Message Board (open 24 hours!)
Twitter - @andredursin (for everything else!)
There’s a certain irony involved with Warner Archive’s long-awaited Blu-Ray release of SUPERGIRL (**½, 125 mins., 1984, PG) this month. Warner Bros. was supposed to release the film in the U.S. during the summer of 1984, but decided after seeing the final product that they’d be better off not to. Tri-Star – then a fledgling studio funded by the triumvirate of Columbia Pictures, CBS and HBO — then rescued the movie, but cut some 20 minutes out of the completed print and released it during a busy Thanksgiving season during which it was all but lost in theaters.
Producer Alexander Salkind’s ill-fated spin-off of his “Superman” series subsequently bounced around from one label to another on home video, yet has still managed to develop a fairly sizable cult following over the years — most viewers being admitted fans of watching star Helen Slater flying around in those colorful super-hero tights!
For many years, it was also tough for fans on this side of the Atlantic to appreciate the film in its original 124-minute version, never mind being able to watch the picture in its full Panavision aspect ratio and with stereophonic sound restoring Jerry Goldsmith’s lyrical score to its proper proportions. Stripped of those elements, it was tough to tell how much fun “Supergirl” offered the way it was originally intended to be seen – especially not in USA Home Video’s pan-and-scan VHS release of the Tri-Star theatrical cut, the sole U.S. home video release of the picture for the bulk of the 1980s.
Anchor Bay finally came to the rescue back in 2000 with a limited-edition DVD that’s never been that hard to find, and now the Warner Archive has acquired what its parent studio once threw away with a new and appreciably improved Blu-Ray edition.
What Warner’s good-looking (2.35 1080p) release does is restore this goofy, at-times campy and always colorful comic-book romp to its pedestal as a mid ‘80s guilty pleasure. This is a good-looking, great-sounding movie (kudos to Goldsmith and cinematographer Alan Hume) that never takes itself too seriously, and ultimately becomes one of the more entertaining comic-book adaptations at a time when Salkind’s own Man of Steel series was ending and the “new wave” of darker super-hero flicks like Tim Burton’s “Batman” were a few years off (Cannon’s unspeakably bad “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace” would follow several summers later and make Salkind out to be a genius for letting Chris Reeve and company strike out on their own).
Slater, making her debut as Supergirl, is not terribly charismatic, but she does look cute and that’s half the battle here. More over-the-top is Faye Dunaway’s semi-evil witch, Selena, whose given her own “Otis” in Brenda Vaccaro, and between the two of them, the film rises to a spoofy level that contrasts nicely with Slater’s shapely but stiff heroine. Supporting roles feature turns from Peter O’Toole (looking decidedly befuddled), Mia Farrow (seen briefly as Supergirl’s Mom), Peter Cook, Maureen Teefy as a schoolgirl chum, and Marc McClure’s Jimmy Olsen, the only holdover from the Superman series (Reeve vetoed any participation in the picture). As for Supergirl’s love interest – the cardboard Hart Bochner – the less said, the better.
David (“The Dark Crystal”) Odell’s script isn’t terribly inspired either, but Warner’s Blu-Ray accentuates the positive, with the movie’s cinematography and music the chief beneficiaries of the remastered presentation. Overly tight framing that plagued all prior widescreen versions has been rectified with a superior 1080p Blu-Ray transfer, while a robust 5.1 DTS MA mix houses one of Goldsmith’s finest scores from one of his most prolific eras (“Legend,” “Gremlins,” “Rambo II” and “Baby” were also written around this time).
Warner has also reprised most of the extras from the Anchor Bay DVD. These include a terrific audio commentary with director Jeannot Swarzc and “Supergirl” expert Scott Michael Bosco, who does a superb job prompting Swarzc in discussing all aspects of the movie’s production (they talk about Goldsmith’s score right off the bat). In addition to the original trailer, the main draw to the extras is the archival “Making of Supergirl” documentary — 50 minutes of behind-the-scenes fun that captures the promotional and physical aspects of the film’s production.
Also included on the DVD side is another standard-definition presentation of the 138-minute “Director’s Cut,” contained on the second disc and previously exclusive to Anchor Bay’s Limited Edition set. This edition, which seems to have been an expanded cut intended for television airings (and may be what ABC broadcast during their initial “Supergirl” network showings), adds primarily insignificant asides to the action, but it’s still fun and invaluable for fans of the movie. The mono sound and dubbed-over profanity seems to be indicative of this version having been assembled with television in mind.
Though not as much fun as Salkinds’ “Superman” films (including the unjustly maligned third installment), “Supergirl” flies on Blu-Ray with classy comic-book fun thanks to the Warner Archive — a perfect late-summer tonic for no-brainer entertainment.
