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It’s not often you see a film whose convictions, dramatically and visually, match its ambitions all the way through. Although it’s been oft-parodied for years, James Cameron’s eloquent, unforgettable 1997 Oscar-winner TITANIC (194 mins., 1997, PG-13; Paramount) is one of those special films: an “epic” with an intimate, character-driven center, set against a meticulously recreated historical period that truly makes one feel that you’re experiencing life on the doomed ocean liner itself.
When the vessel meets its inevitable fate at the end, you feel the pain and horror along with the characters since Cameron has done such an amazing job balancing story with spectacle, paying proper respect and historically recounting the incident as accurately as he can, while still producing an entertainment – and, at times, a piece of art – that’s been seldom duplicated by Hollywood.
Part of the film’s enduring appeal is obviously due to the chemistry between Leonardo Dicaprio (outstanding) and Kate Winslet (excellent), who embody the film’s admittedly old-fashioned, somewhat hokey but still compelling love story between the lower-class passenger and the upper-class rich girl slated to marry snobby tycoon Billy Zane. DiCaprio confirmed with his “Titanic” role why he was one of the top young actors of his generation, with an unpredictable yet earnest quality that informs his performance. The then-buxom Winslet is often captivating as the female lead, despite inhabiting a role that often comes across as cliched and a bit forced. Excellent supporting work abounds in this film, from Kathy Bates’s Molly Brown to fine character turns by David Warner and Frances Fisher. The first half of the film is so good, in fact, that you forget the ship is on-course for one of the deadliest maritime disasters of the twentieth century.
When the big event does arrive, Cameron treats us to a simply breathtaking dramatic display, the closest thing to a veritable rollercoaster (geometrically and otherwise) we’ve yet seen in the movies. The incident is awesomely conveyed in size and scope, with detailed special effects that haven’t aged badly. They masterfully assist Cameron in producing a convincing recreation of the actual tragedy, with many incidents coming straight out of real-life accounts from survivors.
Like every great film, the cumulative whole of “Titanic” is that of a true, bona-fide experience – the kind we hope to see every time we go to the movies. The picture stays with you long after the film has ended – yes, its relatively simple messages of living your life to its fullest, freed from the restrictions imposed by other individuals and society itself, may seem straightforward enough, yet Cameron’s movie has a haunting resonance that is almost impossible to describe (part of this is due to James Horner’s outstanding score).
After it’s over, you’re left contemplating the immense significance of an almost incomprehensible event that’s been broken down into pure human terms that apply to all of us – a remarkable achievement on Cameron’s part.
“Titanic” celebrates its 25th anniversary with a new 4K UHD/Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition package that brings the film to UHD for the first time in a box-set sporting exclusive collectibles and a gorgeous new transfer and soundtrack. This long-overdue Dolby Vision HDR (2.35) remaster enhances colors, brings out details and offers a crisper image than the older Blu-Ray; that’s to be expected, but the surprise is how much more “theatrical” the movie becomes as a result, with deeper blacks all enhancing the image. In all, it restores some of the cinematic grandeur to the movie previous releases lacked. The sound has been remixed for Dolby Atmos with overhead activity being amplified, while three commentaries from the 2005 release have been reprieved (one with Cameron; a cast/crew track; and a historian commentary).
Special features on the included Blu-Ray disc offer the all-new “Titanic: Stories From the Heart,” a 36-minute segment sporting new conversations with Cameron, Kate Winslet and producer Jon Landau, plus a separate 40-minute new talk with Cameron. They’re included here alongside a new fan art gallery and numerous supplements from the previous DVD and Blu-Ray releases. Among them are “Reflections on Titanic” (an hour-long film retrospective offering interviews with all of the major participants sans DiCaprio) and nearly an hour of deleted scenes with optional Cameron commentary. A series of original production featurettes are also on tap, plus a full range of trailers and, of course, the Celine Dion video for “My Heart Will Go On.”
It’s a rich, outstanding package that’s been assembled here by Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Paramount, with plenty of collectibles housed in Paramount’s Limited Edition Deluxe Gift Set. These include a detailed ship schematic, a perfect-bound hardcover coffee table book, sheet music of “My Heart Will Go On,” and reproductions of various movie props including a boarding pass, launch viewing ticket, Rose and Jack’s “notes,” and all of it housed inside a sturdy hardbound case. A Digital HD code rounds out one of 2023’s essential UHD releases.
