by ANDY DURSIN
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Anchor Bay’s latest releases include the Blu-Ray debuts of HALLOWEEN 4: The Return of Michael Myers (**½, 88 mins., 1988, R, Anchor Bay) and HALLOWEEN 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (**, 98 mins., 1989, R, Anchor Bay), both of which precede Shout Factory’s new Blu-Ray releases of “Halloween” II and III scheduled for September 18th.
Now, I'm not a big fan of slasher movies in general, though I admit that I have a soft spot for the “Halloween” series, since I grew up watching the videos with friends after elementary school dismissals and have a natural affection for any movie set in late October in the first place.
To refresh your memory, 1988's HALLOWEEN 4 marked the return of the series to the big-screen in 1988 after a five year layoff, and with its original bad-guy to boot. “Halloween II” saw poor Michael (and Doc Loomis) burn up in a hospital fire, but because “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” bombed and producer Moustapha Akkad saw "The Shape" as a continued, viable box-office presence, the series was resurrected just in time to hit financial paydirt thanks to a hungry group of fans.
The first part of a three-film cycle, “Halloween 4" is the best of the later sequels, and that includes the more polished (but less atmospheric) big-studio “Halloween: H20.” Donald Pleasence is back as the crazed Doc Loomis, who returns to Haddonfield, Illinois once Michael -- not killed in the fire, only badly burned (where have we heard that sequel excuse before?) -- breaks out of prison and decides to stalk his hometown once again. Naturally, that means idiotic teenagers being executed by The Shape, while a subplot materializes involving the cute Ellie Cornell and her little step-sister Jamie (Danielle Harris), an innocuous moppet related to Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis (who appears in the form of a photograph).
Director Dwight H. Little makes the most of the low budget and crafts a routine but nicely executed B-horror flick, which is much closer in its evocation of mounting tension and “Halloween” itself than any of its subsequent sequels. The twist ending is obvious (and was subsequently negated by the narrative of “Halloween 5"), but Pleasence is fun and the movie itself better than you might expect. Alan Howarth scored the movie with a creepy, brooding soundtrack (sprinkling John Carpenter's original theme throughout) that rates with the better efforts in the series.
“Halloween 4" has been released on DVD several times but Anchor Bay’s new, 1080p AVC encoded transfer replicates the movie’s rather dim cinematography better than any previous release, as well as offering detail without an obvious use of DNR; on the audio side, the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is comparable to the prior mix for the DVD release. Extras include commentary tracks from Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris, plus a new discussion with director Dwight H. Little and critic Justin Beahm (a prior commentary with writer Alan B. McElroy was dropped for this release); a 20-minute 2003 panel from the “Halloween” 25th Anniversary celebration on the sequels with Harris and other cast members; and the theatrical trailer. As we’ve seen on several Anchor Bay Blu-Rays, a retrospective documentary produced for the prior DVD is the main omission here, while fans will also lament the lack of deleted scenes, which were a touted extra in the preliminary press release.
“Halloween 4" performed well at the box-office, leading to an immediate, hastily-shot 1989 sequel, HALLOWEEN 5, that -- along with its belated 1995 follow-up "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" -- rank as the two series entries that fail to stand alone without prior knowledge of their predecessors.
With Dominique Othenin-Girard (of the unholy “Omen IV”) taking over behind the camera, Part V five lacks the efficient, B-grade thrills of its predecessor. Picking up right where part four left off (and off-setting its "twist" ending), Michael Myers is still alive and stalking little Jamie (Danielle Harris again), while an even more possessed Donald Pleasence returns as Doc Loomis, still pursuing Myers -- but hey, it's tough to keep a dead man down, right? Alan Howarth's music is subtle and eerier than his work on "Halloween 4," quoting John Carpenter's theme only sparsely throughout the action.
“Halloween 5" was previously issued in both 2000 and 2006 by Anchor Bay with a transfer that was fine for its time and a handful of special features, some of which have been reprieved here: a commentary with Danielle Harris, Jeffrey Landman and Don Shanks; a new track with Othenin-Girard and Justin Beahm; “On the Set” footage, the original promo and the trailer. (As with “Halloween 4,” a retrospective featurette hasn’t been carried over). The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is, again, an appreciable enhancement on even the 2006 “Divimax” DVD release, offering enhanced detail and a minimum of DNR, while the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio nicely serves Howarth’s score.
