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It’s not a stretch to say that movies changed forever when JURASSIC PARK opened on June 11th, 1993. I remember attending the opening of Steven Spielberg’s much anticipated adaptation of the Michael Crichton best-seller, stoked by having already purchased John Williams’ soundtrack album a couple of weeks before and played it to death by the time I finally saw the picture. While certain aspects of the movie were a bit of a letdown (both then and now), there was no denying the “game changer” that the film’s historical use of CGI special effects signified.
Spielberg’s dinosaurs, animated by ILM, actually looked photo-realistic, and those individual moments when the film’s characters saw the creatures for the first time – and their spellbound reaction to them – were matched by audience members equally captivated by what they were seeing on-screen. No movie special effects had ever captured that level of detail before, with ILM’s “pseudo-pod” in “The Abyss” and the shape-shifting FX of “Terminator 2″ being mere appetizers for the full-on, jaw-dropping brontosaurus, raptors and T-Rex seen in the original “Jurassic Park.”
It’s something that bears repeating since CGI has progressed to a point nearly 25 years later where today’s television series routinely offer elaborate visual effects – yet the point in which it all came together and VFX transitioned into “the future” can all be seen in Spielberg’s film, which at one point was going to employ Phil Tippett’s stop-motion animation for the dinosaurs until ILM’s technology had matured enough to make the quantum leap into CGI during production.
As a movie, JURASSIC PARK (***½, 126 mins., PG-13) has brilliant Spielbergian set-pieces, a majestic John Williams score, and a less than a satisfying story with bland characters (Sam Neill and Laura Dern’s leads were never that interesting; Richard Attenborough’s toothless Dr. Hammond is less a Frankenstein than a kindly grandfather) that are continuously dwarfed by the “living” dinos. Overall, as a piece of escapist entertainment, it’s still a satisfying film – not one of Spielberg’s classics, but a picture that will always be remembered as one of the truly groundbreaking films in terms of its technological feats.
THE LOST WORLD (**, 129 mins., PG-13) followed in 1997 and opened with great expectations – fans hoping that the sequel would tighten up the screenplay and offer more in the way of captivating dinosaur action.
Unfortunately, not only did Spielberg’s sequel lack the spark that made the original such a blockbuster, David Koepp’s script is even more of a mess, filled with poorly drawn characters and an abysmal climax set in San Diego. Some of the set-pieces are exciting, though most of these occur during the film’s mid-section with Pete Postelthwaite as a big-game hunter, an intriguing role that seems to have been cut significantly from its original conception (in fact, Postelthwaite at one point literally announces his exit from the film!). The effects are still compelling but not nearly as innovative the second time around, while Jeff Goldblum looks lost – literally and figuratively – here, proving that augmenting his scene-stealing supporting turn from the original into a lead role wasn’t a wise decision. Things are made worse by Janusz Kaminski’s overly arty cinematography, which is unusually pretentious for a movie like this, and Goldblum’s teen-daughter karate-kicking a raptor in a moment that ranks as one of the worst of Spielberg’s career. Yes, “The Lost World” is every bit as disappointing as you remember it being.
Even though it’s more of a B-movie in terms of its ambition and running time, the 2001 Joe Johnston-directed JURASSIC PARK III (***, 93 mins., PG-13) is much more satisfying than Spielberg’s own sequel, dressed up with top-grade special effects and set pieces offering some fresh twists on its predecessors. The picture rips right into the action from the opening frames, disposes of the pretentiousness of “The Lost World” and turns into an elaborate chase movie that gives you the meat – all the action and effects of the first two films — without the fat (i.e. Richard Attenborough’s preachy, ecological speechifying from its immediate predecessor).
After sitting through Goldblum’s uneasy turn as a leading man, Sam Neill’s more confident reprisal here of Dr. Alan Grant seems like a breath of fresh air. Suckered into a rescue mission by would-be philanthropist William H. Macy (at times essaying his “Fargo” part without the Minnesota accent) and ex-wife Tea Leoni, Grant — along with grad student Alessandro Nivola – returns to Isla Sorna where the dinosaurs have not only continued to run amok, but also evolved with new species and forms of communication between them. Macy and Leoni’s son (the surprisingly tolerable Trevor Morgan) has gone missing and it’s up to the group to find him, and their way out, before being consumed by the island’s inhabitants.
“Park III” had its share of problems right from the get-go: the script, credited to Peter Buchman and “Election” scribes Alexander Payne and James Taylor, was reportedly re-written each day, while the picture’s ending was scrapped and re-shot at the last minute. While the finished film boasts an abrupt conclusion that should have been more effectively staged, the rest of the picture is often quite well-executed, with a handful of exciting set-pieces highlighted by a dynamite escape from a nest of flying Pteranodons.
The ILM effects are as good as you would anticipate, while Johnston’s film features a greenish, daylight look far removed from “The Lost World”’s ugly, night-time trappings. Don Davis’ faux-John Williams replacement score, meanwhile, is too much at times, but at least reworks the original themes effectively enough that most audiences seemingly won’t know the difference.
“Jurassic Park III” naturally doesn’t have the novelty value of the first film in the series, where its groundbreaking special effects alone wowed audiences around the world, but it does rank as a sequel far superior to the second film. Like the Saturday Matinee serials of yesteryear, it gives you more of the same, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.
Years passed before Spielberg returned to produce JURASSIC WORLD (**½, 127 mins., 2015, PG-13), a cartoonish box-office smash that became one of the top hits of all-time (sans inflation taken into account). That doesn’t excuse the fact that the picture is a something of an insult to both Michael Crichton’s original “Jurassic Park” novel and the type of cinematic sci-fi that Spielberg himself captured in his 1993 screen version. While the original “Park” had its problems, it was at least an honest attempt at incorporating enough real-world science that one’s suspension of disbelief was minimal for a story about bringing dinosaurs back to life. Much of that is negated in this belated series entry, which serves, more significantly, as a new entry point for today’s 12-and-under set into the franchise – which makes sense, since “Jurassic World” is essentially a two-hour animated film with live actors (not to mention an ad for Comcast, Verizon Wireless, Mercedes, IMAX, and other companies whose products appear throughout).
