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After turning out a number of teen movie classics in the 1980s, John Hughes essentially bid adieu to the genre with the 1991 comedy CAREER OPPORTUNITIES (83 mins., PG-13; Kino Lorber). This Universal release was mostly disposed of by the studio, opening in March 1991 after months of delays, and generating scant box-office – especially compared to the juggernaut of Hughes’ production “Home Alone,” which was still playing in theaters at the time. While Hughes himself was about to continue down a path of increasingly family-friendly big-screen fare, “Career Opportunities” is nevertheless worth seeking out as an attractively lensed widescreen effort that features the especially attractive Jennifer Connelly at the height of her on-screen appeal.
Hughes produced and penned this original script, which is assembled out of bits and pieces from other, better films of his. The slender 83-minute feature focuses on the relationship between two young high school grads – the fast-talking BS-artist Jim Dodge (Frank Whaley) and uber-popular town beauty Josie McClellan (Connelly) – who become acquainted at the local Target one night after hours. He’s just trying to hold down a steady job as the “night clean up boy” – she’s trying to get away from the town and her rich father. A few montages of them rummaging through Target (including a nice shot of soundtrack cassette tapes circa ’89, when the movie was filmed) and a couple of incisive conversations lead to them developing an improbable bond – one that gets challenged when a pair of robber brothers (played by actual siblings Durmot and Kieran Mulroney) break in.
Yes, it’s “The Breakfast Club” meets “Home Alone” – sort of – though the presence of the robbers is relegated to the final third – as a crude means of providing a dramatic resolution to the story – and apparently was further diminished in the editing room before release. Most of “Career Opportunities” deals with the very Hughesian connection between its two leads, and both Whaley and Connelly do a nice job in those scenes conveying believable dialogue that makes both characters appealing – at least in the short time they spend together. Alas, due to the film’s brevity and lack of overall narrative development, first-time feature director Bryan Gordon (who would go on to a long career in TV) isn’t able to make much of an impression with the finished product – one that Hughes reportedly was unhappy with, right down to him allegedly asking to have his credit removed from.
Despite its obvious shortcomings, “Career Opportunities” is still a likeable little film that’s long resided on many a Hughes or Connelly buff’s Blu-Ray wish list – and while it’s taken years, fans can finally cross the movie off the roster of titles still “absent-in-HD.” Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray is sourced from a satisfying Universal master (2.35. 2.0 DTS MA) that looks vivid in terms of color and grain. The occasionally harsh soundtrack is a little less satisfying, plagued just a bit by what seems like apparent volume normalization (this is inherent in the master, and has nothing to do with Kino Lorber’s presentation). One element that does not help the film is Thomas Newman’s score, which is often noisy and offers little support to the material. Extras include the 1990 theatrical trailer (which notably doesn’t mention the yet-to-be-released “Home Alone”), which houses numerous bits not used in the film, plus a new commentary by Chicago film festival programmer Erik Childress, who astutely dissects the picture’s strengths and weaknesses plus Hughes’ problems with the picture (and the studio as well).
A much different film that’s likewise been mentioned on Blu-Ray wish lists over the years is also new to disc: TRACKDOWN (98 mins., 1976, R), a nasty thriller that gives us Jim Mitchum – one of Robert’s several sons to engage in a short-lived acting career – as a Montana rancher who heads to L.A. after his younger sister (Karen Lamm) runs away from home. Unfortunately for Lamm’s character, she no sooner gets off the bus than has her bags stolen, falls for a Latino street kid (Erik Estrada), gets sold into human trafficking, falls in with a pimp (Anne Archer!) and becomes a hooker. And that’s just the first half hour!
Mitchum exhibits almost zero charisma but his flat line readings are part of the entertainment – especially when he’s attacked by a trio of black transvestites – in this United Artists release, which plays like a drive-in movie from earlier in the decade. It helps that he’s assisted by an overly qualified supporting cast with Archer, Estrada and Cathy Lee Crosby giving this slice of B-grade exploitation a touch of class. Richard T. Heffron (“Futureworld,” “V: The Final Battle”) also spices up the sordidness with a very strong action finale – including a nifty elevator shaft shootout and desert-set climax – despite the movie’s overall sluggish pacing. On the downside, the heavy amount of female violence in this film (Lamm’s character is robbed, raped, and then basically beaten to death) leaves a sourness that curtails its overall “fun factor.”
