4K Blu-ray Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

4K Blu-ray Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Brendan Campbell | September 14, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

The web that led to the Snyder Cut being made is a tangled one, and I won’t delve into too much of it here and kind of give the Coles Notes of it all. Basically, after the poor reception of Batman V. Superman in theaters, the studio weren’t overly happy with the direction that Justice League was heading. Director Zack Snyder wanted it to be the major epic it deserved to be, and the studio wanted to change the vibe of the Snyder-verse. Now, to be fair, the Ultimate Edition of Batman V. Superman (which adds 31-minutes of story and character development to the original theatrical release) is fantastic. It was simply another movie that suffered due to the desire to bring down the theatrical runtime so that more showings could be held in a day, and in turn, more money can be made. I do get that making money is the endgame for studios, but when it comes at the cost of the film itself – and then blaming the film for the failure that making those changes caused, well, it seems counterproductive.

So when Snyder had to step away from the director’s chair of Justice League for personal reasons, Joss Whedon was brought in to replace him. Whedon was tasked with re-writing parts of the script, as well as doing various reshoots to help change the film’s tone and also bring it down to a more theatrical-release friendly 120-minute runtime. He did both of those things, and while the film did gross over $650 million, it was still viewed as a box-office disappointment due to the enormous production cost, and what was expected in terms of potential returns.

I did give the film a positive review; however, in hindsight it wouldn’t be as glowing. I always thought that Warner Bros. should’ve taken their time with the DCU and not tried to instantly catch up to where Marvel was with their cinematic universe, but by this point it was what it was and audiences were being introduced to 50% of the Justice League in the flagship movie itself, instead of properly introducing them in independent films beforehand. It wasn’t a terrible movie, it just wasn’t great and the changes that were made hurt the overall film, including the complete deletion of Darkseid, a character Snyder had set up to be the big bad. Instead we were left with Darkseid’s lackey Steppenwolf as the main antagonist, and almost zero mention of Darkseid himself. Steppenwolf was just a complete dud of a villain, and a strong villain is incredibly important in a superhero film – especially one where you have all of your franchise players teaming up to take on said villain.

So the film came and went and the DCU started going in a different direction after it didn’t perform as well as they’d hoped; though the rumblings of a potential Snyder cut of Justice League kept appearing and an online groundswell began to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut. Now, I won’t get into the toxic side of this fandom, which I don’t believe should reflect on those who had only positive intentions towards wanting to see Snyder’s original vision to see the light of day. Toxic fandom is rampant across the board these days, it’s unfortunate and it should not be given a voice. So when Warner Bros. finally listened to this cry for the Snyder Cut to be released and said they’d do so, in no way do I think they were listening to or bowing down to those who chose to use this movement to express their toxic nature.

Come 2019, Snyder again teased the existence of his original cut, and with the backing of the actors in the film, who also spread the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag through their social media, Warner Bros. finally decided to do just that – and more. With HBOmax on the horizon, WB viewed this as the perfect film to release and bring eyes to the streaming service and in 2021, after reshoots and an additional $70 million onto the budget, The Snyder Cut was released on HBOmax. Now, The Snyder Cut is available on 4K Blu-ray to add to your collection, and this review is aimed more towards those who may not have watched the film yet, or to those who may still feel scorned by the 2017 release and didn’t want to just watch a longer version of the same movie. Let me tell you that you’re safe, this is not the same movie at all, and you, in fact, owe it to yourself to pick up a copy and watch it.

Yes, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an absolutely magnificent superhero film. It differs so greatly from the Whedon release (which some fans have nicknamed the “Josstice League”) that you should have no hesitancy in watching the Snyder Cut if all that’s holding you back is fear that it’s just the 2017 version, but two hours longer. Yes, the Snyder Cut is 4-hours total, and while some did find it to be a bit too long, I thought it was perfect. Okay, perfect may be a strong word, but I didn’t find any parts to be unjustifiably long. Sure there’s loads of slow motion, but it’s vintage Zack Snyder so it’s to be expected.

For those who do still think 4-hours is too long that’s okay, as Snyder actually broke the film down into seven chapters, and while I watched the whole way through without issue, each chapter ends at a point where stopping for the night and picking up the next day should be just fine. So why is it two hours longer, and how is it that much longer without being the same movie if Whedon didn’t come in and reshoot the entire thing? Well, there are scenes that overlap, as the framework for Snyder’s version was used in 2017; however, now there’s just so much more depth, and the introduction of Cyborg, The Flash and Aquaman don’t seem as jarring because they’re actually given time to grow.

We also see the return of Darkseid which, in turn, makes Steppenwolf a far greater villain overall. Now, the disgraced Steppenwolf’s motivation to bring together the Mother Boxes to regain favour with his boss makes sense, and there are plenty of extra scenes that build him up so that when he and the Justice League do battle the audience are actually invested instead of simply checking off the “good guy vs. bad guy climactic battle” checkbox. Plus, Darkseid! We actually get to see a solid amount of Darkseid, as well as the inclusion of Martian Manhunter (Joe Morton) and it’s all amazing.

The amount of scenes that add character depth to everyone involved is what’s best about the Snyder Cut. There are plenty of extended action scenes, but the amount of moments that just allow these characters to get fleshed out is exactly what fans were hoping for. Obviously each hero getting their own film (or at least all but one, who could’ve been the focus of joining the group here) would’ve been ideal, but it is what it is at this point, and the Snyder Cut actually delivers in the best way possible given the way the DCU was built.

The biggest frustration this film will bring is the knowledge that it’s clear that at least one more major Justice League film was being set up with how this one plays out. Once it ended I only wanted more. I wanted to see that one more movie that capped everything off. That would’ve been wonderful, but at the same time, I’m honestly just grateful that Warner Bros. allowed the Snyder Cut to be released, and invested even more to make it the best version of Snyder’s vision that he could make. Now, at least, fans are able to watch both Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman: The Ultimate Edition, then cap it off with this 4-hour masterpiece of superhero filmmaking and be satisfied that while the Snyder-verse may not continue, it at least received the send-off it, and the fans deserved.

4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:

The most notable thing about the Snyder Cut is Snyder’s decision to use a 1.33:1 aspect ratio for the entire film. This is usually reserved for IMAX films, but it’s how Snyder envisioned the film and to their credit Warner Bros. gave him complete control at how this film was put together. I hadn’t known about it before watching it when the film was first released, so I was a bit taken back by the black bars on each side of the picture, but it quickly becomes obvious why the choice was made and the film is better because of it.

On the picture side of thing, those who know the DC Snyder-verse know that he uses darker tones, but even with that being the case the 4K delivery of the movie looks near flawless, with just crisp, clean visuals, and colours popping even if they don’t appear that often. The darker scenes showcase deep blacks and the textures are immaculate. The entire presentation is elevated nicely with the HDR10 boost, as the Snyder Cut becomes one of the reasons to upgrade to 4K if you have yet to do so.

The Dolby Atmos audio is superb, as this version of the film is just packed with a fantastical score and constant sound effects during action sequences. The dialogue is clean, and the entire mix comes together harmoniously. This is a top tier 4K release and is highly recommended to add to your collection.

Special Features:

The Road to Justice League – This is a 24-minute feature that has the cast and crew touch on the trilogy that creates the Snyder-verse, along with some behind-the-scenes footage. It`s an easy watch, but it`s pretty by the numbers in terms of content. With this being the only feature on such an anticipated movie, a deeper look into how it came to be, the journey and so forth would`ve been welcome. I feel as though this is a movie that will end up with at least one more big release down the line that will find itself with more special features. But one can`t be certain there, and it`s unfortunate we didn`t get to see more on this release, as there`s lots that could`ve been covered.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Directed by: Zack Snyder. Written by: Chris Terrio. Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Mamoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Joe Morton. Running time: 242 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on 4K Blu-ray: Sept. 14, 2021.

Tags: Batman, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Jason Mamoa, Justice League, Ray Fisher, Snyder Cut, Zack Snyder, zack snyder's justice league

Blu-ray Review: Yellowstone: Season 3

Blu-ray Review: Yellowstone: Season 3

Brendan Campbell | September 7, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

The worst thing about Yellowstone is that its seasons have to end. Yes, the Taylor Sheridan drama about a ranching family in Montana who look to defend their land against those who wish to take it from them delivers a fantastically addictive third season, continuing to build on the incredible storytelling of the first two seasons. The frustration of only having 10-episode seasons is definitely there, as they go by so quickly, and the captivating saga of the Dalton family just leaves you wanting more as soon as each one ends. It’s just all so damn good!

If you’ve yet to begin watching Yellowstone then I’d just stop reading this review right now and go start; however, if you’ve watched the first two seasons and were wondering how season three holds up, or what it may be about, I’ll touch on that briefly so as to avoid any potential spoilers. This season picks up not long after the last season ended, and with the death of Dan Jenkins last season, Market Equities – a ridiculously wealthy and connected fortune 500 company – picks up his land and looks to expand further. This expansion, of course, threatens the Yellowstone, and John Dutton (Kevin Costner) won’t have it.

That’s the gist of the main threat of the season, though fans of the series know that there are so many more wheels turning and character arcs expanding that the brief synopsis above doesn’t do the season any real justice. There are some wonderful additions to the cast, one of which I was thrilled to see in Josh Holloway. I had no idea he’d signed onto the show, but as one of Sawyer’s biggest fans, let me tell you that this was a welcome surprise. He plays Roarke Morris, a wealthy investor who likes to play hard and fast in order to get what he wants. He’s working alongside Market Equities to bring Montana into the future (read: make themselves insane amounts of money) and he plays the arrogant, used to getting everything he wants character perfectly.

Also new to the game is Karen Pittman, who plays Market Equities CEO Willa Hayes. She’s ruthless, and a great nemesis to Beth Dutton (Kelly Reilly,) who is usually the one making big moves to come out on top. Lastly there’s rancher Wade Morrow, who’s played by Boots Sutherland. This character has unknown ties to John, and while the reasoning for his sudden appearance on the neighbouring land is suspect, John’s grudge against the man runs deep, and the tension in their scenes together is strong.

There’s just so much that begins to come to a head this season, and just when you think you know where a storyline may be going, Sheridan flips the script and takes you somewhere else. The fact that you’ve such an incredible cast is also what makes this show so great. There are shows out there that have a solid lead, or a strong core, but Yellowstone just knocks it out of the park in every role from top to bottom. Everyone embodies their characters with everything they are, and that’s one of the main reasons that this show is so engrossing.

What’s also great is the show delves into Native American issues, with incredibly strong characters such as Chief Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham,) Monica Dutton (Kelsey Asbille,) and fresh to the cast is Q’orianka Kilcher, who plays a very cool new character named Angela Blue Thunder, who is the closest thing Rainwater has to a Beth. The supporting cast of this group is also wonderful, and there’s a really intense, heartbreaking subplot that these characters go through in the third season that really shines a light on the injustices that happen on these reservations on any given day.

Season 4 of Yellowstone debuts in November, so for those looking to catch up, you’ve got time and there’s no better time to start than now. For those who have already watched season three, now’s a good time to pick it up on Blu-ray and give yourself a nice recap before the next season begins. If Season 3 is any indication of where this show is at creatively then we should be thrilled, as it seems to just be hitting its stride. Now if we could just talk them into filming seasons back to back to back so that we don’t have to wait…

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:

Like its predecessors, Season 3 of Yellowstone looks gorgeous here on Blu-ray. The landscapes, the overall vibe of the show…everything is just breathtaking. The show has a fantastic grit to it, while also keeping things bright and beautiful on the visual front. The land truly is a character here and it’s showcased spectacularly.

The audio is also top tier, with the sound mix and dialogue shining through perfectly, and the score just accentuating everything on the screen. This is one of the best looking shows on TV, and it’s clear that Sheridan has made it clear how vital it is that the land both looks and sounds as important as important to the audience as it is to the Duttons.

Special Features:

Behind the Story – Each disc has a section of featurettes called “Behind the Story.” There’s one for each episode on the disc, and they range between five and 10 minutes, give or take. Each one sees the actors and sometimes main members of the crew, such as Sheridan talk about that specific plot points and character moments for that episode. They’re a nice addition for the viewer to gain some extra perspective of how these actors view the actions of the characters they’re playing, and ideal to watch after each episode, or at the end of a disc binge before you put in the other one.

Meaner Than Evil: Making Yellowstone Season 3 – This is the major feature for the set, coming in at just over 40-minutes in length and delving deep into the story of the season, the characters introduced, how the arcs intersected and progressed over the course of the season and what the future may hold for those involved. Just a really solid behind-the-scenes piece for fans to watch while waiting for season four to begin.

Working the Yellowstone: Director Stephen Kay – First up this season we take a quick look at Kay’s work over the course of the series, as the featurette comes in at a brief three-and-a-half minutes long.

Working the Yellowstone: SFX Supervisor Garry Elmendorf – Next up we get to watch the show’s VFX master at work in a fun four-minute piece.

Inside Yellowstone: Season 3 – This is a four-and-a-half minute featurette that just sees everyone praise one another (and rightfully so) for the season we’ve just witnessed and how it differs from the ones that came before it.

Yellowstone: Stories from the Bunkhouse – These ongoing series featurette returns once again, and much like Behind the Story, these features take a look at the character progression of those inside the bunkhouse, which is always fun. While the main story is the heart and soul of the series, the bunkhouse certainly has its own share of drama, and it’s great to see the cast involved talk about where they think it’s all headed!

Paramount Pictures Presents Yellowstone Season 3. Created by: Taylor Sheridan and John Linson. Written by: Taylor Sheridan. Starring: Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille, Brecken Merrill, Jefferson White, Lloyd Pierce, Josh Holloway, Karen Pittman, Gil Birmingham, Ian Bohen, Denim Richards, Forrie J. Smith, Q’orianka Kilcher. Running time: 431 minutes. Rating: 14A. Blu-ray Released: May 18, 2021.

Tags: Brecken Merrill, Cole Hauser, Gil Birmingham, Jefferson White, Josh Holloway, Karen Pittman, Kelly Reilly, Kelsey Asbille, Kevin Costner, Lloyd Pierce, Luke Grimes, Taylor Sheridan, Wes Bentley, Yellowstone

4K Blu-ray Review: In The Heights

4K Blu-ray Review: In The Heights

Brendan Campbell | September 4, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

In The Heights is a phenomenally fun, wholly inspirational, and incredibly emotional musical that just takes a hold of the audience from minute one and doesn’t release its melodious grip until the joyous ride through Washington Heights is complete. With all songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it should be no surprise that each lyric holds great meaning to help propel the story forward, and the flow of these songs are just perfection. Add on the gorgeous direction of Jon M. Chu, and the extraordinary cinematography of Alice Brooks and we’ve got ourselves a contender for best picture of the year.

In The Heights is based off of the stage musical of the same name that was created by Miranda (he also starred in it for two years, both on and Off-Broadway) and writer of the book, Quiara Alegría Hudes (who also penned the screenplay for this adaptation,) and it focuses on the predominantly Latino neighbourhood of Washington Heights in New York. Anthony Ramos as Usnavi, a young man entering his 30s with big dreams of returning back to the Dominican Republic to fix up and run his late-dad’s bar. He’s not the only one with big dreams though, as the film’s introductory song “In The Heights” points out, with a handful of other colourful characters who share the stage with Usnavi all having their own dreams and desires they hope to see come to fruition, despite odds being against them given where they’re starting from.

There’s Vanessa (Melissa Barrera,) who strives to open her own clothing boutique but is currently stuck working at the neighbourhood salon, then we have Nina (Leslie Grace,) who is viewed as the “one who escaped,” as she was able to get into Stanford through perseverance, scholarships and her dad (Jimmy Smits) selling half his business to help with tuition. She’s returning home after the latest semester when the film begins, but is struggling with telling her dad that she’s dropping out for fear of letting him and the neighbourhood down. Then we have Benny (Corey Hawkins,) who works for Nina’s dad and hopes to rekindle his relationship with her, and lastly Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV,) Usnavi’s cousin who has a passion to fight for social justice.

There are other characters, such as the salon owner Daniela (Daphne Rubin-Vega,) her girlfriend Carla (Stephanie Beatriz) and Cuca (Dascha Polanco) – all of whom work at the salon with Venessa – but the film mainly revolves around the two couples mentioned above. With that said, one character that can’t be forgotten is Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz.) She’s seen as the Matriarch of the neighbourhood, and she and Usnavi are extremely close.

I cannot put forth enough praise towards these actors for their superb work on this film, with performances that touch your heart. I mean, I can’t speak for everyone, but my tissue box was significantly lighter by the time the show was over. The power and emotion they put into and evoke through their musical numbers is nothing short of astonishing. Miranda’s lyrics are so descriptive and complex, yet they’re sung with such confidence and ease that it’s remarkable and just an absolute pleasure to take in.

Chu’s work behind the camera must be hailed as well, and I’ll put Brooks and choreographer Christopher Scott here also, as the film is just a visually stunning piece. It’s just so vibrant and Washington Heights is given a look where the whole block always seems like it’s full of life. The story is one of hope and looking towards the future and the film’s energetic style just adds to the enchanting vibe that this neighbourhood of captivating characters emits. In The Heights is a triumphant celebration of optimism and hopefulness at a time when we could all use a lot more of it.

4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:

This film looks absolutely stunning in 4K and should be the way to watch it if you’re able. The colourful, vibrant visuals used throughout truly shine in Dolby Vision and HDR10+ and this setup only adds to the beauty that this film has to offer. While the majority of the film is lively and bright, there is a point when a blackout hits, and while the streets are eliminated by fireworks, when the darkness first hits the deep blacks aren’t muddy or distracting. It’s just a vivid spectacle that really excels in this format.

The audio in Dolby Atmos is also brilliant, absolutely surrounding the viewer in song at almost all points of the film. The lyrics and dialogue are crisp and clear, and the score just tears through the room with wonderful impact. This is just a perfect movie to put your TV and speakers to the test when it comes to getting the most out of their performance.

Special Features:

Pacienca y Fe: Making In the Heights – This a 44-minute feature that’s broken up into six parts for fans to enjoy. This really covers most things that people would want to know about the making of the film, from coming off the Broadway show, to casting, to on-set choreography, and so forth. Just packed with materials at a reasonable length. While a commentary track may have been nice to accompany the release, this is a solid multi-part behind-the-scenes documentary for fans to take in when the movie is over.

Sing-Alongs – We’ve got two sing-along pieces here, which just sees two of the songs from the movie (“In The Heights” and “96,000”) get special subtitles for fans to sing along with. The audio drops down to Dolby Digital 2.0, so while it’s an okay edition, I’m not really sure how many will really bother with it.

Musical Numbers – This feature allows the viewer to jump to any of the films major musical pieces, or if you want to play out the songs yourself in a better karaoke style than the above feature, you can put on subtitles and just hit “Play All” and let them all go as you sing along!

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents In The Heights. Directed by: Jon M. Chu. Written by: Quiara Alegría Hudes. Starring: Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Gregory Diaz IV, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, Dashca Polanco, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Running time: 143 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on 4K Blu-ray: Aug. 31, 2021.

Tags: Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Dashca Polanco, Gregory Diaz IV, in the heights, Jimmy Smits, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Stephanie Beatriz

4K Blu-ray Review: The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It

4K Blu-ray Review: The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It

Brendan Campbell | September 1, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

The Conjuring universe has grown quite a bit in the eight years since the original film landed in theaters, sparking eight films in total and already having a couple of more on deck. The Conjuring films are the foundation of this universe, with spinoffs often involving creatures that first appear in a Conjuring film. The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It once again stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as paranormal investigators/demonologists Lorraine and Ed Warren, but it’s the first time a Conjuring film hasn’t been directed by James Wan (with his last time behind the camera being The Conjuring 2 back in 2016.)

While Wan continues on as a producer and with a story credit, scriptwriters of the first two Conjuring films, Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes have also moved on after penning the first two films, and it’s a notable loss. That’s not to say The Devil Made Me Do It is a bad movie, it’s just that while spinoff movies such as The Nun, Annabelle, and The Curse of La Llorona were more formulaic in their presentation and storytelling, The Conjuring films themselves were ones that could be counted on to be strong movies in both scares and script. But with the core team gone, The Conjuring 3 feels more like one of the spinoffs in its delivery, hitting jump scares where expected, and not really leaving the viewer feeling as though they’ve witnessed anything of true substance once it’s done.

The idea for the story is an interesting one, focusing on an occultist who is using a curse to summon a demon to possess a target, causing them to kill someone before the demon can move on. This leads to Arne (Ruairi O’Connor) killing a friend of his while possessed, and being arrested for murder. Ed and Lorraine get involved, knowing Arne from a recent exorcism, and Ed being witness to Arne telling a demon to “take him instead” in order to save a young boy that was possessed. This case was actually true, and was the first American murder trial to use demonic possession as a defense.

The idea of Ed and Lorraine going up against a strong occultist who is summoning demons had potential, as it’s a worthy foe for them to do battle with in a film; however, a solid reasoning behind the curse or why it’s happening, or why certain people are being chosen isn’t overly clear. This causes the story to just continue along from jump scare to jump scare, while also leaning a bit too heavily on Lorraine’s clairvoyant powers to solve all its problems and simply feeling like more of the same instead of an exciting fresh, new chapter in the series.

While the acting is solid from those involved (Farmiga and Wilson are really the only reason for any sort of story investment,) there just isn’t much else to get excited about here, which is unfortunate considering it’s a Conjuring film in name and not just a spooky Universe spinoff where this type of paint-by-numbers scare-template is somewhat expected. I feel that Annabelle Comes Home is a stronger spiritual successor to the first two Conjuring films than this one, even though Ed and Lorraine are more supporting characters in that one.

But with that said it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an audience for this type of film out there, and if you’ve enjoyed everything that The Conjuring franchise has offered up thus far, The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It will likely deliver the eerie atmosphere, creepy ghouls and jump scares you’re after to help tide you over until the next installment of this demonic universe comes to light.

4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:

The 4K 2160p film transfer of the film looks as good as you’ll find, so while the Blu-ray still looks good and gets the job done, 4K is the way to go for some richer blacks – which will benefit the majority of the film that takes place in the dark. Everything looks sharp and clean, and when the ghouls do appear from time to time, the clarity adds to their effectiveness in the creepy department.

The audio mix is also strong, with a Dolby Atmos mix that’ll become Dolby TrueHD 7.1 if you don’t have access to Atmos. Both work well, as the main focus of the sounds in the movie are to build up tension even when jump scares are obvious and then deliver those jumps with as much audio impact as possible.

Special Features:

The Occultist – This is a quick, four-minute featurette that focuses on the film’s baddie. We get to hear from Wilson and Farmiga, as well as director Michael Chaves, as well as the film’s producers James Wan and Peter Safrain.

By Reason of Demonic Possession – This is a five-and-a-half minute featurette that touches on the true story that this film is based off of. Of note here is that the real Arne Johnson and his wife Debbie are present to talk about the story, as well as the cast and crew above.

Exorcism of Fear – This featurette comes in at just under 6-minutes and sees the usual suspects of the cast and crew from previous featurettes joined by production designer Jennifer Spence, VFX supervisor Robert Nederhorst, stunt coordinator Glenn Foster and contortionist Emerald Wulf, who did all the crazy bending in the opening possession scene.

The Conjuring: The Lover #1 – This is a 13-minute video comic that joins other shorts in expanding upon the Conjuring universe. Fans should enjoy this one.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It. Directed by: Michael Chaves. Written by: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick. Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, John Noble, Eugenie Bondurant. Running time: 112 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on 4K Blu-ray: Aug. 24, 2021.

Tags: James Wan, John Noble, Julian Hilliard, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, The Devil Made Me Do It, Vera Farmiga

Coraline, Boxtrolls, Kubo and ParaNorman coming to Blu-ray

Coraline, Boxtrolls, Kubo and ParaNorman coming to Blu-ray

Joe Corey | August 25, 2021 | Disc Announcements, News | No Comments

DELUXE EDITIONS OF AWARD-WINNING FILMS
CORALINE, THE BOXTROLLS,
PARANORMAN, AND KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS
COMING AUGUST 31 AND SEPTEMBER 14
FROM LAIKA AND SHOUT! FACTORY

Laika has been doing quite a few excellent animated films over the past years. Now four of them are coming out as special edition Blu-rays as part of their 15th anniversary. Coraline brought Neil Gaiman’s story to life with stop motion. Kubo and the Two Strings was a gripping tale of music and adventure. The Boxtrolls and ParaNorman were both Oscar nominated (along with the other two). The Blu-rays will include brand new transfers of the films and bonus features. Here’s the press release from Shout! Factory:

THE BELOVED ANIMATED FILMSWILL BE RELEASED IN NEW LAIKA STUDIOS EDITIONBLU-RAY™+DVD COMBOS
WITH EXCITING NEW BONUS FEATURES

Los Angeles, CA; June 1, 2021 – Four groundbreaking and critically-acclaimed films will receive new high-definition releases this fall when Coraline (LAIKA Studios Edition) and The Boxtrolls (LAIKA Studios Edition) are released on August 31, and ParaNorman (LAIKA Studios Edition) and Kubo and the Two Strings (LAIKA Studios Edition) are released on September 14 by lauded animation studio LAIKA and multi-platform entertainment distributor Shout! Factory. The Blu-ray™+DVD combos are loaded with exciting new special features, including “Inside LAIKA interviews with the studio’s animation team”, Never-Before-Seen Animation Test Footage, and Feature-LengthStoryboards for each of the films. All four films were nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Animated Film.

Along with digitally remastered editions of the films, new and existing bonus features, and new, collectible packaging, the LAIKA Studios Editions feature insightful, commemorative new essays by esteemed journalists Peter Debruge (Variety), Ramin Zahed (Animation Magazine), Bill Desowitz (Indiewire) and Charles Solomon (author and former Los Angeles Times critic).

