'Jason Bourne' (4K Ultra HD+Blu-ray+Digital HD)
(Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD / PG-13 / 2016 / Universal Pictures)
Blu-ray Overview: Matt Damon returns to his most iconic role in Jason Bourne. Paul Greengrass, the director of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, once again joins Damon for the next chapter of Universal Pictures' Bourne franchise, which finds the CIA's most lethal operative drawn out of the shadows. Damon is joined by Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel and Tommy Lee Jones, while Julia Stiles reprises her role in the series..
DVD Verdict: Before we begin the review, let's start by acknowledging the INCREDIBLE, brighter, deeper, more lifelike color that these 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays bring forth, each and every time. For they are, well, INCREDIBLE and truly allow you to see things that the generic Blu-ray vision simply cannot. I mean, the color alone on this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc - which comes as a two-disc set (1 BD-50, 1 BD-66) - is just so crisp, so clear, so crystal.
For those that wish to be in the know, let's break down some of the geeky stats, shall we. This is a Codec: HEVC / H.265, with a Resolution: 4K (2160p), and an overall Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1. The Audio is English: Dolby Atmos + English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 + Spanish: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 + French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1, and the Subtitles are: English SDH, French, and Spanish.
Finally, and leaving the best for last, this 4K Ultra HD movie experience means that we have a 4X sharper picture image than regular HD, HDR (High Dynamic Range) means we get brilliant brights and deepest darks within the film, and with Immersive Audio, we get that multi-dimensional sound experience throughout.
OK, on to the actual film review and, well, let's face it, who doesn't like or even simply root for Jason Bourne to succeed in everything he has ever done on screen?! Here, Bourne makes a welcome return in the self titled 'Jason Bourne', although (and yes, it has to be said) this movie is not quite in the same league as The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). The Bourne Legacy (2012) saw the movie go in another direction with Jeremy Renner in the lead instead of Matt Damon, however this was met with disappointing results. 'Jason Bourne' sees Matt Damon slip back into one of his famous roles albeit some time has since passed.
Following the events of 'The Bourne Ultimatum' which saw Jason Bourne slipping away after successfully exposing Operation Blackbriar, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) lives off the grid and makes a living participating in illegal bare knuckle fighting rings. Bourne is still troubled by memories of his past as a CIA black ops operative.
Meanwhile in Iceland, former CIA operative turned computer hacker Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) uncovers Bourne's recruitment into the Treadstone program and his father's role in the program while hacking into the CIA's mainframe systems to expose the CIA's black ops program. The intrusion is brought to the attention of the CIA's head of the Cyber Ops Division Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), and CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) who also seemingly has a shady agenda.
When Nicky travels to Greece to find and inform Bourne, they find themselves hunted by CIA operatives, including a ruthless assassin known as the Asset (Vincent Cassel). Jason Bourne must revisit his old life and uncover another conspiracy which he thought was well and truly behind him.
It was fantastic to see Paul Greengrass return to the director's chair to revisit the Bourne universe as well as Matt Damon making a welcome return as Jason Bourne, the role that added another string to his bow as an excellent actor. While I couldn't fault Matt Damon, it was like I was revisiting old ground with this movie. Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed and Vincent Cassel round out the supporting cast just fine.
While there's plenty of action sequences which are a staple for the Bourne series, 'Jason Bourne' seems to focus on the action and I felt that the spirit of the original trilogy was missed with the intelligent story lines which made all three of the original movies very memorable when first released and to this day all three movies have earned a spot in my list of favorite movies of all time. 'Jason Bourne' seems to be like a popcorn movie to appeal to the audiences to who like to suspend their disbelief and enjoy the non-stop action. So, well done, if that's what they wanted to achieve, seriously, but a wee bit more script growth would also have been nice for those of us that invest in these films.
Chock full with delightful Special Features, some of my own personal favorites were Shutting Down the Strip, where we get to see just how close Damon actually gets to "the baddy in the SWAT" truck Vincent Cassel whilst both are driving down the Strip, at night, at 100mph!!
Another good extra, and in truth, a very revealing one is Close Quarters Combat, which is a neat, if not "dusty" behind-the-scenes look at the brutal fight between Jason Bourne and Christian Dassault. Both are choreographed to the hilt in the desert heat, Damon doing most all the stunts himself, and when it comes to the eventual final wrap, not only does Damon raise his arms to applaud and thank all the extras and camera crew around him, but he hugs director, and friend, Paul Snodgrass tightly.
Another great one, and yet another showcase fighting reel for Damon is Underground Rumble, where he and Vincent Cassel, along fight coordinator Roger Yuan discuss how they staged Bourne’s final showdown with The Asset. The blood pouring from Damon's face even looks real here, and the way he pumps, whips up the extras to cheer the fight scene on is brilliant. The most revealing part of this is though, just as the camera is about to record, and with Damon rocking back and forth on his heels in readiness to "fight" again, he is cracking jokes and laughing with Snodgrass!
The motorbike scenes are great too, showing us how they filmed Damon "racing away" with Stiles on the back, screeching round corners, Damon's face grimacing as turns are made, explosions go off, and gun shots are fired off all around him - and yet, all along (spoiler alert!) he's being dragged along by a vehicle (of course!) And yet, watching it all on this 4K Ultra HD it truly is amazing watching all these features included here (although the regular Blu-ray should be pretty nice to watch these on also, I wold imagine). This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Bringing Back Matt Damon As Bourne - Matt Damon and Director Paul Greengrass discuss how they brought a beloved character back to the big screen. Bare-Knuckle Boxing - Matt Damon discusses his love for boxing and how he prepared for the bare-knuckle fight sequences. Close Quarters Combat - A behind-the-scenes look at the brutal fight between Jason Bourne and Christian Dassault. Underground Rumble - Matt Damon, Vincent Cassel, and fight coordinator Roger Yuan discuss how they staged Bourne’s final showdown with The Asset. The Athens Escape - Matt Damon, stunt coordinator Gary Powell and second unit director Simon Crane discuss the challenges of shooting a chase sequence through cramped city streets. Convention Chaos - Join the cast and crew on location in Las Vegas as they film the final act of Jason Bourne. Shutting Down the Strip - A behind-the-scenes look at one of the wildest car chases in Bourne history.
'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children'
(Eva Green, Rupert Everett, Samuel L. Jackson, Asa Butterfield, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD / PG-13 / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Blu-ray Overview: When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.
Blu-ray Verdict: After his grandfather's death, teenager Jacob (Asa Butterfield) decides to embark on a journey towards a Welsh island about which his grandfather used to tell him weird stories that he claimed to be actually true about his life. When Jacob gets there he is ready to accept that those were only fairy tales, yet when he discovers Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children he discovers he might just have found a world where he belongs and much, much more.
Bruno Delbonnel as DP, Jane Goldman as screenwriter, Eva Green as leading lady, Samuel Jackson as the villain and Tim Burton as director are all elements that combined to this quirky and fascinating premise, indicate towards something to be excited about. Unfortunately, this picture does not deliver the adventure we might have imagined, yet by all means it manages to carry you to a colorful, wacky world that I might actually want to revisit sometime.
If there is something you know you will get when watching a Tim Burton film that is impeccable production design and art direction, this one is no exception and quite the contrary it might just be his best looking film and I don't mean that lightly. The frame ratio is unusual and immediately helps in giving the movie this retro tone that really fits it. Moreover, the material is just perfect for interesting visual flare and the whole film making team rises to the occasion.
This film is simply beautiful to look at and in a way that really absorbs the viewer into the world. There isn't any flashy imagery or CGI extravaganzas thrown at the screen for the sake of it, it is brilliantly shot by Delbonnel who makes the most out of the magnificent design put together by the art team. The two just complement each other in what is a picture that oozes with stunning visuals that don't have the need to call attention to themselves and support the story in its every beat.
All of the beautiful imagery described above surrounds a world that is lively and believable, filled with great, unique characters that are easily distinguishable both because of their peculiarities, but even better because of their personalities. Jane Goldman is a fantastic screenwriter, especially in this kind of genre and once again she gives proof of being able to write instantly recognizable and vivid characters. The cast fills her pages perfectly and overall establishes great chemistry between each other and a dynamic that is jumpy and funny without ever losing a touch of emotion.
Eva Green is a great actress and when put in this kinds of roles she always shines distinctively. You feel for all of these people and really like being in their company in their quirky and adorable house. Furthermore, there is a really touching relationship established from the get go between Jacob and his grandfather played beautifully by the great Terence Stamp. It gives the film a deeply emotional value from the get go and never looses it going on.
Where the movie, really unfortunately, loses itself is in the forwarding of plot and story. It is just too bloody convoluted for its own good. The mythology established is way, way too complicated and just unnecessarily so. It starts delving into time traveling in a way that isn't clear in the least and then it adds another subplot for Jackson's villain that is even more convoluted. Halfway through I was already getting lost in the logistics of it all and started not even caring about the consequences of the events anymore. Fortunately it is a film that lends itself very much with the audience just rolling with it, but still there was no way to make heads or tails of so much that was going on.
And the worst part is that it was so frustrating, because the rest of the elements are just so good you would like to get lost in these characters, but you just can't and it is very unfortunate, this was a film that deserved slightly better than it got and it is sad to see it fall short of the amazing content it managed to grace the audience with. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
The Peculiar Story – Join author Ransom Riggs and the cast & crew as they discuss how this best-selling series was brought to life The Peculiars – Meet the cast in this behind-the-scenes piece, including 15 character pods Hollows And Ex-Hollows – Explore the role of the Hollows, led by Barron (Samuel L. Jackson,) and the process of creating these ferocious creatures Map Of Days – Miss Peregrine’s Home & Blackpool Tower “Wish That You Were Here” – Florence + The Machine Music Video Gallery – Never-Before-Seen Sketches by Tim Burton and Photographs
'Coney Island: Cinema Archives'
(Betty Grable, George Montgomery, Cesar Romero, Charles Winninger, Phil Silvers, et al / DVD / NR / (1943) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Set at the turn of the century, smooth talking con man Eddie Johnson weasels his way into a job at friend and rival Joe Rocco's Coney Island night spot. Eddie meets the club's star attraction (and Joe's love interest), Kate Farley, a brash singer with a penchant for flashy clothes. Eddie and Kate argue as he tries to soften her image. Eventually, Kate becomes the toast of Coney Island and the two fall in love. Joe then tries to sabotage their marriage plans.
DVD Verdict: Despite a slow start and trifling plot, "Coney Island" turns out to be One of Betty Grable's most sheerly exuberant musicals and another shimmering, glossily produced, exquisitely Technicolored Fox tuner set in the Gay 90s, directed with chic elegance by Walter Lang.
Betty is wonderful all the way and gave what she had as Kate Farley, the stage show entertainer/singer who is transformed by George Montgomery into a classy Broadway star with musical and vocal talents, despite the protests from Kate's manager, played by Cesar Romero. Charles Winninger, Phil Silvers and Hurst are the capably eccentric supporting players.
Brooklyn had two landmarks of note that the world knew about. One was Ebbets Field where the Dodgers played and the other was that entertainment mecca, Coney Island. The Dodgers are gone and Coney Island looks a bit frayed around the edges, but you can still see some traces of the glamor of the period that Betty and the cast are portraying. At least Nathan's Hotdogs is still operating though they wouldn't come into being until long after the era that this film is set in was over.
As expected, then and now, the songs and numbers are joyously, spectacularly staged, including the unforgettable "Cuddle Up a Little Closer", "Pretty Baby", "There's Danger in a Dance", "Beautiful Coney Island", "Put Your Arms Around Me", and "Lulu from Louisville." This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Sitting Pretty: Cinema Archives'
(Robert Young, Maureen O'Hara, Clifton Webb, et al / DVD / NR / (1948) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Tacey and Harry King are a suburban couple with three sons and a serious need of a babysitter. Tacey puts an ad in the paper for a live-in babysitter, and the ad is answered by Lynn Belvedere. But when she arrives, she turns out to be a man. And not just any man, but a most eccentric, outrageously forthright genius with seemingly a million careers and experiences behind him.
DVD Verdict: Clifton Webb became a major star for a while on account of this film, in which he plays an eccentric genius who comes to live in the house of a young couple as a kind of general purpose servant-maid-tutor-savant-philosopher-critic. There was no end, it seems, to what Mr. Belvedere could do, and do extremely well. Walter Lang directs this pleasant picture with much skill, if not inspiration, and as Webb's employers, Robert Young and Maureen O'Hara make an attractive couple.
Webb was a strange case. A huge star on the stage, his film career lasted less than twenty years. He was well into middle age when he started making movies, and at first he tended to play snobs and supercilious characters in general, starting with Laura, in 1944. Till 'Sitting Pretty' came along he had appeared only in dramatic films, usually as a villain.
Overnight, it seems, he was transformed, from upper class bad guy to loveable eccentric, and for a number of years he became a quite popular and unlikely star of often nostalgic films. Along with Charles Coburn, he was one of the last true Victorians of the movies, and as such a reminder of a more formal but also more individualistic time during in the postwar years.
For some reason Maureen O'Hara gave this film a fast mention in her recent memoirs and didn't discuss it at all. I'm not sure why, she certainly did well enough in it. Richard Haydn is also not commented on too much, mainly because he was playing a very typical Richard Haydn part. Regardless, there are so many witty one-liners, and amusing touches in comparison to many modern films on the same themes of babysitting and American suburbia. This is one of the most enjoyable films of its era, of that you can be rest assured.
Indeed, 'Sitting Pretty' is an excellent showcase for Mr. Webb's unique brand of humor, as he managed to be superior and priggish but never mean-spirited. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Woman's World: Cinema Archives'
(Clifton Webb, June Allyson, Van Heflin, Lauren Bacall, Fred MacMurrary, et al / DVD / NR / (1954) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: The chairman of a large automobile maker is left to find a new second in command. Believing that an executive's wife is crucial to her husband's success he examines each of the men's spouses to learn about the candidates through their relationships. Clifton Webb, June Allyson, Van Heflin, and Lauren Bacall star in this 1954 classic.
DVD Verdict: Watching how the actors are strategically placed on screen while performing their chores in 'Woman's World' made me recall how seldom close-ups were used when CinemaScope was new. Instead, medium shots are used almost extensively so that the screen is filled by someone standing far left and the other far right. Occasionally the camera does move in a little closer for an over the shoulder shot, but it's obvious that CinemaScope was new and lensing a film in Wide Screen was not an easy matter.
The performances are all interesting, with Lauren Bacall and Arlene Dahl coming off best, while June Allyson is forced to play a klutzy housewife with too many slip-ups to be tolerable. Clifton Webb is the auto executive who wants to examine the wives of men he's considering for a top job at his auto plant. The men are well played by Van Heflin, Cornel Wilde and Fred MacMurray.
If you liked films like 'Executive Suite', all about climbing the corporate ladder, you'll enjoy this one. Oh, and furthermore it has sumptuous settings enhanced by color photography. Women will enjoy all the costumes and men will stay tuned to see which man Webb chooses for his open executive job.
Witty dialogue helps with Lauren Bacall handling her lines with the kind of skill she always brought to these kind of roles. Arlene Dahl shows a little more skill than usual as an actress with a strong confrontational scene with Webb. This is yet another Cinema Archives film that is well worth your time. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Zane Grey's Western Union: Cinema Archives'
(Robert Young, Randolph Scott, Dean Jagger, et al / DVD / NR / (1941) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: When Edward Creighton leads the construction of the Western Union to unite East with West, he hires a Western reformed outlaw and a tenderfoot Eastern surveyor.
DVD Verdict: I doubt if the real story of the development of Western Union would ever have gained a real audience. Instead of talking about the building of the telegraph system out west, it was the story of board rooms, dominated by one of the most interesting (and disliked) of the great "Robber Barons": Jay Gould. Gould picked up the struggling company and turned it into a communication giant - and part of his attempt at a national railway system to rival Vanderbilt's.
But this, while interesting, is not as exciting as the story of the laying of the telegraph lines themselves. At least, that is how audiences would see it. Jay Gould died in 1892. Had he lived into the modern era, and invested in Hollywood, he probably would have agreed to that assessment too.
The film deals with how the laying of the telegraph system is endangered by Indians, spurred on by one Jack Slade (Barton MacLane). Slade, a desperado, is not happy with the development of a communication system that will certainly put a crimp in his abilities to evade the police in the territories.
He is confronted by the man in charge of the laying of the telegraph wires, Edward Creighton (Dean Jagger), Creighton's associate Richard Blake (Robert Young), and a quasi-lawman Vance Shaw (Randolph Scott), who is Slade's brother. Blake, an Easterner with little understanding of the West, is romancing Creighton's sister Sue (Virginia Gilmore), but finds it hard to get used to his new surroundings. But he does become a close friend of Shaw, especially in trying to confront Slade.
Slade was a real Western criminal, by the way, and the subject of a section of Mark Twain's ROUGHING IT. He was hanged in the 1870s. But he did not have any involvement in stirring up Indians against railroads or telegraph companies. However, MacLane makes him a memorably evil, and totally vicious type. His killing of one of the major characters is done suddenly and from behind - and he views the corpse as though he has just got rid of an annoyance.
But Lang is responsible for that, as well as other touches. Look at the sequence with Chill Wills, where he is on a telegraph pole repairing it. He spits tobacco juice several times while talking to Young, who gets a little splattered. Then there is an Indian attack which we watch from the ground level. At the conclusion, Young suddenly gets splattered again, but it's not brown but red that covers him. He looks up at the pole's top, and there is Wills with an Indian arrow through him. Compelling, from start to finish. That's all you really need to know about this film. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Sentimental Journey: Cinema Archives'
(John Payne, Maureen, O'Hara, William Bendix, Cedric Hardwicke, et al / DVD / NR / (1946) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: A doomed actress adopts a troubled young orphan girl so that her husband will not be alone after she dies.
DVD Verdict: In truth, I LOVE this movie. I saw it first during the '60s when I was a child and I always remembered the little girls name - which was very strange more then anything else. Then I saw it later on and it was heartbreaking. I always cringed when I saw the way Bill treated Hittie after his wife died. She tried her best but he always seemed to blame her for the wife death.
William Bendix is very engaging as the friend/uncle who sees that Hittie needs some fun her life and tries his best to help her. He even gets a book about the psychology of children. He has a very funny scene with the maid about him looking in all the pet stores for a unicorn to no avail. So he gets the book so he can find out how to tell Hittie he can't find one. A very nice sweet scene. The maid is also very helpful.
John Payne who plays the father is very good, but I wanted to tell him to snap out of it! Yes he was in mourning, but he acted ridiculous treating his little girl like that and everyone else. If any character was in need of medication or therapy in a movie his character is it. But this movie was made in the '40s long before any thought of treatment for depression was used. Only when he thinks something bad happened to the little girl does he snap out of it. A very simplistic but sweet ending.
This movie has all the potential to be wonderful, but it walks a fine line that easily takes into kitsch. Sometimes, it is emotional and sweet, but the occasional lapse into over-sentimentality makes it a less than perfect film. Each actor tries hard though, which makes the characters interesting and enjoyable to watch.
Maureen O'Hara, one of my favorite actors, is also very good. But mostly she plays a ghost. I hope that doesn't give too much away for this is yet another wonderful movie that I am so glad is now here on remastered DVD via Cinema Archives and 20th Century Fox. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Duck Dynasty - Season 10'
(The Robertsons / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / Lionsgate)
Overview: The wildly unpredictable and entertaining Robertson family quacks on with a host of fun-filled family antics in Season 10.
DVD Verdict: Did you know that the Robertsons started out by producing a series of hunting videos. They then got their own series on the Outdoor Channel called, "Benelli Presents Duck Commander." They made a highlight reel and sent it to other networks. A&E was interested and ordered two episodes. They liked what they saw and continued to order more.
And then came, of course ... 'Duck Dynasty'! As they say on the show, authenticity is as rare as duck's teeth, and worth its weight in gold! This is by far the most underrated show on Television - STILL! It's got a simple and fresh plot based around on a nook in America that most people mislabel. For all you "Yayhoos" (city folk) here's your inside look to the lives of "Rednecks."
Phil Robertson is STILL the greatest character on reality TV. You won't hear quotes anywhere like the rare ones you hear from him. The antagonism between the brothers, Jase and his younger sibling and boss, Willie, is like watching two thickly bearded 9 year old's fight over guns, trucks, and control of the Nintendo joystick. You can tell they've been going at it over the years.
You'd think after 9 seasons they would run out of material, but this was full of a lot of fresh material. The fun of having a long-running series is that you can about predict how some of the actors/characters are going to act or react, which makes it all the more fun, especially since these are real people acting out their lives on screen!
When you add the outlandish philosophies of Uncle Si and contribute the genuine nature of the rest of the gang, you've got yourself one heck of a TV show. In truth, and having collected and watched all the seasons, and watching the show almost from the start, I was concerned that the best was behind us. But the Robertson's and company come roaring back here in season 10. It's possibly the second or third funniest and best season out of all of them, of that you have my word. It hardly gets better than this, folks. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs that contains all 14 episodes from Season 10, and comes with Special Features never seen on TV!
'NATURE: The Story Of Cats'
(DVD / G / 2016 / PBS)
Overview: Cats are among the most feared and revered creatures on the planet. Their power, strength, and enigmatic nature have fascinated us for centuries. They are one of the most studied mammals in the world yet only now is their real identity being understood. Take an in-depth look at what makes the family of felines unique and the evolutionary tricks and adaptions that truly make a cat, a cat.
DVD Verdict: The domestic cat (Latin: Felis catus) is a small, typically furry, carnivorous mammal. They are often called house cats when kept as indoor pets or simply cats when there is no need to distinguish them from other felids and felines.
Indeed, cats are often valued by humans for companionship and for their ability to hunt vermin. There are more than 70 cat breeds; different associations proclaim different numbers according to their standards.
With nearly 40 different species, thriving in almost any environment, the cat is one of the most successful predators since the dinosaurs. Using the latest camera technology and working with leading scientists, we are able to tell the story like never before. Join NATURE in this epic two-part event as we journey across the globe tracking down the origins of these diverse creatures
'NATURE: The Story Of Cats' takes an in-depth look at what makes the family of felines unique and the evolutionary tricks and adaptions that truly make a cat, a cat:
EPISODE 1: ASIA TO AFRICA - Discover how the first cats arose in the forests of Asia, how they spread across the continent and later came to conquer Africa. We reveal how cats evolved with an in-depth look at lions, servals, caracals, cheetahs, tigers, fishing and sand cats.
EPISODE 2: INTO THE AMERICAS - Track the story of cats into the Americas, from battles with their age-old rivals, the dog family, to the rise of domestic cats. Meet the mighty jaguar, the urban mountain lion, the curious ocelot, the Canada lynx, the nimble margay, the Siamese cat and the Sphynx.
This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: Dr. Julian Fennessy has spent the last 20 years studying giraffes finding that they are disappearing. Fennessy is rounding up some of the world's rarest giraffe to get them to safety, which means a special voyage across the mighty Nile River. The stakes are high in this daring mission against poachers, but if successful, the reward will be a brighter future for an animal we have overlooked.
DVD Verdict: The giraffe (Giraffa) is a genus of African even-toed ungulate mammals, the tallest living terrestrial animals and the largest ruminants. The genus consists of eleven species including Giraffa camelopardalis, the type species. Seven of these species are extinct, prehistoric species known from fossils, while four are still extant.
Whereas Giraffa once was thought to contain a single extant species with numerous subspecies, research into the mitochondrial and nuclear DNA of Giraffa has revealed four to six distinct extant species. The four-species taxonomic classification has the genus Giraffa composed of the species Giraffa giraffa (southern giraffe), Giraffa tippelskirchi (Masai giraffe), Giraffa reticulata (reticulated giraffe) and Giraffa camelopardalis (northern giraffe).
Putting it all into layman's terms, everyone loves giraffes, but what do we really know about them? Dr. Julian Fennessy has spent the last 20 years of his life studying giraffes. Now he's starting to reveal their secrets- the most important being that they are disappearing. The giraffe population in Africa is down by 40 percent in just two decades.
In collaboration with a determined Ugandan Wildlife Authority team, Fennessy wants to round up 20 of the world's rarest giraffes to get them to safety through the wild heart of Uganda, which means embarking on a special voyage across the mighty Nile River.
The stakes are high in this urgent and daring mission against poachers affiliated with organized crime, but if successful, the reward will be a brighter future for an animal we have somehow overlooked. Indeed, it is might thanks to Dr. Fennessy and the UWA for their remarkable work toward saving the species. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'NOVA: Great Human Odyssey'
(DVD / G / 2016 / PBS)
Overview: Numbering no more than a few thousand, tiny groups of intrepid humans began to move out of Africa eventually dominating the planet. How did these early humans acquire the skills, technology, and talent to thrive in every environment on earth? Takes a global journey through the past, following our ancestors footsteps out of Africa along a trail of scientific clues to help unravel the mystery of how we got where we are.
DVD Verdict: Watching 'NOVA: Great Human Odyssey' you embark on an incredible journey around the world and back in time with anthropologist Dr. Niobe Thompson, and discover the miracle of our species.
This three-part documentary series and interactive web documentary 'Great Human Odyssey' explores the unlikely survival and the miraculous emergence of Homo sapiens as the world’s only global species. Ancient climate research has revealed that we evolved during the most volatile era since the extinction of the dinosaurs. Just like the many other kinds of human who once shared our world, we should have died away. Instead, our species survived to populate every corner of the planet, against all the odds.
Over 18 months of filming, Niobe followed in the footsteps of our ancestors across locations on five continents, working with 22 Canadian, American and South African cinematographers, including aerials, underwater, and ultra-slow motion specialists.
Equipped with the next generation of ultraHD 4K cameras, film crews worked in some of the most hostile environments on Earth, including Arctic Siberia, remote South Pacific islands, tropical rainforests and African deserts. You also travel back in time to the origins of our species, 4m years ago, and see how our planet’s shorelines, deserts and glaciers changed at key points in evolutionary history. Working with Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Sciences Lab, this animated visual representation of climate change is a first-ever. Watch this today. Learn from it today. Don't make the mistakes of yesterday again. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Secrets of the Dead: After Stonehenge'
(DVD / G / 2016 / PBS)
Overview: Archaeologists have long believed that while the Egyptians were building pyramids 3,000 years ago, nothing was happening in Western Europe but a new discovery shows something far different. Five years ago, the remains of an incredible, ancient site began to emerge from a quarry in eastern England. Due to its delicate nature, experts have largely been working in secret until now.
DVD Verdict: Taking it from the top, Stonehenge (one of the most famous landmarks in the UK) is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 miles (3 km) west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. Stonehenge's ring of standing stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.
Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC, although they may have been at the site as early as 3000 BC.
And so, and as aforementioned, just some five years ago, the remains of an incredible, ancient site began to emerge from a quarry in eastern England. Due to its delicate nature, experts have largely been working in secret until now.
What they've found is simply unheard of: a 3000-year-old settlement that would have risen above the marshy fens, made up of well-built houses on stilts. A thriving economic hub the size of a modern country town surrounded this settlement - complete with busy harbors and rivers packed with metalwork traders, selling their goods across Europe.
Shockingly, evidence suggests the town may have been attacked and set afire before being abandoned. The ancient artifacts - unprecedented in number and quality - are telling a dramatically new story about Bronze Age life in Britain. 'Secrets of the Dead: After Stonehenge' brings to light a possible new heritage of being from the UK, and ones that, perhaps, just maybe, the English were never fully aware of in the beginning. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Wild Kratts: A Creature Christmas'
(Martin Kratt, Chris Kratt / DVD / NR / 2015 / PBS Kids!)
Overview: It's Christmas time and the Wild Kratts are taking a break to celebrate. They are beginning to open their presents when the Wild Kratts alarm sounds. Just what is happening? Who knows, but you can bet it's gonna turn into a right royal Kratt fight for animal justice, that's for sure!
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Chris and Martin Kratt are brothers (in real life!) who explore the wild throughout the world to learn more about animals and share conservation information. They have three friends who travel in the Tortuga HQ with them named Aviva, Koki and Jimmy Z.
The brothers have creature power suits that allow them to experience what it's like to be the animals they find. The team helps them by creating power suit creature disks for each animal they study. They also bring them supplies and help them out of tricky situations when their adventures get dicey.
In 'Wild Kratts: A Creature Christmas', and just as those Wild Kratts alarm bells sound, it seems some villains - Zach Varmitech, Gaston Gourmand, and Donita Donata - are kidnapping all the baby animals to turn them into Christmas ornaments!! I kid you not! So, as always, the animals come first for the Kratts and so Christmas will have to wait as the Wild Kratts spring into action to save their friends and get them home for Christmas!
In short, 'Wild Kratts' is a great cartoon adventure show for kids where they can learn about new animals and why conservation is so important to the world, not just them. Also, we get to learn fun facts, straight from the box cover art work, in this case: How much does a newborn polar bear weigh? [SPOILER ALERT! - The answer is a cute and cuddly 1 to 1.5 pounds]. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the four (4) Wild Adventures of: Octopus Wildkratticus, Tortuga Tune Up, and the bonus episodes, Speaking Dolpinese and Stuck on Sharks.
'The Man Who Skied Down Everest: Restored Classic'
(Yûichirô Miura, Douglas Rain / Blu-ray / NR / (1975) 2016 / The Film Detective)
Overview: Winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1975, this stirring chronicle tells the tale of Japanese alpinist Yûichirô Miura and his attempt to ski down Mt. Everest in 1970.
Blu-ray Verdict: Before I start let's clear one thing up - this quite stunning "film" is actually a documentary. It was filmed 30 years ago when things in the Everest region were quite a bit different than they are today. I have had this film for some time on VHS, and now that it is restored and on both DVD and Blu-ray, I have to say I am the happiest camper around right now!
'The Man Who Skied Down Everest' is an exceptionally well done work of cinematic art, but you have to be someone who can appreciate it. Its perspective is that of a Japanese skier and thus the film represents that culture and the Japanese outlook. It shows its age more than a bit, and Miura and company hike from Katmandu to Everest Basecamp, which is seldom done anymore. But that is a good point, as it has some beautiful shots of the walk in to Everest, and relationships with the people that inhabit the areas. Nowadays, people more often fly into an airstrip that is a few hours walk to Namche Bazzar, which is the last real town of any size before you reach Everest Basecamp.
The actual skiing incident, or should I say "accident," that gives the picture its title is not nearly as important, or as impressive, as the rest of the film. They could have almost talked about it rather than show it. The beauty of the film is in its cinematography and its Oriental viewpoint. There is some death in the film as there is a major accident in the Kumbu Icefall that takes the life of several Sherpas, sure, but the film isn't really about any of that.
The film is different from any other climbing film I have, and I have a great many; and I take it out and watch it at least once a year. It presents you a picture of a time and place that is long past. As for this record he set back then, it was later broken (of course). Indeed, Miura had two heart surgeries for cardiac arrhythmia in 2006 and 2007 and yet on May 26th, 2008, he once again successfully reached the summit of Mt. Everest at the age of 75!
He summitted with two other Japanese and eight Sherpas, but that's not the end of this INCREDIBLE man and his abilities, for on On May 23rd, 2013 Miura once again became the oldest person to climb to the summit of Mount Everest at the age of 80. This achievement is listed in the Guinness Book of Records, and rightly so. But, unlike all his other attempts, he was unable to make the descent after reaching the top, and was airlifted from Advanced Base Camp at 6500 meters in elevation to Base Camp.
If you enjoy the Japanese culture, you should enjoy the film. For me the film was never dull, except for the aforementioned ski accident. I love the mountains and wilderness. Perhaps my love for wild places gives me too much of a fondness for a film like this, but as you can guess, I can only say that 'The Man Who Skied Down Everest' is one of my favorite "films" of all time. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and has a running time of 85 Minutes.
'The Grinder: The Complete First Season'
(Rob Lowe, Fred Savage, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Hanna Hayes, Connor Kalopsis, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Starring Emmy nominees Rob Lowe (The West Wing, Parks and Recreation) and Fred Savage (The Wonder Years), The Grinder is a comedy about two brothers: Dean (Lowe) is a spotlight grabbing actor who plays TV’s most popular lawyer, and Stewart (Savage) is a real-life, small-town attorney who has yet to find his spotlight.
DVD Verdict: The premise of 'The Grinder' is the courtroom comedy-drama equivalent of "Galaxy Quest". In "Galaxy Quest", a group of actors playing in a Star Trek-like show are solicited for aid by real aliens to help in a galactic cause because the aliens don't understand that the television show is entertainment and the actors are not real space heroes.
In a similar vein, Rob Lowe plays Dean Sanderson, an actor who has played a lawyer in a courtroom drama for 8 seasons in a show called, you guessed it, 'The Grinder'. The pilot episode begins with Sanderson watching the final episode of his show on cable television with his brother Stewart Sanderson (Fred Savage) and his family.
Dean's character is simply called "Grinder" I guess because he "grinds" his way through tough cases. At the close of the episode and the show's run, Dean is now uncertain what he wants to do next. Part of the premise is a "show within a show" as we see scenes from the television series. Strangely I found some of the scenes of the "fictional show" more interesting than the "real life" scenes.
His brother Stewart is in fact a real plaintiff lawyer who represents clients in small cases. However, unlike the charismatic television star Dean, Stewart is a stutterer when it comes to presenting cases in courtrooms. He acts like a deer caught in the headlights when he's making his statements to the court, and he relies on note-cards to aid him in remembering not only his arguments but what the case is all about. As the events play out we learn, poor Stewart is not just lousy at making his courtroom presentations, he gives his clients terrible advice often failing to support their side.
Television star and brother Dean then asks Stewart if he can accompany him to court since his television show having ended he has nothing better to do. While in the hallway, Dean overhears his brother giving mediocre legal advice to one of his clients who are in small claims court fighting with their landlord. The clients, a wrongfully evicted couple, want to keep their apartment, but Stewart wants them to settle with a lousy offering from the defense which would still entail them having to move out from their home.
Dean, sitting on a bench, then asks if he might intervene, and Stewart says it would be inappropriate. However, Dean having confidence in spades while his brother wasn't dealt a good charismatic hand, interrupts his brother and explains they should fight for the rights. The clients recognize Dean as the star of the hit television show and title character of the Grinder and immediately are star-struck and want him to present their case in court. Of course, Stewart is flabbergasted because his brother isn't a real lawyer and has never passed the bar exam. He's only played a lawyer on a scripted television show for 8 seasons.
When Dean appears as the attorney representing the plaintiffs, the courtroom becomes kangaroo. The defense objects because Dean does not have a law license not having gone to law school. However the judge is also enthralled recognizing "the Grinder" so she wants to play along. The courtroom scene of the pilot episode was just too unbelievable. The judge and audience are star-struck and the whole affair becomes a giant entertainment for all involved except for the defense. And you can probably guess the outcome.