Despite a couple of effective scares, “Halloween 5" drags on interminably, while the plot-heavy script ends with a gigantic, open-ended climax, one that took an unmanageable six years to properly conclude on the big-screen. (Tellingly, nearly everyone considers this to be the weakest of the series, having been rushed into production without a fully formed story).
By that point, Akkad had licensed “Halloween” out to Dimension Films/Miramax, and studio interference would soon cloud the franchise’s subsequent sequels, be it through misguided re-shoots (on “Halloween VI”), script interference and rejected musical scores (“Halloween: H20"), and general bad ideas like casting Busta Rhymes in a horror movie (“Halloween: Resurrection”). Of course, even those installments were preferable to the sleazy “reboot” performed by Rob Zombie on two dreary films that followed thereafter (a series that doesn’t seem to be continuing with the recent news that Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes might be producing the next “Halloween”).
Also new and recommended this month from Anchor Bay is Season 2 of AMC’s hit series THE WALKING DEAD (578 mins., 2011; Anchor Bay), the top-rated adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comic book series. Season 2 of the show again follows Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and fellow survivors as they continue to stay ahead of the hordes of undead with excellent performances and character development atypical for most “zombie dramas.”
Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray is stacked with extras, including a wealth of featurettes (All the Guts Inside; Live or Let Die; The Meat of the Music; Fire on Set; The Ink is Alive; The Sound of the Effects; In the Dead Water; You Could Make a Killing; She Will Fight; The Cast on Season 2; Extras Wardrobe), plus six websidoes, commentaries on episodes 1,7,8,11 and 13; and a number of deleted scenes. The 1080p transfers and 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtracks are excellent across the board.
New on Blu-Ray
THE RAID: REDEMPTION Blu-Ray (**½, 101 mins., 2011, Unrated; Sony): Bloody, straightforward Indonesian action film, written and directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans, has already developed something of a cult following, with both a sequel and an American remake on the way.
Certainly the fight choreography is the major involving factor in “The Raid: Redemption,” which follows a SWAT team that decides to take down a drug lord in a seemingly impenetrable apartment building in the Jakarta slums. Seen through the eyes of a rookie cop named Ramas (Iko Uwais) with a hidden secret of his own, the film finds the team – naturally – being picked apart and separated by the thug and his legion of minions, who come after their prey in any number of lethal ways.
Shot in claustrophobic confines and marked by equally dim, ugly digital-video photography, this isn’t a great-looking film by any means, with Evans accentuating the dirt and grime of its setting and the brutality of the combat sequences – and rest assured, there’s plenty of violence to go around. There’s also not much story and only fleeting dramatic interest in the film, which favors bone-crushing fights to character beats. It’s well-done for what it is but, truthfully, I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about after hearing some viewers gush about it for the last couple of months.
Sony’s Blu-Ray includes a 1080p AVC encoded transfer that’s not particularly attractive, mainly because of the low budget, unappealing visuals of the cinematography itself. There are several audio options available here, including two different soundtracks – the movie’s original Indonesian score and a newer, flashier effort from Liknin Park’s Mike Shinoda and Joseph Trapanese – which can be heard either in English (dubbed) or the original Indonesian/Bahasa dialogue, both in DTS MA. Seven featurettes, a conversation with Evans and the composers of the North American release soundtrack, filmmaker video blogs, commentary with Evans and an Ultraviolet copy round out the package.
FULL METAL JACKET Blu-Ray Digibook (***, 117 mins., 1987, R; Warner): Stanley Kubrick’s somewhat underwhelming, though still compelling, Vietnam film met with some surprisingly mixed reviews upon its release in the post-“Platoon” era. These days, the film carries a high rep among Kubrick aficionados, despite its familiar story and obvious visual drawbacks having been shot in the UK. Warner’s new Digibook release of the “Full Metal Jacket” is one of a handful of HD presentations the label has produced to date of the film – and if you’ve already bought the title on Blu-Ray, I’m not sure this more elaborate package is worth the double dip, seeing as the principal disc itself is the same one from its prior release (satisfying 1080p transfer, uncompressed PCM soundtrack; commentary with cast members Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey and critic/author Jay Cocks; featurette; and the trailer). What’s new is a bonus disc, “Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes,” an unusual hour-long look at Kubrick’s archival collection, plus a glossy Digibook package with some of star Matthew Modine’s personal photos, presented here for the first time. The new documentary is interesting though not essential, making this a curious release without much in the way of new content (at least the “Deliverance” Digibook contained a new DTS MA soundtrack and fresh documentary in addition to the same transfer from the prior Blu-Ray).