Making its Blu-Ray debut in an HD master (1.78) from the original interpositive (which is a little battered and worn), “Trackdown”’s crisp presentation should satisfy any ’70s B-movie fan. Extras in the Scorpion Releasing effort include a couple of radio spots and trailers (read below for additional Scorpion titles Kino is distributing this month).
Mae West Collection on Blu-Ray
Coming June 29th from Kino Lorber are no fewer than 9 Mae West classics mostly produced during her heyday at Paramount, all debuting in high-definition on Blu-Ray for the first time.
Though typically not regarded as a classic, NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (73 mins., 1932) served its purpose for West’s career as it propelled her into instant stardom. Playing the ex-girlfriend of a former thug (George Raft) trying to go straight, West lit up the screen and blew past higher-billed stars Raft, Constance Cummings and Wynne Gibson in director Archie Mayo’s pre-Code drama, presented here in 1.37 B&W with a commentary from Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson plus the trailer.
West’s next film was a true star vehicle, regarded by most critics as her best film: SHE DONE HIM WRONG (66 mins., 1933), a movie that offered West repeating a stage role she created and essayed on Broadway. West plays opposite a terrific cast including Noah Beery, Gilbert Roland and, most notably, Cary Grant in this 1890s-set story of a nightclub singer with no shortage of men fighting for her affections. The film was a big hit at the box-office, earning an Oscar nomination as well as keeping a then-struggling Paramount Pictures afloat. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray offers a Universal-licensed 1080p master (1.37) with extras including an archival intro from TCM’s Robert Osborne, cartoon “She Done Him Right,” trailers, and separate commentaries from David Del Valle and Kat Ellinger…Paramount would keep a good thing going, reuniting West with Grant in that same year’s I’M NO ANGEL (87 mins., 1933), another of the star’s biggest hits, with West also writing this comedy about a gold-digging carnival performer who takes a job as a lion tamer in order to elude prison. Samm Deighan provides a commentary here with Kino Lorber’s BD looking fine in its Universal-licensed 1080p (1.37) B&W master.
The implementation of Hollywood’s Production Code in 1934 would take a toll on West’s bawdy humor and on-screen antics, though her aplomb for innuendo and broad comedy would remain in a number of subsequent pictures – some bigger hits than others – that Kino Lorber is also bringing to Blu-Ray this month.
Her first “post-Code” effort is acclaimed as one of her best: BELLE OF THE NINETIES (73 mins., 1934), which benefits from a larger budget as Mae croons some of her tunes with the backing of Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. Samm Deghan here provides a commentary with the trailer on-hand in Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (1.37 B&W). West also penned the screenplay for her next feature, GOIN’ TO TOWN (71 mins., 1935), with the star essaying a saloon performer who becomes a rich widow with a ranch of her own. This western comedy premieres on Blu-Ray (1.37 B&W) with a commentary from Kat Ellinger and the trailer.
Raoul Walsh’s helming makes KLONDIKE ANNIE (80 mins., 1936) an enjoyable view, this Paramount release concerning a “kept” woman who heads to Alaska and assumes the identity of a nun before trying to preach her own form of religion in a zesty affair co-starring Victor McLaglen. A commentary from Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson backs this Kino Lorber Blu-Ray (1.37 B&W)…West would be partnered with another top director – Henry Hathaway – in GO WEST YOUNG MAN (79 mins., 1936), a screwball affair with West as an actress whose contract dictates she can’t marry for five years. Randolph Scott co-stars with West also having authored the screenplay. This 1936 Paramount release debuts on Blu-Ray (1.37 B&W) with a new commentary from Lee Gambin. West’s final film for Paramount, EVERY DAY’S A HOLIDAY (79 mins., 1937), is a Gay ’90s romp featuring West as a con artist who flees NYC, only to return and help the same cop who sent her away run for Mayor. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (1.37 B&W) includes a fresh commentary from Kat Ellinger.
After her Paramount contract lapsed, West headed to Universal where the studio was hoping to rekindle the same sparks Marlene Dietrich and Jimmy Stewart generated on “Destry Rides Again.” Their concept was pairing West with in-house star W.C. Fields and the result was MY LITTLE CHICKADEE (83 mins., 1940), a comedy that finds the duo as an improbable couple and Fields as the highly improbable new sheriff of a western town. Reportedly plagued by Fields’ drinking, this silly affair is worthwhile to catch both stars together (they’re each credited with the original script) even if it’s not top-tier comedy for either. Universal’s 1080p (1.37 B&W) master looks fine and is backed by another informative commentary by historians Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson.