New Warner Archive Blu-Ray Releases: Peter Ustinov directed, co-wrote and starred in the memorable 1962 adaptation of BILLY BUDD (123 mins.), a vivid Cinemascope production that finds “innocence” (in the form of Terence Stamp’s young seaman) clashing with a sadistic, hardened master-at-arms (Robert Ryan) on a British frigate during the late 18thcentury. Ustinov plays the captain trying to balance the law with his own moral code in a black-and-white adaptation of Melville’s posthumous novel, which was published just prior to the film’s release (after having been completed with the author’s notes). It’s a consistently well-performed film with a superb 1080p (2.35) transfer, 2.0 DTS MA mono sound and a commentary from Stamp and Steven Soderbergh…Billed as “An Original Screenplay by John Milius” but disavowed by the author himself, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN (123 mins., 1972, PG) is an odd duck to be sure: an all-star western anchored by Paul Newman as the title outlaw, who comes to preside over a Texas border town, exacting his own brand of justice. Milius’ irreverent script apparently broke down Bean’s “legend” but in the hands of director John Huston, the movie straddles the line somewhat uneasily between Milius’ point-of-view and a laid-back Hollywood product, as evidenced by its ensemble supporting cast (Ava Gardner, Jacqueline Bisset, Roddy McDowall, Anthony Perkins and Victorial Principal among them) plus Maurice Jarre’s score, featuring the Andy Williams song “Marmalade, Molasses and Honey” (!). This First Artists production has been brought to Blu-Ray in a serviceable 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded transfer from Warner with mono sound and no extras…To the point and superior for its genre, MGM’s 1960 sci-fi chiller VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (77 mins.) has held up well as it makes its Blu-Ray debut from Warner Archive this month. This British effort from director Wolf Rilla adapts John Wyndham’s “The Midwich Cuckoos,” telling how a series of blond, freaky kids are all born on the same day in a quaint British village. George Sanders is the doctor on the case in a B&W favorite that Warner has treated with their customary care in high-def: this finely detailed 1080p (1.78) AVC encoded transfer is just superb, with extras including a commentary from historian Steve Haberman and a DTS MA mono soundtrack.
New on DVD from the Archive is RECKLESS KELLY (80 mins., 1993, PG), one of Aussie comedian Yahoo Serious’ affairs with Serious writing/producing/starring in this rambunctious (and mercifully short) take on the infamous, real Australian outlaw. American actress Melora Hardin provides the love interest with Hugo Weaving co-starring in a film best left for Serious devotees. Warner’s DVD includes a 16:9 (2.41) transfer and 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo sound…Finally, Nick Adams played the lead role in the pungent low-budget thriller YOUNG DILLINGER (100 mins.). This 1965 Allied Artists production stars Adams along with Robert Conrad (as Pretty Boy Floyd) and Mary Ann Mobley in a chronicle of the legendary gangster’s rise up the criminal ladder. Well-made by the Zimbalist Company and director Terry O. Morse, this is a neat little B-picture brought to DVD by the Archive featuring a 16:9 (1.78) B&W transfer and mono sound.
PREDATOR 3-FILM COLLECTION 4K UHD Combo Pack (Fox): Sometimes certain movies just have a track record of bad luck on video. Such was the case with the original PREDATOR (***½, 107 mins., 1987, R), which went through two different releases on Blu-Ray, including a would-be “Ultimate Hunter Edition” that was anything but “ultimate.” The good news is that Fox’s new 4K UHD release of “Predator” (along with its two sequels) finally does justice to the 1987 hit, enabling fans to gain a fresh appreciation of the Arnie Vs. Alien slugfest.
In fact, as a movie, this slam-bang extraterrestrial brawl is still one of the best outings for both star Arnold Schwarzenegger and director John McTiernan, offering tense, well- choreographed action, superb effects, and a rousing story line encompassing the best of ’80s action filmmaking.
Despite its enduring popularity, it’s surprising that the film has always been a problematic one on home video. Fox’s original Blu-Ray disc offered only a very basic presentation of the movie — on a single-layer 25GB disc no less — with a dirty MPEG-2 transfer. Making matters worse is that those drawbacks were tame compared to the AVC-encode on the “Ultimate Hunter Edition,” which traded in grain for an overly processed, detail-free transfer that was simply crushing for fans. The image was soiled with an excessive amount of digital noise reduction, resulting in the “cleanest” looking “Predator” you’d ever seen!