SPACEBALLS 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray (**½, 96 mins., 1987, PG; MGM/Fox): I've never been overly fond of Mel Brooks' 1987 "Star Wars" spoof, which seemed to come years after the fact and boasts far more misfired gags than infrequent moments of inspiration. In fact, Ernie Fosselius' 1978 short "Hardware Wars" is five times funnier in 15-minute duration than Brooks is here in an at-times labored 96 minutes. That being said, "Spaceballs" is at least cheerful and offers a terrific John Morris score, which helps you gloss over its painfully unfunny characters (like John Candy's Chewbecca-inspired "man dog" Barf and Joan Rivers' take on C3PO) and the lesser moments of Brooks' script, which he co-wrote with Thomas Meehan and Ronny Graham. (I'll give them credit for John Hurt's cameo, however, which WAS hilarious).
MGM's "Spaceballs" 2th Anniversary Blu-Ray is the second go-round for the title in the format. The technical specs (AVC encoded transfer, DTS MA soundtrack) seem to be identical to the earlier release, while offering all the extras from its prior two-disc Special Edition DVD, including commentary from Brooks and several featurettes, plus photo galleries and original trailers (which list John Candy and Rick Moranis as "guest stars” – billing that was changed before the film opened), and a new documentary featurette exclusive to this package.
BERNIE Blu-Ray (***, 99 mins., 2011, PG-13; Millennium): “Dazed and Confused”’s Richard Linklater directed the fascinating, off-kilter “true crime” story of a Carthage, Texas assistant funeral home director, Bernie Tiede (Jack Black in a terrific performance), his relationship with Majorie Nugent, a local, affluent widow (Shirley MacLaine)...and the investigation that ensues when Marjorie is nowhere to be found.
Linklater, who wrote “Bernie” with journalist Skip Hollandsworth – who chronicled the story in a Texas magazine article – brings his dry, observational eye to the material, but while the film has black comic moments, it’s more of a fascinating character profile and study of small-town personalities and quirks made all the more compelling because it’s true. Black gives one of his best performances here, and MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey (as the local D.A.) lend strong support to a unique picture that’s one of the biggest surprises of 2012 to date.
Millennium’s Blu-Ray includes a capable 1080p transfer, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, deleted scenes and three featurettes. Recommended!
New Warner Archive Titles
Warner Home Video execs recently spoke about the possibility of adding Blu-Ray titles to their Archives releases in the future – something that ought to excite movie buffs. In the meantime, several new Archive releases run the gamut from the ridiculous to the even more absurd. Here’s a look:
LISZTOMANIA (103 mins., 1975, R): One of Ken Russell’s most patently bizarre outings (and that says something), this irreverent bio pic of Franz Liszt – as portrayed by Russell’s “Tommy” star (and The Who singer) Roger Daltrey – casts the classical composer as a rock star 100 years before such a thing existed; his life, loves and rivalry with Richard Wagner (Paul Nicholas), here portrayed as a vampire, are thrown into the kind of eccentric, kitchen-sink stew that only Russell circa 1975 could produce. The film, obviously, isn’t for all tastes (and no surprise with Ringo Starr chipping in a Guest Star appearance as The Pope and Rick Wakeman as Thor!), but for devotees of the director, the movie is fascinating, with 2.35 (16:9 enhanced) widescreen lensing and a stereo soundtrack making for a satisfying Archives title. If you’re not a Russell fan, though – well, you’ve been warned!
HERCULES, SAMSON AND ULYSSES (86 mins., 1964): MGM produced, Italian-lensed sword-and-sandal production stars Kirk Morris as Hercules, who – along with Ulysses – runs afoul of the Philistines after trying to eliminate a sea monster (ha!). After Ulysses and friends are imprisoned, Herc has to track down Samson in order to save them from certain execution. Peitro Francisci’s third and final Hercules effort (following two Steve Reeves cult favorites) is enjoyably trashy Saturday matinee fun with loads of unintentional humor, presented here in a good-looking, 16:9 enhanced (1.78) transfer from the MGM vaults.
