movies meant TV spin-offs? Alas for every “M*A*S*H” there were dozens of other series that failed to build an audience in the ‘70s and ‘80s, whether it was “Planet of the Apes,” “Blue Thunder” or “Logan’s Run.”
This 1977-78 small-screen version of the 1976 MGM hit obviously lacks the scale of its feature film predecessor, with Gregory Harrison starring in Michael York’s role of Sandman “Logan 5" and Heather Menzies stepping into Jenny Agutter’s shoes as Jessica 6. After a pilot which rehashes the feature film, “Logan’s” settles into a mildly enjoyable assortment of ‘70s sci-fi plots written by the likes of D.C. Fontana, Harlan Ellison, and John Meredyth Lucas among others, with MGM Television’s production opening up the premise beyond its film construct (Donald Moffat plays an android who helps Logan and Jessica on their various adventures, for example).
With solid scores from Bruce Broughton and Laurence Rosenthal, “Logan’s Run” was a series that was short-lived but has managed to endure thanks to the material’s fans, who ought to appreciate Warner’s three-disc DVD set. All 14 episodes are on-hand in crisp full-screen transfers with mono sound.
BOB’S BURGERS Season 1 DVD (266 mins., 2011; Fox)
AMERICAN DAD! Volume 7 DVD (463 mins., 2011; Fox): Seth MacFarlane’s “Family Guy” follow-up has been on the air for quite a while on Fox, yet “American Dad” has never generated the fanbase of MacFarlane’s earlier series. In fact, the creator himself has told viewers to email Fox in the hopes of generating another renewal for the show, which has struggled in the ratings. Volume 7 of “American Dad!,” then, could be its penultimate DVD anthology, with Fox’s release including 19 episodes in 16:9 (1.78) transfers and 5.1 soundtracks. Extras include deleted scenes, selected-scene commentaries and a 2010 Comic Con panel featurette.
The recent Fox animated series “Bob’s Burgers,” meanwhile, has also been released on DVD by Fox. The two-disc set contains its entire 13-episode first season in 16:9 (1.78) transfers with 5.1 soundtracks and plenty of supplements including commentaries on every episode, audio outtakes, an original demo and a music video.
THE BIG C Season 2 DVD (365 mins., 2011; Sony): Though not as well-received critically as its predecessor, “The Big C” still manages to entertain in its second season through Laura Linney’s Golden Globe-winning performance as Cancer-stricken Cathy Jamison. Here, Cathy undergoes an experimental treatment, strikes up a relationship with fellow patient Hugh Dancy and questions her oddball new doc (Alan Alda) in a collection of 13 episodes that are uneven on balance. Sony’s DVD includes a three-disc set with 16:9 (1.78) transfers and 5.1 soundtracks, with extras including deleted scenes and outtakes.
SUITS Season 1 DVD (aprx. 12 hours, 2011; Universal): Gabriel Macht stars in this USA original series as a Manhattan attorney who hires an unmotivated Patrick J. Adams to be his new associate – the hitch being that Adams doesn’t have a law degree but does have an uncanny ability to remember things (shades of the recent CBS series “Unforgettable”). Universal’s three-disc set contains the first season of “Suits” in 16:9 transfers with 5.1 soundtracks and extras including an alternate premiere episode; deleted scenes; a gag reel; and commentaries.
Also New From Lionsgate
MIMIC 3-Film Set Blu-Ray (Lionsgate): Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘90s creature feature MIMIC (**½, 112 mins., 1997, R) is, in the director’s own words, a “B-movie” that met with reasonably positive word-of-mouth back in the summer of ‘97, despite having been compromised in the editing room. In Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray edition of the 1997 Dimension/Miramax release – that here comes packaged alongside its direct-to-video sequels – “Mimic” comes much closer to approximating Del Toro’s original intentions.
With some seven minutes of added footage, this “Mimic” is Del Toro’s own vision of his first American picture, one that was (like many Dimension/Miramax releases of its time) re-cut by Harvey and Bob Weinstein in post-production. The Weinsteins used credited co-producer Ole Bornedal to shoot some second unit footage and also added a number of jump-cuts in the editing room in an effort to punch up the scare quotient.