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, LAIKA is known for blending trailblazing artistry with bleeding-edge filmmaking technology. In making the studio’s first feature, director Henry Selick and the team behind 2009’s Coraline brought the film to life with painstakingly handcrafted stop-motion, utilizing an innovative combination of new and existing technology creating a sense of timelessness and securing its place as a modern classic. It was the first stop motion film ever conceived and photographed in stereoscopic 3-D, creating a new and thrilling experience for viewers.

The studio continued to innovate with 2012’s ParaNorman, the first film to use full color rapid prototype 3D printing of the puppet faces, pioneered by LAIKA. The supernatural comedy thriller about a young boy who can speak with the dead, ParaNorman was heralded by critics for its handling of complex and sometimes melancholy topics with a touching candor not often seen in family cinema. The supernatural comedy thriller directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler was cheered by fans and extolled by many critics’ groups as the year’s best animated feature.
The Boxtrolls, released in 2014 and directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable, continued LAIKA’s streak of innovation and attention to detail. Based on Alan Snow’s book Here Be Monsters!, the film featured several new feats of inventive filmmaking, including designing collapsible armatures that enabled the Boxtrolls to pop in and out of their boxes; constructing a giant, steampunk-inspired roaming “Mecha Drill,” and staging a complex choreographed ballroom dance scene that seamlessly integrated practical puppets and 3D-animated background dancers. The result was a charming and heartwarming film, a perfect fit for the studio’s canon.
A heroic adventure set in a mythical feudal Japan, 2016’s Kubo and the Two Strings is a tale of courage and the power of storytelling. Inspired by Japanese art and design to create the vibrant world that Kubo inhabits, the production team at LAIKA was led by studio President & CEO Travis Knight, who directed the film and animated several of the scenes. To bring this breathtaking tale to life, the filmmakers created a 400 pound, 16-foot-high puppet (the largest ever created for a stop motion film), managed thousands of grains of sand for a shipwreck scene, and created more than 48 million possible facial expressions for the Kubo character alone. Kubo and the Two Strings won the BAFTA Award and became only the second animated feature in history to receive an Oscar® nomination for visual effects.
All four of these incredible films showcased LAIKA’s inventive 3D stop-motion and CG hybrid technique. The integrated effects made the characters and their surroundings feel authentic and lifelike, immersing viewers deep into their worlds. Coraline (LAIKA Studios Edition), The Boxtrolls (LAIKA Studios Edition), ParaNorman (LAIKA Studios Edition), and Kubo and the Two Strings (LAIKA Studios Edition) are a salute to the artistry, innovation and vision of their dedicated filmmakers.
Coraline (LAIKA Studios Edition)From Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach) and based on the novella of the same name by author Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Coraline is a wondrous, thrilling, fun and suspenseful adventure and the first stop motion animated film ever to be conceived and photographed in stereoscopic 3-D, unlike anything moviegoers had ever experienced before. A young girl walks through a secret door in her new home and discovers an alternate version of her life. On the surface, this parallel reality is eerily similar to her real life – only much better. But when this wondrously off-kilter, fantastical adventure turns dangerous and her counterfeit parents try to keep her forever, Coraline must count on her resourcefulness, determination, and bravery to save her family and get back home.
Voice Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David, John Hodgman, Robert Bailey Jr., and Ian McShane. Produced by Bill Mechanic, Claire Jennings, Henry Selick, Mary Sandell. Based on the book by Neil Gaiman. Written for the screen and directed by Henry Selick.
Special Features:NEW Never-Before-Seen Coraline Animation Test FootageNEW “Inside LAIKA Featurette”NEW Foreword by Peter Debruge, Chief Film Critic for VarietyAudio Commentary with Director Henry Selick and Composer Bruno CoulaisThe Making Of CoralineOriginal FeaturettesDeleted ScenesFeature-Length Storyboards
The Boxtrolls (LAIKA Studios Edition)This comedic fable unfolds in Cheesebridge, a posh Victorian-era town obsessed with wealth, class, and the stinkiest of fine cheeses. Beneath its charming cobblestone streets dwell the Boxtrolls, foul monsters who crawl out of the sewers at night and steal what the townspeople hold most dear: their children and their cheeses. At least, that’s the legend residents have always believed. In truth, the Boxtrolls are an underground cavern-dwelling community of quirky and lovable oddballs who wear recycled cardboard boxes the way turtles wear their shells. The Boxtrolls have raised an orphaned human boy, Eggs, since infancy as one of their dumpster-diving and mechanical junk-collecting own. When the Boxtrolls are targeted by villainous pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher, who is bent on eradicating them as his ticket to Cheesebridge society, the kindhearted band of tinkerers must turn to their adopted charge and adventurous rich girl Winnie to bridge two worlds amidst the winds of change – and cheese.
Voice Cast: Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, and Simon Pegg. Produced by David Bleiman Ichioka, Travis Knight. Screenplay by Irena Brignull, Adam Pava. Based on the book Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow. Directed by Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable.
Special Features:NEW Never-Before-Seen The Boxtrolls Animation Test FootageNEW “Inside LAIKA’ FeaturetteNEW Feature-Length StoryboardsNEW Foreword by Ramin Zahed, the Editor in Chief of Animation MagazineAudio Commentary with Directors Graham Annable and Anthony StacchiThe Making of The BoxtrollsOriginal Featurettes
ParaNorman (LAIKA Studios Edition)In the comedy thriller, a small town comes under siege by zombies. Who can it call? Only misunderstood local boy Norman, who is able to speak with the dead. In addition to the zombies, he’ll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst of all, grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul-whisperer bravely summons up all that makes a hero – courage and compassion – as he finds his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.
Voice Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein, and John Goodman. Produced by Arianne Sutner, Travis Knight. Written by Chris Butler. Directed by Sam Fell, Chris Butler.
Special Features:NEW Feature-Length StoryboardsNEW Inside LAIKA FeaturetteNEW Never-Before-Seen ParaNorman Animation Test FootageAudio Commentary with Writer/Director Chris Butler and Co-Director Sam Fell“Peering Through the Veil”Original Featurettes
Kubo and the Two Strings (LAIKA Studios Edition)Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan. The film follows clever, kindhearted Kubo as he ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town. But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey and Beetle and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King and the evil twin Sisters to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family and fulfill his heroic destiny.
Voice Cast: Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Art Parkinson, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro. Screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler. Produced by Arianne Sutner, Travis Knight. Directed by Travis Knight.
Special Features:NEW Feature-Length StoryboardsNEW Inside LAIKA FeaturetteNEW Never-Before-Seen Kubo and the Two Strings Animation Test FootageAudio Commentary with Director/Producer Travis Knight“Kubo’s Journey”Original Featurettes
ABOUT LAIKA: Fueled by the vision of its President & CEO Travis Knight, the animation studio LAIKA was founded in 2005. Located just outside of Portland, Oregon, LAIKA was awarded a Scientific and Technology Oscar® plaque in 2016 for its innovation in 3D printing. All of LAIKA’s five films: Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012), The Boxtrolls (2014), Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) and Missing Link (2019) were nominated for the Academy Award® for Outstanding Animated Feature. Kubo and the Two Strings also won the BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film and received an additional Oscar® nomination for Visual Effects. Missing Link was awarded the Golden Globe® as Best Animated Film. @laikastudios
ABOUT SHOUT! FACTORYShout! Factory, LLC is a leading multi-platform media company devoted to film and TV distribution, development, and production, as well as the preservation and revitalization of the very best in pop-culture entertainment. Founded by Richard Foos, Bob Emmer, and Garson Foos in 2003, Shout! owns and manages a large portfolio of films, contemporary and classic TV series, animation, and documentaries. The company’s creative acquisition mandate has established it as a leading independent distributor, with partners and properties including GKIDS, Sesame Street, The Carol Burnett Show, The Johnny Carson Show, IFC Films, Stephen J. Cannell Productions, ITV Studios, Major League Baseball Productions, and many others. Shout! Factory Kids focuses on live-action and animated kids and family properties as well as anime, and the company releases films and television shows in other genres under the Scream Factory and Shout Select imprints. Shout! develops, acquires and distributes new films via Shout! Studios, owns and operates libraries including Mystery Science Theater 3000 (in partnership with creator Joel Hodgson) and the Roger Corman New Horizon Pictures Library, and operates the acclaimed streaming service Shout! Factory TV. Shout! Factory is based in Los Angeles, California. For more on Shout! Factory, visit shoutfactory.com.

Tags: Coraline, Laika, Neil Gaiman, Shout! Factory

DVD Review: Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone (Magical Movie Mode Edition)

DVD Review: Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone (Magical Movie Mode Edition)

Brendan Campbell | August 21, 2021 | DVD Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

It’s the 20-year anniversary of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone depending on what part of the world you’re in) and one of the ways the studio is celebrating is by releasing the film on Blu-ray and DVD with Magical Movie Mode included. Now, this release isn’t one that everyone will want to jump on, and I’m actually not 100% sure who the target audience for it is, as not only does it not offer much that is new, but it also takes away quite a bit when it compares to previous releases.

The thing is, 20 years in, most fans of the franchise own a copy of this film, be it on DVD, Blu-ray or the new 4K release, and for the most part those releases at the very least came with the same special features that have been passed along since the original 2002 DVD release, yet this release doesn’t even have those. What’s added alongside the theatrical version of the film is Magical Movie Mode, which is found on a disc of its own and has Magical Movie Mode burned onto it and engrained into the audio, so if you put in that disc, you’re taking the Movie Mode ride for the duration of the film.

Magical Movie Mode is a mixture of different things that trigger throughout the film, such as trivia bits and commentary from Director Chris Columbus. When you insert the disc you’re given an explanation about what you’re about to witness, such as how a magical border will appear during extended or deleted scenes so you know they weren’t a part of the original release. These scenes are all available in previously released special features, but here they’re integrated into the film.

It’s not so much an extended edition of the movie, however, as there’s so much going on that you’re not really just watching the movie if you choose to view it through Magical Movie Mode. There are various definitions that pop up, little tidbits of info about characters or creatures in the film, spells appear on screen when spoken so that fans can learn to pronounce them correctly, and certain dialogue is animated into the movie as well. Columbus will also pop up in the bottom corner every so often to explain how a scene was done, or why something was done the way it was.

Also, at the start of the Movie Mode experience viewers are told to choose a House to represent and to give themselves points throughout the movie for each trivia question they get right, or if they happen to see the Golden Snitch in a scene it doesn’t belong in. While it’s neat in theory, I don’t see it as something someone will revisit time and time again, as it’s more of a one and done scenario. Once you know all the trivia questions and learned the behind-the-scenes tidbits of information Columbus has to offer, there’s just no reason to revisit Movie Mode again. So with that being said, I don’t see many people wanting to shell out the full price of a DVD or Blu-ray disc for something that may be fun for a watch party or family movie night, but then doesn’t really serve any purpose once that initial viewing is done.

One could argue the same could be said for any special features, and that’s true; however, usually you’re paying for the film and the bonus features are just that, a bonus! So while you may watch them just once, you still have the actual film to fall back on as the reason you’ve spent your money. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is 20 years old and extremely popular, so again, most fans already own the film in multiple formats and will have no need for this Magical Movie Mode unless they’re completionists, and new fans will probably want to pick up a version that has both the best version of the film visually, as well as the more abundant special features disc that offers more than this gimmicky release.

DVD Video and Audio Review:

The DVD picture is the same as previous DVD releases, and while it looks okay for the most part there are times when the picture looks a bit soft and it’s just not the ideal viewing experience with Blu-ray (which, to be fair, is also soft at times) and the 4K experience, which easily leads the pack. But if those options aren’t available, the DVD transfer does do the trick and is still an enjoyable experience. The darker scenes aren’t muddied, and the CGI works well also, so if you’re only able to watch the film on DVD then don’t stress too much.

The audio side of things sound nice, with the score and sound effects popping nicely but never really overpowering the dialogue. On the Magical Movie Mode disc the pop up sounds, and the commentary can’t be disabled, as they’re mixed right into the track, so if you just want to watch the movie that disc should be avoided entirely.

Special Features:

There are unfortunately – and somewhat bizarrely – no special features in this release. With the special features in other releases of the film often being recycled from the 2002 release, it seems somewhat odd to not just include them here in a third disc. When you’re asking fans to shell out another $15 for the film, the likely one-viewing Movie Mode experience just doesn’t cut it enough to warrant an entire release. At least if the older special features were included this could be an option for someone who may not own the film yet, but as it stands it just makes more sense to pick up an older one with better special features included.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Magical Movie Mode Edition). Directed by: Chris Columbus. Written by: Steve Kloves. Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman. Running time: 152 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: Aug. 17, 2021.

Tags: Alan Rickman, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Maggie Smith, Magical Movie Mode, Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, rupert grint

Blu-ray Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead

Blu-ray Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead

Brendan Campbell | August 10, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

Taylor Sheridan is one of today’s great storytellers with some masterful writing credits under his belt including Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River – which he also directed. Those Who Wish Me Dead sees Sheridan step behind the camera once more, and while this outing isn’t an overly memorable one and doesn’t compare to the top tier films of his that were just mentioned, it is a fun, often intense ride for the 100-minutes that it’s a part of your life.

The film stars Angelina Jolie as Hannah, a smokejumper who is having trouble dealing with mistakes she made during a jump that ended up costing another smokejumper and three young children their lives. After doing poorly on a psych evaluation given to her shortly after these events, Hannah is posted in a fire lookout tower deep in the heart of Park County, Montana. While out getting some air Hannah comes across a boy alone in the woods named Connor (Finn Little) who has just witnessed his father get murdered by a pair of assassins, Jack (Aiden Gillen) and Patrick Blackwell (Nicholas Hoult.)

Connor has information that his dad wrote down and passed along to him before being killed that is apparently damning to many people in power and the reason they were being chased. They were on their way to stay with Connor’s uncle Ethan (Jon Bernthal,) who is the Deputy Sheriff of this town, as well as Hannah’s ex-boyfriend, but were attacked on the road by the Blackwells before they arrived. Now it’s up to Hannah to get Connor back to town safely before they share the same fate as his father with the Blackwells hot on their trail.

The movie is based off the book of the same name by Michael Koryta and I have to believe that the book delves into things a bit better than the film – though Koryta did co-write the script, so maybe I’m wrong. There are a few things that have to be ignored so that the film can just be enjoyed as an intense action flick that comes on as strong as the wildfires within the film and burns through just as fast. The whole film takes place over the course of roughly 24-hours (well, after the initial opening scenes which seem to take place the day before) and that works to its advantage of keeping things tight and interesting despite the shortcomings.

One of the major things that has to be ignored is the fact that Connor’s dad, Owen (Jake Weber) is incredibly paranoid once he realizes that his boss was killed that morning and because he was the only other one that knew the incriminating evidence they were after that he and his son were likely next. His first instinct is to go seek refuge with his brother-in-law Ethan, which seems somewhat illogical since he says that the only safe thing that he can do with the information he has is to get it broadcast over the news because nobody else in power can be trusted with it.

If this is the case then why go on the run? Owen takes $10,000 out of his bank account and heads out with Connor on the long trek to Montana. Why wouldn’t he drive right over to the news station and talk to a reporter and get the story out there? I mean, if that was his plan when he arrived at Ethan’s then why spend all that time heading out there when there have to be dozens of news outlets on the way? Again, this may be explained better in the book, and you can make up your own excuses that Owen didn’t think that they’d be safe in Jacksonville with these killers after them, but you shouldn’t have to. If it is covered in the book then it should have been touched on here too with how pivotal it is to the plot.

Another thing is how lucky the Blackwells get at guessing where Owen and Connor are headed. Patrick stumbles upon a picture of Owen and Ethan on the wall of Owen’s house and they basically put all their eggs in the basket that there’s no question that’s where he’s headed. They even fly out there so that they can cut them off before they arrive. I know they’re professionals, but what if Owen did just go to a local station? Here they are flying out to Montana and Owen simply drove 30-minutes away and is spilling the beans while the Blackwells are still in the air chewing on peanuts.

These are things I usually don’t like to pick apart, but I feel like they do need to be mentioned because it makes things so convenient to the point where the movie loses some credibility because things are just happening so the movie can happen instead of for more logical reasons. But if you ignore those things and just kind of pretend that there’s reason behind those choices, the movie itself is a solid bit of fun thanks to Sheridan’s great directorial eye, as well as the strong performances by the actors involved.

Sheridan has set the film up so that, as he puts it, the world is a character in the movie. When Jack starts a forest fire to keep the locals busy while they’re hunting for Connor, the fire truly does become one of the film’s major antagonists and helps add to Hannah’s arc and having to deal with her past to try and survive in the present. They actually did set a contained, backlot built multi-acre forest on fire to capture the fantastic visuals of this living, breathing monster. These intense moments are elevated with some scarily accurate visual effects that make this fire feel like it has a personal vendetta against these characters who are trapped in its path.

Sheridan also doesn’t hold back when it comes to the violence in the film, but he also doesn’t glorify it. While there’s a lot happening that may not be viewed as overly realistic and is more there for pure entertainment value, the fight scenes are rather visceral, and Jolie isn’t afraid to get her hands – or entire body – dirty when it comes to going toe to toe with both the bad guys and the elements. Jolie is one who likes to be as involved as she can in her stunts according to the film’s stunt coordinator Wade Allen, so it’s nice to get to see her face up close during some of the crazier scenes in the film.

These are some of Those Who Wish Me Dead’s saving graces, and also that it doesn’t try to be bigger than it needs to be and it keeps its story fairly simple. This allows for the characters to each have their moments, for the action sequences to be fairly consistent and also gives the viewer less time to ponder some of the bigger questions that may otherwise cause the story to go up in smoke faster than the burning forest it takes place within.

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review

The film looks great across the board, though it’s not something that will push your TV to its limits at all. It’s based on a digital 2K intermediate, and there are some really fantastic looking fire scenes here, and while some of the background shots of the wooded areas within the tower were added in later, it’s not overly obvious or something that takes away from the film. There are a few CGI action moments that are noticeable and aren’t as strong as they could’ve been, but the more pivotal moments the viewer is invested in are handled well.

On the audio side of things we’ve got DTS-HD 5.1 and it sounds really, really good on all fronts. The action scenes come off suspenseful and in your face, and that’s exactly what you want when you’re supposed to feel as though you’re in this forest fire with these characters. The dialogue also comes through nicely, and the mix works well together, so this is a win on the audio transfer for the disc.

Special Features:

Making Those Who Wish Me Dead – This is the lone special feature on the disc and is just under 15-minutes in length. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie, how they chose locations, praising Sheridan as a storyteller, Jolie as an actress, and what was filmed on the backlot in sets they built and added to in post-production. It’s fairly simplistic and is basically a ‘better than nothing’ scenario as far as interest goes towards it.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Those Who Wish Me Dead. Directed by: Taylor Sheridan. Written by: Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt, Taylor Sheridan. Starring: Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Jon Bernthal, Aiden Gillen, Nicholas Hoult, Medina Senghore, Jake Weber. Running time: 100 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Aug. 3, 2021.

Tags: Aiden Gillen, angelina jolie, Finn Little, Jake Weber, Jon Bernthal, Medina Senghore, Nicholas Hoult, Taylor Sheridan, Those Who Wish Me Dead

4K Blu-ray Review: Super 8

4K Blu-ray Review: Super 8

Brendan Campbell | August 9, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews | No Comments

It’s been a decade since the J.J. Abrams nostalgia-fest entitled Super 8 hit theaters, and fans will be thrilled to know that it’s received a 4K remastering for its 10th anniversary. The film was Abrams third major picture, with his first being the giant blockbusters that were Mission: Impossible 3 and Star Trek. Super 8 tightens things up a bit and focuses more on ordinary characters who are placed in an extraordinary situation.

The film takes place in 1979 Ohio and focuses on a group of friends who are trying to get a movie made for an upcoming short film festival. The group are out filming one night at a small train station after midnight when a train is seen approaching in the distance. The film’s director, Charles (Riley Griffiths) gleefully screams, “Production value!” and races to get the scene filmed as the train flies by. As the scene is being filmed, Super 8’s lead protagonist Joe (Joel Courtney) notices a truck drive onto the tracks and steer towards the train. He screams for everyone to look out just as the truck and train collide and we get to witness one of the loudest, coolest train crashes in film history.

Joe hears loud banging coming from one of the railroad cars like something is trapped inside and looks over just in time to see the door fly off landing just a few feet away from where he stood. It turns out that the train belonged to the Air Force who are seen approaching the wreckage in full force. Alice (Elle Fanning), who drove the gang there, yells at them to get in the car so they can get away before they’re caught. The group collect the camera and their belongings, jump into the car and take off just as Colonel Nelec (Noah Emmerich) and his team arrive on scene. Even though our young heroes have escaped undetected, their town is about to become ground zero to mysterious events that all seem to lead back to the disaster they just witnessed.

The film’s story gives off nostalgic vibes that harken back to some fantastic movies such as E.T., Stand by Me, Close Encounters and The Goonies. That’s not to say that it takes something from each of those, or that one would compare it outright to any of them, but it’s definitely inspired by those films and Abrams never really shies away from that. At the same time though, Super 8 is its own film that has a great young cast who really carry it with ease. It’s hard to find child actors who can not only nail a role, but also carry an entire film but Courtney, Fanning and Griffiths – as well as the other members of the group, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, and Gabriel Basso – do just that.

There are a lot of emotional storylines that Abrams has woven into the story, and the ones with the children work a lot more than the ones with the adults. The film begins with an absolutely brilliant scene that shows that something terrible has happened without the need to show anything. We open inside of a steel mill, where an “Accident Free” sign is shown having its numbers reset to one. We then cut to a funeral receptions where the neighbours are looking out at Joe, who is alone on a swing outside, talking about how they’re not sure how he’ll get along without his mom being around. It’s incredibly effective and works so much better than having any sort of scene where Joe’s mom goes off to work, or we see the accident itself.

One of the things that’s held against the film is that it doesn’t really break any new ground, and while that may be true, it’s still a nice coming-of-age story that may not be as classic as Stand By Me, but very few films will be. Plus, Abrams has created a visual and atmospheric feast that’s accompanied by loads of suspense, mystery and explosive action that should appeal to audiences of double-digits and above. The highlight, however, truly is the young cast, who really do carry the film and make it a captivating journey from start to finish, even if it is a similar ride that we’ve been on before.

4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review

For those who have experienced Paramount’s 4K remasters in the past it should be no surprise that they’ve once again delivered a product worthy of upgrading to if you own the 2011 Blu-ray release. This is a movie that benefits greatly from looking like it’s taking place in a real town with real people, and this remastering does let Abrams style shine (and not just because of the 4K lens flares.) There’s a filmic quality that remains, though it’s endearing and never distracting. There’s a solid mix of daytime and nighttime scenes, but both are welcome as both look gorgeous here, with the night shoots coming through incredibly clean, with deep blacks, which are important in a film like this that’s trying to up the suspense through the unknown in the shadows.

The audio mix is also superb with its Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless track, and if you’ve ever wanted to test your speakers then the train crash scene is the perfect one to do it with. It’s incredibly loud, yet clear and incredibly intense. The score works beautifully alongside the dialogue and sound mixes throughout the film, and it works harmoniously with the 4K remastered footage.

Special Features:

Audio Commentary – We’ve got everyone behind the scenes that you would want to hear from on this track, which includes Abrams, Producer Bryan Burk, as well as Cinematographer Larry Fong. This trio delve into everything across the board that those interested in the filmmaking process of Super 8 would want to hear.

The Dream Behind Super 8 – This feature kicks off a string that can all be viewed in one “Play All” motion if you’ve got 90-minutes to invest. If not, you can chip away at them individually. This one is just over 16-minutes in length and focuses on Abrams, how he got into filmmaking and why making movies appealed to him from a young age. We also get to see how he was influenced by Steven Spielberg, as well as how his influences growing up made their way into Super 8.

The Search for New Faces – This feature is just under 18-minutes in length and is about the hiring of the child actors for the film, and how Abrams wanted to go the fairly unknown route when doing so. We get to see audition clips, as well as interviews with the actors. It’s a fun piece and the movie shows Abrams made the right call here.

Meet Joel Courtney – This is a just under 15-minute piece that centers on the film’s lead actor, showcasing how he got into acting, how he got the part, what it was like working on set and his experience working on the film.

Rediscovering Steel Town – This piece comes in at just over 18-minutes in length and focuses on the film’s shooting location of Weirton, West Virginia.

The Visitor Lives – This feature is just over 12-minutes in length and focuses on creating the creature in the film from concept to screen.

Scoring Super 8 – This featurette is a bit shorter in length, coming in at five-and-a-half minutes and focusing on the film’s extremely talented composer, Michael Giacchino.

Do You Believe in Magic? – The shortest of the featurettes comes in at four-and-a-half minutes and briefly focuses on Cinematographer Larry Fong, who is also a magician.

The 8mm Revolution – This feature is just over 8-minutes and talks about how influential 8mm films were to filmmakers of today, as well as a brief history on the now dormant format.

Deconstructing the Train Crash – Here we’ve got an interactive feature that lets viewers take a look at arguably the most memorable scene in the film. We learn more about all stages of production on the scene, and viewers can click through to learn about bits that they’d like to know more about.

Deleted Scenes – There are 13-minutes of deleted scenes to be found here if interested.

Paramount Pictures Presents Super 8. Written & Directed by: J.J. Abrams. Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Gabriel Basso, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Glynn Turman, Joel McKinnon Miller. Running time: 112 minutes. Rating: PG. 4K Blu-ray Released: May 25, 2021.

