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A number of 2018 releases saw a clear divide between audience reaction/interest and supposed critical consensus, and no film summed that up better than BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (***, 136 mins., 2018, PG-13; Fox). A movie with a troubled production history — one that reportedly included confrontations between the cast and director Bryan Singer, along with the latter’s eventual dismissal after being a no-show on-set – Fox’s musical biopic of the rock-band Queen nevertheless became the most surprising hit of the year. Generating over $800 million worldwide, this tuneful, mostly upbeat picture didn’t satisfy the critics who wanted a “Trainspotting”-like chronicle of lead singer Freddy Mercury’s famously troubled life, yet the accessible, PG-13 approach netted huge commercial gains, mixing music with a still-effective chronicle of Mercury’s struggles with his sexuality, drugs and fame in general.

Bouncing from Queen’s hit songs and a brief history of the British band through their combative relationship with their record company and blistering world tours, “Bohemian Rhapsody” may at times feel like a glossy, superficial docu-drama – and yet that would sell the film a bit short. Rami Malek’s superb performance as Mercury fuels most of the dramatic fire in the picture, with the actor mimicking Mercury’s electrifying stage persona with a thoroughly convincing portrayal of Queen’s fiery and insecure leader. Anthony McCarten’s script wisely frames most of the “behind the music” material around Mercury, from his Zoroastrian family to his relationships with both men and women – the latter in the form of a longtime friend (Lucy Boynton) who tries, along with Mercury’s fellow band members, in vein to get him away from an increasingly destructive lifestyle.

You may end up wanting more detail and depth, but “Bohemian Rhapsody” wants to be as much a celebration of Queen, the band’s music and their theatrical energy, as it is a tell-all. And surprisingly, even within the parameters of a PG-13 film suitable for “the whole family” (in so much as it could be), the movie doesn’t skirt around Mercury’s sexuality and drug abuse – hitting upon the needed notes with Malek’s excellent performance anchoring a film that may want to be several things at once, but is still better than it had any right to be given its troubled background.

Fox’s 4K UHD of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is now available featuring a masterfully mixed Dolby Atmos soundtrack and heavy HDR usage (the disc also employs HDR10+ instead of Dolby Vision) in the combo pack with a Blu-Ray and Digital HD copy also included. Light special features are undoubtedly due to the problems involving Singer (still credited as director on the finished product), with a full performance of the “Live Aid” song set concluding the disc.

Another music-filled drama – Bradley Cooper’s remake of A STAR IS BORN (**½ , 136 mins., 2018, R; Warner) – also met with enormous box-office enthusiasm, as well as critics who heaped praise on top of Lady Gaga’s performance, helping propel the film to numerous end-of-the-year award nominations and Oscar potential.

Truthfully, though, this third remake of the 1937 “A Star Is Born” is awfully overrated, as star/director Cooper’s picture feels less like a movie than a group of fragmented scenes without much dramatic shape. The film parades out a number of gritty, realistic concert sequences but never develops much dramatic momentum as Cooper’s hard-drinking rocker takes a shine to a massively talented, aspiring singer (Gaga) – she, in turns, falls for him while instantly generating sparks with the guitarist performing on-stage. As anyone who watched Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand will tell you, the girl becomes a star at the same time her lover eventually hits rock bottom, succumbing to his devices while she ascends to the top.

Unlike those other films, though, that crucial transition happens at nearly a moment’s notice in the 2018 “A Star Is Born,” and it speaks to the overall thinness of the screenplay, credited to Eric Roth, Will Fetters and Cooper. Cooper spends an awful lot of time on peripheral details (like Gaga’s father, played by Andrew Dice Clay, in a completely pointless performance) and laying out the film’s set-up – so much that when the meaningful, most consequential components of the story finally develop, two-thirds of the film are almost over. It’s an overly restrained film that results in the viewer feeling as if what they’re watching is “authentic,” and yet it’s all simplistically told with characters you aren’t emotionally engaged by. The mostly forgettable soundtrack is another disappointment, with only Gaga’s concluding ballad registering (at least the ’76 Babs version had the Paul Williams classic “Evergreen” going for it).