Indie director Colin Trevorrow’s film – scripted by Trevorrow and Derek Connolly from an earlier draft by “Planet of the Apes” revivalists Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver – wastes little time in establishing its premise. On the island of Isla Nublar, nobody learned a lesson from the prior movies, since the shady InGen Corporation has not just built another park teeming with dinosaurs, but crossed some of the breeds, one of which – of course – gets out of its paddock and causes trouble. Park operations manager Bryce Dallas Howard can’t figure out what to do, so she enlists the help of dinosaur whisperer Chris Pratt, who’s been able to train a group of raptors that simultaneously draws the attention of InGen security head Vincent D’Onofrio, who has more sinister plans up his sleeve (elements retained from a derided, discarded sequel draft by John Sayles years back). Oh, and there are also Howard’s teen nephews, whose parents – of course! – are in the midst of getting a divorce, and who also (naturally) get stuck on the island.
“Jurassic World” is jammed with standard-issue effects from one second to the next (the complete reverse of “Jurassic Park” itself), but unlike its predecessors, it has no sense of pacing or suspense — the characters are thinly drawn, the performances mostly vacant. The “genetically engineered” monsters now possess little surprise or interest on-screen, appearing early and often and presumably serving to retain the attention of restless kids who can’t wait for “the good parts.” Any connection to Crichton’s scientific study or the history of the dinosaurs themselves is negated by a line of dialogue talking about how the monsters no longer look or act like the real thing, and then thrown out the window for a series of set-pieces that range from fairly effective to mind-bogglingly silly, culminating in the much-talked about “fan service” ending that, beyond its “emotional resonance”, is so ridiculous words can’t properly describe it.
“Jurassic World” has a few glimpses of cinematic inspiration (and thanks to John Schwartzman’s bright cinematography, it looks great), and the movie works best when Trevorrow indulges in the mayhem, including a surprisingly brutal pterodactyl attack on the park’s guests (though one victim’s demise seems unnecessarily cruel). In these moments, it’s easier to forgive the material’s thinness and accept the picture on the level of an old-time monster film from the ‘50s, just on a larger, more elaborate modern scale. If viewed that way, “Jurassic World” isn’t all bad, even if it makes you lament how far the bar has been lowered in the 25 years since the original “Jurassic Park” was released – back when “summer fun” wasn’t always dumb.
All four films have been recently brought to 4K UHD by Universal as part of the JURASSIC PARK – 25TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION, a limited-edition box-set that features both the previously-released Blu-Rays and brand new UHD presentations.
The 4K UHD of “Jurassic World” is unsurprisingly the finest of the lot – an attractive, HDR boosted package that brings color and texture to an already good-looking film. The UHD presentations of the original “Jurassic Park” trilogy are certainly more uneven, though each is still a notable enhancement on their prior Blu-Ray editions. This is certainly the case with “Jurassic Park” itself, whose Blu-Ray was plagued with edge-enhancement and blah colors. The UHD looks like it’s been scrubbed at times with DNR, but the color pallet is wider and there’s no sign of the other digital processing issues that the Blu-Ray suffered from. “The Lost World” and “Jurassic Park III” fare similarly – these aren’t Sony-grade UHD catalog releases, but they’re at the least an appreciable upgrade on Universal’s Blu-Ray efforts. The sound isn’t a problem in any case, with DTS X mixes offering a broad stage for each respective film’s elaborate audio design – and given that “Jurassic Park” was one of the reference-quality mixes of its era, that’s a good thing indeed.
In terms of supplements, they’re all included in the Blu-Rays (which also feature the same, previously released VC-1 encoded transfers of 1-3). This means “Jurassic World” reprises its same supplemental slate while a full array of goodies adorn the JP Trilogy as before. Those include the full-length “Making Of” documentaries, the deleted scenes on “The Lost World,” trailers and other archival featurettes, plus the 2011 Blu-Ray-exclusive, retrospective featurettes produced by Laurent Bouzereau. The latter sport then-new interviews with Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Joe Johnston, cinematographers Dean Cundey and Janusz Kaminski, cast members Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, Ariana Richards, Peter Stormare, Joseph Mazzello, William H. Macy and John Williams among others. The featurettes are broken up into multiple parts on the respective movie discs, running about an hour on “Jurassic Park,” 40 minutes on “The Lost World” and 25 minutes on “Jurassic Park III.”
Perhaps tellingly, the first movie’s new retrospective segment is almost entirely devoted to the special effects, with little discussion about the development history of the project, script or casting. One thing that’s reinforced is how Spielberg left the movie in post-production to shoot “Schindler’s List” and wasn’t around to supervise dubbing or even Williams’ score (as noted in the “Special Thanks to George Lucas” credit). The director notes that it was the only time in his career that he wasn’t able to attend the recording sessions – something that confirms the notion some fans have held that the director simply wasn’t as “into” the movie as much as he was for “Raiders,” “E.T.” or his other classics. It’s also an element that comes across in the finished film, with its lacking human component (Williams refers to Sam Neill and Laura Dern as simply “the man” and “the woman” in his recollection of the picture!).