Tags: Elle Fanning, Gabriel Basso, Glynn Turman, J.J. Abrams, Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Noah Emmerich, Riley Griffiths, Ron Eldard, Ryan Lee, Steven Spielberg, Zach Mills

4K Blu-ray Review: A Quiet Place Part II Steelbook

4K Blu-ray Review: A Quiet Place Part II Steelbook

Brendan Campbell | August 2, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

A Quiet Place Part II picks up immediately where the 2018 surprise hit A Quiet Place leaves off, with Evelyn (Emily Blunt), Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) trying to figure out their next move after their home was attacked and their husband/father, Lee (John Krasinski), was killed by alien creatures that have attacked the earth. Actually, that’s not entirely true, as the film begins with a flashback to “Day 1” of the alien invasion, where we actually get to see the small town the Abbott family lives in, and how everything went to hell almost immediately once these creatures landed on earth.

It’s a nice introduction to the movie that eases viewers into things instead of picking up right in dead silence where we left our protagonists. The craziness of getting to watch these aliens, who hunt by using their acute sense of hearing to track their prey, show up in a bustling little town and just slice and dice people left and right also sets the tone for the still quiet, but also a lot noisier, much more action packed sequel that we’re about to witness. The best comparison would be the change in atmosphere in going from Alien to Aliens, where things are still incredibly intense the second time around, but the focus is on raising the stakes – and also the amount that you see the creatures who are no longer regulated to the shadows in order to be scary.

This can sometimes be a risk with this type of horror, sci-fi, suspense film, as the air of mystery surrounding the creatures can sometimes be what makes them so effective in their role. Once you take that away and constantly show them on screen you run the risk of having them lose their power over commanding fear from the audience, and in turn, the movie suffers. Luckily, Krasinski – who once again takes his place behind the camera in the director’s chair – knows how to handle things and much like the Xenomorphs remained fearsome foes in Aliens, these unnamed lethal hunters of sound do the same.

So after the brief flashback we jump back to where the last film left off, and the Abbott family is trying to figure out their next move. Now, some things will need to be forgiven or looked over or else you could really just pick apart both films if you really wanted to. The first film was always meant to stand alone, so when it became a big hit and a sequel was put on the table then just how to go about doing that properly had to be figured out.

Krasinski also takes on the role of the lone writer this time out and while the film still has plenty of horror and suspense, it’s also much more focused on quick pacing and upping the action as well. A Quiet Place Part II adds intriguing scenarios that allow for these killing machines to remain on screen a lot longer, and to really showcase the damage they can cause when left unchecked. It’s a great way to give both films their own individual feel, while also making them feel perfectly in sync. Had Krasinski just played it safe and had the family move to a new location and again, simply remained as quiet as possible in order to survive, it’d just feel like a cash grab, while this film doesn’t.

At the end of the first film we see the creatures charging towards the Abbott household after the final confrontation, and it cuts to black after Evelyn cocks her shotgun as they’ve figured out how to kill these creatures. This allowed the film to end on a note where we at least knew the family could make a last stand if we never saw them again. With the making of this sequel, the film backtracks ever so slightly and the creatures are no longer all charging at the home. It’s quiet and the family is now gathering a few needed things in order to move on.

Regan heads up to the top of the grain bin where her dad lit the fire to allow their neighbours to know there was still life out there, and the neighbours reciprocated in kind. This time, however, when Regan lights the fire only one fire is lit in the distance. Did the other neighbours die? It’s unclear, but the Abbott family now has a direction to head in as they silently move on from their once safe haven that is now in tatters.

Their new destination also introduces us to the best addition the sequel could’ve asked for in Cillian Murphy, who plays Emmett. We’re briefly introduced to Emmett in the opening scene of the film, back when things were normal; but like everyone, he’s been through a lot over the past year and is a changed man with not a lot of hope left. Murphy is fantastic and his chemistry with everyone is completely natural. He’s the perfect addition to counter the loss of Lee because even though they were friends when the world was okay, Emmett has been through a lot more trauma than Lee and his lack of hope gives the character something to build off of instead of simply replacing one father figure with another.

Regan also takes on a stronger role in the absence of her father, and now that she knows how to hurt these creatures she wants to share it with others so they can fight back. So when Regan goes off on a mission to find other survivors to pass along this information, Evelyn pleads with Emmett to go rescue her and bring her back safe. Simmonds and Murphy play off of one another wonderfully and were a pairing I wanted to see more of. With Regan and Emmett being out in the open it allowed for the potential to build upon this new world in a larger scope, outside of the single location we’d remained in throughout the first film. Instead it felt like the surface to their dynamic and chemistry was barely scratched due to time spent elsewhere.

That elsewhere is with Marcus and Evelyn, who have to deal with a creature attacking once again because Marcus couldn’t stay put when Evelyn went out for supplies. This setup does lead to a number of awesome action sequences and Blunt getting to be a badass and I’m all for more of that, I just really wished some more time was spent with Regan and Emmett. The film is 97-minutes, but the time flies by. I know pacing in a film like this is key, but give me an extra 10-15 minutes of those two traversing the land and dealing with both new and old threats and I’d be thrilled.

If anything, to say that I only want more of everything is praise to this terrifying world that Krasinski has created here and the characters these actors have brought to life. The intensity is high throughout A Quiet Place Part II, and the way it plays makes it feel like the second chapter in a three part tale. Now in saying that it must be noted that like the first film A Quiet Place Part II works just fine without another movie to follow it up; however, it just feels like there’s at least one more story to tell here and if a third film does get announced I’ll be anything but quiet when it comes to my excitement towards it.

A Quiet Place Part II also comes with a beautiful looking Steelbook for fans to enjoy. It’s simple, yet incredibly effective in design, with a case that’s a blood red with darker, blackish tones around the edges. It’s a great look that works so much better than if the case had simply been a flat blood red. We’ve also got an overhead shot of the Abbott family taking those fateful steps off of the white sand and into the unknown coming vertically down the cover alongside the film’s title.

The back continues the artistic brilliance, with the Abbott family running through the forest, but the trees are actually soundwaves, giving it such a great sense of the sounds being made, and it gives off a sense of dread just by looking at it because we know what’s lurking just around the corner. The soundwaves are all black, as are the outlines of the Abbotts, and the blood red continues on from the front for a nice, consistent look.

On the inside we have an artist rendition of Regan embarking on her journey to find other survivors on one side, and the other side is the darkness of the woods and world she’s heading towards. I almost expected to see the creatures here with how much they’re shown in the film, but I appreciate Regan getting showcased with her much more prominent role in the sequel.

4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review

A Quiet Place Part II looks wonderful in this 4K transfer, be it night or day, and the film has its share of both. The 2160p/Dolby Vision visuals truly shine here, with rich blacks and stunning whites depending on what the scene calls for. There are a number of scenes inside Emmett’s bunker where bits of light are shining through, and they wonderfully highlight the characters while the shadows remain deep, with no signs of muddiness or bleeding.

Then we’ve got the Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which a film like this can live and die from. Sound is vital to all movies, but with one like A Quiet Place Part II it’s taken to another level, as the silence is just as important as the small sounds that trigger tension, and the superb score that helps carry the story forward in between the extremes.

Special Features:

Director’s Diary: Filming with John Krasinski – This feature comes in at just under 10-minutes in length and focuses on how the sequel came to be, the steps taken to build upon the original, the various locations the film is shot in, as well as post-production. It’s a fun watch, but also something you wish there was more of. This is a movie where a commentary track would’ve been great.

Pulling Back the Curtain – This is a 4-minute featurette that touches on the story, as well as the creatures and how they have a more visual role this time around.

Regan’s Journey – This featurette is just over 6-minutes in length and talks about Regan as a character, how she’s grown since the first film and how she continues to do so in the sequel.

Surviving the Marina – This is a 5-minute feature that takes a look behind-the-scenes at this crazy action scene. A really great scene that just underlined how much I wanted more Regan and Emmett.

Detectable Disturbance: Visual Effects and Sound Design – This is an eight-and-a-half minute feature that focuses on the, you guessed it, visual effects and sound design within the film. It’s a fun feature that fans will enjoy.

Paramount Pictures Presents A Quiet Place Part II. Written & Directed by: John Krasinski. Starring: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Cillian Murphy, Noah Jupe, John Krasinski, Djimon Hounsou. Running time: 97-minutes. Rating: 14A. 4K Steelbook Blu-ray Released: July 27, 2021.

Tags: A Quiet Place, A Quiet Place Part 2, Cillian Murphy, Djimon Hounsou, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

4K Blu-ray Review: Mortal Kombat

4K Blu-ray Review: Mortal Kombat

Brendan Campbell | July 15, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

This is a review that I’m going to handle a little bit differently than I usually do, as I try to solely give my opinion on something and not let outside forces sway it one way or another, but here I’m going to knock up my score just a tad with the caveat that this is a movie that’s more for fans of the game that have been starving for any sort of cinematic content to do with Mortal Kombat, and in turn may be a bit more forgiving. I’ve been a fan of Mortal Kombat since I was a kid. I remember going to the arcade and playing the original, even though I was terrible. I remember there being a code I had to punch in on the Sega Genesis to turn the sweat a red colour because the blood had been disabled, and I was a big fan of the 1995 Mortal Kombat flick by Paul W.S. Anderson.

So when it was announced that we’d be getting a new Mortal Kombat film in 2021, and that it’d be rated R, I was excited. With films like The Raid, John Wick, 13 Assassins, Atomic Blonde, Upgrade and countless others, where the action is so crazy and over-the-top, and the fight choreography is so fluid and mesmerizing, how absolutely insane will an updated Mortal Kombat film be?! It turns out, not so much.

One of the biggest issues that Mortal Kombat faces is that it’s more worried about setting the stage for potential sequels than it is about making a solid first film. This has been an issue for a long while now, ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe really took off. Every studio wants to have their own universe to build a franchise off of; however, it’s not that easy. Universal proved that by taking the hugely popular Universal Monsters and trying to set up a Monster-verse by cramming loads of exposition into The Mummy instead of simply trying to make a good movie to build off of in the future.

If the first Iron Man film had Samuel L. Jackson show up in the middle of it and go on a giant rant about the Avengers, huge threats to the planet, and how important Tony was to it all the film would’ve suffered because of it. Instead, Marvel focused on making a strong first film and while small seeds would be planted that the potential MCU could grow from, it didn’t hinder the story being told and a sequel didn’t have to happen to make sense of it all because the movie stood on its own as should always be the case when introducing a potential franchise.

Unfortunately, Mortal Kombat follows the same route of just assuming that there will be sequels, as co-writer Greg Russo said he viewed this reboot as a trilogy, and this film was made to set up the inevitable tournament that would come in the second film. Well, that’s just a ridiculous way to approach a series unless you’ve somehow figured out a way to properly make this film work without the main thing that people expect from anything Mortal Kombat. It turns out they didn’t.

The movie starts off nicely, back in 17th-century Japan, where a group of Lin Kuei assassins attack their rivals in the Shirai Ryu ninja clan. The leader of the Lin Kuei clan, Bi-Han (Joe Taslim) wants to end the bloodline of his nemesis, Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), and actually succeeds in doing so in an incredibly bloody and gory battle. Well, almost succeeds, as we learn that Hasashi’s baby daughter was hidden away just in time and lives on. Then we flash-forward to the present day and the film never really recovers.

We’re introduced to MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan,) who is down on his luck but has a loving wife and daughter, so life isn’t all bad. Oh, except he has odd visions of a mysterious ninja who fans will instantly recognize as Scorpion (aka Hanzo Hasashi from earlier in the film.) Cole also has a dragon mark on his chest, which he’s always just viewed as a birthmark; however, it turns out this is actually a marker that decides who is a champion in an upcoming Mortal Kombat tournament that occurs once every generation.

I won’t go through everything, as there’s just a lot of bloated story that’s crammed in without actual information that helps make sense of it. I mean, luckily Cole is an MMA fighter, but what if he was just a guy who works in an office like me? I’d be like, “Oh, this is a crazy birthmark. I mean, a dragon? That’s just lucky as far as birthmarks go!” But really I’m destined to have to defend the earth realm in Mortal Kombat? I instantly collapse to the floor in my apartment upon walking in the door if the elevator is down and I have to walk up the eight flights of stairs, so I don’t think I’d fair to well against the champions of multiple realms in battles to the death.

Like these marks are things you’re born with, or you take on if you kill the person who has one, which is pretty illogical seeing as accidents happen all the time. That means there’s pretty much no rhyme or reason to who ends up fighting in these tournaments by the time they roll around, which is beyond silly. Then there’s the fact that Cole is just an incredibly lame character, and instead of taking on the role of Scorpion like it seems he’s destined to do, he instead just gains the power of a golden sweater that absorbs punches really well. It’s so anticlimactic and makes the character that much more meaningless.

Yes, these chosen champions must come together and train for the upcoming tournament because if the Earthrealm loses this 10th tournament in a row, then Outworld (the evil realm) will take it over. So Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) brings everyone to a temple to train and unlock their arcana. You see, in the Mortal Kombat video games the characters do crazy things, like Kano can shoot a laser out of his eye, and Sonya Blade can fire off and manipulate projectiles made out of pink energy; however, that’d be silly for them to just be able to do, so instead they have to unlock it via training. I actually don’t mind the idea of arcana being some mystical thing that unlocks these powers for our heroes so that they can actually do crazy moves, or fire off magical projectiles or fireballs, as that fits into the world we know and gives a logical reason behind these humans being able to do these things.

But with that said, the way that arcana is used in the film is just so inconsistent and boring that it becomes frustrating. So much time is spent with these characters trying to unlock their powers that we don’t really care about anything that’s happening. I mean, that’s basically the movie: a group of heroes chosen to defend the earth get together to try and learn powers so they can do so. It’s the classic trope of heroes being beaten down repeatedly until the movie is almost over so now they have to turn it around just because. How did they all of a sudden get good enough to do something they couldn’t do twenty minutes earlier? Because the third act is underway, that’s how!

While it was cheesy in its own right, the 1995 version at least happened during the tournament. Our heroes Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade and Liu Kang were all brought to the tournament by Raiden to fight for earth and they learned about what Mortal Kombat was and why they were chosen as they went along. By no means does that mean that it couldn’t have been improved upon, but they introduced the audience to these characters all while having the tournament taking place and learning about the backstory of Mortal Kombat at the same time.

In this reboot, however, Cole is around just so the audience has someone “learning alongside them” about how things work in this universe. It’s a baffling decision as there are countless established and admired characters in the franchise and they could have chosen any one of them to take on this hero role in the same fashion. That alone would’ve already made the movie better and gotten fans behind the protagonist. Yet the main goal here was to set things up for a sequel that was never guaranteed instead of making the best stand-alone Mortal Kombat film (that automatically has built-in sequel potential!!!) that they could.

As mentioned at the start, I’ll say that this is an average action movie that will mainly appeal to fans of Mortal Kombat who just want to see the characters they love on the screen in any fashion. The fight scenes leave a lot to be desired, which is surprising since Director Simon McQuoid actually said he wanted these fights to be “the best fights that have ever been on film.” Story and characters aside, when you can’t even get the fight scenes right in a Mortal Kombat film, you’re doing something very wrong. There’s plenty of blood, guts and quite a few graphic fatalities, but this reboot just could have been – and should have been – so much more.

4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:

The movie looks really good, taking advantage of the 4K source material that the Blu-ray was taken from. There’s a lot going on, but it looks clean and clear throughout. There’s a darker tone to the entire film, and the picture reflects that well. There’s nothing that’s hard to see, even in the darkest of scenes, and when the powers are firing off and the battles are taking place, the colours pop – often in blood red.

The audio side of things sound equally good, with the disc delivering a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 experience. The dialogue can be tough to make out at times, depending on how your sound system is set up. It’s not the worst, but it’s something that would’ve been nice if it was handled when transferring the film to a home viewing setup. That said, it’s also not the worst, and it may not bother some at all, but it’s worth mentioning.

Special Features:

From Game to Screen – This is the big feature for fans to delve into that comes in at just under 22-minutes. Here we get to take a look at the history of the franchise and how it’s made its way to the big screen before, we hear from the cast and crew who share stories from filming and their own experiences playing the Mortal Kombat video games. It’s a fun little piece that makes you wish that the film had been stronger and the future brighter.

Mortal Kombat: Fan Favourite Characters – This feature comes in at just under 17-minutes in length and is actually 11 mini-featurettes that focus on various characters in the movie, including Cole, who has no right to be called a fan favourite ever. I feel bad that this seems like an attack on Tan, but it’s not! Just the character of Cole. Each of these pieces is about 90-seconds total, so they’re quick and easy to view.

Fight Koreography – Here’s a 9-minute feature that touches on the fight scenes and stunts in the film. We hear from stunt coordinator Kyle Gardiner, Director McQuoid, and fight choreography Chan Griffin here. Always fun to see behind-the-scenes, it’s just unfortunate that these ones don’t have memorable moments to cover.

Anatomy of a Scene – This 12-minute feature is also broken down into multiple parts. There are 7 featurettes here that are quick breakdowns of the making of various scenes from development all the way to the finished product. While I wasn’t a fan of the fights, it’s still interesting to see how certain parts came together.

Deleted Scenes – There are four deleted/extended scenes here for those who want some more.

Intro to the Krypt: Easter Eggs of Mortal Kombat – McQuoid takes fans through each of the many Easter eggs placed throughout the film. Honestly, at times I think they built parts of the story just so they could force in some of these instead of having them flow in naturally.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Mortal Kombat. Directed by: Simon McQuoid. Written by: Greg Russo, Dave Callaham. Starring: Lewis Tan, Joe Taslim, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Mehcad Brooks, Tadanobu Asano, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ludi Lin, Max Huang, Chin Han. Running time: 110 Minutes. Rating: R. Released on 4K Blu-ray: July. 13, 2021.

Tags: Hiroyuki Sanada, Jessica McNamee, Joe Taslim, Josh Lawson, Lewis Tan, Ludi Lin, Max Huang, Mehcad Brooks, Mortal Kombat, Tadanobu Asano

4K Blu-ray Review: My Fair Lady

4K Blu-ray Review: My Fair Lady

Brendan Campbell | July 14, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews | No Comments

My Fair Lady has arrived on 4K and this is just an absolutely stunning job done by Paramount! Sometimes when we get these remasters they’re handled well, but you can still tell the film is older because of a filmic quality that often can’t be helped. This doesn’t really hinder the films, as it’s often part of their charm; however, it’s still something noticeable when we’re seeing such high definition releases of endless classics. But My Fair Lady looks brand new in a great many cases, with almost shocking clarity right from the opening scene forward.

For those who are likely familiar with the name, but may not know what the film is about, My Fair Lady is a 1964 musical that’s adapted from the 1956 Lerner and Loewe stage musical, which was based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 stage play Pygmalion. The story follows Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), a young woman who sells flowers on the street who also brandishes a thick Cockney accent. While selling flowers one night Eliza is overheard by Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison), a scholar of phonetics, who takes an interest in the way she speaks. This leads to Higgins taking Eliza in after he makes a bet with fellow phonetics expert Colonel Hugh Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White) that he can not only fix Eliza’s speech, but also pass her off as a duchess at an embassy ball six months down the road.

What may be surprising to those who haven’t seen the film is just how witty the banter is between Eliza and Higgins, as well as a number of the songs that will have you laughing. It’s a lengthy film at just under three hours, but it’s enjoyable from start to finish because the story is so light and entertaining, even though there’s classism and other deeper themes touched on throughout.

There are lots of songs sung over the course of the film, so if you’re not a fan of musicals then this one isn’t for you. There are a few memorable songs, but regardless of whether you’re humming them after the film finishes or not they’re all relevant to the plot and help further it along. There’s only one song as the film reaches its third act where I felt that it just broke up the pacing a bit too much. That song is “Get Me to the Church on Time,” which is sung by Eliza’s father Alfred Doolittle (Stanley Holloway.) It’s a fun song and fantastically edited and entertaining; but I just felt that by that point in the story I was ready to see the movie start tying itself together and unlike the other songs in the movie it felt more tacked on than necessary. It’s not really a gripe as much as a personal observation on pacing, as it really is a well shot and choreographed number.

Most importantly to most will be how the film looks in this 4K version, and as mentioned above, it’s just a flawless presentation. The film is based off a play and many of the scenes, dialogue, choreography and musical numbers all come off as though they’re taking place on a huge stage with massive set pieces. It’s somewhat hard to describe, as technically they all are taking place on a sound stage, but you’ll understand when you see it and it’s truly glorious in scope and a perfect vibe and look for a movie like this. Everything looks absolutely stunning and this remastering is one that is likely to cause your jaw to drop whether you’ve seen the film dozens of times before or are a first time viewer.

The film won 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Harrison. None of this is surprising, especially when it comes to Harrison, who reprises his Tony award winning role from the stage play version. Harrison is superb and steals the show, though the entire cast is incredibly talented and share great chemistry. Hepburn is also top notch here, though credit must also be given to Marni Nixon who was dubbed over Hepburn’s actions for Eliza’s musical numbers.

If you’ve yet to see this film then do yourself a favour and do so through this fantastic 4K release, and if you already own the film on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray, well, consider this yet another dip in the Fair bucket, as Paramount really earned this purchase through meticulous restoration work that lead to My Fair Lady being one of the best looking 4K classic releases we’ve seen yet.

4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review

Paramount delivers an absolutely stunning 4K picture here, in gorgeous 2160p Dolby Vision. It’s just a superb restoration from 8K scans of the original 65mm elements, and it’s almost shocking at times that these older films can be brought back to life with such visual perfection to the point where some can be passed off as having been filmed yesterday. As mentioned throughout the review, the film just looks spectacular and words here can’t do it justice.

On the audio side of things we’ve got a 96K TrueHD 7.1 lossless audio soundtrack that matches up wonderfully to the restored picture, working hand in hand to create the best version of My Fair Lady that has ever hit the market. The musical numbers sound great, the dialogue is quick and clear, and the score and sound effects throughout are all mixed impeccably.

Special Features:

The extras are brought over from the 2015 50th Anniversary Blu-ray release of the film, so if you’ve watched them there then there’s no need to look for anything new here.

More Loverly Than Ever: The Making of My Fair Lady Then & Now – This is the heftiest feature to enjoy if you’re a fan, with Jeremy Brett looking back on some of the classic moments and songs found within the film, how it was received, the making of the film and history behind the story, plus how the restoration process saved the film before it was too late. A really fantastic watch for fans of the film.

1963 Production Kick-Off Dinner – This is a 23-minute feature that sees cast and crew giving interviews and speeches back at release. Its lower quality is reminiscent of the day, but it’s still likely going to be of interest for fans.

Los Angeles Premiere – This is a quick, five minute piece that showcases the cast showing up at the premiere of the film.

British Premiere – This is an even shorter featurette, coming in at just over 2-minutes in length, and shows the stars showing up at the British Premiere.

George Cukor Directs Baroness Bina Rothschild – This is a two-and-a-half-minute featurette that has the director trying to improve a performance. We hear it through audio and the visuals are stills.

Rex Harrison Radio Interview – A quick one-minute piece that sees the actor talk about the film.

Production Tests – Hyde-White showcases some tests from the 65mm film, giving insight into the tests and how it helped make the film as strong visually as it was. There are various tests including make-up, lighting and screen tests for your viewing pleasure.

The Story of a Lady – This is a five-minute featurette that looks at the play, how successful it was and the purchasing of the film rights, casting and so forth. It’s brief, but interesting.

Design For a Lady – This feature is just over 8-minutes in length and focuses on the production design, how it broke barriers, research that went into it, as well as words with Academy Award winning Costume Designer Cecil Beaton.

The Fairest Fair Lady – This feature is nine-and-a-half minutes long and is a vintage colour piece that touches on the production of the film.

Alternate Audrey Hepburn Vocals – We’ve got vocals from “Show Me,” and “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly.”

Comments on a Lady – Andrew Lloyd Webber and Martin Scorcese chime in on the classic.

Galleries – The usual production images found here for fans who want to take a look.

Trailers – There are a handful of trailers for the film to be viewed here if you so choose.

Rex Harrison BFI Honor – This is a two-minute featurette that sees the actor on set talking about his past works.

Rex Harrison Golden Globe Acceptance Speech – Pretty self-explanatory, and short, at 47-seconds.

Academy Awards Ceremony Highlights – Highlights from the big night for the film. It comes in at just over two-minutes in length.

Paramount Pictures Presents My Fair Lady. Directed by: George Cukor. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrington, Stanley Holloway, Wilfred Hyde-White. Running time: 170 Minutes. Rating: G. 4K Blu-ray Released: May 25, 2021.

Tags: Audrey Hepburn, My Fair Lady, Rex Harrington, Stanley Holloway

4K Blu-ray Review: Almost Famous (Limited Edition Steelbook)

4K Blu-ray Review: Almost Famous (Limited Edition Steelbook)

Brendan Campbell | July 14, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous has received the 4K treatment, and best of all so has the Bootleg Cut. The Bootleg Cut of the flick is 37-minutes longer than the Theatrical Cut, and while the theatrical cut was still fantastic, the Bootleg Cut is just mind-blowingly better. It’s like when you watch the Extended Editions of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, as there’s just no going back to the theatrical versions once you’ve seen all that’s added to the story with the extra time given. The Bootleg version just adds so much more depth to every character and situation throughout that it should be seen as the only version of the film that exists – and now it exists in glorious 4K.

Before we jump into the film we must talk about the equally glorious Limited Edition Steelbook that’s been released to mark the occasion. The cover showcases the beautiful and memorable Penny Lane (Kate Hudson,) one of the groupies of the fictional band Stillwater (though she’s coined the term “band aids,” as she and her friends care more about the music than sleeping with the band – though they still do that too.) It’s a perfect choice of a cover for the case, not only showcasing one of the leads of the film, but also framing and colouring it in such a way that it looks like it was an image taken with the same polaroid camera (okay, a really nice, advanced polaroid camera behind the scenes) that travels with the band throughout the film and captures various moments of their journey along the way.

