It’s a swashbuckling affair with Mathews starring as Jack, a hard-working farmer who rescues the princess (the lovely Judi Meredith) from an attempted kidnapping by the nefarious sorcerer Pendragon (Thatcher). After slaying a Giant, the King rewards Jack by asking him to guard the princess from further trouble – alas, he fails in his quest and has to save her even after she’s bewitched and transported to Pendragon’s distant island, teeming with creatures and witches alike.
“Jack the Giant Killer” is agreeably old-fashioned adventure suitable for nostalgic adults and younger children. Its main shortcoming is that the assorted effects pale in comparison to the fantasies Harryhausen was producing around the same time, with the stop-motion creatures being in particular vastly inferior in terms of their movement and articulation. If you can get past that, the storyline is quite appealing – arguably even more so than the Harryhausen films since Mathews and Meredith have nice chemistry together. Thatcher, meanwhile, chews up the scenery and Paul Sawtell and Burt Shefter provide a robust score. It’s not a classic but a good movie that’s managed to develop a following among genre fans despite being notoriously difficult to find for many years.
The reason for that lies in Columbia’s lawsuit with Small over the film’s similarities to Sinbad, something that resulted in “Jack” being withheld from television apparently until the 1980s. When the movie resurfaced, Small recut the movie, clumsily dubbing over dialogue with new songs (!) in an effort to make the picture more palatable for little kids. That bastardized cut is an abomination in more ways than one, not only because it ruins the original intent of the filmmakers, but because the songs are atrocious – not exactly Kander & Ebb quality, and awkwardly placed over re-cut dialogue exchanges to varying degrees of incompetence.
Kino Lorber’s eagerly awaited Blu-Ray of “Jack” includes both versions of the film: the original 94-minute 1962 cut as well as its tepid Musical re-edit. Both 1080p (1.66) AVC encoded transfers are colorful and sport solid detail even if the source elements aren’t always pristine, with mono sound and a highly informative Tim Lucas commentary dissecting the film and its strange production history (Tim also has a full rundown on the musical numbers in his Video Watchdog column here).
THE BIG COUNTRY (167 mins., 1958) needs little introduction for Golden Age fans. From Jerome Moross’ classic score to William Wyler’s strong direction, this character drama with Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker and Charlton Heston looks brilliant and Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray is one of their finest catalog releases to date. In fact, the Blu-Ray’s newly-mastered 1080p (2.35) AVC encoded transfer seems more detailed than MGM’s prior format release, and even better, has corrected some slight “stretching” of the image that plagued that earlier Blu-Ray. The result is a wonderful presentation that accentuates the wide open spaces and spectacular cinematography of the film, one of the finest westerns of its time (if not all-time) preserved in a superior new release from Kino Lorber.
In addition to the improved transfer (with the same DTS MA mono soundtrack as its predecessor), Kino Lorber has rolled out an extensive array of special features, most of which are exclusive to this “Big Country” Blu-Ray. Packed onto the single BD platter (whose only drawback is a somewhat constrained bit-rate) is a consistently listenable, informative commentary with historian Sir Christopher Frayling; the early ‘80s hour-long documentary “Directed By William Wyler,” featuring interviews with everyone from Peck to Bette Davis, Barbra Streisand and Wyler himself, in a conversation filmed just days before his passing; outtakes from that documentary with Peck, Heston and Billy Wilder; brand-new interview segments with Peck’s children, Fraser C. Heston on Wyler working with his father, Catherine Wyler on her dad’s classic film, and the archival, Jean Simmons-narrated “Fun in the Country” B&W featurette (the lone extra on MGM’s earlier disc). There’s also a brief vintage clip of Larry Cohen discussing Chuck Connors, two animated image galleries, the trailer and a TV spot. Highly recommended!
MIRACLES Blu-Ray (87 mins., 1986, PG; Kino Lorber): Screenwriter Jim Kouf had a run of big hits in the ‘80s including “Stakeout” but sprinkled along the way were a few misses, including this barely-released 1986 Orion comedy. “Miracles” pairs Tom Conti (fresh off the failure of “American Dreamer”) with Teri Garr in the story of an estranged couple brought together during a botched heist by a pair of robbers (Paul Rodriguez, Christopher Lloyd). Later, they survive a plane crash and help an ailing native girl in a goofy, Mexican-shot affair filmed in scope by John Alcott. In fact, “Miracles” has a strong production team behind it, including production designer Terence Marsh and a good score by Peter Bernstein, plus enjoyable performances from Garr and Conti. It’s silly and contrived – and easy to see why little became of it – but for a film that apparently hasn’t been seen since the days of HBO/Cannon Video, “Miracles” at least provides a breezy way to kill 90 minutes. Kino Lorber’s MGM licensed 1080p (2.35) transfer and robust 2.0 DTS MA stereo soundtrack are each satisfying with the trailer and a commentary from Kouf and his wife, Lynn (who was an Associate Producer on the film), on-hand. (Available June 26th)
Kouf also wrote and directed the ensemble comedy DISORGANIZED CRIME (**½, 98 mins., 1989, R), a Touchstone flop that offers Corbin Bernsen as a bank robber who taps four of his former accomplices (Lou Diamond Phillips, Ruben Blades, Fred Gwynne and William Russ) from New Jersey to topple a Montana bank while he’s hiding out. Ed O’Neill and Daniel Roebuck are the local cops who haven’t got a clue in this genial ensemble outing that’s developed a small cult following since its unsuccessful April ’89 theatrical run. Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray includes another fresh commentary with Kouf and his wife Lynn (Bigelow), a new interview with Roebuck (who later appeared in “Lost”), a 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded transfer and 2.0 DTS MA sound.