OPPENHEIMER 4K Ultra HD (181 mins., 2023, R; Universal): Christopher Nolan’s latest became an unexpected box-office juggernaut for reasons which – beyond the “Barbenheimer” social-media fueled hype – may remain something of a mystery. At least it’s hard to imagine younger viewers gravitating towards this Nolan biopic of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his work that led up to the construction of the atomic bomb – but for those paying attention, or older viewers with some understanding of history, “Oppenheimer” the movie provides a suspenseful, masterfully told rendition of the “Manhattan Project”’s genesis, subsequent fallout, and Oppenheimer’s place in human history.
In fact, I’d say this is one of Nolan’s very best films, featuring a superlative performance from Cillian Murphy, always in control as Oppenheimer, not to mention Robert Downey Jr. as adversarial Energy Commission member Lewis Strauss, Matt Damon as Gen. Leslie Groves, and Florence Pugh – a special effect of her own – as Jean Tatlock, one of the many complicated women in Oppenheimer’s life. Nolan’s script spans multiple decades and breaks the drama into separate timelines, and yet the movie is seldom too complicated to follow (shooting portions in B&W helps), with the director successfully sustaining a level of tension throughout – something that’s not easy to do when the history has already been written.
Certainly from a filmmaking perspective “Oppenheimer” is moviemaking on a level far above the grind of 21st century corporate franchise cinema Effortlessly mixing aspect ratios and styles, with Hoyte Van Hoytema’s lensing utilizing widescreen and IMAX to superb effect, plus a script remarkably well-rounded and fair when it comes to asking the questions about “why” and “how” (especially in regards to America’s role in WWII and ending the conflict), “Oppenheimer” is one of the best films of the past few years. That’s not going to be breaking news for many, but it’s a picture that lives up to the hype and packs a wallop as a piece of home video as well.
Universal’s 4K UHD offers a faultless HDR10 presentation (with shifting 2.20 and IMAX-friendly 1.78 aspect ratios) with 5.1 DTS MA sound. My one gripe about the film is the excessive use of Ludwig Goransson’s score, which plasters over every scene, sometimes unnecessarily – a few times I just wanted the actors to do their thing, but that’s the one shortcoming in a film that’s otherwise a tight ship in every facet of its production. In addition to the Blu-Ray and a Digital HD code, a third disc covers a number of special features including a 70-plus minute Making Of (broken into separate parts), Christopher Cassel’s feature-length “To End All War: Oppenheimer & The Atomic Bomb” documentary, a “Meet the Press” panel with Nolan, and a number of shorter vignettes.
THE EQUALIZER 3- MOVIE COLLECTION 4K UHD (Sony): Star Denzel Washington and director Antone Fuqua’s trilogy of “Equalizer” movies is newly available in a 3-pack 4K UHD from Sony with new “IMAX Enhanced” picture/sound.
In the original THE EQUALIZER (132 mins., 2014, R), Washington is cool and likeable as Robert McCall, the mysterious do-gooder with a secretive past, and he also has good chemistry with Chloe Grace Moretz, playing a young Russian girl who’s being used as a hooker in the early going. Alas, Moretz very quickly disappears — completely — from the film when McCall takes on the Russian mob in a furious array of killings, each one gorier than the last. Missing is a sense of character development and drama, making the film a little soulless — no matter how effective it may be in what it sets out to do, with Boston location filming that’s quite good, and even an occasionally effective bit of scoring here and there.
“The Equalizer” – based on the more restrained and satisfying Edward Woodward ‘80s TV series – is a good movie yet in some ways still represents everything that’s wrong with Hollywood today. Does this film need to be this violent? What does it achieve by being this disgusting, especially when McCall uses every power tool in the Home Depot-like hardware chain he works at in dispensing the killers?
Despite its lack of restraint “The Equalizer” is still a well-made and solid picture, one which lead to the inevitable THE EQUALIZER 2 (121 mins., 2018, R). This initial sequel – one of Washington’s only big-screen follow-ups in a career lacking anything resembling an “action franchise” – brought back its star, director and writer (Richard Wenk) in a distressingly “more of the same” installment that features Robert McCall – after heading to Istanbul and Brussels – out to investigate and avenge the murder of his friend and government contact (Melissa Leo). Several subplots clutter the film, which really only gets the adrenaline going during a superbly-executed finale set on the Massachusetts coast in the midst of a Nor’Easter.