On 4K UHD this week from Warner Home Video, there’s no denying the outstanding Dolby Atmos audio mix on both the UHD and Blu-Ray of “A Star Is Born.” The music sequences offer a crisp, bass-heavy immediacy that’s just marvelous to listen to, and the picture (HDR, Dolby Vision) is no slouch either. In addition to the Blu-Ray and Digital HD copy, Warner’s combo pack includes a Making Of, full song performances with material not seen in full during the actual film, and music videos.

CREED II 4K UHD (***, 130 mins., 2018, PG-13; Warner): Second installment in the adventures of Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), here trying to defend his championship belt while maintaining a relationship with his pop singer girlfriend (Tessa Thompson) and trainer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Into the ring steps, of course, a new challenger from a familiar family: the son of Rocky’s nemesis Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who’s trying, through his off-spring, to repair his fractured reputation and win the title that eluded him back in ’85.

The relationship between fathers and sons is central to “Creed II,” a likeable and convincing continuation of the 2015 “Rocky” spinoff. With director Ryan Coogler off to Marvel land, it seems much of the responsibility for this sequel fell to producer/co-writer Stallone, who delegates the director’s chair to Steven Caple Jr. in a movie that otherwise has Sly’s hands all over it. Muscular training sequences, familiar family components and heartfelt emotion dominate this sequel, which makes up in character development what it lacks in Coogler’s absence and overall narrative freshness (though at this point, with seven prior Rocky/Creed pics behind them, it’s hard to envision what more there is for the franchise to say). It goes without saying that if you liked the original “Creed” the sequel offers more of the same – which isn’t a bad thing.

Warner’s attractive 4K UHD combo pack includes a HVEC encoded transfer with Dolby Atmos audio, the soundtrack again offering Ludwig Goransson’s original score with several Bill Conti flourishes at key moments. Extras include deleted scenes and featurettes, a Blu-Ray and Digital HD copy.

THE LITTLE MERMAID: 4K UHD Ultimate Collector’s Edition (***½, 1989, 83 mins., G; Disney): It’s not a stretch to say that Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s tuneful score for 1989’s “The Little Mermaid” laid the groundwork for Disney animation’s full-blown revitalization in the ‘90s. Songs like “Part of Your World” and “Under the Sea” were immediate hits, and the movie itself was a commercial sensation, generating critical kudos and enthusiastic audience response. Suddenly, Disney cartoons weren’t just for kids, with “The Little Mermaid” marking the dividing line between the studio’s mostly middling ‘80s pictures and a streak of box-office smashes that would follow for years to come.

Making a most welcome 4K UHD debut this month, “The Little Mermaid” proves to be an interesting affair and is best recommended for its wider color pallet over the Blu-Ray. At the same time, the image is unquestionably darker, making the overall presentation something of a mixed bag – viewers are so used to the vibrancy of Disney’s home video transfers that they may be disappointed with this regraded image that also doesn’t seem to offer much more in the way of detail over the BD (itself a newly remastered transfer from the same source). The Dolby Atmos audio is fine, roughly on par with the 7.1 DTS MA mix from the prior Blu-Ray from what I sampled, though with an accent on bass that sometimes drowns out the rest of the score.

New extras include a 15-minute segment with Alan Menken reuniting with many of the song performers who graced his soundtracks (Jodi Benson, Judy Kuhn, Paige O’Hara among them) and paying tribute to the “Little Mermaid” soundtrack; a look at the original recording sessions; some “legacy” supplements and the older commentary with Menken and directors Ron Clements and John Musker (numerous other extras are available through streaming).

In contrast to the 4K UHD “Little Mermaid” transfer is the eye-popping, candy-coated RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (***, 112 mins., 2018, PG; Disney), which positively sings in 4K. Though not a particularly necessary sequel, this genial follow-up to 2012’s “Wreck-It Ralph” brings back the title hero – a video game refugee – and friends as they hit the internet – as well as the “dark web” – in search of a part to save pal Vanellope’s arcade game. There, she enjoys the broader experience the net offers, as well as thwarts its assorted dangers, in a decent concoction with enough humor to placate adults, even if the running time is too much and the plot too thin to sustain it. Available on 4K UHD on February 26th, Disney’s combo pack includes Dolby Atmos audio, a gorgeous HVEC transfer (2.39), the Blu-Ray, deleted scenes, easter eggs, a Making Of, and Digital HD copy.