DAMON AND PYTHIAS (99 mins., 1962): TV’s “Zorro,” Guy Williams, appeared in several European-lensed productions in the ‘60s, including this agreeable sword-and-sandal Greek adventure with the “Lost in Space” cast member starring with Don Burnett in an Italian production typical of its era. Warner Archive’s DVD looks quite good in 16:9 enhanced (1.66) widescreen and is almost certainly far superior to the public-domain releases put out by Alpha and other labels in the past.
New From A&E/NewVideo
THE ESSENTIAL GAMES OF THE CHICAGO CUBS (aprx. 10 hours): Cubs fans have more heartbreak than inspirational wins to point to over the years, but Wrigley Field homers can still appreciate this four-game set including the 1969 Hall of Fame Showcase game against the Phillies, featuring Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins; the June 23, 1984 win over the Cardinals sporting one of Ryne Sandberg’s legendary performances; the Cubs September 28, 1998 win over the Giants in an NL Wildcard tiebreaker; and the September 20, 2008 win over the Cardinals that clinched a Cubs post-season berth. As with prior MLB DVD sets, multiple audio options enable you to listen to the television broadcast commentary or the original radio feed.
Also new in the MLB “Essential Games” series this month:
THE ESSENTIAL GAMES OF THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: A good selection of classic Phillies contests includes Roy Halladay’s October 6, 2010 no-hitter versus the Reds, one of only two postseason no-nos; the October 27, 2008 World Series clinching win over the Tampa Bay Rays; Game 6 of the 1993 NLCS versus the Braves from October 13, 1993; and the 1980 pennant-winning victory over the Astros from October 12, 1980.
THE ESSENTIAL GAMES OF THE TEXAS RANGERS: Nolan Ryan’s seventh no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays from May 1, 1991 highlights NewVideo’s compilation of essential Rangers contests, which also includes Game 1 of the 1996 AL Divisional Series; Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS against the Yankees; and Game 6 of the 2011 ALCS versus the Detroit Tigers.
10 THINGS YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT DVD (aprx. 5 hours, 2012): H2 original series digs into family secrets, scandals and assorted trivia related to all kinds of historical people and inventions. Additional footage is included in A&E’s double-disc set.
DANCE MOMS - Season 1 DVD (aprx. 10 hours, 2011): Abby Lee Miller’s Dance Company in Pittsburgh is the setting for this popular Lifetime reality series which hits DVD this month from NewVideo in a multi-disc set, sporting “most outrageous moments” and bonus footage for extras. 16:9 transfers and 2.0 stereo soundtracks are on tap in Lifetime/NewVideo’s now-available DVD package.
PAWN STARS - Volume 5 DVD (aprx. 6 hours, 2011): The latest DVD compilation of episodes from the hit History Channel reality show includes the following shows from Seasons 3 and 4: Darth Pawn, Put Up Your Dukes, Pawn Illustrated, Striking a Chord, Harrison For President, Wise Guys, Robosaurus, Ah Shoot!, Going Postal, Chummobile, Evel Genius, Pablo Pawncasso, Sub For Sale, Missile Attack, Not on My Watch, and Take a Seat. 16:9 transfers and 2.0 stereo soundtracks comprise the two-disc set.
AMERICAN PICKERS - Volume 4 DVD (aprx. 6 hours, 2011): History Channel’s highest rated series is back for another DVD installment featuring more adventures for Mike Wolfe and business partner Frank Fritz as they travel the fruited plain in search of hidden treasures. Stereo soundtracks and widescreen transfers are included in Newvideo’s double-disc DVD package.
TITANIC - 100 YEARS IN 3D Blu-Ray (45 mins., 2012): Solid, albeit brief, documentary follows the efforts of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and RMS Titanic, inc. to shoot the Titanic wreck in full 3D HD video. Those images are combined here with standard interviews and narration recounting the tragedy – good enough to make this a decent rental for 3-D enthusiasts though 2-D viewers are better off going with one of the meatier Titanic docs available elsewhere.