In his “Lost World” comments, Spielberg honestly admits that it “wasn’t as good” as the first movie and that it was a challenge because it was the first “pure sequel” he had ever directed. He didn’t consider the Indiana Jones films to be sequels – more self-contained “adventure fantasies” – but with “The Lost World” he had to fill it with a number of different characters and that the story was handicapped by being less straightforward. Considering that Spielberg is typically even-handed when critiquing his work, it’s refreshing to hear his dissatisfaction in a number of his comments about the picture here.
The near half-hour retrospective featurette on “Jurassic Park III” is probably the best balanced of the three, with Johnston discussing the movie’s turbulent pre-production which saw the original script thrown out shortly before filming began. Neill – whose return to the series seems to have been a late decision on the part of the filmmakers – says that he prefers his performance in the third film to the first while Johnston admits the hectic shooting schedule kept the filmmakers constantly on the run throughout.
With digital copies also included, this is a must-have set for 4K enthusiasts and “Jurassic Park” fans, the transfers coming across as superior to their Blu-Ray counterparts. While it would’ve been nice to see the deleted scenes from the first “Jurassic Park” (the long-lost triceratops sequence for one) or the original ending of the third movie, this is still a solid package to tide audiences over until “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” roars its way into theaters later this month.
Twilight Time New Releases
NEXT STOP, GREENWICH VILLAGE Blu-Ray (111 mins., 1976, R): Writer-director Paul Mazursky’s autobiographical piece “Next Stop, Greenwich Village” is full of flavor and great character actors, making for a time capsule both of the early 1950s as well as its own mid 1970s location shooting. Lenny Baker here plays Mazursky’s “Larry,” a young Jewish man who breaks from his overbearing, protective mother (Shelley Winters) and heads out as an aspiring actor along with his girlfriend (“Little Shop of Horrors”’ Ellen Greene) in the Village. Both a portrait of colorful characters as well as the fledgling beatnik movement, Mazursky’s film offers early appearances from Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Murray, plus a score by Bill Conti. Twilight Time’s Blu-Ray offers an isolated score track, the trailer, the DVD commentary with Mazursky and Greene, a 1080p (1.85) transfer and 2.0/1.0 DTS MA soundtracks.
GERONIMO: AN AMERICAN LEGEND Blu-Ray (115 mins., 1993, PG-13): A number of westerns followed in the wake of “Dances With Wolves” throughout the ‘90s, mostly to mixed results and often disappointing box-office receipts. Such was the case with “Geronimo: An American Legend,” a solemn outing from director Walter Hill that’s as much about the cavalrymen (including top-billed Jason Patric and a young Matt Damon, who also narrates the film) as it is the Apache (Wes Studi) who famously evaded capture as he refused to adjust to life on a reservation. Larry Gross rewrote John Milius’ original screenplay and apparently took substantial liberties with the historical record, resulting in something of a revisionist western with mostly sympathetic portrayals of veteran US government cavalrymen, with Gene Hackman essaying a general and Robert Duvall as a scout (both, unsurprisingly, outshine the wooden Patric). Either way, “Geronimo” doesn’t amount to a whole lot outside of its location lensing by Lloyd Ahern, coming off as overly self-important and tediously paced. Twilight Time’s Blu-Ray includes a fine Sony licensed 1080p (2.35) transfer, 2.0 and 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks, the trailer and an isolated score track.
THE BIRTH OF A NATION Blu-Ray (191 mins., 1915): D.W. Griffith’s silent film classic has long fueled discussion in classrooms and amongst movie buffs. No matter how one feels about “The Birth of a Nation” and its controversial elements, at least the movie is out there and available for all to witness, and thanks to Twilight Time’s double-disc release, is now presented in a definitive home video package. Working off Patrick Stanbury’s 2015 Photoplay restoration, TT’s Blu includes a 1.33 high-definition mastering (with 5.1/2.0 DTS MA sound) of the three-hour plus epic — presented with both the 1930 sound reissue prologue, intermission and Act two introduction – on disc one. The second disc is chock full of supplements: outtakes/camera tests, four additional Civil War-themed silent films (The Coward, The Rose of Kentucky, Stolen Glory and The Drummer of the 8th, the latter in two separate versions), score recording sessions conducted by John Lanchbery, Griffith on Cecil B. DeMille’s Lux Radio Theater, a still/collections gallery, and essays from historian Ashley Clark along with Photoplay co-founders Stanbury and Kevin Brownlow.
HILDA CRANE Blu-Ray (87 mins., 1956): Stylish Cinemascope melodrama from writer-director Philip Dunne follows an already twice-divorced woman (Jean Simmons) who retreats from New York City to her hometown where she promptly gets buried in a triangle with small-town guy Guy Madison and a suave Frenchman (Jean-Pierre Aumont). Evelyn Varden is terrific as Madison’s domineering mother in this old-fashioned Fox drama, scored by David Raksin and presented in a superb 1080p (2.35) AVC encoded transfer. 5.1 and 2.0 DTS MA soundtracks, an isolated score track, the trailer, and an A&E Biography on Simmons make for a fine Blu-Ray for Cinemascope lovers.
Olive New Releases: COLD TURKEY Blu-Ray (**½, 102 mins., 1970, PG; Olive) is a caustic Norman Lear production that looks at how a small Iowa town of some 4,000 attempt to quit smoking in order to win a $25 million payout from a tobacco corporation. A terrific cast is the key reason to check out “Cold Turkey,” with Dick Van Dyke’s pious reverend attempting to steer his wayward flock onto the right path (even while losing touch with his wife, played by Pippa Scott) and a who’s-who of character actors and comedic talents – Bob Newhart, Bob & Ray, Jean Stapleton, Tom Poston, Bernard Hughes, Vincent Gardenia, Paul Benedict, M. Emmet Walsh – in support. The movie is highly uneven and plays with a heavy-hand, right down to its cynical ending, but those old enough to remember the performers will likely find the film of interest, even if it’s a detached one. Olive’s Blu-Ray is a likewise inconsistent affair, the MGM-licensed 1080p (1.85) master showing nicks and scratches, along with varying degrees of noise-reduction – at times looking far too glossy while occasionally detailed when the DNR hasn’t been as judiciously applied. The DTS MA mono sound houses an early Randy Newman score…Also from Olive this month is a new DVD edition of A BUCKET OF BLOOD (66 mins., 1959), Roger Corman’s predecessor to “Little Shop of Horrors” starring Dick Miller as a beatnik artist who takes to murder to comprise the subjects of his latest sculptures. Olive’s DVD includes a 16:9 licensed MGM transfer and is, like “Cold Turkey,” in stores this week.
