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Blue Underground is off to a robust start in the 4K UHD format, and this month debuts a spectacular new Dolby Vision presentation of THE FINAL COUNTDOWN (102 mins., 1980, PG). Kirk Douglas produced and starred in the 1980 time travel adventure as the captain of the U.S.S. Nimitz, an aircraft carrier that finds itself inexplicably caught up in a vortex that sends it, and its crew, back to 1941…just hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Though the workmanlike script credited to four different writers tends to fumble some of the dramatic opportunities the scenario affords, director Don Taylor’s movie is efficient and entertaining enough. Martin Sheen co-stars as a Defense Department worker, James Farentino is one of the Nimitz’s commanders, Charles Durning a senator in the FDR administration and Katharine Ross his assistant in a plot that finds the latter duo coming into contact with Douglas’ crew while Kirk and co. determine if they can change the course of history by attacking the Japanese instead of standing idly by on December 7th, 1941.

Produced with full cooperation from the U.S. Navy, “The Final Countdown” is a low-key sci-fi tale marked by good performances and appropriate visual flourish from cinematographer Victor J. Kemper and Bond veteran Maurice Binder, who quite obviously contributed a good amount to the picture’s visual effects. It might play out like a standard “Twilight Zone” episode, but thanks to the visuals and John Scott’s rousing score – one of his best – it’s a recommended view for sci-fi/fantasy fans.

Blue Underground’s Blu-Ray of “The Final Countdown” was marvelous back in 2008, and this new 4K UHD package with Dolby Vision HDR is simply outstanding. Colors leap off the screen while the increased dynamic range is marvelously articulated with a high level of detail and HVEC encoding as robust as any you’ll find on a physical disc. This Bryna Company production, which UA theatrically released, once appeared downright anemic in prior pan-and-scan transfers, which every U.S. video release was saddled with throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, but this is another leap forward, past even Blue Underground’s prior 1080p edition -- in fact I'd rank it as one of the finest catalog releases on 4K UHD altogether. 

The sound options, meanwhile, include a new Dolby Atmos mix for those with overhead speaker capabilities. Everyone else, though, may want to stick with the terrific 5.1 DTS MA mix instead, which seems to have clearer, more precise surround activity (ditto for the original 2.0 DTS MA Dolby Stereo track, also included here). Extras are reprieved from the Blu-Ray – commentary with cinematographer Victor Kemper, an interview with associate producer Lloyd Kaufman, conversations with the Jolly Rogers F-14 Fighter Squadron, trailers and TV spots – with the addition of the most recent soundtrack CD and booklet notes reprinting an archival, promotional U.S. Navy article on the movie from 1979.

Severin Films, meanwhile, is back with another deluxe 4K UHD release, this time of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s acclaimed SANTA SANGRE (122 mins., 1989), the (putting it mildly) surreal, bizarre, eclectic, horrifying and eventually redemeptive film from the director that earned critical kudos worldwide upon its original release in 1989. Best recommended for the director’s devotees, the movie eschews conventional narrative for a dream-like/nightmarish succession of images that are captivatingly rendered here in a 4K UHD combo package that presents the most definitive release yet of the picture.

The four-disc set includes a presentation on both 4K UHD as well as Blu-Ray with commentary featuring Jodorowsky and journalist Alan Jones; a featurette with the director detailing the restoration; deleted scenes with optional commentary; and the trailer. The 4K UHD really shines here with a native presentation and a full run of audio options (5.1, 2.0 stereo in English; Spanish or Italian 2.0 mono sound) to boot.

In addition to a copy of the original soundtrack, the set includes a full disc of supplements. Included therein is the feature-length documentary “The World of Santa Sangre” and interviews with producer Claudio Argento, cinematographer Daniele Nannuzzi, executive producer Angelo Iacono, editor Mauro Bonanni, and screenwriter Roberto Leoni. There’s also a 30th Anniversary celebration segment recorded in Mexico City; a documentary on the real-life killer who served as the inspiration for the film’s story; a 2003 Jodorowsky interview; Jodorowsky in a Q&A; Adan Jodorowsky’s short “Echek”; composer Simon Boswell’s short “Blink Jodorowsky” plus a music video and interview between Boswell and the director.