On the back of the case we’ve got Penny’s cowboy boot wearing feet kicked up in the air, carefree as always, with the same colouring and busy tone of the front of the case. This allows for a nice symmetry between both cover and back, while also focusing on the backstage antics that are what the majority of the film is about. It’s simple, yet stylish and a win on both ends.

When we open up the case we get a look at the rest of the cast with a group shot of Stillwater, our protagonist William Miller (Patrick Fugit,) as well as Penny and the rest of the “band aids”. It’s a full colour shot that spans across both sides of the case, and the darker background is a perfect contrast to the exterior images. As a whole it’s just a beautiful Steelbook and the perfect addition to any collection.

The film itself looks wonderful, keeping its filmic beauty while also providing an incredibly sharp, rich image. And as mentioned before, both versions of the film received the 4K remastering, which is great, as sometimes Director’s Cuts or Extended Editions simply have a Blu-ray disc copy thrown in to pad things out; however, here, Paramount has covered all the bases for the movie’s 4K release for fans to enjoy.

For those who aren’t familiar, Almost Famous is about 15-year-old William Miller, who was accelerated through school by his overbearing, yet loving mother (played perfectly by Frances McDormand) so that he ended up being in high school when he was just eleven. His mother’s actions drove his sister away when she turned 18, so while hesitant to allow her son to branch off into the world of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, she’s as supportive as she can be when he gets an assignment from the local editor (played by the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman) of music magazine Cream to cover a Black Sabbath concert.

From there William is contacted by Rolling Stone magazine, who love his work and want to send him out on the road with Stillwater. Of course, Rolling Stone has no idea that William is only 15, and that’s a big part of where Crowe’s semi-autobiographical part mixes in, as he was hired on by Rolling Stone at 16 and sent on the road for a few weeks with a band. The two major players in the band are lead singer Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) and lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), who make up the majority of the drama within. It’s handled incredibly well by Crowe who doesn’t just make things stereotypical when it comes to feuding bandmates, and instead has a slow burn where the resentment the bandmates have with one another reaches various boiling points for one reason or another over the course of the film. It’s a gratifyingly natural feeling, and it’s just absolutely captivating storytelling.

The film takes place over a number of weeks, with William being pulled into this world he’s admired from afar for so long. He’s completely enamoured with Penny, though she’s mixed up with Russell and views William more as someone new to the fold that she’s taken under her wing in an attempt to show him the ropes of this very different lifestyle. As William tries to complete his writing task things with the band continue to come to a head, and the question of what angle William’s story may take also comes into question.

For me there are a few movies like this where it’s almost complete escapism while watching. All movies offer some form of escapism; however, this is just a world full of characters that are so easy to want to watch and learn more about that you don’t even feel like you’re watching a movie…you’re just experiencing things alongside them. There’s the basic story of William coming of age, entering a world that’s the complete opposite of what he was brought up in, while also trying to do right by both his job to deliver a proper article to Rolling Stone and this band that feels like he’s become a part of in some way; however, there’s just a lot more at play here than that and Crowe masterfully makes the viewer feel like they’re a part the whole ride.

Almost Famous just hits all the right emotional notes and is completely engrossing from start to finish. The Bootleg Cut is two hours and 42-minutes in length, but it’s just a joy to watch so unlike some films that overstay their welcome time is irrelevant with this one. It’s natural to say something like, “I wish it was even longer! It’s just so good!” but I honestly think that the Bootleg version is perfection across the board, runtime and all. Sure I’d love to see more of these characters, but in reality the story being told about each individual character, as well as them all as an ensemble is flawlessly crafted here to the point where there really is nothing left to say.

Well, there’s always something left to say, but in this case there’s just no need. What can be said is that this is a film that must be in your collection, and if you can get your hands on this Limited Edition 4K Steelbook, then there’s not many better ways to display it, and definitely no better way to view it.

4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review

The film has been “meticulously” remastered from a new 4K transfer under Crowe’s supervision, and is presented in 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision and HDR-10 – which looks superb. This isn’t a beyond-clean looking film, as it does keep its genuine filmic visuals; however, it’s not dirty or distracting or overly grainy (sans a couple of added scenes) and is the best the film has ever looked without question outside of the theater.

On the audio side of things we’ve got the DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack that has been transferred over from the previous release. It would’ve been nice to have gotten a complete overhaul on the audio side of things too, but it still comes off sounding great, the dialogue is clear, the music hits nicely when it should and the overall mix works harmoniously to never take you out of a scene.

Special Features:

Fans get a nice handful of new special features with this release, as well as a section entitled “Greatest Hits” for the features brought over from the previous Blu-ray release. First up we’ll delve into the new releases:

Filmmaker Focus – This is an 8-minute feature that sees Crowe looking back on his early years and the inspiration of the film, as well as why this project was so personal to him. He touches on a number of other things, including characters, shooting order and much more. Like most of the features, if you’re a fan of the film it’s worth checking out, even if it’s all broken up into multiple sittings.

Casting & Costumes – This is a 13-minute feature that takes a look at the costumes in the film, as well as audition tapes that Crowe speaks on when it comes to the casting process.

Rock School – This feature is just under 11-minutes in length and focuses on the training that the cast went through to portray Stillwater, as well as the writing process that brought the band’s songs to life.

Extended Scenes – There are 9-minutes of extended scenes to be found here, if you’re interested in seeing more.

Odds & Sods – There are almost 9-minutes of extra takes and various scenes found here.

Now we’ll delve into the extras that are carried over from the previous Blu-ray release:

Audio Commentary – This is a busy, yet fun and informative commentary that sees Crowe joined by various family and friends, speaking about the stories behind the film, his own life. There’s just loads here that fans will truly love and must give a listen to.

The Making of Almost Famous – This is a 25-minute feature that takes a deep dive into the making of the film, how it relates to Crowe’s real life experiences as well as bringing the film to life. There’s a lot here, but this is a spot where you really do want more.

Interview with Lester Bangs – This is a quick two-minute interview with the rock journalist.

Cameron Crowe’s Top Albums of 1973 – This is a 4-minute featurette that self-explanatorily sees Crowe talk about his top ten albums from that year.

Music Video – There’s a music video for “Fever Dog” by Stillwater for fans to enjoy.

Music Demo – This featurette comes in at just under 4-minutes and has the “Love Comes and Goes,” vocals by Nancy Wilson.

Rolling Stone Articles – There are seven Rolling Stone articles for fans to enjoy that focus on The Alman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison, and Joni Mitchell.

B-Sides – This is a five and a half minute featurette that is a quick behind-the-scenes piece by Crowe and Scott Martin that was shot during the filming of the movie.

Cleveland Concert – This is the full Stillwater concert that comes in at just under 16-minutes in length, and is a fun addition for fans to enjoy.

Small Time Blues – This one comes in at just under 3-minutes in length.

Stairway – This is a 12-minute scene that Crowe wanted to use Stairway to Heaven for, but permission wasn’t granted. So he has a marker for the viewer to set up the song themselves to play out the scene the way he’d wished it could’ve been done had he been able to use the song.

Script – This is a digital copy of the script.

Paramount Pictures Presents Almost Famous. Written & Directed by: Cameron Crowe. Starring: Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Frances McDormand, Zooey Deschanel, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jimmy Fallon. Running time: Theatrical: 122 Minutes/Bootleg Cut: 162 Minutes. Rating: 14A. 4K Steelbook Blu-ray Released: June 13, 2021.

Tags: Almost Famous, Anna Paquin, Billy Crudup, Fairuza Balk, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, Jimmy Fallon, Kate Hudson, Noah Taylor, Patrick Fugit, Philip Seymour Hoffman, zooey deschanel

Blu-ray Review: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Steelbook

Blu-ray Review: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Steelbook

Brendan Campbell | July 7, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

As we’ve now reached the milestone of it being 35 years since Ferris Bueller had his memorable day off, we’ve also reached a point where there’s a new generation that may not be overly familiar with the classic tale of a high school student who chooses to embrace life on a beautiful day, even if it means skipping out on school by not so honest means. Technology has also greatly advanced since this film was made, so while Ferris would no doubt still prefer to avoid the classroom, would he be able to avoid detection as successfully today? And with that thought in mind, does that also mean the film may not hold up as well as it did all those years ago? Before delving into that, let’s take a look at the awesome – very fitting – Steelbook that Paramount has graced fans with for this anniversary release!

The case is a beautiful white colour that matches the majority of posters and advertising that the film has had over the years. The front has Ferris leaning back inside Cameron’s father’s coveted car with that carefree look on his face that fans of the film are accustomed to at this point. It’s a simple, clean design that fits the movie and 35 year anniversary release perfectly.

Opening the case up and the design team smartly just continued on from the cover, with Ferris’ feet kicked up on the other side of the car with no need to add any lines or excess designs from the film. It helps create a really nice, fluid visual for the case that fans can be happy to add to their collections.

The inside captures the perfect image from the film, with Ferris, Cameron and Sloane at the museum. The image just works so well for the space within the case, and the amount going on within it is a nice juxtaposition to the case’s simpler exterior. As a whole, this is just a great Steelbook across the board, so kudos to the design team on the choices made.

Getting back to my initial question as to whether or not the film holds up just as well today, the answer is a resounding yes. While Ferris wouldn’t be able to dance on a float with the entire city of Chicago without having videos plastered all over social media, and while he wouldn’t be able to sneak into a fancy restaurant because the host could simply Google you to confirm you’re not “the Sausage King of Chicago,” none of that matters because it’s the meaning behind all these grand gestures that counts, and not the craziness itself.

Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is an incredibly smart, savvy high-school student who just doesn’t want to see a beautiful day go to waste. And for all his seemingly selfish intentions to use his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) to gain access to Cameron’s father’s 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder so that he, his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) can travel around town in style while doing whatever he wants, Ferris really just wants to have a big, memorable day with the people that he loves before they likely go their separate ways once college begins.

There’s also a lot of heart to the film, with Ferris clearly wanting Cameron to learn to stand on his own two feet so that he doesn’t unknowingly fall in love with the first woman who shows him any sort of attention, inevitably leading him to end up in a loveless marriage like the one’s his parents share. While Ferris explains this to the audience through some breaking of the fourth wall, it shows that while Ferris does want to avoid school and does want his perfect plan to avoid any and all detection from authority figures to go off without a hitch, above all he wants what’s best for his best friend.

I’ve recently reviewed some John Hughes film’s such as Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, which are based in a more realistic setting than Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ferris falls in line with other Hughes films such as Home Alone and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, where they’re almost larger than life in the world they create. The fact that throughout the film there’s a running joke to “Save Ferris,” as he starts a rumour that he may need a new kidney – even though he also says he’ll be fine by the weekend – is hilarious stuff. I mean, “Save Ferris” is even on the marquee at Wrigley Field. It’s ridiculous, but never feels out of place because that’s just the type of world the film takes place in.

So if you’re a fan of the film and a Steelbook collector then purchasing this is a no-brainer, as it’s just perfectly Bueller in its presentation. If you’ve yet to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off then know that you’re missing out on a film that’ll take you back to how life was in the mid-80s, where nobody had a cell phone out and computers were just emerging so social media wasn’t even a thought. It’s a blast from the past that still works perfectly today because it’s the story of a rebellious teen who’s out to beat the system and boredom that’s timeless.

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review

The film still looks good, and this 1080p transfer does the job of keeping the film looking fairly fresh throughout. While it’s the same visually as the Blu-ray release back in 2009, it still does the trick and is never overly aged or grainy to the point of distraction. It’s clear it’s a movie that was made 35 years ago, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The audio is also the same as its 2009 counterpart, which sounds great with its Dolby True HD 5.1 lossless track. The dialogue is clean and clear, the music cranks up nicely when it kicks in and the sound effects and overall mix just comes through really nicely. As a whole, if you have the previous Blu-ray release don’t expect anything new and know that this purchase is solely for the top notch Steelbook casing.

Special Features:

Getting the Class Together – This is a nearly 28-minute feature that sees the cast and various members of the crew looking back at the film. The piece has both more recent interviews (well, recent when these were released in 2009), as well as ones taken back closer to when the film was released. It’s a great piece that fans will definitely want to check out if you have yet to do so.

The Making of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – This is a feature that’s a bit over 15-minutes in length and has again, old school interviews mixed with ones of the characters looking back on their work retrospectively. Another fun feature for fans that delves into certain scenes and how they came together.

Who Is Ferris Bueller? – This piece is just over 9-minutes in length and sees the same cast and crew talk about what makes Ferris the type of character that’s stood the test of time, and why the film works so well because of him.

The World According to Ben Stein – This is an 11-minute feature that sees the actor talk about how Ferris has affected his life.

Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes – This is a 10-minute feature that’s a lot of fun. We get to see Broderick, Ruck, Sara and Jeffrey Jones all talking about making the film through old videos. All are great features that fans will really enjoy.

Paramount Pictures Presents Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Starring: Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones, Jennifer Grey, Cindy Pickett, Lyman Ward, Edie McClurg. Running time: 103 Minutes. Rating: PG. Steelbook Blu-ray Released: June 8, 2021.

Tags: Alan Ruck, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Jeffrey Jones, Jennifer Grey, Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara

Blu-ray Review: Pretty In Pink Steelbook

Blu-ray Review: Pretty In Pink Steelbook

Brendan Campbell | July 7, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews | No Comments

John Hughes films are a staple of the ‘80s, and a crazy number of the films he wrote have reached iconic status that still hold strong today. Hughes also has a number of movies that may have stood the test of time when it comes to recognition yet fall short in the memorable story department. The latter is where Pretty in Pink falls, as it does deliver the romcom staple of the shy/outcast girl who loves the popular guy, all while her best friend fawns over her but can’t bring himself to tell her how he feels, yet even though it felt like more of a foundation was being laid early on, it never truly builds any real story other than the expected clichés.

Known for pumping out script after script and passing them off to friends to direct if he couldn’t, Hughes passed this one along to Howard Deutch, choosing instead to take on a hands-on producer role for the film. Deutch does a solid job of capturing the right feeling for the movie, but it’s just that the story doesn’t evolve into anything noteworthy, despite the solid acting job by those involved. Before jumping into the film, let’s take a look at the reason for this release – the film’s brand new Steelbook casing.

There’s a nice, clean feel to this case, which is mostly black allowing for the bold lettering of the title to stand out alongside the film’s star, who is the lone character showcased throughout. The title of the film takes up almost the entire left side of the film and just looks perfect next to Andie. Her hair and pink sweater both pop, as does the word “Pink,” which is the only part of the title that has any colour. The artistic filter over Ringwald’s character suits the vibe of the film and as a whole the cover just captures the eye, which is exactly what one would hope a release would do.

The back of the case is also perfectly simple, with one of Andie’s quotes from the film placed stylistically down the center, the lettering all pink while the quotation marks remain white. On top of the quote is Andie’s hat, and it all really comes together nicely. This is the same sort of style used on the Some Kind of Wonderful Steelbook release, which makes them nice counterparts for any collection.

On the inside we’ve got a much more vibrant scene that finds Andie at work. It’s a rather busy location that contrasts the outer casing, but it works nicely. The decision to leave out Duckie and Blane is continuous throughout, but it is Andie’s movie so having her at the forefront of every side of this Steelbook makes complete sense.

Pretty in Pink was written for Molly Ringwald, who plays Andie, a poor girl that’s shunned by the elite half of her high school, which consists mainly of those with money. Andie’s best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) is also from her side of the tracks, and the two have been friends since childhood. Now unbeknownst to Andie, Duckie is in love with her and is trying to figure out the right way to tell her. A wrench is thrown into their friendship, however, when Andie’s crush, popular rich kid Blane (Andrew McCarthy,) asks her out.

The friendship between Andie and Duckie is one of the better aspects of the film, as the chemistry between Ringwald and Cryer feels real on a friend level. It was crazy to learn that the original ending for the film had Andie and Duckie getting together, as they have absolutely zero chemistry on a romantic level. Apparently Hughes wanted the theme of the film to be that true love conquers all because Duckie has loved her forever so his love is true. Hearing that is just so illogical that I’m surprised it got to the point where they actually had to go back and do a reshoot months later to film the ending as it is today over someone mentioning it while on set.

Well, Ringwald says she did bring it up on set, but it’s not like she had the sway to make them change the film. That only came when studio heads screened the movie and booed the ending. But she was right, clearly, when she said that Andie ending up with Duckie was like her ending up with her brother. You can’t say that true love is true love just because Duckie was infatuated with Andie. Sure he may have really loved her, but the fact that Andie shows zero interest in Duckie on that level at any point, and there’s no desire from the audience to see them end up together are all huge red flags that, again, I’m surprised were ignored so long.

The main issue with Pretty in Pink is that there are places they could’ve gone in the story to help build these characters, but instead they all feel fairly two-dimensional. Like Blane seems like a nice guy who really does like Andie; however, he’s constantly swayed by his smug friend, Steff (James Spader) to realize that he’s better than someone like her. And even if we’re staying on the cliché front, it would’ve been nice to see Blane stand up for Andie earlier on and them maybe he gets hurt by her later and he goes back to his friend to receive his “I told you so,” before ultimately realizing that he wants to fight for her and not listen to the arrogant nature that he’s been brought up in.

Instead everything is just coasted over. Their relationship seems to end faster than it begins, yet in classic high-school romcom fashion they’re both already in love with one another without much actual interaction. Heck, Andie tells her dad she loves him after their first really bad date. Then there’s Duckie who just turns into a dick to Andie when he finds out that Blane is in the picture. This can somewhat be chalked up to him being scorned; however, it comes off far too harsh when it was an obvious one-sided crush and his outbursts leave him unsympathetic to both Andie and more importantly, the audience.

The final act comes together okay, but it would’ve had a lot more impact if the rest of the story built up these three as stronger characters along the way. It’s unfortunate, as Ringwald, Cryer and McCarthy all work well together and it felt like there was a chance for a more substantial story to tell here that could’ve helped this land amongst the upper echelon of Hughes films. Instead Pretty in Pink feels like a paint-by-numbers flick that hits all the expected notes but is completely ordinary instead of anything extraordinary.

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review

This is a Steelbook release of the same Blu-ray that was put out in 2020, so for those who may not have picked it up yet and enjoy Steelbook cases, then this is a no-brainer. Paramount nails it yet again with their remastering process, delivering this one off of a 4K scan that shines above previous releases of the film. The picture is often incredibly clear, while still keeping that look of a movie from the ‘80s that fans love.

But everything looks great here, with loads of colours shining through, and the darker night scenes both indoor and out looking clean, crisp and zero cloudy or muddiness to distract from them. The new audio mix given to this release also helps elevate the film and the more popular scenes within it, such as Duckie’s lip syncing “Try A Little Tenderness” at Andie’s workplace in an attempt to woo her. Just a homerun across the board here for Paramount.

Special Features:

Filmmaker Focus: Howard Deutch on Pretty in Pink – This is a 7 and a half minute feature that sees Deutch talk about getting the call from Hughes about directing a movie he’d written and why he chose Pretty in Pink out of the two offered. He also talks about the filmmaking process, and also about working with Hughes, Ringwald and Cryer. It’s an interesting watch, especially if you’re a fan of Hughes’s work.

Isolated Score – Pretty self-explanatory, and fans of the musical side of the film will enjoy this new addition to this release.

The Lost Dance: Original Ending – This feature is just over 12-minutes long and if you’ve seen the movie, love it or hate it, this is worth watching. It sees Deutch, Ringwald, Cryer and McCarthy all talk about the major change to the ending that took place after an initial screening was greeted with boos at their original decision.

Paramount Pictures Presents Pretty in Pink. Directed by: Howard Deutch. Written by: John Hughes. Starring: Molly Ringwald, John Cryer, Andrew McCarthy, James Spader. Running time: 98 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray Steelbook: June 8, 2021.

Tags: Andrew McCarthy, Howard Deutch, John Cryer, Molly Ringwald, Pretty in Pink

Blu-ray Review: Some Kind Of Wonderful Steelbook

Blu-ray Review: Some Kind Of Wonderful Steelbook

Brendan Campbell | July 7, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews | No Comments

Some Kind of Wonderful receives the Steelbook treatment in a beautiful collector’s item that should please fans and newcomers alike. The case showcases the film’s trio of main characters in stylistic fashion, with the title of the film alongside them. Wonderful in the title is painted on, referencing the lead character Keith’s artistic dreams, and it looks really nice. There’s spatter from the blue paint on Keith’s shirt on the cover as well, which is a nice touch.

The back of the case follows the same style as the Pretty in Pink Steelbook release, where we have the film’s final quote taking up most of the back. It’s more sporadic than the Pretty in Pink quote, which makes sense and suits the film better. There’s some white paint spatter found here, and the word future is painted on in blue much like is found on the cover. There’s also the all-important diamond earrings placed nicely beside the quote, tying together a really simple, yet stylish package for this case.

On the inside we’ve got a great shot of the three stars of the film, which again fits perfectly with the movie. They could’ve taken a few scenes from the movie that would’ve worked, but it really works to just keep the focus on these characters and the black vibe that flows nicely throughout the entire Steelbook.

Some Kind of Wonderful is basically John Hughes’ spiritual successor to Pretty in Pink, which had been released only a year prior. In fact, it was only really written by Hughes because he wasn’t able to end Pretty in Pink the way he originally wanted after poor reviews from test audiences. If you’re not familiar, Pretty in Pink stars Molly Ringwald as Andie Walsh, an unpopular high school student who falls for the popular Blane (Andrew McCarthy,) much to the chagrin of her best friend Duckie (John Cryer) who is secretly in love with her. Hughes originally wanted Andie to end up with Duckie, but audiences didn’t believe it so the ending was reshot with Andie and Blane ending up together.

This didn’t sit well with Hughes and thus, Some Kind of Wonderful was born, where he changed around the sexes of the main characters, this time focusing on Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz,) an unpopular high school student who has a crush on the popular Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson,) much to the chagrin of his best friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) who has a secret crush on him. Sound familiar? What’s surprising is that I found Some Kind of Wonderful a lot more enjoyable than Pretty in Pink, and the characters and their predicaments – while similar to those in Pretty in Pink – to be much more relatable and easier to get behind and root for.

I found Pretty in Pink to be fairly generic, and paint-by-numbers Hughes, and while you’d think a carbon copy film he wrote just so he could get the ending he wanted would be even worse, every character involved (albeit after a major rewrite that changed the tone from comedic to more dramatic) actually grows a lot more than I thought those in Pretty in Pink did by the end. Plus, it would’ve just been illogical to have Andie and Duckie end up together because they had zero chemistry. Absolutely none! I completely understand the “is in love with his/her best friend but they’re in love with someone else” angle, but if the chemistry just isn’t there and the object of the admirer’s affection doesn’t ever even hint at feeling the same, then it just won’t work. Test audiences were right and Hughes, even though he created and wrote the characters, was wrong.

But in Some Kind of Wonderful it all works. The potential for Keith and Watts ending up together is there, even though Keith is enamoured with Amanda throughout the film. The chemistry between all three characters works, each have their own reasons for doing what they do and most important of all is that it all makes sense and actually feels right. Nothing is forced and as the film progresses the characters figure things out for themselves organically and that’s what Andie and Duckie never had and why it just didn’t work and why audiences rejected it.

The cast has great chemistry here, and it really helps elevate their characters. It was interesting to learn after watching the film that one of the more pivotal scenes which saw Watts teaching Keith how to kiss wasn’t actually in the original script and was written on the spot by Hughes when he felt that something was missing. It’s a great scene that’s of such great importance to the film that the movie actually wouldn’t have worked as well without it. It may have actually not worked at all, as it truly is vital and handled perfectly to drive things forward.

While Stoltz and Thompson are both great in their roles, Masterson really helps push the film to the next level. If you don’t root for Watts to end up happy then the film just falls flat, regardless of the outcome. Masterson adds layers to a character that could’ve easily just been the smitten best friend who can’t tell Keith how she feels, but instead there’s a lot more emotion to it.

What’s crazy is that Hughes and director Howard Deutch (who also directed Pretty in Pink) both wanted Ringwald to play the role of Watts, but she turned it down because she felt it was too much like Pretty in Pink. It’s somewhat baffling to me that both wanted her to play such a similar role (even though she would be the Duckie in this scenario) that close to the release of what is arguably the same story by the same two guys. Had Ringwald agreed I’m not sure the character of Watts would’ve resonated as strongly as it does thanks to Masterson, as this would’ve been the fourth time Ringwald was in a Hughes film in four years – often as the romantic lead. I feel as though it would’ve just come off as more of the same instead of something fresh albeit similar in tone.

So if you’re just discovering the John Hughes film library and may have been turned off by Pretty in Pink then I highly recommend giving Some Kind of Wonderful a chance, as I found it just works better as a film overall. That’s not to say Pretty in Pink is bad, it’s just that Some Kind of Wonderful tells the same kind of story that Pretty in Pink attempted to tell, only better. And if you’re already a Hughes fan or know someone who is, then look no further for the perfect gift, as this beautiful looking Steelbook of Some Kind of Wonderful certainly is just that.

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review

The 1080p video transfer of the film looks good and feels very of the age for when the film came out. I’m sure at some point we may see these films revisited in a complete 4K remaster, but for now Some Kind of Wonderful looks good, with a very filmic, inviting look to it. There’s plenty of the film that takes place at night, and the blacks look strong, not muddy, and as a whole it just comes together nicely allowing the viewer to just focus on the story and not worry about picture adjustments or trying to make out what’s happening.