Also New & Noteworthy

THE FRONT RUNNER Blu-Ray (**½ , 113 mins., 2018, R; Sony): The saga of Democratic Presidential nominee Gary Hart’s fall from grace while on the ’88 election trail was, and still is, a prime subject for a fascinating, insightful motion picture. While watchable, last year’s little-seen “The Front Runner,” regrettably, isn’t it.

Director Jason Reitman’s rather chilly film focuses on how the National Inquirer helped to seal Hart’s fate by uncovering his liaison with another woman, thereby marking the moment in which the media changed how they covered political candidates – airing their dirty laundry at a time when many reporters were previously content to stick to the facts, more or less. Hart was a casualty of the shift, his home besieged by reporters while all his prospects of a political future sank like a stone.

It’s a compelling story, but “The Front Runner” doesn’t have nearly enough energy or excitement going for it. Hugh Jackman’s bottled-up turn as Hart is downright weird, the actor stiffly portraying the politician to such a degree that I laughed outloud when he earnestly attempts to calm down a worried reporter frightened by turbulence during their conversation in a plane. In fact, Hart’s “inner-struggle” is so inner that you never have any idea what made him tick beyond the usual campaign platitudes – leaving Reitman’s movie forever skimming the surface and scoring easy points about “the bad media” corrupting “the good media”, lowering our collective bar for political conversation and making politicians’ private lives public (and all the consequences that entailed forever after). The trouble is that the movie never reaches beyond the obvious, coming across as more pretentious than realistic with a disappointing central performance leaving a major void.

Sony’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) includes a Digital HD copy, deleted scenes, a featurette, and Reitman’s commentary.

THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE Blu-Ray (85 mins., 2018, R; Sony): An exorcism intended to cleanse the soul of a young woman (Kirby Johnson) goes horribly wrong, sending the still-tormented spirit to raise hell in the deceased girl’s body at a morgue months later. There, a former cop turned morgue assistant (Shay Mitchell) finds herself battling the corpse of the undead, as well as her own PTSD demons.

“The Possession of Hannah Grace” is pretty much standard horror fare with a dreary plot line concocted by writer Brian Sieve and director Diederik van Roojen. This Screen Gems release offers scant surprises, serving up clichés and thinly-developed characters, before wrapping it up with a “twist!” ending you can see coming miles away. Sony’s Blu-Ray includes a deleted scene, three featurettes, a Movies Anywhere digital copy, 1080p (2.39) transfer and eerie 5.1 DTS MA audio.

ROBIN HOOD 4K UHD Combo Pack (**, 116 mins., 2018, PG-13; Lionsgate): Anachronistic mishmash serves up yet another rendition of the oft-told legend, here with Taron Egerton parading around as Robin of Loxley to Ben Mendelsohn’s Sheriff of Nottingham. Yet, despite the lack of period flair, the story is still well-worn: after being presumed dead in the Crusades, Robin returns to his home as a castoff, with Maid Marian (Eve Hewson) having moved on and only Little John (Jamie Foxx) urging Robin to do his usual ransacking-of-the-rich and combat Nottingham’s political corruption in secret – at least until the Merry Men are assembled in a movie that feels more like any number of comic-book “origin movies” than most Robin Hood adventures.

Leonardo DiCaprio produced this slick and not unwatchable Summit/Lionsgate release, which under the direction of Otto Bathurst rams home that “this is the story you don’t know!” over and over in a prologue meant to excuse the film’s visual style and lack of authentic period atmosphere. However, for this approach to work there needed to be some consistency applied to its world-building – or at least a specific angle, like Brian Helgeland’s rock-song filled medieval favorite “A Knight’s Tale” – but here, the pseudo-contemporary feel just makes “Robin Hood” feel lazy. What’s more, the bland cinematography, robo-scoring and drab production design are so reminiscent of every other major studio tentpole made these days that there are no surprises to be found – right down to the ending that’s just a set-up for a series of future sequels we’ll thankfully never see.

An unsurprising box-office bust, “Robin Hood” debuts on 4K UHD this week from Lionsgate. With the film’s cinematography being so drab and lifeless, HDR and Dolby Vision can only bring the visuals to life every now and then. The Dolby Atmos mix is throbbing and active, with deleted scenes, outtakes, and a seven-part documentary offered on the supplemental side; a Blu-Ray and Digital HD copy round out the release.