Good news, though, abounds for Predator fans this month, as Fox’s 4K UHD — thanks to HDR and a high bit-rate encode — will enable viewers to dispose of all of those earlier releases. Featuring nicely balanced (and seemingly accurate) colors, better compression and added detail (if still a tad “noisy” at times), this HVEC encoded transfer of “Predator” dispenses with all prior DVD and Blu-Ray releases. For the first time since the movie’s theatrical exhibition, fans at last have the opportunity here to truly enjoy the picture as it was meant to be seen at home. Both 5.1 and 4.0 DTS MA mixes are faithful to the film’s sound design (with more bass involved in the former) as well, with the previously-released commentaries (one of them of the text variety) included on the supplemental side (other extras are housed in the included Blu-Ray, which alas, hasn’t itself been remastered).
Along with the original “Predator” (also available for purchase separately), Fox has included similarly upgraded 4K UHD presentations of its two sequels.
PREDATOR 2 (**, 106 mins., 1990, R; Fox): I hadn’t seen this sequel since it first opened in 1990, and over that time, I guess I had forgotten just how regrettable this slick but pedestrian follow-up actually was. Danny Glover — the natural choice to replace Arnold — fills in as a Los Angeles cop investigating a series of drug-related gang killings in a “future” 1997 where the temperatures run so high sweat pours off everyone’s clothes and mass transit riders carry guns in their handbags. (As if the movie wasn’t dated enough, you also get Morton Downey, Jr. as an obnoxious TV talk show host).
Into this searing-hot urban cityscape walks the Predator (the late Kevin Peter Hall), who decides it’s time to knock off the film’s assembly line supporting characters: Glover’s fellow cops Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso (the requisite female role) and Bill Paxton (still trying to find his way post-“Aliens”), along with government heavy Gary Busey (second-billed!) and department head Robert Davi.
“Predator 2” is directed competently enough by Stephen Hopkins (“24,” “The Ghost and the Darkness”), but the whole enterprise plays like the second or third back-up plan for a sequel in the event that Schwarzenegger and McTiernan wanted nothing to do with it. The flat dialogue, thin characterizations, and messy story line of Jim and John Thomas’ script played havoc with their intriguing original concept of an extraterrestrial hunting down the human race while on a vacation trip to Earth. The movie’s second half – – a prolonged chase sequence between Glover and the Predator — is more coherent than the first, and the final battle is well-executed enough so that comparisons don’t need to be made between “Predator 2” and all-time horrid sequels like “Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.” Nevertheless, this commercially disappointing follow-up — released appropriately at Thanksgiving — was still unappetizing enough to put the franchise on ice for over a decade.
Fox’s 4K UHD again bests its prior Blu-Ray edition with HDR and 5.1 DTS MA sound. However, since the “Predator 2” Blu-Ray was perfectly good to begin with, the upgrade isn’t quite as appreciable here, as superior contrasts and HDR effects enhance the image more than any noticeable gain in detail. Extras are reprieved on the included Blu-Ray (commentaries, archival featuretttes, etc.).
PREDATORS (**, 107 mins., 2010, R): Robert Rodriguez taking over the “Predator” franchise, producing a direct sequel to the 1987 Arnold-McTiernan classic, in an “old school” (non-CGI) visual framework should have resulted in – if nothing else – a rollicking good monster mash, but the best you can say about “Predators” is that it’s better than the “Aliens Vs. Predator” films. Or, at least the second one.
That’s not much of a consolation prize as the distressingly tedious “Predators” finds a group of Earth-bound hunters, soldiers and killers mysteriously brought to another planet where they’re, once again, hunted down by Predators with a few new tricks up their sleeve (including some barely-glimpsed “Predator Dogs”). Leading the humans is mercenary Adrien Brody, which alone presents part of this picture’s problem: it says something about genre films produced in 2010 that instead of strong, physically imposing action heroes we have Brody, whose lack of physical presence is compounded by a charisma-free performance where the actor seems to be channeling Christian Bale as Batman with his monotone delivery.
Unsurprisingly, Brody is blown away on-screen by Larry Fishburne and his all-too-brief cameo as a human who’s spent just a little too much time in the Predator’s hunting ground – the “Fish” is completely over the top as he rolls his eyes and talks to an invisible “friend” about how to knock off Predators and what to do with the planet’s new human prey. If there was justice for genre flicks at the Oscars this is the very embodiment of an effective Supporting Actor performance, but perhaps Fishburne will get some more interesting roles off his memorable, albeit quick, contribution.
Otherwise, “Predators” is hugely disappointing and thoroughly routine: director Nimrod (all-too appropriate) Antal takes forever to get the movie started and isn’t particularly adept at staging action sequences, with too many run-ins with the Predators occurring in claustrophobic quarters. The editing and choreography of these moments is awkwardly handled, while the story gives viewers nothing new — and little in the way of amusing lines or character development. It all ends, appropriately enough, with a completely open final scene setting the stage for another sequel which never came to fruition (doesn’t look like Shane Black’s upcoming “The Predator” has anything to do with it).
