Blu-Ray Roundup: June 13th 2014

Blu-Ray Roundup: June 13th 2014

 by Pete Macabre

Good morning readers! I’m excited to bring you the 2nd installment of the Blu-Ray Roundup column on We Live Film. For those of you that didn’t watch me during my YouTube days, I hosted a weekly series called the Blu-Ray Roundup where I reviewed the latest High Definition (and some DVD) titles in brief. I continue that tradition here on We Live Film with this weekly column discussing the latest releases. So without further ado, here are my mini-reviews/thoughts on the latest home video releases.

The Nutty Professor: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Warner Bros.)

The Nutty Professor: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition

Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Street Date: June 3rd 2014

 

  • It’s amazing that after fifty years, The Nutty Professor is still as funny, entertaining, and sweet as it was back in 1963. I’ll admit, I’ve never been a big fan of the Jerry Lewis “school of comedy”, but I always find time to revisit this film, which is one that I would call the “definitive” Jerry Lewis experience. Professor Kelp (Lewis) is a brilliant yet awkward man, who is neither smooth with the ladies or impressing his colleagues at the local University, where most of his experiments result in chaos for the faculty and students. Tired of his lonely life, Kelp decides to invent a formula that will turn anyone who drinks it into the person they always wanted to be. After testing it on himself, Kelp turns into the dashing, smooth-talking ladies man Buddy Love. I won’t reveal too much more of this hilarious film, but rest assured that you will find yourself giggling with delight at Lewis’ talented dual performances, and the ensuing madness that is The Nutty Professor. Warner Bros. Home Video has now released the 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition of the film, which looks stunning in High Definition. The color scheme has always been bright and vivid for this comedy, and the colors, detail, and authentic film grain look outstanding here. The audio track is delightful as well, regularly switching with dynamic ease between dialogue, music, and sound effects. The Ultimate Collector’s Edition comes with an all-new featurette on the making of the film, the complete storyboard book, the cutting script with Director’s notes, a special production booklet, and much more. If you pick up the UCE, you’ll also find DVD editions of Cinderfella and The Errand Boy, as well as a CD of Phoney Phone Calls. If you’re a fan of the film, definitely pick up this 50th Anniversary edition as it comes highly recommended.

 

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount)

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount)

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Street Date: June 10th 2014

 

  • Growing up, my Father was (and still is) a big fan of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series. He read and owned the books, had the original “trilogy” of films on Betamax (!), and introduced me to the series in my early teens. Having revisited the film franchise last year, I was a little disappointed to find that the series has not aged as well as I would have liked. They are solid political thrillers with good performances from the respective casts, but I just don’t find them as entertaining as I once did. With that being said, I went into this series’ reboot; Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, with an open mind. This time around, Chris Pine plays Jack Ryan, having been injured in Afghanistan post 9/11, and now working as a covert CIA analyst on Wall Street. When he discovers that Russian funds linked to Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) have disappeared, he journeys across the globe to investigate, with some help from fellow agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) and his girlfriend (Kiera Knightley). For me, this is a film series that really didn’t need a “reboot” or update, and could have easily existed in the original continuity of the series. With that being said, the performances here are solid, the action is intense but focused, and the story is consistently entertaining. But like the other films in the series, I’m not entirely sure it’s a movie I would revisit down the road. The Blu-Ray edition from Paramount Home Entertainment looks great in High Definition, with solid colors, and a nice clean digital image. The audio is even better, with truly dynamic range across all channels. Dialogue and action are appropriately balanced here on a track that sounds terrific. Bonus features include deleted and extended scenes, several decent featurettes, and a commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Lorenzo di Bonaventura. I do recommend checking out Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, but it’s more of a rental than a “must own.” 
McLintock! (Paramount)

McLintock! (Paramount)

McLintock!

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Street Date: May 20th 2014

 

  • If you’re a John Wayne fan, McLintock! is an easy recommendation. Though it’s not the tough-as-nails, gun-toting, shoot ‘em up that you might be accustomed to from The Duke, it’s a consistently entertaining and often hilarious film, with a rare comedic performance from Wayne. A local cattle baron who is living almost too comfortably, G.W. McLintock (John Wayne) stumbles home drunk most nights, enjoys the cooking of his hired maid (Yvonne De Carlo), and eagerly awaits the return of his daughter Becky (Stefanie Powers) from College. What he didn’t anticipate was that his estranged wife (Maureen O’Hara) would arrive in town and proceed to mess up all of his plans. Just to be clear, McLintock! is as politically and socially dated as can be, but it remains funny and watchable. The chemistry between Wayne and O’Hara is something truly special, and has rarely been matched in film history. This new Blu-Ray from Paramount Home Entertainment has been restored from original film elements, and features a great looking Blu-Ray transfer that is a significant upgrade from the previously released edition from Olive Films. The audio is fine as well, regularly balancing the somewhat “tinny” dialogue and music. The great news for Wayne fans is that Paramount has included a vast array of special features here. From an introduction by Leonard Maltin, to several featurettes and commentaries with O’Hara and Patrick Wayne, you will have plenty to delve into over Father’s Day weekend. This brand new Blu-Ray of McLintock! comes highly recommended.