THE PINK PANTHER CARTOON COLLECTION Volume 2 (Kino Lorber): Though the Pink Panther film series endured a long hiatus and a few misses at the box-office, the affable, loveable title character enjoyed an even longer, and more consistently successful, career as the star of over 100 animated shorts (not to mention numerous TV series and commercials).
Produced by David DePatie and Friz Freleng, the Pink Panther made his solo debut as the star of 1964’s “The Pink Phink” and promptly won an Oscar for his efforts. If that wasn’t enough, the Panther would go on to star in 123 other shorts, the 1966-68 portion of which have been assembled on Blu-Ray for the first time thanks to Kino Lorber’s second volume of Pink Panther cartoons.
The Panther cartoons — for anyone who didn’t grow up having seen them (which was tough to do since every generation has had the shorts or series available for viewing in one form or another) — are almost always amusing for kids and adults alike. The general lack of dialogue made the shorts easily accessible to all countries and they remain of universal appeal today, with the Depatie-Freleng staff having concocted ingenious trappings for the Pink Panther’s brand of physical comedy to play off, whether it was in a modern setting, in prehistoric times, or in parodies of familiar literature or film.
This second volume includes the Panther’s 1966-68 entries, including the super-hero spoof “Super Pink,” era-satire “Psychedelic Pink,” the entertaining “Jet Pink” and some 17 additional shorts. As with Kino Lorber’s Volume 1 release, the Blu-Ray’s 1080p (1.33) MGM-licensed transfers are mostly good across the board. The source materials do show their age and haven’t been digitally cleaned-up, but there’s still detail and stronger colors than MGM’s past DVD versions. Extras again include commentaries from a number of historians including Jerry Beck, Mark Arnold, Greg Ford, William Hohauser and DePatie-Freleng storyman Art Leonardi. Also on-hand here are two “From Page to Screen” segments and the TV edit of “Pink Outs.”
KEEP THE CHANGE Blu-Ray (93 mins., 2017; Kino Lorber): Coming June 19th from Kino is Rachel Israel’s unique romantic comedy starring Brandon Polansky as an aspiring NYC filmmaker sentenced to attend a social event at a Jewish Community Center, where he falls for a woman (Samantha Elisofon) much to the consternation of his mother (Jessica Walter). While it sounds conventional, what separates “Keep The Change” from every other genre outing is the fact that not only do the lead characters have autism, but they are also portrayed by non-professional actors who are actually autistic. The result is a well-handled and believable on-screen portrayal of autism, well worth seeing, with Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray including deleted scenes, the 2013 short film that this feature was expanded from, a Q&A session, a 1080p transfer (1.78) and 5.1 surround.
THE MAIDS Blu-Ray (94 mins., 1974, PG; Kino Lorber): Jean Genet’s play “The Maids” was configured for the screen in 1974 by director Christopher Miles and his co-writer/producer Robert Enders. Glenda Jackson and Susannah York are both superb in this odd story of two twisted sisters — Parisian maids — whose inner-most desires and repressed anger working for their cruel socialite boss (Vivien Merchant) come bubbling out whenever she’s away. Though a fairly static (and strange, melodramatic) affair that reportedly adheres closely to its stage origins, “The Maids” gets an assist from Douglas Slocombe’s cinematography (which used a single camera to capture the confined setting) and Laurie Johnson’s scoring, but it’s really York and Jackson’s show all the way. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray includes a half-hour interview with Miles, a separate conversation with Edie Landau, American Film Theatre trailers and a promotional American Film Theatre short, “Ely Landau: In Front Of The Camera.” The 1080p (1.78) transfer and mono sound are both fine.
Shout New Releases
Some of the first R-rated movies I ever watched were Cannon’s “Ninja” films, which my friend Ryan had rented from Video Plus (Greenville, Rhode Island’s video mecca at the time) several times after school finished in our later elementary years. NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (92 mins., 1984, R) – which doesn’t require a viewing of its predecessors to fully appreciate – was one of our favorites, and it still holds up today as one of Cannon’s best from their prolific era of ‘80s filmmaking.