Universal Catalog Comedies: Tamra Davis’ rap spoof CB4 (89 mins., 1993, R) offers a capable comic ensemble of Chris Rock, Allen Payne, Phil Hartman and Chris Elliott in the story of a group of rappers who shoot to fame before a documentary crew exposes that they’re not actually from “the streets.” Rock co-wrote this broadly played comedy with cameos from Halle Berry, Tommy Davidson and Shaq, and enough energy to overcome its scattershot laugh quotient. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (1.85) is out June 22nd featuring a new commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson plus a featurette with Davis and co-writer Nelson George…Davis also later helmed HALF BAKED (82 mins., 1997, R) at Universal: a funnier (if still uneven) affair that finds comedians Dave Chappelle, Jim Bruer and Harland Williams in a pot-laced spoof with an even larger quotient of cameos on tap (Steven Wright, Tommy Chong, Snoop Dogg, Jon Stewart, Bob Saget, Tracy Morgan, Janeane Garofalo and others). Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (1.85) includes Davis’ commentary, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, featurettes and the trailer.
TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT Blu-Ray (100 mins., 1981, PG): One of those ’80s sleepers that has essentially been forgotten over the decades, this is an agreeably performed comedy-drama starring “Airplane!”’s Robert Hays as an executive to returns to his blue-collar hometown to spruce up the local brewery – and clash with his assorted childhood friends who still work there.
Director Gus Trionkis’ Avco Embassy production met with mixed reviews but became a profitable success at the box-office – it offers a formulaic story but characters who are mostly believably drawn. These include Hays’ friends (David Keith, Tim Thomerson) and the girl (Barbara Hershey) he left behind; more comically rendered are the stuffy corporate types urging Hays to value profit over people, with Martin Mull’s “Special Appearance” being one of many similar roles he filled in this era, and Eddie Albert likewise playing a fuddy-duddy millionaire for the umpteenth time. Throw in Art Carney in a supporting turn and David Allan Coe’s popular title tune and you have the ingredients for an appealing picture that is seldom discussed these days, but worth a look in Kino Lorber’s new Blu-Ray. The MGM master (1.85, mono) is fine and extras include an image gallery and the trailer.
BODY SLAM Blu-Ray (89 mins., 1986, PG): ’80s wrestling fans may get a kick out of seeing stars Roddy Pipper and Captain Lou Albano doing their thing in this wan comedy from director Hal Needham. Reportedly besieged with production friction between Needham and the movie’s writer-producers, “Body Slam” never received a wide theatrical release as a result, though it’s hard to envision this Hemdale production – originally slated to be released by the short-lived DEG studio – would’ve mustered much box-office in any environment. Nevertheless, Dirk Benedict’s performance as a downtrodden promoter who gets wrapped up in the careers of two low-tier wrestlers is energetic enough, and there are appearances from an eclectic ensemble including Tanya Roberts, Barry Gordon, John Astin, Charles Nelson Reilly and Billy Barty. Kino Lorber’s attractive 1080p (1.85, 2.0 DTS MA stereo) AVC encode hails from a 2K scan of the interpositive with two trailers and a brief new interview with Gordon discussing the shoot.
FOOL FOR LOVE Blu-Ray (108 mins., 1985, R): The credit “The Cannon Group, Inc. Presents a Golan-Globus Production of a Robert Altman Film” may not be something that viewers only familiar with the studio’s “Breakin’” and Sho Kosugi Ninja films think even exists – yet indeed it does, in the form of this 1985 adaptation of Sam Shepard’s stage play. Scripted by Shepard, who also stars, “Fool For Love” is an unsatisfying “opening up” of its source material, with Altman’s widescreen lensing and occasional “drifting” off the characters resulting in a weird movie-going experience as bickering on-again, off-again couple Shepard and Kim Basinger attempt one more time to rekindle their unhealthy domestic drama in the “new West.” Randy Quaid and Harry Dean Stanton also appear in a film that didn’t generate the critical respect Cannon was hoping for, but you can’t say they didn’t try. Kino Lorber and Scorpion Releasing’s Blu-Ray (2.35, 2.0 DTS MA) features a healthy stereo soundtrack that’s superbly engineered along with a somewhat “soft” looking MGM catalog transfer. Extras include the trailer and an Altman featurette, presumably produced at the time of the movie’s DVD debut.
