Three new Blu-Ray releases from Warner Home Video include a pair of Clint Eastwood vehicles and the disappointing follow-up to “The Fugitive.”
A PERFECT WORLD (***, 138 mins., 1993, PG-13) was Eastwood’s follow-up to his 1992 triumph “Unforgiven,” and with its teaming of Clint with Kevin Costner, was expected to be a commercial hit and an Oscar contender upon its release in 1993. Regrettably, the picture didn’t click at the box-office and only received mixed reviews, which is unfortunate as this overlooked, period portrait of a prison escapee (Costner) who takes in a young boy while on the lam from the police (Eastwood plays the veteran Texas Ranger chasing after him) is moody and fascinating. Excellent performances from both Costner and Eastwood make for a surprising character-driven study (which for its tone and period setting reminded me a bit of "The Sugarland Express") and certainly Jack N. Green’s widescreen cinematography lends itself to the kind of top-notch AVC encoded transfer seen here in Warner’s new Blu-Ray release. DTS MA audio is also included.
One of Clint’s lesser projects from the last decade, BLOOD WORK (**, 110 mins., 1993, R), also receives a Blu-Ray release from Warner. Eastwood stars in this adaptation of Michael Connelly’s bestseller as FBI profiler Terry Caleb, here charged with finding the killer of a murder victim who just provided Caleb with his transplanted heart. Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Huston and Wanda deJesus co-star in this Brian Helgeland-scripted thriller, which is awfully tired and predictable, especially by the star-director’s standards. Warner’s Blu-Ray includes a 1080p AVC encoded transfer that looks terrific, a DTS MA soundtrack and all the extras from its prior DVD edition (featurettes, trailers).
Lastly, Tommy Lee Jones returned to his Oscar winning “Fugitive” role of Sam Gerard in U.S. MARSHALS (**½, 131 mins., 1998, PG-13), a by-the-numbers reworking of its predecessor’s formula with Wesley Snipes as the new man on the run from Gerard and his team. Robert Downey, Jr., Kate Nelligan and Irene Jacob co-starred in this so-so action flick directed by ace editor Stuart Baird; the cast tries hard, but the film feels labored in spite of good intentions all around. Warner’s Blu-Ray brings back all the extras from its prior DVD edition, adds in a top notch 1080p transfer and DTS MA soundtrack offering a Jerry Goldsmith score typical of his music for the era.
New From BBC
In honor of the Queen’s Jubilee, the BBC has released a pair of documentaries on DVD. THE DIAMOND QUEEN (174 mins.) is a terrific, by-the-book BBC News profile of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign with Andrew Marr narrating. At nearly three hours, the documentary is enhanced by interviews with historians, prime ministers and other members of the Royal Family. THE QUEEN’S PALACES (171 mins.), meanwhile, is hosted by “Antiques Roadshow UK”’s Fiona Bruce and examines the stories behind Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. An introduction from Prince Charles is also included in this almost three-hour presentation.
Three new Dr. Who DVDs are also available this month from BBC:
DOCTOR WHO: THE SEEDS OF DEATH (146 mins., 1969) is a Patrick Troughton-era arc with the Doctor taking on the Martian Ice Warriors, who have disrupted the T-Mat system. BBC’s two-disc DVD includes commentary, PDF materials, a half-hour history of the Ice Warriors and other goodies.
DOCTOR WHO: RESURRECTION OF THE DALEKS (93 mins., 1984), meanwhile, dates from the Peter Davison era and likewise receives a two-disc BBC DVD Special Edition release. Commentary, an hour-long retrospective look at the Fifth Doctor hosted by David Tennant, casting and location featurettes, deleted scenes, interviews and plenty more round out another essential package for Dr. Who buffs.
The fifth and final season of THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES (156 mins., 2011) also arrives on DVD this month. Three stories (“Sky,” “Curse of Clyde Langer,” and “The Man Who Never Was”) round out this bittersweet end to the program; BBC’s DVD also includes a special tribute to the late Elisabeth Sladen, 16:9 transfers and 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks.