While the premise of 'The Grinder' is an interesting one, actor-playing-a-lawyer becomes a real one, I don't know if the show's writing is strong enough to meet the demands of audience believability. I could almost imagine the writers first were contemplating a courtroom drama show starring Rob Lowe, which since Law and Order, Boston Legal, and LA Law have become a dime a dozen these days. Then they thought what if the main counsel was in fact an actor who plays a lawyer who decides to become a real lawyer.
The weakest link is Dean's brother Stewart who is portrayed as such an inept and goofy lawyer I never bought he was good enough to attract clients. I understand the idea is the real-life lawyer brother needs the help of his charismatic brother-turned-television-star to help him out, but he's almost too mediocre for his own good.
Lowe's acting also comes off just a bit too idealized. No, he doesn't really know anything about the law but having played a character he knows much more having been in a virtual law school on television. Overall not bad but it doesn't quite take itself seriously enough and therefore it comes off as closer to farce. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'New Girl - The Complete Fifth Season'
(Zoey Deschanel, Max Greenfield, Jake Johnson, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: The laughs continue as one of television’s wittiest comedies returns for a hilarious fifth season – and its landmark 100th episode. Although Jess (Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) remain broken up, Schmidt and Cece (Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone) are headed down the aisle. Disaster arrives when the loft becomes an Airbnb, Schmidt’s bachelor party hits the road, and Cece’s judgmental mom shows up.
DVD Verdict: From the very first episode of season one, I found 'New Girl' to be my favorite new series. The premise of the show, a girl living with three guys and hilarity ensues, is not the most original, nor the most realistic. But I find the characters to be intriguing, so that I keep wanting to return to see what happens next.
After a few episodes, the characters become more relative to my own life than in the pilot. Evolution of scripts once given the full episode green light, one imagines. Jess is totally awkward, and it seems half the time her head is in the clouds, and half the time she's the most down to earth character. Her extroverted nature becomes more manageable as the series develops, so don't let it put you off initially.
Nick is a 30-something drop out that still lives with a student mindset. He comes up with some creative ways to not spend money. He's portrayed as not living up to his potential, yet his manner draws you in, kind of like a helpless puppy that you find adorable and pitiful at the same time.
As for Schmidt, yes, initially, he reeks of douche bag. But he's an ex-fat-kid that now overcompensates for his lack of self esteem with douchey mannerisms. Given that, he's a fairly realistic character with a well developed history. His arrogance is always portrayed in a humorous way, and has become my favorite part of the show.
Winston had his 15 minutes of fame and now is dealing with just being a nobody in a big city again. Fair enough, token black guy. There is a lot of awkward humor in this show - the kind of moments that make you cringe, yet you can't look away, and feel guilty about wanting to laugh. But every episode does make me laugh out loud. There's a touch of light drama, for those that just want a lighthearted show that won't make you think too much.
And here in this fifth season, it starts off with Schmidt and Cici planning their wedding. Jessica's role as the central character on the series has long since vanished and she's become more of a background character. Personally I think that's a good thing because her character's ultra quirkiness was starting to get overplayed.
Indeed, she's only in half of this season though because Zooey Deschanel was pregnant during filming and left for a while. So there is a lot of hiding her belly, keeping her sitting down (she breaks her legs in the first episode!), to hide her belly. I've always enjoyed watching TV shows creatively hide the pregnancy of an actress who's playing a non pregnant character.
Schmidt and Cici have a more prominent role than in the past. And that's a good thing for the show as their relationship is funny and well done. Both characters transitions from complete side characters in the aforementioned season one to main plot drivers today. Sadly, and yes, this is only MHO, but I don't think Megan Fox brought much to the show - and I didn't really like the character of Reagan; but it was definitely a creative way for the writers to give the fans a full season. Anyway, I'm already looking forward to the new sixth season - as I hope y'all are too. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'I Am Rebel: National Geographic'
(Jonathan Cantor, Heidi K. Eklund, Shirley Huang, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Rebels, radicals, mavericks, and change makers. 'I Am Rebel' is a documentary series about unfamiliar yet game-changing characters who prove that beneficial change can happen when you break the rules.
DVD Verdict: A backyard chemist invents the world’s most infamous club drug. A crime scene photographer changes the way police fight crimes. A civil rights activist hijacks a plane, causing sweeping airport security reforms. The first dark-side hacker revolutionizes computer security.
These seemingly disparate stories share a common thread: outsiders finding their voices by rebelling against the status quo. Originally airing Sunday, June 5th @ 9/8c on the National Geographic Channel, this incredible, indepth, and masterful show (now out here on DVD) takes viewers inside these relatively obscure stories with 'I Am Rebel'.
Each episode of 'I Am Rebel' centers on one individual and their unlikely impact on modern history, as told by their closest friends, confidants and often the people themselves. Perhaps my own favorite spotlight shone on Weegee, New York’s first crime scene photographer, whose work shined a light on organized crime at the height of the Prohibition-era gang wars in New York and changed police tactics in the fight against those crimes.
'I Am Rebel' is produced by Hypnotic and National Geographic Studios for National Geographic Channel. Doug Liman, Matt Wolf, Gene Klein, and David Bartis executive produce for Hypnotic. Jeff Hasler and Bengt Anderson executive produced for National Geographic Studios. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Rebel Pope: National Geographic'
(DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Before the fame, Pope Francis was a boy from Buenos Aires, living in poverty and political unrest. After years of studying science and medicine, in 1956, he has a sudden epiphany that his place is in the church. After 12 years of studying, Jorge is now a priest and climbing the ranks. The rest, as they say, is now history.
DVD Verdict: 'Rebel Pope' is an incredible story that explores the forces of Argentina’s military junta and the dramatic choices that confronted and ultimately transformed a conservative young man of humble origins into arguably one of the most relevant and controversial Popes in history.
Produced by Fox Telecolombia, part of Fox International Channels, this hour-long special tracks the life of Jorge Mario Bergoglio – otherwise known as Pope Francis – from childhood to his rise through the church’s hierarchy. The docu-drama interweaves scripted accounts of his pre-Vatican life with exclusive interviews with those closest to him during this time.
Directed by Patrick Reams, filming on the biopic took place in Argentina and Colombia and the scenery that fits perfectly behind the "actors" is as cinematically beautiful as anything I've seen for a long, long time. But then again, we are talking about the National Geographic, after all. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'When Sharks Attack Season 3: National Geographic'
(DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: From America’s coastline to exotic beaches around the world, the number of reported shark attacks has increased in the last half century. Many of the attacks are popping up in new and surprising locations. 'When Sharks Attack' investigates these terror-filled events, with underwater photography, compelling news archives, and gripping testimony exploring recent attacks to see what is affecting some of nature’s most feared fish.
DVD Verdict: Here in 'When Sharks Attack - Season 3' we quickly learn through the three episodes shown that The Gulf of Mexico is home to over 49 species of sharks, and it’s not uncommon for locals and tourists to spot one swimming along the coast. More often than not, these usually docile creatures stay away from humans.
But in 2005, shark attacks along the Gulf of Mexico exploded, five times more than the average. The cause is a mystery to locals and experts, and the answer could devastate thousands of miles of American coastline. With this unprecedented number of incidents people are left wondering what has caused more sharks to attack; has something changed in the once calm waters of the Gulf? And if so, what is it?
In the first episode, "Cape Jaws", we learn that with 600 sightings and four attacks, the peaceful tourist destination of Cape Cod suddenly becomes a hotspot for terrifying shark encounters!
In the second episode, "Nightmare Island", we learn that the Bahamas is a nation of 700 islands with some of the most biodiverse marine life in the world. Despite being home to 40 species of shark, attacks on humans are unusual…until 2002. What caused this increase that left 36 people maimed or dead?
In the final episode, "Carolina Chaos," well this is where National Geographic excels, for they inform us, and in part show us, that shark incidents are heavily dependent on weather and currents and are much more likely when the water temperature reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit and when strong currents flow north along the coast, bringing bait fish. This given year, those conditions appeared in April, and sharks soon followed, coming from Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. And thus we come full circle, so to speak. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Return From The Dead: National Geographic'
(DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: In this groundbreaking documentary, world-leading neuroscientist and Doctor Steven Laureys embarks on an extraordinary and unique investigation into death and the human brain. He wants to investigate the extraordinary, intense and often life-changing tales of those who’ve been to the brink of death and returned.
DVD Verdict: In this revelatory documentary, 'Return From The Dead: National Geographic', world-leading neurologist and doctor, Steven Laureys, conducts an immersive investigation into the phenomena of Return from the Dead, staging a ground-breaking experiment to show that a scientific explanation could replace a supernatural one.
For those not in the know, Steven Laureys (born 24th December 1968) is a Belgian neurologist. He is recognized worldwide as a leading clinician and researcher in the field of neurology of consciousness.
Prof. Laureys graduated as a Medical Doctor from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, in 1993. While specializing in neurology he entered a research career and obtained his M.Sc. in Pharmaceutical Medicine working on pain and stroke using in vivo microdialysis and diffusion MRI in the rat (1997).
Drawn by functional neuroimaging, he moved to the Cyclotron Research Center at the University of Liège, Belgium, where he obtained his Ph.D. studying residual brain function in the vegetative state in 2000. He is board-certified in neurology (1998) and in end-of-life and palliative medicine (2004).
He currently leads the Coma Science Group at the Cyclotron Research Centre of the University of Liège, Belgium. He is clinical professor of neurology, at the Liège University Hospital and Research Director at the National Fund for Scientific Research.
Basically put, here in 'Return From The Dead: National Geographic', Professor Steven Laureys uses virtual reality to try and induce an out of body experience. It is fascinating to watch him at work, to see where his mind is headed, so try and understand not only why he does what he does, but to what end purpose. Some say that studying brain activity is not studying consciousness itself, rather it is studying the result of consciousness - because studying requires consciousness. Watch this new DVD and YOU decide. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet 3: National Geographic'
(Dr. Oakley / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Dr. Oakley is the only vet in her area of the Yukon. She treats domestic pets, endangered wildlife, farm animals--basically anything that walks on fours, crawls, flies. All of that- plus she's a wife and a mom of three girls.
DVD Verdict: Dr. Michelle Oakley is truly a Vet to look up to. She certainly has a varied practice, and she doesn't talk baby talk like another one of those female vets on a similar program, she calls them sweet names, sure, but she treats them all with great respect. Her medicine is up-to-date, very thorough, and she's a credit to her profession.
I should also mention that people watching already know all the goodness, the love, the warmth that comes from watching this show, but I can also add that she has a great husband too. She teaches her daughters the profession, so Sierra now helps her in the office and in the field. Of course, she treats all animals with great care, from birds, mammals, to rodents and reptiles, alike, with TLC galore - and a great spirit.
I love the beginning where it shows the Eagle she's releasing, her hair blows with the great bird's wind in taking off ruffles her hair. Indeedm her greatest pleasure - aside from her family - is to set one of her patients free! Dr. Oakley is the only vet in her area, which keeps her busy, and requires her to have more than one office. Her talents include not only veterinary meds, surgeries, and vaccinations, but accuracy with a blow pipe loaded with an anesthetic dart! In short, Dr. Oakley is a beautiful person, of that there is no doubt. Keep up the great work, Doc! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Mygrations - Season 1: National Geographic'
(Dan Baird, Reza Allah-Bakhshi, Robin Arzon / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: For the first time, a human herd of Americans joins the great wildebeest migration across the Serengeti. They must use their expert survival skills to navigate without a map or compass – carrying limited food rations – and survive in the face of the world’s deadliest predators as they cross two hundred miles of brutal terrain. Do they have what it takes to reach the Mara River?
DVD Verdict: 'Mygrations - Season 1: National Geographic' is an indepth, six episode first season that I honestly enjoyed the whole series of via a binge! The herd (people) stayed strong and faced many difficult challenges no matter what, which I would like to see more of in our own society re: our new President Elect!
Indeed, I mentally tried to put myself in the group as they made their journey following the wild animal heard. A very tough group of people from all walks of life. The tension was real, so were the dangers. However, the ending was a little weird for me. With five minutes left in reaching their final destination, the people were surrounded by zebra's, wildebeest. But, when they reached the river at the very end of the show, there was none at their site. How could they be seen, in a virtual sea of animals a few hundred yards from the river and not at the river shore?
These questions kinda-sorta get answered as we progress, for these people are not all survivalists, some have nothing to do with it. But they persevere through very real danger regardless and their individual outcomes are as brave, as challenging, as raw to themselves as it is to the herd overall. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'StarTalk - Season 1: National Geographic'
(Neil deGrasse Tyson / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Join charismatic astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as he hosts entertaining and thought provoking interviews with some of the world’s most fascinating people.
DVD Verdict: Featuring guests that include former president Jimmy Carter, television producer Norman Lear, publisher Arianna Huffington, filmmaker Christopher Nolan, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and actor George Takei – and with subjects that range from modern love to the future of space travel– National Geographic’s 'StarTalk' is a late-night talk show like no other!
Tyson amiably hosts the festivities out of his perch as director of the Hayden Planetarium, promising a discussion “where science and pop culture collide.” Given the initial guest roster — “Star Trek’s” George Takei and director Christopher Nolan, fresh off the space-and-time-bending “Interstellar” — so far, so good.
Still, what emerges is a disjointed affair, one in which Tyson is joined in each episode by different co-hosts — one a comedian, the other a fellow scientist — a format that dices the central interview into snippets, then features extended interludes in which Tyson and his fellow studio mates expand upon and dissect the conversation.
Honestly, though, a free-wheeling chat with Takei (even conducted without frills on the couch in Tyson’s office) about a life through the filter of “Star Trek,” or with Nolan about the science undergirding his films, doesn’t require, or much benefit from, the postgame analysis. And when Tyson tells Nolan that “Interstellar” is “an orgy of relativity,” it would be more fun to hear them explore that further than talk for 60 seconds or so before retreating back to the planetarium.
Regardless, Tyson still seems like the right person to host this kind of show, but as a host he can get better, in MHO. He deserves the chance, if only because effective science communicators are rare, and Tyson has a good track record. He has certainly earned the stage of this modest basic-cable chat show. Now he needs to act like his guests have earned it too. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Animals Gone Wild - Season 3: National Geographic
(Josh Goodman / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: How outrageous can the animal kingdom get? Whether it’s out-of-bounds behavior or savage instincts run amok, when animals act out they’re a force to be reckoned with. From the mysterious depths of the deep blue sea to the jungle’s untamed edge, see just how rough, rowdy, and lawless Mother Nature’s most unruly creatures can be.
DVD Verdict: Pulling only the best clips from Nat Geo WILD's fast paced, energetic series, 'Animals Gone Wild - Season 3: National Geographic' have mined their incredible back stock of clips as they once again drill into the most gripping moments ever captured in the wild. From incredible predator attacks to skin-of-their-teeth escapes to wild encounters between humans and wildlife, here in this third season all best are still off!
Complete with eight episodes spread over two discs, 'Animals Gone Wild - Season 3: National Geographic' my personal favorites are "Party Crashers", where we see that from the ocean’s fiercest predators to Africa’s biggest beasts, these animals are not afraid to get up close and personal. Another is "Angry Giants", where from tiny heroes to giant marauders, nature’s wildest show that each triumph of survival is a treacherous one. Especially those that like to sit on the hood of your car!
Another is "Hard knocks", where we discover fearless survivors risking it all to untamable wild spirits fighting for freedom, it can be frightening fighting to survive in the wild, nonetheless. Also the brilliantly titled "Fast & Furious", where Mother Nature’s meanest creatures prove that you can’t always go it alone, and only the most daring will face Impossible Missions. Other episodes included are "Double Trouble", "Rockin' Renegades", Deadly Game" and "Born To Be Wild". This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Missing Dial: National Geographic'
(2-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: In 2014, Cody Roman Dial, son of legendary explorer Roman Dial, vanished while trying to complete a solo trek in the most dangerous jungle in Central America. The evidence quickly led his family to believe foul play was involved. Now Roman Dial is going on his highest-stakes expedition ever. With a team of former FBI agents, he’ll retrace the steps of his son to solve the mystery of what happened to him.
DVD Verdict: 'Missing Dial: National Geographic' is a real-time documentary investigating the unexplained disappearance of a young adventurer, Cody Dial, in Costa Rica. In truth, this National Geographic movie delivers some closure to a tragic mystery with an unsettling conclusion, particularly for those close to Cody.
That said, and I know I'm not the only one saying this, but I cannot understand why they produced such a damaging program about the Osa peninsula in Costa Rica in the first place. They leave out crucial details of the investigation in the film. This leaves the viewer scratching his/her head and tail chasing. Rather than giving up important information, they spend plenty of time wandering around in the jungle, driving on dirt roads, re-showing the same clips of Cody as a teen, and cornering people.
I wanted to watch this show, now here on DVD for review, because I know the area very well and have owned property not far from Puerto Jimenez. I hated the way they portrayed the locals and their way of life. I wish they had spent some time showing how lovely the people are, and how magnificent the area is.
Regardless, and of course my heart goes out to this family and everything their long search has entailed. Indeed, if anything, please pay attention should you be one of those adventurous hikers determined to hike Corcovado. While it is, I know for a fact, an amazing experience for hikers, the jungle is not the only thing a person needs to be cautious of when traveling in parts of Costa Rica alone. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Hellraiser: Scarlet Box Limited Edition Trilogy'
(Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence, Claire Higgins, Kenneth Cranham, Terry Farrell, et al / 4-Disc Blu ray / R / 2016 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: The first three entries in the Clive Barker-originated series are presented in Hellraiser: The Collector's Edition, a box set which includes Barker's 1986 original, and the first two sequels, Tony Randel's Hellbound and Anthony Hickox's Hell on Earth.
Blu-ray Verdict: Watching the films run together, especially now here in this incredible new box-set, you can see the process whereby a twisted original vision from a British writer-director gradually spawns into the franchise we know, and love today.
For horror fans everywhere the release of the original 'HELLRAISER' (1987) was an exciting event. We had seen Michael Myers terrorize suburbia, Freddy Krueger haunt the dreams of youth, and Jason Voorhees make summer camp a living hell over and over. It was time for something fresh, something new and daring. And in '87 that something came care of world renowned author/painter/director Clive Barker. If it wasn't for him we wouldn't have witnessed the truly bizarre and truly horrifying and, dare I say, strangely beautiful world of 'Hellraiser.'
The pros for the film are that provides an elegant and very haunting score. A very original concept. As for the film itself, there are en masse of solid performances from all involved. Some really impressive, and extremely gruesome effects. A lot of striking imagery, some of which will make your skin crawl. If gore is your thing, then you'll find plenty of that here. Writer/director Barker makes a great debut; the film looks good and he gets some awesome shots. The Cenobites are the most original and frightening monsters in a long time.
The cons are that there are also some very unconvincing corpse effects. One really annoying plot hole stands out also, but I won't go into that here, of course. Anyway, since the '80s was nearing it's end, so was a big movement in horror: the era of the slasher. Then this film came along and proved there's still some great and original ideas out there.
As for the gist of the story, well, Pinhead is a Cenobite which are say, creatures from Hell. These creatures are summoned through a device, the device being a small puzzle box. Solving this puzzle box will bring Pinhead and his cronies to you to give you the ultimate of pain and pleasure. One man does it, and cheats the system being brought back to life afterwards. Scares ensue!
The Cenobites are back to bring more hell on Earth! Yup, 'HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II' (1988) was released just one year later and Kirsty wakes in the psychiatric hospital, where she is questioned about the events leading up to the destruction of her home; which involved her stepmother, Julia, and a bloody mattress! Kirsty tells the police that her uncle, Frank, opened a puzzle box to an alternate dimension populated by monsters named Cenobites who torture human quarry for sadomasochistic purposes.
The story amazes the detectives, who are incredulous and take the bloody mattress as evidence. Kirsty is turned over to Dr. Channard and his assistant, Kyle, who instantly becomes smitten with Kirsty. That night, Kirsty befriends another patient, Tiffany, a semi-catatonic young girl with an incredible skill for solving puzzles.
Later, in her room, Kirsty finds a message written in blood stating "I AM IN HELL. HELP ME." Believing it was sent by her father, Kirsty tells her story to Kyle, who encourages her to tell Channard about the Cenobites. Now with Kyle and Tiffany's help, Kirsty wants to get her father back from the sadistic Cenobites and must confront them once again!
Pushed forward by a strong cast (featuring the wonderful Kenneth Cranham), the film is a creepy ghost-train ride which reveals more about the world of the Cenobites. Like the original film, 'Hellraiser II' is as much about human emotion as it is about shocks and scares. It is a worthy successor to a horror classic.
As you have all read, and most likely already knew by now anyway, in 1987, Clive Barker brought to the cinema screen a vision of horror and degradation that was tightly wound around a fascinating mythology of sadomasochistic demons from another world who questioned our own desire for the ultimate pleasure. Sadly, 'HELLRAISER: HELL ON EARTH' (1992) signaled the series' rapid decline in quality and imagination!
Ambitious young reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell) is searching for that one big story to help project her career forward. While she wraps up a dull story at a hospital, a man covered in blood with metal chains protruding from his body held up by an unseen entity is rushed in, and is brutally ripped apart just as he is placed on the operating table. Knowing this could be her big break, she tracks down the woman who fled the hospital, Terri (Paula Marshall), and discovers her at a club ran by a slime ball named J.P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt), who has recently purchased a stone pillar possessing the trapped soul of Cenobite Pinhead (Doug Bradley).
'Hellbound', for all its flaws, at least attempted to further establish the mythology, giving us glimpses of Pinhead before he opened the lament configuration. Although Pinhead appears in his human form, dressed in World War I attire, we learn little about his history, and combined with the horror icon's inexplicable new found love of quips and shouting, 'Hell on Earth' feels completely disconnected from the films that came before.
It's also cheap- looking, in particular a scene which sees Joey fleeing from Pinhead and his fresh-out-the-oven new Cenobite recruits is badly edited, consisting of feeble explosions while the unconvincing Farrell screams repeatedly. Surely an embarrassment for Barker, 'Hell on Earth' contorted the idea of a visionary into money-grubbing franchise.
To prove that fact, I give you the subsequent production line chapters in the 'Hellraiser" arsenal of straight-to-DVD titles: 'Hellraiser: Bloodline' (1996), 'Hellraiser: Inferno' (2000), 'Hellraiser: Hellseeker' (2002), 'Hellraiser: Deader' (2005), 'Hellraiser: Hellworld' (2005), 'Hellraiser: Revelations' (2011), and due out in 2017, would you believe 'Hellraiser: Judgment'!
In conclusion, 'Hellraiser' is a true horror masterpiece and shouldn't be overlooked at all. Sure each one thereafter lowered the bar, but if you love horror, well, and even with the lesser body counts not being to the height of a 'Friday the 13th' and such, you will LOVE the original - and with all these brand new special features now included, well, once you have immersed yourself, there may not be time to get out before it's hooked you into the labyrinth! This is a new High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new 2K restorations
Uncompressed PCM Stereo 2.0 & Lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound for Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 sound for Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Limited Edition packaging
Set of 5 exclusive art cards
Fold-out reversible poster
DISC 1: HELLRAISER:
Brand new 2K restoration approved by director of photography Robin Vidgeon
Audio commentary with Clive Barker
Audio commentary with Barker & actress Ashley Laurence
Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser brand new version of the documentary featuring interviews with key cast and crew members
Sean Chapman on Hellraiser
The Story of the Abandoned Coil Score
vintage featurette including interviews with cast and crew
Doug Bradley on Hellraiser
Original EPK featuring on-set interviews with cast and crew
Draft Screenplays [BD-ROM content]
Trailers and TV Spots
DISC 2: HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II:
Brand new 2K restoration approved by director of photography Robin Vidgeon
Audio Commentary with director Tony Randel and writer Peter Atkins
Audio Commentary with Randel, Atkins and actress Ashley Laurence
Leviathan: The Story of Hellbound: Hellraiser II brand new version of the definitive documentary, featuring interviews with key cast and crew members
Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellbound actor Sean Chapman talks about reprising the role of Frank Cotton in the first Hellraiser sequel
Surgeon Scene the home video world premiere of this legendary, never before-seen excised sequence from Hellbound
Lost in the Labyrinth vintage featurette including interviews with Barker, Randel, Keen, Atkins and others
Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellbound: Hellraiser II
On-set interview with Clive Barker
On-set interviews with cast and crew
Rare and unseen storyboards
Draft Screenplay [BD-ROM content]
Trailers and TV Spots
DISC 3: HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH:
Brand new 2K restoration of the Original Theatrical Version [93 mins]
Alternate Unrated Version [97 mins]
Brand new audio commentary with writer Peter Atkins
Audio commentary with director Anthony Hickox and Doug Bradley
Hell on Earth: The Story of Hellraiser III making-of documentary featuring interviews with Atkins, Keen and actor Ken Carpenter
Terri s Tales brand new interview with actress Paula Marshall
Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
Raising Hell on Earth archival interview with Hickox
On-set interviews with Barker and Bradley
Never-before-seen Hellraiser III SFX dailies
Hellraiser III comic book adaptation [Disc gallery]
DISC 4: THE CLIVE BARKER LEGACY LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE:
Clive Barker short films Salomé and The Forbidden
Books of Blood & Beyond: The Literary Works of Clive Barker horror author David Gatward provides a tour through Barker s written work, from the first Books of Blood to the recent The Scarlet Gospels
a brand new documentary looking at the evolution of the hit horror franchise and its enduring legacy
A Question of Faith short film
200-PAGE BOOK DAMNATION GAMES LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE - Exclusive 200-page hardback book with new writing on Hellraiser and the Barker universe from Barker archivists Phil and and Sarah Stokes
'50 Years With Peter Paul & Mary'
(Peter Paul & Mary / DVD / NR / (2014) 2016 / MVD Visual)
Overview: '50 Years with Peter, Paul, and Mary' examines the era of the group’s emergence in Greenwich Village through the Civil Rights and Anti-War years where their anthems contributed to America’s soundtrack of social and political change and into the 21st century where their legacy and music continues to inform, inspire and enrich successive generations.
DVD Verdict: Peter, Paul and Mary was an American folk group formed in New York City in 1961, during the American folk music revival phenomenon. The trio was composed of songwriter Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers. After the death of Travers in 2009, Yarrow and Stookey continued to perform as a duo under their individual names.
Presented here on this highly informative '50 Years With Peter Paul & Mary' DVD (originally broadcast on PBS) are memorable performances interwoven with voice-over insights provided by Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and the late Mary Travers. Culled from hundreds of hours of radio and television interviews in an 80 minute performance-based documentary, it celebrates the impact of this preeminent trio. One that inspired America through its music and its advocacies.
Produced and directed by Four-time Emmy Award winner Jim Brown, the documentary takes us back to the early black and white days of TV right from the off. Indeed, the story begins when manager Albert Grossman puts the three individuals together in 1964, but if you're looking for indepth history of exactly who Peter, Paul and Mary were; their own journey's to being who they were then, well, sorry, for there is no such history of the individuals themselves.
This is about the group, as a whole. Indeed, when sitting on a sofa, they are asked how long it had taken them to be commercially successful in folk music. "We rehearsed for seven months and then we started to perform. Three months later we released our first album and three months after that is a number one album and the bestselling album in America. It hadn't happened because of a lot of promotion, or because a lot of people had seen us, because they hadn't. It was what we call an Underground Phenomenon."
The archival footage that Brown gathered – from commercial TV shows, PBS’s “25th year reunion” and even heart-rendering video from the memorial service for Mart Travers, who died in 2009 is very satisfying though, if you are simply looking to peak into their world back then. While not all the performance clips are complete, there is enough to satisfy most general fans.
All the hits are here, of course - "Leaving On A Jet Plane", "Blowin' In The Wind", "Puff, the Magic Dragon", "Five Hundred Miles", "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime", and more - and for those looking for the complete Peter, Paul & Mary "group" flashback, well, the “fourth member” of the band was indeed guitarist Paul Prestopino, who is shown in nearly every clip, but neither identified or interviewed. That aside, this is a very heartwarming and fulfilling story on one of America's most beloved and adored folk bands. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'A Frozen Christmas'
(Kj Schrock, Evan Tramel, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / MVD Visual)
Overview: 'A Frozen Christmas' is the perfect way to get the family in the Holiday spirit with the most beloved animated Christmas characters, including Santa Claus, the Snowman, Elves, Santa's Reindeer, and more!
DVD Verdict: Sure, we've had en masse of these types of animated films, and sure we've had much better in that animated department, but there's something very alluring about 'A Frozen Christmas', out now via MVD Visual.
Starting off with some rather great, it has to be said, opening graphics, it's when the actual story line takes ahold that you question how long the movie's run time is. Chock full of capable and above decent animation, in general, 'A Frozen Christmas' offers many lessons about believing in Christmas and loving others therein. But quite why, when each story is brought forth, they didn't create the same level of animation as they did in the opening sequences is beyond me!
That said, and let's get this straight from the off, just in case you buy this DVD and think something is wrong with your DVD player, 'A Frozen Christmas' is a narrated story over animated still pictures. So, let's not go expecting that lovely, free flowing opening credit animation to still be so prevalent once the stories are brought forth.
Still, for the wee ones, 'A Frozen Christmas' is the perfect way to get the family in the Holiday spirit with the most beloved animated Christmas characters, including Santa Claus, the Snowman, Elves, Santa's Reindeer, and more! So come one, come all and gather around and listen as Santa and his young elf pals narrate time honored Christmas story classics such as, The Elves and the Shoemaker, Little Girls' Christmas, The Fir Tree, the Brave Tin Soldier and more! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Sad Vacation: The Last Days of Sid and Nancy'
(Sid Vicious, Nancy Spungen, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / MVD Visual)
Overview: 'Sad Vacation' is an up close and personal account of the tumultuous and stormy relationship between Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen and how it ended in Room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel.
DVD Verdict: John Beverly, born John Simon Ritchie, later named Sid Vicious (10 May 1957 – 2 February 1979), was an English musician, most famous as the bass guitarist of the influential punk rock band the Sex Pistols, and notorious for his arrest for the alleged murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.
In turn, Nancy Spungen (February 27, 1958 – October 12, 1978) was basically known as the American girlfriend Vicious and a figure of the 1970s punk rock scene. Indeed, Spungen's life and death have been the subject of controversy among music historians and fans of the Sex Pistols.
Directed by Danny Garcia (The Rise and Fall of The Clash, Looking for Johnny), 'Sad Vacation: The Last Days of Sid and Nancy' pulls no punches and reveals the facts through personal friends, insiders and witnesses. Sadly, what we get to understand from the off about Vicious is that he had charm, he was a charmer, he wasn't all that "bad" of a boy.
Including many interviews with musicians of the time such as Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls), Bob Gruen, Walter Lure (The Heatbreakers), Leee Black Childers, Howie Pyro (D Generation), Kenny Gordon (Pure Hell), Cynthia Ross (The B- Girls) and many more, this funny, witty man known as Sid Vicious is shown here, shall we say, "make up free" as a young lad, lost, finding a "family" within the Sex Pistols, and then becoming a statistic to the burgeoning drug scene of the time.
Throughout we're told that Nancy Spungen was nothing more than a groupie, a junkie, even sometimes part of Vicious' "backing band" when he did solo stuff, but sometimes we get to see more of who she really was. Yet another lost soul, on a downward spiral with Vicious and anyone they touched, the jury is still out on whether or not Vicious did actually stab and kill Spungen.
And if you're looking for a killer punchline to this story, well, how about someone within the business revealing that once Vicious had died, and been cremated, that his "friends" would all snort his ashes! Only one did, but wow - he actually DID snort Vicious' ashes! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes complete with a very nice Sid Vicious poster inside!
'A Man and His Guitar – Live From The Franklin'
(Travis Tritt / DVD / NR / 2016 / Post Oak Recordings)
Overview: Travis Tritt has just released this incredible special live 2-CD and DVD, entitled A Man and His Guitar – Live From The Franklin Theatre, this past November 18th, 2016.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, James Travis Tritt is an American country music singer, songwriter, and actor. He signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1989, releasing seven studio albums and a greatest hits package for the label between then and 1999. In the 2000s, he released two albums on Columbia Records and one for the defunct Category 5 Records.
Indeed, seven of his albums (and yes, that is counting the Greatest Hits) are certified platinum or higher by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA); the highest-certified is 1991's It's All About to Change, which is certified triple-platinum.
Tritt has also charted more than 40 times on the Hot Country Songs charts, including five number ones — "Help Me Hold On," "Anymore," "Can I Trust You with My Heart," "Foolish Pride", and "Best of Intentions" — and 15 additional top ten singles.
The man who has received two Grammy Awards, both for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals: in 1992 for "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'," a duet with Marty Stuart, and again in 1998 for "Same Old Train", a collaboration with Stuart and nine other artists, and who has received four awards from the Country Music Association, and has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1992, may have always had his musical style defined by mainstream country and Southern rock influences, but wow, what a career - and what a man, in general (as anyone who's ever met him).
Having released The Calm After... (2013), here in 2016 we now get a really wonderful double act of music and visual Tritt entertainment (although sold separately) on A Man And His Guitar, Live From The Franklin Theatre. Sold as a 2-CD set or a lovely DVD, the new musical performance package showcases one of the worlds greatest country stars, alone, perched on a stool, solo with his guitar, and still at his best.
1. “It’s All About the Money” (Donny Kees, Jody Harris)
2. “Where Corn Don’t Grow” (Mark Alan Springer, Roger Murrah)
3. “The Pressure Is On” (Hank Williams, Jr.)
4. “I’m Gonna Be Somebody” (Jill Colucci, Stewart Harris)
5. “Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man” [with James Otto] (Kostas)
6. “Country Club” (Catesby Jones, Dennis Lord)
7. “Country Ain’t Country” (Carson Chamberlain, Casey Beatherd, Teresa Boaz)
8. “500 Miles Away From Home” (Bobby Bare, Charles Williams, Hedy West)
9. “Here’s A Quarter” (Travis Tritt)
10. “Best of Intentions” (Travis Tritt)
11. “Drift Off to Dream” (Travis Tritt, Stewart Harris)
12. “Help Me Hold On” (Travis Tritt, Pat Terry)
13. “Whiskey Ain’t Workin’” [with Marty Stuart] (Ronny Scaife, Marty Stuart)
14. “Pickin’ at It” [with Marty Stuart] (Travis Tritt)
15. The Story of Anymore
16. “Anymore” (Travis Tritt, Jill Colucci)
17. “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” (Darrell Scott)
18. “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” (Jerry Chestnut)
19. “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde” (Walt Aldridge, James LeBlanc)
"Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome, Travis Tritt" are the words that open the recording, and after a subtle, quietly acknowledged "Thank you" back from Tritt, he settles onto his stool and eases into "It's All About The Money", which he backs up with both "Where Corn Don't Grow" and "The Pressure Is On".