British Comedy Favorites: Last month I noted Belinda Lee’s performance in the not-bad Italian Biblical import “Messalina,” and this week Kino Lorber brings us Lee’s appearance in WHO DONE IT (83 mins., 1956), an Ealing Studios concoction about an ice rink attendant who blunders his way into a plot involving a machine that could control the world’s weather. No, it’s not “Superman III” – it’s British comedy great Benny Hill’s one and only starring vehicle, new to Blu-Ray (1.37 B&W) from Kino Lorber with a 4K restoration, a 1969 Hill short (“The Waiters”), trailers, and a commentary from Bryan Reesman. This one is sillier and less raunchy than Hill’s later TV show, which I was forced to immediately shut off once it came on after “The Muppet Show” while I was growing up…Alastair Sim’s formidable comedic talents are on full display in THE GREEN MAN (80 mins., 1956), a short but amusing feature from the prolific filmmaking tandem of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat. The duo produced and wrote this adaptation of their own play, starring Sim as a watchmaker who also holds a part-time job as a paid assassin! George Cole and Terry-Thomas also star in this “very British” mid ’50s black comedy also here restored in a great looking 4K transfer (1.37 B&W) from the original camera negative. A new commentary from historian David Del Valle lends insight into the production and British filmmaking of the era.
THE RAILWAY CHILDREN Blu-Ray (109 mins., 1970, G; Kino Lorber): One of England’s most beloved “family films” at last debuts on Blu-Ray in the U.S. Writer-director Lionel Jeffries’ adaptation of E. Nesbit’s book follows a young girl (Jenny Agutter) in turn of the century London who, along with her (newly) poverty-stricken mother and siblings, moves to a country home along a railroad line after their father is suddenly arrested. Life lessons, relationships and a heart-tugging ending all factor into this classic, which was last seen in the U.S. in an Anchor Bay DVD. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (1.66) hails from Studio Canal’s relatively recent restoration and offers a strongly detailed transfer with mono sound; extras include a new commentary from historian Paul Anthony Nelson and the trailer.
THE BLUE LAMP Blu-Ray (85 mins., 1950): A groundbreaking British police drama, “The Blue Lamp” chronicles a group of “Bobbies” via a series of episodic encounters that laid the foundation for a whole cinematic genre to follow. Among the cast is Dirk Bogarde as a thug who murders a veteran cop played by Jack Warner, whose character served as a mentor to a young officer (Jimmy Hanley). Don’t feel too bad for Warner though – he brought his character back from the dead and reprised the role in the British TV series “Dixon of Dock Green” for over 20 years! That show’s 1955-76 run is remarkable, but so is this tightly constructed film shot at Ealing Studios under the direction of Basil Dearden. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (1.37 B&W) includes commentary by Bryan Reesman; a “partial” commentary with writer Jan Read and Charles Barr; a locations featurette with historian Richard Dacre; and a BBC Radio 3 “The Essay: British Cinema of the 40s” audio segment on the film.
LE MAGNIFIQUE Blu-Ray (94 mins., 1973): Being able to watch Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jacqueline Bisset in their prime is reason enough to check out this 1973 French spy spoof, released domestically in a dubbed version retitled “The Man From Acapulco.” Philippe De Broca’s comedy offers Belmondo as a struggling author trying to crank out his latest book when he “becomes” the suave hero of his novels, Bob Saint-Clair. He also envisions his student neighbor (Bisset) to be his assistant and his publisher, naturally, the villain of a Bond-ian adventure that’s very broadly played for laughs, especially in its early going. Things get a little uncomfortable and less satisfying in its leaden second half, but before then, this is an enjoyable slice of meta-silliness new on Blu-Ray (1.66) with Kino Lorber offering both English subtitles and the dubbed English audio track from the time. An enjoyable commentary from Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson is also worthwhile.