Severin has also released new Blu-Ray editions of director William Gridler’s “Nature Run Amok”, post-”Jaws” thrillers GRIZZLY (91 mins., 1976, PG) and DAY OF THE ANIMALS (98 mins., 1977, PG).

Both films were previously released years back on Scorpion Blu-Rays and these new releases feature what appear to be identical transfers (2.35, mono audio) from what I can discern compared to their most recent BD incarnations – well-framed scope presentations that seem a little soft and hazy here and there, something that may be a result of how they were originally shot.

Extras include some new (and archival) goodies that may make both releases worthwhile for fans. These include, on “Grizzly,” a Stephen Thrower featurette and commentary from Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth; an audio interview with Gridler’s business associate and friend J. Patrick Kelly III; interviews with actor Tom Arcuagi, producer David Sheldon and actress Joan McCall; a vintage Making Of; archival featurette; radio spots and trailers. For “Day of the Animals,” Severin has included another new Stephen Thrower interview plus a commentary from Lee Gambin, as well as an older commentary featuring star Lynda Day George and moderator Scott Spiegel; interviews with stars Andrew Stevens, Bobby Porter, George, and animal wrangler Monty Cox. There’s also a vintage Making Of and a full run of trailers/TV and radio spots.

I find both of these Edward L. Montoro productions to be slow going and only intermittently entertaining for some unintended laughs – you can find better “Jaws” rehashes elsewhere – but ’70s cult movie buffs should still find sufficient amusement here in Severin’s new discs.

New From Fun City Editions

A title that surprisingly never joined the Criterion Collection or saw a previous release in high-definition, Michael Ritchie’s beauty pageant satire SMILE (113 mins., 1975, PG) has taken a curiously prolonged amount of time to arrive in high-definition. Thankfully, Fun City Editions has treated the film with care in their much-anticipated Blu-Ray, making it one more terrific addition to their growing library of cult favorites.

The picture was heavily acclaimed at the time of its release, yet unlike the comparatively more strident ’70s satires of Robert Altman, hasn’t ever been in as much circulation on home video. In fact, this UA release was last seen in a 2004 MGM DVD and is unavailable even to stream – which is unfortunate, since Ritchie’s look at a “Young American Miss” pageant in Southern California, its assorted participants (which include a young Melanie Griffith, Annette O’Toole, and Colleen Camp), judges and overseers (Bruce Dern, Barbara Feldon, Geoffrey Lewis and Michael Kidd among them) is not just funny in a way that presages “The Office” and other pseudo-documentaries, but the film carries an actual sympathy for its leading players that makes it endlessly repeatable.

Jerry Belson’s script mostly avoids the crass stereotypes seen in later riffs on this material or a more obvious roster of odd Altman-esque characters – instead, he and Ritchie find a comfortable comedic grilling in the absurdity of mid ’70s commercialism and small-town life, sometimes in a subtle manner with pitch-perfect performances (Nicholas Pryor is particularly terrific as Feldon’s harried husband), and all of it’s captured by the great cinematographer Conrad Hall in a naturalistic visual way. In the end, there’s some sarcasm and silliness, of course, but the sensitivity of Ritchie’s direction results in a movie that carries a credible portrayal of time and place, as well as a sympathetic understanding of its characters.

A terrific companion piece to Ritchie’s “The Bad News Bears” which followed the following year (coincidentally just released on Blu-Ray as well), “Smile” has been called one of the more unheralded films of the 1970s even though it was repeatedly praised upon original release, then again by the likes of Siskel & Ebert, Leonard Maltin and other critics throughout the 1980s – particularly when the film was first issued on home video later on in the decade.