THE VANISHING Blu-Ray (107 mins., 2019, R; Lionsgate): Not to be confused with the George Sluzier “Vanishing”s is this downbeat, slow-moving character drama concerning three Scottish lightkeepers (Gerard Butler, Peter Mullan and Connor Swindells) who come across a rowboat with a gold chest that they soon wish they hadn’t. Kristoffer Nyholm helmed this well-acted but sad little picture, atmospherically lensed on-location but hardly worth the pay off. Known as “The Keepers” during production, Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray offers a Making Of, Digital HD copy, 1080p (2.40) transfer, and 5.1 DTS MA sound.

BEN IS BACK Blu-Ray (103 mins., 2018, R; Lionsgate): Excellent performances from Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges provide the incentive to check out Peter Hedges’ (Lucas’ father) uneven drama about a mother who has to tend to her son, who returns for Christmas harboring a deep secret which won’t entirely let him go. “Ben Is Back” is strongly performed yet what begins as a story about addiction turns into something else midway through, resulting in a disappointing conclusion. Still worthwhile viewing because of Roberts and Hedges’ performances, “Ben Is Back” comes to Blu-Ray March 5th from Lionsgate featuring Peter Hedges’ commentary, a photo gallery, trailers, 1080p (2.35) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, DVD and Digital HD copy.

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS 4K UHD (**½, 124 mins., 2018, R; Universal): The casting’s right – Saoirse Ronan in the title role and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I – so what happened with the 2018 version of “Mary, Queen of Scots”? Plenty as it turns out, starting with a Beau Willimon script light on certain historical details (glossing over them or altering them to suit the needs of the film) and Josie Rourke’s slack direction, which scarcely brings more enthusiasm to the picture than you’d see in a standard British TV movie. Ronan and Robbie are both game but interested viewers would do far better to check out the Vanessa Redgrave/Glenda Jackson version instead.

Universal’s Blu-Ray of “Mary Queen of Scots” debuts on February 26th featuring commentary with Rourke and composer Max Richter, three featurettes, a 1080p (2.40) transfer, Dolby Atmos audio and a Digital HD copy. The 4K UHD combo pack adds on Dolby Vision and a comparatively vibrant HDR enhanced transfer that usurps the Blu-Ray, though the film’s drab visuals at times play against the enhancements one comes to associate with the new format.

INSTANT FAMILY Blu-Ray Combo Pack (***, 118 mins., 2018, PG-13; Paramount): Hard-to-dislike, heartwarming family comedy from director Sean Anders is able to take the subject of foster parenting and fashion it into a believable and amiable studio vehicle for stars Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne. As a childless couple who opt to foster to start a family, Wahlberg and Byrne have solid chemistry together, jumping headfirst into taking in three siblings with a tragic past – the oldest of whom (strongly played by Isabela Moner) has been struggling for some time. Anders, drawing from his own family experiences, keeps the accent on the upbeat but manages to deftly dive into the topic while generating a lot of honest laughs. Paramount’s Blu-Ray combo pack includes deleted scenes, a gag reel, featurettes, a 1080p transfer and 7.1 DTS MA sound along with a Digital HD copy.

DEATH IN VENICE Blu-Ray (131 mins., 1971, R; Criterion): Luchino Visconti’s highly acclaimed 1971 film adapts Thomas Mann’s novella of the same name, providing Dirk Bogarde a stellar late-career turn as a burned-out composer who travels to Venice following a concert that goes wrong. He soon develops a fixation on a Polish boy (Bjorn Andresen) who becomes the object of his obsession in a rumination on life, love and, eventually, death, exemplified by a cholera outbreak threatening the city and a tragic ending for its lead character. Visconti’s widescreen visuals and Mahler-dominated soundtrack make for a strikingly visceral picture presented on Blu-Ray by Criterion in a new 4K restoration with uncompressed mono sound. Extras include a 2008 documentary on the film, a 1970 short by Visconti on the casting of the Tadzio character, a new program with scholar Stefano Albertini, a 2006 interview with costume designer Pietro Tosi, a 1990 program about music in Visconti’s films, a 1971 interview with the director and a 1970 short documentary on the production of the film.