New From Flicker Alley
Some of the most exciting home video restorations of recent years have been David Strohmaier’s work on the original Cinerama features, produced for the groundbreaking widescreen format in the 1950s. Flicker Alley released three of the restorations on Blu-Ray and DVD back in 2012-14 – “This is Cinerama,” “Cinerama Holiday” and “South Seas Adventure” – with additional work undertaken on “Windjammer,” which was shot using a similar, three-camera process known as “Cinemiracle.” Additional releases followed (“Seven Wonders of the World,” “Search For Paradise,” and “Cinerama’s Russian Adventure” among those) over the next two years.
This month, two of those films have been updated, and upgraded, in brand-new restorations from superior, original 3-panel camera elements: the seminal THIS IS CINERAMA (127 mins., 1952) and WINDJAMMER: THE VOYAGE OF THE CHRISTIAN RADICH (142 mins., 1958). The a/v upgrade is evident in the presentations of both Blu-Rays, each highlighted by added detail, stronger color, and healthier source elements than Flicker Alley’s prior HD transfers, which Strohmaier assembled from the best elements that were accessible at the time.
“This is Cinerama” showed off the three-camera widescreen exhibition and curved screen of Cinerama and its boisterous, multi-channel stereo sound – a marvelous example not just of then-cutting edge technology, but a capsule of an important moment in motion picture history. Meant to sell the theatrical experience at a time when television was threatening its popularity, Cinerama made a bold appeal to the movie-going public based on widescreen splendor, gorgeous sound and detail that was impossible to get from its small-screen competitor, and this initial feature takes viewers from Edinburg Castle to Milan’s La Scala Opera House, over the U.S. in a B-25 bomber, and other points around the world. “Windjammer,” meanwhile, is more of a documentary travelogue, chronicling a Norwegian square-rigger’s adventures across the Atlantic, stopping in ports like San Juan, Trinidad, and eventually New York along the way. “Windjammer” was produced with proprietary widescreen tech and 7-channel stereo sound, yet was the one and only film released in the competing “Cinemiracle” format.
Both films include a full array of extras in addition to all-new 1080p transfers (in the curved "Smilebox" format, intended to simulate actual Cinerama exhibition) and 5.1 DTS MA stereo soundtracks. “This is Cinerama” offers commentary, an updated “Best in the Biz” documentary about Cinerama’s composers, restoration segments, trailers and plenty more. “Windjammer,” meanwhile, boasts a documentary from Strohmaier on the production, reconstruction featurettes and a look at the Christian Radich circa 2010. Each comes highly recommended.
Disney New Releases
Disney aficionados will want to check out return of PETER PAN to Blu-Ray in a Signature Collection combo pack (***½, 1953, 77 mins., Disney) on June 5th. As seen in their prior Diamond release, Disney produced a painstaking restoration of the 1953 animated feature; the result is an exceptionally clear 1080p transfer backed by a 7.1 DTS MA soundtrack that enhances the film’s audio. While the image does seem a bit “clean” for a ‘50s animated film, colors and details are exceptionally strong, and the movie itself remains a charming adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s original stories.
Extras include new interviews with the voice cast and “Stories From Walt’s Office,” along with other supplements reconfigured from prior releases. These include “Growing Up With Nine Old Men,” which focuses on the children of several Disney animators, reflecting on their parents’ work at the studio (HD, 41 minutes), while two deleted scenes (The Journey Home, Alternate Arrival) and a pair of deleted songs (Never Smile at a Crocodile, The Boatswain Song) are also on-hand. Roy Disney’s commentary is a carryover from the prior DVD, as are other deleted materials (including “The Pirate Song”), a documentary (“You Can Fly”), plus a DVD and digital copy. Worth it if you missed the earlier Blu-Ray.
Also new from Disney is the 4K UHD of A WRINKLE IN TIME (115 mins., 2018, PG), a weak adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s classic young-adult fantasy novel about a teenage girl (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who travels through time and space looking for her lost scientist father (Chris Pine). Being progressively “diverse” as most recent Disney films have been, Ava DuVernay’s film also isn’t much fun to watch, as this two-hour grind offers lots of splashy special effects and a bizarre group of celestial beings embodied here by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and (of course) Zach Galifankis. You feel like the producers were trying to hit so many check-boxes that they forgot to include “fun” in the equation, leaving an expensive mess behind on-screen. Disney’s 4K UHD looks great, offers HDR and Dolby Atmos audio, plus a Blu-Ray with bloopers, deleted scenes, music videos, commentary, a featurette and a Digital HD copy.
Paramount New Releases
TERMINATOR: GENISYS 4K UHD Combo Pack (***, 126 mins., 2015, PG-13; Paramount):Nobody expected “Thor 2″ director Alan Taylor to suddenly morph into James Cameron, right?
All the negative critic reviews for “Terminator: Genisys” were curious in 2015’s Summer of lightweight, superficial remakes and reboots. Yes, this fifth entry in the series essentially remakes the first picture in the guise of a typically glossy, straight-ahead summer action movie, but it’s certainly no worse than most formulaic modern fare.
Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier’s script opens in the future, where mankind’s last hope for salvation, John Connor (Jason Clarke), is about to send his right-hand man, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), back to 1984, in order to preserve the safety of his mother, Sarah (a particularly fetching Emilia Clarke) from being assassinated by Skynet’s Terminator. Yes, it’s a reenactment of sorts of the 1984 James Cameron hit, but the writers and director Taylor send a curveball along that mixes up the past/present fans think they know – a twist that’s already been given away in the movie’s trailers, but I’ll attempt to avoid spoilers in case you haven’t seen them. Suffice to say, the 1984 Reese ventures to sees Sarah already as a fighting machine, paired with a Terminator (Arnold, of course) she calls “Pops”, and who will do anything to protect her – including taking out a computerized, younger incarnation of himself. Eventually, the movie jumps ahead to 2017, where a new online app dubbed Genisys is about to go online and enslave humanity as it’s a mere cover for Skynet’s true intentions – and it’s up to the unlikely trio to stop them, along with a new T-3000 with a secretive past of its own.
The “Terminator” franchise has had a rocky but entertaining history, and I’ll admit I’ve enjoyed all of the prior installments on their own terms. “Genisys” may be the weakest of the lot, since it clearly favors the contemporary route of wall-to-wall action at the expense of dramatic development – I’m not sure anyone other than hardcore fans will really become engaged by this particular sequel – yet there’s no denying that the special effects and various set-pieces are fun to watch. Also worth noting is that Kalogridis and Lussier tap back into the Sarah-Reese dynamic that was only a part of Cameron’s original. Being able to incorporate some kind of love story, as fleeting as it is here, does add a human component to Taylor’s slavish interest in the technical elements of the picture, and is something that none of the prior sequels touched upon.
The cast also adds some semblance of class, particularly Emilia Clarke’s kick-ass Sarah Connor. After a few minutes of watching her demolition of various Skynet automatons, I honestly forgot all about Linda Hamilton (and particularly her long-winded monologues from Cameron’s T2). Jai Courtney, who was less than impressive opposite Bruce Willis in the last, horrible “Die Hard” movie, makes some amends with a respectable turn in the Michael Biehn role – he’s essentially the audience’s identification (and guide for new viewers), and pulls off the role better than his original casting might have indicated. Jason Clarke, meanwhile, ends up having a good time as a John Connor far removed from the character seen in prior installments, in a plot device that was allegedly once part of the last entry, “Terminator: Salvation,” before being jettisoned prior to shooting.
And then there’s Arnold, who returns to his iconic Terminator role in a full-time capacity for the first time since 2003’s “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” Schwarzenegger has aged gracefully, and while he doesn’t command the screen as he once did, he still provides the movie with enough of a center that fans should remain invested in a story that offers some appealing twists to well-worn genre elements. J.K. Simmons also makes a welcome appearance as a cop a bit more sympathetic to our heroes’ plight than earlier series roles of this type.
“Terminator: Genisys” is still, make no mistake, a typical product of our times. There’s nothing especially clever about its script, and at times, the whole enterprise comes across as a dumbed-down remake of Cameron’s first two movies – yet the fact that critics took the pitchforks to this picture while comparatively praising similarly empty (and, indeed, inferior) cinematic calories as “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Jurassic World” is baffling. Perhaps it’s just cool to pile onto Arnold’s flailing career and a series that, despite its commercial success around the world, has always (with the exception of T2’s enormous in-take) appealed to sci-fi fans more than the mainstream. “Genisys” certainly isn’t a brilliant reinvention of the series, but it’s at least an entertaining enough “remix” of familiar elements done with sufficient energy and an engaged cast.
4K Rundown: “Genisys” receives its U.S. 4K UHD debut on June 12th from Paramount. An international release last year offered a quality HDR transfer with Dolby Atmos audio but those with Dolby Vision capability may prefer the U.S. release, which adds DV along with HDR and Atmos, plus includes two Blu-Rays — one with the movie and the same featurettes as the prior release, and an additional Special Features disc that had been exclusive to Best Buy. A Digital HD copy is also included.
New this week from Paramount on 4K UHD is a fresh edition of Robert Zemeckis’ Oscar winner FORREST GUMP (141 mins., 1994, PG-13),a film that I’ve frankly never been crazy about, but certainly has its admirers. Earning Tom Hanks his second Oscar, Zemeckis’ colorful social drama/fairy tale receives another strong 4K UHD catalog presentation from Paramount: HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos supported, with a Digital HD copy and the two-disc Blu-Ray set amped with commentaries and archival/retrospective Making Of featurettes.
TRADING PLACES 35th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray (***½, 116 mins., 1983, R; Paramount) – COMING TO AMERICA 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray (**½, 116 mins., 1988, R; Paramount): There’s good news and bad news with Paramount’s new releases of “Trading Places” and “Coming To America” – the good being that both of John Landis’ Eddie Murphy comedies are back in circulation on Blu-Ray. The downside? Both discs are simple reprisals of their earlier BD/HD-DVD releases, right down to vanilla 5.1 Dolby Digital audio.
Landis was in the midst of one of his hottest streaks when “Trading Places” was released in June of 1983. This tale of two conniving tycoons (Don Ameche, Ralph Bellamy) who conspire to replace obnoxious but hard-working trader Dan Aykroyd’s identity with down-on-his-luck street con artist Murphy, all for the purposes of a $1 bet, remains one of the ‘80s’ most satisfying comedies. The Timothy Harris-Herschel Weingrod script is filled with belly laughs and the chemistry between Aykroyd and Murphy is terrific, with sterling support turned in by Ameche, Bellamy, Paul Gleason, Denholm Elliott, and Jamie Lee Curtis, breaking her out of “scream queen” mold as a kind-hearted hooker. Landis was working at the top of his game with this picture, and it shows, while Elmer Bernstein’s fine score adds the requisite touch of class.