As the album title reveals, the shows was recorded at the Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tenn., during an unplugged solo concert for all his fans. A Man and His Guitar brings forth more hits and favorite album tracks, such as "I'm Gonna Be Somebody", "300 Miles away From Home", "Help Me Hold On", but (sadly) missing from the DVD, but included on the 2CD set are some brilliant covers: such as "I Walk The Line" and a stunning Waylon Tribute Medley.
Also including personal stories from Tritt about his life and influences, and what he has learned during his long and successful career in the country music world, we get to listen to Marty Stuart joining Tritt on the second CD. Joining him on such songs as “Pickin’ at It” as well as for “Whiskey Ain’t Workin’,” James Otto also helps out on “Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man.”
As I paid mention to in my 2CD review of this live show, this live performance is a nicely balanced release of 24 tracks together with Tritt's still remarkable voice sounding as great as ever, which means that A Man And His Guitar, Live At The Franklin Theatre is one of those visual experiences that quickly becomes addictive viewing. More than that, you'll beg for it to be on vinyl (let alone the 2CD set), for this album fully deserves to be an LP - just to hear it on a turntable, man, now that's what I want for Christmas!
'In A Valley of Violence' [Blu-ray+Digital HD]
(Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, James Ransone, Karen Gillan, John Travolta, et al / Blu-ray+Digital HD / R / 2016 / Universal)
Blu-ray Overview: A mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drag a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody crosshairs of revenge.
Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, 'In A Valley of Violence' is a pretty low key western starring Ethan Hawke (in yet another cowboy pose re: 'The Magnificent 7' remake) as an unlikely hero out to avenge the death of his beloved dog. This part of the plot sounds similar to John Wick but that's where the similarities end. Hawke is a drifter who ends up in a run down town controlled by the Marshall played by John Travolta.
He has an altercation with the marshals son who is the town bully and is advised to leave town. Even though he does so he is still attacked and left for dead by the Marshall's son and his cronies who kill his only friend and companion Abby the dog. And from there the story becomes one of revenge.
From the opening credits and the music score it becomes clear that the director (Ti West) is a fan of the old spaghetti westerns. The story is pretty basic although what separates this movie from the old spaghetti westerns is that the hero at first tries to avoid confrontations. He just wants to be left alone. Even when he is pursued by a young girl running a hotel in the town. He is in fact not a brave hero but a mass murdering army deserter who left his wife and daughter to enlist in the army and never went back.
The Marshall who is portrayed as the main villain also tries to prevent bloodshed till the very end and never actually kills anyone. Even the other villains in the movie are not typical gun wielding psychopaths and in fact most of the people shooting guns end up missing their targets most of the time. There is also some comedic dialogue between the characters as well as great scenes of the dog interacting with Hawke's character.
Overall this is a fun western movie that does not go for all out gunfights or bloodshed and yet there is still enough fighting in it so it does not get bogged down in dialogue. Ultimately the whole plot is basic and there is no real reason for what occurs other than the fact that someone was at a wrong place in the wrong time. A nice homage to the more dramatic westerns of the '60s and '70s. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Behind the Scenes of 'In A Valley of Violence'
Digital Copy of 'In A Valley of Violence'
'Come And Find Me' [Blu-ray+Digital HD]
(Aaron Paul, Annabelle Wallis, Garret Dillahunt, et al / Blu-ray+Digital HD / R / 2016 / LGF)
Blu-ray Overview: When his girlfriend goes missing, David must track down her whereabouts after he realizes she's not who she was pretending to be.
Blu-ray Verdict: What do you call Zach Whedon's little gem of a film? It's part romance, part mystery, and part thriller, and all good and intriguing. It's not a loud film, despite the action sequences; it has nuance, and lovely touches in the Aaron Paul (David) and Annabelle Wallis (Claire) relationship.
The film begins with a misdirection, actually a long-standing motif with David and Claire, which creates tension from the get-go and almost a quality of premonition for the rest of the film. I never watched Breaking Bad but was impressed by how good Aaron Paul's Everyman was, doggedly putting himself though Hell to find an answer when something happens to Claire.
I was equally impressed with how Whedon took David from a Naif out of his element to a little more savvy the deeper he dug, trying to find information along the way on his quasi-detective journey. Nice acting from everyone involved. Indeed, you will probably recognize a few actors you've seen before in film and television.
Definitely watchable, and most definitely a grower, 'Come And Fine Me' ultimately raises questions such as, "What causes a woman, without any problems or fights, to disappear without a single trace" and, of course, "How well do we really know the person we share a bed with every night?" Think on those after you've seen this tremendously little movie that can. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Filmmaker commentary (with writer/director Zach Whedon and producer Chris Ferguson)
Unravelling the Mysteries of 'Come And Find Me' Featurette
(Mariah Carey, Max Beesley, Da Brat, Tia Texada, et al / Blu-ray / PG-13 / (2001) 2016 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Blu-ray Overview: A young singer dates a disc jockey who helps her get into the music business, but their relationship become complicated as she ascends to super stardom.
Blu-ray Verdict: Even fans of bad movies will have a tough time with "Glitter", which commits a number of gross sins while it is on your screen. Unlike the similarly-panned "Showgirls", "Glitter" doesn't go far enough over the top to be of any interest, and it takes itself way too seriously. "Showgirls" made me feel giddy while I was watching it. "Glitter" made me feel as if I had been poisoned.
What an unfortunate mis-step for star Mariah Carey, who gets sucked up into the vacuum of this movie like a dust bunny under the Hoover. It's not that Mariah is terrible, exactly. She doesn't seem like much of an actress, and she definitely doesn't have much screen presence. But the real problem is that she doesn't really do much except smile, sing, and look pretty.
She simply exists. Perhaps since "Glitter" is touted as a semi-autobiographical film like "Purple Rain", the producers thought being Mariah Carey would be enough to carry the film. Her role is shallow and one-dimensional, despite the fact that the script tries to give her some depth by piling on the age-old "wayward childhood" cliché. The problem is we've seen all of this so often that it's very silly.
It only gets worse as the movie progresses. After Mariah's character, Billie, grows up, she meets an obnoxious club DJ who, much to our horror, turns out to be the movie's other main character. Carey and her costar, Max Beesley, have next to zero screen chemistry, but for some reasons she falls in love with him.
The director throws in a bunch of gimmicky techniques, like speeding up the film, as well as a hilariously awful cut that goes from Mariah's face to fireworks exploding. There is also a laugh-out-loud moment where the actress who plays the young Billie Frank joins her mother onstage and when she opens her mouth to sing, it is Mariah Carey's voice that comes out of her--pitched up until she sounds a little like Minnie Mouse. No wonder Mariah collapsed after this was released.
There are some absurd and awful moments in the film that have nothing to do with Mariah, most notably her two obnoxious friends who are directed as complete caricatures and seem to be intended for some sort of comic relief (there's plenty of that in other places, all of it unintentional).
Beesley is supposed to be a big-time club DJ, yet he plays more like a kid at a high-school dance. The role is all wrong for him. For some inexplicable reason, the film is set in the early 80s, yet more often than not it looks suspiciously like the early 00's (especially the furniture). The dialog is unmemorable and nobody has any real acting to do in this film, except for one or two "emotional" moments.
The drama is uninvolving, and it doesn't really spiral out of control until the conclusion of the movie, where it soars so far into the absurd that we finally get some good "bad movie" stuff (a big fight, a beating, a murder, a campy moment of triumph onstage). It's too little, too late though.
The one thing that "Glitter" manages to carry off is a cliché but somewhat engaging scene where Billie finally meets up her long-lost mother. Unfortunately, it is the final scene of the movie, and the camera sails right up into the sky just when we get to the one moment in the film that works. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Scarlett - The Mini-Series Event'
(Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Timothy Dalton, Annabeth Gish, Julie Harris, et al / DVD / PG-13 / (2001) 2016 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: 'Scarlett', the eight-hour mini-series based on Alexandra Ripley's best-selling sequel to Gone With the Wind, takes up precisely where that story left off, and sees Scarlett O'Hara off on a journey from Atlanta to Charleston and Savannah, to London, and to her ancestral home of Ballyhara in Ireland.
DVD Verdict: In truth, and although, like most people, I fell in love with Scarlett in GWTW, I tired of her constant insipid infantiilism to the point of exasperation, and I was disappointed that Mitchell did not show Scarlett using that obvious intelligence to even make an attempt to grow emotionally.
Thankfully, someone finally did. I mean, after all, isn't that nagging immaturity that conflicted with her beauty and intelligence the very reason Rhett finally gave up on her in the first place? I think Ripley did an excellent job of describing that long-overdue process, and Whalley-Kilmer did a superb job of portraying it. Joanne W-K has all the fire, exuberance and intelligent sparkle as did Vivian Leigh, and she is certainly at least as, if not more, beautiful.
There was, is, and always will be only one Clark Gable. However, if I had to pick an actor out of the thousands to which I've been exposed to portray him in his biography, it would definitely be Timothy Dalton. Dalton possesses the same elegant charm that Gable did, which is essential for Rhett's character. I can't imagine anyone else who could come close.
In my opinion, both Joanne Whalley-Kilmer and Timothy Dalton were superbly cast and the only actors who could have possibly played Scarlett and Rhett. I think both their performances did justice to not only the late actors but also the spirit of their characters.
I enjoyed the whole cast. Julie Harris was her usual delightful presence, and Jean Smart was an adorable kick! Even Ashley's character was nicely played by Stephen Collins, and the progression of his relationship with Scarlett was totally believable.
The story became a little convoluted in Ireland, but so is life, after all, and I still found it entertaining. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'80s Beat - 8 Films'
(Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr., James Spader, Kevin Bacon, et al / 2-DVD / NR / 2016 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: The boys of the big screen who graced the covers of Teen Beat and Bop (and teenagers bedroom walls) are back and better than ever with this totally rad collection of Hollywood hotties in 8 unforgettable films! So, call your friends for a sleepover and feast your eyes on these hunky heartthrobs in career-defining performances worth cherishing!
DVD Verdict: OK, taking these great (for the most part) movies one at a time, first up is Flatliners - (1990) - Color R - Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt. The basic premise of Flatliners is fairly simple. Several medical students put themselves at the point of death in order to find out exactly what the brain does during the fact. It sounds like something a mob of bored students would do for a joke, but it forms the basis of some very creepy substories. In today's world, where Hollywood has to mine foreign markets for the ideas to make a horror film, Flatliners is one of those rare gems that show Hollywood can make something different when it tries hard enough.
What separates Flatliners from a lot of films based on this premise that would come out today is that it does not stoop to being condescending or arrogant. Flatliners recognizes that people go to films to be entertained, not moralized to. In this kind of supernatural thriller, the difference this restraint makes is really incredible. What's even more incredible is that Julia Roberts appears without being annoying or demonstrating that she can only play Julia Roberts. The theory of obscurity, that performing artists do their best work with the smallest audience, is in force here.
Next up is True Believer - (1989) - Color R - Robert Downey Jr., James Woods, Margaret Colin, Yuji Okumoto, Kurtwood Smith. Edward Dodd (James Woods) is a run-down lawyer who no longer shines the way he did 10 years ago. Back then he was writing history, saving the Black Panthers and stuff of the like. Now he protects drug pushers and street peddlers. Nevermind what excuses he finds for this gradual decay of affairs, for a skilled speaker and lawyer Dodd never ceases to be - this can be seen even as he defends crooks. Roger Baron (Robert Downey Jr) arrives to clerk for him and realizes the idea he had of Dodd no longer suits the reality of the man. Thus he proceeds to ask him to take a prisoner case.
This courtroom thriller has all that kind of movie should have; we see a well-crafted pace that keeps you tied to your seat, the kind of acting from James Woods that is hard to find nowadays, Robert Downey Jr also dons the recently-graduated idealistic law student to a tee. The film is reminiscent of a John Grisham novel. Margaret Colin as Kitty Greer is also great. In fact, every actor in this flick does a better-than-average role.
Then comes The New Kids - (1985) - Color - Rated R - James Spader, Lori Loughlin, Shannon Presby, John Philbin. This is one of those movies about a bunch of psychotic weirdos trying to do as much damage as possible to two innocent victims, leaving you to wonder what the heck these kids did to push the antagonists so far over the edge.
Here, our innocent victims are Abby (Lori Laughlin) and Loren (Shannon Presby). After their parents died, the brother and sister go to live in an amusement park (how awesome is that?) where their relatives (surrogate parent-types) live and work.
The psychos are led by Eddie Dutra (James Spader) a sadistic albino, and his gang of merry men (one of which is the excellent John Philbin who 80s fans will remember as 'Turtle' from the surf adventure, North Shore). Anyways, Eddie wants Abby, and what Eddie wants, he gets. But when Abby pushes him away after several forceful advances, sadistic control-freak Eddie doesn't want it to look like he let a girl weaken him. He and the gang go after Lorren, Abby, and their family, in a do or die situation.
Next up is Little Nikita - (1988) - Color PG - River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, Richard Bradford. The plot of this film has more holes than Swiss Cheese and seems more than a little dated, even if the baton of the quintessential foreign bad guy has passed now from the Nazis to the Soviets to the Islamic terrorists or (perennial favorite) our own US government.
What if the most ordinary white-bread American parents (yours) turn out to be Soviet spies? That is the premise of this film. What if some renegade Soviet spy is blackmailing the KGB operatives in the US by killing its agents one by one for MONEY! How capitalist! How demented can you be? This is the kind of guy who would take your girlfriend water skiing just so he can see her get smooshed by an oil tanker or something. And what are the poor hapless KGB agents supposed to do? Send your Mom and Dad off to pay this guy off? Why? Almost all of the agents are dead. The only ones left are Mom and Dad. Considering that Mom and Dad are near useless as agents, hey, be our guest, comrade.
And Mom and Dad are sleepers biding their time running a flower shop while waiting for their orders, which finally come in a dead fish. But by this time their covers have worked so well they are now God-fearing Americans. It is as though Ozzie and Harriet were Russian spies. But of course there is blackmail.
The second disc begins with the brilliant The Legend of Billie Jean - (1985) - Color PG-13 - Christian Slater, Helen Slater, Keith Gordon, Peter Coyote, Yeardley Smith. This is an excellent movie for young people, in general. It shows how one has to fight for one's principles, as it's the case with Billie Jean, a girl living in the Texas coastal town of Corpus Christi. As directed by Matthew Robbins, this film will never cease to amaze.
After he brother's motorcycle is trashed by a group of rough teenagers. Billie Jean wants the father of the boy who gave a beating to her brother, to pay for the repair of the bike. This is a man who, knowing where Billie Jean comes from, tries to abuse the girl sexually. He doesn't know who he is messing with.
The movie deals with the way Billie Jean goes about in getting her revenge against all odds. In doing so, she becomes an instant celebrity to the young population in the area, who easily identify with the wronged girl and make her a folk hero.
Helen Slater makes a sunny appearance as Billie Jean. She is a girl who believes in justice, and demands it from the man who wanted to take advantage of her. A young, blond Christian Slater is Binx, the young brother. Peter Coyote is also seen as the chief of police who Billie Jean goes to present her complaint, but doesn't have enough sense to pay attention to her.
Then comes Private Resort - (1985) - Color - Rated R - Starring: Johnny Depp, Ron Morrow, Emily Longstreth. In Private Resort, Johnny Depp and Rob Morrow star as two single guys out to meet women at a resort hotel. Actor Hector Elizondo turns in a good performance as a jewel thief and con artist assisted by his wife, played by Leslie Easterbrook. Hilary (Shapiro) Shepard-Turner is very convincing as a religious fanatic and heiress to a fortune. The film is filled with classic slapstick comedy, and in places is both entertaining and funny despite a somewhat weak plot. Overall, Private Resort is a good comedy film of the 1980s and a great look into Depp's young acting world - floppy hair an' all!
Next up is Like Father Like Son - (1987) - Color - PG-13 - Kirk Cameron, Dudley Moore, Margaret Colin, Catherine Hicks, Sean Austin. Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I think this movie's great. There's lots of hilarious (and clean) sight gags, slapstick and laugh-out-loud situations.
Dudley Moore, obviously the far more superior comedian, is fantastic as a teenager stuck in an adult's body. He has many funny scenes and milks them for all they're worth, my favourite being the chewing gum/cigarette incident. The looks on his co-stars' faces is priceless. Watch also for Moore's date with Margaret Colin (that goes really badly) and when he does the rounds at the hospital!
Finally we get the little known gem (well, to me, at least) Side Out - (1990) - Color - PG-13 - C. Thomas Howell, Peter Horton, Courtney Thorne-Smith. Law student Monroe Clark (C. Thomas Howell) from Milwaukee moves to L.A. to work for his rich real estate lawyer Uncle Max. He's given a job to serve eviction notices. One of the tenants is beach volleyball player Zack Barnes (Peter Horton). He was the original local king of volleyball but he has been spiraling downwards.
His business partner Kate Jacobs (Harley Jane Kozak) is tired of him but there's more to their relationship. The new king is Rollo Vincent. Monroe befriends local Wiley Hunter and falls for Samantha (Courtney Thorne-Smith). Monroe and Wiley play in a tournament and Zack comes in to coach them.
Sorry, but C. Thomas Howell is not a believable volleyball stud. On top of that, his character is not appealing at all. I think he's trying to be Tom Cruise, but he's no Tom Cruise. His kissing scene with CTS made me involuntarily laugh. Peter Horton does have that washed-up beach bum vibe though and as much as this whole movie is terribly cheesy for the most part, if you shut your brain down for 70 minutes, it's definitely popcorn fluff perfect for an evening in. These are all Widescreen Presentations (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Girl On The Train' [4K Ultra HD]
(Emily Blunt, Rebecca FergusonHaley BennettJustin Theroux, et al / 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray+Digital HD / R / 2016 / Universal)
Blu-ray Overview: A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Verdict: Before we begin the review, let's start by acknowledging the INCREDIBLE, brighter, deeper, more lifelike color that these 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays bring forth, each and every time. For they are, well, INCREDIBLE and truly allow you to see things that the generic Blu-ray vision simply cannot. I mean, the color alone on this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc - which comes as a two-disc set (1 BD-50, 1 BD-66) - is just so crisp, so clear, so crystal.
For those that wish to be in the know, let's break down some of the geeky stats, shall we. This is a Codec: HEVC / H.265, with a Resolution: 4K (2160p), and an overall Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1. The Audio is English: Dolby Atmos + English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 + Spanish: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 + French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1, and the Subtitles are: English SDH, French, and Spanish.
Finally, and leaving the best for last, this 4K Ultra HD movie experience means that we have a 4X sharper picture image than regular HD, HDR (High Dynamic Range) means we get brilliant brights and deepest darks within the film, and with Immersive Audio, we get that multi-dimensional sound experience throughout.
OK, now onto the movie. Well, in truth, and as I'm sure you all know by now, the book is a terrific and engrossing read, with a lot of tension and suspense, a clear timeline and while the characters are unpleasant you understand why they are.
In comparison 'The Girl on the Train' is down there among the most underwhelming book-to-film adaptations, with everything that made the book so good being completely lost in translation in the film. However it also is a failure on its own terms as an overall film, one doesn't even need to have read the book or have knowledge of it to still consider 'The Girl on the Train' a disappointment. If anybody likes the film, that's absolutely fine and good for them, as a huge mystery-thriller fan this was one of the year's biggest letdowns while not quite being bad enough to be one of the year's worst.
Comparisons to 'Gone Girl', which has a similar tone and a couple of similar themes, and almost universally negatively is understandable and inevitable. Will try and keep the comparison brief, to me 'Gone Girl' is the vastly superior film, actually being a good, no great, film. It isn't perfect, faltering at the end with a conclusion that feels abrupt and illogical, but it's better made and directed (the direction was one of the best things about that film, while the direction here dooms this film), the "Cool Girl" monologue alone is much better than any of the dialogue in this film, that had tension, suspense, emotion and delicious black but subtle humor and Rosamund Pike's performance is one of that year's best performances and in the top end of the best Oscar-nominated performances of this decade.
What saves 'The Girl on the Train' from crashing and burning completely is the acting, which is terrific on the whole. The women do fare better than the men, though the men, with Justin Theroux being the most believable, are no slouches either. Emily Blunt's lead performance in particular is sensational. The exceptions though are Rebecca Ferguson, who looks lost with a character completely stripped of what made her interesting before, and Edgar Ramirez who comes over as annoying. Danny Elfman's score is one of his more understated and memorable ones in recent years, not his best work by any stretch but tonally it fits very well, being soothing yet unsettling.
However, Tate Taylor as director is clearly ill at ease with the dark material, because throughout it's stiff, indifferent and far too much of one mood. The story is a complete mess, with no tension or suspense whatsoever and plot twists that are introduced abruptly and are executed confusingly, even incomprehensibly, due to the lack of a clear time line and with little surprises. The pace really drags on constantly so the film is constantly as dull as dishwater and there is an overload of sex scenes that are also tasteless as well as being melodramatic with the subtlety of an axe.
In the end, one doesn't care how it ends and the ending or the revelation of the culprit are not done particularly well. The culprit's identity is not that shocking and is revealed too early, and then the film meanders on for another half an hour when the film could easily have ended at the revelation. And sure, everything you've now come to expect from these wonderful 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays is true re: the HDR (High Dynamic Range) from brighter, deeper and more lifelike color on through the x6 picture clarity/resolution, but that doesn't stop this film from being everything outlined above. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
BLU-RAY™ AND DVD BONUS FEATURES:
Deleted and Extended Scenes
The Women Behind The Girl : Author Paula Hawkins and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson discuss their thoughts on writing the novel, the adaptation process and the importance of maintaining character integrity. Director Tate Taylor discusses working with these two incredible writers to make sure his vision for the film was represented in the script.
On Board The Train: A behind-the-scenes look at the strong ensemble cast of The Girl on the Train. Director Tate Taylor and Producer Mark Platt discuss the specific nuances associated with each of the cast members’ performances and Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Allison Janney, Laura Prepon, Lisa Kudrow, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans and Edgar Ramirez take fans through the process of creating their incredible characters.
Feature Commentary with Director Tate Taylor
4K Ultra HD™ is the ultimate movie watching experience. 4K Ultra HDTM features the combination of 4K resolution for four times sharper picture than HD, the color brilliance of High Dynamic Range (HDR) with immersive audio delivering a multidimensional sound experience.
Blu-ray™ unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.
'Roger Corman's Death Race 2050'
(Manu Bennett, Malcolm McDowell, Marci Miller, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / R / 2016 / Universal)
Blu-ray Overview: Legendary filmmaking icon, Roger Corman, is back with his most outrageous film yet in this sensational, action-packed and darkly humorous reboot of the original Death Race 2000!
Blu-ray Verdict: It's the year 2050 and America is controlled by an all-powerful corporate government ruled by The Chairman (Malcolm McDowell). The masses have been brainwashed with violent virtual-reality entertainment. The event of the year is the Death Race, in which a motley crew of violent drivers compete in a cross-country road race, scoring points for shamelessly running people over and driving each other off the road. The reigning champion and fan favorite, Frankenstein (Manu Bennett), who's half-man half-machine, wants to take the crown, but his rebel spy co-pilot threatens his legacy.
"Citizen's of the United Corporations of America", announces The Chairman (the unmistakable, and Fountain of Youth-sipping Malcolm McDowell) to the territories, and soon thereafter comes his - inclusive of one area slyly being named AmaZone, another OnePercentia, another Pharmatopia - opening welcome speech to the Death Race. Quite why he is wearing two massive white feathers as shoulder attire is anybody's guess though!
Now, I'm not here to give the whole plot away - what there truly is of it, that is - nor am I going to give away the ending, but I will say, having watched it twice now (as it's not that long of a movie, in truth) that 'Roger Corman's Death Race 2050' has no story, makes no sense along the way, and contains no actual real-life logic to most all its scenes!
I mean, if you are anything like me, as the scenes churn out one after the next, you'll wonder why certain characters are doing things. So much so, and so many times, that you'll wish your brain would just shut off for an hour! The main character was supposed to be a tough person, but he turns out to be a softy, and a hopeless romantic at that. The leader of the rebel party is the girlfriend of the ruling party, and their supports kill each other. Er, ok. And that not-to-be-revealed ending, well, let's not talk about the ending (as, and to my mind only, please know) it was completely bizarre and rather pointless!
Knowingly campy, devoid of any money spent on any special effects, and with all but two of the actors in main roles seemingly giving a right royal crap about their acting paycheck (ie: Manu Bennett and Marci Miller), 'Roger Corman's Death Race 2050' is a money grabber of a film that went, of course, straight-to-DVD (well, these days Blu-ray, but you get the point), and will not be garnering much in the way of glowing press, sorry. That said, all press is good press for these guys so, well done Roger Corman. Well done. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
The Making of 'Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050'
The Look of 2050
Cars! Cars! Cars!
Cast Car Tours
Digital Copy of 'Roger Corman's Death Race 2050'
'Battle for Incheon: Operation Chromite'
(Jung-ja Lee, Liam Neeson, Beom-su Lee, Se-Yeon Jin, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Overview: A squad of South Korean soldiers fight in the Korean War's crucial Battle of Incheon against the North Korean army.
DVD Verdict: The more evolved synopsis of this movie, originally called just 'Operation Chromite" is that American General Douglas MacArthur (Liam Neeson) sends eight members of the Korean Liaison Office, led by a South Korean Navy Lieutenant (Lee Jung-Jae) on a secret mission far behind North Korean lines to carry out Operation "X-ray". This covert operation must succeed so that MacArthur can launch the daring Incheon Landing Operation.This is a fictionalized version of the historical CIA/military intelligence operation "Trudy Jackson", part of Operation Chromite.
Personally, I had honestly never heard of directer Lee Jae-Han prior to watching this little gem of a movie, but after this experience I will be eager to see what he cooks up next. Don't sit down and expect over the top visual effects for not every one has Michael Bay's budget! Then again, I will take a decent story over VFX any day, but hey that's just me. If you think otherwise feel free to skip this - but that would be a big mistake, trust me.
And so, for the people that have a keen eye for details and a rich backstory as I do, 'Operation Chromite' is definitely going to be right up your alley, so to speak. I will admit that I had little to zero knowledge before going into this of this real life battle and so it did end up teaching me a bit of history - which might not matter to a lot of people, but I do feel that a movie should be more then just a simplistic way to pass the time.
Indeed, I have been a mighty big fan of Liam Neeson's work for some time now, so his involvement in this might be affecting my review, granted. But not that much, and definitely not in any overly significant way, for the story line is quite vigorous and Neeson's role as MacArthur is played with all his usual passion and knowledge garnered from years upon years of both TV and stage work.
FYI: North Korea has described the film as "ridiculous bravado from ignorant lunatics", but that's only to be expected from that corner of the world, in my humble opinion. You seem 'Operation Chromite' was released in Korea on July 27th, 2016 and yet, with what has come out via their press, has already become a big hit of that year in Korea. It may not make waves at festivals over here, but it's not at all bad and is worth checking out. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
'The Lion Guard: Life In The Pride Lands'
(Max Charles, James Earl Jones, Rob Lowe, Dusan Brown, Sarah Hyland, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / Walt Disney)
Overview: Rough, tough and roarin' to go, your favorite heroes are back for more epic adventures based on the legacy of THE LION KING. Join Kion and his fearless friends as they celebrate within the Circle of Life and race to the rescue in five action-packed episodes also featuring King Simba, the spirit of Mufasa and the hilarious antics of Timon and Pumbaa.
DVD Verdict: Disney does it again!! Personally, I regard 'The Lion King' as not only my favorite Disney movie, but one of my favorite movies of all time. When I first heard about this show, I was skeptical about the idea of centering on Simba's son Kion. But, myself and my young family sat down and watched the first batch of episodes, followed that up with 'The Lion Guard: Return Of The Roar', and now we have just finished watching the five (5) episodes collected here in the brand new Walt Disney Junior set, 'The Lion Guard: Life In The Pride Lands.'
And so all my fears have flown away for you know what? We all I love this new animated series! It contains all the things that made the movie so successful: memorable characters, zippy music, and a well written story that has some deep themes as well.
This one is no exception. It may be a kids show, but there's plenty for adults to enjoy here as well as it contains themes of environmental conservation and racial tolerance (more metaphorical as it was shown in Don Bluth's Land Before Time). The characters are well drawn both in appearance and personality wise as each has his/her own strengths and weaknesses whether in defense or story-wise.
'The Rise of Maruu'
'The Kupatana Celebration'
'Bunga and The Ring'
'Never Roar Again'
'The Imaginary Orapi'
I think our collective favorite was 'The Rise of Makuu' where a young Crocodile Makuu (voiced delightfully by Blair Underwood) wins a Mashindano fight that secures his leadership of the crocodiles over the old Pua. Unlike the more humble, diplomatic Pua, Makuu is stubborn, ruthless, and selfish which causes problems in the Pride Lands, forcing animals out of their habitat. This makes Kion search for a middle ground to deal with Makuu's attitude, which takes the heavenly guidance of Mufasa. This is a solid episode, but in fairness, they each have their very own story to tell, knowledge to impart. Two thumbs (and paws) way up for 'The Lion Guard: Life In The Pride Lands'! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
2 Music Videos
· A Trail to Hope
· Teke Ruka Teleza
6 Shorts: "It's Un-Bunga-lievable!"
· Who’s Quicker?
· Who’s Hungrier?
· Who Has Better Hair?
· Who’s Cuter?
· Who’s Louder?
· Who’s Mightier?
This DVD also comes with 5 FREE WRISTBANDS in 5 DIFFERENT COLORS with 5 POWERS EACH for unlimited fun!
Own 'The Lion Guard: Life In The Pride Lands' on DVD on January 10th!
'The Story of God with Morgan Freeman - Season 1'
(Morgan Freeman, et al / 2-DVD / NR / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Today, for better or worse, the power of religion touches all of our lives, no matter what our faith. This is Morgan Freeman's journey to discover how our beliefs connect us all. This is the quest of our generation. This is the Story of God.
DVD Verdict: We begin in Greenwood, Mississippi where host and narrator Morgan Freeman details how he used to live there, on and off, between the ages of 7 to 17. This first episode, entitled Beyond Death may well be the most weighed down one of the six, sure, but those who judge the entire series on just this one episode are missing out on the rest of them, quite like nothing they've ever missed out on before, believe me.
Sure Freeman makes each episode about himself, rather than making this a big expose on God, shall we say, but as Freeman's stories come together, you quickly pick up on the fact that he has touched so many divine moments in his life that it's small wonder he has played God on the big screen - more than once!
While I may not agree on all aspects of each episode we encounter - Beyond Death, Apocalypse, Who Is God?, Creation, Why Does Evil Exist? and The Power of Miracles - I did learn a lot about religions I had very little knowledge about. I suppose you would have to be open minded in order to enjoy the show, in truth, which is fair enough. Given that this is Season One, I certainly hope they continue the series to explore other religions and go farther with exploring the possibilities of a God or a so-called Supreme Being.
So yeah, having now watched 'The Story of God with Morgan Freeman- Season 1' I can honestly say that I am more open to learn other religions and cultures than I was before. I believe that this series was designed to educate, explore, and make known other religions and cultures, not just answer the question if God exists and who he/she is. Sure, the six episodes doesn't begin to touch the realm of it all, but then again, some questions have no answers - but it's fun to talk about and discuss. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
THE STORY OF GOD WITH MORGAN FREEMAN Season 1 - Disc 1 Special Features Include:
Continent 7: Antarctica
Q&A with Morgan Freeman and Talent
Reincarnation in Hinduism
Opening Your Mind
God in Different Cultures
Web Series: Man on the Street
Street Spirituality: What Happens After We Die?
Street Spirituality: How Will the World End?
Street Spirituality: Who Is God?
Web Series: Walks into a Diner
A Pastor, A Rabbi and an Imam… Resurrection
A Pastor, A Rabbi and an Imam… The Apocalypse
A Pastor, A Rabbi and an Imam… Who Is God?
THE STORY OF GOD WITH MORGAN FREEMAN Season 1 - Disc 2 Special Features Include:
Continent 7: Antarctica
Q&A with Morgan Freeman and Talent
Science and Catholicism
Web Series: Man on the Street
Street Spirituality: Where Do We Come From?
Street Spirituality: Where Does Evil Come From?
Street Spirituality: Do You Believe in Miracles?
Web Series: Walks into a Diner
A Pastor, A Rabbi and an Imam… Creation
A Pastor, A Rabbi and an Imam… Evil
A Pastor, A Rabbi and an Imam… Miracles
Own 'The Story of God with Morgan Freeman - Season 1' on DVD on January 10th!
'The Orphan Killer' [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Diane Foster, David Bachhaus, Karen Young, James McCaffrey, Matt Farnsworth, et al / Blu ray + DVD / NR / 2017 / Reel Gore Releasing)
Overview: 'The Orphan Killer' introduces us to Marcus Miller, a serial murderer hellbent on teaching his estranged sister Audrey what it means to have family loyalty. Only gore lies ahead - you have been warned!
Blu ray Verdict: OK, let's get this straight from the start: 'The Orphan Killer' focuses only on the depiction of diverse bloody and gory effects. Ergo, this fact separates it from the big mass of mainstream movies, but on the other hand only allows for a slimmer viewership to be able to, well, stomach it, shall we say!
That said, and chock full of "splatter effects", 'The Orphan Killer' might never be classified as a masterpiece of cinema, but what it will do is make sure that the bar to attain for movies such as this has been well and truly raised.
The director, and actor Matt Farnsworth loves his quality of murder depictions, that's for sure, as each one is seemingly bloodier than the last. Upping his game throughout, it soon becomes obvious this film is not about the quality of script, the acting chops on screen, but how intense, how bloody a filmed scene can end up. Which, again, is fair enough, given the genre of this film and what it sets out to be from the very start.
For the record, actress Diane Foster is incredible in her role here and wow, what a killer (all pun intended) body she has. Seriously, throughout the film, as the music pounds around every corner she runs, I wasn't watching the bloody tool-of-the-moment murders, I was thinking about her abs, her stunning looks - and a wee bit more, of course!
And therein also lies one massive problem with 'The Orphan Killer' - the incessant hardcore, pounding death metal that accompanies most all scenes. It takes away completely from any sense of dread that is trying to be shown, created for the viewer and just has them reaching for the mute button!
So, in closing, could 'The Orphan Killer' have a sequel sometime soon? Sure, there's potential for a sequel, but without a story there is nothing unique to come of such a thing. Perhaps this film is better off as a stand alone. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Behind The Murder - Exclusive Video Diary
First Pressing of 1000 Copies Include Collector's Card RGR004
'The Light Between Oceans' [Blu-ray]
(Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson, et al / Blu ray + Digital HD / PG-13 / 2017 / Touchstone Home Entertainment)
Overview: Lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and radiant, spirited Isabel (Alicia Vikander) live together in married bliss on a remote, rugged island off the coast of Australia. But their windswept world is turned upside down when Isabel learns that she's unable to bear a child. One day, a drifting lifeboat washes ashore with a crying baby in it. The dilemma the couple now face will echo far beyond the island, engulfing and irrevocably impacting their world -- and that of a stranger (Rachel Weisz).
Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, Derek Cianfrance, who directed the poignant 'Blue Valentine' and the riveting 'The Place Beyond the Pines', brought probably the best out of Michael Fassbender and Rachel Weisz in quite some time - even if the film pulls at your heart strings a few too many times.
Amidst the beautiful landscaping shots of sunsets, beaches, and oceanic views, Cianfrance crafts the story of a couple who desperately want a child but can't have one, extremely well. As much as this film deals with tragedy, grief, and sorrow there was something so beautiful about the way Cianfrance tells the story. It unfortunately becomes flooded with sadness and difficult circumstances, but I never stopped rooting for these characters. Even when they are at the brink of a bad decision, I wanted the best.
That can be directly contributed to the terrific performances from the cast, and particularly Fassbender, Vikander, and Weisz. Fassbender brings so much power and gravitas to his roles, but I've never seen him so vulnerable. We saw a peek at the emotional weight he can bring to his characters in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' last spring, but nothing can prepare you for his heartbreaking turn in this film.
Vikander and Weisz are just as good. All three characters have bad qualities and choices that could turn them into unlikable human beings, but Weisz and Vikander add a graceful human touch to their roles. Though Vikander doesn't have children in real life, I believed she could be a mother someday with her turn. Weisz on the other-hand is a mother, and that motherly instinct exudes onto the screen. Both performances are so mind-bendingly good.
One of the issues that's been brought up about this film is its over-reliance on pulling at your heart strings. It's a valid argument, especially considering all of the tragedy and horrible circumstances that occur. I can't really say it's a film I will revisit, but at the same time, I found Cianfrance's directing and the performances enough to get over the depressing nature of the film's plot. It's not an easy watch by any stretch of the imagination, but it's an important one for sure. Fully recommended. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Bringing The Light to Life - Experience Cape Campbell, New Zealand, with the cast and crew, and discover how director Derek Cianfrance's directing style influenced the actors' performances and accentuated the movie's themes
Lighthouse Keeper - Learn the history of the Cape Campbell Lighthouse and what a lighthouse keeper's life was like during those early days
Audio Commentary - With Director Derek Cianfrance and his film studies professor, Phil Solomon
'The Man Who Fell To Earth (Collector's Edition)'
(David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark, Buck Henry, Bernie Casey, et al / Blu ray + DVD + Digital HD / R / (1976) 2017 / LGF)
Overview: Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth to get water for his dying planet. He starts a high technology company to get the billions of dollars he needs to build a return spacecraft, and meets Mary-Lou, a girl who falls in love with him. He does not count on the greed and ruthlessness of business here on Earth, however.
Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' (1976) is very thought-provoking sci-fi, done without much in the way of special effects or special powers possessed by a being. David Bowie is admirably fit for the part. With the makeup he received and his slight build and ethereal quality, he does the job, even if he was stoned on cocaine during the filming. That probably worked in his and the film's favor.
The photography is lovely. The story is captivating; it seems to be reaching for more thematically than it actually accomplishes. The film is on the sad or downbeat side, rather bittersweet, because hanging over it is the separation of Bowie (the alien from another planet) from his wife and two children. He's not at home on Earth, and no amount of money or having an affair with Candy Clark can change that. He finds trust hard to come by. Furthermore, he becomes the target of the powers-that-be, who see his enterprise and inventions as a dire threat to their business concerns. The fascist/totalitarian nature of the system is a theme of the movie.
On the other hand, the film does portray in some ways Bowie's liberation in sex. The sex scenes in this film are frank and realistic; these are an intentional depiction done to make a point that stands apart from the sci-fi aspects. The point is to acknowledge the sexual nature of human beings.
The film's editing is advanced, often jumping around, and relying on the viewer's intelligence to sort things out. It sometimes lends a black comic tone to the goings-on. It's on the New Wave side. Both Buck Henry and Rip Torn are well cast and provide excellent support. Interestingly enough, Roger Ebert wrote that the film is "so preposterous and posturing, so filled with gaps of logic and continuity, that if it weren't so solemn there'd be the temptation to laugh aloud." He slightly revised this impression upward thirty years later, but it never quite hit him the right way.
But I can understand that. There are some strange plot elements, not least of which is how human the alien race is - fully comprehending English and even having the correct sexual parts. But that is never the point, and there is a deeper message here. I mean, sure, this is not dystopian sci-fi at any level. It's also not 'A Clockwork Orange' or '2001'. It might have a more 'Dr. Strangelove' feel, I'll give you that, for it's definitely humorous on the sly. Definitely a creative and novel outing, this newly restored and now Limited Collector's Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack is a must-have and there is fully recommended.
For the record, as I think it should be known, this brand new restoration of 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' is based on a 4K scan of the original camera negative, followed by a full 4K workflow, with the approval of cinematographer Anthony Richmond. There is also a standard blu-ray version of this film reissue, but it’s this Limited Collector’s Edition that is of real interest, since it has three discs and comes with other content.
Containing a blu-ray, a DVDs and a CD, the music element contains John Philips music from the soundtrack and has two tracks/versions of tracks not included in the version being issued separately. More so, this collector’s edition also contains an illustrated booklet with writings on the film, a reproduction of the original press book for the film, four art cards and an A4 poster of the new theatrical quad for this new 4K restoration of the film.
As for the delightful en mass of Special Features, the two that stand out to me (having watched them all) are the David Bowie Interview on French TV in 1977 where a very forthright, earnest, and totally relaxed Bowie chats freely, reflecting on his transition into film.
The other is the New Interview with Stills Photographer David James, because as much as I don't care much for the What he or she thinks today mode of featurette, this feature actually includes a number of unseen Behind-the-Scenes Stills from the movie set.
Well, ok, I'm on a roll here now, so another favorite of mine is actually not really Bowie related for it's a new Interview with Director Nicolas Roeg, where his personal insight into how how he got into the film industry is riveting, to say the least. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
David Bowie Interview – French TV 1977
New Interview with Costume Designer May Routh Featuring Original Costume Sketches
New Interview with Stills Photographer David James Featuring Behind-the-Scenes Stills
New Interview with fan Sam Taylor-Johnson
New Interview with Producer Michael Deeley
New "The Lost Soundtracks" Featurette, Featuring Interviews with Paul Buckmaster and Author Chris Campion
Interview with Candy Clark
Interview with Writer Paul Mayersberg
Interview with Cinematographer Tony Richmond
Interview with Director Nicolas Roeg
John Philips’ soundtrack music:
1 Jazz II (02:48)
2 Boys From The South (01:45)
3 Rhumba Boogie (02:01)
4 America (01:00)
5 Jazz (00:59)
6 Space Capsule (01:49)
7 Bluegrass Breakdown (01:38)
8 Desert Shack (02:02)
9 Window (01:45)
10 Alberto (01:38)
11 Liar, Liar (03:04)
12 Hello Mary Lou (02:25)*
13 The Man Who Fell To Earth (02:42)
* Unique versions/tracks not on the soon-to-be-issued soundtrack.
'Shaun The Sheep: Seasons 3 & 4'
(Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Sean Connolly, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)
Overview: Shaun, the world's favorite little sheep, returns with even more farm-tastic misadventures in seasons 3 and 4.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'Shaun the Sheep' is a British stop-motion animated television series, a spin-off of the Wallace and Gromit franchise. The series stars Shaun, a sheep previously featured in the 1995 short film A Close Shave and in the Shopper 13 episode from the 2002 Wallace and Gromit's Cracking Contraptions series, and his madcap adventures around a small farm as the leader of his flock.
Having first aired in the UK on CBBC in March 2007 and broadcast in 180 countries globally, the series consists of 150 seven-minute episodes. The fifth season contains 20 episodes and has been aired in the Netherlands from December 1, 2015 until January 1, 2016.
To my mind, there is no better television for children. Season 1 and Season 2 were both awesome and these third and fourth seasons are just as good, trust me. Shaun the Sheep is the kind of show Walt Disney himself might have approved of. You can see making the show must be painstaking. With no dialogue the claymation has to be full of expression. The characters have character. It's depth you don't see on television anymore.
The sense of humor in this claymation animation is unbelievably clever and witty, even though no words are ever spoken and it is mostly slapstick. I had my parents (in their 70s) watch some episodes and they nearly fell out of chairs laughing. Although we love Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep is sheer genius in our books, and it never gets old in our household.
Included in this 4-Disc DVD Box-Set are 5 Compilations:
Flock to the Floor
Once you learn the words of the jingle played at the start of each episode you'll quickly be singing along. Also, and I know this is cruel, but I loved the scene where the farmer flings open a door and splatters his poor dog against the outside wall, causing considerable pain to his nose! As I say, cruel, but the look on the poor dogs face gets me every time! But, as I'm sure you all know by now, there is no malice in these episodes. The "lesson" for the watcher is one of using cooperation to get things done. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with 50 episodes and over 6 hours of fun!
'Yoga Hosers' [Blu-ray]
(Johnny Depp, Lilly-Rose Depp, Kevin Smith, Harley Quinn Smith, Justin Long, et al / Blu ray+DVD+Digital HD / PG-13 / 2016 / Invincible Pictures)
Overview: Two 15-year-old yoga enthusiasts (Lily-Rose Depp, Harley Quinn Smith) join forces with a legendary man-hunter (Johnny Depp) to battle Canadian Nazis who take the form of deadly sausages, yup sausages!
Blu ray Verdict: Friends Colleen (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen (Harley Quinn Smith) are invited to a Senior party but they end up having to work at the local convenient store. They invite the boys back to the store for a party by they're attacked by some Nazi sausages.
Yes, writer/director Kevin Smith has followed the ultra-bizarre TUSK up with an even stranger movie that isn't nearly as creative. You know, I got the great opportunity to see Smith in person during one of his "conversations" and he's a terrific and fun guy. I mean, you gotta admire the man for what he has accomplished in his career and during the chat he talked about people questioning him and that he will do the type of films that he wants. I really, truly and 100% respect that and I admire any filmmaker who wants to take chances and do weird things.
With that said, just because I respect the filmmaker doesn't mean that I'm going to enjoy the picture. Sadly, 'YOGA HOSERS' is a really awful movie that doesn't work on any level outside of being weird, strange and in all reality original. Yes, Nazi sausages are on display here and you've got to at least admit that you've never seen that before. The problem is that Smith's screenplay is just weird and for a comedy it's never funny. That's the most shocking thing to me because Smith is one of the best dialogue writers out there yet this film just seems flat and lifeless.
I don't know if the point of this film is to give his daughter and Depp's daughter a film to go and if perhaps Daddy Smith and Daddy Depp are just here having some goofy fun. Perhaps that's the case but you still have to have some sort of laughs. At just 89-minutes the film is rather short but it drags on to the point where around the twenty-minute mark I was already looking at my clock. I will say that the two leads are actually good together and have a nice chemistry, which just makes you wish even more that they had something better to work with. Johnny Depp returns to his role from TUSK and adds to the weirdness. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of a Bonus Featurette!
'Arcade Fire - Reflektor Tapes' [2 Disc Blu-ray]
(Arcade Fire / 2-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2016 / Eagle Vision)
Overview: 'The Reflektor Tapes' is a visually stunning and hypnotic documentary about the making of Arcade Fire's hugely successful 2013 studio album Reflektor by director Kahlil Joseph (who also directed Beyonce's Lemonade film).
DVD Verdict: This incredible visual experience, 'The Reflektor Tapes' received its premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. The documentary captures recording sessions, live performances and the band's time in Haiti, a country with which they have a long-standing relationship. Indeed, the second disc in the set features Arcade Fire's full length live concert from Earl's Court in London on June 6th, 2014 during the Reflektor tour, which perfectly complements the documentary.
Oh, and for those not in the know, Arcade Fire is a Canadian indie rock band based in Montreal, Quebec, consisting of husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, along with Win's younger brother William Butler, Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury and Jeremy Gara. The band's current touring line-up also includes former core member Sarah Neufeld, frequent collaborator Owen Pallett, two additional percussionists, Diol Edmond and Tiwill Duprate, and saxophonists Matt Bauder and Stuart Bogie.
Disc One: The Reflektor Tapes (Documentary)
Disc Two: Live At Earl's Court: 1) Reflektor 2) Flashbulb Eyes 3) Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) 4) Rebellion (Lies) 5) Joan Of Arc 6) Rococo 7) The Suburbs 8) Ready To Start 9) Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) 10) Neighborhood #2 (Laika) 11) No Cars Go 12) Haiti 13) We Exist 14) My Body Is A Cage 15) Afterlife 16) It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus) 17) Sprawl II 18) Normal Person 19) Here Comes The Night Time 20) Wake Up
Bonus Features: Disc One: Here Comes The Night Time Special / Promo Videos: (1) Reflektor (2) We Exist (3) Afterlife / Afterlife from YouTube Awards
Disc Two: Director's Cut Tracks: (1) Flashbulb Eyes (2) Here Comes The Night Time (3) Reflektor (4) Sprawl II (5) The Suburbs
Their critically-acclaimed studio album, Reflektor, which came out in 2013 would go on to debut at the top of the Billboard 200 all-genre charts. With that as its backbone, 'The Reflektor Tapes' showcases superbly Arcade Fire's rise to the top of the charts, what went into it, and also highlights the time they spent in Haiti; let alone their devoted love for it.
The concert portion itself is amazing, colorful, so visual and full of life, and if hearing all their great tunes wasn't enough, the Blu-ray and DVD collection includes additional bonus features such as alternate versions of several stand-out songs. In closing, 'The Reflektor Tapes' us an incredible, truly spectacular visual journey to take - for fans and lovers of great music alike - and containing over four hours of entertainment, is a must-have especially for the fans of Arcade Fire, of course. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Mumford & Sons: Live from South Africa'
(Mumford & Sons / Blu-ray / NR / 2016 / Eagle Vision)
Overview: When Mumford & Sons discussed the idea of touring South Africa, it struck them as an uncharted, mini adventure. They would announce a handful of gigs and see who showed up. No pressure. 5000 tickets went on sale, 5000 tickets sold out instantly. 85,000 ticket sales later, and the band were embarking on more than a little adventure. Overnight it had become a fully blown phenomena.
DVD Verdict: 'Live From South Africa: Dust And Thunder' chronicles the meeting of South Africa with their long-standing favorites, Mumford & Sons. A British band in huge demand, and a country extremely excited to welcome them. With a coachload of their close musical friends brought along for the ride, this exquisitely shot film captures the tour s conclusion with two nights in the beautiful Pretorian outback.
Airing new songs from Wilder Mind and the Johannesburg mini-album (a collaboration with Baaba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenburg) for the first time, and watching the expansive crowds hollering back the old favorites, Dust And Thunder gets to the very heart of what makes Mumford & Sons such a special act, with the stunning beauty of the Pretorian outback as their backdrop.
Oh, and for those not in the know, Mumford & Sons are an English rock band from London, formed in 2007. The band consists of Marcus Mumford (lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, drums), Ben Lovett (vocals, keyboard, piano, synthesizer), Winston Marshall (vocals, electric guitar, banjo) and Ted Dwane (vocals, bass guitar, double bass).
1. Snake Eyes
2. I Will Wait
3. Below My Feet
4. Wilder Mind
5. Awake My Soul
6. Lover Of The Light
7. Tompkins Square Park
9. Ghosts That We Knew
10. The Cave
12. Dust Bowl Dance
15. There Will Be Time
16. Little Lion Man
17. The Wolf
As for the set-list, well, that is as amazing as you would have hoped for, trust me. This night has also got to have been one of their most exciting shows to have played on their Wilder Mind tour. Indeed, they had just spent the preceding couple of days in a studio in Johannesburg with Baaba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenberg, so they also bring those session musicians out on stage to play a few of the songs they'd just written!
Captured with gusto by award-winning live specialist Dick Carruthers, 'Mumford & Sons - Live from South Africa: Dust And Thunder' is an exciting and emotional document and a truly spectacular concert film that may well go down as their finest. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Sea Monsters: The Definitive Guide'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: The threat of sea monsters, real or imagined, has been a source of dread and fear for sailors ever since someone put a boat in the water and set out to explore. In this special the legends and lore come to life, as leading theories are explored and examined, and science has the final word. Join us as we create the definitive guide to sea monsters.
DVD Verdict: "Since the dawn of sea travel, mariners have recounted tales of mysterious monsters lurking in the deep. Today the mystery endures as mysterious creatures continue to wash up on our shores."
With any opening like that, it's sure to suck you in and so, as it must surely does, we then send the next hour learning all about both mythological and modern day really mysterious creatures - all found to have come from the sea!
The truth is revealed behind legends of Sea Monsters that have had their tales told throughout the ages. Could a Giant Squid be the Kraken, feared by Vikings? Using advanced hydrophones, scientists detect a baffling noise in Loch Ness. What are globsters – the mysterious monsters that wash up on our beaches?
'Sea Monsters: The Definitive Guide' enables the full length and breadth of your imagination take control here on this simply fascinating and wild ride, proving that life is chock full of surprises for good reason. Produced for National Geographic via 20th Century Fox, buy this DVD today and have an engrossing evening of viewing brought right into your living room at the push of a button! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Incredible Dr. Pol - Season 9'
(Dr. Pol / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: America’s favorite vet is back for a ninth season! Dr. Pol and his talented – and often entertaining – team work around the clock to handle central Michigan’s animal emergencies.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'The Incredible Dr. Pol' is a reality television show on Nat Geo Wild. The show follows Dutch-American veterinarian Jan Pol, and his family and employees, at his veterinarian office in rural Weidman, Michigan. The show premiered in 2011 and his son, Charles, appears on the show and is also one of the producers.
So, the show that set viewership records on Nat Geo Wild is back again for an incredible ninth season here via 20th Century Fox. Dr. Pol and his team are a very interesting veterinary team treating people's animals with compassion, care and respect. This is real folks, nothing is staged, and it all happens in "real time" when being filmed.
Here in the ninth season, we get eight (8) brand new episodes to fawn over: 1. Peacock-a-Doodle-Do, 2. E-I-E-I-Pol, 3. Flip 'N Stitch, 4. The Alpacalypse, 5. Mow, Mow, Mow Your Goat, 6. Dr. Franken-Pol, 7. Albert Ein-Swine, and 8. One Great Dane.
Personally, my three favorite episodes here in the ninth season are 'The Alpacalypse', where Dr. Pol hits the road to handle an emergency calving, where a bone has cracked and fallen into the cow's pelvis, blocking the calf's way out. Meanwhile, Dr. Emily must examine a bulldog and his terrible plastic-eating habit. Next, Dr. Pol must help reunite a moody family of alpacas, Dr. Brenda responds to an emergency call for a cow that can't stand, and Dr. Emily helps a cat get rid of maggots; 'Mow, Mow, Mow Your Goat', where before the Pols can relax and go work on their lake house, Dr. Pol must treat a wide array of clients including a camel, a bull, and hedgehog; and 'One Great Dane', where it's a highly emotional time for the Pols as they say farewell to their beloved Great Dane, Frija. But the clients keep flooding into the clinic and the show must go on.
Dr. Pol has an inspiring outlook and energy and I love seeing the farm animals and scenery. Dr. Brenda is both strong enough to get things done and she does it with sweetness and humor. Finally I appreciate the realistic approach to medical care for farm animals and pets. Most of us have limited financial resources despite our infinite love for our pets and unlike most veterinarians Dr Pol shows respect to all of his animal patients and human clients.
In closing, 'Dr. Pol' is fun to watch and obviously loves animals of all kinds. Hats off to him and all who support the well-being of our non-human friends! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Pinocchio: Walt Disney Signature Collection'
(Walter Catlett, Frankie Darro, Cliff Edwards, Dickie Jones, Charles Judels, et al / Blu ray + DVD + Digital HD / G / (1940) 2017 / Walt Disney Studios)
Overview: Now a part of the celebrated Walt Disney Signature Collection, the timeless story of 'PINOCCHIO' inspires a new generation with its masterful animation, award-winning music, unforgettable characters and exclusive, all-new behind-the-scenes Bonus Extras! With his faithful friend Jiminy Cricket by his side, Pinocchio embarks on fantastic adventures that test his bravery, loyalty and honesty until he triumphs in his quest for his heart's desire: to become a real boy.
Blu ray Verdict: After releasing a film that took years to make and not knowing what the end result would be, many wondered what Walt Disney could possibly create next after his 1st full-length animated feature, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937). Well, Walt Disney started lining up more possible projects including more full-length animated features. He was considering many options for his second animated feature including "Bambi" (1942), "Dumbo" (1941), "Alice in Wonderland" (1951), "Peter Pan" (1953), and "Fantasia" (1940), all of which would become animated features later. Then, due to difficulties figuring out how to adapt the other stories to the big screen, Walt Disney finally decided for his 2nd animated feature to be "Pinocchio" (1940).
This tale starts with a lonely wood carver named Gepetto finishing up on his newest marionette that he has called Pinocchio. He tells his two animal companions, a cat named Figaro and a fish named Cleo, that he wishes that Pinocchio was a real boy. One night, he gets his wish as a magical blue fairy brings this puppet to life. He isn't a real boy yet, but if he is able to prove his bravery, honesty and kindness, he will be one someday. Pinocchio is given a sidekick named Jiminy Cricket who will help him decide what's right or wrong and help make Gepetto proud. Now, Pinocchio is put to the test as he goes on many accidental misadventures such as becoming an actor, going to an island where you're allowed to do whatever you want (with a permanent price to pay, of course), and chasing down a monstrous whale.
As was the case with Walt Disney's previous picture "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Pinocchio" is exceptionally well animated. The backgrounds are so painstakingly well detailed that you practically notice something new in the backgrounds every time you watch it. In terms of its visuals, it pushed the envelope for what animated films could do with lighting, color, and other unique visual techniques. The music by Leigh Harline, Ned Washington, and Paul Smith is also worth commenting on. I think it's safe to say that all of us know how immortal and timeless the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" is. I think that playing this song during the opening credits was genius, since it's the best way to draw the audience's attention at the start of a film like this which is surprisingly darker than you might remember it being.
It's intriguing the way the story convinces us how wrong it is to do whatever Pinocchio is manipulated into doing. For example, when Pinocchio tells a lie about why he didn't go to school to the blue fairy, his nose keeps on growing whenever he tells lie after lie. Another noteworthy example is when Pinocchio is manipulated into going to Pleasure Island where young boys smoke cigars, drink beer, play pool and other frowned upon activities for kids to be doing. After too much time there, the kids transform into donkeys that will be taken to work at the salt mines. The reasons why they somehow turn into donkeys are surreal to say the least, but let's just say this scene will scare off kids from smoking and drinking - at least for a while.
I could have done without a few scenes at the beginning, which were solely devoted to showing off the sound effects and the details in Gepetto's workshop as opposed to continue telling the story. I also thought that the ending to this film was sort of ripping off the ending from "Snow White" in a way that was less credible. If you've seen the ending to this film already, you'll know what plot device was used during that scene that I personally don't care for. Also, I have to agree with Internet video film critic Doug Walker (of the Nostalgia Critic fame) when he said that Jiminy Cricket doesn't hold up that well. While I agree that his sense of humor wasn't that good, I also thought Jiminy was way too careless, gave up too easily, and yet usually thinks he knows everything. There are more than a few scenes that show just how blatantly inconsistent his character is.
Ultimately, what makes "Pinocchio" a great Disney movie some 76 years after its initial release is the animation, the music, and the way it reinforces the main morals of its story onto its young audience. Even though Jiminy Cricket's somewhat good intentions backfired on me, I still liked Pinocchio himself. I admired how curious he was about the world around him, how positive his attitude was, and how clueless he was about what's good and what's bad. In other words, he felt like a real kid personality wise. This aspect and the ones I've mentioned before are good enough reasons why "Pinocchio" is a film that any Disney fan should take a look at.
Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, this wonderful new Walt Disney Signature Collection release also contains hours of classic bonus material and exclusive, all-new features. These include never-before-seen artwork, archival recordings of Walt himself during Pinocchio production, and a reinvented rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star” created and performed by music influencers from Disney’s Maker Studios.
My personal favorite is Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island and the making of it therein. Wow, does this featurette tell some delightful and highly creative tales. It relates to us that in story meetings, between February 1938 and July 1939, Walt Disney and his story artists discussed the now infamous Boobyland sequence at length, and which would eventually become Pleasure Island! They then give us some voice recreations of how those conversations went, taken from real recordings preserved by the Walt Disney Archives (although quite why we couldn't have listened to the real thing is beyond me!).
Another favorite of mine, although they truly are ALL great, is In Walt’s Words – “Pinocchio” where he reveals via a scattered amount of interviews that there were, at one point, 78 artists working on the film. What struck him was that everybody was trying to turn their little sequence into a massive showcase! So by the time he asked them to show him what this film had turned into, it took an amazing two (2) days to pitch through all the material! So, with the great man sinking lower and lower into his seat, drumming his fingers, the noise and speed getting louder and louder, he knew letting loose so many artists on just the one project was a complete disaster! So came a total slashing and cutting of what would have been great stuff, because as far as the film was concerned, he wanted to keep it tight all the way through. This is a 1080p High Definition Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
The Pinocchio Project: “When You Wish Upon a Star” – Music influencers Alex G, Tanner Patrick and JR Aquino from Disney’s Maker Studios, a global leader in short-form videos, gather in a creative workspace to create their rendition of the film’s signature song, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and produce a fresh new music video.
Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island – The Pleasure Island scene in “Pinocchio” had much more development than what is seen in the film. Join Pixar’s Pete Docter and Disney historian and author J.B. Kaufman as they explore artwork recently discovered in Disney’s animation research library revealing some of the attractions, gags and games, which Disney animators created for this iconic location of the film, that never made it on screen.
In Walt’s Words – “Pinocchio” – Hear Walt himself discuss the making of “Pinocchio” through archival recordings and interviews.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in “Poor Papa” – This recently restored and scored 1927 short features Oswald the Lucky Rabbit who gets multiple visits from the stork and is forced to attempt various methods to help stop the onslaught of baby deliveries.
Classic Bonus Features – These offerings from prior home entertainment releases include hours of bonus material, such as the making of “Pinocchio,” deleted scenes, sing-alongs, storyboards and theatrical trailers.
(The Stooges / DVD / R / 2016 / Sony Pictures Classics)
Overview: American filmmaker Jim Jarmusch's documentary love letter to punk icons Iggy Pop and his band, The Stooges. Michigan-born Iggy's youthful music career wavered, until he found his Stooges soulmates in Dave Alexander (bass), and brothers Ron (guitar) and Scott Asheton (drums). Three ground-breaking albums and just a few years later, the band was literally falling apart. Iggy gleefully relates the story of those crazy years from "I Wanna Be Your Dog" to "Raw Power." 'Gimme Danger' is brimful of music, clips and anecdotes, including Bowie, Nico and the crowd-surfing Iggy himself.
DVD Verdict: As much as 'Gimme Danger' is fun at times, self-deprecating at times, boisterous at times, OTT at times, and beyond rivetingly revealing at tomes, it's also very dark at times also. Harrowing also springs to mind, butt hat all said, the most welcome thing to me is how director Jim Jarmusch starts with the Stooges at their (first) end in 1973.
They were broke, Iggy was missing gigs and often showing up so wasted on heroin he could "sometimes sing, sometimes not", and thus it changes things about face as to how we usually see these kind of rock documentaries. It often will start with the adulatory remarks. Here, Iggy Pop in the 1973 footage looks like he's about ready to puke all over himself ... while stage diving ... while probably slathering himself with some substance of unknown origin ... I think his genitals are most likely out for all to see/grab too!
This was an entirely fearless band, and they created art simply by virtue of only doing what *they* liked. F*** popular taste. Hell, if one follows Pop by his word (and how can you not?) there were many, many manufactured acts and that if nothing else the Stooges acted as a counterpoint to so much of what was going on in the late 60's and early 70's while being one of the hardest (working) bands of the era.
Jarmusch does an excellent job of showing us through Pop, the late Scott Asheton and other interviews, plus plenty of stock footage and, not unlike Julien Temple with Filth & the Fury, clips from old shows, movies and other rock acts (Soupy Sayles being one of them, of course) that make joke of what we're seeing, or at least reference.
Even as someone who thought he knew the Stooges, or at least Iggy Pop (real name Jim Osterberg), this gives as full a picture as you can get while, at the very end, showing us just how massive an influence they had. Think about it: they couldn't play (at first anyway, they got better as they went), and yet they changed things simply by the force of what rock and roll could do and has done when it's at its most pure.
In closing, 'Gimme Danger' is a film that reflects the aggression, the commitment to absurdity, and Pop's own madness in performance, which was an act depending on the night (or it was all of a piece). Oh, and at most all times it's done with Pop wearing his famous blonde locks like a Debbie Harry tribute statement! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Takashi Miike's Black Society Trilogy'
(Kippei Shiina, Tomorowo Taguchi, Kazuki Kitamura, Naoto Takenaka, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray / R / 2017 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: After several years spent working almost exclusively in the direct-to-video world of "V-cinema" in Japan, Takashi Miike announced himself as a world-class filmmaking talent with this trio of thematically-connected, character-centric crime stories about violence, the underworld of Japanese society, families both real and surrogate, and the possibly hopeless task of finding one's place in the world.
Blu-ray Verdict: His first films made specifically for theatrical release, and his first for a major studio, the "Black Society Trilogy" was the beginning of Miike's mature career as a filmmaker and they remain among the prolific director's finest works.
Set in the bustling Kabuki-cho nightlife neighborhood of Tokyo, Shinjuku Triad Society follows a mixed-race cop (Kippei Shiina, Outrage) struggling with private issues while hunting a psychotic criminal (Tomorowo Taguchi, Tetsuo the Iron Man) who traffics in children's organs.
Now, and in truth, I found this a bit hard to follow to the extent that it seemed to dip in the middle while I tried to make head or tail of who was fighting who and why. One of the problems is the cultural/language one. Here we have a Chinese/Taiwanese/Japanese problem of which we know little and because we are simply reading English subtitles inevitably lose some of the subtleties.
Another problem is that there seem to be just too many only half explained twists and coincidences. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that there is a wholly bad Miiki film and this certainly is not that. Plenty of stylish and bone crunching violence, a window upon some less than orthodox sexual goings on plus the family aspect. All in all a decent ride but maybe checking out the story line might actually be helpful before watching this one.
Rainy Dog, shot entirely in Taiwan, is about an exiled yakuza (Dead or Alive s Show Aikawa) who finds himself saddled with a son he never knew he had and a price on his head after the Chinese gang he works for decides to turn on him.
Miike strays off the beaten path to do his own take on film noir here in 'Rainy Dog' re: limited dialog, moody settings, and deliberately slow development all make for a unique movie in Miike's immense filmography.
As surprising for its subtlety, pace, and precision as for its lack of the standard Miike moments, it is definitely not the director's best (for that see "The Bird People of China", "Ichi the Killer" or "Gozu"), but a great movie for a rainy Sunday afternoon, naturally if you don't mind the occasional yakuza violence!
The film focuses on the well-worn themes of love, life, family, responsibility, honor and retribution. The films tells the story of Yuuji; an exiled Japanese Yakuza living hand to mouth in a Taiwanese slum, trying to make ends meet by carrying out various hits for the local Triads so that he can afford to buy a fake passport to get him self back to Japan. So, you know, what could go wrong, right?!
Ley Lines moves from the countryside to the city and back, as three Japanese youths of Chinese descent (including The Raid 2's Kazuki Kitamura) seek their fortune in Tokyo, only to run afoul of a violent gang boss (Naoto Takenaka, The Happiness of the Katakuris).
Three young delinquents strive to do something with their respective lives, hopping on a train to Tokyo. Dan Li ('XX: Beautiful Beast') plays a hooker who tricks the young naive men getting away with their many. Karma's a bitch though and her pimp beats her up for having too much money. After a run-in with a truly sadistic john, she runs into the threesome yet again, but she's more susceptible to go along with their various plans.
For me, 'Ley Lines' is most certainly a controversial and inscrutable work - very much in tune with films like the aforementioned 'Rainy Dog', 'Birds' and the epic 'Agitator' (2001) with the continual themes of violence, loyalty, family and dislocation - but one that also manages to move the viewer on an emotional level; eliciting sympathy and understanding for these characters, as well as provoking more immediate reactions that still linger, long after the film has ended. These are all brand new High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
Original uncompressed PCM stereo audio
Optional English subtitles for all three films
New interview with director Takashi Miike
New interview with actor Show Aikawa (Rainy Dog, Ley Lines)
New audio commentaries for all three films by Miike biographer Tom Mes
Original theatrical trailers for all three films
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
High Definition digital transfers of all three films FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the films
'Out Of Darkness'
(Graham Greene, John Lewis, Michael Joiner, Sherry Morris, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / IMDFilm Distribution)
Overview: Eli is a man in his twenties with a calling on his life from a young age, but he's been running from that calling - a modern day Jonah. After being fired by his father, arguing with his girlfriend in front of their daughter, and then a visit to the local pub, Eli decides to get out of town. On a lonely mountain highway Eli misses a turn and careens over an embankment, landing deep in the forest. It is a place of mystery with no way out, but it is there where God works on his heart.
DVD Verdict: Well, I have to fully admit that this movie was not what I expected! I go into most all I review without researching their background too much so as to not spoil it for me re: social media reveals and such. But, wow, I mean, 'Out Of Darkness' is a whole other movie to what I expected it to be from the cover and the synopsis on the back.
An engaging documentary that powerfully covers all aspects of Black life, from rarely discussed ancient times to the more popular, 'Out Of Darkness' is insightful and powerful both at the very same time. A collection of dynamic speakers leaves NO rock unturned here, covering every aspect of racial tensions between White and Black folks in America - in terms of psychology, history, economics, religion and more.
This is a must have for everyone, but especially the primary victims of the concentrated system of American White Supremacy. This is a message that adults and children need to see (Adults screen first to ensure the content is suitable for young children - The truth is tactful, but not sugar coated). Indeed, every disturbing and confusing racial event in America can and is explained on this DVD in clear and practical terms that anyone can understand. But as the title suggests, you will not find 'Out Of Darkness' in public schools where it belongs, which is one sad fact that you can definitely expect to take away from having viewed this movie, that's for sure. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Murder Rap: Inside The Biggie And Tupac Murders'
(Tupac Shakur, Mike Tyson, Snoop Dogg, Kidada Jones, Quincy Jones, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Filmrise)
Overview: The inside story behind the Biggie and Tupac murder investigations is laid bare using police case files, taped confessions never before shown on film and interviews with lead detective Greg Kading and other witnesses. Based on the book, Murder Rap: The Untold Story of the Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations by former dectective Greg Kading.