 

Parts Per Billion (Millennium)

Parts Per Billion (Millennium)

Parts Per Billion

Distributor: Millennium Home Entertainment

Street Date: June 4th 2014

 

  • With Parts Per Billion, we have another end-of-the-world/biological disaster scenario that has been played out in countless other, and frankly better, films. That’s not to say that this is a total loss, as I thought the performances from this cast were impressive. It’s the story itself, and the execution, that runs a little too long and thin. The plot centers on three different couples (Josh Hartnett-Rosario Dawson, Frank Langella-Gena Rowlands, and Penn Badgley-Teresa Palmer) who each deal with the impending doom in their own way. We get the classic, derivative, “martial law” and cities in chaos scenes, mixed in with the emotionally draining and sincere dialogue between the couples. Again, this isn’t a total loss, it’s just been done before, and in more polished fashion. The good news is that the Blu-Ray edition from Millennium Home Entertainment looks very slick in High Definition, with a somewhat muted color scheme and fine detail looking very good. The audio track is decent, but sometimes struggles in balancing the large-scale catastrophe moments with audible dialogue for the viewer. Special Features are severely lacking for this release, as we only get a handful of other Millennium catalog trailers to view. I can’t say I recommend it, but the performances and dialogue here may be worth a rental.

 

Like Someone in Love (The Criterion Collection)

Like Someone in Love (The Criterion Collection)

Like Someone in Love

Distributor: The Criterion Collection

Street Date: May 20th 2014

 

  • Iranian Director Abbas Kiarostami’s Japanese-language film Like Someone in Love, while an absolute visual treat to behold, failed to capture my attention in the same way that some of his previous masterpieces have. It’s a peculiar story for sure, with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. But at the end of the day, I feel as if it’s a flawed film with too many loose ends and contrived moments to merit a total recommendation. In the film, college student Akiko spends her evenings working as a high-class prostitute, unbeknownst to her boyfriend Noriaki. Her newest client, a former Professor named Takashi, is an elderly man more in need of conversation and company than anything more intimate. After a special night the two share together, Noriaki finds them, and mistakenly believes that Professor Takashi is Akiko’s grandfather. The remainder of the film is spent in the company of Takashi and Akiko, as they await their various fates pending the truth coming to light. As I stated before, the visuals are incredibly impressive here, and the dialogue is believable and heartfelt, but I didn’t feel hooked into this particular tale. The Blu-Ray from The Criterion Collection is as impressive as it gets, with a stunning High Definition picture. Fine object detail is incredibly clear, and the gold-hued color scheme is gorgeous to behold. The audio is equally impressive, managing dialogue and the score with ease. Special Features include a forty-five minute documentary on the making of the movie as well as a booklet with an essay by Nico Baumbach. Though I was slightly disappointed in the movie itself, I can still easily recommend a rental for the gorgeous visuals and unique characters.

 

13 Sins (Anchor Bay)

13 Sins (Anchor Bay)

13 Sins

Distributor: Anchor Bay Home Entertainment

Street Date: June 17th 2014

 

  • 13 Sins is the epitome of a brilliant concept that is poorly executed. From what I understand, this is an American remake of a supposedly better foreign film, but I can’t compare as I haven’t seen the original. In this version, we meet the financially troubled Elliot (Mark Webber), who receives a phone call late one evening from a mysterious stranger. The stranger informs Elliot that he is, in fact, on a hidden camera game show of sorts, and that he will receive funds deposited into his bank account for completing 13 increasingly disturbing tasks. The tasks start out innocently enough, with Elliot being asked to swat a fly that is buzzing around in his car. As soon as he does, 1,000.00 is deposited into his account, and he realizes that this game is legit. As Elliot’s tasks become more disturbing and attract more attention, he attracts the attention of the local law enforcement (Ron Perlman), but he’s unable to stop his greedy desire for money in a desperate situation. There’s even a way out, he can stop playing the game at any time, but if he does, all previous funds that he has received will be forfeited. It sounds like a great thriller, doesn’t it? The script immediately establishes a solid concept to work with, but this film almost immediately transitions from clever to silly, and very fast. The performances are earnest, especially given the subject matter, and Ron Perlman gives his all to his character, but when the viewer is shaking his head in disbelief within a half hour of the movie’s beginning, you know there’s a problem. If you are a fan of the film, Anchor Bay has provided a very strong Blu-Ray transfer that handles the dark and gritty cinematography very well. Black levels are consistently solid, and detail is fine. The audio track works as well, regularly balancing dialogue and action elements through the appropriate channels. Anchor Bay has also included several worthwhile special features including a feature commentary, a making-of featurette, an alternate ending (which didn’t work for me either), deleted scenes, and an anatomy-of-a-scene featurette. I can’t say I recommend 13 Sins, but if you enjoyed it, the Blu-Ray is the version to own.