Being the most recent film of the lot, “Predators” probably differs the least among the trio from its already-solid Blu-Ray edition, though the HDR image and 5.1 DTS MA audio are both superb on their own merits. A full range of extras is again included on the Blu-Ray portion (carried over from that release) while a Digital HD copy of the collection is available for 4K redemption via Movies Anywhere.
THE AVENGERS – INFINITY WAR 4K UHD Combo Pack (**½, 155 mins., PG-13; Marvel): Much in the same way that the last “Captain America” movie was more of an “Avengers” film, “The Avengers: Infinity War” is less about the super-hero team itself than it is an “All-Star Marvel” rally – something like a “Giant Sized Annual” issue – featuring most of the characters from the Disney company’s first decade operating as its own movie studio.
It’s undoubtedly an impressive achievement that Marvel has been able to dominate the box-office, even with lower-profile heroes, across a pair of films each year – yet this sprawling and repetitive new movie again illustrates that the best of these assembly-line products lies in the respective characters’ solo outings, and not in an ensemble setting.
“Infinity War”’s story by the “Captain America” team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is so basic that it could’ve been concocted by a grade school Marvel fan: Thanos, the CGI villain portrayed by Josh Brolin, nearly has his hand literally on all the Infinity Stones (seen in a myriad of Marvel films) that will enable him to take control of the universe. It’s up to all sorts of heroes to stop him – with directors Anthony and Joe Russo (again vets of the last two Cap pictures) splitting the characters up into different units, including the Guardians of the Galaxy (where Zoe Saldana’s Gamora proves vital to the story), a fractured Avengers team itself still divided in two camps (Captain America and Black Widow on one side, Iron Man and Hulk on the other), plus Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and the Black Panther squad for good measure.
There’s some entertaining interplay between the Guardians and Thor early in the film, yet if there’s any surprise to be found in “Infinity War,” it’s how little the movie does with its vast cast of characters (in fact, I found it more interesting looking at the credits and trying to piece together how an assortment of agents figured out the actors’ contractual billing). The story cuts from one group of heroes fulfilling some kind of mundane task while fighting enemies, to another group of heroes doing the same thing, just in a different setting. Under the direction of the Russo Brothers, there’s scant effort to develop characterizations beyond the expected snarky line of dialogue here or there — but there’s plenty of pounding bad guys into submission, over and over again. The end result is sure to please most comic book fans, but from an objective dramatic standpoint, the movie gives you next to nothing to care about – and with “Infinity War 2” coming next year, it predictably ends on a bleak cliffhanger, relying solely on the good guys figuring it out…which of course, they’ll do, but only after another 2½ hours of dull CGI battles likely as interchangeable as the next.
4K Rundown: Marvel’s 4K UHD combo pack of “Infinity War” includes a boisterous Dolby Atmos soundtrack (7.1 DTS MA on Blu-Ray) that’s as active and energetic as you’d anticipate, while the HDR enhanced transfer boasts vibrant and frequent use of HDR. There’s no Dolby Vision capability I can see, but the “standard HDR” presentation is both exceptional and demo-worthy as one would hope regardless. The combo pack, also sporting a Blu-Ray and Digital HD copy, features deleted scenes, a gag reel, commentary from the writers and directors, an introduction from the Russo Brothers, and a handful of featurettes.
THE QUICK AND THE DEAD 4K UHD (**½, 105 mins., 1995, R; Sony): Sam Raimi directed this western fizzle starring Sharon Stone as a gunslinger who heads into the dusty town of Redemption – home of a sharpshooting contest wherein each participant must take out one contestant each day, all under the supervision of a sadistic mayor (Gene Hackman) whom Stone’s mysterious stranger has a particular grudge against.
Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gary Sinise and a bevy of character actors (Lance Henriksen, Kevin Conway, and Roberts Blossom among them) certainly give “The Quick and the Dead” some credibility in terms of its performances, and Raimi, to his credit, spices up the action with some of his patented visual flourishes. Simon Moore’s screenplay was written as a homage to Leone and the Dollars pictures – relying on the casting of its female lead to give the material a fresh spin – but the end result just kind of sits there. It’s nearly like a bland amusement park ride, creating a façade that’s hollow and empty in terms of a dramatic experience, and leaving little impression when it’s all over.