Scorpion New Releases: Filmmaker Larry Peerce’s career may have hit its commercial apex with conventional studio films like “The Other Side of the Mountain,” but it began with a number of fascinating ’60s works that were ahead of their time. Case in point is ONE POTATO, TWO POTATO (83 mins., 1964), a portrait of a Midwestern interracial marriage between divorcee Barbara Barrie and a black man (Bernie Hamilton) who works at the same factory. Problems ensue from a number of perspectives, most particularly once Barrie’s ex-husband (Richard Mulligan) demands custody of their daughter. This film is unadorned with melodrama and hits right at the heart of the issue, with credit going out to Peerce, writers Raphael Hayes and Orville Hampton, cinematographer Andrew Laszlo and Barrie, Hamilton and Mulligan, none of whom would do greater dramatic work than here. Kino Lorber’s Studio Canal-licensed Blu-Ray boasts a 4K scan of the original camera negative (1.66 B&W) with a conversation with Peerce and commentary from critic Sergio Mims on the supplemental side…It’s not exactly “Duel,” but Valerie Harper manages to generate some sympathy as an Arizona woman who, while rushing to get to her hospitalized son in Denver, witnesses a cop’s murder – leading to her being stalked by an unseen motorist in NIGHT TERROR (73 mins., 1977). This is a standard TV movie from the era that lacks the punch of Steven Spielberg’s earlier small-screen chiller, with veteran TV helmer E.W. Swackhamer unable to generate much suspense. Still, the production might hold some entertainment value for nostalgia buffs, with Scorpion and Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray boasting a MGM licensed 1080p (1.33) transfer of the Charles Fries production, with commentary from historians Amanda Reyes and Daniel Budnik included in the June 29th release.
Code Red New Releases: Kicking off a number of new titles from Code Red this month is Jackie Kong’s nutty zero-budget horror effort THE BEING (83 mins., 1983, R), a drive-in shlocker set in a small Idaho town where a creature runs amok. Kong’s film is energetic and outrageous with loads of slimy make-up effects, plus a slumming cast that manages to mostly keep a straight face – Martin Landau, Jose Ferrer, Dorothy Malone and Ruth Buzzi among them. For hardcore horror buffs with a penchant for trashy ’80s fare, “The Being” might be worth a look. Code Red’s Blu-Ray hails from a 2K scan of original vault elements (1.78) that show their age; extras include commentaries with Kong and co-star Johnny Dark plus trailers…A group of unknowns head into the Gold Spike Mine looking for long-lost treasure, only to find out a dormant monster is about to cut loose in the low-budget independent shocker THE STRANGENESS (92 mins., 1980, Not Rated), a film from “David Michael Hillman,” aka Melanie Anne Phillips, that’s dimly shot and staged, but does offer some stop-motion animation effects. Code Red’s Blu-Ray is out June 22nd featuring an HD remaster (1.78) and extras including commentary with Phillips and the cast; on-camera interviews with Phillips and actor/producers Chris Huntley and Mark Sawicki; six shorts from that duo; and an extensive still gallery.
Giallo terrors are present in Lamberto Bava’s DELIRIUM (94 mins., 1987, Not Rated), starring the lovely Serena Grandi as a centerfold model being stalked by a killer who’s knocking off her competition. George Eastman, Daria Nicolodi and Capucine co-star in this late-era Italian genre exercise, scored by Simon Boswell and presented here in a 2016 Code Red color-corrected HD master (1.78). Extras include interviews with Bava, Eastman and other crew; plus archival interviews with the duo and other members of the cast…Not to be confused with Wes Craven’s horror hit of the same name, Byron Quisenberry’s SCREAM (82 mins., 1981, R) serves up standard issue slasher fare when a group of kids come upon a deserted town and set up camp after rafting – only to find themselves being stalked by some kind of unforeseen force. Woody Strode chips in an appearance in this ho-hum low-budget chiller, which was shot in 1981 but shelved until its eventual release in 1986 (!). Code Red’s Blu-Ray includes a 2K scan (1.78) from the original negatives; commentary from writer/director Quisenberry; the trailer; and an option to watch the film in Maria Kanellis’ “B Movie Mayhem Mode”…Finally, Mikel Angel and Don Jones bring horror fans a slice of widescreen mayhem with THE LOVE BUTCHER (85 mins., 1975, R), staring Erik Stern as a gardener who, when not pruning bushes, dons a toupee and uses his tools as murder weapons! This weird portrait of schizophrenic suspense is fresh on Blu-Ray this month from Code Red, the Blu-Ray featuring an anamorphic (2.35) transfer and commentary from director Jones, moderated by “R.A. The Rugged Man.”
