Two very different films with “Summer” in their respective titles are part of Twilight Time’s latest batch of limited edition Blu-Rays, timed to coincide with these dwindling (say it isn’t so!) days of Summer 2017.
Paul Newman teamed up with director Martin Ritt and brilliant writers Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. for the duo’s first (of three) William Faulkner adaptations, THE LONG, HOT SUMMER (117 mins., 1958). A glossy Cinemascope drama, “Long, Hot Summer” compiled a trio of Faulkner stories into a single narrative centering around a drifter (Newman) named Ben Quick. Ben stumbles into a small Mississippi town run by a wealthy family and its bombastic patriarch (Orson Welles), who immediately takes a shine to him. Seeing in the up-and-coming young man the ambition lacking in his own son (Anthony Franciosa), Welles’ domineering figure supports Quick’s ambitions – as well as furthering along a prospective relationship between Quick and his daughter (Joanne Woodward) – even though there’s mystery involving the drifter’s past and possible history as a barn-burner.
“The Long, Hot Summer” is an engaging soap opera expertly performed by a cast that also counts Lee Remick and Angela Lansbury among its legendary stars. Everything about the film reeks of class, from its widescreen lensing to Alex North’s smoky jazz score. It’s a product of its time, but an entertaining one if you like this kind of thing, though I have a personal preference for “The Sound and the Fury,” a follow-up that reunited numerous personnel from this film, including Ritt, Ravetch and Frank, Woodward, North, and producer Jerry Wald (and which TT released on a now sold-out Blu-Ray several years back).
Twilight Time’s Blu-Ray seems to have originated from a recent looking scan, boasting fine detail (2.35) as well as a color scheme dominated (perhaps intentionally) by yellowish hues. The stereo sound is delivered in both 5.1 and 2.0 DTS MA flavors, with an isolated score track, the trailer, Fox Movietone newsreel, and an AMC backstory on the film that offers plenty of compelling anecdotes, mostly involving the contentious relationship between Welles and his director.
A very different kind of “Summer” is present in the Columbia adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER (114 mins., 1959), the controversial and downright sordid (for 1959) tale of a wealthy matriarch (Katherine Hepburn) who, in order to protect the good name of her late son Sebastian, tries to have his traveling companion cousin (Elizabeth Taylor) institutionalized and lobotomized. Thankfully, a young surgeon (Montgomery Clift) selected to perform the procedure is determined to find out the truth – one that ultimately involves Sebastian’s sexual identity and lurid behavior, trickily presented by director Joseph Mankiewicz and screenwriter Gore Vidal.
“Suddenly, Last Summer” is overheated like most Williams works, but the film still functions today as a bizarre and disturbing piece with powerhouse performances from Taylor and Hepburn, both of whom earned Oscar nominations. The stark B&W cinematography works extremely well in sequences depicting Sebastian and his eventual demise, which is horrifyingly directed by Mankiewicz in a manner that had to have been shocking for 1959 – as well as its overall thematic material.
Like so many of Twilight Time’s Sony-licensed Blu-Rays, the 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded transfer is dominated by fine grain and detail, and the DTS MA mono sound is perfectly acceptable (an isolated music/effects track is also included, along with the trailer).
The original “Kid Galahad” was a ‘30s Warner Bros. production starring Edward G. Robinson as a promoter whose sister falls in love with his top boxing prospect. In the 1962 KID GALAHAD (95 mins.), Elvis stars in the title role – a reluctant boxing star on the rise after being tapped by a promoter (Gig Young, in the Robinson role) with a gruff manager (Charles Bronson) also in the King’s corner.
Elvis, naturally, performs some tunes in this Mirisch Company production, one that gives Presley top billing but is often carried by Young, no surprise since the role was the primary one in the original version. Though the songs didn’t result in any classics, the film is still breezy and entertaining, especially for Presley fans, offering competent performances and direction from Phil Karlson that makes it one of the stronger dramatic vehicles Elvis starred in. Twilight Time’s Blu-Ray includes a satisfying 1080p (1.85) transfer and 1.0 DTS MA mono sound, an isolated music/effects track and the original trailer.
8 HEADS IN A DUFFEL BAG (95 mins., 1997, R) is a labored farce from writer-director Tom Schulman. One of the hottest screenwriters of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, Schulman won an Oscar for “Dead Poets Society” and worked on a number of other box-office hits, including “What About Bob?” and turning “Honey I Shrunk The Kids” into a Disney-fied comedy.