The lovely Lucinda Dickey (star of the studio’s “Breakin” pics) plays an aerobics instructor who becomes possessed by an evil ninja and sets out to seek revenge on his killers. Meanwhile, “good” ninja Sho Kosugi (veteran of both “Enter the Ninja” and “Revenge of the Ninja”) attempts to help Lucinda overcome her increasingly unhinged ways in a wild and woolly good time from director Sam Firstenberg and writer James R. Silke – veterans of numerous other Golan-Globus productions.
“Ninja III” offers all the best elements of a typical Cannon film: well-executed action scenes, a ridiculous plot, a good-looking female lead and some unintentional humor livening up the mix of genres that are uniquely exclusive to “The Domination.” This is silly, unadulterated ‘80s entertainment all the way, and Shout’s newly remastered Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition provides a fresh 4K scan (1.85) from original film elements that trumps their prior format release. This new presentation greatly enhances the fun, with a DTS MA stereo mix representing an orchestral/synth hybrid score credited to Misha Segal and Udi Harpaz. Special features include several new interviews: a 20-minute talk with Dickey covers her work with Cannon (and eventual dropping out of the “Allan Quatermain” heroine role, which eventually was filled by Sharon Stone), plus stuntman Alan Amiel, and audio interviews with production designer Elliot Ellentuck and composer Misha Segal, with isolated score tracks thrown in for good measure. Meanwhile, the commentary track with Firstenberg and stunt coordinator Steve Lambert plus the original trailer have been carried over from the initial BD/DVD combo release.
“Ninja III: The Domination” has a lot of nostalgic value for me, as it likely will for those who fondly recall the type of fast-paced B-movies Cannon routinely produced back in the ‘80s. It’s also one of Golan-Globus’ more engaging concoctions, even minus the huge production budget of “Lifeforce” – check it out!
NIGHT OF THE LEPUS Blu-Ray (88 mins., 1972, PG): Shout’s new deal with Warner Bros. has already resulted in Blu-Ray gems like “Of Unknown Origin” and Larry Cohen’s “It’s Alive” box-set. On the docket this month is the tepid early ‘70s MGM production “Night of the Lepus,” starring a horde of stampeding, mutated giant rabbits looking for more than Cadbury as they traverse the Arizona ranches they were accidentally created near. Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun and a moustached DeForest Kelley provide the human component in this stilted slice of ecological horror, one that only becomes interesting when the hares do their thing, running across hilariously bad scale models (with Astroturf lawns) and raising all kinds of hell in the process. Something of a cult favorite on the bad movie circuit, “Night of the Lepus” has been treated to a new Scream Factory Blu-Ray, marked by a solid, fresh 2K scan from the interpositive (1.85) and DTS MA mono sound. Trailers and TV spots comprise the extras along with two separate commentaries by Lee Gambin and Russell Dyball, respectively – alas, both seem to think the film is worthy of more praise than it deserves and bathe in its heavy-handed subtext.
One of Val Lewton’s finest productions, THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (70 mins., 1944), has also been wisely tapped by Shout Factory as one of their first licensed titles from the Warner library. This follow-up to the iconic “Cat People” is in some ways a more compelling film – and also a sequel (of sorts) that’s positively fascinating as it fashions a child’s fantasy out of the characters and backdrop from its predecessor. Ann Carter plays the six-year-old daughter of a remarried Oliver Reed (Kent Smith), who begins to worry when she sees the apparition of the mysterious Irena (Simone Simon). DeWitt Bodeen returned to write the screenplay for this 1944 RKO release, which utilizes an exploitative title to mask an offbeat, oddly sensitive and even moving “dark fairy tale” in-step with Lewton’s sensibilities, and co-directed by Gunter Fritsch and editor Robert Wise – marking the first such credit of Wise’s esteemed career. Shout’s 1080p (1.33) B&W transfer is a nice enhancement on Warner’s DVD, with extras including a new commentary with historian Steve Haberman, an older commentary with Greg Mank (featuring interview excerpts with Simon), and a still gallery. Highly recommended!
Coming July 3rd from Scream Factory and IFC is the Irish-funded THE CURED (95 mins., 2017, R), an indie zombie flick starring Sam Keeley as a normal guy haunted by his former life as a zombie in a world where a cure has turned former members of the undead back into their human selves. Ellen Page co-stars as his widowed sister-in-law – the only family he has left – in David Freyne’s moody attempt at putting a spin on the usual zombie shenanigans, but is a bit too disconnected and slow-going for its own good. Shout’s Blu-Ray, out in a couple of weeks, includes a featurette, the trailer, 1080p (2.40) transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound.