TOP GEAR 18 (508 mins., 2012) finds Jeremy, Richard and James visiting India, traveling across Italy, getting involved in a move car chase, investigating the Chinese car industry, fooling around with NASCAR and test-driving a number of expensive autos. Ryan Reynolds, Michael Fassbender and Matt Smith appear in this 18-episode season which BBC brings to DVD in a three-disc set also including bonus footage and an episode from the US Top Gear’s second season.
Finally, Niall Ferguson adapts his book CIVILIZATION: THE WEST AND THE REST (282 mins., 2012) for a multi-part series examining the possible end of the West’s ascendancy around the world. This three-disc DVD set offers 16:9 transfers and 2.0 stereo soundtracks.
TV on DVD
EPISODES: Season 1 DVD (aprx. 4 hours, 2011; CBS/Showtime). WHAT IT IS: First season of the hit Showtime series stars Matt LeBlanc as “Matt LeBlanc” – an egotistical star who forces himself into a British couple’s attempt at adapting their popular UK comedy series for the U.S. Creators David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik have fashioned a funny series that earned a Golden Globe earlier this year. DVD RUNDOWN: CBS’ two-disc DVD set includes 16:9 transfers, 5.1 soundtracks, bonus episodes of “House of Lies,” “The Borgias” and “Dexter” and biographies.
BREAKING BAD: Season 4 Blu-Ray (610 mins., 2011; Sony). WHAT IT IS: AMC’s acclaimed and high-rated dramatic series is about to conclude its run later this summer. To whet the collective appetites of fans and viewers who need to catch up, Sony brings the fourth season of “Breaking Bad” to Blu-Ray this month, featuring the further exploits of Bryan Cranston’s Walter White, a former high school teacher turned drug mastermind, and his relationships with his estranged wife, DEA agent brother-in-law and a kingpin overseeing his operation. BLU-RAY RUNDOWN: Sony’s Blu-Ray is packed with extra features with over 15 hours of commentaries and extras, including eight featurettes, 21 episodes of “Inside Breaking Bad,” deleted scenes, a gag reel, five uncensored episodes and an extended version of the season finale. The 1080p AVC encoded transfers and DTS MA soundtracks are all in line with Sony’s typically high standards.
ENTOURAGE: Season 8 Blu-Ray (240 mins., 2011; HBO). WHAT IT IS: The eighth and final season of the long-running HBO series finds Vince, Eric, Drama and Turtle wondering if it’s not time to finally grow up and leave their carefree days of partying behind. The end result, unsurprisingly, is harder for the characters to accomplish than they might anticipate in this farewell season to the Mark Wahlberg co-produced series. BLU-RAY RUNDOWN: A retrospective look back, “Hollywood Sunset,” recalls the series’ prior seasons with exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and cast and crew interviews. The 1080p transfers and DTS MA soundtracks are also excellent.
Also new from HBO on Blu-Ray this month is TOO BIG TO FAIL (98 mins., 2012), director Curtis Hanson’s account of the 2008 financial crisis that seems a bit too abbreviated to fully examine the ins and outs on both Wall Street and Main Street. A good cast does try, though, including William Hurt, Paul Giamatti, Topher Grace, Bill Pullman and James Woods among them. HBO’s Blu-Ray includes three behind the scenes featurettes, a DVD and a digital copy.
FAIRLY LEGAL: Season 1 DVD (aprx. 7 hours, 2012; Universal): Sarah Shahi gives an appealing performance in this new USA series as Kate Reed, a lawyer who’s much better taking care of her cases than her own life. “Fairly Legal”’s first season has been released on DVD by Universal in a two-disc set including deleted scenes, a gag reel, and scene comparisons with commentaries, plus 16:9 transfers and 5.1 soundtracks. (Note that this was a Target exclusive that’s only now rolling out to national retailers)
New From Lionsgate
Intended to be confused with the superior History Channel Hatfields & McCoys mini-series (with Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton), HATFIELDS & McCOYS: BAD BLOOD (90 mins., 2012) offers Jeff Fahey, Perry King, Priscilla Barnes and Christian Slater in a low-rent, direct-to-video adaptation of the historical drama. Naturally, when you read that exploitation director Fred Olen Ray was behind the lens here, it ought to come as no surprise. Lionsgate’s DVD includes a commentary from the director, a stills gallery, 16:9 transfer and 5.1 soundtrack...DOWN FOR THE COUNT (89 mins., 2012) is another Muay Thai fighting flick from director David Ismalone. Lionsgate’s DVD offers no extras, just a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 soundtrack....Eric Balfour, Lou Taylor Pucci and Henry Thomas topline the western THE LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE (106 mins., 2012, PG-13) which arrives on DVD with deleted scenes, a photo gallery, the trailer, a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 soundtrack.