Fun City Editions’ Blu-Ray includes a fresh, new 2K restoration (1.85) from the movie’s 35mm interpositive. As with all of FCE’s discs, the image offers high detail with extras including a welcome, half-hour interview with Bruce Dern recalling the shoot and lamenting how Hollywood no longer makes movies about “us” anymore; the trailer; image gallery; a new audio commentary with Pat and Jim Healy; and an appreciation from the late Mike McPadden.

New From Arrow

DJANGO 4K UHD/Blu-Ray Limited Edition (91 mins., 1966; Arrow): Arrow’s latest 4K UHD Limited Edition serves up the first next-gen release of the cult Spaghetti western “Django,” the Franco Nero sagebrush saga with brutal violence and plenty of action. Though minus the elegance of widescreen trappings and the poetry of Leone, “Django” is a tight-fisted B-effort, grimy and violent, though thankfully more restrained than many of the films with the same namesake that followed.

Anchor Bay previously issued “Django” on DVD many years back, with Blue Underground later producing a solid Blu-Ray special edition. Arrow’s Limited Edition 4K UHD does them all one better, offering a vivid Dolby Vision presentation with deeply saturated reds that pop off the screen. The mono audio (English or Italian) is roughly the same as all prior renditions, but the transfer is markedly detailed and satisfying. Sweetening the pot are a terrific array of special features: commentary from critic Stephen Thrower; a half-hour new interview with Franco Nero; interviews with assistant director Ruggero Deodato, Sergio Boucci’s wife Nori, and archival talks with co-writer Franco Rossetti, co-writer Piero Vivarelli, stuntman Gilberto Galimberti, and a promo gallery. Finally, Alex Cox pays tribute in an archival featurette while genre authority Austin Fisher is also on-hand to relay his thoughts.

A second disc includes a Blu-Ray presentation of the Nero starrer “Texas Adios” (2.35), presented here with commentary by C. Courtney Joyner and Henry C. Parke; additional interviews with Franco Nero, co-star Alberto Dell’Acqua, co-writer Franco Rossetti, trailers, and another appreciation from Austin Fisher. It’s all bound in a hardbound case with six collector’s postcards, a fold-out poster, and a 60-page booklet with incisive booklet notes.

Also new from Arrow this month is Arrow’s Limited Edition Blu-Ray box-set WEIRD WISCONSIN: THE BILL REBANE COLLECTION, a loving anthology compiling six films from the low-budget Midwest auteur. Included here are some infamous genre exercises, starting off with 1965’s “Monster A Go-Go,” which played on the Creature Double Feature many times while I was growing up; the hilariously inept “Invasion From Inner Earth” (1974); “The Alpha Incident” (1978); “The Demons of Ludlow” (1983); “The Game” (1984); and “Twister’s Revenge” (1988), which attempts intentional humor but works about as well as the rest of the movies in this set.

This box is an affectionate tribute to Redbane’s works, which are best appreciated on a Z-grade level by genre enthusiasts entirely forgiving of their bad acting, scoring and general ineptness. And because of that, Redbane’s filmography has developed a cult following over time, which makes this Arrow deluxe package a worthy release for that niche. Fresh restorations from the best surviving film elements mark each 1080p presentation with the newly produced documentary “Who is Bill Rebane?” sure to offer entertainment for both fans and casual viewers alike. Also included are new interviews with Rebane on every film; additional interviews and visual essays by genre authorities Kim Newman, Richard Harland Smith and Stephen R. Bissette; short films; outtakes and trailers; stills and promo galleries; and a deluxe 60-page booklet.

GIANTS AND TOYS Blu-Ray (95 mins., 1958): Japanese cinephiles ought to be pleased with this presentation of Masumura Yasuzo’s late ’50s business satire about a young grad trying to make it in the marketing department of World Caramel Corporation, utilizing an uncouth 18-year-old (Hitomi Nozoe) as the company’s new campaign girl – at least until her newfound sudden fame goes to her head. Compared by some critics to the works of Frank Tashlin among others, “Giants and Toys” is a fascinating look at Japanese corporate life of the 1950s, captured here in a Kadokawa-licensed 1080p (2.35) transfer with Japanese audio, English subs, a new commentary from scholar Irene Gonzalez-Lopez, introduction by Tony Rayns, and a visual essay from Asian cinema expert Earl Jackson.