4K Rundown: Sony’s 4K UHD of “The Quick and the Dead” ranks as yet another superb catalog release from the label. Grain and textures are heightened over the prior Blu-Ray while HDR gives Raimi’s film a nice boost. Though this isn’t a particularly attractive film in terms of its lensing (it’s dirty and quite claustrophobic compared to most of its genre counterparts), the HDR does brighten the image and the 4K transfer proves to be much livelier than the regular Blu-Ray overall. Even better, Sony has included new supplements – seven brief deleted scenes, in fact, that are exclusive to the 4K UHD and are seen here for the first time. The trailer and a Dolby Atmos soundtrack round out the release along with a Digital HD copy. (Fans should note, however, that the movie’s “love scene” between Stone and Crowe – glimpsed in trailers and seen intact in the European release of the picture – remains cut from this version and isn’t included in the extras, either)
THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN 4K UHD Combo Pack (81 mins., 2018, PG-13; Warner): One of the most controversial — and bestselling — comic book storylines of all-time comes to the screen in the form of a better-than-average DC Animated movie. Here, the Man of Steel fights his last battle (well, not really) against Doomsday, with the villain having already thwarted the efforts of the Justice League and crew. The fallout from the battle is chronicled in a fairly faithful production from directors Sam Liu and Jake Castorena, offering adequate animation and PG-13 level violence. Comic book fans should thus be generally pleased with this 81-minute entry, which sets the stage for the book’s concluding portion, “Reign of the Supermen,” which is next up from the DC Animated crew. Warner’s 4K UHD offers decent use of HDR in its HVEC encoded transfer plus 5.1 DTS MA sound with Frederik Weidmann’s score ably backing up the action. Extras are on the light side: two bonus cartoons and a preview of “Reign of the Supermen” are on tap along with a Digital HD copy and the standard Blu-Ray.
Also New & Noteworthy
LIFE OF THE PARTY Blu-Ray Combo Pack (105 mins., 2018, PG-13; Warner): Somewhere along the line, someone should’ve had a good long talk with Melissa McCarthy and tried to convince her that working more and more with her husband, actor/director Ben Falcone, wasn’t going to be healthy for her film career. Either way, such a conversation couldn’t have been successful as McCarthy’s starring vehicles have petered out with audiences. There’s been less of the manic fun of “The Heat” (her big hit with Sandra Bullock) and too many misfires like “Tammy” and “The Boss” – features McCarthy wrote with her husband, who directed the films as well.
Their third outing together, “Life of the Party,” isn’t much of an improvement, striving for a wider PG-13 audience that’s too late to the party in addition to being just lightly amusing. As a housewife whose husband has left her, McCarthy essentially takes Rodney Dangerfield’s “Back to School” role as she enrolls at her daughter’s college to complete her degree. Typical comedic shenanigans follow, with McCarthy surrounding herself with a talented supporting cast (Gillian Jacobs, Julie Bowen, Stephen Root, Maya Rudolph) all let down by – yet again – a subpar script that also overstays its welcome. “Life of the Party” isn’t unwatchable – it’s at least funnier than “The Boss” – but it’s yet more proof that McCarthy’s time cranking out theatrical features may be coming to an end…and certainly will be if she doesn’t start working with more capable writers.
Warner’s Blu-Ray of “Life of the Party,” which grossed an okay $50+ million domestically, hits shelves August 7th. The BD/DVD combo pack includes deleted scenes, a gag reel and featurettes, a 1080p (2.41) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA audio, DVD and Digital HD copy.
RIVERDALE: The Complete Second Season DVD (932 mins., 2017-18; Warner): This utterly bonkers revamp of the Archie Comics characters continues down a dark path in its second season – so gloomy that “Riverdale” veers on unintentional parody as it moves through an erratic and often very uneven collection of 22 episodes. With Archie spending more time with Veronica, her father (Mark Consuelos) brings him into the fold in order to see if he can handle the Lodge’s nefarious business activities; meanwhile, troubled Betty grows increasingly worried about her half-brother, Chic, who mysteriously pops up, right around the same time brooding boyfriend Jughead becomes more and more immersed in his “Serpent” gang activities.
It’s not exactly warm apple pie Americana – more like so far over in the other direction that it’s hard to know how seriously you’re supposed to feel about “Riverdale”’s increasingly absurd plot lines and general “edginess.” Still watchable with a mostly appealing cast (though Archie remains the weakest link), “Riverdale”’s second season hits DVD this week from Warner. Five featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel comprise the multi-disc DVD set, which is technically marked by fine 16:9 transfers and 5.1 soundtracks.
STAR WARS REBELS – The Complete Fourth Season Blu-Ray (353 mins., 2018; Disney): “The Clone Wars” may be over, but young viewers and Star Wars fans generally were quite happy with this Disney Channel/Lucasfilm animated follow-up that just completed a successful four season run. This time around in “Rebels,” Ezra leads the Ghost crew back to his home world to defeat Admiral Thrawn and the Empire forces. Meanwhile, old friends are reunited and new alliances are forged as the Rebels take their battle against the Empire to a whole new level – setting the stage for a memorable, decisive finale.