New From E One/MPI/IFC
A forty-year-old fisherman (Alexis Dias de Villegas) has to come to his country’s aid in JUAN OF THE DEAD (96 mins., 2011, Not Rated), a wacky variant on the zombie comedy from writer-director Alejandro Bruges which met with positive reception at festivals earlier this year. E One’s DVD includes a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 soundtrack in Spanish with English subtitles...The French animated feature MIA AND THE MIGOO (91 mins., 2011, PG) receives a domestic U.S. release courtesy of E One. This Miyazaki-like tale involving a young girl who befriends a forest spirit includes Matthew Modine, Wallace Shawn, James Woods and Whoopi Goldberg in its English voice cast, and ought to entertain younger viewers. E One’s DVD includes a Making Of, 5.1 soundtrack (English only), 16:9 (1.78) transfer and a profile of producer Jacques-Remy Girerd...Spanish horror is on tap in PENUMBRA (90 mins., 2011; Not Rated), a slow-going satanic drama set in Argentina with a particularly frustrating ending. IFC’s DVD includes the trailer, a 5.1 Spanish soundtrack and English subs, plus a 16:9 transfer...Dustin Lance Black’s VIRGINIA (110 mins., 2011, R) follows a psychologically disturbed woman (Jennifer Connelly) who threatens to exposes a pious Mormon sheriff (Ed Harris) with whom she’s had an affair in a troubled film shot in 2009 that was extensively re-edited after poor festival showings. IFC’s DVD includes a 16:9 transfer, 5.1 soundtrack and a Making Of featurette.
THE MOTH DIARIES Blu-Ray (**½, 82 mins., 2011, R; IFC): Unusual adaptation of Rachel Klein’s novel from writer-director Mary Harron is well-made and offers capable performances as it spins its “Carmilla”/”Dracula” like tale of a vampish new girl (Lily Cole) who brings a series of unfortunate events with her to a girls boarding school. This Canadian production works surprisingly well until its somewhat abrupt ending, but “The Moth Diaries” is still worth a view for interested horror buffs – especially those not interested in buckets of blood (despite the not-entirely earned R rating). IFC’s Blu-Ray includes a 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack, two featurettes and the trailer.
New From Lionsgate
STALLONE 3-FILM COLLECTOR’S SET Blu-Ray (Lionsgate): In honor of “The Expendables 2"’s theatrical release this week, Lionsgate has trotted out a three-disc compilation offering the previously-available Blu-Rays of “First Blood” (somewhat confusingly listed here as “Rambo” with “First Blood” in small letters – and previously reviewed in the Aisle Seat archives here), James Mangold’s Director’s Cut of “Copland”, and the generally underrated John Irvin film “Lock Up." Worth it for Stallone fans who haven’t already purchased these, though the $20+ price tag seems a bit high.
THE NEWEST PLEDGE DVD (85 mins., 2012, R; Lionsgate): Sophomoric college comedy – with Mindy Sterling and Jason Mewes as its biggest names in the cast – tries to mix “Three Men and a Baby” with “Animal House” to low-brow, and mostly unfunny, results. Lionsgate’s DVD includes commentary with cast members and director Jason Michael Brescia, plus deleted scenes, a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 soundtrack.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES - The Final Season DVD (aprx. 176 mins.; Lionsgate): The 10th and final season of the original, long-running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon also receives a DVD release this month from Lionsgate. Eight episodes are included: The Return of Dregg, The Beginning of the End, The Power of Three, A Turtle in Time, Turtles to the Second Power, Mobster From Dimension X, The Day the Earth Disappeared, and Divide and Conquer.
POWER RANGERS SUPER SAMURAI Volume 1: The Super Powered Black Box (94 mins., 2012; Lionsgate)
POWER RANGERS SUPER SAMURAI Volume 2: Super Showdown (94 mins., 2012; Lionsgate): Two new DVD compilations highlight four episodes from the most recent incarnation of the Power Rangers: Black Box features a quartet of shows (Super Samurai, Shell Game, Trading Places and Something Fishy) while Super Showdown includes The Rescue, The BullZord, He Ain’t Heavy Metal He’s My Brother, and Kevin’s Choice. 16:9 transfers, 5.1 soundtracks and an “Everyday Fun” music video are on tap on each individual DVD release.