Also New From Shout: Several other releases via Shout’s association with IFC also hit Blu-Ray this month. FREAK SHOW (91 mins., 2017, Not Rated) stars Alex J. Lawthier as a gender-bending teen whose supportive mom (Bette Midler) sends him to live with his dad (Larry Pine) and attend a local, straight-laced high school. There, he throws down a challenge with the school’s resident mean girl (Abigail Breslin) for Homecoming Queen in this Drew Barrymore production, based on James St. James’ book and directed by Trudie Styler. Shout’s now-available Blu-Ray includes 5.1/2.0 DTS MA sound and a 1080p (2.40) transfer…A better than expected cast populates DEVIL’S GATE (94 mins., 2016), a Canadian chiller featuring Amanda Schull as an FBI agent called to investigate the disappearance of a woman and her son. Milo Ventimiglia stretches far away from “This Is Us” as the missing woman’s religious-fanatic husband, but there’s something even more terrifying nearby in Clay Staub’s fairly amusing mix of genres, co-starring Shawn Ashmore and Jonathan Frakes. Shout’s Blu-Ray/DVD combo is out this week including a 1080p (2.40) AVC encoded transfer and 5.1/2.0 DTS MA sound…Robert Englund and Lin Shaye make appearances in THE MIDNIGHT MAN (93 mins., 2016), a follow-up to the 2013 Irish film about a terrifying spirit that’s part of a game unwittingly summoned by a couple of teens (Gabrielle Haugh, Grayson Gabriel). Goofy stuff that fans seemed to generally reject in lieu of its predecessor, though at least Shout has included the original film as a bonus in their Blu-Ray’s supplemental section. The 1080p (2.40) transfer and 5.1/2.0 DTS MA soundtracks are all fine…the latest GKids release from Shout Factory is the 2014 Korean production SATELLITE GIRL AND MILK COW (81 mins.), a strange story about an old satellite who magically becomes a girl after hearing a lovelorn ballad on the radio. After descending to Earth, the girl meets the singer: a twentysomething aspiring artist who, because of his broken heart, is turned into a cow! Wacky comedy and music mix in this offbeat concoction also new to home video this week. Shout’s Blu-Ray/DVD offers a 1080p (1.85) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound (Korean, subtitled, or English), the short “Coffee Vending Machine And Its Sword” plus trailers.
New on 4K UHD
TOMB RAIDER 4K UHD Blu-Ray Combo Pack (118 mins., 2018, PG-13; Warner): The latest attempt at cinematically capturing the video game adventure of Square Enix’s “Tomb Raider” results in yet another ho-hum movie adaptation. This time out, Alicia Vikander plays a younger, “grittier” Lara Croft, spurning the wealth of her family and setting off to a remote island in search of her lost father (Dominic West). This GK/MGM/Warner co-production tries to be an origin movie for the titular heroine as opposed to the comparatively more Bondian escape provided by the Angelina Jolie films – yet the net result is a wash, with the 2018 “Tomb Raider” boasting colorful visuals and crisp action choreography, but also a blander and ultimately less engaging story. The film also suffers from an anonymous feel, with director Roar Uthaug adhering so closely to the video game that specific shots and sequences are lifted straight from it – and watching the game, instead of playing it, isn’t nearly as much fun.
There’s no disputing, however, how impressive Warner’s 4K UHD presentation of “Tomb Raider” is. This HDR enhanced/Dolby Vision package (2.41) is spectacular in terms of HDR highlights and intense use of color, while the Dolby Atmos sound is expertly engineered. Though not always “eye candy” material (due to the occasionally drab look), “Tomb Raider” makes for a splendid 4K across the board. A handful of featurettes are provided on the Blu-Ray along with a Digital HD copy.
GAME OF THRONES – Complete First Season 4K UHD (600 mins., 2011; HBO): 4K edition of “Thrones”’ Season 1 ups the visual and aural ante with HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos enhancements, making for a must for series fans. This sprawling, ambitious adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s acclaimed “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss garnered all kinds of attention in 2010, and with good reason. Though leisurely paced, “Game of Thrones” is an enthralling chronicle of the fantastical Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and the various factions and families that populate it, with plenty of intrigue and action interspersed along the way. Martin’s dense fantasy tomes could only be adapted in this manner, and HBO brings their usual outstanding production values to the series with strong performances from Sean Bean and especially Peter Dinklage who deservedly copped a number of awards for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister. HBO’s 4K UHD package (now available) reprises most of the extras from the Blu-Ray box, including a number of fine commentaries involving Benioff, Weiss and Martin among others; cast auditions, featurettes, “Anatomy of an Episode” extras, an animated series history and Digital HD copy.
PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING 4K UHD Combo Pack (111 mins., 2018, PG-13; Universal): Thanks to China’s box-office receipts, audiences received this unwanted sequel to Guillermo Del Toro’s so-so “Pacific Rim,” minus not only its director but principal cast as well. Dispensing with the likes of Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba for a lower-priced, younger slate of bland characters embodied by John Boyega and Scott Eastwood, “Uprising” is set years after mankind’s first big win over the giant “Kaiju.” Here, Boyega plays Elba’s son, a crack pilot called back into the fray to battle villains who are creating Jaguar drones in a silly outing that’s more “Transformers” than “Godzilla” in overall entertainment value. Big FX sequences are the ticket, as expected, but the human factor is almost nil in this completely by-the-book affair.
Universal’s 4K UHD offers HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos sound, and it’s beautiful to look at with vivid highlights across the board – yet the movie is a limp regurgitation of a movie that wasn’t all that great to begin with. Universal’s 4K combo pack also includes a BD with numerous extras (deleted scenes, several featurettes) and a Digital HD copy. Available June 19th.
Also new this week from Universal is the Complete Season 1 of WILL & GRACE (6 hours, 2017-18) – no, not the original run, but the new revival of the NBC sitcom. Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally are back – and so are famed sitcom director James Burrows and writers Max Mutchnick and David Kohan – for this (intermittently strident) Trump-era updating of the series, finding the characters negating the life-changing events of the (would-be) prior series finale and right back in the groove they were in for most of its run. Fans of the show, naturally, should enjoy this revisit of the long-running series, which has already been renewed for both the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Universal’s DVD of The Revival’s Season 1 includes a gag reel and behind-the-scenes featurettes, 16:9 transfers and 5.1 soundtacks.
Also New & Noteworthy
ABOMINABLE Blu-Ray (96 mins., 2006; MVD Rewind): Ryan Schifrin’s indie thriller aspires to be a higher-minded genre piece than most of the junk masquerading as horror today. Good intentions aside, “Abominable” follows a wheelchair-bound hiker (Matt McCoy) as he spies something moving in the woods…and near a group of young ladies living next door. Shades of “Rear Window” work in with the requisite monster elements in a moderately fun little flick that’s unfortunately undone by often meager production values, including dim photography and a few shaky supporting performances. Schifrin does get the best out of cameos from genre stalwarts Lance Henriksen, Paul Gleason (particularly amusing in his final screen appearance), Dee Wallace Stone, Jeffrey Combs and Rex Linn, not to mention strong output from his famous composer father Lalo, whose rich dramatic score clashes with the threadbare production aspects of “Abominable.”
MVD’s latest Rewind Collection entry not only offers a brand-new 2K high-def transfer (1.78) from the original camera negative but a newly recut version of the picture with enhanced special effects, PCM surround and a new introduction from Schifrin. Other extras are carried over from an older Special Edition DVD, including commentary from Schifrin, McCoy and Combs, plus deleted scenes, bloopers, trailers, Schifrin’s short films “Shadows” (SD) and “Basil & Mobius: No Rest For the Wicked” (HD), along with the trailer, the original 2005 version of the film (SD), poster/stills gallery, and a Making Of featurette.
“Abominable” has its heart in the right place and old school Creature Feature fans will certainly warm to it more than most of the modern genre trash that’s out there. Ultimately, I felt the movie was too rough around the edges to really score, but fans should be pleased with the film’s new FX work and far superior visual transfer to its prior DVD release.
LIONHEART Blu-Ray/DVD (104/110 mins., 1990, R; MVD): One of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s earlier starring vehicles, “Lionheart” finds the Muscles From Brussels as a French Foreign Legion fighter who leaves his squad in the desert to find his ailing brother in Los Angeles. He’s pursued by security forces who push him into fighting in order to raise money for his sibling’s family in Sheldon Lettich’s silly but watchable concoction — an Imperial Entertainment production that Universal released in the U.S. theatrically and on home video to decent success.
MVD licensed “Lionheart” from Imperial and the result is another entry in the label’s MVD Rewind Series, offering a 1080p (1.85) transfer that’s a bit brighter than Universal’s release of the theatrical version. There’s also an Extended Version with SD inserts of restored deleted footage – however, this cut will likely be relegated to “fans only” status as a judicious amount of DNR was applied to the master MVD was supplied with. Special features is where the disc really shines: a new 45-minute documentary includes interviews with Van Damme, Lettich and the supporting cast; a 25-minute documentary “Inside Lionheart” provides more coverage of the production; a new 10-minute segment looks at the fight sequences while archival interviews with Lettich (nearly a half-hour long), co-star Harrison Page (25 minutes), a Making Of promo featurette, trailers, photo galleries, and a commentary by Lettich and Page on the extended cut round out a terrific release for Van Damme buffs.