Washington, Fuqua and Wenk all returned for the leaner, much more satisfying THE EQUALIZER 3 (109 mins., 2023, R) this past fall. Curiously, this picture is less “Death Wish” than it is a modern day western – and a much better reworking of familiar genre elements than this same creative team’s misfired “Magnificent Seven” remake from a few years back.
Benefitting enormously from a change in setting, Denzel’s Robert McCall here opens up his latest case of retribution in a Sicilian winery where he stumbles onto a stash of drugs the mob is funneling, providing, among other things, revenue for their illegitimate businesses and also cash for terrorists. After being shot, McCall is nursed back to health and becomes part of an Italian coastal community — connected to its people and customs, and yet pressed back into duty (of course) once they’re terrorized by other factions of the “Camorra.” Meanwhile, McCall casually enlists the assistance of a young CIA analyst (Washington’s “Man on Fire” co-star Dakota Fanning) who’s intrigued by the mysterious former government op and his special set of skills.
“The Equalizer 3” is easily the most soulful and character-driven of the three films in the “Equalizer” series. It has its moments of violence but these bursts are relegated only to several specific points in the film, where McCall basically functions like a horror movie villain, again serving up graphic vengeance with no suspense as to the outcome of his actions. That part of the movie proves to be the weakest — it’s as if the filmmakers had the least interest in continuing to serve up an obligatory amount of R-rated splatter — but fortunately there’s ample dramatic engagement here to keep audiences invested.
The variation on the classic western formula of a gunslinger basically protecting his flock against villains, in a town (or, in this case, country) he’s unattached to, is effectively cultivated in Wenk’s script, while Fuqua and ace cinematographer Robert Richardson capture all the Amalfi coast locations with detail and local color.
The art of location filming is something that’s been lost in our new “digital age,” but “Equalizer 3” embraces its new setting and provides its hero with — if not a breathless finale — then a very moving one that connects back to its predecessors in a meaningful way.
Sony’s 3-Movie 4K UHD Collection of “The Equalizer” doesn’t rehash the previously released UHD’s of the first two movies – nor does its third entry match the same specs as its standalone edition. All three films feature high bit-rate HDR10 transfers with IMAX Enhancement, plus DTS:X soundtracks on parts two and three (the original offers just a 5.1 DTS MA mix). These are different than the Dolby Vision HDR/Dolby Atmos standalone releases you’d find outside this package, and I’m not sure for the reason in their discrepancies, or if there’s any tangible difference between them all. That said, the transfers, on their own terms, are stellar across the board and the soundtracks likewise potent. No extras are included (you’ll need to track down the Blu-Rays for those) outside a Digital HD copy, but at least the price is right (under $50 in many outlets).
THE EXPENDABLES 4-Movie Steelbook Collection 4K UHD/Blu-Ray (Lionsgate)/EXPEND4BLES 4K UHD/Blu-Ray (103 mins., 2023, R; Lionsgate): Snazzy Steelbook packaging graces the Walmart-exclusive “Expendables” 4-movie Collection, featuring all four installments in the Lionsgate series, while the recently-released “Expend4bles” is available separately for those who may have already bought previous entries in the franchise.
When the original EXPENDABLES (103 mins., 2010, R) was released, critics were divided by Sylvester Stallone’s original ‘80s action-throwback, but audiences ate it up: with a worldwide gross of $274 million, “The Expendables” was one of its year’s few consistent performers at the late-summer 2010 box-office.
It’s certainly a more lighthearted romp than Sly’s effective but ultra-violent “Rambo” revisit, with Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Mickey Rourke comprising a team of mercenaries hired by shady Bruce Willis to dispose of a ruthless South American dictator. Stallone and Dave Callaham’s script is just an excuse for the boys to blow lots of things up, generate a few laughs and leave as many dead bodies in their wake as possible, but the fun is how disarming “The Expendables” is – from the much-discussed cameo scene for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Willis (complete with a hilarious punch line), to Statham and Stallone’s air-assault on the island (the film’s most memorable set-piece), this is just hugely entertaining for genre addicts, even if Sly the director’s shaky-cam threatens to completely ruin a car-chase sequence.
The performances are all appropriately laid-back – Sly generating good chemistry with both Statham and the film’s female lead, lovely Mexican actress Giselle Itié, whose role might have ended up partially on the cutting room floor, while a Lundgren-Li brawl ends up being particularly amusing.