Schulman’s one and only film as a director (and with good reason) was this 1997 comedy starring Joe Pesci as a hitman who’s tasked with transporting a particular duffel bag containing severed heads back to a mafia boss for proof of their respective executions. Alas, the bags are switched with that of an ordinary young guy (the bland Andy Comeau) heading to Mexico for a family vacation with his girlfriend (Kristy Swanson) and parents (George Hamilton, Dyan Cannon).
There’s not a lot to say about “8 Heads,” which also sports David Spade in a supporting role as one of Comeau’s buddies. Either you go with the film and find it funny or you don’t, and despite the best efforts of a game cast, the movie was one of Pesci’s numerous bombs made after his peak in “Goodfellas” and “My Cousin Vinny.” It’s a strained attempt at remixing “Weekend At Bernie’s” with Scorsese mob cliches, and simply doesn’t work. Twilight Time’s Blu-Ray does look fine with its 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded transfer from the MGM vaults plus 5.1 and 2.0 DTS MA sound. An isolated score (with some effects sprinkled in) track and the trailer comprise the disc’s supplements.
Finally, Twilight Time shifts gears entirely with the domestic debut of THE EMPEROR IN AUGUST (136 mins., 2015), a recent Japanese picture set in the waning days of WWII, where the country’s war administration – from Hirohito (Masahiro Motoki) to its PM (Tsutomo Yamazaki) – debate surrender as well as the fallout from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. A remake of a ‘60s Japanese film named “Japan’s Longest Day” (and released under that name in its native country), Twilight Time’s Blu-Ray includes 5.1 and 2.0 DTS MA mixes (with English subtitles), a 1080p (2.35) transfer, isolated music track and original trailers.
New From Warner Archive
One of the seminal “cop buddy” pictures, FREEBIE AND THE BEAN (**½, 113 mins., 1974, R) is nevertheless a loud, strained affair that’s mostly dated – in a bad way. Robert Kaufman’s script – based on a story by executive producer Floyd Mutrux — pairs unorthodox San Francisco cops Freebie Waters (James Caan) and “Bean” Vasquez (Alan Arkin) as they’re forced to safeguard a mobster (Jack Kruschen) they’re investigating after learning a hit man is out to take him down.
Mass chaos ensues in much of Richard Rush’s film, including a quartet of extensive chase sequences that were intended to top prior genre hallmarks “Bullitt” and “The French Connection.” On a technical level, “Freebie” is certainly impressive in the scope of its demolition, with Rush’s action sequences making great use of the Panavision frame and the movie offering plenty of ‘70s atmosphere courtesy of its location lensing.
The issue is the story and its thin, at-times stereotypical characterizations – for example, Valerie Harper plays Bean’s philandering Latina wife, in a role that kind of symbolizes the picture in general. Beyond the questionable ethnic portrayals, much of the humor in the film is reliant on the mileage one gets from its lead characters alternately bickering and yelling at each other. Rush turns up the energy and Caan and Arkin respond in kind, but the terrific stars are saddled with material they can elevate only so much. After sampling a few minutes and its impressive – if tedious – car chases, you might find the overlong, redundant “Freebie” to be a relic of its era that should’ve stayed there.
That said, for fans of the movie who do find the picture amusing – or viewers just nostalgic for Saul Bass’ Warner logo and Dominic Frontiere’s “’70s” score – Warner’s Archive Blu-Ray is a beaut. The remastered 1080p (2.41) transfer is spectacularly detailed with a healthy DTS MA mono soundtrack and the trailer rounding out a technically faultless presentation.
New on DVD: Two vintage westerns join the ranks of the Warner Archive this month as well. In THE LION AND THE HORSE (84 mins., 1952), Steve Cochran has fun in a contemporary sagebrush saga as a wild-horse wrangler whose favorite new stallion, Wildlife, is sold to a conniving circus owner (Ray Teal) with a track record of animal mistreatment. This enjoyable programmer is enhanced by Max Steiner’s score and color cinematography, presented here in a 1.37 full-screen Warner DVD…Also freshly released on DVD is COW COUNTRY (81 mins., 1953), an Allied Artists oater featuring Edmund O’Brien as a teamster caught in the midst of a Texas range war. Helen Westcott and Bob Lowry also appear in the black-and-white affair, notable for being one of its star’s rare appearances in the genre. Warner’s DVD boasts a 1.37 full-screen transfer and mono sound.