DVD Verdict: Over the years, I have seen many documentaries about the murder of Tupac and Biggie, which have all been conspiracy theories and made up stories from witnesses but this movie was very believable and quite shocking. The lead investigator, Greg Kading, put together a brilliant case against the real murderers of the two rap stars and the evidence was enough to put the major culprits, Puffy and Suge Knight, behind bars for a very long time but when the case got dropped and the evidence got shelved, it seems like Tupac and Biggie family will never get justice for there murders.
The step by step viewing of the assassinations were very believable and the interviews with the various gang members were quite shocking. I just can't believe that the evidence didn't come out on a worldwide scale, because people are still making up there own stories about what happened on both nights of the murders. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this in depth documentary, which doesn't look cheap like a lot that I have seen before. I honestly can't see why the law wouldn't take this evidence seriously because I am definitely convinced that Greg Kading has found the people who were involved and murdered Tupac & Biggie. Great!
In conclusion, this brilliant documentary was directed by Michael Dorsey, 37, who also brought you the Six Degrees of Helter Skelter, which is about the Manson family, Lost Airmen of Buchenwald, The Oyler House: Richard Neutra's Desert Retreat and Dearly Departed 1 & 2. The way that he describes how each murder took place, was great and the fact that he shows the real locations, made it even more believable. The real interview tapes that are used throughout the movie, also was a great touch, so I can definitely say that the cases have been solved, in my eyes. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'4th Man Out'
(Parker Young, Evan Todd, Chord Overstreet, Jon Gabrus, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Filmrise)
Overview: The true strength of friendship is put to the test when a small town car mechanic comes out of the closet to his group of gullible, blue-collar best friends. This award-winning buddy comedy stars Parker Young (Surburgatory), Evan Todd (Sydney White), Chord Overstreet (Glee) and Jon Gabrus (Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight, Awful Nice).
DVD Verdict: '4th Man Out' has a lot going for it. Well-written dialog, with a real sense of humor. Good acting from an appealing and attractive cast. An unusual and effective location. It's definitely worth a look for anyone interested in the so-called 'sub genre' of gay-themed movies. And for these reasons, it's far superior to many of its predecessors.
Evan Todd as "Adam", the main character, does a fine job of conveying the anxiety of someone in his position. It's a situation many of us can identify with. And it's treated in way consistent with the time period (current) and location (upstate NY, i.e. not San Francisco, NYC or Boston). Adam and his friends are in their late 20s and all have (or think they have) pretty open-minded views about homosexuality, but when Adam announces he's gay it still creates some ripples in their little network. Because the characters are pretty well drawn -- Adam and best friend Chris (played by Parker Young) in particular-- it's hard to condemn any of them for not immediately and fully embracing their friend's news.
It takes them a while. Yes, this is not taking place 30 years ago, so we can think they should have no problems. But they do love Adam as a friend and eventually they all come around. The film balances the awkwardness and initial homophobia pretty well, with no really mean-spirited humor. Adam's parents are also well presented, with expected surprise (or lack of it) and acceptance through love.
The single big drawback in '4th Man Out' is a dating montage sequence for Adam. He signs on to a gay dating site, or phone app and is quickly barraged with interested parties (he's very good-looking and charming). The problem with the sequence is that it trades in too many stereotypes. The one likely candidate gets as far as a pretty hot make-out session with Adam, but it's ruined by a crass event that seems out of place and unnecessary. Too bad, but this does not spoil the entire film, please know and understand that. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
(Rod Canion, Ross Cooley, Jim Harris, Bill Murto, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Filmrise)
Overview: Three friends dream up the Compaq portable computer at a Texas diner in 1981, and soon find themselves battling mighty IBM for PC supremacy. Their improbable journey altered the future of computing and shaped the world we now know.
DVD Verdict: As a HUGE fan of AMC's 'Halt And Catch Fire' TV series, I found 'Silicon Cowboys' to be a very interesting documentary about how Compaq computers took on giant IBM in the early days of the computer wars. Much in the same vein as David & Goliath, except that David was much more clever than clumsy old Goliath!
Taking us back to 1981, the 3 friends (and Texas Instruments co-workers) quit their jobs to start a new company – only they have no real plan on what that company should be or even what industry it should be in. There is a re-enactment of a conceptual drawing of a mobile computer on a diner's paper placemat … a drawing that helped them secure a big investment from Ben Rosen at a time when Venture Capitalism was non-existent for technology companies (yep, 35 years ago).
Those early days of a slow developing Silicon Valley featured more hobbyists and non-commercial efforts than anything going on these days. Mobile computing was not really even a product category when Compaq stuck a handle on their case … the visuals of businessmen toting them through airports is comical. This was truly the beginnings of the home computer era, and even the tech start-up. The film serves as a historical perspective of the times, while also documenting how Compaq fits into the evolution of the personal computer.
It's pretty easy to draw comparisons to the great and powerful IBM ignoring the "little guys" to the 1970's when GM and Ford overlooked Honda and Toyota. It's always easy to chuckle at the arrogance of big corporations, and when Compaq computers were more compatible with IBM software than IBM computers were, it's a real head-scratcher. The dawn of "clones" were more than a thorn in the side of Big Blue (IBM), and eventually it got worse for them. Head-to-head advertising campaigns of IBM's Charlie Chaplin vs. Compaq's John Cleese further emphasized the contrast between those out of touch with those who clearly understood the market.
Sure it ends on a relatively sad note, as the entropy that engulfs most companies comes to Compaq so that the company's initial familial corporate culture disappears under the pressure of being successful - and, of course, fierce competition. In closing, 'Silicon Cowboys' is cleverly done as we meet the human faces behind the corporate logos. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Jim: The James Foley Story'
(James Foley, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Filmrise)
Overview: 'Jim: The James Foley Story' is an in-depth look at the life and work of American journalist James Foley, who was killed by ISIS terrorists in 2014.
DVD Verdict: The emotional depth of this documentary is vast, impressive, immersive. In 'Jim', James Foley is beautifully dissected as one of the most honest and kind-hearted conflict journalists of any time.
Indeed, I'm finding it very hard to review this film because of how powerful the entire experience was. I teared up half a dozen times, I couldn't find many words to say to my friends afterwards and neither could they. The documentary seemed to have taken control of us. 'Jim: The James Foley Story' is an incredible, heartfelt and ultimately beyond sad film that documents a man on a mission - but one that would lead him into a situation that he simply couldn't win or get out of alive.
I'm not sure how else to explain it without giving anything away. It was hard to stomach some of the more graphic and real images from inside Syria. Overall it was an incredible viewing experience, one that needs to be shared with as many people as possible. Especially in 2016 when ISIS appears to be a real threat. Please watch this film, knowing as you might the ending beforehand, for it is much, so much more than just its end result, of that you have my word. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Addicted To Fresno'
(Judy Greer, Natasha Lyonne, Aubrey Plaza, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Filmrise)
Overview: Shannon (Judy Greer, Jurassic World) is just out of sex rehab when her younger, overly optimistic lesbian sister, Martha (Natasha Lyonne, Orange is the New Black) lands her a job as a maid at Fresno Suites, the local hotel. When Shannon jeopardizes her fresh new start in life by accidentally killing a hotel guest after a sudden relapse, Martha takes it as an opportunity to fix their relationship and helps her sister cover up the crime. Co-starring Malcom Barrett (Dear White People) and Ron Livingston (Office Space).
DVD Verdict: 'Addicted To Fresno' follows two sisters in Shannon (Judy Greer), a seemingly recovered sex addict who has very little moral compass, and Martha (Natasha Lyonne), an eternal optimist who is always going over the top to help her sister with her issues and devotes very little attention to her own well-being. The two work as maids at a local hotel in their hometown of Fresno--a city where not much happens and the people there hate it yet can't seem to get out. Shannon's antics come to a nadir when she accidentally kills a man. She and her sister attempt to escape the mess, which will prove to either help or harm their already rocky relationship.
It's definitely an anti-sibling movie--or at least it wants to be. I think mainly it strives to show us that the world is not as black and white as we have been brought up believing. Society tells us that as long as we hold on to family we'll be okay in the end. But sometimes they're the ones holding us back.
The small town trope plays on the whole "being held back" theme. The girls are two complete opposite personalities, yet they both manage to become complacent in a city that doesn't offer much for either of them.
The film is never hilarious, but does a good job of keeping the tone jovial throughout with some black comedy nuances and some enjoyable sequences thrown in, like a 13-year-old bar mitzvah boy performing a highly vulgar song filled with Jewish puns in front of his gasping relatives.
We get some nice scenes from the supporting cast as well, including Fred Armisen as Gerald, the owner of a pet cemetery, who doesn't get nearly enough screen time, and Aubrey Plaza as Kelly, Martha's personal trainer, who gets plenty of screen time but is mostly underutilized. Solid scenes from Molly Shannon, Malcolm Barrett, and Kumail Nanjiani are mostly what make this film watchable. The timing of the two leads compliments their chemistry very well, but they are given very little in terms of laughable material.
I understand that it's supposed to be somewhat of a black comedy, but it never fully commits. It's not obvious enough and most people may just chalk it up to being unfunny. The story line is intriguing enough and I like most of the decisions that it happens to make, but if we're going to be sitting down to view a comedy we need to know what we're watching.
Although a little uneven in terms of comedic tone, the laughs are there if you know where to find them. The story is one that hasn't really been told in quite this fashion before and the themes are relatable regardless of the impractical lengths of which it chooses to showcase them by. It helps that both characters are deep enough to attach ourselves to. It's not a terrible film by any means, it just speaks to a very specific crowd. And since its role as a comedy wears a bit thin, we may be tempted to dismiss the story as merely trivial. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Cinema Paradiso' [Blu-ray]
(Philippe Noiret, Jacques Perrin, Antonella Attili, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray / NR / (1988) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: Giuseppe Tornatore's loving homage to the cinema tells the story of Salvatore, a successful film director, returning home for the funeral of Alfredo, his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. Soon memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena and all the high and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier.
Blu-ray Verdict: From beginning to end, 'Cinema Paradiso' is, of course, about various forms of love, but my favorite element of the story is not just the way movies are portrayed, but the way old movies are portrayed. I have a particular fondness of older films (and a particular distaste for the shallow, exploitative and unimaginative garbage constantly cranked out by Hollywood these days), and one of the biggest themes of this film is the loss of purity and truth and innocence that movies once had.
Obviously, I'm not talking about the glory days when kissing scenes were edited out of the projected version of a film, but the days when even a film that had the kissing and even minor, minor nudity scenes cut out of them would still draw a frantic crowd so eager to see films that they would sit for 30 minutes waiting for the second half the begin. Today, audiences would be up and asking for refunds within five minutes, and if there was no sex or explosions or car chases in the movie, many of them wouldn't be there in the first place, which is truly sad and is exactly what this movie rails against.
I particularly loved the scene where Toto finally goes back home when he learns about the death of Alfredo (which would have been a spoiler, except that you learn of Alfredo's death within the first five or ten minutes of the movie), and his mother tells him that just before he died, Alfredo asked her not to tell Toto, not to ask him to come back. In the next scene Toto is walking through the ruins of the Cinema Paradiso and sees how cruel time has been to it and, even worse, how cheap and derivative the movies have become that are now played there.
Alfredo didn't want Toto to come back because he saw what movies were becoming, and that is a direct message to the film industry the likes of which has never been seen like this. 'Cinema Paradiso' owns that message, and it's one of my favorite lessons about film history. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
Restored from the original camera negative and presented in two versions the 124 minute Cannes Festival theatrical version and the 174 minute Director's Cut
Uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
Optional English subtitles
Audio commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus
A Dream of Sicily A 52-minute documentary profile of Giuseppe Tornatore featuring interviews with director and extracts from his early home movies as well as interviews with director Francesco Rosi and painter Peppino Ducato, set to music by the legendary Ennio Morricone
A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise A 27-minute documentary on the genesis of Cinema Paradiso, the characters of Toto and Alfredo, featuring interviews with the actors who play them, Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio as well as Tornatore
The Kissing Sequence Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with full clips identifying each scene
Original Director's Cut Theatrical Trailer and 25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet by Pasquale Iannone illustrated with archive stills, behind-the-scenes images and posters
'Masterpiece: Victoria - First Season' [Blu-ray ]
(Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Rufus Sewell, Daniela Holtz, et al / 3-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: 'Victoria' tells the tale of the early life of Queen Victoria, from her ascension to the throne at the tender age of 18 to her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert.
Blu ray Verdict: In years gone by, we Brits (and presumably others also) watched - rather addictively - such series as "Edward the Seventh" with Timothy West (1975), "Edward and Mrs Simpson" with Edward Fox (1978) and "Lillie" (also 1978) - about Mrs Langtry as Edward VII's lover while Prince of Wales, and hence covering some of the same ground. In each case they seemed to be well-done, featuring a host of stars and apparently looking for all the world like they were presenting the real thing.
In contrast, I find my adult self continually doubting the authenticity of historical recreations, which at times can seem to look quite lame. Presumably, this is the price one pays for greater knowledge and experience, and perhaps also increasing skepticism with age.
While part of Queen Victoria's reign was obviously covered in some of the aforementioned series, the doing of the whole thing was presumably considered too challenging an enterprise in the past, but once Jenna Coleman achieved a measure of stardom thanks to Dr Who, a realistic candidate for the starring role was found, and work on a series embarked upon.
Very visibly, the makers of 'Victoria' have tried to out-Downton "Downton Abbey" by throwing in a layer of upstairs-downstairs story lines in the Buckingham Palace household context. These include some real historical figures, though doubtless doing many completely invented things. This at times seems like an awful and cheapening mistake by the makers, but on second thoughts one realizes that many a story would have been quite difficult to present without it, and an opportunity for out-of-the-Palace background and social comment is also offered in this way. Fair enough, but the effect is not completely cringe-free!
More seriously (for the whole "suspend disbelief" thing), I simply ridiculed a scene in Episode 1 when Victoria took the salute with her soldiery in a very hammy-looking pseudo-military uniform, only to check on the Internet and find an early-Victorian sketch in which she is wearing EXACTLY such a uniform!
Further checks on further implausible-looking content from Episode 1 also revealed that they were actual events! Suitably chastened, but also much more enthusiastic, I turned to Episode 2 with vigor and very much enjoyed the rest of the series, which I recommend, even for those with a purist's interest in history, as well as lovers of drama.
Of course the viewer (myself included) may at times become over-trusting, as - for example - Prince Albert DID NOT increase his self-confidence and "find a role" by making a telling speech at the (real-life) World Anti-Slavery Conference convened in London in June 1840, fine story though that would have been, and most probably actually in line with the feelings of both Victoria and Albert, who were "progressive" figures in this field as in some others (as the series tends to make clear).
Other interactions between Victoria or Albert or both and other key figures of the day look more or less forced or phony, but overall there is a sense of the period conveyed here well enough, and many a true story told, in spite of everything. To that extent the series is educational, but it also works in its presentation of the royal couple as real, and quite remarkable people - all credit to Coleman, and to Tom Hughes for the role of Albert. There is even humor here, reminding us that - in her early reign at least - Victoria was sometimes "amused", was a lively enough girl and young woman, and was certainly deeply in love, and quite capable of feeling an appropriate measure of lust for her beau into the bargain. In short, a real and full human being, and a vigorous - and even quite talented - one at that.
This is all good stuff, well conveyed. Prior to Albert's appearance, the Victoria story is entirely dominated (as it seems historically to have been) by Lord Melbourne, and here Rufus Sewell does an extremely good job, dominating a great many of the scenes and conveying a complex, thoughtful, kind and world-weary figure with many a pithy line to utter. Perhaps this version of Melbourne is greater than the real thing, but the performance is very fine in and of itself.
Peter Bowles's Duke of Wellington offers us little more than a sour and condescending oldish man (Wellington was certainly grouchy, reactionary and opinionated, but surely always evoked more respect than this character does, throughout his life, given his irrevocable status as national hero from India, Waterloo and the effective Peninsular War?).
However, Nigel Lindsay's Robert Peel is a great deal of fun to watch, and his growing interaction with Hughes's Albert is endearing. But was it really like that? That question again, sorry.
And so back to the original point. Perhaps we expect more these days (and thanks to the Internet we certainly have more access to knowledge - a healthy state of affairs). But does that slightly spoil the work of those with the temerity to make historical series for us, or is this just a necessary process of keeping them on their toes? Ultimately it is hard to say, and the price is an occasional feeling of discomfort/embarrassment watching 'Victoria'.
But not to have attempted the series at all would have been sad, and as it is we have something interesting to watch, if mostly better at the small-scale, more intimate encounters than the large-scale national or state events, which do not always achieve persuasiveness. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Interviews with Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes and Rufus Sewell
Tour of the Buckingham Palace Set with Neil Hudson and Tommy Knight
Creating the CGI Magic
'Mercy Street - Season 2' [Blu-ray]
(Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Rufus Sewell, Daniela Holtz, et al / 2-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Allegiances blur and loyalties shift as the Civil War pushes the drama beyond the hospital. Follow the growing chaos at Alexandria's Mansion House, the precarious position of the Green family, and the changing situation of the burgeoning black population.
Blu ray Verdict: Catching everyone up, 'Mercy Street' takes place at the start of the Civil War, in a Union Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, where a newly appointed "head nurse" must contend with multiple issues in her attempt to organize services. There are all sorts of problem she must confront – how to care for Confederate troops in a Union hospital, how to deal with slaves and freed Blacks, the rivalries between different types of nurses, the hierarchical relationship with Physicians, the influence of European medicine, etc.
The settings are marvelous as are the costumes. The acting is very good, especially from head nurse and ardent abolitionist Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Confederate volunteer Hannah James. TV Stalwarts Gary Cole, Peter Gerety, and Cherry Jones are on hand as well. At times modernism creep into the dialogue, as well as the mannerisms, but generally speaking it has an authentic mid 19th Century feel. There is also some failings in the accents which seem to range all over the place, even among family members.
The first few episodes here in the second season still (thankfully) manage to keep the soap opera elements at a minimum while showing us what it must have been like to be a part of the process. This show is entertaining while it is simultaneously educational. It won't appeal to everyone, but anyone interested in Medicine, or the Civil War, will find it compelling.
At the beginning of this second season, Dr. Jedediah Foster (Josh Radnor) now runs the hospital as Dr. Alfred Summers (Peter Gerety) finally gets that desk job in Washington City and he puts Mary Phinney (Mary Elizabeth Winsted) in charge of running the rest of the hospital much to the frustration of Nurse Anne Hastings (Tara Summers) and Dr. Byron Hale (Norbet Leo Butz).
Another story line involves a black man named Samuel Diggs (McKinley Belcher III) who works at the hospital. He falls in love with the laundress, Aurelia, who is trying to locate her lost son Gabriel. By the end of the first season Samuel saves Aurelia from dying from a botched abortion and finds her mother and son, bringing them to her. He gets her on a boat to the north to safety and ties up loose ends in Alexandria so he can join them.
Samuel grew up in a house with a northern doctor and assisted him in many surgeries. But in this time frame, black men aren't allowed to be doctors. At the beginning of season two, Aurelia's husband shows up looking for Aurelia and Gabriel.
The other story line involves the Green family. The southern families in Alexandria are forced to sign a pledge of allegiance to the Union or suffer the consequences. The consequences being they lose everything as the Union Army takes and takes and takes some more. The southern families are not permitted to bury their dead in the cemetery until they sign this oath. So far the Green family has avoided signing.
One of their family friends signs the oath to bury their son and they are burned in their home by other southerners. Meanwhile, the oldest daughter Emma starts learning alongside Mary Phinney to be a nurse. At first she nurses only the Confederate soldiers in the hospital who are often ignored.
At the beginning of season two she asks Mary to nurse everyone. In season one, Emma knew that her boyfriend Frank Stringfellow was loose in town pretending to be a dentist. He is part of a terrorist group called Knights of the Golden Circle which Emma's younger sister Alice is part of. Emma knows nothing about this group, but in the beginning of season two she's starting to put the puzzle pieces together as Frank's lies catch up with him.
Personally, and in closing, I tend to steer clear of shows that focus so heavily on race and gender because often the content is more inflammatory than informative (or even accurate, sometimes)... but in this case it has been a powerful experience. So, just watch 'Mercy Street' as it will sit with you, for all the right reasons thereafter, This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of over 20 minutes of Deleted Scenes.
'The Gruffalo' + 'The Gruffalo's Child'
(Helena Bonham Carter, James Corden, Tom Wilkinson, et al, / DVD / NR / 2017 / Orange Eyes Limited - PBS)
Overview: 'The Gruffalo' tells the magical tale of a mouse who takes a walk through the woods in search of a nut. Encountering three predators who all wish to eat him a fox, an owl and a snake the plucky mouse has to use his wits to survive, creating an imaginary monster who then turns out to be only too real.
DVD Verdict: Having narrowly avoided a predator herself, a mother squirrel calms the nerves of her two young children by telling them a story of a plucky young mouse who travels deep into the woods in search of food only to find predators at every turn ready to trick him into becoming their next meal.
Based on the very successful children's book (which I've not read), the rhyming dialogue of the mouse's speech appears to have made it as has the look and feel of the film since the animation is very close to what I have seen of the book. In terms of substance it is very simple but effective – you know where it is going but it has an easy delight to it that one cannot help enjoying. I'm not sure if it is from the book or not but I felt that the narrative device of having us be told the mouse's story via another story teller (and being able to see her audience while also be the audience ourselves) really did work to make it a bit more engaging. The cast is fairly packed with famous voices as well (and not just for UK viewers, which is normally how it works).
Although I personally am yet to see what everyone likes about him, Corden does a good job as the mouse – despite the feeling that the BBC were putting him in everything (this was his first of three appearances at Christmas). He is quite restrained in his delivery, which suits the mouse and the clever little rhyming style of his speech. Carter's narrator is balanced and responsible, with Brydon, Hurt and Wilkinson doing good work in small bits as the predators.
Coltrane is the only one that really makes an impression though, since his voice is quite distinctive and he plays up the gruff aspect of it. In terms of the stars, they are all good without being so good that it explains their involvement, but I suppose it helps the film and also represented an easy time commitment from them.
What really made it for me though was the animation. The film looks great but it does it in a way that never feels showy or like it is being done for the sake of it. In terms of bringing it to the screen it somehow manages to be impressive and detailed but yet also keep the rounded colorful nature that one would expect with a children's animated book. To me, the animation did more than the star names in terms of creating the characters and while the casting is a coup that catches the eye, the animators deserve a lot of credit as well. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of a Behind The Scenes Documentary.
In the sequel, 'The Gruffalo's Child', a little Gruffalo ignores her father's warnings and tiptoes out into the snow in search of the Big Bad Mouse. Essentially reversing the plot of the original Gruffalo short, this time the squirrel tells her children a tale about the Gruffalo's child going into the woods to seek out the fearsome mouse that her father uses as a warning not to wander off. As before each animal encountered points the child onward to a new threat and as before the result is a cute and enjoyable little short film even if it never really excels in a great deal.
It perhaps lacks the Pixar sense of humor or a cynical edge to appeal to adults specifically but it is hard to dislike it for just how simple a tale it is. The animation is still impressive but yet retains the feel of a children's book – I feel no shame in admitting that I was watching this in a dressing gown at the end of a day of wine and food and it felt oddly comforting to be sitting being told this wholesome and simple little tale.
The dialogue still works well in this effect with it repetition and rhyming nature while the voice cast from the first film mostly return. Most of them only have a few lines apart from Shirley Henderson, who plays her usual "odd Scottish waif" role really well as the child – she was a good bit of casting and brought a lot of character to the child. As before Corden mercifully underplays and does good as the mouse. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of a Behind The Scenes Documentary and an Artwork Gallery.
'WordWorld: Let's Make Music!'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Emmy Award Winner for Outstanding Children's Animated Program, 'WordWorld' is a CGI animated television series that debuted on PBS Kids. It was produced by The Learning Box and WTTW-TV. The series premiered on September 3, 2007 and ended on January 17, 2011 with 80 episodes and 3 seasons. These eight (8) fun stories are grouped together and titled 'Let's Make Music!'
DVD Verdict: Duck encourages Shark to dance in his show called The Dancing Duck Bonanza. When Shark comes up on land, he flops all over the stage! Can Duck find a way to put on his show and include Shark? Later, Sheep is getting ready to put on a big musical show! While singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in front of his Friends, Duck gets a case of stage fright. Can Sheep and Ant help Duck overcome his stage fright?
The loveable WordFriends take children on adventures in a world of words where they encounter all sorts of situations that can only be solved by building a word! Playfully demonstrating the connections between letters, sounds, words and meaning, WordWorld empowers children to advance from learning letters to learning how to read.
The episodes contained on this brand new 'WordWorld: Let's Make Music!' DVD are: 'Dancing Dog,' 'Duck Plays the Piano,' 'The Dancing Duck Bonanza,' 'A Star is Born,' 'Boppin' with the Bug Band,' 'Radio Read-a-Thon,' Dog's Having a Party' and 'Bed Bugs.'
WordWorld, where words come alive in apps and games, videos, and printable activities also features a Watch & Learn section, which features three highly endorsed subjects: 1. Letter and word sounds, 2. Blending word parts into words, and 3. Build confidence - reading is fun! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: Reading is power and Super WHY! helps kids learn the fundamentals of reading through interactive story book adventures!
DVD Verdict: For those of you that are not aware, Super WHY! is a new series that contains a breakthrough interactive approach to reading education. Classic fairy tales with an innovative preschool twist and colorful and empowering young heroes, Super WHY! is the only preschool property created to help kids learn the fundamentals of reading through interactive storybook adventures.
In truth, my 22-month old son loves this show. He loves it because of the singing and interactive nature of the show. I love it because I teach reading at an elementary school! I enjoy the premise of the show immensely - the ability to solve "every day" problems with solutions from a book or story. I also enjoy the fact that Whyatt's super power is the power to read and a big deal is made of it each and every time.
Each of the other characters has "control" over one aspect of reading - spelling power, word power, and alphabet power. All of these skills are important for thinking about letters and sounds as connected and a part of the reading process. Kudos to PBS for providing yet another powerful show that helps our kids learn!
The four (4) reading adventures featured on this new DVD are: Woofster Finds a Home, The Pupp-athon, Super Puppy Saves the Day and Woofster and the Pet Pack.
There's a dog adoption fair in Storybrook Village and Whyatt has made a new friend named Woofster! When Whyatt discovers that Woofster needs a new home, the Super Readers make it their mission to help out. Before they know it, Woofster has become part of the team! This fun-filled collection of four puppy-packed stories features tons of new furry friends and will have kids begging for more reading adventures! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: When a rival agency called Weird Team arrives with a gadget that fixes any odd problem, Odd Squad doesn't have any cases to solve and goes out of business forcing the agents to go back to their lives as regular kids! After using math and teamwork to uncover that Weird Team's gadget isn't actually fixing problems, Olympia and Otis join forces with Olive and Otto to stop Weird Team and save the world from destruction!
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, The Odd Squad is a government agency that’s run by kids! Their mission is to investigate and rectify strange occurrences and to keep everyone safe. All of the agents have names that begin with the letter “O”.
'Odd Squad: The Movie' is a live-action series with the goal of helping kids ages 5-8 learn math. And for that reason alone, my boy enjoyed this show and its wacky humor tremendously! Besides entertaining, it teaches logic and math concepts like fractions and graphing/charting.
That said, and as much as I myself (an adult) found it very funny and entertaining for the whole family, a lot of the gags are going to go over the heads of younger kids. If you are looking for a lot of educational value, then you're going to be disappointed. There is really only one math lesson that focuses on the exponential growth of doubling and then continuing to re-double it. Kind of a fun fact, but not of great mathematical value. But my kids really enjoyed it, and the kids in the movie looked like they had a ball!
So yeah, I highly recommend this DVD to all parents of children interested in math, or otherwise. Either way it will definitely, 100% keep them occupied watching The Odd Squad figure things out -- and you parents also, most likely! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Pearl Harbor: Into The Arizona'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: The USS Arizona has been resting on Pearl Harbor's ocean floor for 75 years. For the first time since it was destroyed in 1941, scientists have the technology to take a look inside the ship.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, the USS Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship built for and by the United States Navy in the mid-1910s. Named in honor of the 48th state's recent admission into the union, the ship was the second and last of the Pennsylvania class of "super-dreadnought" battleships. Although commissioned in 1916, the ship remained stateside during World War I.
Shortly after the end of the war, Arizona was one of a number of American ships that briefly escorted President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference. The ship was sent to Turkey in 1919 at the beginning of the Greco-Turkish War to represent American interests for several months. Several years later, she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet and remained there for the rest of her career.
As this fascinating documentary from PBS goes to lengths to show, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Arizona was bombed. After a bomb detonated in a powder magazine, the battleship exploded violently and sank, with the loss of 1,177 officers and crewmen. Unlike many of the other ships sunk or damaged that day, Arizona was irreparably damaged by the force of the magazine explosion, though the Navy removed parts of the ship for reuse.
The wreck then lay at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, dedicated on 30 May 1962 to all those who died during the attack, straddles the ship's hull.
But now, and for the first time since it was destroyed in 1941, scientists have the technology to take a look inside the ship. The discoveries made inside the ship are a stark reminder of all those who paid the ultimate price for their country. The expedition retells personal stories of survivors who lived through Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. If you find all there is about Pearl Harbor to be fascinating, and you think you know all there is to know about the USS Arizona, well, think again. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Overview: 'USO - For the Troops' takes viewers behind the scenes and inside the life-affirming work the USO performs, year in and year out, to lift the spirits of American service personnel and to build and strengthen the ties that connect them to their families, their homes, and our nation.
DVD Verdict: For 75 years, the United Service Organizations (USO) has lifted the spirits of American soldiers and has kept service personnel connected to their families and country while abroad. 'USO: For the Troops' conveys the fast pace and complex logistics of a modern USO tour, and underlines the importance of the organization not just for service people, but for America as a whole.
During World War II, the USO became the GI's "home away from home" and began a tradition of entertaining the troops that continues today. Involvement in the USO was one of the many ways in which the nation had come together to support the war effort, with nearly 1.5 million Americans having volunteered their services in some way. After it was disbanded in 1947, it was revived in 1950 for the Korean War, after which it also provided peacetime services. During the Vietnam War, USOs were sometimes located in combat zones.
We learn that the organization became particularly famous for its live performances, called Camp Shows, through which the entertainment industry helped boost the morale of its servicemen and women. Hollywood in general was eager to show its patriotism, and many famous celebrities joined the ranks of USO entertainers. They entertained in military bases at home and overseas, sometimes placing their own lives in danger, by traveling or performing under hazardous conditions.
The USO has over 160 locations around the world in 14 countries (including the U.S.) and 27 states. During a gala marking the USO's 75th anniversary in 2016, retired Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the current chairman of the USO Board of Governors, estimated that the USO has served more than 35 million Americans over its history. Its motto is "Until everyone comes home" and with regard this new documentary, it's a complete and utter must-see experience. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'The Mind of a Chef: Ludo Lefebvre (Season 5)'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Season 5 of the Emmy® and James Beard Award-winning series The Mind of a Chef returns with the world-renowned Ludo Lefebvre retracing the inspiration for his culinary career and exploring what it truly means to cook, think, create, and live in today's food-obsessed world.
DVD Verdict: 'The Mind of a Chef' is a non-fiction television series on PBS narrated and executive produced by Anthony Bourdain, and combines travel, cooking, history, and science.
The first season premiered on November 9, 2012 with host David Chang, and now here we are onto Season 5 with Ludo Lefebvre. For those not in the know, Ludovic "Ludo" Lefebvre a French chef, restaurateur, pop-up impresario, author, and television personality. He trained with the great masters in France for 12 years before moving to Los Angeles.
He was quickly awarded the prestigious Mobil Travel Guide Five Star Award at two different restaurants, L'Orangerie in 1999 and 2000 and Bastide in 2006. He then went on to create his uber-popular LudoBites concept, a multi-city restaurant tour, followed by opening two restaurants in Los Angeles, Trois Mec and Petit Trois.
From Executive Producer Anthony Bourdain, this three hour long season focusing on Chef Ludo Lefebvre shines a light on the great man, the cooking genius as he stirs up the food scene in Los Angeles. Here in this fifth season of the hit TV show, Ludo retraces the inspiration for his culinary career and explores what it truly means to cook, think, create, and live in today's food-obsessed world.
So, why should you watch this delightful TV show? Well, in 2013, 'The Mind of a Chef' won a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Television Program, On Location. And in 2014, 'The Mind of a Chef' won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Culinary Program. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Searching for Augusta: Forgotten Angel of Bastogne
(DVD / NR / (2014) 2017 / PBS)
Overview: This true story begins with two nurses, Renee LeMaire and Augusta Chiwy, as they treat patients in the Bastogne aid station. Renee was killed on Christmas Eve and became famous as The Angel of Bastogne. Augusta s story was lost to history for sixty-five years. Augusta Chiwy s story is one of great courage and heroism in the face of racial discrimination.
DVD Verdict: 'Searching for Augusta: The Forgotten Angel of Bastogne' follows the story of Augusta Chiwy, a black Belgian nurse whose volunteer service in a US Army 10th Armored Division medical aid station during World War II's Battle of the Bulge exemplifies the best of the human spirit in the worst of times.
As mentioned in the Overview, this incredible true story begins with two nurses, Renee LeMaire and Augusta Chiwy, as they treat patients in the Bastogne aid station. Renee was killed on Christmas Eve and became famous as "The Angel of Bastogne." Augusta's story was lost to history for sixty-five years, until military historian and author Martin King found her living alone in Brussels. Augusta Chiwy's story is one of courage, compassion, and great individual heroism in the face of bigotry and racial discrimination.
As sorrowful and as passionate as anything that I've sat down to review in a decade, 'Searching for Augusta: The Forgotten Angel of Bastogne' is one of those films that proves humanity has a heart - well, those that aided, as opposed those that waylaid the situations at hand, of course. It is truly one woman's story of heroism and bravery during World War II and it will leave a mark on you afterwards, of that you have my word. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'American Masters: Eero Saarinen'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Explore the life of Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, whose visionary buildings include St. Louis Gateway Arch and the General Motors Technical Center in Michigan. Travel with his son, as he showcases the architect s body of timeless work, which continues to inspire amongst renewed interest in 20th-century architects and artists who exploded the constraints of the past to create a robust and daring American aesthetic.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, Eero Saarinen was a 20th-century Finnish American architect and industrial designer noted for his neofuturistic style.