New From E One
Joakim Nätterqvist stars in ARN: THE KNIGHT TEMPLAR (265 mins., 2011), a period mini-series that plays out like a lesser “Kingdom of Heaven.” This international co-production follows Arn through hellish battles and political intrigue, with E One’s Blu-Ray including the complete series in 1080p transfers and DTS MA soundtracks. Over 40 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes are also included...Daniel Stamm’s disturbing A NECESSARY DEATH (100 mins., 2012, Not Rated) profiles a documentary filmmaker who wants to follow a suicidal individual through their preparation to carrying out their final act. E One’s DVD includes deleted scenes, an alternate ending, two commentaries, trailers, a 16:9 transfer and 2.0 soundtrack...The life and times of musician John Mellencamp are given a full feature profile in IT’S ABOUT YOU (80 mins., 2010), a documentary by Kurt and Ian Markus that MPI releases on Blu-Ray this month. The 80-minute feature follows Mellencamp on his 2009 concert tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson in tow, giving viewers a glimpse into Mellencamp’s private side with some terrific music backing the travelogue. MPI’s Blu-Ray boasts a lossless 2.0 PCM stereo track and the trailer, plus a good looking HD transfer.
Also New This Month
HITS SO HARD Blu-Ray (103 mins., 2012; Well Go USA): Nirvana fans and grunge music aficionados ought to check out this documentary mostly comprised of footage shot by Patty Schemel, the drummer for Courtney Love’s band Hole. Her backstage, candid shots of Love and Kurt Cobain captures the turbulent early ‘90s music scene in a new feature from editor-director P. David Ebersole, which Well Go brings to Blu-Ray this month. In addition to a 1080p transfer and DTS MA soundtrack, the BD also offers a commentary from the director, more of Schemel’s home movie footage and two featurettes.
MONSTER BRAWL Blu-Ray (89 mins., 2011, Not Rated; Image): The concept of a wrestling competition involving a series of classic movie monsters sounds like it could’ve provided the basis for a wild and woolly good time for horror fans. Alas, “Monster Brawl” is pretty lame – a one-joke comedy with Dave Foley and Art Hindle sitting ringside as a group of monsters (Frankenstein, a witch, a swamp monster, a werewolf, etc.) all jump in the ring and duke it out. Image’s Blu-Ray might be good for a few minutes of entertainment but that’s pretty much it; the disc sports commentary from writer/director Jesse Thomas Cook and the producers, plus a featurette, outtakes, a DTS MA soundtrack and 1080p transfer.
DEMOTED Blu-Ray (94 mins., 2011, R; Anchor Bay): Michael Vartan and Sean Astin play slacker tire salesmen who suffer when their hapless colleague (David Cross) becomes the company’s new boss in this comedy from director J.B. Rogers. Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray includes a 1080p transfer and Dolby TrueHD soundtrack.
CHICAGO IN CHICAGO Blu-Ray (94 mins., 2010; Image): Concert video finds Chicago returning to their hometown, performing over a dozen of their biggest hits including “If You Leave Me Now,” “Hard Habit to Break,” “Beginnings,” “You’re the Inspiration,” “Saturday in the Park” and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.” The group is also joined by the Doobie Brothers for three encores including a raucous “25 or 6 to 24.” Bonus interviews are on tap in this Image Blu-Ray with a superbly mixed DTS MA (or uncompressed PCM) soundtrack.
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