GREASER’S PARADISE Blu-Ray (91 mins., 1972, R; Scorpion Releasing): Robert Downey helmed this off-the-wall film that reconfigures Christ’s sufferings to the Old West, where a zoot-suited drifter (Allan Arbus) is able to perform everyday miracles – but really just wants to sing and dance. With a cast including future “Fantasy Island” co-star Herve Villechaize and Robert Downey, Jr. in his film debut, “Greaser’s Paradise” is a picture that could only have been produced in the early ‘70s, and is regarded by cult film enthusiasts as one of Downey’s stronger (and stranger!) works. Scorpion Releasing has brought “Greaser’s Paradise” to Blu-Ray this week offering a new 2010 HD scan of the original camera negatives (1.85), an on-camera interview with Downey conducted by Rudy Wurlitzer, and liner notes from the late Jonathan Demme.
GRINGO Blu-Ray/DVD (111 mins., 2018, R; Universal): Playful, moderately entertaining dark-comedy from Nash Edgerton, who helms his brother Joel, Charlize Theron and David Oyelowo in “Gringo” – the latter playing a businessman who runs afoul of all kinds of trouble while on a trip to Mexico. While his colleagues (Theron and Edgerton) offer little help, a black-ops mercenary (Sharlto Copley) and drug lords send Oyelowo’s Harold Soyinka on a manic trip that’s engagingly played by the ensemble and at least worth a rental. Universal’s Blu-Ray is out this week, including a quartet of behind-the-scenes featurettes, a 1080p (2.40) AVC encoded transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound.
Also new from Universal is Steven Soderbergh’s latest cinematic experiment, UNSANE (99 mins., 2018 R), a thriller starring Claire Foy (“The Crown”) as a woman, previously hounded by a stalker, who ends up being committed to a mental institution and believes that stalker is there – and part of the staff! Soderbergh shot “Unsane” on an iphone, giving the movie some interesting visual perspectives and adding to the film’s off-kilter mood. Like a lot of Soderbergh’s pictures, this one’s effectiveness is largely based on personal taste, though it’s always interesting to watch. Universal’s Blu-Ray includes a featurette, 1080p transfer (1.56 “side matted”), 5.1 DTS MA sound, plus a DVD and Digital copy. The title is also available in a 4K UHD presentation, which is interesting given the film’s “low fi” approach. Universal’s 4K combo pack streets also on June 19th, featuring a 2160p HVEC encoded 1.56 HDR transfer and the same 5.1 DTS MA sound as the BD platter.
KING OF HEARTS Blu-Ray (102 mins, 1966; Cohen Film Collection): Philippe De Broca’s international art-house hit stars Alan Bates as a Scottish soldier, sent to diffuse a bomb in the French countryside set by the Germans, during WWI. Along the way he’s accepted by a group of psychiatric patients who’ve left a mental hospital and claimed a town of their own, assuming various roles left to heir imaginations. Genevieve Bujold co-stars in De Broca’s New Wave smash, new on Blu-Ray this week from the Cohen Film Collection in a brand new 4K restoration. Extras include commentary from critic Wade Major, a new conversation with Bujold and IndieWire’s Anne Thompson, another new conversation with cinematographer Pierre Llhome, trailers, and PCM French audio with English subtitles and Georges Delerue’s fine original score.
ANCIENT ALIENS – 10th Anniversary DVD Collector’s Edition (120 hours, 2010-17; Lionsgate): Ever since Erich von Daniken profiled extraterrestrials having visited earth in his late ‘60s bestseller “Chariots of the Gods,” scientists have spent years examining cave drawings, Peru landing strips, ancient Indian texts and other unexplained phenomena that von Daniken provided as evidence to “alien astronaut” visitations on Earth in centuries past. History Channel’s documentary “Ancient Aliens” first premiered in 2009, initially doing an excellent job updating and expanding upon the author’s theories, produced in cooperation with the author himself. From there, History produced some 135 episodes of the program over the next seven years, taking viewers around the world and out into the galaxy, looking for signs of any kind of life.
History has released a number of packages of “Ancient Aliens” on DVD over the years but none as comprehensive as Lionsgate’s new 36-disc Collector’s Edition gift set. This lavish package includes the entire run of the series through its 2017 season in either 4:3/16:9 transfers (depending on the season) and 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo sound. Well worth it for aficionados, though I’m betting the show will still be around in another decade for its 20th Anniversary release!