 

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Shout! New Releases

LEGALLY BLONDE Collection – “Legally Blonde” (**½, 96 mins., 2001, PG-13) and “Legally Blonde 2 – Red White & Blonde” (**, 95 mins., 2003, PG-13; Shout! Factory): Reese Witherspoon valiantly holds this bubbly but simplistic “Clueless” variant together, as a SoCal fraternity girl who improbably decides to follow her stuffed-shirt boyfriend to Harvard Law School to better prove her love for him. And, of course, despite strict teachers (Victor Garber, Holland Taylor) and obnoxious classmates (Selma Blair), somehow, some way, Witherspoon’s Elle Woods just manages to prove to everyone, and herself, that she’s not quite the airhead she appears to be (something we’ve all known since the first ten minutes, of course).

This slice of escapism from the summer of ’01 is agreeably breezy and light, but the script (by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, who penned the superior “Ten Things I Hate About You”) hammers you over the head with one-dimensional stereotypes that ultimately give the movie a somewhat sour taste. Witherspoon’s romance with Luke Wilson — one of Harvard’s only nice guys — is given noticeably short-shrift, while the last third turns into a warmed-over rehash of “My Cousin Vinny” and a seemingly dozen other, funnier courtroom comedies. It’s all wrapped up with a “been there, done that” feeling further accentuated by Robert Luketic’s bland direction.

What holds the movie together is Witherspoon, who keeps an under-developed ship afloat that ultimately doesn’t produce as many laughs as its premise promises.

Nevertheless a big hit for MGM, a sequel went quickly into production – “Legally Blonde 2: Red White & Blonde” – for release in 2003. This just-for-the-money follow-up sends Elle to Washington to work for congresswoman Sally Field, on behalf of her dog Bruiser who — okay, let’s face it, this movie is just an excuse to rehash the entire plot of the first “Legally Blonde,” except that it’s Capitol Hill and not Harvard, and there’s a whole new gang of sour pusses for Elle to give the makeover treatment.

Witherspoon again gives it her all, as you might expect, but the Kate Kondell script is so hackneyed that none of the movie works — especially not the protracted second half, where laughs give way to tedious (and outrageously, unintentionally funny) speeches. A few stars from the first movie appear in support (including Luke Wilson and Jennifer Coolidge), but despite the addition of Field and Bob Newhart to the cast, there’s little to talk about in “Red, White and Blonde.”

Shout! Factory’s double-disc Blu-Ray collection of the two films (soon to be followed by a third installment) offers DTS MA 5.1 sound and a new 4K scan of the original (1.85). A fresh interview with actress Jessica Caulfiel highlights the extras with commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reels, and trailers carried over from prior MGM releases.

Iain Softley’s BACKBEAT (100 mins., 1994, R) earned a small following for its heavily-fictionalized account of Stuart Sutcliffe – the would-be “Fifth Beatle” who performs with the band in a pre-stardom German tour. Sutcliffe, though, finds himself being torn between the music, his relationship with John Lennon (Ian Hart) and his new girlfriend (Sheryl Lee), all before his tragic end. “Backbeat” makes its Blu-Ray debut this week from Shout sporting a respectable Universal (1.85) AVC encoded catalog master with 5.1 DTS MA sound and numerous extras culled from prior releases: a conversation with the real Astrid Kirchherr, deleted scenes, interviews with Softley and Hart, commentary with the duo and Stephen Dorff, a TV featurette and casting session. Recommended for fans.

Also Upcoming From Shout! Factory: Anime fans should be compelled by the unusual, sensitively told LIZ AND THE BLUE BIRD (90 mins., 2018), a production from Naoko Yamada that profiles the lifelong bond between two girls, Mizore and Nozomi, who face high school graduation and the pressure of performing an oboe/flute duet together from distinctly different perspectives. Shout’s Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack includes a 1080p (1.85) transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound in either Japanese or English…Also available March 5th from Shout is WHEN CALLS THE HEART: THE GREATEST BLESSING (84 mins., 2018), the high-rated recent Christmas episode from the massively popular Hallmark Channel series. This holiday-themed feature finds a group of orphans stranded and a pregnant Elizabeth ready to have her baby in a family-friendly show that continues to score big ratings. Shout’s DVD of the December broadcast special includes a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 sound.