These alterations have been excised from the new cut of “Mimic,” which moves at a more deliberate clip than its predecessor (not entirely a welcome occurrence) as it details the efforts by scientists Mira Sorvino and Jeremy Northam (remember them?) to outwit a group of genetically-engineered roaches that have grown into full-fledged, human-imitating predators. With some just so-so CGI special effects and obvious “Se7en” influences (including a credit sequence stolen right out of David Fincher’s serial-killer thriller), “Mimic” is firmly stamped as a product of the ‘90s, yet there’s enough of Del Toro’s style to overcome some of the picture’s deficiencies, and a few creepy moments along the way.
Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray appears to offer a slightly tweaked color scheme than the DVD (accentuating yellows in particular) as well as a noticeably enhanced amount of brightness. Undoubtedly this was done in response to the movie’s dark cinematography, which made its DVD appearance a dreary, dank mess; while the image might be a bit too bright for its own good, at least it’s easier to see what’s actually going on this time. The DTS MA soundtrack is even better, offering a brooding Marco Beltrami score and some nifty sound effects. Extras are most welcome, highlighted by a candid Del Toro commentary which discusses the film’s shortcomings and editing room issues, plus an interview with the director, a featurette on the production, a few deleted scenes (including a wisely unused alternate ending), a gag reel and the trailer.
Along for the ride, and making their home video debuts, in this 2-disc set are MIMIC 2 and MIMIC 3: SENTINEL, which were shot in 2001 and 2003, respectively, and both include 1080p transfers with DTS MA audio and all the extras from their prior DVD editions. Regrettably, neither sequel lives up to the original and come recommended only for fans.
ALBERT NOBBS Blu-Ray (**½, 113 mins., 2011, R; Lionsgate): Glenn Close starred in and produced this labor of love concerning a woman who dresses as a man in order to find work and sustain a livelihood in 19th century Ireland. Close’s efforts are admirable but “Albert Nobbs” is a bit of a dreary slog that never really engages despite its fine performances. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray includes commentary with Close and director Rodrigo Garcia plus deleted scenes and the trailer, along with a 1080p AVC encoded transfer and DTS MA soundtrack.
ONE FOR THE MONEY Blu-Ray/Digital Copy (*½, 91 mins., 2012, PG-13; Lionsgate): Another box-office bust for star/producer Katherine Heigl, who’s perky (probably not a good match for this material) and less than convincing here as a “tough” New Jersey divorcee who finds herself working in her cousin’s bail bond office. Her first assignment is to bring in ex-love Jason O’Mara in this misfired adaptation of Janet Evanovich’s popular novels. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray package includes a digital copy and several featurettes, a gag reel and deleted scenes, along with the trailer. The 1080p transfer and DTS MA soundtrack are each fine.
Quick Takes: THE DESCENDENTS (75 mins., 2012, R; Lionsgate) is a Spanish produced horror flick set on a post-zombie apocalypse Earth where a young girl, immune from the disease, tries to survive. Lionsgate’s DVD includes a 16:9 transfer, 5.1 soundtrack, music videos, and a Making Of featurette. Also new on the direct-to-video front this month is BLACK COBRA (89 mins., R, 2012), a fisticuff-laden thriller with T.K. Storm and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. Lionsgate’s DVD includes an alternate ending, deleted scenes, bloopers, a 16:9 (2.35) transfer and 5.1 soundtrack.
New From E One
The recent TV mini-series of TITANIC (187 mins., 2012) didn’t make much noise on this side of the Atlantic, but Julian Fellowes’ (“Downton Abby”) script makes for a watchable enough new take on (by now) very familiar material. E One’s Blu-Ray includes a crisp 1080p transfer, DTS MA soundtrack, and two-hours of bonus features including historical material and six featurettes...THE GENESIS CODE (138 mins., PG, 2010) is a faith-based TV mini-series about college students trying to bridge the gap between science and religion, with co-directors C. Thomas Howell and Patrick Read Johnson handling a cast that includes Lance Henriksen, Louise Fletcher and Ernest Borgnine. E One’s DVD is in 16:9 (1.78) widescreen with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
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