BAYWATCH 4K UHD Combo Pack (**, 116/121 mins., R/Unrated; Paramount): There’s no doubt “Baywatch” isn’t a good movie – I mean, who went in expecting this big-screen adaptation of the long-running, cheese-tastic David Hasselhoff series would be – but what was up with all the hate? In a summer that saw the dismal “Alien: Covenant” hit 70% fresh on the Tomato Meter, this dumb-escapist vehicle for Dwayne Johnson is at least as mediocre despite receiving comparably awful reviews…much like the difference between, say, “Amadeus” and “Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol” back in the ‘80s.
Director Seth Gordon’s reworking of the family-friendly “Baywatch” series was, at least, ill-conceived in terms of tone, as the R rating allows for “21 Jump Street”-esque adult gags and endless profanity to negligible effect. It likely would’ve been smarter to tone down the f-bombs and sexual content, as kids and even fans of the old show might’ve gravitated towards the film’s otherwise goofy, comical reworking of its source material, as Johnson’s Mitch Buchannon leads a squad of So Cal lifeguards here against a businesswoman (Priyanka Chopra) using a local club as a front for her drug trafficking business.
Nobody will mistake “Baywatch” as a quality film – it’s sloppy, runs out of gas, and the questionable R rating looks to have been a severe commercial miscalculation, particularly given the movie’s disappointing box-office results. That said, if you’re just looking for a few laughs and like watching Johnson and Zac Efron do their thing – or oggling female leads Kelly Rohrbach or Alexandra Daddario – “Baywatch” has enough in the tank to warrant a look for the interested. Nobody will want to admit it (okay, I will!), but the gap between “Baywatch” and most of this summer’s studio fare is nowhere as wide as the reviews indicate – even if that’s not exactly a positive endorsement.
4K Rundown: Paramount has served up a lovely (in more ways than one) UHD presentation with “Baywatch.” The HDR enhanced transfer utilizes the wider pallet of colors that UHD can bring to the table, and the movie’s vibrant cinematography is splendid (no comment, though, on the shoddy CGI work!). The regular Blu-Ray is perfectly fine as well, but there’s no doubt the edge lies with the UHD presentation. Dolby Atmos audio is also on tap plus an extended version of the film (running five minutes longer), deleted/extended scenes and several featurettes. A Digital HD copy rounds out the disc.
PROMETHEUS 4K UHD Combo Pack (***½, 124 mins., 2012, R; Fox): Ridley Scott’s triumphant 2012 return to the science fiction genre may have started off as a prequel to his 1979 classic “Alien,” but “Prometheus” is a very different type of picture: a suspenseful and captivating film with provocative concepts and thematic material that challenges the viewer as much as it satisfies on a rich aesthetic level (even though its value has diminished in the wake of the lousy “Alien: Covenant”).
Its “Alien” aspects – and there are some – are secondary to a story that asks where the human race came from, how we got here, and where we’re going. Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof’s screenplay posits these eternal questions in a manner that’s positively refreshing in our current age of soulless blockbusters, opening with an utterly beautiful prologue set on Earth at the dawn of time (shot in Iceland by Scott) and proceeding to follow a spaceship crew in the late 21st century setting out to uncover the answers.
Among the crew of the ship “Prometheus” are scientists Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green, gruff captain Idris Elba, icy cold Weyland corporation exec Charlize Theron, and a curious android named David (Michael Fassbender), the work of the elderly Charles Weyland (Guy Pearce) himself, who funded the mission to track down the whereabouts of beings who left “calling cards” on ancient cave paintings around the globe. Upon arriving on a desolate planet, Rapace and company find a dank, deserted chamber with remnants of an alien race that fled the scene some time before – as well as a gooey chemical substance that’s anything but benevolent.
Scott’s penchant for amazing visuals are, of course, on-hand throughout the film, and there are a handful of dynamic set-pieces: a thrilling storm that threatens the crew is later followed by a harrowing “medical” sequence and a sensational finale with a truly miraculous sense of scale. The director said in pre-publicity that he wanted “Prometheus” to be “big” and the film is indeed that, both in the messages it develops and the visuals on-screen. Spectacular effects and haunting creatures include concepts that resemble the work of H.R. Giger, giving fans a taste of the universe that Scott first brought to the screen with “Alien” but here in a very different context. (In fact, if there’s a moment that feels somewhat out of step here, it’s in a quote from Jerry Goldsmith’s unused main title from “Alien” that comes across as unnecessarily shoe-horned into the picture).
Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography and even the score, credited to Marc Streitenfeld but enhanced with a lovely theme by Harry Gregson-Williams that’s used throughout the picture (so much that it’s surprising he only received an “Additional Music” credit), are likewise effective: this is a film that’s filled with so much artistic invention and memorable images that one can see sci-fi fans returning to “Prometheus” for some time to come, both to dissect its narrative as well as take in its amazing artistic design…we’ll just try to forget that “Alien: Covenant” pulled a 180 and threw most of its thematic elements into the toilet altogether.
4K Rundown: Fox’s 4K Ultra HD release of “Prometheus” is absolutely dazzling – one of the best discs I’ve seen in this format to date, and a rich, satisfying enhancement over an already-superb Blu-Ray presentation. Blacks and colors stand out more visibly through the use of HDR, and while Scott utilized 3D in shooting the picture, I doubt fans are going to miss it much given the enhanced brightness and clarity present in this sparkling UHD presentation. The 7.1 DTS MA audio is the same as the Blu-Ray mix, while extras on the included BD run the gamut from two commentaries to 40 minutes of deleted scenes. Regrettably, the fantastic special features disc – included exclusively in the 3D Blu-Ray release – has not been included, forcing die-hard fans to hold onto that package even if they’ve vacated support for the flailing 3D format.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS 4K UHD Combo Pack (**½, 103 mins., 2012, R; Lionsgate): Talk about a hard film to review. This cast-off from MGM (shot several years before and first scheduled for a February 2010 theatrical release) offers some clever lines and undeniably funny moments, but somehow ends up less than the sum of its parts.
Producer/co-writer Joss Whedon and director Drew Goddard try to send up the horror genre with “Cabin in the Woods” much in the same regard that Kevin Williamson with “Scream,” though this picture veers more towards outright comedy and geek in-jokes as opposed to genuine terror. At times, that’s not a bad thing (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford as a pair of government agents who…well, I won’t spoil the much-hyped “surprise”…play off each other extremely well), and I think if you see the film with a receptive audience, genre fans are going to be amused (that said, I can’t imagine the picture working as well without that element).
On the other hand, the end result feels like a lark Whedon and Goddard threw together over a weekend and managed to get produced through the insanity of MGM – who as it turns out, ironically ran out of money and had to sell the film to the schlockmeisters at Lionsgate.
After setting viewers up in trailers and advertising with a premise that shows a group of typical college kids (including a pre-“Thor” Chris Hemsworth) heading out to a remote cabin where they’re stalked and dismembered one by one, “Cabin” certainly does expand beyond its central premise quickly, turning the tables on the audience and serving as a commentary of sorts on the very viewers who paid admission to see it.
The last 20 minutes are particularly insane as well – disgustingly gory and also funny (Bradley Whitford’s end was uproarious, especially when seen with an audience) – but ultimately, the film doesn’t amount to very much, kind of a one-joke premise taken to an extreme, marginally directed (visually the film is dark and unimpressive), and with a weak ending that sadly recalls the “we’ve got no other way to finish it” conclusion of “Drag Me to Hell.” It’s also never scary, for reasons that relate to its “don’t tell anyone” premise, creating this sort of weird tonal netherworld between a total joke and a story you’re supposed to take seriously enough to care about what happens. In the end, I almost wished Whedon pushed it further than he did, because there’s really no dramatic investment in the characters anyway — why not just trash the genre altogether instead of playing some of it straight?
“Cabin” wants to have it both ways: poking fun at obvious horror cliches while still wallowing in the excess blood and unpleasant violence that’s become the norm. Even with this type of film you get the feeling an opportunity was missed here to make something truly special, instead of the minor cult film it’s likely to become among devotees who will find it “cool” and hysterical that they’re “in on” the joke. Ultimately it’s a picture with some clever touches, but as a dramatic piece, “Cabin in the Woods” didn’t register with me at all.
4K Rundown: Lionsgate’s 4K presentation of “The Cabin In The Woods” does impress with its HDR enhancements, Dolby Atmos audio and Dolby Vision capability. The HDR usage in the film results in some pop in certain sequences, as well as offering a wider pallet of colors in general. While the film is dreary in its visual design at times, this is nevertheless a recommended upgrade for fans and 4K owners. Extras are carried over from the Blu-Ray and include commentary from Goddard and Whedon, a Making Of featurette, visual effects and animatronic FX segments, Wondercon Q&A, and a BonusView Blu-Ray mode (on the included Blu-Ray). A Digital HD copy rounds out the release.