Disney’s Blu-Ray of the final season of “Star Wars: Rebels” includes six commentaries from producer Dave Filoni, a featurette on composer Kevin Kiner, additional segments on the series and eight episode recaps. The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks and 1080p (1.78) transfers are all superlative. Though a bit more “cartoony” than its predecessor, “Rebels” is still solid entertainment for buffs and families alike, boasting colorful and vibrant animation that looks outstanding in Disney’s Blu-Ray set.
NCIS: New Orleans – The Fourth Season DVD (17 hours, 2017-18; CBS) / SEAL TEAM – Season One DVD (16 hous, 2017-18; CBS): Two popular CBS primetime series hit DVD on August 14th, just ahead of their fall premieres.
For NCIS fans, Season 4 of the New Orleans brand will feel familiar. Anchored once again by Scott Bakula’s Agent Dwayne “King” Pride, “NCIS New Orleans” throws another assembly of large-scale problems at our heroes, including nuclear terror threats and a potentially supernatural murder. Guest appearances range from Jimmy Buffett and Stacey Keach to Chelsea Field (Bakula’s real-life wife) and Mackenzie Astin in this four-disc DVD box, sporting all 24 episodes in 16:9 transfers and 5.1 sound. Supplements include deleted scenes, interviews with cast and crew, and the producers discussing its major story arcs.
Former “Bones” and “Angel” star David Boreanaz’s latest series, “Seal Team,” met with mixed reaction from critics and viewers. Though slickly produced – typical for most CBS series – this uneasy mix of SEAL training action, team camaraderie and soap opera took its time finding its groove in its first season. Hopefully things perk up in Season 2, but for now, viewers can access the good – and the not so good – in the series’ first season. Also on DVD August 14th, CBS’ box set includes a gag reel, deleted scenes, a number of featurettes, 16:9 transfers and 5.1 audio.
ARROW – The Complete Sixth Season Blu-Ray (1098 mins., 2017-18; Warner): Oliver Queen returns to his roots in Season 6 of the long-running CW super-hero series. After the Lian Yu explosion, Queen hits Star City with the intention of being a father and protecting the city as both Mayor and the title DC hero. Alas, a gaggle of past enemies, from Black Siren to Vigilante, stand in his way, while relationships among his own team – old friends Felicity Smoak, John Diggle, and newcomers Wild Dog and Dinah Drake – are also stressed. By now, you are either still invested in “Arrow” or left it long ago, making this strictly for die-hards only. For them, Warner’s Blu-Ray of “Arrow”’s 2017-18 season will be worth a lookover when it streets August 14th. Extras include all 4 crossover episodes with fellow CW series “Legends of Tomorrow,” “The Flash” and “Supergirl” along with four featurettes (including a 2017 Comic Con panel segment), 1080p transfers, 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks and a Digital HD copy.
HAPPY ENDINGS The Complete Series Blu-Ray (20 hours, 2011-13; Mill Creek) / MASTERS OF SEX The Complete Series Blu-Ray (42 hours, 2013-16; Mill Creek): Two superb new Blu-Ray box sets from Mill Creek offer the complete run of the ABC sitcom “Happy Endings” along with Showtime’s “Masters of Sex,” each in affordable, and high quality, HD presentations.
In “Happy Endings,” Zachary Knighton breaks up with Kim from “24″ (Elisha Cuthbert) but hangs onto their circle of friends in this amiable ABC sitcom which just squeaked by enough in the ratings to generate subsequent seasons, ending its run in 2013. “Happy Endings” isn’t nearly as sharp as “Modern Family” even though the series uses a similar filmed format; however, the supporting cast (from Cuthbert to Casey Wilson and Damon Wayans, Jr.) is engaging and the show pleasant enough. Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray offers 1080p transfers and 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks across all episodes, and even includes extras from its prior DVD release from Sony. These include deleted scenes, outtakes, parodies and cast interviews. Well recommended for fans!
“Masters of Sex,” meanwhile, streets on August 21st, and features a similarly satisfying a/v package from Mill Creek. This Showtime series, which ran for four seasons from 2013-16, stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as William Masters and Virginia Johnson — pioneering researchers into human sexuality at St. Louis’ Washington University. Their budding relationship – along with their relationship with his wife, not to mention others they use as test subjects – is detailed in this character-driven series that netted mostly positive reviews. Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray is again licensed from Sony and features 1080p transfers and 5.1 DTS MA sound, plus a welcome three-plus hours of additional content from Sony’s own DVDs: cast/crew pilot commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes and more.
Lionsgate New Releases
Walking its way back to Blu-Ray on August 21st, THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE EIGHTH SEASON (13 hours, 2018) finds Rick and the Alexandrians teaming with the Hilltop and the Kingdom in order to bring “All Out War” at last to the vile Negan and his forces. With the unified communities of survivors banding together, Rick and Maggie (leading the Hilltop) hope to topple the Saviors, even with their enhanced equipment and capabilities.