On the Scream Factory side, the 2003 version of WILLARD (100 mins., PG-13) is new this week from Shout. Here, Crispin Glover takes over the reigns as the unstable guy who strikes up a relationship with a particular rodent and uses him – and his friends – to take revenge on the folks (namely, his boss, played by R. Lee Ermey) who just doesn’t understand him. “X-Files” vet Glen Morgan reworked the original Bruce Davison ‘70s cult favorite (released, along with sequel “Ben,” by Shout on Blu-Ray in 2017) for this New Line Cinema release – a box-office dud – sporting an agreeably demented Glover turn and a few effective jolts, while being far less satisfying than its predecessor on an emotional level.

Shout’s Blu-Ray offers a new 2K (2.35) scan, two exclusive commentaries from the filmmakers (plus a third featuring Glover carried over from the earlier DVD), and a wealth of all-new goodies. These include a 73-minute retrospective documentary on the film, an interview with cinematographer Robet McLachlan and behind-the-scenes footage of the rats at work. Previously released documentaries, 12 deleted scenes, Glover’s music video cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘70s hit single “Ben,” the trailer and TV spots round out the disc, capped with 5.1 DTS MA sound sporting a fine Shirley Walker score.

Shout also has some great, vintage Universal horrors due out over the next few months, and leads things off with THE MOLE PEOPLE (78 mins., 1956) on Blu-Ray next week. This isn’t a classic film but a still-fun Saturday Matinee fantasy starring John Agar, Beaver’s Dad — Hugh Beaumont — and Nestor Paiva as archeologists who stumble upon a subterranean kingdom where albino humanoids exploit mutant mole men as their slaves. Released on DVD and laserdisc in box-set anthologies, this B-grade Universal adventure will be most appreciated by genre fans of the era thanks to its brisk pace and an old-fashioned score from Heinz Roemheld, Hans Slater and Herman Stein. Shout’s Blu-Ray boasts a new documentary on the film, commentary with Tom Weaver and David Schecter, the Mystery Science Theater episode (in standard def), still galleries, the trailer, and selectable 1.85 and 2:1 aspect ratios in the dual-layer release.

Also New From Scream Factory: Dominic Sena’s 1993 serial killer road trip KALIFORNIA (**½, 117/118 mins., Unrated/R) makes its Shout! debut on March 5th. The performances of Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis put this Polygram production over the top, with the duo essaying a pair of killers who fascinate a pair of writers (David Duchovny, Michelle Forbes) they soon wish they hadn’t met on a road trip. Stylishly shot by Bojan Bazelli, “Kalifornia” was previously released by MGM in its unrated form on Blu-Ray – this Shout Select release bows the movie’s R-rated theatrical version in HD for the first time (2.35) along with 5.1/2.0 DTS MA soundtracks, a new interview with Sena, the original EPK (featurette, interviews, etc.) and trailers…Charlie Plummer plays a young man who suspects his squeaky-clean community leader father (Dylan McDermott) may be THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER (109 mins. 2018, Not Rated) in Duncan Skiles’ tense but slow-burning serial killer exercise, one which starts well but shifts gears an hour in – and none too successfully. Shout brings the IFC Midnight title to Blu-Ray on March 5th featuring a 1080p (1.78) AVC encoded transfer, 5.1/2.0 sound, a Making Of featurette and the trailer.


Quick Takes

PBS New Releases: Three new Nova specials have been recently released on DVD by PBS. THAI CAVE RESCUE (60 mins.) does a superb job recounting the rescue of a dozen soccer-playing Thai boys and their coach from a cave they were exploring in northern Thailand. The race against time to save them makes for a gripping documentary on their survival, and the story of the rescuers who came to their aid – though not without sacrifice. LAST B-24 (60 mins.) is even more compelling for history buffs – a look at the 2017 salvage of a B-24 Liberator bomber, and its three-man crew, which sank off the Croatian coast in 1944. Interviews with the archaeologists and rescue team form this especially fascinating program. Finally,OPERATION BRIDGE RESCUE (60 mins.) profiles two salvage operations – one of the Old Blenheim Bridge in New York, built in 1855 and ravaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011, and another for Chinese bridges that are thousands of years old as opposed to hundreds. All three Nova DVDs are available with widescreen 16:9 transfers and stereo soundtracks this month from PBS.