The audio mix is really solid, delivered in 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, with great, clear dialogue that is balanced perfectly with the soundtrack, score and mix. The film is fairly straightforward in its presentation so there’s no crazy surround sound, but the random boosts from the score and Watts playing the drums are welcome when they happen.

Special Features:

Commentary – There’s a commentary on the disc with director Howard Deutch and Lea Thompson. The fun story here is that they met while filming this, and are to this day married. As a whole these two give some solid insight into the film for fans who want to get a bit more information about the making of.

Back to Wonderful – This is a 2021 interview with Deutch who goes into the history of his working on the film, how it initially hurt his relationship with Hughes, how working on Pretty in Pink helped him here and a bit more. It’s a brief featurette, but there’s a lot of fun info in here for fans that you may already know, but are now getting right from the source.

The Making of Some Kind of Wonderful – This is a featurette that’s just under 8-minutes in length and sees Deutch, Stoltz, Masterson and Thompson all looking back on the making of the film, how they all were brought on and various other stories. Again, brief but insightful for those who may or may not know certain things about how this film came to be.

Meet the Cast of Some Kind of Wonderful – This is a 13.5 minute feature that has interviews ranging from 1985 to 2006 with the same cast from above, as well as a few more added on. More stories are told and again, these are all just really solid features for fans to enjoy.

Kevin Bacon Interviews John Hughes – This is an 11-minute feature that sees Bacon interviewing Hughes about his writing style, his views on the high school hierarchy, the characters in the film and how his own personal experiences influence his writing. It’s a fun interview from back in the day, and quite fun to see Bacon in the chair firing off the questions.

Paramount Pictures Presents Some Kind of Wonderful. Starring: Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson, Craig Sheffer, John Ashton, Elias Koteas. Running time: 95 Minutes. Rating: PG. Steelbook Blu-ray Released: June 8, 2021.

Tags: Craig Sheffer, Elias Koteas, Eric Stoltz, John Ashton, Lea Thompson, Mary Stuart Masterson

Scream Factory Brings Halloween To 4K UHD

Scream Factory Brings Halloween To 4K UHD

Joe Corey | July 6, 2021 | Disc Announcements, News | No Comments

September 28, 2021 is the night he comes to your house in 4K UHD! That’s right, the first five films of the Michael Myers saga are getting a serious resolution upgrade to launch Spooky Season. These are the originals that had kids screaming in the theater at a man wearing a William Shatner mask. The movie elevated John Carpenter and Debra Hill as a director/producer team. It made Jamie Lee Curtis a scream queen. And gave Donald Pleasence an iconic horror role where he wasn’t the scariest person on the screen. The second film picks up right after the action ended in the original. Halloween III has nothing to do with the original film except it’s playing on the TV inside the film. This is a favorite of Darcy the Mail Girl on The Last Drive In with Joe Bob Briggs. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers brought back the killing machine. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers lets him get more revenge. And now all five will be coming out on 4K UHD with Blu-rays in the boxes. Here’s the press release from Scream Factory:

FIVE CLASSIC HALLOWEEN FILMS COME TRICK-OR-TREATING TO THE 4K UHD FORMAT IN NEW COLLECTOR’S EDITIONS

ON SEPTEMBER 28, 2021: HALLOWEEN (1978)
HALLOWEEN II (1981)
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH
HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS
HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS 

Los Angeles, CA – This Halloween will be like no other…. It’s coming to you in 4K UHD! It’s been 43 years since the John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween hit theaters and changed the horror genre forever. Now it – and its immediate sequels – can be experienced like never before as it is presented in the best video and audio quality ever. Scream Factory™ has announced 4K UHD releases of the first 5 Halloween films, marking the North American 4K UHD debut for Halloween II, III, 4 and 5. In an exciting nod to fans, Halloween (1978) (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD) features a return to the original camera negative for the first time! Each of these beloved, iconic films will be released in a limited-edition rigid slipcase, and will include a Blu-ray™ of the film as well as previously existing bonus features.
SCREAM FACTORY™ SITE EXCLUSIVE OFFERS:
In addition to the exciting 4K UHD releases, Scream Factory™ is offering several exclusive offers (while supplies last) to fans who order from shoutfactory.com.
1.     A poster featuring newly commissioned cover art from artist Joel Robinson included with each 4K UHD purchase:  Halloween (1978) (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD) + Postero  Halloween II (1981) (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD) + Postero  Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD) + Postero  Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD) + Postero  Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD) + Poster
2.     7” vinyl (from Sacred Bones Records) featuring newly recorded music from John Carpenter:  Halloween (1978) (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD) + Poster + 7″ Vinyl   Halloween II (1981) (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD) + Poster + 7″ Vinyl  Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD) + Poster + 7″ Vinyl
3.     An offer that contains all five films on 4K UHD, all five posters, and all three new 7” vinyl records:  Halloween 1-5 + 7″ Vinyl (3x) + Posters (5x)
4.     Finally, for the most fervent of Halloween fans, there is the ultimate offer. This contains all five films on 4K UHD, all five posters, and all three new 7” vinyl records — plus an exclusive limited edition set of five enamel pins in a collectible box (from our partners at Gutter Garbs):o  Halloween 1-5 + 7″ Vinyl (3x) + Posters (5x) + Enamel Pin Set 

SPECIAL FEATURES & SPECS: Please see below for full release information including special features.
Halloween 4K UHD + Blu-ray Collector’s Edition
On a black and unholy Halloween night years ago, little Michael Myers brutally slaughtered his sister in cold blood. For the last fifteen years, the people of Haddonfield have rested easily, knowing that Michael was safely locked away in a mental hospital … until tonight. Michael has escaped and he will soon return to the same quiet neighborhood to relive his grisly murder again. For this is a night of evil. Tonight is Halloween.
Special Features:DISC 1 (UHD):
NEW2021 4K Scan From The Original Negative, Approved By Cinematographer Dean Cundey
NEW Dolby Atmos Track
Audio Commentary With Co-Writer/Director John Carpenter And Actress Jamie Lee Curtis
Audio Commentary With Director Of Photography Dean Cundey, Editor Tommy Lee Wallace And Actor Nick Castle

DISC 2 (Blu-ray):NEW 2021 4K Scan From The Original Negative, Approved By Cinematographer Dean Cundey·      
NEW Dolby Atmos Track·       
Audio Commentary With John Carpenter And Jamie Lee Curtis·       
Audio Commentary With Dean Cundey, Tommy Lee Wallace And Nick Castle·       
“The Night She Came Home”·       
TV Version Footage·       
Theatrical Trailer·       
TV Spots·       
Radio Spots
DISC 3 (Blu-ray)
·       Original Color Timing Presentation·       
Vintage Interview With Producer Moustapha Akkad·      
 “Halloween: A Cut Above The Rest”·       
“Halloween Unmasked 2000”·      
Halloween – The Extended Cut In HD (TV Inserts Are In Standard Definition)·      
 Theatrical Trailer·       
TV Spots·       
Radio Spots
DISC 1 – 4K ULTRA HD: 2160p 4K Dolby Vision (2.35:1)/Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, 5.1, Original Mono
DISC 2 – BLU-RAY: 1080p High-Definition (2.35:1)/Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, 5.1, Original Mono
DISC 3 – BLU-RAY: 1080p High-Definition (2.35:1)/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Halloween II (1981) (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD)Picking up exactly where the first film left off, Halloween II  follows the same ill-fated characters as they encounter the knife-wielding maniac they left for dead in the first film. The inhuman Michael Myers is still very much alive and out for more revenge as he stalks the deserted halls of the Haddonfield hospital. As he gets closer to his main target, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) discovers the chilling mystery behind the crazed psychopath’s actions. Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, Halloween II is a spine-tingling dark ride into the scariest night of the year.

Special Features:
DISC 1 (UHD):NEW 2021 4K Scan From The Original Negative, Approved By Cinematographer Dean Cundey
NEW
2021 Dolby Atmos Track·       
Audio Commentary With Director Rick Rosenthal (Theatrical Version)·       
Audio Commentary With Stunt Coordinator Dick Warlock (Theatrical Version)

DISC 2 (Blu-Ray):
NEW 2021 4K Scan From The Original Negative, Approved By Cinematographer Dean Cundey·       
NEW 2021 Dolby Atmos Track·       
Audio Commentary With Director Rick Rosenthal (Theatrical Version)·       
Audio Commentary With Stunt Coordinator Dick Warlock (Theatrical Version)·      
 “The Nightmare Isn’t Over – The Making Of Halloween II” Featuring Rick Rosenthal, Dick Warlock, Composer Alan Howarth, Director Of Photography Dean Cundey, Actors Lance Guest And Leo Rossi, And More·       
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds Revisiting The Original Shooting Locations·       
Deleted Scenes With Optional Audio Commentary With Rick Rosenthal·       
Alternate Ending With Optional Audio Commentary With Rick Rosenthal·       
Still Gallery·       
Theatrical Trailer·       
TV and Radio Spots
DISC 3 (DVD)·       
Television Cut (in standard definition)·       
Film Script (DVD ROM)

DISC 1 – 4K ULTRA HD: 2160p Dolby Vision (2.35:1)/Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Stereo
DISC 2 – BLU-RAY: 1080p High-Definition (2.35:1)/Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, StereoDISC 3 – DVD: 4×3 Full Frame/Dolby Digital Mono

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD)
terrified toy salesman is mysteriously attacked. At the hospital, he babbles and clutches the year’s most popular Halloween costume, an eerie pumpkin mask. Suddenly, Doctor Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins, The Fog, Night Of The Creeps) finds himself thrust into a terrifying Halloween nightmare. Working with the salesman’s daughter, Ellie, Daniel traces the mask to the Silver Shamrock Novelties company and its founder, Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy, RoboCop). Ellie and Daniel uncover Cochran’s shocking Halloween plan and must stop him before trick-or-treaters across the country never come home in this terrifying thriller from writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace (Stephen King’s IT).

Special Features:DISC 1 (UHD):NEW 2021 4K Scan Of The Original Camera Negative, Approved By Cinematographer Dean Cundey
NEW 2021 Dolby Atmos Track·       
Audio Commentary With Director Tommy Lee Wallace·       
Audio Commentary With Actor Tom Atkins

DISC 2 (Blu-Ray):NEW 2021 4K Scan Of The Original Camera Negative, Approved By Cinematographer Dean CundeyNEW 
2021 Dolby Atmos Track·      
Audio Commentary With Tommy Lee Wallace·      
Audio Commentary With Tom Atkins·  
“Stand Alone: The Making Of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch” Featuring Tommy Lee Wallace, Actors Tom Atkins And Stacey Nelkin, Stunt Coordinator Dick Warlock, Director Of Photography Dean Cundey, And More·       
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: Revisiting The Original Shooting Locations With Host Sean Clark And Tommy Lee Wallace·       
Interview With Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Burman·       
Still Gallery·       
Theatrical Trailers·       
TV Spots·       
Radio Spots
DISC 1 – 4K ULTRA HD: 2160p Dolby Vision (2.35:1)/Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
DISC 2 – BLU RAY: 1080p High-Definition (2.35:1)/Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 

Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD)
He butchered 16 people trying to get to his sister. He was shot and incinerated, but still the entity that Dr. Sam Loomis (the legendary Donald Pleasence) calls “Evil on two legs” would not die. Tonight, Michael Myers has come home again … to kill! This time, Michael returns to Haddonfield for Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris, 2009’s Halloween II, The Last Boy Scout) – the orphaned daughter of Laurie Strode – and her babysitter Rachel (Ellie Cornell, Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers, House Of The Dead). Can Loomis stop Michael before the unholy slaughter reaches his innocent young niece?
Michael Pataki, Sasha Jenson and Kathleen Kinmont co-star in this smash sequel that marked the long-awaited return to the original storyline and remains infamous for its startling twist ending and graphic violence.

Special Features:
DISC 1 (UHD):·       NEW 2021 4K Scan Of The Original Camera Negative·       
NEW 2021 Dolby Atmos Track·       
Audio Commentary With Actors Ellie Cornell And Danielle Harris·       
Audio Commentary With Director Dwight H. Little And Author Justin Beahm

DISC 2 (Blu-Ray):·       
NEW 2021 4K Scan Of The Original Camera Negative·       
NEW 2021 Dolby Atmos Track·       
Audio Commentary With Ellie Cornell And Danielle Harris·       
Audio Commentary With Dwight H. Little And Justin Beahm·       
“The Making Of Halloween 4: Final Cut”·       
“The Making Of Halloween 4”·       
Theatrical Trailer·       
TV Spots·       
Still Gallery

DISC 1 – 4K ULTRA HD: 2160p Dolby Vision (1.85:1)/Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
DISC 2 – BLU-RAY: 1080p High-Definition (1.85:1)/Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 

Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (Collector’s Edition) (4K UHD)
Because Hell would not have him, Michael Myers survived the mine explosion thought to have killed him. One year later, his traumatized young niece Jamie (Danielle Harris, Rob Zombie’s Halloween) is horrified to discover she has a telepathic bond with her evil Uncle … and that Uncle Michael is on his way back to Haddonfield. But Dr. Loomis (the legendary Donald Pleasence) has a new plan to destroy The Boogey Man in his childhood home using Jamie as bait. Tonight, the carnage begins again: Michael Myers is back with a vengeance! Ellie Cornell and Beau Starr return for this hit sequel that features grisly gore by K.N.B. EFX Group (The Walking Dead, Army Of Darkness).

Special Features:DISC 1 (UHD):·       NEW 2021 4K Scan Of The Original Camera Negative·       
NEW 2021 Dolby Atmos Track·       
Audio Commentary With Actor Don Shanks·       
Audio Commentary With Director Dominique Othenin-Girard And Actors Danielle Harris And Jeffrey Landman

DISC 2 (Blu-ray):·       NEW 2021 4K Scan Of The Original Camera Negative·       
NEW 2021 Dolby Atmos Track·       
Audio Commentary With Don Shanks·       
Audio Commentary With Dominique Othenin-Girard, Danielle Harris And Jeffrey Landman·       
“Inside Halloween 5”·       
“The Making Of Halloween 5”·        
“On The Set: Behind-The-Scenes Footage”·       
Halloween 5 Promo·       
Theatrical Trailer·      
TV Spots

DISC 1 – 4K ULTRA HD: 2160p Dolby Vision (1.85:1)/Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
DISC 2 – BLU-RAY: 1080p High-Definition (1.85:1)/Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 
4K Ultra-HD with Dolby Vision HDR playback requires Dolby Vision-capable Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Player and Dolby Vision-capable 4K UHD Television.

About Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory, LLC is a leading multi-platform media company devoted to film and TV distribution, development, and production, as well as the preservation and revitalization of the very best in pop-culture entertainment. Founded by Richard Foos, Bob Emmer, and Garson Foos in 2003, Shout! owns and manages a large portfolio of films, contemporary and classic TV series, animation, and documentaries. The company’s creative acquisition mandate has established it as a leading independent distributor, with partners and properties including GKIDS, Sesame Street
, The Carol Burnett Show, The Johnny Carson Show, IFC Films, Stephen J. Cannell Productions, ITV Studios, Major League Baseball Productions, and many others. Shout! Factory Kids focuses on live-action and animated kids and family properties, and the company releases films and television shows in other genres under the Scream Factory and Shout Select imprints. Shout! develops, acquires and distributes new films via Shout! Studios, owns and operates libraries including Mystery Science Theater 3000 (in partnership with creator Joel Hodgson) and the Roger Corman New Horizon Pictures Library, and operates the acclaimed streaming service Shout! Factory TV. Shout! Factory is based in Los Angeles, California. For more on Shout! Factory, visit shoutfactory.com.

Tags: halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Carpenter, Scream Factory

DVD Review: Georgetown

DVD Review: Georgetown

Brendan Campbell | June 22, 2021 | DVD Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

Sometimes there are movies you watch simply to admire the performances within, and Georgetown is one of those movies. The film is based off true events; however, for those who may not be aware, when a movie says that it simply means that something similar to the story happened and creative liberties were taken from there. In the case of Georgetown the script is based off of the New York Times magazine article, “The Worst Marriage in Georgetown,” which was about a 91-year old Washington socialite named Viola Herms Drath who married a man 44-years younger and was killed at the age of 91.

The film stars Christoph Waltz, Vanessa Redgrave and Annette Bening, and each give strong performances here that help keep the film interesting. That’s not to say that the story itself is boring, because it’s not; it’s just that the way it’s presented is less captivating than was likely anticipated. The film follows Ulrich Mott (Waltz), an ambitious social climber who is also a master at the art of lying and using it to get what he needs. It’s unclear whether Mott believes some of his own lies, but he certainly does take them on as though they’re true – such as constantly wearing the uniform of a Brigadier General in the Iraqi Army after he said he was given the rank.

The movie begins with Mott already married to 91 year-old socialite Elsa Breht (Redgrave), and after a brief tiff Mott goes on a walk to smoke his cigar (in full Brigadier uniform.) The following day Mott is being interviewed by police as he found the body of his wife the night before upon returning home from his walk. When they leave he turns to Elsa’s daughter Amanda (Bening,) who was in the room with them and says that there will be a time to grieve but for now he must get to work in bringing to justice the person who murdered his wife.

We then jump back in time and that’s how the film presents itself moving forward, as we go back to when Mott first met Elsa, and how he lied his way into her life, and we return to the present day where Elsa’s death has been declared a homicide and Mott has been arrested and put on trial for her murder. So we go back and forth learning about how Mott climbed the social ladder in Washington and into much crazier scenarios while also watching Mott smooth talk his way through the trial, constantly ridiculing his appointed lawyers and not understanding how he’s the prime suspect when the true killer is clearly still on the loose.

Waltz is so good in the role that he does keep things engaging when it comes to wanting to see what Mott may do next, but that can only hold a film for so long. His chemistry with Redgrave is also superb, and the two really carry the majority of the film to a level that lesser actors just wouldn’t have been able to do. Waltz is pulling double duty this time around, as Georgetown is his directorial debut. It’s clear that Waltz’s time as an actor has helped him gain an understanding of how to construct a scene, as he truly does know how to keep things captivating when there’s nothing but dialogue to work with, and it’ll be great to see his future work behind the camera when he has stronger materials to work with.

One of the big issues is that as the film heads towards its climax we’ve been groomed from the start to know that Mott is a pathological liar, so when various reveals begin to present themselves in a way that feels as though we, as an audience, should be as shocked by them as most were at the end of The Sixth Sense…well, it’s less surprise and more a mundane, “Well, yeah…” response that they’re met with.

It also doesn’t help that after following Mott on his journey up the social ladder in Washington that the film ends rather abruptly. It feels as though the story was only interesting enough to tell when Waltz was able to showcase his fantastic acting skills while weaving together all the lies that Mott told, and once that had run its course there was no real regard for taking even a few minutes to properly touch on any comeuppance Mott may face. There’s a way to take this embellished, fictional take based on true events and add the levels needed to take it to the next level, but that just isn’t the film that was made here. Instead, Georgetown is a film that’s recommended if you’re a fan of the actors involved because they truly do deliver – I only wish the story itself could’ve done the same.

Video and Audio Review:

The picture transfer looks good as a whole here, with the picture looking as sharp as one could hope for throughout. There are plenty of night scenes, and some darker scenes in secluded rooms and yet the blacks never look crushed or muddy, which is a big plus. As a whole the picture just looks nice and clean throughout, never distracting and never something to pull attention away from the performances at hand where the focus should always be.

On the audio side of things the film sounds strong on all fronts for a character driven piece like this. The score shines through nicely, and the dialogue is also clean and easy to distinguish thanks to a solid overall sound mix.

Special Features:

There are no special features to be found on the disc, which is somewhat unfortunate. It would’ve been nice to have had a commentary by Waltz, but at the same time it’s also understandable that sometimes these things just aren’t meant to be.

Paramount Pictures Presents Georgetown. Directed by: C. Waltz. Written by: David Auburn. Starring: Christoph Waltz, Vanessa Redgrave, Annette Bening. Running time: 99 Minutes. Rating: 14A. DVD Released: June 22, 2021.

Tags: annette bening, Christoph Waltz, Georgetown, vanessa redgrave

4K Blu-ray Review: Godzilla vs. Kong

4K Blu-ray Review: Godzilla vs. Kong

Brendan Campbell | June 14, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

I have to start this by saying that I’m absolutely thrilled that the MonsterVerse was able to get to the point where we’re able to witness the climactic battle between Godzilla and King Kong, because after the dip in box office with Godzilla: King of the Monsters I was worried it may end there.

Now I absolutely loved King of the Monsters, as well as Kong: Skull Island. Both of those films are just an absolute blast that deliver all sorts of fantastic Kaiju mayhem. I also enjoyed the reboot that kick-started the whole MonsterVerse back in 2014 with Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (however, upon revisiting that one it’s definitely frustrating to be teased with Godzilla time and time again, mainly in the background, while the humans – and fairly uninteresting ones, at that – take center stage); but despite what Kong would have you believe, it’s the box office that’s king.

While it’s unclear if it was the “fool me once” saying that caused audiences to be hesitant about showing up for a Godzilla sequel, the fact remains that King of the Monsters didn’t open as strongly as the studio would’ve liked. That was frustrating to me as a fan of the character and the film, so needless to say I was relieved to see that work was already underway on Godzilla vs. Kong and that even a weaker showing at the box office for its predecessor wasn’t going to stop it from being made. Flash forward to 2021, and does Godzilla vs. Kong live up to all a Kaiju-lover would hope for in a battle of these two titans? Oh, hell yeah.

Godzilla vs. Kong is an absolute atomic blast. Director Adam Wingard delivers on all fronts, as it’s clear he knows the audience is there to watch these two trade punches and he doesn’t hold back. There are three solid bouts involving Kong and Godzilla, two of which see the two go at it without holding anything back. I avoid movie trailers, so I had no idea that the first battle between these two beasts would take place in the middle of the ocean. I was just sitting there with my mouth aghast as Godzilla made his way through the water towards a fleet of battleships, one of which had Kong chained up on board. What? There’s no way they’re going to do this. Oh my god, they’re going to do this…was basically my thought process right before Godzilla breached the water and the fight was on.

It. Was. Awesome. If that was the only time the two fought I’d still argue that it was worth the price of admission. Everything about this ocean battle was just so well choreographed and designed perfectly, it was just incredibly memorable. Little did I know that their second bout would be just as awesome, thanks once again to a fantastic idea for a setting and the design behind it as the two duke it out, at night, in an incredibly heavily neon-lit Hong Kong. Absolutely beautiful. The third bout takes place in that same location during the day, and it’s fantastic in its own right, but the two one on one matches you’re paying to see are the ocean battle and the neon-lit Kong Kong match. The rest is just gravy…kick-ass Kaiju-sized gravy.

The MonsterVerse hasn’t shied away from involving humans into the mix, and that’s often where audiences are split. In 2014 we had the interesting Bryan Cranston unceremoniously killed early on in the film, leaving only his less intriguing son, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, to carry the film. I say this because most of the movie was about him, and any time Godzilla showed up they’d quickly cut away from him and back to Taylor-Johnson. It did build a bit of anticipation for when we finally got to see Godzilla unleash his wrath in the final act, but it was a lot of human drama to get there.

Then we jumped back to 1973 for Skull Island and got to see a Kong film take place right as the Vietnam War was coming to an end. This film also brought the organization Monarch to the forefront, and the cast was just full of top tier talent like Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly. This film nailed the mix of humans and giant monsters perfectly, and the all-star cast sure didn’t hurt. Godzilla: King of the Monsters continued to keep Monarch at center stage – led by Ken Watanabe – while also introducing the Russell family, played by Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown.

While all these films connect with one another from a story perspective, only a few characters continue on from film to film – and unfortunately due to the time period Skull Island took place, none of that cast could appear in these more present day sequels. Unfortunately that means by the time we’ve hit Godzilla vs. Kong, the only recognizable faces are on the side of Godzilla; however, the handling of its characters and how they land on sides is a very cool way for the film to handle the human characters.

While I’ll admit without question that the weakest parts of Godzilla vs. Kong stem from the human characters, I also understand that they have their parts to play and it is what it is. Could some of it have been handled better? Sure. Two teenagers and a conspiracy theorist just walking into a secret underground facility, boarding an underground monorail and being launched across the world to Hong Kong (where they arrive safely and exit the monorail again with no security issues) is ridiculous. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief greatly in a film like this, so just add some more guards that they have to sneak by, or have them figure out a way to take out a guard or two on their journey. To think that this hugely illegal, monster-breeding facility just has little to no security is weird.

That all said, I loved how both Kong and Godzilla had their supporters. As mentioned before, the previous cast from Kong may very likely all be dead from old-age at this point, so they’re off the board and Kong is the one who gets new friends this outing. Those friends are Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) and Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who is Ilene’s adopted daughter. Jia is also the last of the Iwi tribe from Skull Island, and because she’s deaf she’s created a bond with Kong and the two are able to communicate with one another. This group is set on discovering Hollow Earth and need Kong to lead them there; however, by taking Kong out of the protective barrier that surrounded Skull Island they know it’ll alert Godzilla to his presence as another Alpha monster and trigger a potential battle. It’s a risk they’re willing to take though, because the movie has to happen!

Over on Godzilla’s side, something caused the giant savior to attack an Apex Cybernetics facility and in doing so he also destroyed a large part of the city. This causes the world to turn on him and question as to whether or not he was ever there to help them. Monarch takes more of a backseat this film, with Mark Russell (Chandler) returning only in small bits, and his daughter, Madison (Brown) taking over as the human lead out to defend Godzilla. She knows that something must have caused Godzilla to do what he did and she’s out to prove his innocence.

This is great use of the human characters to have them both showcase Godzilla and Kong as the good guys, so no matter who you’re rooting for in the clash of the titans, you know that your guy is being treated with respect and isn’t just labeled the villain because the film needs one (it’s so much easier to have a generic, evil businessman anyway!) Again, that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of ridiculous things that happen thanks to the human characters, but this is the epitome of a summer popcorn blockbuster flick so that grants it some leniency on that front.