It’s a battle to the finish in the eighth season of AMC’s high-rated zombie series, which met with mixed reaction even from hardcore fans. Those die-hards should still appreciate Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray of this most recent season, coming to BD next week in a multi-disc set. Three commentaries (on episodes 803, 804 and 816) lend insight into the production, while featurettes include “Carl Grimes: Leaving a Legacy,” “In Memoriam” and “The Price of War.” As with prior series releases, the Blu-Ray includes top notch 1080p (1.78) transfers and 7.1 Dolby TrueHD sound.
Also on Blu-Ray: Coming later this month on Blu-Ray is Susanna White’s WOMAN WALKS AHEAD (102 mins., 2017, R), a barely-released story of a widowed artist (Jessica Chastain) who travels from New York to North Dakota during the 1880s in order to paint a portrait of Chief Sitting Bull (Michael Greyes). Her arrival coincides with open hostility from a US army officer (Sam Rockwell) that leads her to become involved in Sitting Bull’s plight in a surprisingly watchable picture (given its distribution woes) that’s clichéd but well-acted. George Fenton also scored the picture, which Lionsgate brings to Blu-Ray with deleted scenes, a Making Of and commentary with White, a 1080p (2.39) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA audio and a Digital HD copy…A superior viewing experience is on-hand in writer-director Bart Layton’s AMERICAN ANIMALS (116 mins., 2018, R). Evan Peters leads an ensemble cast in the true story of four young men who band together to spice up their lives by stealing valuable books from a college library. That, however, is just part of a story that’s both enthusiastically performed and quite funny at times, with Layton intercutting the real participants and their comments throughout. A sleeper well worth catching on Blu-Ray, where Lionsgate’s disc includes a 1080p (2.39) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, a deleted scene, featurettes, and a director/cast commentary.
Out this week is Alexandre Morris’ THE YELLOW BIRDS (95 mins. 2018, R) strives to mix a story of one platoon’s harrowing tragedy on the battlefield of the Iraq War with its subsequent fallout at home – including meeting the grieving mother (Jennifer Aniston) of the fallen soldier. Tye Sheridan and Alden Ehrenreich lead a capable cast in this perfunctory adaptation of Kevin Powers’ book, which one imagines likely had more dramatic fire on the printed page. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray of this Saban/Cinelou production streets August 14th, including the featurette “Reverberations of War: Making The Yellow Birds,” a 1080p (2.39) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA audio and a Digital HD copy…The latest entry in Saban’s hugely popular kid series, SABAN’S POWER RANGERS: NINJA STEEL (8 hours, 2018) is centered around an intergalactic game show (!), where evil Galvanax hopes to become invincible by gaining access to six Ninja Power Stars. Thankfully for us (and not for him), he has to go through the Power Rangers in order to get the stars, forming the basis for this First Season of the “Power Rangers: Ninja Steel” series. Out August 14th, Lionsgate’s DVD includes over eight hours of fun in some 22 episodes, all presented in 16:9 transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
New on Blu-Ray August 14th from Lionsgate is AFFAIRS OF STATE (97 mins., 2018, R). This direct-to-video premiere stars David Corenswet as an aide to a White House candidate who will do anything to get there – including sleeping with the current-Senator’s wife (Mimi Rogers) and blackmailing his equally shady advisor (Adrian Grenier). David James Elliott and Thora Birch co-star in Eric Bross’ political drama, on Blu-Ray from Lionsgate sporting a 1080p (1.78) AVC encoded transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, deleted scenes, commentary, and a Digital HD copy….Finally, Jesse Metcalfe plays a corporate spy who poses as a mechanic on a yacht filled with college kids in THE NINTH PASSENGER (76 mins., 2018, R), a very slight thriller co-starring Alexia Fast as one of the few youths who doesn’t go around acting like an idiot once the title villain comes aboard for murder and mayhem. At barely 76 minutes “The Ninth Passenger” can do little but try and serve up rote thrills in a no more than workmanlike manner, and director Corey Large barely is able to do that. Available August 21st from Lionsgate on DVD featuring a 16:9 (2.35) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio.
THE MIRACLE SEASON DVD (101 mins., 2018, PG; Fox): True story centers around an Iowa high school girls’ volleyball team after the sudden death of their star player (Danika Yarosh). Sean McNamara’s film follows the girls as they cope and rally under the guidance of their coach (Helen Hunt) and their late friend’s father (William Hurt). A nice feel-good movie suitable for the whole family, “The Miracle Season” is now on DVD from Fox featuring a featurette, promo trailers, a 16:9 (2.39) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
THE RIDER DVD (103 mins., 2017,R; Sony): Chloe Zhao wrote and directed this drama starring Brady Jandreau as a former rodeo hero who seemingly loses it all after he’s injured, ending his participation in the sport. Taking on a new identity, he hits the road trying to find out who he is – and what he’s capable of – in a moody and well-made, if slow-moving and unsurprising, character drama costarring Jandreau’s own sister and father. “The Rider” made some noise on the festival circuit and comes to DVD from Sony this week featuring Q&A sessions with Jandreau along with Zhao, deleted scenes, a 16:9 (2.39) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio.
