This week offers up a nice mix of catalog favorites, indie & foreign films, and a few new discoveries. Check out the full slate of home video releases below!
All-Star Superman (4K Ultra HD) – The DC Animated Universe series of original animated films usually puts out two to three new movies per year, but once in a while they need to catch their breath. In those instances, they pull a favorite from their back catalog and give us an upgraded version of it, so this week we are treated to the inaugural 4K Ultra HD version of 2011’s All-Star Superman, based on the best-selling comic book series by superstar creators Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. This outing sees Superman having his powers multiplied by a factor of thousands thanks to a recent trip into the sun, which sounds great, except it’s also killing him. This leads our hero to do new things, including revealing his identity to Lois Lane. Now, while I’ve never been a Grant Morrison fan, I did enjoy this story in the comics and I found this film adaptation to be a really enjoyable one. The animation is based on Quitely’s incredibly stylized artwork, but luckily it’s softened up quite a bit, so it’s not as extreme as the artist’s actual work. All of which carries over quite nicely to the 4K Ultra HD format (the film is also included on Blu-ray and digital), which gives the movie a nice A/V boost. Superman’s primary colors really shine in the premium format, and blacks are deep and bold, while image clarity is at a plus. The surround soundtrack ensures that there’s activity in all of the surround channels, and the end result is a very immersive experience. If you’ve never seen All-Star Superman, it’s definitely worth checking out, and the more A/V-minded fans might find it a worthy upgrade.
Supercop: Collector’s Edition – 88 Films has become THE place to go for Asian action cinema catalog titles getting truly special releases. Their normal special editions are usually two-disc affairs with all-new packaging and tons of extra features, but then for their A-list titles they go above and beyond, giving us mini-box sets for them. Such is the case with Jackie Chan’s Supercop (also known as Police Story III). Co-starring Michelle Yeoh, Supercop is the third film in the Police Story franchise, but it was rebranded as Supercop for North American release – which honestly is fine as the film functions perfectly fine as a stand-alone movie. This time around, Chan and Yeoh go undercover in a massive drug cartel, and the results are some of the most incredible stunts and action sequences put on film to that time. I love the whole Police Story franchise, but Part III is easily the pinnacle of the series. This new release from 88 Films sees Supercop included on both 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray and loaded up with extra features, including interviews, featurettes, commentaries, and much more. But wait, the fun doesn’t stop there. Wrapped up in a gorgeous box featuring some stunning painted artwork, you also get a fold-out poster, a set of postcards, and a chunky full-color 80-page book that details the making of the film and is a truly excellent read. I absolutely love these deluxe releases from 88 Films and I know you will too, and this one is my favorite so far. Definitely worth tracking down!
The House of 1000 Corpses – I generally do NOT like Rob Zombie movies. I find he leans far too much to the gory and disturbing for my tastes. But over the years, whenever I get into a conversation about horror films with other movie fans and my dislike of Rob Zombie comes up, they almost always say, “But have you seen The House of 1,000 Corpses? That’s his best film by far!” And I always have to admit that, no, I haven’t seen it. Well, I’ve finally rectified that thanks to Lionsgate’s new 20th Anniversary Steelbook Edition of The House of 1,000 Corpses (which is currently a Best Buy exclusive). And you know what? I’M VERY ANGRY WITH EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO TOLD ME TO WATCH THIS FILM! Look, I know the movie has its fans, and if you’re one of them, I’ll get to how great this new release is in a minute. But I could not have hated this film more. Not only does it take a lot of inspiration from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (dirty inbred hillbillies slaughtering innocent people in gruesome ways), but it ups the depravity level by about a thousand. The film is dark, disturbing, disgusting, and unpleasant in every way; legit, it’s the first time that I can remember a movie making me physically nauseous. And as it goes on, it gets more and more nonsensical from a narrative point of view, abandoning logic or realism in favor of gore and brutality. So for me… just… no. Here’s the good news, if you ARE a fan of this movie, this is the ultimate fan edition. First of all, the film comes on Blu-ray in a terrific-looking Steelbook case with an acetate slipcover. On top of that, there’s a second bonus disc of special features that includes all of the original extra features from the previous home video releases, but also dozens of newly-available interviews with the cast and crew members; it’s a really comprehensive list of participants and you get a lot of bang for your buck. While I personally abhorred this movie, I can say that it’s a terrific new special edition in terms of sheer content for fans of the film.