RED 4K UHD Combo Pack (***, 111 mins., 2010, PG-13; Summit/Lionsgate)/RED 2 4K UHD Combo Pack (**½, 116 mins., 2013, PG-13; Summit/Lionsgate): Also debuting in Ultra HD this September from Lionsgate, “Red” is the entertaining 2010 sleeper hit that stars Bruce Willis as a retired CIA operative who recruits fellow agents who’ve since hung it up (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren) after a hit squad arrives to assassinate him.
This free-wheeling adaptation of a short-lived DC Comics series is simply a lot of fun, from the laid-back and engaging performances of the terrific cast (fine support is turned in by Mary-Louise Parker as Willis’ reluctant traveling companion, along with Brian Cox, Julian McMahon, Richard Dreyfuss, James Remar and Ernest Borgnine) to the crisp, effectively-executed action sequences courtesy of director Robert Schwentke. Jon and Erich Hoeber’s script strikes the right balance between over-the-top action and comedy, with the film generating some big laughs at times inbetween the explosions. Overall “Red” is just terrific escapist entertainment, and the best film of its type since “True Lies” (which fans are still eagerly anticipating a Blu-Ray release hopefully in the not-too-distant future).
The 2013 follow-up was an unnecessary but inevitable sequel that didn’t generate nearly the same enthusiasm among viewers, leading to tepid box-office receipts. Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and Helen Mirren are back here – trying to save the world from a missing nuclear device that’s fallen into the wrong hands – while Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones join the gang for two hours of competent if uninspired action, a few humorous gags and laid back interplay between the cast.
As a just-for-the-money sequel goes, this Dean Parisot-helmed follow-up gives viewers exactly what they’d expect, though since the original was a one joke concept to begin with, the humor seems played out here, and the plot is even more convoluted than its predecessor.
4K Rundown: Both Lionsgate packages of “Red” and “Red 2” boast HDR-enhanced 4K transfers and Dolby Atmos audio, which for those with that capability, sound terrific with their added immersive elements. The transfers aren’t reference-quality yet do seem to pack more a punch than the standard Blu-Rays, also included, which boast superb AVC encoded 1080p transfers with rollicking DTS Master Audio sound. Extras on “Red” include deleted/extended scenes, commentary (with retired CIA field officer Robert Baer), and many extras included in an interactive function that pops up during the film. The “Red 2” Blu-Ray offers a gag reel, multi-part documentary, and deleted scenes. Both releases also come with a Digital HD copy.
PHENOMENA Blu-Ray (***, 116/110/83 mins., 1984, Unrated/R; Synapse): I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Italian horror, but I confess to having a soft spot for “Phenomena,” one of Argento’s nuttiest films that has been remastered in a brilliant new Blu-Ray package from Synapse.
This dreamy and oddly beautiful – and also indescribable — feature was released in the mid ’80s by New Line in (much) abbreviated form as “Creepers.” Then 13-year old Jennifer Connelly plays a boarding school student with a special connection with insects, which serves her well as Doc Donald Pleasence sends Jen out to stop a killer murdering poor innocent girls in the nearby countryside. With solid cinematography and a plethora of memorable set-pieces, “Phenomena” is good fun and a fine introduction to Argento’s work – in fact, its sheer insanity gives it an appeal that’s hard to deny.
Also hard to deny is Synapse’s outstanding Blu-Ray. This two-disc set preserves the film, its color and gorgeous Swiss shooting locales in such a warm, vivid manner that I felt as if I was watching the movie for the very first time. The 1080p (1.85) AVC encodes house an all-new scan of three different cuts of the movie, each one sporting deep blacks, bold greens and excellent detail. No matter how many times you run into this, it’s always remarkable how a new transfer can enhance a film like “Phenomena” that’s so reliant on its visuals. 2.0 DTS MA stereo tracks are included with both English and (on the long Italian cut) Italian audio.
As I wrote before, three different cuts are included in Synapse’s presentation: the 116-minute English/Italian hybrid boasts six additional minutes of footage (in Italian, and as such English subtitled) over the 110-minute “International” version, which is also present here. Both are infinitely preferable to the 83-minute U.S. cut, retitled “Creepers,” which is also in HD for the first time ever (and on home video for the first time since the ‘80s). Extras include commentary (on the 110-minute cut) from Derek Botelho and David Del Valle, plus the documentary “Dario Argento’s World of Horror,” trailers, radio spots, and an interview with Andi Sex Gang, which was one of several artists to contribute to the film’s soundtrack (along with Argento staple Goblin, Simon Boswell, Iron Maiden and others).