Also New and Noteworthy
LOVELY MOLLY Blu-Ray (100 mins., 2012, R; Image): Yet another tepid horror effort from “Blair Witch Project” co-creator Eduardo Sanchez follows the downward spiral of Molly (Gretchen Lodge), a new bride who unlocks a sordid past and plenty of violent mayhem after she moves back into her late father’s country home. Slow going and unpleasant, without many scares. Image’s Blu-Ray of “Lovely Molly” streets late this month with a 1080p transfer, 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack and several featurettes on-hand.
ONE IN THE CHAMBER Blu-Ray/DVD (91 mins., 2012, R; Anchor Bay): Cuba Gooding Jr. stars in his latest direct-to-vid action vehicle as Ray Carver, a cool assassin who unwittingly ignites an mob war in Prague and a lethal killer named ‘The Wolf’ (Dolph Lundgren) along with it. Maybe Cuba is still auditioning for a role in “The Expendables 3"? Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack includes a behind the scenes featurette, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack and a 1080p transfer.
COMMUNITY Season 3 DVD (467 mins., 2011-12; Sony): NBC’s Thursday night cult favorite hasn’t generated a whole lot of viewership through its three seasons, yet its fanbase continues to be attracted to this offbeat tale of community college students including Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Ken Jeong and Chevy Chase among them (the show also made headlines for a much-publicized rift between Chase and the series’ creator, Dan Harmon, which spilled over to the latter departing the show for its upcoming fourth season).
Sony’s Season 3 DVD set includes all 22 third-season episodes of “Community” in 16:9 transfers and 5.1 soundtracks, with deleted scenes, gag reels, commentary tracks on every episode and two featurettes included. Episodes include Biology 101; Geography of Global Conflict; Competitive Ecology; Remedial Chaos Theory; Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps; Advanced Gay; Studies in Modern Movement; Documentary Filmmaking: Redux; Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism; Regional Holiday Music; Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts; Contemporary Impressionists"; Digital Exploration of Interior Design; the amusing Ken Burns spoof Pillows and Blankets; Origins of Vampire Mythology; Virtual Systems Analysis; Basic Lupine Urology; Course Listing Unavailable; Digital Estate Planning; The First Chang Dynasty; and Introduction to Finality.
BOARDWALK EMPIRE Season 2 Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy (720 mins., 2012; HBO): HBO’s second season of “Boardwalk Empire” basically reaffirmed how I felt about the Martin Scorsese/Terence Winter series’ first season – namely, “that the series, while much acclaimed, is a program I’ve found to be a bit of a cold fish...a great looking, well-acted, yet somewhat detached account of Atlantic City circa 1920, the dawn of prohibition, the duplicitous life of politician and bootlegger Steve Buscemi, gangsters, prostitutes, and rumrunners alike. “Boardwalk Empire” is extremely well done and cast (Michael Pitt is excellent as Buscemi’s protégé), but I never found the show as engaging or compelling as it should have been.” Even some of the folks who were big fans of the program’s initial season were disappointed with this meandering second year, which hits Blu-Ray this month from HBO in a lavish DVD/digital copy combo pack sporting plenty of extras: six commentaries with cast/crew members, “Secrets of the Past: Storytelling in Episode II,” “Living 1921,” “Character Dossier,” and numerous other behind-the-scenes featurettes which further immerse viewers in the program’s setting. Top notch 1080p transfers and DTS MA soundtracks comprise a robust technical presentation – it’s just a shame “Boardwalk Empire” itself isn’t as potent and satisfying as you’d hope.
THE AMAZING WORLD OF GUMBALL DVD (139 mins., 2011-12; Warner): Cartoon Network animated series arrives on DVD for the first time, featuring 12 episodes from the series: The DVD, The Third, The End, The Quest, The Laziest, The Gi, The Refund, The Picnic, The Mustache, The Wand, The Curse, and the Meddler, with one featurette, “Meet the Wattersons.” 16:9 transfers and 2.0 soundtracks are included on the single-disc DVD.
BATTLEGROUND DVD (89 mins., 2011; Well Go): Neil Mackay’s new thriller finds a Vietnam vet picking off six bank robbers and who decide to hide out in a hunting cabin after stealing over $3 million (bad move). This Canadian production is fairly routine and travels down the road you’d expect it to, but might entertain undemanding genre buffs just the same. Well Go’s DVD sports a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 soundtrack.
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