Also Now Available From Lionsgate: ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK Season 5 Blu-Ray (apx. 13 hours, 2017; Lionsgate): The Litchfield inmates react to Poussey’s death, leading to a prison standoff and a full-fledged riot that ends with them running the asylum in this fifth season of the acerbic, acclaimed AMC series, which has never been afraid to pontificate on current social issues and raise controversy of its own. Fans generally seemed to like OITNB’s fifth season, which aired on AMC in Summer 2017 and hits Blu-Ray for the first time this week from Lionsgate. The multi-disc BD package sports 1080p (1.78) transfers, 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks, a gag reel, commentaries, “72 Hours in 6 Months: Stories of the Season” featurette, and a Digital HD Copy…Also new this week from Lionsgate on DVD is Max Winkler’s FLOWER (90 mins., 2018, R). Here, Zoey Deutch plays a teenager who works with her stepbrother to expose what she believes is a high school teacher’s (Adam Scott) sordid background. Winkler’s film is rough around the edges and goes off the rails in its final act, but Deutch is well worth watching and “Flower” still functions as an adequate showcase for her talents. Winkler and Deutch provide commentary in Lionsgate’s DVD, available June 19thwith a 16:9 (1.85) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound…When a pair of sheriff’s deputies lose their jobs due to poor arrest records, they go after an escaped convict in order to prove their worth in Zach Golden’s THE ESCAPE OF PRISONER 614 (97 mins., 2018, PG-13). This contemporary western stars “Silicon Valley”’s Martin Starr (in a total change of pace) and Jack McDoman as the deputies trying to change their fortunes and Ron Perlman in a familiar role as their boss – a cold-blooded, corrupt commanding sheriff. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray of this Saban Films production offers no extras when it streets on June 26th, just a 1080p (2.40) transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound, plus a Digital HD copy.
Also On Blu-Ray From Lionsgate: “Empire” and “Hidden Faces”’ Taraji P. Henson gives a typically powerful performance in TYLER PERRY’S ACRIMONY (120 mins., 2018, R), the prolific writer-producer-director’s attempt at a more straightforward thriller. Henson stars as a woman who decides to turn the tables on her philandering husband in this March release from Lionsgate, which generated $46 million at the box-office and offers a decent view (along with an underwhelming ending) for Henson fans. Lionsgate’s combo pack, out June 26th, includes the “Unleashing Acrimony” featurette, 1080p (2.40) AVC encoded transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, a DVD and Digital HD copy…I CAN ONLY IMAGINE Blu-Ray/DVD (110 mins., 2018, PG; Lionsgate): Contemporary Christian band MercyMe have had a number of “crossover” hits, most especially the title track of this 2018 dramatization of their story. Michael Finley plays the group’s founder, Bart Millard, who sets out on the road and creates MercyMe from the ground up, all the while attempting to repair fractured relationships at home. The Erwin Brothers helmed this moving film with Dennis Quaid as Millard’s reformed father, one that wisely saves the central performance of “I Can Only Imagine” itself to the film’s very end – to palpable dramatic effect. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray combo pack includes a DVD, Digital HD, a 1080p (2.35) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound and numerous extras: seven deleted scenes, interviews with MercyMe members, commentary, and a conversation with Quaid.
On DVD From Lionsgate: The Lifetime movie SEA CHANGE (86 mins. 2017) adapts Aimee Friedman’s bestselling young-adult novel about a teenage girl who moves to a seaside town, finds herself wedged between two local boys and learns about her connection to a supposedly mythical race of “Seawalkers.” A lot of story is crammed into this Lifetime original movie which condenses Friedman’s book into a tidy (apparently failed) pilot – one that was intended to launch a prospective series. Lionsgate’s DVD boasts a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound…Available on DVD June 26th, TURTLE TALE (87 mins., 2018, PG) is a family-friendly live-action tale about a kidnapped turtle named Hank (voiced by Mikey Bolts), whose pals – both four-legged and human alike – team up to track him down in this breezy feature. Lionsgate’s DVD includes a “Giving The Turtles A Voice: At the Recording Studio” featurette sporting interviews with Bolts and fellow voice artists Tom Arnold, Ambyr Childers and Lydia Hull, plus a Making Of featurette, 16:9 (2.40) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
LOVE, SIMON 4K UHD Combo Pack (110 mins., 2018, PG-13; Fox): Coming-of-age teen picture with a gay twist as 17-year-old Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) navigates through the usual high school dramatics – friends, teachers, bullies – but struggles to disclose his homosexuality, even while trying to figure out the anonymous classmate he’s fallen for via email. Becky Albertalli infused autobiographical components into her book in terms of the story’s Atlanta setting, while director Greg Berlanti’s film adaptation makes for a caring, compassionate film as Robinson’s likeable teen copes with “coming out,” but does so in such a warm and appealing way that audiences of all persuasions should find it sufficiently satisfying. Fox’s 4K UHD presentation includes 5.1 DTS MA sound and an HDR 4K UHD transfer, plus a BD, Digital copy, commentary from Berlanti and his production team, deleted scenes and many featurettes.
DEATH WISH Blu-Ray (107 mins., 2018, R; MGM/Fox): At some point, the prospects of remaking the Charles Bronson vigilante classic “Death Wish” may have seemed like a good idea. And, at some point, having gore auteur Eli Roth and star Bruce Willis involved may have likewise seemed like a smart course of action. Alas, the long-gestating return of initially mild-mannered Paul Kersey to the screen is a total whiff – a film shocking not for its violence but rather the amount of tedium it generates.