Also coming in early September from Synapse is a Blu-Ray Special Edition of THE CREEP BEHIND THE CAMERA (110 mins., 2014), Pete Schuermann’s story of Vic Savage, an aspiring Z-grade exploitation producer whose off the camera behavior was far more shocking than the sci-fi shenanigans he turned out in his 1964 shlocker “The Creeping Terror.” Folks with an interest in Ed Wood-esque low-grade sci-fi might find “Creep” of interest, but Schuermann’s quasi-documentary, complete with re-enactments, offers an uneasy marriage of camp and gore, making for an unsatisfying blend that’s jarring to watch in places. Synapse’s Blu-Ray also includes a 2K scan of “The Creeping Terror” along with extensive extras like commentary, a Making Of documentary, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a 1080p (1.78) transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound.
MAURICE Blu-Ray (140 mins., 1987, R; Cohen): One of Merchant-Ivory’s most acclaimed films, this 1987 adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel stars James Wilby as Maurice Hall, a young man who falls in love with a Cambridge classmate (Hugh Grant) during a pre-WWI era in which homosexuals were shunned and disgraced. When Grant’s Clive Durham rejects his lifestyle and moves to marry a woman, Maurice struggles with his identity and tries to rid himself of his urges – only to find himself drawn to a servant (Rupert Graves) who confirms his lifestyle.
“Maurice” is, like so many Merchant-Ivory films, a stately and finely acted drama, one that’s been brought to Blu-Ray by the Cohen Film Collection in a sparkling new 4K restoration. The transfer is immaculate with extensive new extras: deleted scenes and alternate takes; James Ivory and Pierre Lhomme on the production; a new on-stage Q&A with the duo; a new talk between Ivory and Tom McCarthy; a conversation with the filmmakers; “The Story of Maurice”; commentary from Ivory, the trailer, and DTS MA and 2.0 PCM stereo audio. Available September 5th.
THE SLAYER Blu-Ray/DVD (90 mins., 1982: Arrow Video): Unusually moody early ‘80s horror is billed as a slasher but moves too slowly, and doesn’t offer enough of a body count, to likely satisfy hardcore genre fans. Still, there’s a compelling, offbeat nature to this independent production, shot on-location in Tybee Island, Georgia, that makes it worth a viewing.
Sarah Kendall stars as an artist plagued by nightmarish visions who heads off to a remote island with her husband, brother and sister-in-law for some R&R – only to have those dreams become a reality as someone begins to knock off her family. Director J.S. Cardone’s movie is ambiguous and ends on a spectacularly bizarre (if not unintentionally funny) note, but “The Slayer” weaves a strange atmosphere that makes it hard to turn off, especially in Arrow’s restoration.
Courtesy of a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack sporting a new 4K scan of the original negative, the little-seen “Slayer” makes a triumphant return to home video. In addition to a terrific transfer and uncompressed mono sound, the disc includes a new commentary from Cardone and other personnel; another commentary from The Hysteria Continues; isolated score and an audio interview with Robert Folk, who scored one of his first features with “The Slayer”; a documentary on the film; a return trip to Tybee Island, revisiting the locations and an audio track from a hometown screening of the film; a post-screening Q&A with crew personnel; still gallery; and the original trailer.
TV on DVD Fall Round-Up, Part 3
THE ORIGINALS: The Complete Fourth Season DVD (547 mins., 2017; Warner). WHAT IT IS: Spin-off from CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” focuses on the Mikaelson clan, the “Original” vampire family who helped build New Orleans’ French Quarter. In these 13 fourth-season episodes, hybrid Klaus is held captive by Marcel Gerard and sibling power-duo Elijah and Rebekah are frozen in an enchanted sleep. After the group is reunited, they’re forced to bridge an alliance with ex-allies Marcel and Vincent Griffith – witches who are tasked with keeping New Orleans together. DVD TECH SPECS: Fans of this kind of thing ought to gravitate towards “The Originals,” which is slickly produced and a bit more outlandish than its “Vampire Diaries” sibling. Warner’s fourth-season DVD edition of “The Originals” includes a 2016 Comic Con Panel, unaired scenes, a gag reel, plus 16:9 transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: A fifth season for “The Originals” is due out soon on the CW, which seemingly will complete the franchise seeing as “The Vampire Diaries” itself concluded its run last spring.