Godzilla vs. Kong delivered everything I was hoping for and more, which sounds cliché but that’s fine. I wanted to see these two trade blows, and Wingard made sure that when they did it was spectacular. The visual effects team should be proud, as they absolutely rocked it. Getting to watch these two behemoths beat the hell out of one another from all angles without any of it looking like it’s simply CGI and the environment reacting accordingly is astonishing. Honestly, there’s just so much fun to be had here that I can look past most of the human mishaps along the way. If you’ve yet to see this movie, do yourself a favour and put aside two hours, surround yourself with snacks and get ready for some monstrous fun.

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:

Godzilla vs. Kong on 4K is an absolutely gorgeous movie. This is the way you should aim to view it if you’ve yet to see it and it’s at all possible. The Blu-ray also looks wonderful, but the extra clarity and pop from 4K really compliments a film like this and showcases it in the way it was meant to be seen. It’s a 2160p, HDR-enhanced transfer that’s sourced from the original 4K intermediate, so it’s truly the theatrical experience placed into your living room. Just a superb transfer that receives the highest marks.

On the audio side there are just as many compliments to fire off, as the Dolby Atmos track is perfection. It also offers Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for those without access to Dolby Atmos, and again, if picture and sound ever mean anything to a movie-going experience, it’s a film like this where it matters most. Kudos to the team at Warner Bros. for delivering such a fantastic home theater experience with this film.

Special Features:

Audio Commentary – Director Adam Wingard is the lone commentator on this track and it works. While it’s always nice to get a mix of perspectives, Wingard is obviously the main decision maker with the film so his perspective on why certain technical choices were made, behind-the-scenes production stories as well as touching on all filmmaking aspects from the casting right down to editing is a great listen for fans of the film.

There are two features titled The God, which focuses on Godzilla, and The King, which focuses on King Kong. First up we have The God, which is broken up into two featurettes:

Godzilla Attacks – The first featurette hits six and a half minutes and sees various cast and crew members talking about Godzilla as a character, the history of the Kaiju as well as the part he plays in this film.

The Phenomenon of Gojira, King of the Monsters – This featurette comes in at just under 10-minutes and sees filmmaker Gareth Edwards come back, Wingard, writer Zach Shields, Sally Hawkins all touch on the legend of Godzilla, the franchise as a whole and their personal favourites.

The King is up next, and it’s broken up into four featurettes:

Kong Leaves Home – This is an 8-minute featurette that has some cast and crew talk about Kong the same way they did Godzilla, touching on his rich history, as well as the designs used in the film and his relationship with Jia in the film.

Kong Discovers Hollow Earth – This is another 8-minute featurette that showcases this film’s Hollow Earth and how it was created. There’s some fun, interesting bits to be learned here, and this would be a great place to have a potential sequel take place.

Behold Kong’s Temple – This is a 6-minute featurette that sees cast and crew talk about the scene where Kong finds the temple of his relatives, how it was built and what it means to Kong as a character.

The Evolution of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World – This is an eight and a half minute featurette that mirrors the Godzilla featurette and sees a wide assortment of people from the franchise talk about Kong, their thoughts on him and his history. These aren’t overly long featurettes, so they’re quick, fun, easy watches if you’re at all interested.

The Rise of Mecha-Godzilla – This is a 7-minute featurette that focuses on the big reveal of Mecha-Godzilla in the film, all about his origins and how bringing him to life in this modern film was met with certain challenges along the way.

The Battles – There are three featurettes in this piece that focus on three different battles in the film, breaking them down in different stages so audiences can see the concept art, pre-vis, and watch them build up to the final product. The three featurettes are broken up into the three battles between the titans:

Round One: Battle at Sea – This one is five minutes in length and focuses on my favourite battle in the movie.

Round Two: One Will Fall – This one is six minutes long and focuses on their beautiful fight in Hong Kong.

Titan Tag Team: The God and the King – Lastly we’ve got an 8-minute featurette that self-explanatorily showcases the teaming up of Kong and Godzilla against Mecha-Godzilla.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Godzilla vs. Kong. Directed by: Adam Wingard. Written by: Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein. Starring: Godzilla, King Kong, Millie Bobby Brown, Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Kyle Chandler, Kaylee Hottle, Julian Dennison. Running time: 113 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on 4K Blu-ray: June. 15, 2021.

Tags: Adam Wingard, Alexander Skarsgard, Godzilla vs Kong, King Kong, Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall

4K Blu-ray Review: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 2-Movie Collection

4K Blu-ray Review: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 2-Movie Collection

Brendan Campbell | June 14, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

It’s been 20 years since Lara Croft: Tomb Raider hit theaters and to celebrate Paramount is packaging together both the original film and its sequel in 4K, along with digital copies of both films. The Tomb Raider video game franchise is one of the more iconic gaming series out there, and 20 years ago there was really nobody better to play the dual-wielding archaeologist than Angelina Jolie. She brought everything fans could want to the table, as she really was a Lara Croft brought to life with how the character was designed at the time.

The first film, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is a fun, fairly well-paced popcorn flick that isn’t just a carbon copy of any previous story from the games, and instead just pays homage to them by including puzzle aspects, as well as some of Lara’s signature moves. The movie sees Lara in a race against the Illuminati to hunt down an artefact that allows the person who has it in their possession to control time. It’s a fine premise, though the story suffers from a lack of depth to the supporting cast, nor any true sense of stakes, as it never feels like the true power of this artefact is explored, and often everything is handed to the protagonist on a silver platter. I mean, I know Lara’s rich, but still!

The 4K is scanned from the original’s 35mm source, and while this leads to some grainier scenes than some may have hoped, none of them are distracting, and it simply adds that filmic feel that some may actually welcome intermixed with the cleaner image. There are some distracting directorial decisions to add awkward slow motion bits to some of the action sequences. These result in choppy looking movements that just don’t flow with the rest of the action and instead take the viewer out of the moment almost each and every time.

That said, I hadn’t seen this movie in, well, decades, so revisiting it now allows me to report that it’s a solid action flick that definitely shows its age in certain areas of production, but as a whole is still a fun watch for fans of Miss. Croft. It’s also fun when revisiting older movies like this and realizing actors were in it that may not have been as popular at the time. One of the supporting characters in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is Daniel Craig, who puts on an American accent to play rival archaeologist, Alex West. The two have fine chemistry, though as with most characters in the film, Alex is fairly two-dimensional and not overly memorable.

The sequel, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life is one that may be hit or miss, depending on the audience. This time Lara is in a race against evil businessman, Jonathan Reiss, to find Pandora’s Box. She’s joined by Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler,) who they try to add more layers to, but I never felt that they really worked, so some of the moments they thought would be more emotionally impactful simply weren’t.

They definitely set out to do things bigger in the sequel, and they succeeded for the most part when it comes to the action, and that’s really all some may care about. There are some great locations used, crazier stunts and a much larger cast of characters; however, it also suffers from how much it’s trying to do, and its almost two-hour runtime leads to some pacing issues with how the story is told. The film also has a different director, but still suffers from the same poorly timed slow motion moments that just come off awkward and choppy.

But as a whole the sequel’s 4K transfer is better, as it’s a 2160p transfer that’s upscaled from a 2K Mastered DI and it looks great consistently throughout. The slow motion bits look that much worse, but the film as a whole looks sharp, with clear details coming through thanks to the boost. Like its predecessor, The Cradle of Life also has a filmic look to it; however, it’s not a distracting amount, and as a whole it’s cleaner than the prior film.

So for fans of the original films who have yet to make the upgrade to 4K and want both movies in a convenient package then this is definitely the set to pick up. The movies look great, the audio transfer makes it sound like you’re in the theater with booming bass, and to put it bluntly: these flicks aren’t going to look or sound better in this current generation of tech. If you’re a newer fan to Tomb Raider and are looking to delve into the backlog of games and films then this is a great set to jump on board with, as it’s cheaper than picking up the films individually, as you get both the original and sequel on 4K for the price of one.

4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review

Both of these areas were touched upon in the review itself, but I’ll revisit them briefly here once again. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’s 4K is scanned from the original 35mm source, which gives the movie a more filmic appearance. While the grain can be slightly heavier in some scenes, it’s not unexpected and with the 4K upgrade, the image itself is clearer despite any grain. So as a whole this is the best the movie has looked for home viewing.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life sees its 4K transfer upscaled from a 2K Master DI, which gives it an overall better image than the original. That said, both do suffer from terrible directorial decisions to add meaningless and distracting slow motion moments to the films that only detract from the scenes they’re placed in and these are almost elevated in how bad they look with these 4K upgrades.

On the audio side of things we’ve got DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtracks, and both will blow you back in your seat quite a bit if you’re able to crank up your surround sound. Even when listening on a slightly above average level the action sequences are booming and the score just blasts right through.

Special Features:

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Audio Commentary – The lone bonus on the disc is the director’s audio commentary. Whether or not you want to learn more about why decisions were made or how important that is to you, the option is here.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life

Audio Commentary – Like its predecessor, The Cradle of Life only has a director’s commentary on the disc as far as special features go. Again, for those who want to learn a bit more about the filmmaking process for this movie, or the reason certain things were done the way they were, fire this one up!

Paramount Pictures Presents Lara Croft: Tomb Raider & Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life 2-Movie Collection. Starring: Angelina Jolie, Daniel Craig, Gerard Butler, Iain Glen, Djimon Hounsou, Ciarán Hinds. Running time: 100 Minutes & 117 Minutes. Rating: PG & 14A. 4K Blu-ray Collection Released: June 1, 2021.

Tags: angelina jolie, Daniel Craig, Gerard Butler, Lara Croft, Tomb Raider

Blu-ray Review: The Legend of Korra — The Complete Series (Limited Edition SteelBook)

Blu-ray Review: The Legend of Korra — The Complete Series (Limited Edition SteelBook)

Brendan Campbell | June 3, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

Fans of The Legend of Korra who may not yet own the series on Blu-ray may want to do so now, as Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment has released the complete series in gorgeous SteelBook fashion. Honestly, even if you do own the series already, this limited edition SteelBook collection is reason enough to upgrade – or the perfect gift for that Avatar fan in your life!

The collection comes in a box that has an opening in the middle of it, which showcases the cover of one of the SteelBooks. It’s a really eye-catching visual where instead of simply sliding it into your Blu-ray shelf like a book, it displays really nicely facing outward, so if it fits in with your decor, it’s a set that’d look great sitting on a shelf facing outward.

For those who aren’t familiar with the series, The Legend of Korra is a follow-up series to the immensely popular Avatar: The Last Airbender. The same co-creators of Avatar, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, returned to bring Korra to life, so their ability to build a world full of lively characters, witty dialogue, and fantastically addictive storytelling that made Avatar so popular also returns, making The Legend of Korra just as engaging, but also different in its own ways.

Unlike Avatar, which saw the story of Aang trying to harness the power of the Avatar to help put an end to The Hundred Year War over the course of three seasons (each of which are referred to as “Books” instead of seasons, with each episode being a chapter in said book,) The Legend of Korra instead tells different stories in each season (book.) Well, that’s not entirely true, as the series does tie together season to season, it just doesn’t depend on it. While Avatar: The Last Airbender would have been cut short and left fans hanging if they’d been cancelled after season 2, Korra would have been okay, as each of her tales have a beginning, middle and end over the course of each season.

The Legend of Korra picks up 70 years after The Last Airbender, and while you don’t have to have watched the original series to pick up on what’s happening here, it’s highly recommended. A lot has changed over the decades, the biggest of which is the passing of Aang. This isn’t a major shock or spoiler, as the only way a new Avatar can come to be is after the current one dies. So while it’s sad to say goodbye to Aang, Konietzko and DiMartino do a great job of making Korra someone fresh and likeable right out of the gate, as she’s not just a carbon copy Aang going through the same motions.

Korra is also 17 years old and when the show begins, which gives her a different perspective on life than Aang, who was only 12 when we first met him. This allows for some different storylines to come to life as Korra tries to figure out who she is as a person, as well as the Avatar. Speaking of, Korra also knows how to bend three of the four elements in episode one, so her journey to becoming the Avatar is right at the finish line instead of only just beginning.

It also doesn’t take long for Korra to meet the colourful cast of characters that will accompany on her journey over the course of the seasons ahead. As someone who loves The Last Airbender and every character within it, I wasn’t sure when beginning Korra whether or not lightning could strike twice; but with this being a show about mastering the elements I should’ve known that that wouldn’t be an issue, because strike twice it does. Much like Korra is different from Aang, her friends Mako, Bolin, and Asami differ from Katara, Sokka and Toph in ways that make them unique in their own right, so it never feels like we’re entering redundant storytelling.

The Legend of Korra also delves a lot deeper into the Avatar mythos, so fans of the world will get to learn a lot more about how the Avatar came to be, as well as why the Avatar’s bond with the spirit world is so strong. There’s just a lot to love here and much like The Last Airbender, I wish that both of the series could’ve just continued on in telling their tales. Luckily, for those interested, both series do continue on in comic book form, but the series themselves wrap up nicely before their adventures continue afterwards, which is huge when it comes to investing in Blu-ray sets like this.



Each of the seasons receive their own SteelBook, so four SteelBooks are to be found within the cardboard case. The image on the cover of the boxset is from Book 4: Balance, which showcases just how beautiful the art on these cases is. There’s also Book 1: Air, Book 2: Spirits, and Book 3: Change, each of which showcases Korra on the front doing one of the four types of bending she can do, while on the back there’s a moment that’s taken from the season that’s stylishly displayed. There’s a great, shimmering look to the image on the back, which compliments the more exact “taken from the show” styled look to the front of each case. Of course, the art style used in Avatar and Korra is spectacular, so you know if they’re releasing a limited edition SteelBook that it’s going to be good.

On the inside of each case we have the two discs per season, which are fastened in incredibly well, so those worried about damaged discs can fret not. The visuals on the inside are beautiful as well, such as Book 1: Air showcasing the statue of Aang that’s outside of Republic City in artistic fashion, or Book 2: Spirits, which has the waterfront view of Republic City, much like you see during the show’s credits. The spine of each case perfectly displays which book it is you’re reaching for in prominent fashion, which is always appreciated.

So if you’re a fan of The Legend of Korra, or know someone who is, I’d highly recommend picking up this beautiful SteelBook set, as it not only strikingly captures the art style of the show and displays it perfectly for all to see, it also holds the discs inside securely, which is of the utmost importance when it comes to keeping sets like this safe for the long haul.

Video and Audio:

The animation in this show is just a joy to look at, and unlike its predecessor, which was animated and shown in 4:3 full screen, The Legend of Korra is showcased in 16:9 which is awesome. While it wasn’t something that took away from The Last Airbender, it’s great to get to see these dynamic animations from corner to corner on a big screen TV. Without question picking up this series on Blu-ray is the best way to experience it both visually and on the audio front.

Speaking of, each season is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and sounds great. The score is fantastic throughout the whole series, and the sound effect mix is spot on. Add in the fantastic voice work and you’ve got an anime gem on your hands. There’s nothing to complain about on the audio front whatsoever, as every episode just sounds superb from start to finish.

Special Features

Book 1: Air Special Features:

Blu-ray Exclusive Audio Commentaries – This is the bread and butter of each disc’s special features, as each episode had its own commentary by co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko, and they’re randomly joined by various guests throughout. The guests include cast and crew members, and the commentaries are truly awesome for fans of the series to listen to. Everyone gets involved in delving into the episodes, and they’re just a blast to listen to. Highly recommended for all once you’ve finished watching the series.

Blu-ray Exclusive Animatics – Here’s a hefty 53-minute feature that sees the favourite animatics as chosen by the creators. These guys know how to make easy-to-watch special features, that’s for sure. They just delve into things in such fascinating ways that you can’t help but to become quickly engrossed in what they’re talking about.

The Making of a Legend: The Untold Story – Here’s the fluff piece of the special features, being a quick 6-minute featurette that sees the cast and crew poking fun at one another via puppets.

Book 2: Spirits Special Features:

Audio Commentaries – Much like Book 1, the commentaries are the main feature on Book 2 (this will be a trend moving forward.) Here we see the co-creators taking center stage as the voice actors sit this season out (they are joined by different crewmembers in various episodes, however.) While it’s always great to hear from all sides, DiMartino and Konietzko are so…they’re just so invested and listening to them talk about the show just puts a spotlight on how much they care about every aspect of it. So giving these two more time to delve into the reasons behind choices made in each episode is anything but a bad thing.

Scene Bending – Here’s a hefty storyboard feature that comes in at 81-minutes in length. Fans of how a show like this comes to life should enjoy seeing these early stage concepts in motion.

Inside the Book of Spirits – This is a 9-minute feature that sees DiMartino and Konietzko talking about how the storyline for season two came to be, and how certain major aspects of it didn’t even exist when the story was first coming together. The biggest complaint about this feature is that it’s not longer! I wanted to see some of the voice acting happening, and the animators matching things up, and the sound crew…I wanted to see it all! But it’s still fun to get this quick look into how a season comes together.

Kindred Spirits: Tenzin’s Family – This is a five minute featurette that briefly touches on the character of Tenzin, his relationship with his siblings and how that’s affected how he is around his own children. This isn’t anything major, but any features that delve into character so you can learn a bit more are always welcome.

Feuding Spirits: Korra’s Family – This is another quick five minute featurette that looks at Korra’s family, how she’s a heroine who actually has both parents still, while also touching on the introduction of her uncle and two cousins.

The Re-Telling of Korra’s Journey – This is a 34-minute “Previously on,” which is actually great to watch if you take some time between season two and three. It’ll help give you a nice refresher before jumping into the season to come.

Book 3: Change Special Features:

Audio Commentaries – I’ll sound like a broken record two more times in this review, as again, these are just a great listen and shouldn’t be missed by any fan. Once again the voice actors aren’t around, but once again that doesn’t really hurt the commentaries, even though it would’ve been nice to have had them be a part of it.

The Spirit of an Episode – This is a hefty feature that comes in at an hour and 7 minutes. It contains 13 behind-the-scenes featurettes that run at about five minutes each and focus on bringing the episodes to life, challenges met along the way, developing parts of the story as well as things that didn’t make the cut as the season progressed.

Book 4: Balance Special Features:

Audio Commentaries – The final discs contain more commentaries, some of which even have various voice actors return! Again, broken record, these aren’t to be missed, kudos to the team for giving such a treat to fans in the form of these fantastic commentaries throughout!

2014 Comic-Con Panel – This is a 35-minute feature that just has the 2014 New York Comic-Con Legend of Korra panel in its entirety. Lots of fun to watch for fans, especially if you haven’t been able to see any of these folks on a panel before.

The Making of a Legend: The Untold Story Part II – Here’s a throwback of sorts to the special features on the season one disc, where we get a fun little behind-the-scenes goof around with cast and crew.

Republic City Hustle – This is a 10-minute, 3-part animated short about Mako and Bolin’s childhood, which is a nice bonus.

Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment Presents The Legend of Korra: The Complete Series (Limited Editoin SteelBook Collection). Co-created by: Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. Starring: Janet Varney, David Faustino, P.J. Byrne, J.K. Simmons, Seychelle Gabriel. Rating: PG. Runntime: 1210 Minutes. Blu-ray Released: Mar. 16, 2021.

Tags: Avatar, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino, The Legend of Korra

Blu-ray Review: Tom & Jerry: The Movie

Blu-ray Review: Tom & Jerry: The Movie

Brendan Campbell | May 20, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

Tom and Jerry was a cartoon I watched growing up, but it wasn’t one that resonated with me to the point where I was excited to see that they were getting their own updated movie, nor was I worried that it’d somehow “ruin my childhood,” as some people like to cry out, as if that’s a thing any modern remake has the ability to somehow do. If anything, I was indifferent, as the recent Woody Woodpecker live-action/animated movie somewhat soured me to studios randomly grabbing characters from an old cartoon, slapping them into a modern-day setting and just assuming that making an entertaining movie isn’t required because audiences will be too blinded by nostalgia to notice.

Luckily, however, when it comes to Tom and Jerry: The Movie, entertainment comes first and it remains the top priority throughout the film’s surprisingly lengthy hour and 41 minute runtime. One thing that must be known is that the story is ridiculous and never really takes itself seriously, which was actually refreshing. It’s established rather quickly that the majority (if not all?) animals in this world are 2D animated, but they’re not viewed as animated…they’re just animals. People see Tom playing the piano in the park early on, and they gather around to listen, not surprised at all that he’s a cartoon. So, from here we know the rules of the world are that the slapstick comedy that Tom and Jerry are known for can happen in this world and it’s not something that would shock people. It’s just a part of how things are.

The gist of the story is that Jerry wants to find a place to live in New York, Tom wants to play the piano for a living, and Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) wants to find a job and her place in the world. Kayla is the lead human character in the story, and Chloë does a great job of bridging the gap between the humans in the film, and the animated characters, as she’s the main one who interacts with Tom and Jerry throughout. So after Jerry gets in a scuffle with Tom early on, causing Tom’s piano to get broken, Jerry seeks refuge from Tom’s wrath in the Royal Gate Hotel and decides to make it his home. Kayla has just procured herself a temporary job there through questionable means, and her first task is to rid the hotel of its new, unwelcome rodent guest before a high-profile wedding taking place there that weekend. To do this Kayla gets Tom hired on, and the pair set out to evict Jerry before it’s too late.

What works so well is that the movie just lets itself be enjoyable, and if you know Tom and Jerry then you know what kind of hijinks to expect. What is surprising is how the film actually doesn’t get redundant in its jokes, as one would think there’s only so many times you can see Jerry foil Tom’s plan before it gets boring; however, the film does a good job of balancing out the slapstick with other comedic moments, while also keeping the wedding storyline moving along at a solid pace. As long as you’re aware that ridiculous things will happen, such as the hotel manager hiring Tom as long as he can wear a cap and nametag, then you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s silly, but it works.

The supporting cast is filled out with Michael Peña, who plays the film’s “villain,” though I use that word lightly, as he’s not really in the wrong, but he’s also not one who is totally above board in his actions when it comes to outing Kayla as a fraud. There’s also fun comedic work done by Rob Delaney, who plays the hotel manager, Patsy Ferran, who is the unpredictable hotel Bell Girl, and Colin Jost, who plays the groom-to-be. Everyone plays their part in light-hearted fashion, and it really works as a fun ensemble.

Tom and Jerry: The Movie is just a silly, fun, entertaining flick that the whole family can enjoy. Heck, it’s just my wife and I and we both had smiles on our faces the entire time; so even if you don’t have kids and are looking for a break from the seriousness that the world has thrown our way over the past year and a bit, Tom and Jerry: The Movie is a surprising, yet welcome escape that can be had from the safety of your living room.

Video & Audio

The film looks incredibly vibrant, with wonderfully complimentary colours to help Tom, Jerry and the rest of the animated gang all pop beautifully when on screen, while also not sticking out like they aren’t really part of the world. Even the dark, dingy alleyways are bright and, well, they’re still dingy. The visuals just look really clean throughout, which helps keep the viewer engaged in the happenings on screen instead of being distracted.

The audio is also top notch, with a fantastically fun, fairly hip-hop heavy soundtrack that may or may not work in the eyes of some, but I thought fit in with the fun, over-the-top nature of the flick. Whether you like it or not, the beats are powerful and hit hard, but blend nicely with the dialogue and sound effects, which also deliver nicely, especially with all the slapstick comedy throughout.

Special Features:

Deleted Scenes – I tend to avoid deleted scenes, as they’re often cut for a reason and aren’t really worth checking out and the same can be said for these ones here. Director Tim Story introduces all but the first clip and explains why they were cut. Unfortunately the first clip is one that I would’ve liked to have heard why it was cut, as it actually introduces Tom and Jerry, as well as their rivalry and why it is they both find themselves homeless and in New York. I’d wager it was time related, as the film is already a pretty hefty length for a feature like this; however, while the pair didn’t really need a backstory, it would’ve helped just give a quick catch-up to those who may not have grown-up with them. It’s not a big deal, but it is the one scene out of everything cut (there’s 13 and a half minutes worth of material here) that was worth anything.

Gag Reel – This is a three-minute gag reel that kids may or may not enjoy, but it’s not really a good gag reel and some of the jokes are forced with sketches of Tom and Jerry delivering their gag.

Bringing Tom and Jerry to Life – This is a 14-minute feature, and the main one worth checking out on the disc. It delves into the making of the movie, some behind-the-scenes info, the cast and crew talking about why they got on board, filming in England, the animation team that brings the characters to life, and so forth. If you want to learn a bit more about the movie, this is the one to check out.

Tom and Jerry’s World – This featurette comes in at just over 4-minutes and sees the cast and crew talking about working with Tom and Jerry as though they were real actors on set. It’s harmless fun, but a fluff extra nonetheless. This one is likely aimed more towards the big Tom and Jerry fans out there.

The Feud: #TeamTom vs. #Team Jerry – This featurette is 4-minutes in length and sees the cast and crew talking about the ongoing feud between Tom and Jerry, how they fight like siblings and how there’s no end in sight.

Jerry’s “A House For a Mouse” – This is a 4-minute featurette that plays like a reality show, where it showcases the type of home Jerry is looking for, and how he scavenges around to bring his vision to life.

A Tom & Jerry Guide to New York Wildlife – This is a five-minute featurette that kid’s may enjoy, as it breaks down all the animated wildlife in the film with a few little tidbits on each.

Inside the Wedding of Ben and Preeta – This is a five and a half minute featurette that plays sort of like an Entertainment Tonight episode, focusing on Ben and Preeta, while also mixing in some cast and crew interviews.