It’s nothing extraordinary, and may not resemble the epic Stallone-Schwarzenegger team-up fans were clamoring for, but “The Expendables” is definitely entertaining, throwback fun for action fans, and superior to its three sequels.
Speaking of that, Sly, Statham, Lundgren, Arnie and Bruce returned in 2012 for THE EXPENDABLES 2 (102 mins., R), another plot-deprived, yet entertaining enough, action sequel. This time out, the Expendables head to Europe to recover an item from a downed plane, only to run into crazy psycho Jean Claude Van Damme.
With Simon West taking over for Stallone behind the camera (Sly still wrote the film with “Equalizer”’s Richard Wenk), “The Expendables 2″ fares better in terms of the shaky-cam visual element. The lightening of the overall tone also serves the film well, with plenty of chemistry between the stars, though dramatically there’s scant investment made in the plot, which serves only to give the aging genre heroes a platform to interact with one another. Ultimately, “The Expendables 2″ is fun and engaging, even if the film technically seems to have been pieced together with occasionally cheap looking digital backdrops and star cameos (from the likes of Chuck Norris and even original star Jet Li, who contributes less than 10 minutes of screen time) that seem to have been hastily shot and edited.
Another installment was ground out in short order with EXPENDABLES 3 (131 mins., 2014, PG-13), another watchable-yet-underwhelming affair – its violence restrained enough to net a PG-13 as well – albeit stuffed with more aging action stars than ever before, as Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, and Mel Gibson joined in the fun. With Stallone again delegating directorial chores — this time to Patrick Hughes — “Expendables 3” is good for a few laughs even though it leaves the viewer, once again, feeling as if a far more satisfying picture could’ve been produced with all of these talented veterans.
The law of diminishing returns cascaded down to EXPEND4BLES (103 mins., 2023, R), which returned to the R rating of the series’ first two entries yet otherwise comes off as a cheapjack epilogue that’s best left forgotten. Even Sylvester Stallone couldn’t muster much enthusiasm outside a cameo as Jason Statham and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson are joined by Megan Fox and Tony Jaa for a pedestrian looking affair packed with bad special effects and production values notably inferior to its predecessors.
All four films are included in Walmart’s appealingly designed 4K UHD/Blu-Ray Steelbook Collection – these discs all offer the same specs as their previous releases: Dolby Vision HDR, Dolby Atmos mixes, etc. on the UHD’s, with Blu-Rays also included, sporting special features and the longer cut of “Expendables 3.” Meanwhile, “Expen4bles” is also on tap in its own, separate UHD from Lionsgate. This disc again offers Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound with the included Blu-Ray featuring commentary by director Scott Waugh, two featurettes, the trailer, and a Digital HD copy.
Classic Catalog on 4K UHD
YOUNG GUNS 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (103 mins., 1988, R; Lionsgate): Sold as “The Brat Pack Goes to the Old West” – with a trailer I recall seeing every week going to the movies back in 1988 until its August release date – “Young Guns” follows the early adventures of Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez) and his group of “Regulators” (Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney and Casey Siemaszko) as they seek vengeance after the murder of their father-figure rancher (Terence Stamp) at the hands of a dastardly Irishman (Jack Palance).
John Fusco wrote a number of scripts in the western genre (“Hildago,” “Thunderheart,” “Spirit”) and says he didn’t intend for “Young Guns” to be a “Brad Pack” outing per se – rather a story that tries to follow young Billy’s adventures in the “Lincoln County War” utilizing age-appropriate leads. His script is sturdy and the story compelling – as is the casting – though the end product is a bit sabotaged by Christopher Cain’s flat direction and an anachronistic “’80s” score by Anthony Marinelli and Brian Banks.
The duo’s efforts were a late-in-the-game rescore for James Horner’s Irish-ensemble dominated, orchestral soundtrack which, in a new interview included here, Cain says was humorless and too “ethereal.” While the movie’s tone may have been more in sync with the tuneful sound and faster pace of the Marinelli/Banks soundtrack, the music doesn’t work well in the film, its guitars and synths calling attention to themselves and coming off, as some re-scores do, as incongruous to the film it’s trying to support. It also doesn’t help that their main theme sounds like it could’ve been written for “MacGyver” or even “Saved By The Bell.”