New From Well Go USA: “The Sinking of the World’s Largest Battleship” comprises the plot of the 2019 Toho production THE GREAT WAR OF ARMCHIMEDES (130 mins., 2019), an elaborate production set before WWII, where certain factions of the Japanese military opposed the construction of the “supership” Yamamoto. The pre-war mood of the nation is captured in an interesting character-driven piece, imported by Well Go USA and available on Blu-Ray June 15th. Well Go’s Blu-Ray includes a 1080p transfer plus Japanese (English subtitled) 5.1 DTS MA audio or an English dubbed track…Now available is the Hi-Yah! Original UNDERCOVER PUNCH & GUN (91 mins., 2020), an MMA-spiced thriller about an undercover cop whose attempts at taking down a drug ring are thwarted when another agency comes in and kills off the gang’s leader. Philip Ng stars and also choreographed the fight sequences for this high-octane HK import, on Blu-Ray from Well Go USA featuring a 1080p transfer and both Mandarin and English dub DTS MA tracks.
THE PAPER TIGERS Blu-Ray (111 mins., 2020, PG-13; Well Go USA): Alain Uy, Ron Yuan and Mykel Shannon Jenkins play former childhood buddies who reunite 25 years after hanging out with one another to uncover what happened to their murdered master. Tran Quoc Bad’s affable film is filled with laughs as the middle-aged former kung fu friends try to defend his honor while getting into shape for a battle they’re totally unprepared for. Well Go’s Blu-Ray (1080p, 5.1 DTS MA) offers deleted scenes, bloopers, a featurette and the trailer, and streets this week.
Coming June 29th from Well Go is Eoin Macken's film HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN (97 mins., 2019, Not Rated), an adaptation of Rob Doyle's film focusing on the relationship between three disaffected Dublin teenagers who fall back on booze, drugs and general debauchery after graduation, all before a tragedy sends them off to cope with subsequent growing up on their own terms. Dean-Charles Chapman, Finn Cole, Conleth Hill and Anya Taylor-Joy star with Well Go's Blu-Ray (1080p, DTS MA) available next week.
VOYAGERS Blu-Ray (108 mins., 2021, PG-13; Lionsgate): Neil Burger (“The Illusionist”) wrote and directed this intriguing if ultimately disappointing story of young astronauts (Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp, Fionn Whitehead among them) who are sent out on a mission to populate a new planet over the span of a decade. Though it’s sold like a typical Lionsgate “young adult” offering, this is a cut above that type of material as Burger invests the material with a mix of familiar narrative elements, at times nearly veering into “Lord of the Flies in Space.” Still, the end result never satisfies in spite of some effective moments. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD) is out this week sporting a Digital HD copy, DVD and a number of behind the scenes featurettes.
FLASHBACK Blu-Ray (98 mins., 2021, R; Lionsgate): Dylan O’Brien from “The Maze Runner” stars as a normal guy living an ordinary existence until he begins to have visions of a high school classmate (Maika Monroe) who mysteriously vanished years before. Once he does, he traces back to a drug he and his fellow classmates consumed at the time, and eventually figures out the truth about her disappearance is buried in his memories. Christopher McBride wrote and directed this thriller, on Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) from Lionsgate featuring deleted scenes, McBride’s commentary, the trailer, and a Digital HD copy…New on DVD from Lionsgate is Aziz Tazi’s NIGHT WALK (100 mins., 2021, R), a thriller starring Sean Stone as an American who’s imprisoned after his girlfriend is murdered in the Middle East, with Stone’s character framed for the crime. He attempts to break out of prison once he uncovers a conspiracy in this independent offering co-starring Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts and Richard Tyson. Lionsgate’s DVD (2.39, 5.1) is atypically heavy with extras, including deleted scenes, commentary from Tazi, a featurette and the trailer.