A Scene Comes to Life – There are two scenes here, one is Ben and Preeta’s wedding, and the other is the animal lockup. Both show some of the behind-the-scenes work it took to bring them to life, while also mixing them with previous interviews we’ve already watched from the cast and crew. If you watch all of these, some of the clips can get redundant, so it’s best to just watch the few that interest you and leave it at that.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Tom & Jerry: The Movie. Directed by: Tim Story. Written by: Kevin Costello. Starring: Tom, Jerry, Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Rob Delaney, Patsy Ferran, Colin Jost, Pallavi Sharda, Jordan Bolger. Running time: 101 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: May 18, 2021.

Tags: Chloe Grace Moretz, Colin Jost, Michael Pena, Patsy Ferran, Rob Delaney, Tom and Jerry

Blu-ray Review: The Little Things

Blu-ray Review: The Little Things

Brendan Campbell | May 4, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews | No Comments

The Little Things has this great atmospheric tone to it that really screams crime genre, and that along with some fantastic performances help boost the film past its narrative shortcomings. During the first act of the film I couldn’t help but briefly reminisce about how much this film felt like it jumped right out of the ‘90s, where the detective chasing the serial killer storyline was arguably at its height for major motion pictures. The Little Things hearkens back to that era and it actually made me want to go back and revisit some films that have long since taken a place in the backburner of my memory. It perfectly captures the feel that any good dramatic crime thriller should, keeping the viewer on edge, uncomfortable, emotionally attached, all while they try to piece together the case alongside the detective.

The Little Things has a great cast; however, I do have to stop and just once again stand in awe to the man known as Denzel Washington. As if there weren’t so many other reasons to want to slow down the clock, here’s an actor that’s just absolutely mesmerizing in any role he portrays, and I just want to see him in so much more. Washington plays former L.A. Sheriff’s Detective Joe ‘Deke’ Deacon, a man who has been through the worst of it and barely crawled out the other side. Deke is content to live out his days quietly in Kern County, CA, as a deputy sheriff; however, a routine run into L.A. to pick up some evidence ends up with him learning of a serial killer in the area that has an M.O. similar to that of the killer in a case he was never able to solve.

Alongside Washington is Rami Malek, who plays Detective Jim Baxter, the man taking point on the current serial murders case that has piqued Deke’s interest. The two characters have a lot of similarities for all their differences, and while the film’s writer/director, John Lee Hancock does a decent job of setting them up, it’s the performances that really strike home. The same can be said about the pair’s lead suspect, Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), who just plays the part beautifully.

Now that’s not to say that Hancock’s script is bad, because it’s not; however, it’s one of those unfortunate story casualties that suffers from wanting to do too much and in doing so causes the overall product to fall a bit flat in its impact. The film’s narrative structure becomes a bit flimsy when trying to intertwine the backstory of Deke and why he left the department and the present day case that’s brought him back into the mix, and because of this it’s hard to fully get on board with where the pair of detective’s heads are at when it comes to piecing the case together in their own way.

It’s hard to delve too deep without treading into spoilers with a film like this, so it’s sometimes best to keep it simple. The Little Things ends up being a case of good enough, where it never reaches the potential you wish it could have – and deserved to with the performances this talented trio delivered – but at the same time it gets the idea of what it was trying to achieve across well enough that it does work on the most basic levels. Add on the fact that Hancock really nails the film tonally and depending on how invested you are as a viewer, there is a resonating impact (just not as much of one as there should’ve been,) and you’ve got a solid, albeit familiar entry into a genre that just doesn’t see much love on this scale these days.

Video and Audio:

This is a great looking film. The Blu-ray transfer looks beautiful, and it’s unfortunate that there wasn’t a 4K release made available as it truly would’ve shone in that format. Still, this movie just feels like a detective thriller right out of the gate, and that’s greatly in part to the visual choices made by Hancock and Cinematographer John Schwartzman. On the audio side of things we’ve got a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track which does the job nicely. There’s clean dialogue, which is always important, and the score and sound effects mix together nicely to keep the wonderful, darker tone of the film steady throughout.

Special Features:

Four Shades of Blue – This feature comes in at just under 10-minutes and sees various people talking about the four times Washington has played a police officer in Warner Bros. films and how they compare, overlap, etc. It’s a fine watch, but it’s not really what you’re after when you only have two small featurettes on the disc.

A Contrast in Styles – This featurette comes in at just under eight minutes and sees the cast and crew talking about the styles of Washington, Malek and Leto, what it was like working together and how much they admire one another. Again, a fine, quick watch, but it would’ve been nice to have had a feature focusing on the film itself, the ideas behind it, bringing it to life, and so forth.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents The Little Things. Written & Directed by: John Lee Hancock. Starring: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto. Running time: 128 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: May 4, 2021.

Tags: Denzel Washington, Jared Leto, Rami Malek, The Little Things

Blu-ray Review: Judas & The Black Messiah

Blu-ray Review: Judas & The Black Messiah

Brendan Campbell | May 4, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

It’s unfortunate that I have to begin this review pointing out how timely it is that a film like this is being made, or the countless others before it in recent years that began the same way. There have been so many prominent people that lead the charge for equality, only to end up being arrested, beaten, assassinated or silenced. They’ve since had movies made about them, movies that are impactful, touching and make waves during awards season, and it’s encouraging to watch the stories of these people play out, yet it’s just heartbreaking that it feels like nothing is changing despite all their work and sacrifice.

Judas and the Black Messiah tells the story of two polar opposite men: Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) and Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) whose lives and fates intertwined back in the late 1960s. Fred Hampton was the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP), and deputy chairman to the national BPP. He was a man whose voice was heard; a man who made sure his voice was heard to put it in better terms. He was a revolutionary who wanted better for his people, cared for his people and was tired of seeing them being treated as unequal.

Now he did speak in a way that some may view as counterproductive, catching the eye of the FBI with his words and recruitment of rival gangs in Chicago in hopes of standing up against the police and powers who viewed them as less than. It’s here where the movie takes focus, when Bill O’Neal is arrested for impersonating an FBI agent and is offered and agrees to a plea deal to infiltrate the Black Panther Party, get close to Hampton, and feed the FBI details as to what he has planned.

Kaluuya won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Hampton, and Stanfield was nominated right there alongside him. They’re both fantastic in the film, with Hampton charged with the task of bringing such a well-known, powerful persona to life on the screen, and Stanfield having to bring a level of human decency, and internal struggle to a man who only aimed to look out for himself. If you’re not familiar with their names right now, that’s understandable; however, don’t expect that to last delivering performances like these.

Director Shaka King, who also co-wrote the script with Will Berson, does a great job of encapsulating this period in time and telling the story in riveting fashion. I’m not an expert on the subject, but I’d have to think there are a lot more layers to everything that went down during this time with the Black Panther Party, the coalition with once rival gangs, their disputes with police and their slow recruitment of kids growing up in the same situation through breakfast programs and the likes; however, this is the story of Hampton and O’Neal, not the Black Panther Party as a whole and I believe King and Berson did a great job of touching on all of the above and having it enhance the story of these two characters instead of overtaking it.

While I don’t believe things will change across the board any time soon, I do hope we’re beginning to head down the right path with everything that has happened of late. But as these movies all prove time and time again, we’ve been there before and thought things were getting better and now with cameras on everything all the time we see just how wrong we were. So all we can do is continue to be better as people, to not be silent to injustice and to make sure these movies aren’t just viewed as entertainment, but as a different way to get these stories out there about people who sacrificed everything to try and bring a level of equality to the world that I truly do hope we come to see.

Video & Audio:

The film has a solid video transfer to Blu-ray, with each scene looking good and popping when required. The details are strong, even at night when weaker transfers cause muddier visuals, or distracting contrasts. Here, nothing distracts, and nothing takes away from the story being told. The film just looks good all around. On the audio side of things we have a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, which comes across beautifully across the board. From clear dialogue to the heavy hitting score at key moments, it all mixes well and elevates the story being told the way audio should.

Special Features:

Fred Hampton for the People – this feature comes in at just over nine-minutes in length and sees the cast and crew talking about Hampton, what he stood for, the impact he had, and why it’s important that his story is being told. Pretty by the books feature that’s an easy watch.

Unexpected Betrayal – This one comes in at just under eight-minutes in length and talks about the film’s other central character in William O’Neil. This one is a bit more interesting, as we get to hear Stanfield talk about taking on the role of someone like O’Neil and the challenge of trying to keep the audience on their toes when it comes to what they think is going through O’Neil’s mind, even if they know the outcome.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Judas and the Black Messiah. Directed by: Shaka King. Written by: Shaka King, Will Berson. Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons. Running time: 126 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: May 4, 2021.

Tags: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah, LaKeith Stanfield, Shaka King

Severin Films warms up Spring with Bears, Sharks and Jodorowsky

Severin Films warms up Spring with Bears, Sharks and Jodorowsky

Joe Corey | March 31, 2021 | Disc Announcements, News | No Comments

Spring is in the air which means animals will be coming out of hibernation and roaming around. Some might even visit your neighborhood. You might want to stay safely inside and Severin Films latest releases that include the horrifying truth of grizzly bears, killer sharks and other wildlife going out of control. And if you want just a tale of a circus performer that might have mental issues, they’ve upgraded Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre to 4K Ultra HD. Grizzly and Day of the Animals are from director William Girdler. He’s best known for making ‘Sheba, Baby’ with Pam Grier. Both are over the top when animals attack films with Christopher George (The Rat Patrol) dealing with being on the wrong side of nature. Deep Blood is from Spanish filmmaking sensation Jess Franco. Franco goes after the Jaws paydays with a tale of shark attacks. This film might look familiar to fans of Cruel Jaws since it also uses the same shark attack footage. The big thing is Santa Sangre getting a massive deluxe boxset that brings the majesty of the film to your home theater. Here’s the press release from Severin Films with the bonus features:

Coming in Spring from SEVERIN FILMS
DEEP BLOOD [Blu-ray] and [DVD] (4/27)
SANTA SANGRE [4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + CD] and [Blu-ray] (5/18)
DAY OF THE ANIMALS [Blu-ray] and [DVD] (5/18)
GRIZZLY [Blu-ray] and [DVD] (5/18)
via MVD Entertainment Group

Severin Films’ May lineup Includes a Trio of Angry Animals and Jodorowsky’s Epic Odyssey
Fans of “animal attack” films will have plenty of reasons to smile with Severin Films‘ Spring lineup. Leading the way are Grizzly and Day of the Animals, two genre classics from director William Girdler. The former is a Jaws-riff about an 18-foot grizzly bear that terrorizes visitors of a National Forest. Cult icon Christopher George stars as the park ranger that goes to war with the massive man-eating beast. At the time of its release, Grizzly earned $38 million worldwide, setting an independent box office record that it would hold for two years before being surpassed by John Carpenter’s Halloween. In Day of the Animals, the destruction of the Earth’s ozone layer leads to increased radiation exposure. Animals exposed to this radiation become highly aggressive towards humans. George once again stars, but in addition to fighting a slew of animals, he is also forced to deal with an unhinged Leslie Nielsen.

Grizzy Special Features:
Audio Commentary with Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson and Film Writer Troy Howarth
The Grizzly Details – Interview with Producer David Sheldon and Actress Joan McCall
Towering Fury – Interview with Actor Tom Arcuragi
“NIGHTMARE USA” Author Stephen Thrower On William Girdler
Movie Making in the Wilderness – Vintage Behind-the-Scenes Making Of
Jaws with Claws – Archival Making Of GRIZZLY Featurette
Radio Spots
Trailers
Reversible Wrap

Day of the Animals Special Features:
Audio Commentary with Film Critic Lee Gambin, Author of “Massacred by Mother Nature: Exploring the Natural Horror Film” 
Animal Boy – Interview with Actor Bobby Porter
Against Nature – Interview with Actor Andrew Stevens
Unleashed – Interview with Stunt Coordinator Monty Cox
Something Was Out There: Day of the Animals 30 Years Later – Interviews with Actors John Cedar, Paul Mantee and Actress/Animal Trainer Susan Backlinie
Still Gallery
TV Spot
Trailers
Reversible Wrap

Italian sharksploitation entry Deep Blood gets in on the animal madness as well. Dubbed as the “Z movie version of Jaws,” Deep Blood is an ultra bizarre mishmash of genres – even by Italian cinema standards – that could only be helmed by sleaze master, Joe D’Amato. Shot in Florida and Rome, and featuring performances from Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall, Deep Blood is a deep water excursion not to be missed. Severin is proud to release this lost treasure scanned in 2K from the original negative for the first time.

Special Features:
Trailer

Finally, Severin presents Alejandro Jodorowsky’s avant-garde classic Santa Sangre in a way it’s never been seen before, with a limited edition 4-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. It’s a surreal masterpiece about a former circus artist that recently escapes from a mental hospital. Over 8 hours of special features, both new and archival, and an exclusive soundtrack CD make this the ultimate edition of Jodorowsky’s epic odyssey.

Special Features:
Disc 1: 4K UHD + Special Features
Audio Commentary with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Journalist Alan Jones
New Blood – Alejandro Jodorowsky on the restoration of SANTA SANGRE
Deleted Scenes with Optional Director Commentary
Theatrical Trailer
Disc 2: Blu-ray + Special Features
Audio Commentary with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Journalist Alan Jones
New Blood – Alejandro Jodorowsky on the restoration of SANTA SANGRE
Deleted Scenes with Optional Director Commentary
Theatrical Trailer
Disc 3: Additional Special Features
Forget Everything You Have Ever Seen: The World of Santa Sangre – 96 minute documentary Directed by David Gregory with Co-Writer / Director Alejandro Jodorowsky, Actors Axel Jodorowsky, Blanca Guerra, Thelma Tixou, Sabrina Dennison, Adan Jodorowsky, Elenka Tapia, Teo Tapia, Co-Writer Roberto Leoni, Composer Simon Boswell, Tattoo Designer Sergio Arau and Unit Publicist Greg Day.
Like A Phoenix – Interview with Producer Claudio Argento
Holy Blood – Interview with Cinematographer Danielle Nannuzzi
Mexican Magic – Interview with Executive Producer Angelo Iacono
The Language of Editing – Interview with Editor Mauro Bonanni
Innocence in Horror – Interview with Screenwriter Roberto Leoni
Santa Sangre 30th Anniversary Celebration at Morbido Festival, Mexico City
Goyo Cárdenas Spree Killer – Documentary on the Real Life Inspiration for SANTA SANGRE
Jodorowsky 2003 Interview
Jodorowsky on Stage Q & A
ECHECK – Adan Jodorowsky Short Film
Simon Boswell Interviews Jodorowsky
“Close Your Eyes”- Simon Boswell Music Video
Disc 4: Original CD Soundtrack

Tags: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Grizzly, Severin Films, shark

4K Blu-ray Review: Wonder Woman 1984

4K Blu-ray Review: Wonder Woman 1984

Brendan Campbell | March 30, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

Wonder Woman 1984 had some big superhero boots to fill when trying to live up to the fantastic 2017 original, and unfortunately it doesn’t come close. That doesn’t mean there still isn’t enough fun and entertainment to make it worth watching, just don’t expect anything that will resonate after the credits roll, as the sequel is more fluff than substance.

The main issue with the movie is, well, it’s kind of the story as a whole. There’s just so much going on and so many ideas that almost none of them work because the film is just trying to do too much. The first Wonder Woman was an origin story, and it still had a lot to cover, but it did it well. Sequels are supposed to benefit by being able to jump right into the action a little bit easier, but WW84 does that in entirely the wrong way.

There’s a heist at a mall at the start of the movie that’s absolutely painful to watch. I thought I was watching a slapstick comedy with how ridiculous these criminals were acting when Wonder Woman shows up, and her interactions aren’t any better. A young girl smiles at her in awe and Wonder Woman just smiles back and tells her to hold on before sliding her into some stuffed teddy bears to keep her out of danger. The girl even goes “Weee” as she slides into the bears and giggles when she lands…it’s just so, so very cringeworthy. Nobody will, but I’d recommend just skipping that scene as it’s so bad it may actually cause some to turn the movie off. I feel like since Diana doesn’t don the Wonder Woman gear until halfway into the film or so that they wanted to give the fans some Wonder Woman action right out of the gate. I mean, I’m all for that, I get it, but why make it so ludicrous and playful?

This action sequence is just so out of place and the tone of it just doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie on any level – and that’s saying something, as the rest of the film isn’t exactly clean and concise. For some reason the film has a runtime of two and a half hours, which is just far too long. The first film had reason to be long and it’s still ten minutes shorter than this one. What’s worse is that even at this obscene length the movie still leaves the viewer hanging when it comes to any repercussions that certain characters may face, which is pretty much inexcusable when there’s this much time to play with, and with how much of said time is spent on said characters.

The story revolves around an ancient artifact that’s discovered during an FBI raid and the FBI want to learn more about the item, so they send it to the Smithsonian Museum where Diana (Gal Gadot) has been working at. She and her new colleague, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), take a look at the artifact, which is a rather generic citrine gemstone, so Barbara doesn’t understand what the big deal is. Of course there’s more than meets the eye and this artifact (called the Dreamstone) will grant the wish of anyone who touches it, but it can’t really be that simple, can it?

Of course not, and this is really where things become hit or miss. I did really like that they brought Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) back into the mix, and it works for the story they want to tell; however, it’s rather bizarre how they chose to go about doing it. It’s clear that Diana is lonely and misses Steve more than anything, so when she touches the artifact and says she knows what she’d wish for (this being before they knew that it actually grants wishes) then her wanting Steve to be alive again makes total sense; but when a random guy shows up at a work party Diana is attending and starts saying lines to her that Steve said right before he died at the end of the first film Diana doesn’t know what to think.

But the camera spins around and the random man turns into Steve Trevor and it’s basically explained that everyone else sees this random guy, and if Steve looks in the mirror he sees this random guy, but all Diana can see is Steve (because love) so that’s who the audience sees. So while the idea of these two reuniting in 1984 is great, the execution is just a misfire. Why not have Steve just appear again as himself? Why did he take over someone else’s body and mind, when all that does is leave questions like, what happened to this guy during all this? Why was he chosen and what if he died while out on an adventure with Diana? Is there no issue that they sleep together even though it’s really some random guy who has no control over anything that’s happening? What if he had a girlfriend or boyfriend or was engaged? I mean, these are just doors that never needed to be opened because him being in another body has no impact on the story at all. It’s a superhero, action, fantasy film…just have Steve Trevor appear out of thin air and be around again. Why not? It would have changed absolutely nothing in the big picture and would’ve made it a little less weird.

That aside, the relationship between Diana and Steve is wonderful, and the moments they share are some of the best the movie has to offer. Steve appearing in 1984 leads to some really fun, great moments delivered by Pine as he discovers all that’s changed throughout the decades, reversing the roles the two had in the first film when Steve was introducing Diana to society. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine is top tier, and that makes all that happens between them that much more meaningful.

That relationship is one of the stronger aspects of Wonder Woman 1984, and one that shows that while it would’ve been hard to compete with the excellence of the original, it could’ve at least given it a go had so much else not just missed the mark completely. One of those things is the film’s antagonist, who isn’t really threatening, nor are his intentions and motivations really clear. Pedro Pascal plays the villain, Maxwell Lord, but the thing is that Lord isn’t really a bad guy. Sure, he’s a flawed conman of sorts who is looking to take the easier route to riches and power, but he wants to do it for his son.

I went on kind of a rant on this topic before erasing it to avoid delving too far deep into the story and spoiler territory and I’ll just say that Lord comes off as a character with very generic villain motivations. A strong villain is incredibly important for a superhero movie and this one just doesn’t have it, even though they take two shots at it, as I didn’t even talk about Barbara yet.

Barbara also makes a wish to be more like Diana and in doing so she gains powers, but with these positives come the negatives, as she also loses her winning personality and becomes quite mean. She then randomly wishes to become an apex predator her second wish seems to have been granted too because while it was announced she’d be playing this character, I’ll warn of spoilers here because randomly later on in the film Barbara has nonsensically transformed into Cheetah (even though she’s never called that by name) and it’s pretty much the most anticlimactic hero/villain showdown in quite some time.

I don’t even think Barbara deserves to be categorized as a villain just because she fights Wonder Woman briefly. The entire story of Barbara starts off fairly strong, but absolutely crumbles as the movie goes on to the point where we don’t even really get any closure on the character at all. It’s a shame because they could have easily built a stronger story around the origin of Barbara as Cheetah and made her a bigger part of the story, but everything had to be tied into the artifact and the film ends up suffering because of it.

Now, I know this all may seem conflicting because I started this review saying that the film is still worth watching and then went on to point out so many flaws, but if you view it simply as escapism fluff then you should be all good. I wish I could praise it as much as I did the first, but while a lot of what made the first movie so great is still here (fantastic visuals, some touching character moments) it’s all just being smothered by an overwrought story and a patience-testing runtime.

Patty Jenkins returning to direct was welcome, and she continues to impress behind the camera (she also co-wrote it, but I’m not sure who’s responsible for what parts so I won’t hold her fully responsible there,) as she’s really great at handling action scenes that make the character shine. The problem is that these moments of greatness make the weaker parts of the film stand out that much more, and that’s unfortunate because the character of Wonder Woman deserved a better – and shorter – sequel than she got. Fans were all hoping for a worthy follow-up to Wonder Woman, but instead we’re left with a movie that’s visually beautiful and touching at times, but for the most part is just downright forgettable.

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:

The movie looks absolutely gorgeous in 4K and would be one of the reasons I’d recommend the movie to those looking to purchase. If you’re a fan of the character and want to support her regardless of whether or not this is the sequel you’d hoped for then 4K is the way to go. The 2160p transfer and both HDR10+ or Dolby Vision support just makes a beautifully shot film that much nicer. One of the best moments in the movie is when Diana and Steve are flying through fireworks, as it really is just a great moment that’s elevated all the more by the superb video transfer.

The audio also delivers a strong performance, delivered in Dolby Atmos. The dialogue is clean and clear, as are the sound effects and score and the score by Hans Zimmer truly shines here, and if you weren’t able to check this movie out in theaters (like the majority of the planet) then at least you can be happy knowing that Warner Bros. delivered the best quality audio and video experience for watching it at home in this 4K offering.

Special Features: ((These are only found on the Blu-ray disc, so for those who want to watch the film in 4K but also check out the special features, a disc swap will be required to do so.))

The Making of Wonder Woman 1984: Expanding the Wonder – This is the meat and potatoes of the special features that are offered and is a behind-the-scenes feature that touches on all the usual suspects that you’d expect. It’s a solid watch if you’re a fan of the movie and/or character, or if you just enjoy taking a look at how things are done on set.

Meet the Amazons – This is the second longest feature on the disc coming in at a little over 21-minutes in length. Here we get to see the virtual roundtable interview from last year’s DC FanDome for those who may have missed it.

Gal & Kristen: Friends Forever – From there we enter the smaller featurettes that you can take or leave. Here we see Gadot and Wiig talk about being friends, as well as their characters. Nothing overly special, but a fast watch if you’re looking to clear the board.

Small But Mighty – This feature runs at almost 11-minutes in length and focuses on the first scene in the film, which focuses on a young Diana and sets the stage for the “shortcut to happiness” theme in the film.

Scene Studies – Here we get quick looks at two of the film’s bigger action scenes – one of which is the horrible mall heist in the first act. That one is 5-minutes in length and still doesn’t make up for how cringeworthy it all is, and the second is just over 6-minutes in length and focuses on the chase scene in the desert that’s a much better scene and one that shows off the type of stuff fans (or at least I) wanted to see more of.

Gal & Krissy Having Fun – This is just over a minute in length and sees the two leading ladies deliver a dance routine for our entertainment.

Black Gold Infomercial – Here we have one of the commercials done in old-school VHS tape quality, just to keep with the ‘80s theme.

Gag Reel – The usual gag reel that showcases how much fun was had on set. Possibly so much that they didn’t want to say goodbye and kept writing scenes which would explain why the movie is so bloated? Possibly!

Wonder Woman 1984 Retro Remix – Here’s a 90-second little ditty that mixes the original Wonder Woman opening theme song with clips from Wonder Woman 1984 as a little nod to fans of the old school!

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Wonder Woman 1984. Directed by: Patty Jenkins. Written by: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham. Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Lilly Aspell. Running time: 151 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on 4K Blu-ray: Mar. 30, 2021.

Tags: Gal Gadot, Kristen Wiig, Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 1984, WW84

King Kong (1976) Climbs Blu-ray In May!

King Kong (1976) Climbs Blu-ray In May!

Joe Corey | March 26, 2021 | Disc Announcements, News | No Comments

When Dino De Laurentiis remade King Kong, it was the sensation of 1976. You could pick up a magazine or walk past a wall without seeing the image of King Kong holding a smashed fighter jet while straddling the World Trade Center towers. Dino was going to one up the original by having his massive ape do more than just cling to the Empire State Building. The movie was a blockbuster and became a sensation when NBC broadcast it as a two-night event with 45 minutes of new footage included. Now <I>King Kong (1976) Collector’s Edition</i> comes out on Blu-ray in May with both versions of the tale of when an Ape went to Manhattan to make a name for himself. There’s plenty of bonus features to give a sense of how the movie dominated the culture during the Christmas of 1976 when the Bicentennial was winding down and Jimmy Carter was waiting to take the oath of office. Here’s the press release from Scream Factory:

SCREAM FACTORY PRESENTS
KING KONG (1976)COLLECTOR’S EDITION
ON BLU-RAY™ MAY 11, 2021 
“A dazzling display of what the special-effects people can do when commissioned to construct a 40-foot-tall ape…” – Vincent Canby, The New York Times


Los Angeles, CA –On May 11, 2021, Scream Factory proudly presents King Kong (1976) on Blu-ray for the first time in North America. The sweeping 70s remake of the classic tale comes home in a 2-disc definitive collector’s edition set including both the theatrical cut with a new restored theatrical stereo track and an extended TV broadcast cut with a new 2k scan of the additional TV footage from the internegative. The release also comes packed with bonus features including new audio commentary with film historian Ray Morton (author of KING KONG – THE HISTORY OF A MOVIE ICON) and several new interviews with cast and crew. Fans who order from shoutfactory.com will also receive an exclusive poster featuring brand-new artwork, while supplies last. 