Along with some curiously pedestrian staging of action scenes, “Young Guns” falls short of being a classic, even of the cult variety, but it’s still entertaining enough and the cast of young ‘uns and veteran stars – with cameos from Brian Keith and Patrick Wayne – makes it an irresistible view for western fans.
It’s also easier to appreciate now that the film has received a much-needed 4K remastering from Lionsgate, providing a Dolby Vision HDR (1.85) presentation that blows the doors off the early-format HD master previously seen on Blu-Ray (a similarly remastered BD is also included here). Detail is strong and the presentation consistent from start to end, while the Dolby Atmos sound packs a wallop with lots of panache, sound effects and directional activity (a comparatively limp original 2.0 surround mix is also included).
Lionsgate has also produced a new 35-minute retrospective doc featuring John Fusco, Christopher Cain, Dermot Mulroney, Lou Diamond Phillips and Casey Siemaszko. This is a fast-paced and enjoyable look back at the production with Cain – who had worked with Horner on two previous films – commenting on the change of score and Marinelli discussing the film and also his work in Hollywood as a whole (he notes he and Banks rescored all of Jack Nitzsche’s “Stand By Me” after Rob Reiner decided to use the Ben E. King song as the movie’s title late in production). To be fair, he and Banks did provide the filmmakers with a then-contemporary sound which successfully helped to sell the film, but one wishes Horner’s efforts could be heard – especially attached to the movie itself (there’s a brief cue comparison provided here, but it’s in an action scene which scarcely sounds different from the Marinelli/Banks rescore).
An archival commentary with Mulroney, Phillips and Siemaszko is also on hand plus “Billy The Kid: The True Story,” a Digital HD copy, and those original trailers with Horner’s name attached – both newly rescanned for this release.
THE FUGITIVE 4K UHD (130 mins., 1993, PG-13; Warner): Back in the early ‘90s, the month of August was generally a dumping ground for unwanted, re-scheduled studio pictures that couldn’t hack it at other times of the year. Like the cold winter days of January, the dog days of summer were a cinematic wasteland – something that all changed when Warner Bros.’ big-screen remake of the TV classic “The Fugitive” was released on August 6, 1993. An immediate critical smash and box-office sensation, “The Fugitive” would gross some $182 million (nearly $400 million adjusted for inflation) in the U.S. alone, proving that a movie’s August release date wasn’t a commercial death sentence – even with a turbulent production process that saw one of its leading cast members (Richard Jordan) depart at the last minute due to his declining health, its original cinematographer (Frank Tidy) fired, a script that went through continuous changes even during filming, and a hurried shoot with a firm Summer ‘93 release date.
Now 30 years after its initial release, “The Fugitive” – with its expert performances by Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble and Tommy Lee Jones in his Oscar-winning turn as U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard – has been resurrected on 4K UHD by Warner Home Video, offering a pleasingly crisp transfer with HDR10 enhancement as well as a new Dolby Atmos soundtrack (the original 5.1 DTS MA track is also reprised). Extras are carried over from the 2013 and older Blu-Ray releases – these include a ‘13 retrospective documentary, director Andrew Davis’ commentary with Tommy Lee Jones, an intro from Davis and Ford, two featurettes and the trailer (note the pilot for the short-lived TV version with Tim Daly, included on the Blu-Ray, was not carried over).
STEPHEN KING’S SILVER BULLET 4K UHD/Blu-Ray (95 mins., 1985, R; Shout! Factory): Fourth collaboration between producer Dino DeLaurentiis and bestselling author Stephen King (presaging their ill-fated collaboration on “Maximum Overdrive” the following year) had two important elements going for it: one being that King himself provided the script, the second that Carlo Rambaldi designed the slimy make-up effects.
The result, “Silver Bullet,” was a movie that most branded as mediocre at the time (it also tanked at the box-office), but has certainly held up a lot better than most King thrillers-of-the-week — particularly now on 4K UHD, where Shout Factory’s new disc premieres a spectacular Dolby Vision remastering.
An adaptation (and embellishment) of King’s graphic novel “Cycle of the Werewolf,” “Silver Bullet” stars Gary Busey as an alcoholic uncle to handicapped nephew Corey Haim. Haim decides to investigate a series of murders plaguing the formerly quaint little town he and sister Megan Follows (of “Anne of Green Gables” fame) live in. All signs point to a werewolf, and Haim decides to track down the killer even though everyone else thinks he’s the little boy who cried you-know-what.