Also New From Lionsgate this month is the wacky animated sequel ROCK DOG 2: ROCK AROUND THE WORLD (90 mins., 2021, Not Rated), which picks up after the events of its predecessor. This time out, Bodi and his band True Blue have become sensations in their village, but a lucrative contract offer is on the table – even if it means touring with pop sensation Lil’ Foxy. The Huayi Brothers production is new on Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) on June 15th, the set featuring a Digital HD copy…Director Abel Ferrara goes a little nutty in his latest opus, SIBERIA (92 mins., 2021, R), starring Willem Dafoe as a bartender in a barren winter landscape who seems to have lost his grip on reality, as he serves patrons speaking a language he doesn’t understand. Hoping to find a solution to his predicament, he drives a sled team to a cave but eventually wonders if his own mind is the culprit in a typically weird Ferrara effort that didn’t deliver a wealth of critical kudos earlier this year. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) includes a Digital HD copy and streets June 22nd.
THE COURIER Blu-Ray/DVD (111 mins., 2021, PG-13; Lionsgate): Superior performances highlight this true story about a British businessman (Benedict Cumberbatch) who’s recruited by MI6 and the CIA to form a secret relationship with a Soviet officer (Merab Ninidze) in an effort to avert the Cuban Missile Crisis. Dominic Cooke’s film deserved a larger audience but this is a taut and effective espionage drama all the way, with superb performances from both leads as well as Rachel Brosnahan as the CIA agent who becomes involved in Cumberbatch’s efforts. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) includes a Making Of featurette and a Digital HD copy.
FINAL FANTASY VII: ADVENT CHILDREN 4K UHD (101 mins., 2005, PG-13; Sony): Incredibly detailed, lifelike CGI animation is the prime motivation to check out this feature-film conclusion to the popular “Final Fantasy VII” video game franchise.
If you’ve never played a “Final Fantasy” game, however, you might be lost trying to follow the narrative, which picks up following the events of the game (re-capped in a jumbled prologue plus some 30 minutes of cut scenes from the game itself in the disc supplements), as reluctant hero Cloud returns to save the world from a new plague, running into old friends and enemies in the process.
The story is sure to captivate players and fans (the target audience for this production), but even newcomers can at least appreciate the visuals. Director Tetsuya Nomura’s character models vividly come to life in “Advent Children,” which uses amazing, “photo-realistic” backdrops with impressively articulated protagonists. You won’t mistake them for human beings, but they’re a substantial step up from the rendered characters in Square Enix’s previous, financially disappointing stand-alone theatrical feature “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within,” while Nobuo Uematsu’s lovely score adds a further, elegant touch.
Sony’s beautiful 4K UHD includes Dolby Atmos sound and a HDR enhanced transfer with sound in both Japanese (with English subtitles translated directly from the Japanese dialogue) and a well-done English dubbed mix featuring voices provided by Mena Suvari, Rachael Leigh Cook and others. The “Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII Story Digest” offers some 30 odd minutes of “cut scenes” from the game, recapping the franchise’s story to the point of “Advent Children”’s beginning, while additional extras should make this — along with the superb HDR — worth a look for FF/4K owners.
NOBODY 4K UHD/Blu-Ray (92 mins., 2021, R; Universal): Superior action shenanigans from the writer of the “John Wick” franchise, Derek Kolstad, manages to reprise that series’ same level of sharply choreographed action scenes while thankfully reducing the running time and embracing a looser, funnier tone at the same time. Key to the success is Bob Odenkirk’s highly enjoyable performance as a one-time CIA assassin turned (very) mild-mannered family man, whose “talents” are pressed into action once again after a series of unfortunate circumstances. Director Ilya Naishuller does a good job tonally with the material, and old pros Christopher Lloyd and Michael Ironside make welcome appearances along the way. Universal’s strong 4K UHD (2.39, Dolby Atmos) includes Dolby Vision HDR and a series of featurettes and commentaries, plus the Blu-Ray and a Digital HD copy…Also new from Universal is Eddie Huang’s BOOGIE (90 mins., 2021, R), his directorial debut focusing on a young Asian basketball star trying to mix education and his parents’ aspirations for his future with his own hopes of playing in the NBA. Huang’s film boasts a capable lead performance from Taylor Takahashi but is constrained by a brief running time that tries to pack too much into its relatively short pace. Universal’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1) is also available this week sporting several featurettes and a Digital HD code.
BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN Part One Blu-Ray (85 mins., 2021, PG-13; Warner): The Holiday Killer is out and about, infiltrating Gotham’s most nefarious, warring gangs — including the Falcone crime family — and with Halloween looming, it’s up to the Caped Crusader, Jim Gordon and D.A. Harvey Dent (at least before he becomes Two-Face) to stop him/her in the first of a two-part cycle. Chris Palmer helmed this adaptation of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s limited 13-issue series “Batman: The Long Halloween,” which offers solid animation and a strong story line that earned raves when it was published in 1996-97. Warner’s Blu-Ray (1080p, 5.1 DTS MA) of Part 1 includes a DC Showcase short featuring WWII heroes “The Losers,” two bonus cartoons, a Digital HD copy, and sneak peek at “The Long Halloween: Part 2,” which will be released in August.
THE WALKING DEAD: WORLD BEYOND Season 1 Blu-Ray (8 hours, 2020; AMC Studios): AMC’s latest spin-off from the top-rated cable franchise finds Hope and Iris Bennett having to leave the confines of their “first world community” and set out on a dangerous cross-country trek to find out what happened to their scientist father, living over a thousand miles away in an undisclosed location. The relationship between the sisters gives “World Beyond” a very different feel — a more personal one — than some of the other incarnations of the zombie series, with colorful adventures and, of course, enough horror to also go-around. RLJE’s now-available Blu-Ray (1.78, 5.1 DTS MA) boasts three featurettes, attractive transfers and lossless sound.
ANYTHING FOR JACKSON Blu-Ray (97 mins., 2020, Not Rated; RLJE Films): Watchably bonkers effort from director Justin Dyck and writer Keith Cooper finds an elderly couple attempting to raise the spirit of their dead grandson – something that, let’s face it, never works out well – in the form of the soon-to-be-born offspring of their pregnant young neighbor. Dyck, a veteran of many heartwarming TV holiday films, goes off the rails a little here with a nutty horror film that at least delivers on its shock-value premise, and ends in a manner not as predictably drawn as you might expect. RLJE’s Blu-Ray (2.35, 5.1 DTS MA) is available June 15th.
A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX Blu-Ray (108 mins., 2020; Magnolia): Director Rodney Ascher tries to confirm/debunk the notion that we’re not really alive but living in some kind of video-game like matrix in his 2020 documentary “A Glitch in the Matrix,” which debuts as a manufactured-on-demand Blu-Ray this month from Magnolia Home Entertainment. Ascher’s compelling piece includes an examination of “Simulation Theory” and the Blu-Ray houses a 1080p transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, commentary with Ascher and animation director Syd Garon, a Sundance Q&A, and “The Cave: A Parable Told By Orson Welles.”
Film Movement New Releases: The new documentary SALVADOR DALI: IN SEARCH OF IMMORTALITY (174 mins., 2021) profiles the artist and his muse, Gala, in three parts: The Youth Diaries (1904-29), The Secret Life of Portlligat (1929-82), and The Refuge of the Visible Woman (1982-89). This near three-hour documentary is new on DVD from Film Movement (1.78, 2.0 stereo) June 15th...Coming July 13th is the Irish thriller ROSE PLAYS JULIE (100 mins., 2019, Not Rated), a film about a Dublin veterinary student (Ann Skelly) who goes looking for her birth mother (Orla Brady) and eventually finds her in London — leading to a tale of revenge and deception. Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor’s film offers strong performances and Film Movement’s DVD (2.35, 5.1/2.0) includes the duo’s earlier short “Who Killed Brown Owl” as a bonus.
H.P. LOVECRAFT’S THE DEEP ONES DVD (83 mins., 2020, Not Rated; 120 Go): Low-budget independent outing from writer-director Chad Ferrin is inspired by Lovecraft but somehow plays like a low-rent variation on “Humanoids from the Deep.” Allegedly shot at the beach side home of its lead actress, Gina La Piana, this one lives up to its production company’s moniker (Crappy World Films). Out on DVD this week with a featurette and deleted scenes.
KINDRED Blu-Ray (101 mins., 2020, Not Rated; Shout! Factory): Tamara Lawrence plays an expecting widow who moves in with her late partner’s mother (Fiona Shaw) and stepbrother (Jack Lawson), only to — naturally — run into strange goings-on with her surrogate family and other assorted issues. Joe Marcantonio’s IFC Films-distributed film tries to mix in racial issues with the supernatural to mixed results, though the performances are sound across the board. Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1/2.0) is out this week featuring the trailer and a commentary from the director.
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