Finally, A GHOST WAITS (79 mins., 2020) is a resourceful, ultra low-budget film about a handyman (MacLeod Andrews) who falls in love with a ghost (Natalie Walker), supernaturally employed to keep the home he’s working on uninhabited. Director/writer Adam Stovall presents some good ideas in a movie that’s too short to be dramatically effective and is further weakened by a problematic ending, but indie cinema buffs still might take to its attributes. Arrow’s Blu-Ray (1.78 B&W, PCM stereo sound) offers two commentaries with Stovall solo and with Andrews; a third commentary with the cast; a video essay on the film; additional interviews, outtakes, easter eggs, and more.

Warner Archive New Releases

Before director John Sturges’ career really took off, he cut his teeth in an assortment of genres, including minor westerns like MGM’s forgettable ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO (98 mins., 1953). Though shot in the miracle of “Ansco Color” in Death Valley, this is a mostly plodding genre exercise starring William Holden as a Union soldier in charge of an Arizona prison camp for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. John Forsythe is the Confederate rival that Holden rubs up against and Eleanor Parker the love interest who comes between them, with the threat of Mescalero tribesmen looming large – and posing a threat to them all – in the movie’s climax.

The last 20 minutes or so of “Escape From Fort Bravo” are expertly handled by Sturges, hinting at the success of “The Magnificent Seven” to come, but most of the picture takes forever to get moving. Flat characterizations and an uninteresting plot, credited to Frank Fenton, doom the best efforts of the cast, with William Demarest, Richard Anderson and Polly Bergen in support. Warner Archive’s debut Blu-Ray (1.85) does boast a clear color transfer with a robust stereo soundtrack (2.0 DTS MA), highlighting Jeff Alexander’s score.

Warner’s May slate also includes a number of films from a wide array of genres, with some surprising and most welcome titles being added to the Archive library.

Veering off the beaten path is DRUNKEN MASTER II (102 mins., 1994, Not Rated), regarded as one of Jackie Chan’s best period kung-fu movies. So many of Chan’s films have received less than stellar treatment in North America, but chalk up a win for Warner Archive here, as this 1080p (2.35) AVC encoded transfer preserves this briskly-paced, highly entertaining Chan outing, with English dubbed audio or Mandarin or Cantonese tracks, preserved with English subtitles. Golden Harvest’s original trailer for English viewers is also included.

Cary Grant engagingly breezes through MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (94 mins., 1948) as a NYC advertising exec whose idea of building a home for he and wife Myrna Loy in the quaint hills of Connecticut doesn’t quite go as planned. This Norman Panama/Melvin Frank production is great fun with Grant at his best, establishing a formula that would be reworked for decades to come (Chevy Chase’s “Funny Farm” is my favorite variant on the material). Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray includes two different radio adaptations with Grant plus a re-issue trailer, cartoon “The House of Tomorrow,” and high-grain 1080p (1.33) B&W transfer.

Frank Sinatra, meanwhile, spars with Debbie Reynolds in THE TENDER TRAP (111 mins., 1955), a lavish MGM Cinemascope rendition of a hit Broadway play. Julius Epstein scripted this adaptation with Charles Waters helming a terrific cast, but it’s the title song by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen – performed by Ol’ Blue Eyes himself – that has better endured throughout the years. Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray sports a marvelous 1080p (2.55) transfer with 5.1 DTS MA stereo sound, the trailer, “Frank in the Fifties” featurette, and two “MGM Parade” excerpts.