Eero Saarinen was born on August 20, 1910 to Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen and his second wife, Louise, on his father's 37th birthday. They immigrated to the United States in 1923, when Eero was thirteen. He grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where his father taught and was dean of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and he took courses in sculpture and furniture design there. He had a close relationship with fellow students Charles and Ray Eames, and became good friends with Florence Knoll (née Schust).
Saarinen began studies in sculpture at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, France, in September 1929. He then went on to study at the Yale School of Architecture, completing his studies in 1934. Subsequently, he toured Europe and North Africa for a year and returned for a year to his native Finland.
But as we discover, Eero Saarinen grew up to create some visionary buildings that include National Historic Landmarks such as St. Louis' iconic Gateway Arch and the General Motors Technical Center in Michigan. Saarinen also designed New York's TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Yale University's Ingalls Rink and Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges, Virginia's Dulles Airport, and modernist pedestal furniture like the Tulip chair.
Critics always want to analyze if an architect’s work embodies certain feelings like excitement or sense of belonging when in fact architecture is as simple as sense of belonging that humans feel with a human's creation. No one analyzed that feeling better than another genius architect called Cesar Pelli when he said "IF YOUR BUILDINGS REMAIN ALIVE, YOUR MEMORY REMAINS ALIVE.” Eero Saarinen's work WAS, IS and WILL BE alive for many centuries to come since Eero's work is valued, appreciated and more importantly, protected by its care takers. Watch this fascinating documentary and discover this fact for yourself. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
First Christ Church Scout
MIT Chapel Construction
CBS Building Story
'NOVA: Treasures of the Earth'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Explore how precious gems, metals, and energy resources are forged under extraordinary circumstances deep within the Earth, and discover how their unique properties have helped lift humanity from the Stone Age to the stars.
DVD Verdict: All around us is Earth's bounty--spectacular mountains, Caribbean blue oceans and abundant, delicious food crops. But what we can see is only a part of the riches Earth provides. Its hidden assets are some of our most important natural resources and they have helped shape humankind. Treasures of Earth is a three-part series that takes us on a journey deep inside the Earth to uncover the mysteries of how these treasures were created and explores how they have allowed humans to evolve and build great civilizations.
Drill down to discover how Earth's natural treasures provide bountiful energy to power our modern world yet are also driving us to seek new, cleaner alternatives that can help us keep the lights on.
Discover how the unique properties of metals have made them a pillar of human civilization.
Gemstones like diamonds, rubies, opal and jade are, for many, the ultimate treasures. Discover how these precious stones are forged deep earth, learn the secrets of their sparkle, and see how they may also reveal answers to some of the biggest questions in the field of geology.
Personally, all this fascinates me, for I just purchased some gem stones for my daughters birthday. They were from her astrological birth month of October and wow, were they rather lovely upon their arrival here. So, gem stones, and learning all about them here in 'NOVA: Treasures of the Earth' took on a whole other level of curiosity for me - and I hope it will for you also. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Command And Control'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: 'Command and Control' presents the true story of what happens when weapons built to protect threaten to become the very source of our own destruction. Based on bestseller by Eric Schlosser, the film tells the story of a 1980 accident at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas, and explores the great dilemma or our time: How do you manage weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them?
DVD Verdict: In truth, I went into this documentary blind, as I didn't know what the title meant until I started watching this two hour long film. Well, 'Command And Control' out now from PBS is a well-established in the facts documentary that says that the US has over 70,000 nuclear weapons - wow! And now all at the fingertips of President Trump (Wow! Again!).
That coupled with the asserted huge number of hidden, associated accidents and mishaps over the years as well as the abject failure of command and control in this Arkansas disaster should serve as a warning to us all that greater care must be taken in managing, reducing and ultimately eliminating these weapons. Because otherwise our luck is going to run out
one of these days.
Note how reprehensible the behavior of the Air Force brass was in handling this incident before, during and after -- as contrasted with that of the heroic personnel on site. Ergo, 'Command and Control' presents the terrifying, true story of what can happen when the weapons built to protect us threaten to become the very source of our own destruction.
Based on The New York Times bestseller by Eric Schlosser the film tells the story of a 1980 accident at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas in minute-by-minute detail through the accounts of Air Force personnel, weapon designers, and first responders who were there, revealing the incredible chain of events that brought America to the brink of nuclear disaster. Now that Donald Trump is in power, well, watching this might well worry you, sorry!! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and features both the Theatrical Release and the Extended American Experience Version also.
'FRONTLINE: Confronting ISIS'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: 'FRONTLINE: Confronting ISIS' is an investigation into those U.S.-led efforts to degrade and destroy ISIS.
DVD Verdict: In truth, ISIS was created in the wake of a power vacuum where Malikki, the US's stop gap measure for an Iraqi head of state who was anti- Saddam-Hussein, violently cracked down on a demonstration, which helped propel Iraq into its current violent state.
According to 'FRONTLINE: Confronting ISIS' this is where ISIS begins. Well, sort of. The whole reason Iraq exists as it does today is because we, the United States, went in to take out Saddam Hussein with the intent of defanging him and creating a kind of democracy; nation building. Regrettably the president did not heed General Shinseki's advice of going in with a combat force of at least a million men to put the nation under lock down.
The piece ignores the Iranian-Hostage crisis or the 70s and 9/11 as preludes to the Iraq war. Soldiers interviewed in other pieces about Afghanistan and Iraq all say that the natives point to Palestine and Israel as their motivation for hostilities.
Without any of that history, 'FRONTLINE: Confronting ISIS' really doesn't make much sense, much less the efforts of how to tackle ISIS. The piece interviews nearly everyone under the sun except the heads of state and other major players at the executive level. And fails to address Malikki's violent crackdown on demonstrators which led to the current military turmoil in the first place.
It also ignores Assad's efforts to push forward a more progressive nation, and how his father's political enemies tried to take advantage of that, and threw Syria into civil war. And then interviews the head of Saudi intelligence who concludes that Assad has to go, when Assad was the one trying to bring Syria into the modern world.
The piece, a Frontline production, didn't look at past Frontline productions to get the history right. Because if you view this, then you might conclude that ISIS was created by Malikki leaving power, and that Assad is responsible for all of the military action taking place in Northern Iraq, Lebanon, and so forth. But that's not the case. Please, do your homework before watching this, for as much as this film is relevant, sure, it is also slanted, of course. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'16 for 16 - The Contenders'
(2-Disc DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: Every four years, bold men and women declare themselves the MVP uniquely deserving of America's highest office. Among the many contenders, there can only be one winner. This documentary series presented by OZY Media examines 16 of the most unforgettable candidates from the past 50 years of election history and demonstrates how previous elections still influence the American political landscape today.
DVD Verdict: In truth, '16 for 16 - The Contenders' from PBS is a wee bit behind the eight ball here, given we now have President Trump in office! But, that said, what this 2-Disc DVD still manages to get across is just how labored a task it truly is, spread over a four year period of non-stop handshakes and speeches to get to that MVP of America position.
From Shirley Chisholm's landmark 1972 presidential candidacy that forever altered America's view of what a candidate should look like to Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign which launched a brand of conservativism that would prove influential for decades to come, from Howard Dean's denouncement of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and innovative grassroots fundraising effort to Sarah Palin's surprising appearance on a Republican presidential ticket, this eight-hour documentary series presented by OZY Media examines 16 of the most compelling stories behind unforgettable candidates from the past 50 years of election history.
'16 for 16 - The Contenders' demonstrates, in some documentary style, just how previous elections still influence the American political landscape in unexpected ways today:
Episode 1: Chisolm/McCain - The Straight Talkers TV-PG + VL
Episode 2: Dean/Buchanan - The Flamethrowers TV-PG
Episode 3: Romney/Dukakis - The Technocrats TV-PG
Episode 4: Hart/Jackson - The Visionaries TV-PG + V
Episode 5: Goldwater/Reagan - The Conservatives TV-PG + V
Episode 6: Perot/Nader - The Independents TV-PG + V
Episode 7: Ferraro/Palin - The Trailblazers TV-PG
Episode 8: Bush/Obama - The Master Strategists TV-PG
This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Smithsonian: The Weapon Hunter - Season 1'
(2-Disc DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: A shootout between five WWII sniper rifles and two Civil War cannons. A massive rebuild of a tank destroyer and the fierce Quad 50 mobile machine gun. An epic cross-continent hunt for an ultra-rare rifle and an operational flamethrower. Welcome to 'Smithsonian: The Weapon Hunter - Season 1'!
DVD Verdict: Here in 'Smithsonian: The Weapon Hunter - Season 1', military history buff Paul Shull is on a mission to touch, hold, and fire some of the greatest pieces of weaponry on the planet. Get an up-close look at some of the most iconic weapons of the last 150 years and witness the awesome firepower they still have.
In truth, with so many scripted "reality" shows concerning firearms, 'The Weapon Hunter' is a breath of fresh air! Paul Shull demonstrates a genuine enthusiasm and respect for these weapons and the people that used them (as well as collect and restore them). No politics or fake drama here, the focus is on the weaponry and how they made history.
Shull himself is also a great presenter, a down-to-the-earth guy whose passion and zest for military history is clearly evident, which makes the show even more enjoyable. His enthusiasm becomes the viewer's enthusiasm, and those who watch the show can experience what it is like to operate these weapons vicariously through him.
Shull is also no prima donna, he is not only willing to get dirty or even risk life and limb; but is also not beyond embarrassing himself a little in the process if that is what it takes. However, what is really appealing is that Shull clearly makes weapons the star of the show, not himself.
The Smithsonian Channel has a real winner in 'The Weapon Hunter' and Shull, I eagerly look forward to the next season and many more beyond that! And once you have watched this great TV show, I know you will also. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise'
(Henry Louis Gates, Jesse Jackson Jr, et al / 2-Disc DVD / PG / 2017 / PBS)
Overview: In this series, 'BLACK AMERICA SINCE MLK: AND STILL I RISE', Henry Louis Gates, Jr. embarks on a deeply personal journey through the last fifty years of African American history.
Joined by leading scholars, celebrities, and a dynamic cast of people who shaped these years, Gates travels from the victories of the civil rights movement up to today, asking profound questions about the state of black America and our nation as a whole.
DVD Verdict: Here in 'Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise' Dr. Gates has produced a 4 part mini series, each part an hour long, that discusses some of the changes and challenges to being black in America covering the period of Reverend Martin Luther Kings Jr assassination to the elections of 2016.
Much of the focus is from one point of view with occasional differing views but usually from people who will have their comments ignored because of their notoriety.
I didn't see any recognition to previous black pioneers and black communities prior to the reconstruction period after the American Civil War even though that period is mentioned. Would have been nice to have it mentioned that there were black political representatives up to the Congressional level previously.
It does focus on the issue of the "haves" versus the "have not's" and the spiral of poverty and crime and how the justice system has been subverted by politics so that it has become part of the problem. Some of the interviews explained this wasn't just a black issue but more of a class issue.
Personally, I would have liked to see a nod given to some non-blacks that were instrumental in some of the changes that have been made. Lyndon B. Johnson, Norman Lear, and even the show All in the Family which helped to break down some walls and start more communication.
Even if you lived through this period of change already it is worth taking the time to watch it. I would not take everything at face value but it does bring up some excellent points to consider. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
(Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Tae Kim, Jin-woong Jo, Hae-suk Kim, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Overview: From Park Chan-wook, the celebrated director of Oldboy, Lady Vengeance and Stoker, comes a ravishing new crime drama. Park presents a gripping and sensual tale of two women - a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance.
DVD Verdict: A masterwork of precision craftsmanship, 'The Handmaiden' is an exquisite blend of high-quality direction, clever writing, sumptuous production design, impeccable camera-work, tight editing and mesmerizing score that finds the revered filmmaker in sublime form, and is all the more uplifted by his sweeping cinematic vision to cement its spot among the finest films of 2016.
Set in Japanese-occupied Korea, the story of 'The Handmaiden' follows a pickpocket who's hired by a conman to assist him in seducing a Japanese heiress, who lives a secluded life in a countryside mansion with her uncle, in order to steal her inheritance but finds herself attracted to her beauty and innocence and after an unexpected encounter, starts having second thoughts about going with the original plan.
Co-written, co-produced and directed by Park Chan-wook (Joint Security Area), this sexually-charged erotic thriller finds the esteemed filmmaker returning to his roots after his stint at Hollywood and makes splendid use of all his trademarks, including his own touch of dark comedy, bizarre elements and graphic violence, and is possibly the most refined and beautiful film he's made to date.
The ornamental set pieces and lush locations provide its tale a setting that's as steeped in mystery as it is in beauty, which is further enhanced by its arresting cinematography that makes excellent use of fluid camera movements, fitting color tones and perfect lighting to radiate a sense of warmth and an undercurrent of ambiguity. The narrative employs a three-part structure and is tightly edited while its evocative score infuses flavors of its own into the final print.
Coming to the performances, 'The Handmaiden' features an interesting cast in Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo & Cho Jin-woong, with the two ladies impressing the most. While Min-hee illustrates the fragility and mysteriousness of the heiress with finesse, Tae-ri does a fabulous job at expressing the maidservant's shifting allegiance and the sexual tension between them is the core ingredient that drives this film and Chan-wook captures it with genuine intimacy and tenderness.
On an overall scale, 'The Handmaiden' finds the visionary filmmaker in complete control of his craft, and is an erotic thriller for the ages. As accomplished in technical scale as it is proficient in the storytelling department, it balances all its aspect with remarkable flair and makes them work in near-perfect harmony from start to finish. All in all, 'The Handmaiden' is another dark, twisted and deliciously thrilling cinema from an assured artist and is possibly his finest directional effort since Oldboy. Strongly recommended. These is a Widescreen Presentation (2:39.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Power Rangers: Dino Charge - The Complete Season'
(James Davies, Michael Taber, Brennan Mejia, Yoshua Sudarso, et al / 5-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)
Overview: Catch all the dino-charged adventures of the world-renowned heroes, Saban’s Power Rangers, when Nickelodeon’s hit TV series 'Power Rangers Dino Charge: The Complete Season' arrives on DVD and Digital HD February 7th from Lionsgate.
DVD Verdict: I have to fully admit that I've been awaiting this complete adventure season on DVD for rather a long time now! The franchise, in general, is mostly about frenzied kick action, preposterous moments and general nonsense. But 'Power Rangers Dino Charge' changed all that thanks to polished effects, costumes, fights, acting, and most importantly writing.
Millions of years ago, an intergalactic bounty hunter named Sledge tried to capture the Energems – ten mysterious colored gems with incredible powers. Keeper, the guardian of the Energems, fled to Earth, where he entrusted the Energems to the dinosaurs for protection. After the dinosaurs went extinct, the Energems were lost. Now, Sledge is back, and it’s up to the Power Rangers Dino Charge to hunt down the missing Energems and defeat the vicious Sledge — once and for all!
The writing takes the cake as it implements a lesson/theme into each episode while simultaneously giving character development with an actual plot of how a small group of teenagers discover a new ally: the Purple Ranger!
In this series, one of the best plot lines (for my money) is that the teen superheroes must join forces to defeat an evil monster in order to save the day. But when the Purple Ranger decides to leave the team, it takes all of the collective Power Rangers’ skills combined to battle the villainous Sledge – and find a new hero fit for the Purple Energem! Oh, and Power Rangers fans will also have the chance to get into the holiday spirit with a special holiday episode, “Race to Rescue Christmas,” which features last on Volume 5.
Personally, my two favorites are the Red Ranger Troy (disciplined, serious, yet caring and knows that everyone has weakness) and the Pink Ranger Emma (one who deeply cares about the world around it and knows that there is always a way for everyone to work together).
All in all this is one that both fans and perhaps non-fans (including reluctant parents!) can enjoy, ranking along the veins of the underrated Lightspeed Rescue. However, and playing devil's advocate here, my biggest criticism in this series definitely have to go towards the villains Sledge and Poisandra who are very one dimensional and have very little character development which makes them little more than stereotypical Power Rangers villains.
For me, this is a downwards trend we have seen become obvious in seasons like Power Rangers Samurai and Megaforce and for the most part, makes the season somewhat unenjoyable to watch when compared to the glorious villains we have seen in previous seasons like Time Force, Lightspeed Rescue, Dino Thunder and RPM.
All in all though, 'Power Rangers: Dino Charge' is a definite step-up from the disgraceful seasons we've been handed since 2011. While there is still room to improve, it is a very good season and old fans who have loved the show will not be disappointed should they decide to tune in to watch it.
So come one, one and all, and dive into the epic battle as the Rangers fight against a massive alien Armada and discover legendary new special abilities at the same time!
UNLEASHED: Vol. 1:
"Power's From the Past", "Past, Present and Fusion", "A Fool's Hour", "Return of the Caveman"
'PJ Masks: Let's Go PJ Masks!'
(Jacob Ewaniuk, Addison Holley, Kyle Harrison Breitkopf, et al / DVD / NR / 2016 / eOne - 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
Overview: Join Catboy, Owlette and Gekko on their nighttime missions, into the night to save the day! It's up to Catboy, the real parade Leader, to save the day from Night Ninja. But he doesn't think he can lead the NinjaLinos without his drum!
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, PJ Masks is a British/French animated children's television series produced by Entertainment One, Frog Box, and TeamTO. The series is based on the Les Pyjamasques book series by Romuald Racioppo and debuted on Disney Junior in the United States on September 18th, 2015.
Indeed, further more, the love for this series is so, that it has been renewed for a second season consisting of 26 episodes, scheduled to air in 2018!
PJ Masks revolves around three 6-year-olds, Connor, Amaya, and Greg, who lead relatively normal lives by day, where they are neighbors, classmates, and friends. However, at night, they become Catboy, Owlette, and Gekko, and fight crime as the superhero team PJ Masks. Together, they go on adventures, defeat villains, solve mysteries, and learn valuable lessons.
Here in 'PJ Masks: Let's Go PJ Masks!' our intrepid trip - Catboy, Owlette and Gekko - have to undertake a daring mission in the night to save the day. So, first up, Catboy has to come up against Night Ninja, but due to one thing or another (no spoilers here!), he doesn't think he can lead the Ninjalinos without his drum. Luna Girl then turns a sleepwalking Cameron into her very own human puppet and so it's up to the PJ Masks to save the day. Well, that is if Gekko can stop messing around first!
1. Beat the Drum, Catboy
2. Bekko's Super Gekko Sense
3. Catboy Squared
4. Owlette's New Move
5. Catboy and the Shrinker
6. Gekko and the Snore-A-Saurus
Each episode is just over ten minutes long each, with an audio track in English Dolby Digital 2.0. This particular DVD, 'PJ Masks: Let's Go PJ Masks!' is a huge (for these type of animated children's shows) 66 minutes long and has the six (6) episodes noted above on it.
So, and in conclusion, whilst the main characters aren't the same, the ideas behind it are similar - such as keeping the community safe and going on adventures together. It's got a big Dudley Do-Right vibe to it for sure, but it works - and my kids have already fallen in love with each of the cute characters. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of a one-minute "Let's Go PJ Masks!" Music Video.
Following the pre-school phenomenon’s incredible success with toys, apparel, games, books and more, the hit series is now available to own on DVD!
'Justice League: Dark' (Limited Edition Gift Set)
(Matt Ryan, Camilla Luddington, Jason O'Mara, JB Blanc, Ray Chase, et al / Blu ray + DVD / PG-13 / 2017 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: Beings with supernatural powers join together to fight against supernatural villains. This team of supernatural beings include John Constantine, Zatanna and Jason Blood also known as the demon Etrigan.
Blu ray Verdict: After the newly christened Justice League investigated a mysterious attack against a nuclear submarine, this particular story line follows the exploits of some of DC's biggest magical characters.
A simple yet well told story with enough intrigue and heart to keep one's interest, the visualization of magic was perfect and the abilities and variances of each character were well done.
So, if you've not been following along at home 'Justice League Dark takes the viewer on a mysterious journey into the unknown, drawing into the conflict master magician Zatanna, trapeze artist and acrobat Deadman, and Etrigan, a demon from Hell.
A personal worry for me before watching the movie was the amount of Batman, considering he was front and center on the cover. Yet the movie uses him well, as nothing more than an outsider; with some action scenes during the climax, of course. The voice acting is spot on from Matt Ryan's reprisal of Constantine to Camilla Luddigton as Zatanna.
Also, Jason O'Mara does a good job as Batman and although not as good as Kevin (sorry, but that's just my professional opinion) he is a good replacement nonetheless. It must also be mentioned that some may find it overwhelming to meet about 8-9 magical characters from the depths of DC's lore as this is the first movie outing for some of them. They range from straight forward to down right weird (again, my personal opinion), but they all have enough screen time and charm to win most, if not all of you over.
Indeed, as noted, there are so many good things that pull me back to DC's animation. In truth, I like the way they introduce each of the members of the Justice League here. Especially Demon Etrigan. The backstory of him could be another animated movie all unto itself! And should be! And the way they connect his backstory with the main plot is tricky and yet nothing I saw coming! So, for me, the idea to use such a scheme, for want of a better word, to pull someone like me back to the game should be applauded - and loudly!
Overall, a solid movie to add to DC's brilliant library of animation and one that has great potential for the future. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
The Story Of Swamp Thing Did You Know? "Constantine Origin" Did You Know? "Color Of Magic" Did You Know? "Black Orchid" Did You Know? "Deadman Casting" 2016 NY Comic-Con Panel
The film will be available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Blu-ray Deluxe Giftset, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on February 7, 2017, and on Digital HD starting January 24, 2017.
'Nerdland: Unrated' [Blu-ray]
(Paul Rudd, Patton Oswalt, et al / Blu ray / NR / 2017 / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Overview: Two best friends (Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt) make a last ditch effort to become famous, stumbling into a series of misadventures that threaten their lives and dignity.
Blu ray Verdict: For those not in the know, the animated soon-to-be-classic 'Nerdland' (from Titmouse Productions) is based on a concept that has been pitched for several years in various incarnations: first as a live-action movie, then a television series, then a series of animated shorts, and finally an animated film.
Here in its feature-length animated form, the film brings us into the world of aspiring actor John (Paul Rudd) and wannabe screenwriter Elliot (Patton Oswalt). Slacker best pals who have seen their dreams of stardom slowly fade away, with their 30th birthdays coming up and desperation growing, they decide that in a celebrity-obsessed world, there are more ways to get famous than ever before.
So, they vow to become famous by the end of the day - at any cost! With the half-hearted support of an eccentric collectible store owner (Hannibal Buress) and a pair of equally fame-hungry women (Riki Lindome, Kate Micucci), John and Elliot travel to Los Angeles on an attention-grabbing series of publicity stunts and failed heroics.
During their exploits, they inadvertently become key witnesses in a high-profile crime that makes them household names. But their sudden fame is not what they anticipated. Complete with an 85-minute running time, 'Nerdland' is not your average animated quickie, of that have no doubt.
Its running time proves it wants to be taken seriously, its sharp-edge animation flawless, its dialogue perfect, its soundtrack chock full of pop bounce, and as they say, "Sometimes being a hero means being in the right place at the right time." (ie: police scanner!) This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
The film will be available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on Blu-ray and DVD on February 7, 2017.
The Edge of Seventeen (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
(Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / R / 2017 / Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
Overview: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.
Blu ray Verdict: In the vein of classic coming-of-age films like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, 'The Edge of Seventeen' is a poignant and hilarious look at what it's like to be a teenager today. Growing up is hard, and life is no easier for Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld, Pitch Perfect 2), who is already at peak awkwardness when her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson, Ravenswood) begins dating her all-star brother Darian (Blake Jenner, Glee).
All at once, Nadine feels more alone than ever. With the help of her reluctant sounding-board (Woody Harrelson, True Detective), she soon discovers that what feels like the end of the world may just be the beginning of growing up. Also starring Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), it's obvious to all that John Hughes is an unmistakable touchstone of the coming of age 1980s high school dramady - and 'The Edge of Seventeen' falls neatly within his genius scope.
'The Edge of Seventeen' begins somewhere in the middle of the story. Steinfeld's teen drama queen supreme Nadine interrupts her favorite teacher Mr. Brunner played by Woody Harrelson, "I'm gonna kill myself…" After a deadpan stare, Mr. Brunner reads Nadine his own drafted suicide note. Too funny. Steinfeld artfully invents Nadine as worthy of love, even when she says the vilest things. She tells literally her only friend in the world Krista (big hearted Hailey Lu Richardson) to choose between her and Nadine's brother Darian (dashing and surprising Blake Jenner).
On the Ferris wheel ride with Korean American Erwin (good-looking and whimsical Hayden Szeto), the charming animation nerd who is so in love with Nadine, she spews out a comical stereotype rift about of his parents. Then she admits, "All of it was racist." Craig and Steinfeld compassionately walk that fine line with inspired humor.
At a defining story arc, following a drunken indulgence Nadine weeps to Krista, "I've got to spend the rest of my life...with myself." This is heartbreaking. Her self-loathing is visceral and sad. Growing up in her eyes, older brother Darian was her parents' favorite. Not at all his fault. She constantly clashed with her Mom Mona (Kyra Sedgwick), who just did not 'get her'. Fortunately, her Dad Tom (patient and kind Eric Cooper) was not so much the buffer between Nadine and her Mom, rather the only one who could calm the fear deep in Nadine. As Nadine narrates everything tragically altered when she was 13 years-old. She was with her Dad when he unexpectedly passed way.
Now 17 years old Nadine is a junior in high school and in seemingly self imposed exile with her only friend Krista (Richardson). Darian (Jenner) is the high school teenage god—handsome, smart, popular, and captain of the football team. Mona (Sedgwick) is the overwhelmed single Mom, venturing in the perils of on-line dating, and grateful for raising her perfect son. Nadine yearns for "hot" mysterious loner Nick (Alexander Calvert), who works at the local Pet Land. She indifferently dismisses Erwin (Szeto), who wears the crush for her on his sleeve. History teacher Mr. Brunner (Harrelson) is Nadine's only adult confidant and caustic reality check.
Hailee Steinfeld is radiant, pretty, and killer smart as Nadine. She wears the uniform skirt and cool shoes as eclectic couture. Outwardly, she would not occur as social pariah. Steinfeld naturally realizes her social outcast with Nadine's merciless words and her tragic refusal to love herself. All are armor to cover the hurt buried within her.
Waking up from a hangover, Nadine catches Krista 'handling' Darian in a bedroom tryst. Nadine reacts like Nadine, and life spirals out of control. She loses her only friend. Her desired rendezvous materializes and is nearly costly—strikingly and gently envisioned by Craig and Steinfeld. On the bright side she begins to see the wonderful guy in Erwin. Now if she could only just shut up long enough. Nadine's words have a mind of their own: both a curse and an expression of her miraculous being.
Director and Writer Craig eloquently has Nadine's back. Darian and Krista might have been revealed as selfish jerks. Instead Jenner and Richardson only have unconditional love for Nadine. Jenner is impressively strong in the scene with his Mom. He reminds that though she is the only adult in the house, she calls him when there is trouble. The front room here was silent as he and Nadine say, "Goodnight."
Sedgwick's vulnerability strengthens the desperation and spirit of their Mom. Szeto is disarmingly brave and humorously clumsy as Erwin, who really sees Nadine's beautiful soul. Harrelson is subtle comic genius, and anchors 'The Edge of Seventeen'. As Mr. Brunner, we like Nadine underestimate him. Harrelson's hysterical cynicism masks the most generous soul. He sees the possibility of greatness in Nadine, even though she can't - yet.
In closing, for me 'The Edge of Seventeen' is a wonderful surprise. Hailee Steinfeld is witty and boldly human as Nadine reluctantly emerges as the hero in her own story. Her performance is raw — we feel her agony, fear, and joy. We pull for her Nadine to love thine own self. Above all Nadine deserves to love and be loved. We can all see the possibility of this for ourselves as well. Ergo, 'The Edge of Seventeen' is one of the best movies of the past few years. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
The film will be available from Universal Studios Home Entertainment on Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Combo on February 14, 2017.
'Five Nights in Maine'
(David Oyelowo, Dianne Wiest, Rosie Perez, Teyonah Parris, Hani Furstenberg, et al / DVD / NR / (2015) 2017 / FilmRise)
Overview: A young African American man, reeling from the tragic loss of his wife, travels to rural Maine to seek answers from his estranged mother-in-law, who is herself confronting guilt and grief over her daughter's death.
DVD Verdict: Having sat down and just watched this 82 minute movie straight through, without a break, without even looking at my watch once (which is always the sign of a good movie), I can confidently say that 'Five Nights in Maine' is one of those movies that does not really have a directness of point to it, and nor does it express itself cinematically in such a way as to blind you to its subtext.
Indeed, filmed and acted in such a low key manner it allows the watcher to feel their own way into the position of the character, the person on screen. Gently urging them to reflect on what is going on, to grasp the severity of the played out emotions, it soon becomes obvious that not every scene has a situation easy to pin point.
Simply put, although there truly is nothing simple about this movie, a man loses his wife in a car accident and the only one who can relate is his Mother-In-Law. But she is a pain in the ass even after her child's death, regardless of the fact that she is dying from cancer.
I also can acknowledge that Rosie Perez was great in the small role she had. In fact, and as much as she has annoyed me in earlier films in her career, I wished we had seen and heard more of her here because I like seeing her on the screen a lot these days.
In closing, 'Five Nights in Maine' is well scripted and well acted and it helps tremendously that the director and writers had three really good actors to implement their material. watch it for yourself and find out just what I am talking about - you won't be disappointed. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
The film will be available from FilmRise Entertainment on DVD on February 14, 2017.
'Lonestar: Stevie Ray Vaughan 1984-1989'
(Stevie Ray Vaughan, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Sexy Intellectual)
Overview: 'Lonestar' traces and reveals the full, previously un-told story of Stevie Ray Vaughan's glory years, the period between the release of his debut album and his tragic death in a helicopter crash in 1989.
DVD Verdict: OK, for those not in the know 9and shame on you if you fall into that category, honestly), Stephen "Stevie" Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. In spite of a short-lived mainstream career spanning seven years, he is widely considered one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of music, and one of the most important figures in the revival of blues in the 1980s.
Indeed, AllMusic describes him as "a rocking powerhouse of a guitarist who gave blues a burst of momentum in the '80s, with influence still felt long after his tragic death."
'Lonestar: Stevie Ray Vaughan 1984-1989' takes flight in the mid-1970s, when Stevie Ray Vaughan first emerged as a modern blues guitarist with unparalleled ability and passion - skills which distinguished his playing from that of just about all his contemporaries - the blues world he represented had little impact in the mainstream market place.
So despite his obvious gifts, he struggled to secure a record deal. But by the time his debut album, 1983's Texas Flood, was finally released, the tide had turned and Stevie Ray not only became an international phenomenon, but was also of paramount importance in the revitalization of the blues genre.
Featuring rare film footage, exclusive interviews with many close friends and confidantes, contributions from the industry professionals and music writers who documented SRV's career as it unfolded, seldom seen photographs and numerous other features, it all comes together to make 'Lonestar: Stevie Ray Vaughan 1984-1989' the finest documentary yet on the personal life and career of Stevie Ray during his most fertile and productive era.
A "sister feature" to Sexy Intellectual's previous documentary, 'Rise Of A Texas Bluesman - Stevie Ray Vaughan 1954-1983', this new documentary about the early career of Stevie Ray is spot on perfect - although, in truth, I'd liked to have seen more live shows with him performing.
That said, and as this DVD proves without a shadow of a doubt, Stevie Ray was one of the finest blue's musicians that ever was. Which makes this documentary very informative, showing photos of him when he was a kid, along with some nice, all-be-they short amazing live performances.
Just don't think that this new DVD is wall to wall Stevie Ray, for it isn't. They spend a lot of the time on interviews with various people that had worked with Stevie down the years, inclusive of some family members. Granted, these interviews are extremely interesting, but (and again, sorry), I would have much rather seen "previously-unseen" live performance footage from the man back before the plane crash. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Down on the Farm'
(Bill Oberst, Jr., William McNamara, Bobby Catalano, Jason Pascoe, KJ Schrock, April Rose, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / MVD Visual)
Overview: When a bale of hay goes missing on the farm, mystery-solving Oink The Flying Pig and his know-it-all pal, Boink the Owl, set off on an adventure to discover which of the farm animals is the culprit!
DVD Verdict: OK, I have to say from the off that I loved this little-film-that-could! So too, luckily, my children as they were glued to it from the very start also. It is a wonderful little animated children show that showcases how good intentions can not always lead you in the right direction, but will always bring you a joyous heart.
From the mind and direction of Kostas MacFarlane, 'Down on the Farm' is a colorfully, softly-animated story about Oink The Flying Pig and his partner in crime, Boink the Barn Owl in their quest to find the hay bale thief.
It's very cute from the off, and the relationship between both Oink and Boink is hilarious at times, it has to be said. Joining forces, they work together to uncover clues and inform the other animals of their findings along the way. Of course, not all the animals care, but the majority are fascinated by Oink's tales.
Containing facts about horses, rabbits, chickens, and many other farm animals as it progresses, 'Down on the Farm' is both educational and entertaining, and chock full of fun and wholesome goodness for the small audience that will be seated in front of it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
The film will be available from MVD Visual on DVD on February 14, 2017.
Psychomania: 2-Disc Special Edition [Blu-ray+DVD]
(Nicky Henson, Beryl Reid, George Sanders, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray+DVD / PG / (1973) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: A gang of young people call themselves the Living Dead. They terrorize the population from their small town. After an agreement with the devil, if they kill themselves firmly believing in it, they will survive and gain eternal life. Following their leader, they commit suicide one after the other, but things don't necessarily turn out as expected!
Blu-ray Verdict: "Everybody dies, but some come back. How do they come back, mother?" Tom Latham (Nicky Henson) asks his mum, that always-brilliant Beryl Reid. She responds, as all mum's should, that "When you die, you've got to believe that you're going to come back." As is also said many times throughout this wonderfully cheesy movie, "You can only die once and then nothing or nobody can every hurt you".
Tom Latham is the leader of a delinquent motorcycle gang known as The Living Dead – his fascination with the paranormal fed by the death of his father and the clairvoyant gift of his mother. When he is finally allowed into a room that has been locked since his father's death he learns a secret – that, when you deliberately die and totally believe you will return from the other world, then you will do so and will truly become one of the living dead.
During a high speed chase, Tom deliberately goes off a bridge and is buried by his gang in their way – on his bike in full leathers. And this is how he returns to life again, but more powerful than an human and with his juvenile delinquent streak now turned into a murderous callousness.
I've asked many a fan of these kinds of dated movies what their thoughts were on this one, and everyone is keen to stress how bad it is, but I personally don't think that that is fair, sorry. Sure it will not be challenging for the top of many "greatest film of all time" lists, but it is what it is and it works as such. What it is is a British b-movie, made cheaply and with a clear agenda to cash in on both the zombie and motorcycle youth genres by going for the base requirements of both groups.