The movie doesn’t offer too many surprises in terms of suspense or the identity of the culprit (it just happens that Everett McGill’s name is second on the poster), but what is surprising is that director Daniel Attias actually manages to develop the characters and relationships between them in the film. Haim and Follows’ brother-sister interplay is sensitively and believably handled, as is the relationship between Haim and Busey, who gives one of his better performances here.
Jay Chattaway’s score is perfectly acceptable and while the movie runs out of gas by the time it ends around the 90 minute mark, “Silver Bullet” is a minor guilty pleasure that’s certainly easier to enjoy now that Shout has cleaned up and released the film in a highly satisfying 4K UHD. This Dolby Vision HDR (2.35) presentation is nothing less than one of the best catalog releases of its kind in 2023 – colors are vivid, details are clear, and the entire image raises the film several notches.
This Scream Factory set also includes a Blu-Ray minted from the same master (both discs feature mono sound) as well as a generous assortment of extras culled from a myriad of releases. These include two archival commentaries from producer Martha (Schumacher) DeLaurentiis and Daniel Attias, plus a new talk with podcasters Eric Vespe and Scott Wampler. Jay Chattaway provides isolated score segments while retrospective interviews are on-hand with cast members Everett McGill and Kent Broadhurst, editor Daniel Loewenthal and FX artists while trailers, radio/TV spots and a still gallery are also included.
THE COLOR PURPLE 4K Ultra HD (153 mins., 1985, PG-13; Warner): Celebrated, if a bit overly sentimental, film adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel receives a good-looking UHD release from Warner, boasting HDR10 enhancements that augment the lovely work of cinematographer Allen Daviau (“E.T.”). Director Steven Spielberg’s movie was lauded as being one of his first “adult” achievements by the media, and even though I prefer “Amistad” and “Empire of the Sun” over this, “The Color Purple” nevertheless was and is a strong achievement for the director, working off a Menno Meyjes script and receiving superb performances from Whoopi Goldberg (as Walker’s heroine Celie), Danny Glover, Adolph Ceasar and Oprah Winfrey leading the ensemble cast. Some carped (Spielberg himself recently) that the movie dulled the book’s edge, yet Spielberg and Meyjes retained enough of its essence to get Walker’s point across while still producing a broadly accepted mainstream entertainment. Warner’s UHD (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) looks stellar and offers all the extras from its previous Blu-Ray, including some DVD-era documentaries, trailers, and a look at the stage musical, which not coincidentally is heading to the big screen later this month.
Also New & Noteworthy
SAW X 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (118 mins., 2023, R; Lionsgate): Prequel horror returns with this fan-service 10th installment in the “Saw” series, as Tobin Bell resurrects Jigsaw – here following the original “Saw,” and seeking an experimental medical treatment that will cure his terminal cancer. When that, naturally, doesn’t occur, Jigsaw is back to turn the tables on his unsuspecting victims in a film written by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, reuniting audiences with the anti-hero and a number of familiar supporting players including Shawnee Smith along with some other surprises. If you’re a fan, “Saw X” may hold some value, and Lionsgate’s 4K UHD (1.85, Atmos) boasts an exemplary transfer, commentary with director Kevin Greutert and crew; a Making Of; deleted scenes; a digital HD copy and the Blu-Ray.
WEIRD: THE AL YANKOVIC STORY 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (108 mins., 2022, Not Rated; Shout!): Roku-produced original movie stars Daniel Radcliffe as the song-spoofer extraordinaire who became a chart topping success back in the ‘80s, leading to an up-and-down career both musically and away from the mike. This wry biopic, however, is a lampoon in its own right and is stuffed with cameos not to mention has sly comedic performances from Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood and Rainn Wilson to spare. Eric Appel’s film debuts on 4K UHD from Shout with Dolby Vision HDR and 7.1 DTS MA sound; commentary from Al Yankovic and Appel; deleted scenes; a featuette; a “Late Night With Seth Meyers” interview with Weird Al and Radcliffe; and plenty more.
New on Blu-Ray From Warner Archive
One of the nuttiest big-studio films of the mid ‘90s, RAPA NUI (107 mins., 1994, R) was a box-office bust that could have only been made through the collective cache of then-red hot Kevin Costner and his “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” pal, director Kevin Reynolds. Now on Blu-Ray for the first time from Warner Archive, the impressive visuals of this self-indulgent exercise can be fully appreciated by some viewers here for the first time, seeing as its limited theatrical release was only followed by an immediate VHS/laserdisc editions and a 2015 DVD from Warner Archive.