Bob Hope’s big-screen output faded throughout the 1960s, though BACHELOR IN PARADISE (109 mins., 1961) is at least a more agreeable vehicle than most of what followed for the legendary comedian. This is an amiable MGM lark with Bob as an author whose latest survey of lifestyles and relationships takes him to the Southern California ‘burbs, where he romances a real estate agent (Lana Turner) and meets assorted younger couples (including one essayed by Paula Prentiss and Jim Hutton). The widescreen trappings capture the early ’60s in all their glory while Henry Mancini’s infectious score is a major plus. Alas, the film runs out of gas and energy well before its 109 minutes are up, but it’s still better than “Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number”! Warner Archives’ Blu-Ray (2.35, 2.0 DTS MA stereo) looks and sounds just nifty.

One of my Mom’s most horrifying movie experiences was sitting through THE YEARLING (128 mins., 1946) as a kid – something I’ve heard about for many years! Warner Archives’ Blu-Ray (1.37) deftly preserves the Technicolor hues of this MGM adaptation of Majorie Kinnan Rawlings’ much acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, but much like “Old Yeller,” this one is a definite tearjerker, here in the hands of director Clarence Brown and a cast anchored by Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman. The Blu-Ray (1.37) features a Screen Guild Players radio broadcast, the trailer, and “Cat Concerto” cartoon.

Regarded as one of the few misfires from the heyday of the MGM musical, ATHENA (96 mins., 1954) nevertheless offers an enjoyable view for genre fans thanks to Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine’s score and a comedic story involving brothers (Edmund “The Egyptian” Purdom, Vic Damone) who romance a pair of sisters (Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds) that hail from a family of health-conscious fitness enthusiasts. The 1080p (1.75) transfer in Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray is superlative with mono sound and extras including a trio of outtake musical numbers and the trailer.

Film noir buffs will want to put THEY WON’T BELIEVE ME (95 mins., 1947) on their list, as this pungent RKO effort starring Robert Young – playing against type – as a cad who leeches off three women (Rita Johnson, Jane Greer, and Susan Hayward), only to have a twist of fate mix things up, is both entertaining and compelling, with director Irving Pichel establishing and maintaining a high sense of tension throughout. Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray (1.37 B&W) offers a new restoration of the movie’s original, uncut release version and is now available.

Finally, Warner Archives’ Blu-Ray of THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX (106 mins., 1939) should be right up the alley of any Golden Age fan. This lavish costume drama offers ample sparks between Bette Davis’ Elizabeth I and Errol Flynn’s Essex in an adaptation of Maxwell Anderson’s hit play. The great Michael Curtiz helmed this Warner Bros. Technicolor classic, enhanced by an Erich Wolfgang Korngold score and looking spectacular here in a 1080p (1.37) Blu-Ray with mono sound, the featurette “Elizabeth and Essex: Battle Royale” and full “Warner Night at the Movies” 1939 viewing option as hosted by Leonard Maltin.

Also New & Noteworthy

Sony has issued what was supposed to have been one of the big hits of Summer ’93 on 4K UHD:  LAST ACTION HERO (131 mins., 1993, PG-13), a film that opened a week after “Jurassic Park” with all kinds of fanfare. Most of it revolved around the reunion of star Arnold Schwarzenegger with his “Predator” director John McTiernan, and the project boasting a script co-authored by “Lethal Weapon”’s Shane Black. Alas, the picture bombed with critics and met with disappointing results at the box-office, becoming one of the more infamous star-driven vehicles of its era in the process.

It’s not a complete washout, though, since this cross between typical ‘80s/’90s genre fare and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” — finding young movie fan Austin O’Brien being swept up in his cinematic idol Jack Slater’s latest adventure – boasts a big cast, well-composed widescreen imagery and some intermittently amusing sequences. The problem is that it’s just not particularly entertaining — the movie’s constant “skewering” of action movie cliches basically consists of the movie pointing them out, a few cameos being thrown in, and that’s basically it. Only in the movie’s concluding frames, when Arnold’s Jack Slater crosses into the “real” world, does the picture dramatically take hold, but it’s too late by then for the picture to make much of an impact.