Paramount’s “Trading Places” Blu-Ray is the same as their early format release, one that’s been out of print for a while. Granted, the VC-1 encoded transfer (1.85) was one of the better catalog releases of its day, but it’s still disappointing a new scan wasn’t produced, or that the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound wasn’t upgraded to a lossless format. Extras include a 20-minute Making Of segment, offering interviews with Landis, Aykroyd and Curtis, along with vintage clips, one deleted scene with Gleason (which was incorporated into expanded TV broadcasts), a pop-up trivia track offering all kinds of anecdotes, a featurette on the costume design, and a few other goodies.
Landis reunited with Murphy for the genial 1988 comedy “Coming To America,” a film that wasn’t screened for critics on release day — a move made not because the studio was hiding something (it ultimately received mostly positive reviews), but rather because the filmmakers had to rush in order to meet the movie’s late June release date.
This tale of an African prince who arrives in New York to court a prospective queen is nice enough (and may be one of the mildest R-rated films of all-time), but hasn’t aged all that well. Some of the laughs are directly related to topical humor of the day (sweaty music videos, slobbering televangelists), while Murphy’s multiple roles often strain to be funny. However, a strong supporting cast keeps the material afloat (James Earl Jones, John Amos, Arsenio Hall, an amusing supporting performance from future “E.R.” star Eriq LaSalle, and an early role for Samuel L. Jackson as well). It may be a bit dated in its appearance, but Murphy’s good-natured performance and Landis’ comic timing deliver the goods, while Nile Rodgers’ score is pleasant as well (and be on the lookout for Ameche and Bellamy reprising their “Trading Places” roles!).
Paramount’s Blu-Ray repackage of “Coming To America” offers a Making Of segment stringing together recollections by Landis, featurettes on costume design, make-up and music (offering an interview with Rodgers, reflecting on his career and the score), plus vintage interview segments with Murphy and Hall. It’s all mildly interesting but not terribly comprehensive. The Blu-Ray’s (1.85) VC-1 encoded transfer is acceptable if a bit dated and audio is again housed in a 5.1 Dolby Digital track. Digital HD copies are included for both movies along with new slipcovers – just no new fresh content, regrettably, on the discs themselves.
SHERLOCK GNOMES Blu-Ray (86 mins., 2018, PG; Paramount): Not nearly as much of a hit as its 2011 predecessor, “Sherlock Gnomes” finds Gnomeo and Juliet (voices of the returning James McAvoy and Emily Blunt) having to hire the title detective (Johnny Depp) after the gnome population goes missing. If your kids enjoyed the colorful fun of the original “Gnomeo and Juliet,” they’re probably now too old for “Sherlock Gnomes,” which offers the same comical action and bouncy musical soundtrack (again with Elton John/Bernie Taupin songs) as its predecessor. Paramount’s Blu-Ray boasts a number of extras, a DVD copy, Digital HD, 7.1 DTS MA sound and a lovely 1080p widescreen transfer.
Also available from Paramount on June 12th is JERRY LEWIS: 10 FILMS, a new anthology featuring ten of Lewis’ Paramount vehicles: The Stooge, The Delicate Delinquent, The Bellboy, Cinderfella, The Errand Boy, The Ladies Man, The Nutty Professor, The Disorderly Orderly, The Patsy and The Family Jewels. All except “The Stooge” are presented in 16:9 widescreen while the set houses over 90 minutes of bloopers and deleted scenes.
Lionsgate New Releases
ESCAPE PLAN 4K UHD Combo Pack (**½, 115 mins., 2013, R; Summit/Lionsgate): It took far too long to get action icons Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger to team up in a feature film. Their brief sequences in “The Expendables” pictures notwithstanding, “Escape Plan” offers Sly and Arnie together at last in a competent yet mostly routine prison break picture from writer Miles Chapman and director Mikael Hafstrom that fizzled out at the U.S. box-office.
Stallone plays an expert in prison security whose job is to test out a jail’s defenses by becoming an inmate in one. His latest assignment finds Stallone’s Ray Breslin in an iron-clad, almost futuristic facility overseen by a dictatorial warden (Jim Caviezel) who doesn’t know Breslin’s “safe word,” and promptly condemns Ray to a life behind bars that he didn’t deserve. However, Ray strikes up a friendship with fellow inmate Emol Rottmayer (Arnie), and together, the duo hatch a scheme to break out of the seemingly impenetrable fortress they’re going to otherwise die in.
“Escape Plan” is reasonably entertaining yet there’s a lingering sense of disappointment that, after all these years, this rather bland picture ended up being the vehicle that brought the two stars together. Arnie seems more engaged than Sly here, and there are a few scattered laughs, yet there’s nothing especially memorable about the piece, and the movie’s ending is flat. On the supporting cast side, Vincent D’Onofrio, Amy Ryan, Vinnie Jones and Sam Neill (unbilled in the advertising campaign, but credited in the film itself) do what they can in small roles without much (if any) pay off.
Lionsgate’s 4K UHD presentation is pretty much along the lines of the label’s catalog output in 4K so far: there’s certainly ample brightness and contrast to spare over the standard Blu-Ray, even if some of it feels artificially pumped up at times. In addition to Dolby Vision capability and Dolby Atmos sound (an improvement over the Blu-Ray’s 5.1 DTS MA mix, which had often problematic dialogue levels), the disc carries over commentary with Hafstrom and Chapman, three featurettes, deleted scenes and a Digital Copy.