Transfusion – Oh, Sam Worthington, why can’t you seem to find a hit movie outside of the Avatar franchise? This new action/drama film from Lionsgate stars Worthington as an Australian ex-soldier whose family is torn apart by a tragic accident. Years later, Ryan Logan is struggling to get by and his teenage son is getting in trouble with drugs and alcohol. When an old army buddy shows up with an invitation to some not-so-legal activities, Logan gets involved to help get his some out of some serious trouble with the police. I was excited to watch Transfusion as I really like Sam Worthington a lot – and his performance here is very good – but man, was this film a slog. It’s kind of like an arthouse film that had designs on being an action film but forgot to include much action. Just an example of the tone of the film, I watch TV and movies with the subtitles on because of some minor hearing issues, and I swear, at least once every three minutes the captions would read: [Somber music.] I kid you not, it was constant. Even the very last scene of the film, which is ostensibly supposed to be a positive one, the very last thing on the screen was a caption reading: [Somber music.] It was almost comical. The film is slow and quiet and purposefully over-moody. Even in the opening scenes, where we’re supposed to be seeing this happy family, everyone seems so dour and serious. The performances are all strong and I feel like there could have been a good film in here somewhere, but ultimately Transfusion is just waaaaay too serious for its own good.
The Haunting of Julia – This 1975 cult classic horror film was released as Full Circle in Europe but was renamed for its U.S. release, although neither title helped the film find much of an audience. Mia Farrow stars as a woman who has a nervous breakdown after her young daughter chokes to death. Instead of returning home, she buys a spooky mansion in London to recover, but mysterious events start to cause death and danger. Is Julia out of her mind and causing the trouble, or is it the spirit of a little girl who was killed on the property several years ago? That’s the question at the center of the film, and after a promising first half, the movie starts to fall apart. There’s some nice tension building in the first half, but the second half doesn’t live up to it and the movie kind of limps to its inevitable conclusion. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s not great either, despite a strong performance by Farrow. Now, the film has been released on a 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray combo for the first time courtesy of Scream Factory. While the picture and sound quality have to contend with the film being almost 50 years old, the 4K treatment does give us relatively sharp imagery as well as nice contrasts and good shadow delineation for the many darker scenes. For fans of the film, the release comes with a new Audio Commentary as well as four all-new making-of/interview featurettes. Scream Factory continues to bring us terrific new Collector’s Editions of cult classic horror films like The Haunting of Julia.
Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek – This unauthorized documentary collection is a great release for fans of Star Trek who might need something to hold them over until the next Trek show hits the streaming world. Over the course of six hours on four discs, we are treated to interviews with various cast and crew members who take us through the history of Star Trek to celebrate the franchise’s (at the time of this title’s production) 55th anniversary. Produced in conjunction with The History Channel and directed by Brian Volk Weiss, who brought us The Toys/Movies That Made Us on Netflix, the centerpiece of the content is interviews with the late Leonard Nimoy and Kirstie Alley, as well as Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Denise Crosby, Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner, Jeri Ryan, and Gates McFadden (who also narrates), among others. There are 11 episodes in total, and the full interviews with Nimoy, Alley, and Nichols are included as bonus features. Sure, we’ve heard some of the stories before, but if you’re a die-hard Trek fan, it’s hard to argue with this much new content and interviews. And since I am a die-hard Trek fan myself, I quite enjoyed it.
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- New Gods: Yang Jian – A sequel to the animated film New Gods: Nezha Reborn, this film picks up thirteen years later, with former god Yang Jian getting by as a bounty hunter of sorts. When he is hired to track down his long lost nephew, the action begins. This is a CGI-animated film and like the first movie, it looks absolutely incredible. The action and fantasy scenes are larger-than-life and quite visually stunning. The problem with this sequel is the story, which seems a bit all over the place and not particularly cohesive if you’re not dialed into the lore of ancient Asian deities. Also, the film’s tone shifts drastically from the opening scenes to the final scenes, making it seem like the filmmakers were a bit unsure exactly which direction they wanted to take the film in. Ultimately, it’s easily watchable and entertaining in places, but it wasn’t a home run for me.