GOTHAM: The Complete Third Season Blu-Ray (957 mins., 2016-17; Warner). WHAT IT IS: Season three of the “Batman” prequel finds the Indian Hill fugitives on the run and Jim Gordon (Ben Mackenzie) working as a bounty hunter, gunning for current criminal mastermind Hugo Strange and Fish Mooney. Meanwhile, Oswald Cobblepot (Penguin), Edward Nygma (Riddley) and Jervis Tech (Mad Hatter) are targets of Bullock and Barnes, and Poison Ivy is now played by an older actress (Maggie Geha), which ups the sex quotient in this latest 22-episode season of “Gotham.” BLU-RAY TECH SPECS: Warner’s excellent Blu-Ray presentation boasts 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks and 1080p (1.78) AVC encoded transfers. Extra features include the featurettes “The Dark Within The Dark: The Court of Owls,” “Madness Rising: The New Villains of Gotham,” and “Ben Mackenzie Directorial Debut,” plus deleted scenes, a 2016 Comic-Con panel and Digital HD copy. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: “Gotham” fans continue to gravitate towards this well-produced and acted series, even if the Bruce Wayne portion is the least interesting/satisfying component to the series.
JUST SHOOT ME: The Complete Series DVD (54 hours, 1997-2003; Shout! Factory). WHAT IT IS: Debuting as a mid-season replacement (back when there were such things), “Just Shoot Me” was an NBC sitcom that premiered on March 4, 1997. A terrific ensemble cast that included Laura San Giacomo (fresh off “sex, lies & videotape”), Wendie Malick, George Segal, David Spade and Enrico Colantoni (“Veronica Mars”’ private-eye dad) essayed the staff at a New York City women’s fashion magazine, where typical sitcom shenanigans followed. Segal is the philandering publisher with Giacomo as his idealistic daughter who swallows her pride in order to work at “Blush.” NBC kept “Just Shoot Me” around, mostly on Tuesday nights, for some six seasons, making the series a fan favorite even if it never became a breakout ratings hit – more a consistent performer that’s now been issued in its entirety on disc by Shout. DVD TECH SPECS: All 148 episodes from the series’ run are present here in a 19-disc set offering 1.33 full-screen transfers and 2.0 stereo soundtracks. Extras include an interview with creator Steven Levitan and the cast; commentaries on four episodes; and a photo gallery. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: It may not be remembered as fondly as “Friends” or “Frasier,” but “Just Shoot Me” was a reliably written and performed series that represents one of several NBC comedies that played well back in its heyday. Fans will get a kick out of this complete series box-set, which debuts on DVD September 5th from Shout! Factory.
PEANUTS by Schulz: SCHOOL DAYS DVD (207 mins., 2014; Warner): Warner Home Video has released the third volume of episodes from the recent “Peanuts” animated series that was produced in France. Airing on the US’ Boomerang channel, this entertaining take on Charlie Brown and company offers seven-minute, self-contained segments that, in some regards, more faithfully adapt the strip-nature of Charles M. Schulz’s source material than the longer-form TV specials.
Though animated in flash format, the colorful, loving rendering of the material in French studio Normaal’s production – scripted by Alexis Lavillat – captures the essence of Schulz’s characters in an accessible format perfect for long-time fans and younger viewers alike. Warner’s two-disc “School Days” DVD contains 29 more episodes from the series – three hours of fun with a focus on school-related activites (perfect for the season) — in vivid 16:9 transfers. Though Vince Guaraldi’s classic music doesn’t appear, the energetic scoring is splendid and suits the material perfectly. Warmly recommended, just like the preceding releases in this series.
THE FRANK SINATRA COLLECTION: PORTRAIT OF AN ALBUM/SINATRA SINGS DVD (117 mins., Eagle Vision): Two documentaries hit DVD in early September from Eagle Vision. “Portrait of an Album” is a fascinating look at Sinatra recording his 1984 Quincy Jones-produced album “L.A. Is My Lady,” performing “Teach Me Tonight,” “How Do You Keep The Music Playing” and “Stormy Weather” while Lionel Hampton, Alan & Marilyn Bergman, Phil Ramone and even Michael Jackson stop by. It’s a terrific, nostalgic piece while “Sinatra Sings” offers Tina Sinatra hosting a TV compilation of assorted Frank performances from the ‘50s-‘80s, both in concert and the studio. Recommended!
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON: VAULT SERIES DVD (Time Life): Six-disc DVD set preserves 12 complete Tonight Show programs including commercials. Among the goodies here for classic Carson lovers are 10th and 11th Anniversary specials and Johnny’s birthday episodes, a week of episodes from March 1976, and two hours of bonus clips. Guests include Sean Connery, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Paul McCartney, Muhammad Ali, Jack Benny and John Denver among others.