Coming across as the work of too many cooks in the kitchen (William Goldman reportedly was paid a million to polish up the script), “Last Action Hero” nevertheless has developed a small cult following, and those fans will appreciate Sony’s 4K UHD release, featuring HDR10 and Dolby Atmos audio. The image is clear, highly saturated and filled with effective use of HDR; further sweetening the pot are a slew of special features debuting exclusively on 4K UHD. These include commentary with McTiernan, deleted/alternate scenes with an alternate ending, theatrical trailer, AC/DC’s music video and a brief archival EPK featurette. Toss in a Digital HD copy and attractive Steelbook packaging and you have a robust 4K release for Arnie die-hards all around.

Also new from Sony is THE FATHER (97 mins., 2020, PG-13), Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his own play — scripted along with Christopher Hampton — that provided Anthony Hopkins with his latest Oscar. Hopkins is superb here, essaying an elderly man who refuses his daughter’s (Olivia Colman) assistance even as he succumbs more and more to dementia. Zeller’s film is extremely sad, especially for anyone with elderly relatives, but the sincerity of the performances and potency of the storytelling is palpable. Sony’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) is now available featuring deleted scenes and a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes.

TOM AND JERRY Blu-Ray Combo Pack (101 mins., 2021, PG; Warner): Of the handful of Warner Bros. theatrical features that simultaneously debuted during COVID on HBO Max, this watchable yet awfully slight live-action/animated hybrid featuring the Hanna-Barbera stars proved to be one of the more successful (relatively speaking) at the box-office. It’s a kid-friendly affair with Tom and Jerry running into a B-list cast of Chloe Grace Moretz, Michael Pena, Ken Jeong and Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost – the comedy is pretty much uninspired but there’s enough energy in Tim Story’s direction to make this just passable enough for young viewers. Warner’s Blu-Ray combo pack is now available featuring an attractive 1080p transfer, Dolby Atmos audio, DVD, Digital HD copy, deleted scenes, gag reel and a handful of behind-the-scenes featurettes.

SUPERNATURAL: THE 15TH AND FINAL SEASON Blu-Ray (843 mins., 2020-21; Warner): It’s the final goodbye for the Winchester boys. Here, Sam (Jared Padalecki), Dean (Jensen Ackles) and angel Castiel (Misha Collins) have to confront the final big boss – God himself – in an apocalyptic ending that puts a cap on a 15 full seasons (!) that saw “Supernatural” outlast several broadcast networks. That’s a heck of a run worthy of respect even if fans didn’t seem to be overly satisfied with the ending, with Warner’s Blu-Ray of this final season including over 20 episodes with six all-new featurettes, unaired scenes, a gag reel, fetching 1080p transfers and 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks.

New From Lionsgate

CHAOS WALKING Blu-Ray (109 mins., 2021, PG-13; Lionsgate): Strange, long-delayed adaptation of Patrick Ness’ young-adult book “The Knife of Never Letting Go” apparently wasn’t overly faithful to its source, even with Ness having co-scripted. In the hands of “Bourne Identity” helmer Doug Liman, this is a weird, would-be franchise starter with a terrific cast, with Daisy Ridley playing a woman who’s crash landed on a planet and Tom Holland as the young man who tries to help her – even with “The Noise” afflicting all males by revealing their innermost thoughts. Mads Mikkelsen, Nick Jonas and David Oyelowo co-star in a film that likely won’t make a whole lot of sense to people who didn’t read the source material – the production is strong but the narrative just doesn’t connect. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (2.39, Dolby Atmos) is now available featuring commentary by Liman and the cast; numerous featurettes; deleted scenes; the trailer; DVD and Digital HD copy.

Another film that sat on the shelf for a spell, ABOVE SUSPICION (104 mins., 2021, R) is a curious drama from director Phillip Noyce that was fashioned as a vehicle for Emilia Clarke. Playing against type, as you’d expect, the “Game of Thrones” vet plays Susan Smith, a small-town Kentucky girl (!) desperate to break out of her life and finds a possible way out with the help of a young FBI agent (Jack Huston). Much like Ron Howard’s watchable but overly glossy filming of J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy,” this rendition of Joe Sharkey’s book comes off as contrived and unconvincing, even though it’s based on a true story. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (2.40, 5.1 DTS MA) is now available sporting a featurette and Digital HD copy.