- Calamity of Snakes – Unearthed Classics brings us a new Special Edition of a cult classic Asian movie release this week, with the two-disc Blu-ray release of Calamity of Snakes. This 1992 film breaks from Unearthed’s more traditional Asian offerings, which tend to lean towards the action genre, and is a full on horror/exploitation movie. It starts with a real estate developer ordering thousands of snakes on the construction site of his new building killed, because who wants a bunch of snakes in their building? Unfortunately, the snake world wants revenge, and boy, do they get it. There are a lot of snake deaths and a lot of human deaths in this movie, so if you don’t like snakes, stay away. Interestingly, I’m pretty sure we see thousands of snakes killed for real on screen here; there’s no CGI or animatronics at work here. Yikes. I can’t say I particularly liked this movie, but as usual, Unearthed Classics gives us the film on Blu-ray in a two-disc set that includes a number of new extra features like a commentary track and making-of featurettes, all wrapped up in a nice looking case with brand new artwork on the slipcover. Not my cup of tea, but fans of B-movie exploitation flicks will probably have fun with it.
- The Green Hornet – While The Green Hornet was most famous for the TV version from the 1960s co-starring Bruce Lee, it started off as a radio program in the 1930s. In the 1940s, it was made into two different movie serials from Universal Studios. This new Blu-ray collection from VCI Entertainment collects the first series from 1940, giving us 13 twenty-minute episodes starring Gordon Jones as The Green Hornet himself, Britt Reid, and venerable character actor Keye Luke as Kato, his sidekick who is also an inventor and warrior. I’ve reviewed a handful of these serials from VCI in the past, and as usual, they are a bit of a mixed bag, based solely on the serial format, not the quality of the release itself. The total running time on this Green Hornet adventure is over four hours long, which is way too long for a feature film about a vigilante crimefighter. However, keeping in mind that each episode was 20 minutes long (and each one ended on a cliffhanger), you have to recognize the original format when you’re evaluating it. For my money, watching a couple of chapters at a time was much more rewarding than trying to sit through the whole thing in one four-hour-plus viewing experience. That said, I’ve always been a big fan of The Green Hornet in comic books and on TV, so this was a fun flashback to another time and a different version of the character from the big screen.
- The Naked Fog/Moonlighting Wives – Film Movement brings us a double feature of erotic film pioneer Joe Sarno’s films in this new Blu-ray, which pairs The Naked Fog and Moonlighting Wives from the 1960s onto one Blu-ray disc. Moonlighting Wives is a drama about, well, kind of what the title implies. An unhappy housewife starts a prostitution ring through her legitimate business and is soon on the police’s radar. Meanwhile, The Naked Fog is a black-and-white film about a writer who finds relief for her writer’s block through a local brothel; but of course, nothing proceeds smoothly in these films, and she finds herself in trouble. Both films do their best to present as meaningful dramas while also playing up the eroticism and sexuality of the proceedings, and while they are very much a product of their times, they are also a look at some of the more notorious erotic cinema of the 1960s and it’s easy to see why Sarno is considered something of a pioneer in the genre. I can’t say either film blew me away, but they were an interesting and educational viewing experience.
- Amnesia – This 2001 Dutch film is a psychological drama/thriller from director Martin Koolhoven (who would go on to be a successful director in his native land) and starring Fedja van Huet playing dual roles as twin brothers. Alex is a photographer who can’t photograph people anymore because he keeps seeing the same woman in his viewfinder; when he gets a call from his twin brother, Aram, to come back home to see his ailing mother, Alex is forced to deal with his enigmatic past. The film is a bit on the esoteric side for my tastes, but van Huet does deliver strong performances as both brothers. He’s supported by Carice Van Houten (Game of Thrones, Black Book) in her debut film role and she’s quite good as well. This new two-disc special edition of Amnesia comes with a number of extra features, including not one but two bonus films, both TV movies also directed by Koolhaven, so you get a lot of value for your money.
- A Handful of Water – Venerable actor Jurgen Prochnow turns in a terrific performance in this new drama from his native Germany, in which he plays a Grumpy Old Man who discovers a young girl – a Yemeni refugee – in his basement. Now, the film’s plot is somewhat predictable, as the old man and the young girl begin to bond, even though he’s shunned most of the other people in his life. However, the performances by Prochnow as well as young Milena Pribak, are outstanding, as they play off of each other beautifully. So, sure, this is a pretty tried and true cinema story, but you won’t mind because the film tells said story in strong fashion, creating characters you can care about as they both grow from this relationship. The movie is in German with English subtitles, but don’t let that deter you if you like a good drama with lots of heart.
What’s New on Home Video – April 25th, 2023 – Superman, Star Trek, Supercop, House of 1000 Corpses, & More!
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