Also New in 4K UHD: Has Robert DeNiro finally hit the bottom of the barrel? It’s hard to argue against it when viewing DIRTY GRANDPA (108 mins., 2016, Unrated), a tepid “comedy” that teams the Oscar winner with Zac Efron, here playing a preppie who gets schooled on loosening up with his Viagra-energized grandfather. Lingering on for an interminable 108 minutes, Dan Mazer’s film scraped up marginal returns at the box-office in 2016, but this is low-brow stuff all the way through, making even the later “Fockers” pictures look like comedy gold by comparison. Lionsgate’s 4K UHD features HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, while the included Blu-Ray boasts a format-exclusive gag reel plus two featurettes, a commentary, two other Making Of segments, a Digital HD copy, 1080p (2.40) AVC encoded transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound…Lionsgate also releases a 4K UHD of Rob Cohen’s new film HURRICANE HEIST (100 mins., 2018, PG-13) this week. This attempt by Cohen to recapture the glory of his original “The Fast and the Furious” even goes so far as to include the same title font, but it’s an otherwise limp retread that sends a group of criminals into a U.S. mint facility in order to steal $600 million — during a Category 5 hurricane, which they attempt to use as cover. A treasury agent and storm chaser are hot on their heels in this silly and often tedious adventure worth it only to see Maggie Grace do her heroine thing again. Lionsgate’s UHD of this winter box-office underachiever is out this week with Cohen’s commentary, two featurettes, a VFX reel and deleted scenes on tap for extras. The HVEC encoded HDR transfer (2.40) is decent but shows off the movie’s overly processed appearance at times, with the Dolby Atmos audio faring more impressively. A Digital HD copy and Blu-Ray round out the combo package.
AN ORDINARY MAN DVD (91 mins., 2018, R; Lionsgate): Ben Kingsley’s up-and-down career leads him to this Euro-trash thriller, playing a war criminal on the run who holes up at a safehouse. There, he strikes up a relationship with a maid (Hera Hilmar) who turns out to be an agent sent to protect him. Lionsgate debuts this Saban Films production on DVD with a 16:9 (2.40) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound on June 12th.
TV on DVD
THE LAST SHIP – Complete Fourth Season DVD (440 mins., 2018; Warner): Eric Dane’s Tom Chandler has moved on, with his family, to a remote Greece fishing village while Captain Slattery (Adam Baldwin) and the Nathan James crew have uncovered that the deadly virus has “jumped kingdoms” and infected the world’s food supply. Chandler’s own journey parallels the adventure of the Nathan James in this fourth season of the TNT series, on DVD this week from Warner. The multi-disc set includes Inside the Last Ship and The Last Ship’s Odyssey featurettes, 16:9 transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks.
JERICHO – The Complete Series DVD (22 hours, 2006-08; CBS): Cult favorite CBS series staved off cancelation a couple of times while it chronicled residents of a small Kansas town, cut off from the rest of the world after a mushroom cloud appeared on the horizon. “Jericho,” which stars Skeet Ulrich and Ashley Scott, was initially axed by CBS but returned for two more seasons – it likely may have gone on even longer had Netflix been in place at the time as a viable alternative to network broadcast, as the show’s creators had to continue the storyline in a pair of comic book lines. CBS’ Complete Series DVD set is out this week including extras from the show’s prior DVDs (deleted scenes, commentaries, featurettes), 16:9 transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks.
THE INVADERS – The Complete Series DVD (38 hours, 1967-68; CBS): This nifty, action-packed sci-fi series, created by Larry Cohen, stars Roy Thinnes as David Vincent, an architect who, while driving late one night near an abandoned diner, sees a flying saucer. The next morning David finds that the cover-up has already begun: the diner’s sign has already been replaced, a seemingly ordinary couple camping in their RV says they saw nothing wrong, and the police believe that David must have suffered a concussion or dream. David, though, is certain of what he saw, and a return to the scene of the incident reveals that extraterrestrial invaders are indeed here…and trying to take over the world!
Although “The Invaders” only lasted two seasons, fans fondly recall this late ‘60s blast of sci-fi adventure and Cold War-styled paranoia. With its no-nonsense performances, narration and typical Quinn Martin structure (“Act One,” etc.), “The Invaders” is hugely entertaining even today, a post-“Body Snatchers”, pre-“V” genre yarn back on DVD in a slimmed-down, Complete Series DVD box from CBS. The full-screen transfers do show their age at times, but extras are bountiful, including an extended version of the show’s pilot (with a different ending) and brief introductions from Thinnes before each episode, select commentaries and more.
THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT Blu-Ray Combo Pack (86 mins., 2018, R/Unrated; Universal):Belated follow-up to “The Strangers” once again finds a family besieged by a trio of masked killers who proceed to taunt, and torture, them once the group (Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman) arrive at a mobile home park they soon wish they’d never stopped at. Johannes Roberts helmed “The Strangers: Prey at Night,” which functions alright on a modern horror-type of level, but is likely to only appeal to hardcore genre enthusiasts with its drab, dreary story, a recycling of the 2008 American version of its French predecessor. Universal’s Blu-Ray is out on June 12th, featuring a music video, three featurettes (including a music segment), a Movies Anywhere Digital copy, 1080p (2.39) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, and both R-rated/Unrated cuts of the picture.
EVERY DAY Blu-Ray (97 mins., 2018, PG-13; Warner): Teens are the target audience for this adaptation of David Levithan’s best-selling YA novel. In “Every Day,” Angourie Rice plays a 16-year-old girl who falls in love with a strange kid named “A” – a soul who hops bodies daily, causing the two of them to have to reconnect every 24 hours. Michael Sucsy helmed this MGM production (released under the old Orion banner), which played to very modest box-office this past winter. Warner’s Blu-Ray, available this week, includes a 1080p (2.41) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, deleted scenes, and two featurettes examining how Sucsy changed the book’s perspective for the screen, while remaining true to its core story.