PAW PATROL: THE GREAT PIRATE RESCUE! DVD (95 mins., 2013-14; Paramount): DVD compilation starring the hugely-popular Nickeoldeon characters includes six pirate-centric adventures: Pups and the Pirate Treasure; Pups and the Ghost Pirate; Pups Save the Bay; Pups Save a Goodway; Pups Save a Pool Day; and Circus Pup-Formers. The single disc release offers colorful 16:9 transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks.
BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN Blu-Ray Limited Edition Gift Set (74 mins., 2017, PG-13; Warner): Disappointing DC Universe animated outing gives the increasingly popular Harley Quinn a showcase, unsurprisingly coming on the heels of “Suicide Squad”’s box-office performance. Between that and an animated style that somewhat recalls “Batman: The Animated Series,” one would’ve thought this production had a lot of energy going for it – and it does…except for a compelling story. Here, the (dull) duo of Poison Ivy and Floronic Man are out to ruin Gotham, leading The Bat-Man and Nightwing to look to the recently-released Harley for help. Sounds OK in concept, but there’s a real lapse in taste evident here, with the elements recycled from TAS (character concepts, voice cast, etc.) clashing with PG-13 level sexual content and innuendo that makes it unsuitable for kids, never mind the tedious story. Warner’s Combo Pack offers a 1080p (1.78) AVC encoded transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, “Harley Effect” and Loren Lester featurettes, a look at DC’s next movie, two bonus cartoons, a Digital HD copy, DVD, and a Harley Quinn figurine in the Limited-Edition Gift Set package I screened.
BRING IT ON: WORLDWIDE #CHEERSMACK Blu-Ray Combo Pack (95 mins., 2017, PG-13; Universal): Cristine Prosperi plays the captain of The Rebels, a three-time national champion cheerleading squad who’s challenged to a Cheersmack by a new team named “The Truth.” Under the guidance of internet cheerleading celeb “Cheer Goddess” (Vivica A. Fox), a worldwide fracas ensues, with every cheerleader trying to take down the reigning champs. I’ve lost count with how many direct-to-video sequels have been turned out since the original “Bring It On” hit theaters 17 years ago (is that even possible!?!), but Universal’s latest Blu-Ray flexes its pompoms this week. The Blu-Ray includes three featurettes, a gag reel, 1080p (1.78) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound and a Digital HD copy.
KILLING HASSELHOFF DVD (81 mins., 2016, R; Universal): Weak “comedy” finds Ken Jeong as a nightclub owner tasked with taking out his pick in a celebrity death pool: none other than David Hasselhoff himself. Darren Grant’s tepid affair wastes Jeong’s energy in a feeble farce debuting on DVD from Universal featuring deleted scenes, a 16:9 (1.85) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
THE LAST FACE Blu-Ray (131 mins., 2016, R; Lionsgate): Sean Penn is back on his soapbox gain with this tepid romantic-drama centering on the relationship between an international aid worker (Charlize Theron) and a relief-aid doctor (Javier Bardem) trying to serve the greater good in Liberia. Hans Zimmer scored “The Last Face,” a movie which drags along with few sparks generated by the two leads; meanwhile, ample “globalist” politics are thrown in along with violent war sequences, making for a movie that’s too gory for one audience and likely too tedious for another. A movie which made almost no noise at all in a limited theatrical run, Lionsgate brings “The Last Face” to Blu-Ray on September 5th in a 1080p (2.40) transfer with 5.1 DTS MA sound and a single featurette. A Digital HD copy is also included.
NEVER LET GO DVD (94 mins., 2017, R; Sony): Angela Dixon plays a single mother and ex-FBI agent who turns Liam Neeson-esque as she searches frantically for her kidnapped child in the Moroccan-set “Never Let Go,” a decent action outing from independent writer-director Howard J. Ford (“The Dead”). Sony’s DVD is now available sporting a 16:9 (1.78) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
CITIZEN JANE DVD (93 mins., 2017, Not Rated; Sundance Selects/MPI): Director Matt Tyraneur has fashioned a compelling documentary about the 1960s struggle between activist/writer Jane Jacobs (voiced by Marisa Tomei) and construction mogul Robert Moses (“performed” by Vincent D’Onofrio) over the latter’s plan to raze lower Manhattan in order to build a freeway. Sundance Selects’ DVD from MPI, available September 12th, offers a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.