ALIEN CODE DVD (101 mins., 2016, Not Rated; Archstone/Sony): Kyle Gallner does neurotic characters as well as anyone, and the sci-fi thriller “Alien Code” at least plays to his strengths. Gallner plays a cryptographer who’s sent to a secret lab to decipher an encrypted message that he believes comes from the future – once weird things start happening, Gallner is set off in an independent picture co-starring Azura Skye, Mary McCormack and Richard Schiff. Sony’s DVD includes a 16:9 (2.39) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
BLACKMARK DVD (94 mins., 2018, Not Rated; Archstone/Sony): An American military industrialist has to team up with a Soviet nuclear commander to prevent certain annihilation after an unknown entity hacks a Russian missile and points it squarely at the USA. AJ Martinson III’s low-budget indie actioner is now on DVD from Archstone Distribution boasting a 16:9 transfer and a 5.1 soundtrack.
STRIKE BACK – Season 5 Blu-Ray (471 mins., HBO): The long-running Cinemax action series returns for its fifth season by introducing a brand-new team of commandos recruited by Section 20, itself resurrected after the escape of a deadly terrorist. More high-tech action and intrigue is on-tap in Season 5 of “Strike Back,” which comes to Blu-Ray this week from HBO. 1080p transfers and 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks grace the multi-disc set, which carries Ultraviolet copies and two featurettes: “Strike Back Season 5 Declassified” and “The New Team” segments, introducing the characters to fans and casual viewers alike.
DEAD SHACK Blu-Ray (81 mins, 2018, R; Magnolia): Not-bad horror comedy sends a teen off on a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods with his best friend, older sister and their parents. When the group discovers a neighbor feeding locals (as in local human beings) to their zombified family, all heck breaks loose. Director Peter Rico has spun a lightweight gorefest out of the pseudo-Raimi school, with this Canadian effort being energetic if not especially memorable. Magnolia’s Blu-Ray edition includes a 1080p (2.39) AVC encoded transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, a behind the scenes segment and the trailer.
STEVEN UNIVERSE: THE HEART OF THE CRYSTAL GEMS DVD (132 mins., 2018; Warner): New DVD compilation from the popular Cartoon Network series offers 10 episodes in 16:9 widescreen transfers and 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo sound. Included here are the episodes Bismuth, Mindful Education, Storm in the Room, The Trial, A Single Pale Rose, Now We’re Only Falling Apart, What’s Your Problem?, The Question, Made of Honor and Reunited. Available August 14th.
DISNEY ELENA OF AVALOR – REALM OF THE JAQUINS DVD (89 mins., 2018; Disney): Princess Elena heads through the gateway into Vallestrella, the dazzling domain of the Jaquins. There, she accidentally releases a forest sprite that could endanger her home kingdom in a special two-part episode of the hit Disney Channel animated series. Disney’s DVD includes “Realm of the Jaquins” Parts I & II along with “Three Jaquins and a Princess” and “Shapeshifters,” along with 10 bonus shorts. The single-disc release includes 16:9 transfers and 5.1 sound.
KINGDOMS OF THE SKY Blu-Ray (165 mins., 2017; PBS): Fans of BBC’s gorgeous nature documentaries would do well to check out this co-production between PBS and the BBC Earth group: a three-part documentary that takes viewers around the globe to study not just scenic beauty and indigenous animals but also peoples living in various mountain terrains. “Himalaya,” “Rockies” and “Andes” comprise the three segments of “Kingdoms of the Sky,” which is superbly shot in 1080p high-definition and offers Dolby Stereo sound in PBS’ Blu-Ray package, out August 7th.
THE LAST WARRIOR Blu-Ray (105 mins., 2018; 4Digital): With the Scythians on their way out, a new era dawns upon Eastern Europe – something that leads a proud, veteran warrior on a quest to try and save his family with the help of a Scythian being held captive. This rugged Russian adventure includes well-staged action sequences across its 105 minutes, and debuts on Blu-Ray in the U.S. this week from 4Digital Media. Their Blu-Ray includes a strong 1080p (2.39) transfer with 5.1 audio in Russian with English subs, or English dubbed.
NEXT TIME: RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 2 Collector’s Edition and more of the latest 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!