A totally disinterested Willis sleepwalks his way through this by-the-numbers updating of the Brian Garfield novel, following Kersey (now a surgeon instead of an architect) as he takes justice into his own hands after his family is viciously attacked. Even with Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio and Elisabeth Shue involved, there’s scant reason to watch this tired affair when the Bronson originals – including Michael Winner’s “Great Bad Movie” cult fave “Death Wish 3” – are readily available on Blu-Ray for all to enjoy. Fox’s Blu-Ray includes commentary with Roth and producer Roger Birnbaum, deleted and extended scenes, a Digital copy, DVD and a Making Of featurette. The 1080p (2.40) transfer and 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack are both top notch, though a planned 4K UHD release was canceled at least for the U.S.
DUCKTALES – DESTINATION: ADVENTURE! DVD (135 mins., 2018; Disney): Disney Channel’s revival of the ‘80s animated staple is back on DVD featuring a handful of episodes: The Beagle Birthday Massacre!, The Living Mummies of Toth-Ra!, The Impossible Summit of Mt. Neverest!, The Sear of Selene!, The Missing Links of Moorshire! and Beware the BUDDY System. Also included are two classic “Ducktales” cartoons from the series’ heyday for the first time on DVD: New Gizmo-Kids on the Block and Ducky Mountain High. The 16:9 (1.85) transfers and 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks are just fine in Disney’s now-available single-disc package.
ALEX AND ME Blu-Ray Combo Pack (85 mins., 2018, G; Warner): Teenager Raegan Wills (Siena Abudong) wants to play soccer a la her hero, US Gold Medalist Alex Morgan. Alas, she’s relegated to second-tier status in her family because of her football star brother – at least until she believes Morgan herself comes to her aid (after hitting her head), enabling Raegan to better focus and prove herself on the field. Eric Champnella’s family film is good-hearted and appealing for kids, with Warner’s Blu-Ray offering an outtake and several featurettes, a DVD, Digital HD copy, a 1080p (1.78) transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound.
DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD OF OZ – Season 1, Volume 2 DVD (113 mins., 2018; Warner): New animated series featuring L. Frank Baum’s classic characters, aimed squarely at little ones, is back on DVD for a second volume of episodes from its first season. Comprising the 10 episodes are Jinxed, Rise of the Nome King, One-Winged Wally, Wand-erful, No Sleep Sleepover, Lion Catches a Bug, Tik Tok and Tin Man, If Only Had Some Brawn, The Beast Royales and Time After Time, all in 16:9 transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
THE DEATH OF STALIN DVD (107 mins., 2017, R; Paramount): “Veep” creator Armando Iannucci directed and co-wrote this Cold War satire that chronicles what happens after Stalin dies and his remaining comrades scramble to save the union. A strange but occasionally funny adaptation of a comic book with a top notch cast (Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs, Jeffrey Tambor), Iannucci’s film finally comes to DVD this month from Paramount. A featurette, deleted scenes, a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 sound are included in the package.
Film Movement New Releases: Derek Jarman’s unique vision of EDWARD II (90 mins., 1991) is new to Blu-Ray this month from Film Movement. Steven Waddington plays the title role in the post-modern take on Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan tragedy, co-starring Tilda Swinton as his neglected wife Isabella and Andrew Tiernan as male lover he takes over her. Film Movement’s Blu-Ray includes the documentary featurette “Derek’s Edward,” a new digital restoration of the picture and 2.0 stereo sound…An equally offbeat portrayal of HAMLET (192 mins., 2018) adorns the Royal Exchange Theatre’s production of the Shakespeare play, with Maxine Peake portraying the title role – the first actress to be cast in a major production since Frances de la Tour did over four decades ago. Film Movement here captures the stage play in a 16:9 enhanced DVD with 5.1 surround…Finally, IN SYRIA (86 mins., 2018) is Philippe Van Leeuw’s film about a mother who struggles to keep her family together in a war-torn Damascus. Film Movement’s DVD is out this week including the bonus short film “Le Pain,” a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 sound in Arabic with English subtitles.
SUPERCON DVD (94 mins., 2018, R; Sony): The idea of sending up a typical comic convention would seem to provide endless comedic potential for a movie. Alas, director Zak Knutson fails to exploit that premise in “Supercon,” which strands Russell Peters as a former child actor who teams up with his pals (Maggie Grace, Ryan Kwanten) to combat both the convention’s greedy promoter (Mike Epps) and his nemesis (Clancy Brown), who team up to ban the motley group from the con’s premises. John Malkovich makes an appearance in this dumb, almost totally unfunny mess, populated with gross-out juvenile humor that the game cast can never overcome. Making its DVD debut from Sony, “Supercon” receives a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
NEXT TIME: More June new releases! 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!