Moving and heartrendingly drawn, Lee Isaac Chung’s MINARI (115 mins., 2021, PG-13) deservedly copped a number of Oscar nominations (in a miserable year) as it paints a portrait of a Korean family that relocates to an Arkansas farm, where they both suffer through – and celebrate – trials and tribulations of the American dream. Steven Yeun in particular gives a marvelous performance as the family patriarch and while a bit melodramatic in places, “Minari” deserved its status as one of the few “award worthy” films of 2020 that were actually worth seeing. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) is now available sporting deleted scenes, a featurette, Digital HD copy, and commentary with Chung and actress Yu-jung Youn.

Also based on a true story, AMERICAN FIGHTER (98 mins., 2021, R) features George Kosturos as a college wrestler who – in order to raise money for his ailing mother – has to enter a competition in an underground fighting ring. Sean Patrick Flanery is the Mickey to Kosturos’ Rocky in a gritty film also starring Tommy Flanagan, directed and co-written by Shaun Piccinino. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) of the Grindstone release includes a Digital HD copy, music video, and the trailer.

Quick Takes

Mill Creek New ReleasesMill Creek’s four-film Blu-Ray compilation SCARS OF WAR: VIETNAM MOVIE COLLECTION includes the HD format debut of the early ’70s Michael Douglas anti-war drama SUMMERTREE, featuring the young Douglas as a musician who tries to dodge the draft, but is met with resistance from his father (Jack Warden). Brenda Vaccaro and Barbara Bel Geddes co-star in this adaptation of a play that’s stagy and predictable, right down to its downer ending. Still, the cast makes it watchable, with the Kirk Douglas production scored by David Shire and directed by actor Anthony Newly! Also included in the set are Alan Parker’s BIRDY, Louis Malle’s ALAMO BAY and Brian DePalma’s CASUALTIES OF WAR. The Sony licensed transfers are passable in the two-disc set (1.85 except for “Casualties,” which is presented in 2.40).

Finally, ULTRAMAN LEO (aprx. 22 hours, 1974) was the last of the original Ultraman series, having debuted in Japan in the spring of 1974. This time out, a new Earth defense team appears – the “Monster Attacking Crew” – while Ultraman, Zoffy, Jack and Ace return alongside new Ultras, with the former Ultraseven training Gen Otori after he’s unable to reassume his Giant form. Restored 1.33 AVC encoded transfers and Japanese DTS MA mono audio tracks are all in top shape with collectible Steelbook packaging and Moviespree digital copies also on tap.

Peter Sarsgaard and Rashida Jones star in Michael Tyburski’s new film THE SOUND OF SILENCE (87 mins., 2019), a well-acted if somewhat befuddling story about a “house tuner” trying to diagnose ambient noises in New York City when he meets a lonely woman (Rashida Jones) with her own unique set of issues. The concept is interesting but the end result doesn’t quite connect despite the best efforts of the actors. A featurette and trailer are included in MPI and IFC’s now available DVD (16:9, 5.1).

SPARE PARTS Blu-Ray (91 mins., 2020, Not Rated; RLJE Films): Gore-splattered insanity about an all-girls punk band who get more than they bargained for after taking a stint at a rundown bar. After performing, a would-be fan puts them to sleep in order to customize them – giving them guns and chainsaws instead of arms, all to do battle in a dilapidated junkyard arena. Weird fetishistic stuff to be sure, with RLJE’s Blu-Ray (2.35, 5.1 DTS MA) capturing all of director Andrew Thomas Hunt’s shenanigans on June 1st, the disc complete with commentary, interviews and featurettes.

NEXT TIME: Joe Dante’s EXPLORERS takes flight, finally on Blu-Ray! 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!

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