Of course, outside of the world of the b-movie 'The Death Wheelers' (as it was originally titled) is no earthly good at all and, even as one, there are areas that could have been better. The main area of this for me is the fact that, once undead, the gang simply continue to terrify old ladies in shops, rather than becoming more ambitious in their actions. Otherwise though, the so-called problems are all part of the genre – bad dialogue, basic effects, average actors and so on. All of these are at the level one would expect, but add to the pleasure of the film as a b-movie ie: it doesn't ever take itself seriously, which again is part of it working.
The cast are mainly long-haired youths who can do limited work with the material, but probably would not do much better with more. Henson is in permanent "cocky" mode, but is good enough for the role of leader, while Mary Larkin as Abby Holman does a good genre performance of being freaked out and a bit frightened all the time. The rest of the gang are so-so biker types. The real surprise of the cast is George Sanders – for whom this was his last film as he was to commit suicide the next year - for he is an effect presence. It's just a great shame that more was not made of his part in the film and that he desired to take his own life a year afterward. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
2K restoration from preservation negatives
High Definition (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original 1.0 mono audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Brand-new interview with star Nicky Henson
Return of the Living Dead, an archive featurette containing interviews actors Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore, Roy Holder and Rocky Taylor
Sound of Psychomania, an archive interview with composer John Cameron
Riding Free, an archive interview with Riding Free singer Harvey Andrews
Hell for Leather, a brand-new featurette on the company who supplied the film's costumes
Remastering Psychomania, a look at the film's restoration from the original 35mm black and white separation masters
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet containing writing by Vic Pratt, William Fowler and Andrew Roberts
And There Will Be A Next Time...Live From Detroit
(Def Leppard / DVD+2CD / NR / 2017 / Eagle Vision)
Overview: Def Leppard rock Detroit! In the summer of 2016, Def Leppard's World Tour rolled into the DTE Energy Music Theatre on the outskirts of Detroit. As the sun began to set over a packed crowd the huge video wall behind the stage came to life with the exploding image of the band's latest album cover and Def Leppard began to power their way through a stunning set-list of classic hits and new tracks.
DVD Verdict: Featuring superb surround sound and amazing visuals Def Leppard's stunning 'And There Will Be A Next Time...Live From Detroit' captures the full-on experience of the band from Sheffield, England live in concert like never before.
With their constant line-up of Rick Allen (drums); Vivian Campbell (guitars); Phil Collen (guitars); Joe Elliott (vocals), and Rick Savage (bass) to hand, all the hits and a few choice new tracks from their self-titled eleventh studio album were brought to the fore for the baying "Detroit" crowd.
And I put "Detroit" in air quotes because, well, and this pisses me off royally each and every time bands / marketing hobnobs do this, but this show was performed nowhere near Detroit! Indeed, the venue was the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI and is located some 30+ miles (if not more) away from the center of Detroit! It could well be a whole other State, but when bands actually come on stage at this venue and say hello to Detroit, and ask us how we're doing tonight, well, either they truly believe they are in fact in Detroit - or they are completely and utterly bus worn brain wise!
Anyhoo, moving on and as the lights go down and the curtain drops, the crowd begins their roar, the Def Leppard logo gets bigger and bigger, finally exploding as the band suddenly appear and launch into show opener 'Let's Go'. Phil Collen is already shirtless and oiled up like sex slave in an Amsterdam shop window and with everyone else raring to go also (especially Rick Allen on drums, with a Union Jack on his left shoulder patch and on both sides of his headphones) the show is well and truly underway.
DVD and CD: CD Disc 1 1) Let's Go 2) Animal 3) Let It Go 4) Dangerous 5) Foolin 6) Love Bites 7) Armageddon It 8) Rock On 9) Man Enough
CD Disc 2 10) Rocket 11) Bringin On The Heartbreak 12) Switch 625 13) Hysteria 14) Let's Get Rocked 15) Pour Some Sugar On Me 16) Rock Of Ages 17) Photograph
Bathed in green lights, the massive hit single 'Animal' is next up and that's backed by 'Let It Go' and new track, 'Dangerous'. In truth, every single Def Leppard song known to man sounds just like anything the band has ever reached over the years, so these new tracks slip straight into the set perfectly.
The flashback classic 'Foolin' is brillint to still here, and couple with the deep down and throaty love song 'Love Bites', and this portion of the show is one for true fans to fall in love with. The rockin' 'Armageddon It' is backed by the David Essex cover 'Rock On' (a live track by them that I've always loved, the original also, of course), and then 'Man Enough' (which ends CD 1) is followed by an explosive 'Rocket' and a guitar searing 'Bringin' On The Heartbreak'.
'Switch 625' from their 1981 album High 'n' Dry is a lovely surprise, and that's backed by the power duo 'Hysteria' and 'Let's Get Rocked.' The almighty powerhaus of a live show then culminates with three of their biggest ever, world-known hits, 'Pour Some Sugar On Me', 'Rock Of Ages', and the always-great-to-hear all these years later, 'Photograph'. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and the DVD features five (5) Bonus Music Videos; all songs from their latest self-titled album:
Overview: This is the first in a forthcoming cycle of Puccini operas conducted by Riccardo Chailly with La Scala. This 'Turandot' is unique in presenting the Luciano Berio completion of the opera - premiered by Chailly in 2001.
DVD Verdict: While I do prefer Tosca, La Boheme and Madama Butterfly (rather clichéd answers, I know) of Puccini's operas, I have to still say that 'Turandot', being the first opera that I sang in the chorus for, is still so very special to me. And as much as I adore the 1987 Met production, this newly-presented production is every bit as good - if not better.
Maria Agresta is rather good as Liu, but perhaps I would have much preferred a softer portrayal and a voice that was more luxurious. Indeed, she also sounded great when I heard her singing Lady Macbeth in Brussels, but this role requires a different sounding timbre – a quality she doesn’t hold too closely throughout though, it has to be said.
In truth, she was slightly tentative when starting “In questa Reggia.” If anyone saw the original broadcast, you know she made one serious note “flub” near its end. That was fixed via an edit for this release. Overall she sounded better months later singing the role at the Metropolitan Opera. So, practice makes perfect, for sure.
For me though, and as much as I enjoyed this performance overall, my biggest gripe is Aleksandrs Antonenko as Calaf. If he hits a note at the correct pitch, he frequently wavers off of it – going back and forth. Sometimes he is just plain flat. I admit to not being a technical expert when it comes to the singing voice, but it is quite clear that something is wrong here. He may be having a bad night her, but this is not the only poor performance I have heard from him in recent years.
That all said, as nobody is perfect and combined these two put a really great show on for us, the production meets the demands of the music more than admirably with the orchestra playing truly excellent, and the conducting too. The Chorus are wonderful too, particularly at the end of Act 2. The sets are colorful and of haunting quality, and the costumes are nicely oriental too. That said, and as you will all be well aware by now anyway, the Berio ending was used for the last scene - which I don’t particularly like. I much prefer the usual Alfano ending. But that's just me, of course.
In closing, and with all the Pro's and Con's lined up there for you all, I simply cannot fault 'Turnadot' musically. Indeed, 'Turandot' has several intense (the Riddles scene) and poignant (Signor Ascolta, Liu's death) moments, and the story and characters are very memorable. Sure it's not perfect, and sure some vocals cannot keep up (shall we say, politely), but come the end the performance is memorable - and that's what counts. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Elena And The Secret Of Avalor'
(Aimee Carrero, Jenna Ortega, Lou Diamond Phillips, Lucas Grabeel, Chris Parnell, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Walt Disney)
Overview: See how it all began, and discover the secret behind the legend of Disney's most inspiring new Crown Princess!
DVD Verdict: Disney does it again!! Personally, I regard 'The Lion King' as not only my favorite Disney movie, but one of my favorite movies of all time. But here in the brand new 'Elena And The Secret Of Avalor', where Sofia discovers the incredible mystery behind her amulet, well, it has to be said that the animation combined with the story line and dialogue is as crisp and as enjoyable as ever.
Frozen in time and trapped inside the Amulet of Avalor for over forty years, Elena has finally found the one, brave princess who can set her free: Sofia! Yep, you read that right - Princess Elena from the Kingdom of Avalor has been magically trapped inside Sofia's amulet, waiting for another Princess to set her free, and Sofia is up to the task!
As they say, ever story has a beginning and so if you love 'Sophia the First' you'll love 'Elena of Avalor'! My girls have seen this movie at least a dozen times within its arrival - and that was only just before the weekend! It's on constant rotation and that's just fine with me!
If I had to steer you in a certain direction though, my son always watches 'The Lion Guard' and 'Paw Patrol' and the girls join in no matter. But with this beautifully-created 'Elena And The Secret Of Avalor' it was actually nice to find my daughters loving something more "for them", so to speak. Oh, and the inspiring "My Time" song is something to behold also! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
'Elena And The Secret Of Avalor' (Full-Length Adventure!)
Prince Too Charming
"My Time" Music Video
Own 'Elena And The Secret Of Avalor' on DVD on February 7th!
'The Crooked Man'
(Michael Jai White, Dia Frampton, John Colton, Angelique Rivera, Dmitrious Bistrevsky, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)
Overview: Olivia returns home after six years, and a string of unusual deaths leads her to believe that she's being haunted by a mysterious force from her childhood.
DVD Verdict: At a slumber party, twelve-year-old Olivia is blamed for the horrific and mysterious death of her friend after singing a song, created by a recluse called Milo, which summons the titular demonic figure. Returning home six years later, a string of unusual deaths lead Olivia to believe that she's still being haunted by whatever she saw that night.
You see, once the rhyme is sung, everyone in the house is cursed to die by his hands ...!
For a straight-to-TV horror movie, particularly one that aired on the mid-level-at-all-times CGI-based SyFy channel, this has really good production values, and harkens back to the slew of cheap but successful horror films that were released thanks to the success of Scream.
It's a simple premise: sing a song and you will eventually die at the hands of the titular demon ('Candyman', anyone?), who looks like a cross between The Babadook and Nosferatu, on a sketchy videotape.
And sure, it's nothing more than your atypical horror film that ticks every box in the correct order, but it's all the better for not trying to be anything else. I mean, just watch the official trailer (below) and try to stop yourself from wanting to watch 'The Crooked Man' in full!
More or less every friend from her past she bumps into ends up having a visit from The Crooked Man, and thanks to the success of 'Lights Out', he can only attack you in the dark, and only you can see him; of course.
The origin story of The Crooked Man is nothing more than having an excuse to have someone fairly famous appear in the film, and this time it's martial arts star Michael Jai White who gets top billing here - and yet only appears on screen for about five minutes in total!
It doesn't matter though, because the rest of the cast are fine, and it's surprisingly nasty for a TV movie. So all in all, it's nothing special, but because it doesn't try to be anything more than what it is, it's all the better for it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Frankenstein: The Real Story / The Real Wolfman'
(DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)
Overview: The horrors behind frightening legends come to life when History’s 'Frankenstein: The Real Story/The Real Wolfman' Double Feature arrives on DVD on February 7 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
DVD Verdict: This four-part collection includes over four-and-a-half hours of in-depth analysis of the crimes and cases that sparked the Frankenstein and werewolf mythologies. Furthermore, 'The Frankenstein: The Real Story' collection from History® (the most enjoyable one out of the two for me personally) examines how the tale of a brilliant but deranged scientist who builds a grotesque monster from the body parts of fresh corpses has its roots in reality.
The documentary follows the story of Frankenstein from book, to film, through the making of Kenneth Brannagh's film. Lot's of interviews from historians, actors such as Gene Wilder and experts on Mary Shelley, the 19th-century novel, the horror genre, cinema makeup, and much more.
“In Search of the Real Frankenstein” looks at scientists throughout history who experimented with reviving animal and human corpses to find the secret force of life.
This first feature also explores the fact-or-fiction origins of the tale that became the first science fiction novel. “It’s Alive! The True Story of Frankenstein” further traces the story through all its artistic renditions, from 19th-century stage adaptations to 1930s silent films to Mel Brooks’s satirical Young Frankenstein and Kenneth Branagh’s faithful horror interpretation.
In the mid 1700s, a mysterious beast viciously attacked and killed 102 villagers in the French village of Gevaudan. The victims, mostly women and children, were mauled and decapitated, their naked bodies all bearing the bite marks of a non-human creature. The killings mark the largest number of alleged werewolf attacks in history and are the basis of the Hollywood Wolfman legend.
Here in 'The Real Wolfman' we all get to venture deep into the mythology and folklore of werewolves with renowned cryptozoologist Ken Gerhardt and veteran criminal profiler George Deuchar as they investigate this reviled creature that brutally kills when the moon is full. In their investigation, they uncover intriguing paranormal transformations, diseases that make men look and act like animals, strange but true stories of children raised by wolves and, eventually, the dark side of human nature in the horrific truth behind the Gevaudan werewolf attacks.
In a time where the History Channel was trying to improve ratings with reality shows re 2012, this documentary came out. It's a fascinating romp for any of those out there who believe such things still exist. But the investigation kind of goes sour when they use a 44 marlin rifle to replicate silver ballistics. Such shots should be taken with a muzzleloader loaded with a round ball, preferably patched, a smoothbore most likely the tool of the French peasant. Hey, I'm just sayin'! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
Available together for the first time, the 'Frankenstein: The Real Story/The Real Wolfman' Double Feature is out on DVD on February 7th!
(Christian Kane, Marley Shelton, Ryan McPartlin, Mallory James Mahoney, Ernie Hudson, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)
Overview: Echoing in the deepest depths of space, a humble prayer ascends: One from Maire Taylor, a smart, beautiful businesswoman who asks that her husband find the strength and wisdom to let go of their 9 year old marriage - whilst a second prayer simultaneously comes from Billy Taylor, a hopelessly romantic artist who asks that his wife receive the strength and wisdom to hold on. From these humble pleas, comes an answer in the form of a little miracle (an 8 year old runaway from Heaven) who takes it upon herself to rekindle the once intimate friendship and romance that has slowly, but surely slipped away from Billy and Maire due to a heart-wrenching loss.
DVD Verdict: One of Lifetime®'s most anticipated movies of the year, this heart-warming family drama 'Heaven Sent' is releasing just in time for Easter promotions - and it's a doozy, trust me!
It's Christmas time and Maire and Billy Taylor have been married 9 years, but their marriage has gone by the wayside, and Maire has filed for a divorce, but Billy does not want it.
Enter one sweet, and precocious (but oh, so intelligent and witty!) little angel, Taylor! The couple is immediately smitten by this little one, as the audience will be too! (Mallory James Mahoney is AH-MAZING).
Maire and Billy are both in tailspin mode, as this little angel is opening their eyes to so many little things that add up to the big things in life. They begin to see each other in a new light, all because of little Taylor.
So many Christmas movies have the same old plot again and again, and yet, this one broke that mold! (I should've known it was a Michael Landon, Jr movie.) Don't miss this GEM. No trailer can do justice to the movie ALTHOUGH I have included it here on this page for your viewing pleasure.
Christian Kane, and Marley Shelton have phenomenal on screen chemistry, (and he's soooo cute and funny in this movie!!). Ernie Hudson, who plays Donatello was fantastic too! I'm getting teary eyed writing about how touching and sweet this movie is! So you're just going to have to see for yourself. Please. Do. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Hacksaw Ridge' [Blu-ray + DVD]
(Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD / R / 2017 / LGF)
Overview: This is the true story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people, and becomes the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.
Blu-ray Verdict:"It was a scene straight out of hell. There is no other way to describe it." This quote from Higa Tomiko, a survivor of the Battle of Okinawa when she was seven years old, may be the best description one can take away from 'Hacksaw Ridge', the most recent World War II film directed by Mel Gibson in a stunning return to prominence among his Hollywood peers.
It tells the story of Private Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who refused to handle a weapon, but felt it was his moral duty to serve his country in a time of war when many of his friends and neighbors opted to do the same. It's a story of perseverance, courage and sheer fortitude, and one bound to affect even the most hardened viewer.
In terms of battle imagery, this is probably the most relentless, bloody and vicious film yet, even more so than "Saving Private Ryan" or "Band of Brothers". The absolute carnage on display is not for the faint of heart, and there are more than one scene that come out of nowhere to jar the viewer upright in your seat. Director Gibson even utilizes the technique in a civilian scene when Desmond Doss and his brother wind up fighting each other as kids, and Desmond uses a brick to lay out his sibling in a frightening scene, one that establishes Doss's very first insights about the morality of taking a person's life.
I thought Andrew Garfield's portrayal of Desmond Doss was superb during the battle segment which dominated the latter part of the picture. Some of the boot camp scenes came across as somewhat unrealistic to me in as much as Doss seemed to defy his superiors with a smile on his face and sometimes without recrimination, although he did suffer the abuse of his fellow soldiers who thought he was a coward.
Another element that seemed to defy logic was how the entire company of men from training wound up in Okinawa together, including the officers from boot camp. Not having been in the military, I don't know how that works, but it didn't seem that likely to me.
Generally, I have a problem with war films that introduce a romantic element, however Desmond's relationship with future wife Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer) is handled with careful restraint. The interruption of Desmond's father (Hugo Weaving) at the military court martial proceedings was another one of those elements that seemed to defy credibility, so that's one I'll have to research.
Because of the film's central focus on Desmond Doss and his heroic actions at Hacksaw Ridge, one might be tempted to believe that this was the only battle he participated in. In fact, Doss also served in the Pacific Theater in the battle campaigns of Guam and Leyte Gulf, earning an entire host of citations for his bravery, including the Medal of Honor.
Totally unexpected, but a very welcome conclusion to the picture there are clips of the real life Desmond Doss speaking to his experience during the war prior to his death in 2006. Stills of the young Doss bear a remarkable likeness to the actor who portrayed him, thereby adding a further sense of realism to the story in retrospect. Over all, the movie is a remarkable tribute to a man who held a deep conviction and commitment to a higher power while stating "I figure I'll be savin' people, not killin'." This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
The Soul of War: Making Hacksaw Ridge -- a comprehensive documentary detailing the making of the film including the real life people and story, casting, filming, special effects and stunts with interviews from Mel Gibson, Andrew Garfield and more.
Veterans Day Greeting with Mel Gibson
The Soul of War: Making Hacksaw Ridge - Featurette [Blu-ray Exclusive]
Own 'Hacksaw Ridge' on Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD on February 21st!
'Postcards From The Edge' [Blu-ray]
(Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis McQuaid, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1990) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: A substance-addicted actress tries to look on the bright side even as she is forced to move back in with her mother to avoid unemployment. First time available in High Definition!
Blu-ray Verdict: Based on actress Carrie Fisher's best-selling autobiographical novel, 'Postcards From The Edge' is a wickedly witty expose of life in the Hollywood fast lane. So, what do we already know about one of these leading ladies going in? Well, Meryl Streep can be the villain, the hero, the sister, the daughter, the mother, the spirit, the icon - that's all for damn sure!
However, In 'Postcards from the Edge', she is a flat out mess. Streep portrays Suzanne Vale, a successful actress who is about to hit the post-'I Know Who Killed Me' Lindsay Lohan stage of her career. She relies on cocaine just to get through the day. She partakes in casual affairs she doesn't remember the next day. She is like a robot, barely able to function in her daily job. She doesn't want to hurt anybody, but her habits are about to.
Suzanne is finally given a wake-up call when she accidentally overdoses on a deadly mix of narcotics. After getting her stomach pumped, she ends up in rehab, struggling to piece her life back together. But her shaky mind begins to rattle even more when her mother, Doris Mann (Shirley MacLaine), arrives on the scene. Doris is not just Suzanne's mother; she is a celebrated legend, a symbol of the '50s/'60s era of Hollywood musicals.
Doris means well, but she's possibly too self-centered for her own good. When she throws Suzanne a "welcome-home" party, she opens the front door, mugs for the varying cameras, and, with dramatic emphasis, declares, "My baby is home!" When the party is hitting its last legs, she pressures Suzanne to sing in front of everybody. Yet, the second her daughter finishes, she pulls one of those don't-make-me-sing (wink!) acts and one- ups her without even realizing that it may be just a little bitchy.
The rehab clinic advises that Suzanne live with Doris in order to have someone constantly watching her, but that probably isn't a good idea. Whether she'd like to admit it or not, Doris is an addict herself, popping champagne in the early hours of the morning or mixing in an absurd amount of vodka into her fruit smoothies. Within the important first months of Suzanne's recovery, the mother/daughter dynamic is challenged after years of repressed emotions and unexpressed opinions.
As aforementioned, 'Postcards from the Edge' originally began as an autobiographical novel by Princess Leia herself, the self-deprecating Carrie Fisher. As a film (which was also penned by Fisher), it contains a darkly funny sting. Deeply rooted in time-to-get-my-life-together reality and over-the-top, Norma Desmond-like expression, it's a comedy that is solidly entertaining but also bitterly true. One can only wonder how much of the film is lifted directly from the lives of Fisher and her famous mother, the inimitable Debbie Reynolds.
Mike Nichols has made movies that range from profoundly moving to breezily humorous, and Postcards from the Edge lands somewhere in the middle. It isn't as vigorously thought-provoking as many of his other undertakings, but it captures the mindset that, no matter how terrible life is, you can always find the laughter in it. Surely, Doris' diva attitude is sickening to the long-suffering Suzanne, but we see the events through Nichols' eyes.
We're laughing, uncomfortably of course, but there's also unrelenting sympathy for both Suzanne and Doris. Suzanne has never lived a day without stooping under Doris' grand shadow, and Doris has never been able to meet the expectations of her ever-grumbling mother (Mary Wickes). Nichols films these women through a comedic lens, but there's an underlying anguish that he captures with enrichment.
So, if 'Postcards from the Edge' is more scathing than it is meaningful, we have Streep, MacLaine, and the (sadly) late Fisher to thank for all of its successes. Streep and MacLaine immerse themselves in their roles, understanding the women they're playing with unforced ease, while Fisher's screenplay contains absolutely scintillating dialogue. It isn't without its faults, but 'Postcards from the Edge' rarely misses the mark.
Now released, for the very first time, on Blu-ray and in High Definition, 'Postcards From The Edge' deserves to garner a whole new audience. I truly hope it does for it is well worth the time invested in it, of that you can be sure. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of a Carrie Fisher Audio Commentary (2001).
'Doctor Strange' [Blu-ray Combo]
(Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD / PG-13 / 2017 / Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
Overview: A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.
Blu-ray Verdict: The next franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes with mystical and magical powers in 'Doctor Strange', which is a damn good start to this new character. 'Doctor Strange' was created by Steve Ditko and first appeared in Strange Tales #110 back in 1963. 'Doctor Strange' or Stephen Strange is a highly intelligent surgeon who is in the top of his field.
In an accident, he loses the use of his hands, which leads him to seek out alternate methods of healing. This brings him to a mystical and magical place across the globe where he meets 'The Ancient One' amongst other sorcerers that help him heal spiritually and physically.
Whatever Strange had learned or knew before this, is out the window, as he learns of other worlds, universes, and powers beyond imagination. Soon enough, Strange has to help defend Earth, much like 'The Avengers' do, but on a different scale. While 'The Avengers' keep us safe from big monstrous physical threats on Earth, 'Doctor Strange' protects us from magical and mystical threats from other worlds – which in due time, we will see everyone come together and team up to fight some evil forces. At least I hope.
Filmmaker Scott Derrickson was chosen to direct 'Doctor Strange', which seems like a "strange" (all the pun intended) decision given his resume, which includes mostly horror movies – 'Deliver Us From Evil' and 'Sinister' to name a few, but it turned out to be a great decision along with his writing partner C. Robert Cargill, who was formally a film critic from AintItCoolNews, who co-wrote this film.
The result is simply fantastic and a great start to the 'Doctor Strange' universe. Derrickson and Cargill have done a swell job in conjuring up a great origin story and executing each character's development here. From showing what kind of man Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) was to his transformation to the superhero we see later on – it all works. Cumberbatch is excellent too here, hitting all of the right emotional notes as well as performing the physical aspects of the role nicely.
The script has a slow burn approach to it in the first half of the film, but is sprinkled with excellent comic bits and action sequences. This slower approach is necessary to really connect and feel for Strange and it works out perfectly, as if you went on this powerful journey together.
The only gripe I have, and mind you, it's a small one, is the relationship between Strange and Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), which feels rushed and tiresome, as it's been done before. Perhaps, there just wasn't enough time to really dig deep into it. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo was excellent and almost had a 'Serenity' quality to him, but was a very conflicted character, and he performed that very well.
Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius was also fun to watch, but not the best villain we've seen. His makeup looked great and he did a great job, but there needed to be something more from him. Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One was perfect for her role and Benedict Wong as Wong stole every scene he was in.
The visual effects were out of this world as some of the bigger action sequences had things I've never seen before in a movie. It was done on such a grand scale too that I was entranced in everything going on through the film. Now I'm not a fan of 3D, but if you have the option, see 'Doctor Strange' in 3D. The visuals are insanely good and it was indeed filmed with 3D IMAX cameras, and not converted like most movies are these days. It simply looks phenomenal. I can't wait for more 'Doctor Strange'.
As for a closer look at some of the wonder Special Features, well, the A Strange Transformation Featurette may well only be less than a minute long, but it reveals so, so much about the titular character. I mean, did you know Benedict Cumberbatch was the director's only choice for the role? The director even flew to the UK to meet one-on-one with him for the role! But, and get this, Cumberbatch was working on Hamlet at the time and couldn't work into their schedule, but they waited for him anyway!
The Marvel Studios Phase 3 Featurette shows us how the director set out to create a "mind trip action film" for Cumberbatch to star in (and succeeded in grand style, one can now say), and the truly divine Team Thor: Part 2 Featurette (starring Daryl and Chris Hemsworth) is as delightful, as down to earth as you'll ever see (given that one is a superhero!). The way Thor tries to pay his rent with gold Asgard coins (which are worth a gazillion human dollars each, but actually useless here on Earth) is priceless.
And, of course, the Gag Reel is chock full of lovely bloopers. Sadly lasting only a minute, as they unravel you just want to be able to watch the hilarity ensue for at least another 15 minutes! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
A Strange Transformation - Featurette
Strange Company - Featurette
The Fabric of Reality - Featurette
Across Time and Space - Featurette
The Score-cerer Supreme - Featurette
Marvel Studios Phase 3 [Exclusive Look]
Team Thor: Part 2
'Trespass Against Us' [Blu-ray]
(Michael Fassbender, Rory Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, et al / Blu-ray+Digital HD / R / (2015) 2017 / LGF)
Overview: Academy Award® nominee Michael Fassbender stars as the conflicted yet loyal son unable to escape from the crime empire led by his father, Golden Globe® nominee Brendan Gleeson.
Blu-ray Verdict: 'Trespass Against Us' is a British crime film directed by Adam Smith, and is about Chad, a husband and father of two who's trying to separate himself from his father, Colby who constantly drags him in his life of crime.
The film follows the conventional crime family story of son wanting to leave but father holding him back. Despite the film following a conventional narrative it was never the less a good watch. Michael Fassbender gives an excellent performance as Chad, and Brendan Gleeson is as up to par as the father, Colby. But I must say the kids in the film were excellent, they gave very impressive performances.
Despite me enjoying the film for it's characters, and acting, there were plenty of flaws I had with the movie. In the very beginning of the film we find out that Chad's brother was locked up in prison so the family decides to drive a car hazardously through the street which says "Free Bryan", Chad's brother. After that the brother is never mentioned of again and just felt like an idea that was tossed around and eventually forgotten of.
During the "action" parts of the film the cinematography gets very shaky and it's very hard to see what's happening. There's also a character in the film whose name is Gordon who was just annoying, I didn't get his character other than he's the "crazy" guy. Finally, the last twenty or so minutes of the film felt very loose and didn't have any sense of what it was doing. I felt that the movie really lost its steam and was just trying to keep on pushing up the tracks; sorry.
That said though, and overall I really enjoyed 'Trespass Against Us' for as much as it follows a very conventional story that we've seen many times before, but ultimately is saved by its performances by the entire cast. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Blood Bonds: On The Set Of Trespass Against Us
Heartfelt: Director Adam Smith On The Chemical Brothers
Own 'Trespass Against Us' on Blu-ray+Digital HD on March 7th!
'We Are The Flesh' [Blu-ray]
(Noe Hernandez, María Evoli, Diego Gamaliel, et al / Blu ray / NR / 2017 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: A visionary and bizarre slice of Mexican arthouse cinema, 'We Are The Flesh' is an extraordinary and unsettling film experience, a sexually charged and nightmarish journey into an otherworldly dimension of carnal desire and excess, as well as a powerful allegory on the corrupting power of human desire.
Blu-ray Verdict: 'We Are The Flesh,' aka 'Tenemos la carne' (original Mexican title) is an experimental art house feature from controversial Mexican director Emiliano Rocha Minter. Made for an extimated $400k only, the horror-fantasy film is gripping from the very first to the very last, trust me.
Simply put, 'We Are The Flesh' is a cinematic version of dark thoughts and ideas most people immediately remove from their train of thought. As long as you are human enough to understand what is right and wrong in reality, there isn't a single thing wrong with examining dark and even grim thoughts that every single human being has from time to time.
Ergo, 'We Are The Flesh' explores those themes and presents them in ways that are meant to be hard to watch. These are themes that you normally wouldn't bring up in random conversations with random people. These are themes that aren't meant to be visited often but should be explored at least once. Just to see what they look like. Just to see what dark and grim things you otherwise would not have in your life (by choice) but are curious to see the repercussions from the vile acts that go on in dark places.
For me, 'We Are the Flesh' depicts a rather horrible version of common, hopeless and deprived humanity. It's a brief example of those dark things I never would allow myself to act upon physically or emotionally. But I find those areas of the unknown panning out visually stimulating. Afterward, I can walk away when the film ends satisfied for experiencing a story that made me think of things I don't want to think about. But I can leave those dark questions answered by putting them behind me and leaving them with this film.
In closing, 'We Are The Flesh' is a bold slap in the face to the big studios who put out the same exercises in banality week after week. Sure it's a slow burn film, but it's one that pushes the bounds of taste and art - always in such a good way that you want to see more from this filmmaker. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
A new video essay by critic Virginie Sélavy
New Interviews with director Emiliano Rocha Minter and cast members Noé Hernández, María Evoli and Diego Gamaliel
Two short films by Emiliano Rocha Minter; Dentro and Videohome
Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) Presentation
5.1 Surround and Uncompressed Stereo 2.0 Audio Options
Optional English Subtitles
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Anton Bitel, and a note from the producer on the film
'227 - The Complete First Season'
(Marla Gibbs, Hal Williams, Alaina Reed-Hall, Jackée Harry, Regina King, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / (1985) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: It's a hilarious look at family life in a Washington, DC, apartment building. 227, one of the most popular Saturday night sitcoms of the '80s, revolves around housewife Mary Jenkins and her close-knit circle of friends and neighbors, dishing about life, family and each other in this first season collection of twenty-two hysterical episodes.
DVD Verdict: I am so Blessed to have this show now on DVD for when this show originally came on in 1985 it was well after my bedtime! Therefore, I saw the first season episodes only in reruns. No matter though, as it still allowed me to see that Marla Gibbs had that same Florence Johnston personality about her from the off.
But she did not whine as much, that much I can recall! Hal Williams was the husband who was a construction worker. He was not funny. There, I said it. Regina King played Brenda, the spoiled daughter. Then there was Alaina Reed-Hall, the lady from Sesame Street, who had a daughter who disappeared (a la Judy Winslow) and fly Jackée Harry who also lived in the building. Helen Martin played Pearl, who was just a recurring guest star - who would seemingly just look out the window and make wise remarks the entire first season! [The second season she became a regular and finally came out of the window!]
She also had a grandson named Calvin who thought he was cool. I hated the episode when Bobby Brown appeared, but that might just be me over-reacting to a pop star who thought he could act and clearly couldn't, sorry. When Brenda got in trouble, she should have really been punished by not seeing Bobby Brown and yet she was still allowed to dance with him! Moving on and when Countess Vaughn came on the show the show got worse, in my humble opinion.
When Jackée got demoted to guest star and Toukie Smith, Paul Winfield, Barry Sobel, and Stoney Jackson became regulars, the show got even worse, again, in my humble opinion. I was still mad that the 227 characters didn't get to win on Wheel Of Fortune or Family Feud. I was also mad at the episode when Gary Coleman was a criminal on the show and Mary and Lester didn't get to go to Hawaii as planned. It's not their fault that they got robbed!
Yes, I know I'm too planted within the lives of these characters, but that's exactly what great TV shows should do to you. Have you invested and for all intents and purposes, down the years, 227 had most all of us heavily invested in everything they did. Which is the sign of a truly great show. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
(Jim Varney, Gailard Sartain, Daniel Butler, Bruce Arntson, Mac Bennett, et al / DVD / PG / (1988) 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: With the overwhelming success of Ernest Goes to Camp in 1987, Ernest-mania was in full force. The lovable southern bumpkin, a familiar face in numerous television commercials in the 80s, had finally reached the big screen and now it was time for a stint on television in 'Hey Vern, It's Ernest!'
DVD Verdict: In my humble opinion, Jim Varney was quite brilliant as an entertainer. He never received the acclaim that he was due and it often makes me sad now that he's gone. Anyways, his television show 'Hey Vern, It's Ernest!' was one of the zaniest, most imaginative programs imaginable and it filled many of my Saturday mornings with joy and wonder!
With its originality and poise, it's difficult to believe it only lasted a 13 episodes! The show truly chronicles Jim Varney's ability as an entertainer and his take on different characters is exceptional and always memorable.
Characters like Dust Bunny and George add the prefect element of fantasy to the world of Ernest P. Worrel and his neighbor, Vern. You also get to watch the antics of the likes of Bill and Coo, Existo the Magician, Lonnie Don, Chuck, Bobby and others.
The classic elements appeared in pretty much every episode, but you never got bored. It always stayed creative and funny. This is a fantastic program for young and old alike. If you now run out and buy this wonderful just-released DVD for yourselves, you will enjoy yourself over and over again, believe me.
In closing and in short, children's programming doesn't get any better than this. I grew up with Ernest P. Worrell. 'Hey, Vern! It's Ernest' was an excellent show and is still better than the children's programming they air today. As the song goes: "It's Ernest P. Worrell with a story and a moral." Just that entire song is as catchy as it can be and I find myself singing along with it when I pop in this DVD, each and every time. Buy it today and see what all the fuss was about in the late '80s. You'll be glad you did. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'Joe Bullet - Special Edition'
(Ken Gampu, Abigail Kubeka, Cock Tlholthalemaje, et al / DVD / NR / (1973) 2017 / The Film Detective)
Overview: When local soccer team The Eagles fall prey to a series of onslaughts from a mysterious gangster only a week before the championship final, the team turns to one man that can help save their chances at victory - Joe Bullet (Ken Gampu).