A year before the duo collaborated on “Waterworld,” Costner produced this impressively shot, but decidedly off the wall, tale of pals Jason Scott Lee and Esai Morales, who take their mutual admiration for the same tribeswoman (Sandrine Holt) to levels of tribal warfare in a wild South Seas period adventure.
Warner’s Archive Blu-Ray – the movie’s first HD release – offers a pleasing new 1080p (2.40) transfer with 5.1 DTS MA sound. The film looks great in scope, all the better to convey its overheated emotions and uneven performances, with an enveloping 5.1 soundstage filled with the sound of breaking waves and Stewart Copleand’s pulsing score. The trailer, sold heavily on the basis of “from the producers of ‘Dances With Wolves’ and the Director of ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” is the sole extra.
Another mid ‘90s box-office disappointment in spite of a relatively big-budget, IN LOVE AND WAR (113 mins., 1996, PG-13) wanted to divulge the would-be fiery relationship between a nurse (Sandra Bullock) and a young Ernest Hemingway (Chris O’Donnell) who meet on the battlefields of WWI. Alas, this later Richard Attenborough film – while possessing the look of quality thanks to its crew and Roger Pratt’s lensing in particular – is a labored affair due to its script, credited to three different scribes who embellished Hemingway’s actual WWI experiences in favor of a glossy but vapid movie romance. The lack of chemistry between Bullock and O’Donnell is also an issue, but at least the film looks good, as does Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA).
Javier Bardem’s powerhouse performance as Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas propelled BEFORE NIGHT FALLS (133 mins., 2000, R) onto countless “Best Of” lists, not to mention earned Bardem a richly deserved Oscar nomination. This is a biopic looking at Arenas’ life in Cuba where he was persecuted and his work prohibited, before he was able to leave for the U.S. where he received another chance to craft his art. Julian Schnabel’s film is filled with fine performances including Johnny Depp and debuts on Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) in a Warner Archive release recycling many extras from its DVD. That includes a group commentary track; Arenas-related documentary shorts; and the original trailer.
Last but not least is the second volume in Warner Archive’s LOONEY TUNES: COLLECTOR’S CHOICE Blu-Ray releases. Available December 12th, this single-disc offering again features some three hours of vintage WB cartoon goodness from the Golden Age, presented uncut with most shorts in HD for the first time. Debuting here are Behind the Meat-Ball; Brother Brat; Catty Cornered; Cross Country Detours; Daffy’s Southern Exposure; Ding Dog Daddy; The Eager Beaver; Fair and Worm-er; Fin ‘n Catty; From Hand to Mouse; Ghost Wanted; Greetings Bait; Hamateur Night; Hare-Breadth Hurry; A Hick a Slick and a Chick; Hiss and Make Up; A Hound For Trouble; I Wanna Be a Sailor; The Leghorn Blows at Midnight; Lickety-Splat; One Meat Brawl; The Penguin Parade; Rabbit Rampage; The Rebel Without a Claws; and The Wacky Worm. Very reasonably priced, this is another must-have for Looney Tunes fans.
THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY Blu-Ray (85 mins., 2023; Music Box): Free-form styled feature stars Lily Gladstone as a woman who goes on a road trip from Minnesota down to South Dakota, where she tries to re-establish bonds with her Lakota roots. Morrisa Maltz’s film feels like a group of possibly improvised vignettes put together with a lot of sincerity and good intentions, yet dramatically the film isn’t going to work for everyone. A commentary track, Director Q&A, Maltz’s short “Odyssea” and other extras are included in Music Box’s new Blu-Ray (2.35, 5.1 DTS MA).
SHAUN THE SHEEP: The Complete Series Blu-Ray (aprx. 20 hours; Shout! Factory): Aardman’s delightful adventures of Shaun, Bitzer, The Farmer and all of the “Mossy Bottom Flock” have been collected in a superb Blu-Ray box-set from Shout! Factory. Including the entire series in color-drenched 1080p (1.78) transfers and DTS MA sound, “Shaun”’s high-def box is a must for fans, with extra features including the season-appropriate “The Flight Before Christmas” and “The Farmer’s Llamas” and both Mossy Bottom and “Championsheeps” shorts.
NEXT TIME: OCN New Releases & More! 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!