THE DEBT COLLECTOR DVD (96 mins., 2018, Not Rated; Sony): Prolific direct-to-video action star Scott Adkins is back, playing a martial artist named French who starts working for a mobster as a debt collector. Breaking bones and overpowering bad guys with ease, French only starts to question his employer’s loyalty after meeting an Irish bartender with a secret, leading to a full-on assault of an ending. Routine stuff from director Jesse V. Johnson, with co-stars Michael Pare, Tony Todd and Vladimir Kulich also on-hand. Sony’s DVD is out this week, marked by a 16:9 (2.35) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
THE RAKE DVD (78 mins., 2018, Not Rated; Sony): Slight horror outing charts when happens when a pair of siblings – whose parents were brutally murdered 20 years before – return home, convinced it wasn’t a “who” but a “what” that killed them – and may still be on the loose. Tony Wash’s film lumbers to a sub-80 minute running time and wastes a decent cast including 90210’s Shenae Grimes-Beech and “Sleepy Hollow” alumnus Rachel Melvin. Sony’s DVD out this week and includes a 16:9 (2.40) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio.
THE SPINNING MAN Blu-Ray (100 mins., 2018, R; Lionsgate): College professor Evan Birch (Guy Pearce) becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance of a 17-year-old student, leading to a struggle between both Birch’s wife (Minnie Driver) and a detective (Pierce Brosnan) convinced by circumstantial evidence that he’s to blame – especially after uncovering past indiscretions Birch has had with his female students. Simon Kaliser helmed this Grindstone production, co-starring Jamie Kennedy, which Lionsgate debuts on Blu-Ray June 12th. The disc includes deleted scenes, a featurette, Kaliser’s commentary, a 1080p (2.40) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound and a Digital HD copy.
Well Go New Releases: One of the more watchable Asian horror imports in recent memory, THE MIMIC (100 mins., 2017) may have the same title of Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘90s Dimension release but it’s an unrelated thriller about a mother – still grieving from the disappearance of her son – who takes in a lost little girl near a mountain, one who eventually starts to resemble the appearance of their young daughter. “The Mimic” offers a slowly unfolding story that becomes more interesting if you can stick with it, with credit going out to director Huh Jung who also wrote the picture, based on the Korean myth “The Tiger of Mt. Jang.” Well Go’s Blu-Ray is out June 12th featuring a 1080p transfer and 5.1 DTS MA Korean audio with English subtitles.
THE STEAM ENGINES OF OZ Blu-Ray (79 mins., 2018, Not Rated; Cinedigm): Canada’s Arcana produced and animated this adaptation of a graphic novel that puts a revisionist spin on L. Frank Baum’s classic characters. Here, an engineer named Victoria teams up with the Scarecrow, a not-very-cowardly lion and muscular munchkins to find the Tin Man’s heart. Ron Perlman, William Shatner and Julianne Hough provide the voices for “The Steam Engines of Oz,” debuting on Blu-Ray/DVD in a combo pack this week from Cinedigm. The HD portion includes 1080p video and 5.1 DTS MA sound.
Film Movement New Releases: On Blu-Ray this week is OH LUCY! (96 mins., 2018), an entertaining confection from director Atsuko Hirayanagi, starring Shinobu Terajima as a Tokyo office clerk who enrolls in an English language class, creates a blonde alter-ego named Lucy and develops feelings for her teacher (Josh Hartnett). When he disappears, she follows him to Southern California in a warm, comedic affair Film Movement debuts on Blu-Ray. The disc includes a 1080p (1.85) transfer, 5.1 audio (English/Japanese with subtitles), deleted scenes and an interview with the director…ALTERED PERCEPTION (79 mins., 2018) is also available on DVD this week from Cinedigm – a thriller about a “designer drug” meant to correct people’s false perceptions about one another, but fails to work as intended (to say the least). Cinedigm’s disc includes a 16:9 widescreen transfer and 2.0 Dolby Digital sound.
Mill Creek New Releases: Mill Creek’s latest Blu-Ray compilation box-set, ACTION 9 MOVIE COLLECTION, offers over 15 hours of thrills starring the likes of Paul Walker, Jean Claude Van Damme and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Included here are nine different, mostly Sony-licensed titles: the Van Damme vehicles Maximum Risk, Double Team, Universal Soldier: The Return, The Hard Corps and Second in Command, along with Johnson’s Gridiron Gang, Walker’s Vehicle 19, and the “urban” Screen Gems releases You’ve Got Served and Stomp the Yard. HD transfers and Dolby Digital soundtracks (though only a trio are in 5.1) comprise the multi-disc set…Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker’s animated series THE AWESOMES (11 hours, 2013-15) gained a cult following during its multiple seasons. Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray offers the Complete Series – all 30 episodes – from the spoofy superhero show, featuring the voices of numerous Saturday Night alumni from Meyers’ tenure on the show (Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, Kate McKinnon and Andy Samberg among them). The multi-disc Blu-Ray includes 1080p (1.78) transfers and Dolby Digital soundtracks along with bonus trailers, promos and a Digital redemption code through Mill Creek’s website.
MPI New Releases: Jeff Unay’s documentary THE CAGE FIGHTER (81 mins., 2018, Not Rated) looks at the struggles of fighter Joe Carman, a 40-year-old fighting a custody battle, dealing with his wife’s illness, raising four girls – all the while engaging in the world of mixed-martial arts. A fascinating portrait of the unglamorous lives often led by MMA participants, “The Cage Fighter” comes to DVD June 12th from MPI as part of their Sundance Selects series, featuring a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
NEXT TIME: JACK THE GIANT KILLER, plus other new Kino Lorber and Shout 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!