The Petrox company’s search for new oil reserves on a strange island unleashes a terror unseen by civilized man—KING KONG! The timeless story of a “beauty” (Jessica Lange, making her feature-film debut) and a “beast” comes to the screen in this ambitious production from Dino De Laurentiis. Charles Grodin is the scheming oil company shark out to exploit the giant beast to his fullest. And Jeff Bridges is the desperate hero, Jack Prescott, who attempts to wrest the beautiful heroine from King Kong’s grasp. New York City trembles with each echoing footstep of the towering ape set loose in the streets! 

Special Features: DISC 1: Theatrical Cut
NEW Audio Commentary with film historian Ray Morton (author of KING KONG – THE HISTORY OF A MOVIE ICON)
NEW Audio interview with special makeup effects wizard Rick Baker
NEW Something’s Haywire – an interview with actor Jack O’Halloran
NEW On the Top of the World – an interview with assistant director David McGiffert and production manager Brian Frankish
NEW Maybe in their Wildest Dreams – an interview with sculptor Jack Varner
NEW There’s A Fog Bank Out There – an interview with second unit director William Kronick
NEW From Space to Apes – an interview with photographic effects assistant Barry Nolan
NEW When the Monkey Dies, Everybody Cries – an interview with production assistants Jeffrey Chernov and Scott Thaler
Audio: DTS-HD 5.1 and NEW restored theatrical DTS-HD 2.0 stereo track
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots
Radio Spots
Still Galleries – posters, lobby cards, behind-the-scenes photos 

DISC 2: Extended TV Broadcast Cut·        
NEW 2K scan of the additional TV footage from the internegative·        
KING KONG panel discussion from the Aero Theater (2016)

About Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory, LLC is a leading multi-platform media company devoted to film and TV distribution, development, and production, as well as the preservation and revitalization of the very best in pop-culture entertainment. Founded by Richard Foos, Bob Emmer, and Garson Foos in 2003, Shout! owns and manages a large portfolio of films, contemporary and classic TV series, animation, and documentaries. The company’s creative acquisition mandate has established it as a leading independent distributor, with partners and properties including GKIDS, Sesame Street, The Carol Burnett Show, The Johnny Carson Show, IFC Films, Stephen J. Cannell Productions, ITV Studios, Major League Baseball Productions, and many others. Shout! Factory Kids focuses on live-action and animated kids and family properties, and the company releases films and television shows in other genres under the Scream Factory and Shout Select imprints. Shout! develops, acquires and distributes new films via Shout! Studios, owns and operates libraries including Mystery Science Theater 3000 (in partnership with creator Joel Hodgson) and the Roger Corman New Horizon Pictures Library, and operates the acclaimed streaming service Shout! Factory TV. Shout! Factory is based in Los Angeles, California. For more on Shout! Factory, visit shoutfactory.com

Tags: Dino De Laurentiis, King Kong, Scream Factory

Blu-ray Review: Greenland

Blu-ray Review: Greenland

Brendan Campbell | February 17, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

I absolutely love the disaster movie genre, and I’m a huge fan of Gerard Butler, so when these two get together that can only mean great things, right? Well, that certainly wasn’t the case with 2017’s Geostorm, which was instead an absolute disaster of a movie, so needless to say, I tried to keep my expectations in check when I heard Butler was going up against Mother Nature for round two in the newly released Greenland.

Now, to say that Greenland is better than Geostorm is like saying not stubbing your toe is better than stubbing it, because of course it is, Geostorm is just awful and to hit those levels again so quickly would be an incredibly sad feat for Butler. Where Greenland shines the most is how it’s grounded in reality for the most part, and people tend to react a lot more realistically than they do in some of the bigger blockbuster disaster movies. This may be because the lead characters we follow throughout the film are just ordinary people and not the usual “save the planet” protagonists who we don’t have to see deal with the more heart-wrenching moments of a situation like this, such as leaving your scared and distraught friends and neighbours behind knowing that they’re not going to survive.

The movie begins with John Garrity (Butler) heading home from work to start things over with his estranged wife, Allison (Morena Baccarin) and his son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). We’re not sure what happened between them early on, but it’s clear that trust needs to be rebuilt and it’s all done in a nice, subtle way that lets the viewer know what’s happening without just hammering them over the head with needless exposition that actual people wouldn’t say. They know what’s happened between them, they know that this was the day they said that they’d start to try again and that’s all we need to know. It can be annoying when a movie has characters saying things just for the sake of the audience. “I’m glad I’m back home. I’m sorry I abused alcohol and drugs and caused this rift between us.” That’s not what’s happened here, but it’s nice when a movie realizes that we don’t need to be spoon-fed every little detail.

Nathan then informs his dad about “Clarke,” a newly discovered interstellar comet that’s going to be passing by earth’s orbit in the coming days. He explains that comets are a lot more unpredictable than asteroids, and Clarke proves to be just that. The next day, during a BBQ with neighbours that finds everyone excitedly gathered around the television to watch the first fragment of Clarke harmlessly splash down into the ocean, things quickly take a turn when the fragment instead slams into central Florida, completely decimating it in the same way a nuclear bomb would have.

As everyone looks on in complete shock and horror, John’s phone rings and he receives an automated message saying that he’s been pre-selected by the government for emergency sheltering (he’s the lucky structural engineer that came up on their Google search!) Because big brother is everywhere, this message also comes up on his TV screen, alerting his family and neighbours at just how dire this situation has quickly become. They begin to wonder why their phones haven’t gone off, or maybe there are messages back on their TV screens at home. They all leave and the Garrity’s quickly pack up some belongings and head to the designated airport they’ve been told to go in the message. But before they can leave they have to heartbreakingly drive by the same friends they’d just been gathered with. As it turns out that nobody else was selected and as one of them tells John, the higher ups got it all wrong and that many more fragments are headed towards earth with one of them being a planet killer.

From this point on we’re just with the Garrity family and while the scenarios that take place are realistic for the ELE (extinction level event) that’s about to take place, it’s best that you put on your suspension of disbelief cap because things are about to get really crazy. I say this because since the Garrity family are our protagonists, they’re the ones experiencing everything that happens in the movie and in order to make a movie like this entertaining, a lot of things have to happen – all to them, consistently.

Yes, for a family who you’d think we’d deem lucky because they were chosen for emergency shelter, the Garrity’s sure do end up having a rough go at it. After being separated at the airport in a fairly well-handled and logical way, Allison and Nathan decide to head to her father’s house in Kentucky (they’re currently located in Georgia.) They believe that John likely got on one of the plane’s but decide to leave him a note on their car just in case. Lucky they did, as John went searching for them, finds the note and also begins the trek to Kentucky.

This may sound like I’m giving a lot away, but I’m not. This is all fairly early on in the film, and it’s all information given in the trailer. It’s also important information to point out in order to understand why the suspension of disbelief cap is required for a movie that I said feels more grounded in reality than other disaster movies. The reason is that a lot of the scenarios you’d expect to see in a situation like this pretty much all happen to the Garrity family because they’re who they audience is experiencing this with. So while it’d make sense for one of these situations to happen to someone, and another to someone else, and so on and so forth, watching them all happen to these three people may cause some to roll their eyes. So that’s why the cap is required, because if you can get over that part then watching how the Garrity’s and people around them all react as the world is set to end is a really intense roller-coaster ride that never seems to let up.

That’s not to say there aren’t some moments where things do get a little too ridiculous or convenient (the amount of footage the news shows of cities exploding from cinematic angles is pretty silly; plus, why are they still on the air when there’s only 24-hours left until the end of the world? That’s some raise-deserving dedication right there,) but they’re not enough to take away from the positives the movie continuously serves up. It’s always great to escape reality for a little bit, and while a disaster movie may not be what everyone wants to do so with, for those who are fans, Greenland delivers an emotionally driven, action-packed doomsday flick that would’ve been ideal to see in theaters, but still packs an equally entertaining punch from the safety of your own home.

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:

The film looks quite solid at 1080p, delivering solid visuals that help keep the viewer immersed in the story. There’s not a lot to write home about here on either side of the spectrum, as it delivers what viewers are expecting at this point in the Blu-ray cycle, while also not pushing any visual boundaries. Though delivering what’s expected is a big pro when there aren’t any real negatives to counter.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless soundtrack is great, really helping to bring the movie to life in earth rumbling fashion. While it’s always great to have nice, clear dialogue and score, with a movie like this you want to know how the destructive impacts really hit, and on that front the audio truly shines. There are some really impressive moments throughout that will impress audio-files out there.

Special Features:

Deleted Scenes – There are a few deleted scenes here, though the one that’ll be of most interest to people is no doubt the original ending for the film. I’ll say that the ending they chose works better, and that this isn’t an alternate ending that drastically changes anything, so it’s worth a quick watch with the director’s introduction and that’s about it.

Director’s Commentary – Director Ric Roman Waugh is joined by Producer Basil Iwanyk, and they don’t shy away from talking about their film coming out during a pandemic, as well as covering all the usual bases that commentary lovers would hope to hear about. Fans of the film will want to give this a go.

Humanity – This is an incredibly short, 80-second look at the film.

Universal Pictures Presents Greenland. Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh. Written by: Chris Sparling. Starring: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn. Running time: 119 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Feb. 9, 2021.

Tags: Gerard Butler, Greenland, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd

DVD Review: Jungleland

DVD Review: Jungleland

Brendan Campbell | January 19, 2021 | DVD Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

Jungleland is a fairly paint-by-numbers story that’s elevated greatly thanks to the strong performances of its stars. It tells the tale of Stanley (Charlie Hunnam) and Walter ‘Lion’ Kaminski (Jack O’Connell), two brothers who have nothing in the world but one another and their shared dream of fame and fortune. Okay, well, it’s not so much a shared dream as it is Stanley’s vision for where they’ll end up because of Walter’s (though he’s called Lion by everyone in the movie, so I’ll refer to him as such from now on) skills as a boxer.

You see, Stanley is Lion’s manager of sorts, as well as his caretaker. The two grew up without parents, so they’re all each other has ever known. The problem is that Stanley tends to get himself into trouble a lot. He’s been to prison (though that’s just briefly referenced, so we’re not sure how long he was away for or how that impacted Lion, since it would’ve left him to fend for himself), and he also got Lion thrown out of professional boxing after trying to bribe a ref. So now Lion is forced to fight bare-knuckle fist fights in underground contests for pennies, just so the two can scrape by enough to get to the next fight.

What Lion doesn’t know is that Stanley is indebted to a local gangster named Pepper (Jonathan Majors), and when Stanley doesn’t have the money he owes, Pepper gives them an option: he’ll get them on the card of an elite bare-knuckle, no-holds-barred prize fighting tournament in San Francisco the following week, but they have to transport a young woman named Sky (Jessica Barden) to Reno, Nevada beforehand. Stanley’s not entirely happy about having to transport a young woman across the country; however, he’s dead set on the future he’s laid out for himself and Lion, so he agrees.

On the visual side of things, Director Max Winkler showcases his talent and keen eye as he and cinematographer Damián García give the film the gritty, darker look it needs to keep the film grounded in the reality Winkler is aiming for. While there’s a decent amount of bare-knuckle boxing to be found, the movie is more about two brothers, their relationship, their different dreams when it comes to trying to escape poverty and just how far they’re willing to go to do so.

Hunnam and O’Connell have fantastic brotherly chemistry, which helps keep the film engaging throughout, and Barden does a great job of giving Sky a level of depth could’ve easily been lost to a lesser performance. It’s the work of this trio that carries the film above all else, as Jungleland’s major flaw is how predictable it is as a whole. So while I’d recommend the film based on the acting work alone, know that there’s not much here that you won’t be able to see coming a mile away if you’re even vaguely familiar with this type of story.

DVD Video and Audio Review:

Jungleland looks quite solid on DVD, with no distracting, muddied moments during any of the darker scenes, and some nice, sharp visuals when it comes to characters. There are no real complaints to be had on this front, which is good as it’s unlikely that the film will see a Blu-ray release any time soon. The audio side of things is also solid, with the dialogue coming through clearly and the sound effects and soundtrack all coming together nicely in the final transfer.

Special Features:

There are no special features to be had on this disc.

Paramount Pictures Presents Jungleland. Directed by: Max Winkler. Written by: Theodore Bressman, David Branson Smith, Max Winkler. Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Jack O’Connell, Jessica Barden. Running time: 90 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on DVD: Jan. 12, 2021.

Tags: Charlie Hunnam, Jack O'Connell, Jessica Barden, Jungleland

Blu-ray Review: Dreamland

Blu-ray Review: Dreamland

Brendan Campbell | January 19, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

There’s something that’s truly engaging about the minimalist way Dreamland tells its story about a teenage boy who wants nothing more than to escape his life of being trapped in a small Texas town during the Great Depression. Dreamland is a drama, a love story and even a thriller as the film progresses, yet it’s simple in its delivery and focus and because of this the film succeeds in ways it wouldn’t have had it chosen to go a more Bonnie and Clyde route than many tales are often tempted to replicate.

Eugene (Finn Cole) has lived in Texas, on the desolate farmlands that his parents were initially promised would yield crops and a good life many years prior. The entire town is struggling to stay afloat, with the banks constantly repossessing the land that never amounted to anything for anyone in the way that they’d all hoped. It’s a mundane existence which leaves Eugene dreaming of a better life like the one his father left him and his mother for back when Eugene was just five years old.

So when word gets out that there’s a fugitive named Allison Wells (Margot Robbie) on the loose in the area, Eugene recruits his friend Joe (Stephen Dinh) in hopes that they can track her down and claim the $10,000 reward to help their families. But Eugene is still a teenager (I don’t believe his age is mentioned, but I’d wager he’s about 17) so he has to follow his mother (Kerry Condon) and step-father’s (Travis Fimmel) rules, so their bounty hunting is cut short due to the sun going down and Eugene having to return home.

Later that night Eugene sneaks out of the house to the old family barn, where he reads detective stories in an attempt to escape his downtrodden reality, but what – or whom, I should say – he stumbles upon will change the course of his life forever. Inside the barn is Allison Wells herself, bleeding from a bullet wound and in dire need of help. Eugene is hesitant to do so at first, as he’s been told the things she’s done, such as murdering a child during a botched bank robbery; however, Allison assures him that she’d never do such a thing and that it was the police that killed the girl. She also says that if he helps get her a car so that she can escape to Mexico, that she’d send him $20,000, double her bounty.

What writer Nicolaas Zwart does well with Dreamland is that it doesn’t get sidetracked with police procedures or others being out looking for Allison, instead solely focusing on Eugene and Allison, their blossoming relationship and the path that it leads them on. That’s not to say that there isn’t talk about the case against Allison, as Eugene’s step-father is the town’s deputy and someone who wants to both bring her to justice, as well as claim the reward, it just doesn’t ever take control of the story.

No, Dreamland remains a story about a young man who wants nothing more than to break free of the chains that life has weighed him down with. So when a beautiful fugitive runs straight out of the pages of the magazines he’s read and escaped into all his life and into his arms, it’s just too much for him to pass up, so helping her get what she needs just becomes the logical move.

The film is a slow burn, but it’s a beautiful one to watch while it does. Director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte delivers some absolutely gorgeous shot choices that are elevated even higher thanks to Cinematographer Lyle Vincent. For a film that greatly takes place in a barren desert wasteland, these two sure did all they could to make things as visually captivating as possible.

The chemistry between Eugene and Allison is vital to the film’s success, and Cole and Robbie have it as strong as one could hope for. Cole is superb in showcases the young, inexperienced dreamer that Eugene is, and Robbie nails the damaged, yet hopeful character that is Allison. There are plenty of film’s that have a character fall in love incredibly quick just because it’s convenient to the plot; however, with Eugene’s age and desire for something more, his falling for Allison while her mind is elsewhere makes complete sense and works wonderfully with how Cole portrays the character.

Dreamland avoids falling victim to desiring to be more than it needs to be. While it would have been easy to have had Eugene and Allison stumble upon one another in different circumstances that saw them hit the road early on in the film to live out the usual bank robbers on the run fantasy, it instead chose to take a different, much more beneficial route that delivers tension in all the right spots, but also puts characters first and foremost, allowing for a more emotionally engaging story.

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:

Dreamland is a really nice looking film for what the filmmaker and cinematographer had to work with in terms of setting. The Blu-ray transfer looks great, with really crisp, clean colours and the night shots are clear as well, lacking any distracting muddied look. The audio also shines on all fronts, with the score playing harmoniously with the dialogue and sound effects, and the sandstorm scenes coming through the surround sound quite nicely.

Special Features:

There are unfortunately no special features on the disc.

Paramount Pictures Presents Dreamland. Directed by: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte. Written by: Nicolaas Zwart. Starring: Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Stephen Dinh, Travis Fimmel, Kerry Condon. Running time: 98 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Jan. 19, 2021.

Tags: Dreamland, Finn Cole, Kerry Condon, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel

Blu-ray Review: Spell

Blu-ray Review: Spell

Brendan Campbell | January 12, 2021 | Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

Spell is a bit of a mixed bag, as it has solid production value, a director who succeeds in visually capturing the film the way it should be, and a great cast who all really deliver in their respective roles; however, it also suffers from a story that just doesn’t seem clear in what it’s trying to say and because of this the whole film inevitably suffers.

The story begins with our protagonist, Marquis T. Woods (Omari Hardwick), who is looking at scars that cover his body from beatings his father gave him when he was a kid. Marquis is a lawyer, which isn’t an overly important or dwelled upon part of the film and is more or less there to show that Marquis is someone who can go for the jugular when needed, but prefers to settle things through words over getting his hands dirty whenever possible. It’s also there to show that he and his family are on the wealthier side of society compared to how Marquis grew up.

Marquis receives a call at work from a lawyer who informs him that his father has died and that he’s the next of kin, thus why he’s being contacted. Now Marquis left his abusive upbringing at a young age, so his wife pushing him (well less pushing and more flat out telling) that they’re all going to go back to his childhood home so he can get closure. Now, I mean, the movie has to start some way, so I do get that this makes some sense; however, Marquis seems like he was legitimately traumatized growing up, so much so that he’s promised that his life and the life he makes for his kids will not replicate it in the slightest, so I feel like he’s already got his closure and he’d be more apt to just take care of this through other means and continue on with his life.

But, like I said, the movie needs to have an inciting incident, and this is it. So they get into their small, personal plane that Marquis pilots and fly to rural Appalachia where Marquis grew up. A storm, however, takes the plane down as they approach their destination and Marquis awakens in an unknown house, his foot bandaged and so injured that he can barely stand on it. Before he can figure things out on his own, Eloise (Loretta Devine) walks into the room, chastising him for being out of bed. She calls her husband, Earl (John Beasley), to come help her, but he’s old and has heart problems, so he calls up Lewis (Steve Mululu), a giant, beastly man who doesn’t talk but quickly throws Marquis over his shoulder and places him back down in the bed.

Marquis is confused and wants to know if his family is safe, but Eloise tells him to just rest and blows some dust into his face which knocks him out. So I skipped over a part where Marquis and his family stop for gas and we learn that people in the area study and believe in Hoodoo, so it’s fairly clear that this woman is a practitioner of the belief and that is confirmed quickly when she creates a Boogity of Marquis and tells him it’ll help heal him.

A Boogity is a Hoodoo figure made from blood, skin and various other pieces of the person it’s supposed to represent. I’m sure most are more acquainted with voodoo dolls, and would understand that if you poke a voodoo doll that the person it’s tied to will also feel that pain. I don’t know much about Hoodoo outside of what I’ve learned from this movie, but it seems that whatever happens to the Boogity will either help or hurt the person it represents. So if you pull out the Boogity’s tongue, the person will no longer be able to speak until its put back.

Basically, Eloise tells Marquis that he needs to get healed up before the blood moon in a few days and that’s when he’ll be reunited with his family, she can feel it. That’s not good enough for Marquis, as he wants to call an ambulance and begin a search party for his family, though Eloise says they don’t have a phone and there’s no hospital within 200 miles of their home. So Marquis does what anyone being held against their will by a woman who practices dark magic would do and he begins trying to figure out a way to escape and find his family before Eloise can do whatever it is she’s planning when the blood moon rises.

So, as mentioned at the start, the premise is there and the movie looks really good; however, there’s just not enough here to allow the film to be elevated to the heights that it had the potential to get to. It’s just entertaining enough to hook you in one of the worst ways a movie can be, as it’s intriguing and has potential throughout the first and most of the second act, and then it begins to crumble under its own weight leading into the third and final act before collapsing completely.

There are a number of loose ends that just never play into things the way they should. Elouise ends up with a jar of Marquis’ semen, which is never explained. I thought that’s what it was when I saw her sneakily swipe it from his bedside, but then I wrote it off because why would a jar of his semen randomly just be there? If she got it from him while he was unconscious then wouldn’t she have just taken it before he woke up? Why leave it as his bedside? And why didn’t he seem more disturbed when he eventually realizes that’s what it was? It’s just glazed over while he pieces some things together and it’s just really bizarre.

Also, Marquis’ father grew up in the area and apparently believed in hoodoo and magics, but it’s not like Marquis gained anything from that. While they constantly transition between days by having Marquis awake from nightmares of his father screaming at him, it never feels like anything is learned from these dreams. We know Marquis really doesn’t want to end up like his father, and so it’s possible that these nightmares are just him realizing that he’s going to have to reach into a darker place if he wants to survive; however, that’s just human survival. Marquis being beaten as a child and not wanting to be that way towards his own children is different than having to potentially get violent in a live or die scenario.

Some other complaints I have I can’t get into without spoiling the movie, and I don’t want to do that. Without spoilers, I will just say that the third act is a complete mess and even with the other issues I have with the story, there’s no real excuse for the third act being as poorly handled as it is. I checked the deleted scenes (there are a dozen or so of them) to see if it would help piece it together and one of them does. There’s a 55 second deleted scene that would’ve actually helped things greatly in terms of clearing up one major issue that sees a character basically teleporting from one area to another and upon his return, a number of other characters have disappeared and we have no idea where they’ve gone. Heck, we don’t even know how the character teleported out of this initial area in the first place, let alone returned to the other people being gone.

But this 55 second scene at least clears it up somewhat, explaining where they went (we’ll ignore how long it would’ve taken them to get there and back because that will never be logical while everything else is going down) and how they got back, as well as where the other characters go, yet for some unknown reason this scene was cut. I was watching the movie and was just trying to figure out what was happening, because none of it was clear, and to see this scene – which is less than a minute – cut out just baffles me. It wouldn’t have saved the third act, but I at least wouldn’t have been scratching my head as to how and why things were happening. I can’t believe that this 55 second scene was make or break for the studio and it simply had to be cut for time. It falling to the cutting room floor is just a plain mistake.

In the end, Spell is a movie that some will enjoy more than others because it does a good job at building a strong atmosphere and eerie setting, and sometimes that’s enough for people looking for a creepy movie to watch. What’s so unfortunate about Spell is that it’s a missed opportunity to give that atmosphere and setting an equally strong and well-crafted story. The one thing that Spell brings to the table that’s somewhat unique was the hoodoo angle, and even though it’s one of the main aspects of the film, it still feels like it wasn’t explored enough. In the end, Spell was a movie that felt like it had solid potential in the first half that it simply didn’t deliver upon in the second.

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:

Spell looks really good in this Blu-ray release, which isn’t overly surprising given that it was supposed to originally have a theatrical release in 2020. The cinematic visual presentation shines through and remains one of the high points of the film as a whole. There are a solid amount of scenes that take place at night or in darker settings, yet everything remains sharps and visually appealing, with no muddying in the blacks or distracting scenes that detract from the film. The audio also comes through clearly, with the dialogue, score and effects all working in harmony to deliver a pleasant horror film audio experience.

Special Features:

Deleted Scenes – There’s 27 minutes’ worth of deleted scenes to be found on the disc (which makes up for the majority of the advertised “Over an hour of special features”) and most of them being cut makes sense, as there’s some that really just draw things out meaninglessly. That said, there are a few in here that the film would’ve benefited from keeping in (especially the one mentioned in my review) and if the idea was for them to get it close to 90-minutes for a theatrical run…I still can’t understand why that 55-second clip was cut. It should’ve been put back in for the Blu-ray release, but honestly, it should’ve never been cut in the first place.

The Nightmare Spell – This is a 3-minute short film type experience of what Marquis is going through in his nightmares? It’s interesting and well done, but it again just shows that there was more that could’ve been done with the film over just sticking to the basics.

Rootwork: Conjuring Spell – This is an 18-minute behind-the-scenes feature which is pretty solid overall. It covers the usual cast, shooting, locations, etc. It shows that quite a bit went into the film, and again, it just makes the decisions made for the jarring third act seem all the more bizarre, as clearly there was a lot that went into this and it’s something that should’ve been noticed.

The Art of Hoodoo – This feature is just under 13-minutes in length and talks to the film’s production designer about their research into hoodoo and how they decided upon the choices made in the film.

Paramount Pictures Presents Spell. Directed by: Mark Tonderai. Written by: Kurt Wimmer. Starring: Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine, John Beasley, Lorraine Burroughs. Running time: 91 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Jan. 12, 2021

Tags: John Beasley, Loretta Devine, Omari Hardwick, Spell