Well Go New Releases: Donnie Yen’s latestICEMAN: THE TIME TRAVELER (88 mins., 2018), is a short and sweet action-fantasy fans of the HK star should enjoy. Yen plays a Ming Dynasty palace guard who becomes frozen in time and is thawed out in the present day, searching for the Golden Wheel of Time that’s the only way to correct the past. Well Go’s Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack offers a 1080p transfer, DTS MA sound, trailers, and both Cantonese audio and the option of an English dubbed track…Out this week is a period zombie adventure, RAMPANT (122 mins., 2018), which finds creatures named Night Demons overrunning ancient Korea. The mix of period intrigue with zombie adventure makes for a visually interesting affair, with Well Go’s Blu-Ray/DVD also including a Making Of, behind the scenes segment, trailers, a 1080p transfer and 5.1 DTS MA Korean audio with English subtitles. Another Korean import, BURNING (148 mins., 2018), joins Well Go’s library next week. This acclaimed, contemporary dramatic piece from director Lee Chang-Dong follows a troubled young man whose life is altered when a young woman and the man she returns from a trip with enter his sphere. A featurette, trailers, 1080p transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound (Korean with English subtitles) comprise the package.

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? DVD (106 mins., 2018, R; Fox): Melissa McCarthy tried to break out of her comedy cycle with this fairly well-reviewed, yet barely-seen, “indie” film about a celebrity biographer named Lee Israel, who succumbs to forgery and theft by faking, then outright stealing, letters from famous people. Marielle Heller’s film offers capable performances from McCarthy and Richard E. Grant, who gets wrapped up in her scheme, all of it based on a true story. Surprisingly eschewing a Blu-Ray release, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” is only on DVD this week from Fox featuring deleted scenes, featurettes, a 16:9 transfer, 5.1 sound, and commentary from Heller and McCarthy.

TOP WING: EGGCELLENT MISSIONS DVD (94 mins., 2017-18; Nickelodeon/Paramount): Eight episodes from the kid-favorite Nickelodeon series hatch on DVD March 5th. Included episodes: Top Wing’s Eggcellent Rescue, Chicks on the Loose, Great Flash Wing Rescue, Cadet For a Day, Beaver Dam Rescue, Rod’s Beary Brave Save, Rod Cockadoodle Didn’t and Rooster Brewster, all in 16:9 transfers and with 5.1 stereo sound.

THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK DVD (89 mins., 2018; RLJ Entertainment): When an ex-cop realizes a mass shooting carried out at a police funeral is the work of a fellow militia member, he interrogates the potential culprits in a mystery-thriller from writer-director Henry Dunham. James Badge Dale stars in this watchable character-driven piece on DVD March 5th from RLJ with a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

Magnolia New Release: Michael Dweck’s documentary THE LAST RACE (75 mins., 2019) should appeal to all auto-racing fans as it paints a portrait of a long-running Long Island stock car race and its elderly owners, trying to keep the tradition going in spite of today’s real estate and socio-economic climate. Magnolia’s DVD, out this week, includes a 16:9 transfer, additional interviews, the trailer, and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

NEXT TIME: GREEN BOOK on 4K. 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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March 24
Alberto Colombo died (1954)
Alex North wins an Honorary Oscar, “in recognition of his brilliant artistry in the creation of memorable music for a host of distinguished motion pictures;” John Barry wins his fourth Oscar, for the Out of Africa score (1986)
Arthur B. Rubnstein begins recording his score for WarGames (1983)
Brian Easdale wins his only Oscar, for The Red Shoes score (1949)
Fred Steiner's score for the Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" is recorded (1967)
Gabriel Yared wins the Dramatic Score Oscar for The English Patient; Rachel Portman wins the second Comedy or Musical Score Oscar, for Emma (1997)
Ira Newborn begins recording his score for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
John Barry begins recording his score for The Deep (1977)
John Barry wins his fifth and final Oscar, for the Dances With Wolves score; Stephen Sondheim wins his first Oscar, for the song
Michael Masser born (1941)
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