DVD Verdict: Firstly, what a great title for a movie! I mean, it's straight to the point,to the heart of the movie without messing about. Love it. Secondly, what you should also know going into this movie experience is that it was actually banned for a long time quickly upon its release back in 1972/73. Then it was, well, "unbanned" again and has just now only re-appeared in the past couple of years.
Starring the highly imposing Ken Gampu as the titular character Joe Bullet, his roles beforehand in the Jamie Uys movies ("Dinkaka", "The Gods Must be Crazy" and "The Naked Prey") showcase just what a formidable and wholly plausible action hero he truly was. He could carry a movie on his back for miles, and here in this South African production, he did just that.
In truth, the film's overall ambitions are minimal. The paint-by-numbers plot about corruption in sport has the bad guys trying to get star players Tlhotlhalemaje and Chama away from the Eagles so that the the rival Team the Falcons take the big game; and the crooks get rich betting on them, of course.
Bullet comes, I kid you not, with his own song ("He's the man who won't let you down") and wins the manager's daughter Kubeka, who does a passable musical interlude when our hero is not rescuing her from various perils! Versatile director-cameraman Louis de Witt is most at ease covering the film's soccer matches, sure, but overall his eye is trained on the sub plot subject matter beneath the games being played.
In those sub plots, that thread together very nicely, it has to be said, Bullet has to battle against villainous henchmen, escape booby-trap bombs and bring his martial arts expertise to the fore in order to survive an attack from a deadly assassin. In the end he even has to infiltrate the mysterious gangster's hide-out in a dangerous cat-and-mouse rescue mission to save not only The Eagles' two kidnapped star players, but that of his beautiful love interest, the aforementioned Beauty (Abigail Kubeka).
Sure the odds are stacked against him (not in his favor, to needlessly quote a Hollywood blockbuster), but he's the man that fights crime, the man that no one can tie down! In closing, the production values are of a brownish "feel", but that melds nicely with the year it was filmed, where it was filmed, and the dirt caught in the air, each and every take, one imagines. Now lovingly newly restored by The Film Detective, 'Joe Bullet' is as good a movie as anything I've seen in the past decade and once you've watched it, I hope you will feel the same way too. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Audio Commentary Track (Tonie van der Merwe - writer/producer of Joe Bullet, Calum Waddell - documentary filmmaker, Benjamin Cowley - Gravel Road)
Before / After Restoration Demo
'Moana - Ultimate Collector's Edition'
(Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, et al / Blu-ray+Blu-ray 3D+DVD+Digital HD / NR / 2017 / Walt Disney)
Blu-ray Overview: In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain's daughter's island, she answers the Ocean's call to seek out the Demigod to set things right.
Blu-ray Verdict: OK, let's get this straight from the start: 'Moana' falls in line next to 'Tangled' and 'Frozen' as an instant classic Disney Princess movie. The stand-out performance of Auli'i Cravalho as the voice of Moana carried the emotional weight of the movie through some of Disney's most beautiful songs to date, while Dwayne Johnson's experience as an actor provided the necessary humour and comedy to support the young Hawaiian-born actress in her acting debut. Dwayne Johnson's performance singing 'You're Welcome' was also a very pleasant surprise.
The supporting cast is also full of surprises, and so many of the lesser songs are still immensely moving. The film is certainly transported from scene to scene by the music, and the native languages featured in some of the numbers shows Disney's respect and appreciation of the culture they're exploring.
Disney's animation has also taken another leap, and the quality of the movie's visuals is surpassed only by the immense care and detail the animators showed in every scene.
The filmmakers also notably took plenty of time in researching the lives and culture of those living in the South Pacific, and it showed. Even if there were liberties taken, I loved learning about these people and how they lived their lives. It's a timeless adventure story that doesn't rely on pop culture references or screwball humor, instead, its layered lore and appealing leads pave the way for a glorious experience.
What also struck me was the immense detail that went into making 'Moana'. Everything from Maui's tattoos to the lively ocean, this may be the most beautiful animated film to date. I mean, simply put, 'Moana' combines groundbreaking animation, fantastical and mythological characters, and a coming of age story of a youth growing into a leader seamlessly.
It has its issues, of course, as all films do. The plot is predictable, and as bitter-sweet as the ending is, it's certainly not going to be a surprise. As is the case with all animated family films, there is rarely a fear of the protagonist being in any significant danger, and a happy ending is inevitable. 'Moana' is an amazing story so if you have not seen it, what are you waiting for?
Some of my personal favorites from the Special Features included are the Deleted Scenes, for the most part all still only drawn in black and white and showcase things like when Moana and Maui first entered the Underworld and they get to have a much more involved encounter with the eight-eyed bat! The Deleted Song 'Warrior Face' gets an intro from the songwriter and it details the way the song came to be - and it's a great watching/listening experience.
Another great Special Feature moment is the 'Voice of the Islands' Featurette. Although it only runs for less than a minute, it showcases how the director and crew wanted to cast locals from the island in the movie as much as possible. Another interesting Featurette is called 'Island Fashion' and at just over two minutes, it shows us how the costumes were made in visual development for 'Moana'.
By far the longest Featurette at nearly 15 minutes is 'The Elements of Moana' and it is chock full of fun revelations and brings us closer to the main characters and how some of the main effects seen within the film were brought to be. Especially here on the Blu-ray 3D, it showcases how the animation team brought Maui's tattoo's to life and how one of the main animator's from 'Aladdin' worked on those very same Maui tattoos for 'Moana.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Deleted Song: "Warrior Face"
Voice of the Islands - Discover how the heritage of the islands influenced the story, and how the people and their culture inspired the filmmakers
Things You Didn't Know About - Get to know the movie's stars and talent through a series of rapid-fire questions
Island Fashion - Find out how the costumes were designed using only materials and techniques native to the islands of Oceania
The Elements Of - Explore MOANA'S groundbreaking effects, in four featurettes
They Know the Way: Making the Music of MOANA - Learn how Opetaia Foa'I, Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda's involvement with the movie changed their lives
Music Video - "How Far I'll Go" by Alessia Cara
Fishing for Easter Eggs
Audio Commentary, Short Film: "Inner Workings", Maui Mini Movie: "Gone Fishing" and More!
'Mickey And The Roadster Racers'
(Bret Iwan, Russi Taylor, Daniel Ross, Tress MacNeille, Bill Farmer, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Walt Disney Junior)
DVD Overview: Welcome to Hot Dog Hills, where Mickey and his pals run the coolest garage on the planet. Join them for high-octane thrills as they power up their amazing, transforming cars for races through the town... and around the world!
DVD Verdict: I know that we all know who Mickey Mouse is, and we all know who is group of friends are too, but for those lil' 'uns new to the character, well, here is yet another terrific Disney Junior animaited show for your kids. Using his other popular show, the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse series as a spring board for this solo gig, once again it is a series for the preschool set of kids that want to smile, laugh and watch it over and over!
It actually airs on the wonderful Disney Junior channel and can count among its fellow TV shows of the same ilk both Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins.
'Mickey and the Roadster Racers' is, in and unto itself, an American computer-animated children's television series produced by Disney Television Animation. It is indeed the successor to the aforementioned Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and the series debuted on Disney Junior in the United States on January 15th, 2017.
Indeed, here in 'Mickey And The Roadster Racers' we experience quite a lot of rather high-octane thrills as Mickey and the gang power up their amazing, transforming cars for races through the town. But it's not just their local town that gets spotlighted here, no, for the gang go globetrotting on a huge scale also bu traveling and racing all around the world too!
Then we also get to team up with Minnie and Daisy, because when they're not zooming to victory, they're assisting friends in need at their fabulous "Happy Helpers" headquarters. Chock full of friendly competition and fun new inventions throughout (although I wouldn't set aside too much belief in most all of them working in real life!), 'Mickey And The Roadster Racers' is a wild ride from start to finish.
Oh, and lastly, aside from the great episodes contained (Mickey's Wild Tire! / Sittin' Kitty, Goofy Gas! / Little Big Ape / Race For The Rigatoni Ribbon! / Roaming Around Rome), it's important to know that this new DVD also comes with a FREE Create Your Own Personalized Metal License Plate feature! Very cool, I thin you'll all agree. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Mickey's Perfecto Day! / Running of the Roadsters!
2 Music Videos
'The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-WrestleMania'
(Jeff Bergman, Trevor Devall, Grey Griffin, Danica McKellar, Tress MacNeille, et al / DVD / NR / 2017 / Warner Bros.)
DVD Overview: Blast off to adventure in this animated feature where our favorite space-age family, The Jetsons, meet the superstars of WWE!
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-WrestleMania' is brand new animated direct-to-video film starring The Jetsons. Indeed, it is actually the fourth co-production between Warner Bros. Animation and WWE Studios and was released on February 28th, 2017 on Digital HD and on March 14th, 2017 on home video.
It is also the first new Jetsons production in over 27 years since 'Jetsons: The Movie', which was 55 years after the original 1960s series! It is also the first Jetsons film without the original creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who both died respectively in 2001 and 2006.
In truth, and being a huge fan of the original Jetsons cartoon, I was wary going into this, but wow, trust me when I say I needn't have been and that it is very enjoyable! The animation, layout and especially the bright colors were really good! I mean, usually studios tend to update the art to accommodate today's viewers, but this kept the old look which I thought was a brave thing to do.
The story line might be simplistic, but it gets us into the heart of the movie quickly - and that's always a plus for me. A snowstorm freezes Big Show solid for decades, but when George unearths him and finally thaws him out, both George and Elroy help him build wrestle bots. But when Big Show uses them to take over the city, the Jetsons go back in time to enlist help from the WWE Superstars of today. Stars such as Sheamus, Alicia Fox, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and the Uso Brothers.
To my mind, this fabulous 'The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-WrestleMania' is also a much better quality animated work of art than the whole Flintstones / WWE crossover; sorry. I would highly recommend to all Jetsons fans and even those who don't know about the characters to buy this wonderful animated movie and settle in with the kids one night - to not only enjoy this new era of the Jetsons, but to showcase a new generation just what they had missed from their most distant past. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Welcome To Orbit City Featurette
The Dangers of Button-Pushing Featurette
The Jetsons: My Favorite Memories of the Future Featurette
3 Bonus Cartoons
(Jonathan Silverman, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Campion, James Arnold Taylor, Brooklyn Prince, et al / DVD / G / 2017 / LGF)
DVD Overview: When a cool, cuddly, robotic dog runs off and has his memory chip erased, his clever boy and the boy's genius creator dad must track down this perfect pooch and bring him home.
DVD Verdict: Simply put, Robo-Dog is, quite easily the world’s coolest pet! He can run super-fast, grow a bionic arm, talk, and even fly! I mean, come on now, who in their right mind wouldn't want a pet that could do all that?
But, in truth and as we all quickly discover, what we have might also be wanted by jealous others and so after creating the perfect pooch for his son Tyler, genius dad Tom (Patrick Muldoon, “Days of Our Lives”) gets called away. So, when Tyler and his wacky nerd friend Barry head off to a science fair, Robo-Dog runs away and has his memory chip erased!
Then, after starting a new life with a computer whiz and his adorable daughter, the search is on to not only find and bring home Robo-Dog, but, and more importantly, convince the high-tech terrier that they are indeed still, and always really have been his rightful masters.
A tale with plenty of heart and soul abounding (no pun intended), 'Robo-Dog: Airborne' is as cute as they come. For me though, the fact that the Dad invents a robot dog that looks exactly the same as the one that just died would be enough to freak me out as an adult - let alone a kid! As for the flow of this wonderful kids movie, well, it starts off sad (dead dog), gets quirky (robot dog), lots of butt jokes break out, and ends in just the way you would hope for. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Ruff Cut: Behind the Scenes of Robo-Dog: Airborne? Featurette
TV's 'Minuscule' Bonus Episodes:
A Cruel World
Insect High Velocity
A Rolling Snail Gathers No Moss
'Care Bears & Cousins: BFFs - Volume 2'
(Doug Erholtz, Olivia Hack, David Lodge, Stephanie Sheh, Melissa Mabie, et al / DVD / G / 2017 / LGF)
Overview: Join the Care Bears for fun-filled adventures n friendship, kindness and understanding! After many years away from Care-a-Lot, Care Bears Cousins finally fully return home in 'Care Bears™ & Cousins: Take Heart – Volume 2', arriving on DVD and Digital HD March 7 from Lionsgate.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'Care Bears & Cousins' is a computer-animated television series which premiered on November 6th, 2015, on Netflix.
There’s exciting news in the land of Care-a-Lot! The Care Bear Cousins – Brave Heart Lion, Bright Heart Raccoon, Lotsa Heart Elephant, and Cozy Heart Penguin – have returned home. In this second volume of the new series, the Cousins continue to ensure that the Share Cloud is always full of the Care Hearts that Care-a-Lot needs.
Here in this second volume, the Care Bears and their Cousins discover that best friends are forever in these all-new sweet and smile-raising adventures. Whether they're trying to help Brave Heart have the awesomest day ever, caring for an injured Grumpy or learning valuable lessons about jealousy and the importance of keeping promises, the Care Bears and their Cousins fill every moment with caring, sharing and fun!
Containing six (6) lovely, and just perfect for young children episodes from the all-new series, 'Care Bears & Cousins: BFFs - Volume 2' isn't exactly what I would call "groundbreaking" (or anything close), but what is does possess is a simple sweetness.
Nice and lovely in all the right places, and a little bit of fun to watch also, of course, your young kids will love it - and you parents may find some enjoyment while watching with them also. What do I think of it? I think it is a nice show that kids and their parents can easily enjoy together and that's all these are really created to be anyway. So, job done. Job well done.
The CGI is probably the thing that could turn people off, but once you get past that you'll find some enjoyment in this show. The characters are rather one-dimensional, but they're entertaining enough with their quirks.
The writing is also quite okay, and there are some jokes that will give you some giggles know and then.
The voice acting is good, and actually feels like the actors/actresses are putting in some effort. Music, well, sorry, but not much to say about it, only that it works for the show as all. So overall, this series is a great watch for kids, as well as adults.
The six (6) endearing episodes included are: "Take Heart", "Return to Tender", "The Bright Stuff", "The Share Shack", "Belly Badgered" and "Wonder's Heart" If you have kids, then you should most certainly cheek out this delightful Care Bear series. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
'For The Love Of Spock'
(Zoe Saldana, Chris Pine, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, J.J. Abrams, et al / DVD / R / 2017 / FilmRise)
Overview: 'For The Love Of Spock' celebrates the upcoming 50th Anniversary of Star Trek through a personal, intimate look at the life and career of Leonard Nimoy, and the enduring appeal of his alter-ego, Mr. Spock, as told by his son, Adam Nimoy. Includes interviews and clips with Jim Parsons, Zoe Saldana, William Shatner, George Takei and many more.
DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, 'For The Love Of Spock' is not just a documentary about Spock, per say, but also about Leonard Nimoy and his relationship with his son, Adam (the filmmaker). Indeed, a touchstone in this story is a letter Leonard wrote to his son in 1973. Adam reads portions of this and uses it as a launching pad to take the narrative in different directions. In truth, it is very well done and nicely, lovingly even put together by Adam.
Interestingly, the last time he reads it, he puts the letter back in an envelope and puts it on top of a copy of "I Am Not Spock." Leonard wrote this book out of frustration for constantly being pushed into the "Spock" box as he tried to make his way in his acting career (and other pursuits) after Star Trek. I mean, we're talking about a man, an actor who before Star Trek didn't have a regular paying job locked in for more than two weeks at a time! He arrived in Hollywood in 1949 and Star Trek began in 1966, so you do the math!
Yet, from this Tribeca Film Festival 2016 nominee film, you would never guess Leonard had a difficult relationship with the character he created. Yes, he eventually made peace with the notoriety that came with creating and being the Spock character, and came to accept the fan attention as an acknowledgement of the universal appeal of the character he created. But why is this absent from the film, I hear you ask?
I mean, we hear all about his records and his photography, but what about his poetry? We hear some about his drinking problem and hear allusions to the 30 years of smoking that killed him (COPD), but never the aforementioned missing elements of who he really was - and what made him tick, in some cases. Amazingly, for all the photos we see of him, I only saw one that showed him smoking, in relation to the fact of what finally took him.
That all aside, 'For The Love Of Spock' is a delightfully astute work of cinematic art and deserves to be seen around the world by every Trekkie there is. Some 50 years in the making now re: Spock, the documentary shows how the character changed his life back then (when even the press said, quote, "Star Trek won't work", unquote) and how he then went on to change our lives thereafter. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Leonard Nimoy's Boston TV Special
Star Trek Trivia with Jason Alexander
Commentary with Adam Nimoy, David Zappone & Scott Mantz
Kickstarter Video Galley
Tribeca Q&A with Adam Nimoy & Zachary Quinto
On Set with "The Big Bang Theory"
Subtitles: English, Spanish, German, Russian, French and More!
'Sing - Special Edition' (Blu-ray+DVD+Digital)
(Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD / PG / 2017 / Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
Blu-ray Overview: Illumination Entertainment, the studio that brought you 'The Secret Life of Pets' comes an animated comedy about finding the music that lives inside all of us. 'Sing' stars, amongst other big name hitters, Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey as Buster Moon, an eternally optimistic koala who puts on the world's greatest singing competition to save his crumbling theater.
Blu-ray Verdict: 'Sing' is the new hit computer-animated comedy musical about a bunch of anthropomorphic animals that enter a singing competition. All hosted by a koala bear that's trying to save his theater! It was written and directed by Garth Jennings (who also helmed 2007's 'SON OF RAMBOW', and 2005's 'THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY'), and it was co- directed by Christophe Lourdelet (a veteran animator, and first time filmmaker).
It stars the voice talents of Matthew McConaughey (said koala bear), Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlet Johansson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, John C. Reilly, Nick Kroll, Jennifer Saunders and Jennings himself. It really is a rather cute animated movie, for all ages, I have to point out though. I stress that as there are some hard knock lessons in life here to be seen, so not just for the wee ones, trust me.
The story is set in a world inhabited entirely by humanoid animals. Buster Moon (McConaughey) is a hard working koala; who owns a classic theater, which hasn't been doing well financially (in quite some time). Buster is extremely optimistic that he can save it though, if he puts on a singing contest. When the $1,000 prize money is accidentally advertised as $100,000, many animals are eager to audition. Buster is determined to press on, despite not having the reward money that's promised. Multiple talented misfits ambitiously pursue their dreams, by participating in the competition.
I'm not a big fan of most animated kids' films, these days, but this is one of the better ones. It's entertaining, beautiful to look at, and it's pretty emotional, at times, and inspiring as well. The music is all catchy, and fun to listen to, and the voice cast all does a good job. The film is funny, without being too overly silly too. I really enjoyed it, and I think most kids will as well.
Indeed, Universal's animation has also taken another leap, and the quality of the movie's visuals is surpassed only by the immense care and detail the animators showed in every scene. So, what do you get, front and center? Well, first off you get a very tired, overworked, and under-appreciated pig mom, with 12 piglet children, who gave up on her dreams, while her husband is completely oblivious to her.
You then get a moody porcupine teenager who was selected over her boyfriend which she finds out later that is a complete jerk when he was "cheating." OK so the definition of cheating is weak, but he is caught singing with another girl in her apartment. A "swift and conniving" mouse guy who is only in it for the money, trying to hustle mobsters, but fails. All while living on his own standards.
An Elephant teenager who is just too scared and shy to get over her insecurities to sing in front of others, especially when she has the family supporting her. Oh and the grandfather that helps her get the courage to do so, because of his "birthday wish" to see her sing and excel in life. Oh, and my personal favorite, a gorilla teen who does not want to be like his father and not a part of his notorious gang who pull off a gold heist!
Some of my personal favorites from the Special Features included are, and for sure, the "Love At First Sight" Mini-Movie. What a pure delight this is from start to finish, inclusive of crocodiles, frogs and (when reality hits), a Gorilla playing the piano! Built cunningly around the world of online dating, it may only last just over four minutes, but hey, that's why it's called a "mini movie"!
Another one is "Gunter Babysits" Mini-Movie where Gunter, who claims to be the world's very best babysitter, piglet sits Reese Witherspoon's brood of 12 piglets - with, of course, disastrous results ensuing! But, lest we forget that movies like this are meant to teach us also, amongst the chaos and so come the return of Mama Pig and Papa Pig at 9pm sharp, well, let's just say normality (of a sort) has settled once more upon the household!
This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
• "Gunter Babysits" Mini-Movie
• "Love At First Sight" Mini-Movie
• "Eddie's Life Coach" Mini Movie
• The Making Of The Mini-Movies
• "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" Music Video Starring Tori Kelly
• Making a Music Video with Tori Kelly
• "Faith" Music Video
• "Faith" Lyric Video
• "Set It All Free" Lyric Video
• The Making of 'SING'
• Finding the Rhythm: Editing 'SING'
• SING & Dance! - "Faith"
• The SING Network
• In The News
• The Best of Gunter
• Digital Copy of 'Sing'
• Character Profiles and More!
(Brandon Smalls, Dave Klasko, James Wilcox, Melinda Chilton, Jason Martin, Colin Critchley, Cait Bliss, et al / DVD / R / 2017 / MVD Visual)
Overview: A simple night of babysitting takes a horrifying turn when Helen realizes the boogeyman really is in little Lucas' closet.
DVD Verdict: In truth, 'Child Eater' is a pretty decent horror movie. Sure it's title was chosen to scare us into wanting to, nay having to watch it (as horror fans), but that promotional aspect aside, the film does take us down some rather scary avenues.
It comes complete with all the scary horror prerequisites (whether that be a big budget or B-movie horror film) of a scary kids closet (just keep the night light on kid!), a creepy old man (stop staring at him through your binoculars kid!), a terrified will-do-all-for-her-son mother, and, of course, a really spooky old house ... which can only seemingly be investigated in the pitch black of night!
In my book it should have been called 'Boogeyman 2' or some such nonsense, but that aside, the film was enjoyable and I stuck with it to the very end - which I urge you guys to do also. Again, 'Child Eater' doesn't provide anything new or original within the genre, it won't bowl you over cinematically, but the actual plot has a lot of merit to it.
The special effects were above par and the atmosphere throughout was quite creepy in its own right also. The soundtrack score, complete with creepily sung nursery rhymes was stoic enough to enhance the whole film to another level also, which was surprising (give that it is a B-movie, after all. So yeah, all in all, 'Child Eater' is a good, solid horror B-movie for fans of the genre. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
Audio Commentary with Director Erlingur Thoroddsen and Stars Cait Bliss and Jason Martin
'The Creeping Garden: Director Approved 3-Disc'
(Mark Pagnell, Heather Barnett, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+CD / NR / (2014) 2017 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: 'The Creeping Garden' is a feature-length documentary exploring the work of fringe scientists, mycologists and artists, and their relationship with the extraordinary plasmodial slime mold.
Blu-ray Verdict: "I've always been curious as to why things are the way they are and I think I've always been interested in the things that often get overlooked which is I think why I'm interested in the slime mold." These are Heather Barnett's words, not mine, but not ones to be ridiculed or taken lightly for Barnett, along with her co-companion on this riveting documentary bring us a wondrous work of cinematic exploration here on 'The Creeping Garden'.
And it truly doesn't matter if you're into this kind of thing, or find yourself on the outskirts of it looking in, perpetually wondering about all that is nature and its hidden, and ever-growing depths, for Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp’s uncanny documentary 'The Creeping Garden' has a way of growing (sorry) on you.
Taking its time to unfold before your very eyes, never one for rushing over, or overlooking a moment of evolution within the species being investigated, this engrossing award-winning feature-length creative documentary explores the extraordinary world of the plasmodial slime mold; as revealed through the eyes of the fringe scientists, mycologists and artists who work with them.
The whole idea of filming this was to enable the casual viewer (and those more attune, of course) to garner a much deeper understanding of the organism known as slime mold, in particular. Ergo, 'The Creeping Garden' not only provides oodles of scientific knowledge, but also glimpses of a kind of hive intelligence structured within each and every bound slime mold cell.
Basically put, 'The Creeping Garden' is a unique exploration into a hitherto untapped subject matter, immersing the viewer within the worlds of the observers and the observed. Indeed, at one point Barnett uses the Physarum polycephalum species to create wallpaper patterns and interactive art installations. Furthermore, we watch as she recruits volunteers among visitors to the "Biodesign" exhibition at the New Institute in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to simulate behaviors of slime molds by connecting to one another using yellow ropes and carabiners.
Inclusive of an original soundtrack composed by celebrated musician and producer Jim O'Rourke (Sonic Youth, Grizzly Man), that actual soundtrack CD is presented here as the third disc in this incredible collection. Something to be heard to be believed, for the most part it is what they call Biocomputer Music; where this first-created Biocomputer Music System was created to allow a two-way musical dialogue between man and slime mold! Again, it has to be heard to be believed! This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original 2.0 audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Audio commentary by directors Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp
Biocomputer Music, a short film by Grabham on the first Biocomputer Music System, allowing a two-way musical dialogue between man and slime mold
Return to the Fungarium, a featurette revealing further treasures of the fungarium at Kew Gardens
Feeding Habits of Physarum, a featurette on the feeding preferences and dislikes of slime molds
Three cinema iloobia short films: Milk (2009), Rotten (2012) and Paramusical Ensemble (2015)
Angela Mele's animated slime molds
US Theatrical Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring two pieces of original artwork
+ THE CREEPING GARDEN SOUNDTRACK [Limited Edition Exclusive]
Bonus CD containing the rearranged soundtrack to 'The Creeping Garden' by legendary producer and musician Jim O'Rourke
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet containing writing on the film by Jasper Sharp
'Wolf Creek: Season 1'
(John Jarratt, Lucy Fry, Dustin Clare, Jake Ryan, Deborah Mailman, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / LGF)
DVD Overview: After her family is brutally murdered in the Australian outback, American college student Eve Thorogood vows to bring serial killer Mick Taylor to justice - or die in the attempt.
DVD Verdict: Simply put, 'Wolf Creek' (the new TV series) is as good as it gets in this genre. From the moment Eve Thorogood's (Lucy Fry) family are out-of-the-blue slaughtered in front of her, the following six terror laden episodes take you on a must-see nightmare trek into the Outback. Where the vicious, and always hungry prairie dogs are not the only things you have to be careful of!
And with that said, Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) is a hidden gem in the serial killer horror genre. An Australian marksman who prowls the outback looking for unsuspecting tourists to unleash his brand of sadistic torture and psychological mind games upon. This monster of a human is played to perfection by Jarratt, and from his dirty hat to his terrifyingly sardonic laugh, you don't disbelieve for a moment that this guy is bad news.
This TV mini-series had a lot of potential to become a yearly vehicle showcasing Mick Taylor's crusades against a wide variety of victims. Indeed, this devastatingly brilliant first season delivers everything that you would hope to find (given that it's brought to us from the makers of the films). Sure there are some inconsistencies and unnecessary plot points that drag down what we really want to see in 'Wolf Creek' ie: Mick Taylor in his native glory, but we're talking six hours of screen time for what was only ever a movie or two.
The premiere's pre-credit sequence sets up the season in a superb fashion. It mirrors some of the greatest moments from the 'Wolf Creek' films; Mick Taylor sharing an innocent chat with his unknowing victims, cracking jokes, laughing inappropriately, and sharing hunting stories to earn their trust before he strikes. And BOY, does he strike!
The one-before-last final showdown in particular is an enormous disappointment, for me personally. Now, and only because being a journalist I have to play Devil's Advocate here, but the gunfight at the OK coral scene was more like a duck and dive fest amongst a hail of randomly aimed bullets! I guess we can put a lot of that down to the fact that this final episode of the six delves into Mick's backstory; a huge no-no for horror villains, especially right at the final hurdle of the movie/TV show.
Chock full of flashbacks to Mick's childhood that reminded me a lot of Rob Zombie's 'Halloween', that remake was terrible, simply terrible; but at least these flashbacks don't sink it to its knees like Zombie's. To be honest, we don't need to know Mick Taylor grew up in a broken home for him to be scary. He's already bloody terrifying! Indeed, the less we know about him the more psychotic he seems, but the ultimate finale where our gal finally (seemingly) gets one over on her own personal demon played out decently - until she goes back to check on his burnt corpse!
Anyway, and aside from Jarratt's arresting performance, the acting is spot on throughout for me. Lucy Fry's frazzled and bleeding heroine lost in the Outback is a role undertaken splendidly and she should be mighty proud of this show. Quite why, in general, all female's on the run cut their long, luscious hair to a spiky bob is beyond me! But even more fascinating is how they all seem to cut it using a wing mirror or dirty bathroom mirror so damn salon perfectly!
The officer investigating the case, Sullivan Hill (Dustin Clare) could have been handled better though, but he's also given subplots that do absolutely nothing to advance the plot (ie: his family life) which drain the urgency from his veins. So, in truth, the only reason to watch 'Wolf Creek - Season One' is to see Mick Taylor and being that the ending is left, well, open ended, it seems Season Two will also have a little more Taylor lurking around its landscape! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Cinema to Series: The Legacy of Wolf Creek
Making a Television Series
Meet the Stars
Discovering the Outback
Visual Effects Featurette
Meet the Supporting Cast
'Assassin's Creed' [Blu-ray]
(Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, Michael Fassbender, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray + DVD + Digital HD / PG-13 / 2017 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society.
Blu ray Verdict: Assassins Creed 15th century: "The Templars" wants an apple containing the genetic code to free-will and with it curb humanity to their bidding (The Ludovico Apple?). The "Assassins" try to stop them because people retaining their free-will is preferable to turning people into clockwork oranges, they also rescue the son of a Sultan (used as a bargaining chip by the Templars to get the Sultan to surrender the Apple). Fighting and jumping up and down buildings ensues until the Assassins finally kill the villains and hides the apple with Christopher Columbus whom takes it to his grave.
This plot - if fleshed out with some characterization, wit, exposition and depth - would probably require something like 110 minutes and could have been a pretty good adventure-film. In adapting this game there was an obstacle however, another element that needed to be included for as not to be unfaithful: The twist that outside of the period piece/adventure-tale we have a modern, high-tech kidnap/detective/conspiracy-plot.
Assassins Creed present-day: Callum Lynch (Fassbender), a criminal that saw his mother (Davis) murdered by his father (Gleeson) is arrested and sentenced to death. He is then saved by the "Abstergo Foundation", an organization run by Templar Alan Rikkin (Irons). Also working there is Sophia Rikkin (Cotillard), a leading scientist on the "Animus Project". The "Animus" is a machine that can be hooked up to humans and trace the memories of their ancestors and so gain information from history. Lynch happens to be a descendant from Aguilar, the Assassin involved in the plot to keep the apple from the Templars. Proceeding from here we get a stew of father/mother/son-drama, an uprising of assassins against their captors and some drama with the Templars (pressure from bosses, father/daughter-drama and discussions on their motives).
Now take a gander and decide which one of these plot-lines has the most potential to make a decent film. Then imagine them both squeezed into 110 minutes, then realize that only about 35 minutes of 110 is set aside for the 15th century, then get good with fact that even during the meager 35 we - in the most annoying way possible - has to cut back to the present for Fassbender-gymnastics and reaction shots.
'Assassins Creed' works as a game because outside of the Animus things take their time to be revealed and to move forward. It's a game so it can afford to do so, the player of the game will want to get past that stuff as fast possible anyway to get back into the Animus where things are more engaging. It's about playing to the mediums respective strengths, something this film wasn't allowed to do because it wanted to be a faithful adaption and not incur the ire of its fans.
The strength of a big-budget blockbuster would have been to focus on the plot back in the day rather than the present. Imagine the set-pieces, locations, armies, battles, plotting, spying, assassinations and betrayals and similar things that at the least could have made for a passable action-adventure-film. Instead, we're stuck with 75 minutes of disinterested actors showing up on set trying to explain what's going on and who everybody is. And the 35 minutes in the 15th century? it's underwritten to the nth-degree and completely butchered by the up close, shaky hand-held camera work and the aforementioned cutting to the present during action sequences.
The tone is depressing and lacks humor, the characters are weak and it's saddled with nonsense. Why have the silly father/mother/son- drama at all? Lynch could have been a regular person (with a penchant for violence if you need to keep the "violence is genetic-shtick") that gets captured by Abstergo and is subjected to experiments. Then he starts to despise them for the treatment he and his fellow test subjects receives (a rather good scene actually sneaks past the screenwriters where we see the damages that's been done to uncooperative subjects) and starts plotting escape with Moussa (Williams) and the other captives (the uprising is another section that's underwritten).
Instead we get a moment taken from a Harry Potter-film where Lynch has a vision of mom while hooked to the Animus (some kind of full-synchronization deal when Lynch becomes more attuned to the Assassins) and has a revelation that he belongs with them.
Thematically the film is ambitious. Violence as mankind's constant flaw, the question of free-will and identity are all held up for inspection. It's ambitious indeed, and I wonder if the idea was to get those themes working and so not need to spend so much time inside the animus (where they would put most of the action), have the film transcend the expectations of its genre and end up as something more profound.
The theme of identity works better, even though it's rather dull considering the characters we're served with: Lynch is a lost soul, having drifted around from early age with baggage of seeing mom killed by dad and not having a place of belonging, and so Lynch latches on to the identity of a Templar for a short time after a confrontation with dad (also a captive) but later upon seeing mom while in full sync with the Animus, becomes an Assassin instead. It's textbook and "arc-ish", not interesting nor well done, but still something of a success in a movie that could have been so much more; so much better.
As for the special features, for my money the Five-Part Behind The Scenes (running at about an hour in total) are much better than the actual film, sorry! They reveal how Fassbender was kept safe underwater, how the CGI brought to life what-looked-to-be-at-the-time boringly shot "action sequences", and most importantly, how Fassbender does what he does through the air, after some diligent running!
The bits, entitled one and all, are cobbled together weirdly within each of the parts, but you soon forget that as they truly do reveal so much more interesting aspects to the movie than simply just watching it could ever bring to the fore. Like how some of the shots of the Templars fighting Fassbender were filmed, by simply adding a small camera to the sleeve of the person wielding the sword.
Also, the noisy noise you hear in some of the behind the scenes filming is the crews actual drone that films everything from terrific angles, and seamless, it has to be said. Also, the shots of the guys "jumping down" one of the many crumbing arcs is so fluid, so (again) seamless, that you forget for a second that they are wired also! Oh, and for the record, Marion Cotillard is very much a standout in her role as Sophia Rikkin! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Take the Pledge: Behind the Scenes of Assassin's Creed - Five-Part Documentary
Conversation with Justin Kurzel
Deleted Scenes Conversation with Justin Kurzel & Christopher Tellefsen
Gallery & More!