 

Rawhide: The Eighth & Final Season (Paramount/CBS)

Rawhide: The Eighth & Final Season (Paramount/CBS)

Rawhide: The Eighth & Final Season

Distributor: CBS/Paramount Home Entertainment

Street Date: June 3rd 2014

 

  • One of my favorite releases to discuss in this week’s roundup is the final and shortest season of the classic western television series, Rawhide, which is finally available on DVD. This was a significant season for the show, as Eric Fleming, the series’ original main star, had left the show after seven seasons. Clint Eastwood’s Rowdy Yates would become the main attraction for the last thirteen episodes of Season 8, which was then later cancelled by CBS. If you’ve never seen Rawhide before, you can really pick-up watching the show in any episode or season, as there is relatively no plot continuity or connection between them, besides the obvious character traits that have been developed. Your typical Rawhide episode features our crew of cross-country cattle drivers getting into sticky situations with folks or townships they encounter on the trail. Eastwood’s Rowdy Yates and Paul Brinegar’s Wishbone provide the main attraction to this short season, with some fun episodes including rowdy being taken hostage by a family of horse traders, a mine collapse forcing the drovers to confront a bear, and of course the final episode where we say goodbye to these classic characters. Eastwood is as charming as ever, and was just achieving superstardom with Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy at the time. The DVD release of the final season from Paramount and CBS features quality transfers for these 13 episodes, which look surprisingly good for their age and elements. The audio is fairly “tinny”, but dialogue always comes through clear enough. There aren’t any special features to speak of, but this is still a fantastic DVD set! As a huge Western genre fan, Rawhide’s final season comes highly recommended.

 

Pretty Little Liars: The Complete Fourth Season (Warner Bros.)

Pretty Little Liars: The Complete Fourth Season (Warner Bros.)

Pretty Little Liars: Season 4

Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Street Date: June 3rd 2014

 

  • I know, you’re likely surprised that I’m reviewing a show like Pretty Little Liars in the column, and while I completely understand the irony, allow me to explain. My wife has casually watched this series over the past few years, and I’ve caught an episode from time to time, which has never really impressed me. It’s your typical modern day mystery show aimed at young women that incorporates interpersonal drama, deception, murder, etc. During Season Four, the film-noir episode “Shadow Play” aired, which caught my interest when I saw the promo’s on TV. Being a big fan of the film-noir genre, especially Double Indemnity and Touch of Evil, I decided to sit down and watch this particular episode in full, instead of casually watching over my wife’s shoulder while I’m busy doing something else. I almost wish the entire series were like this, because I really dug the black and white cinematography and classy style of this episode. Unfortunately, the majority of this season is rather predictable soap-style entertainment, which for some of you, is more than enough. This season picks up with the aftermath of the mysterious fire at the lodge, with the girls trying to figure out where Alison is and how Detective Wilden was murdered, all while evading the mysterious “A.” For fans of the show, the DVD release looks just fine, though it obviously lacks the definition and clarity of Blu-Ray. Colors look bold and authentic, and the transfers are free of artifacts or anomalies. Special Features include three brand new featurettes, a bonus “recap” episode, and unaired scenes. If this is your typical TV entertainment, or if you’re already a fan of the show, the DVD is worth picking up. Everyone else may want to skip this one, but I did enjoy the Shadow Play episode quite a bit.

 

The Angela Mao Ying Collection (Shout! Factory)

The Angela Mao Ying Collection (Shout! Factory)

The Angela Mao Ying Collection: When Taekwondo Strikes, The Tournament, Stoner, The Himalayan, A Queen’s Ransom, Broken Oath

Distributor: Shout! Factory

Street Date: June 17th 2014

 

  • I love this DVD set from Shout! Factory, especially because it was one of those titles that I really knew nothing about, and gave off a slight shrug when it arrived for review. After watching the first film in the set, When Taekwondo Strikes, I was hooked on Angelo Mao Ying. Up until this DVD release, the only film I had ever seen of Angela’s was her short sequence in Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, where she played his sister. Throughout the 1970’s she was in countless martial arts films, constantly training and acquiring new skills in hapkido, wushu, and taekwondo, among others. Though she retired in the early 1990’s to focus on her family, her films have become legendary among martial arts enthusiasts. This DVD set from Shout! includes When Taekwondo Strikes (1973), The Tournament (1974), Stoner (1974), The Himalayan (1976), A Queen’s Ransom (1976), and Broken Oath (1977). The plots are goofy but incredibly entertaining with tons of great fight sequences that are well choreographed and stylish. As a new fan of Angela’s, I’m eager to dive into the rest of her short but awesome filmography. This DVD set doesn’t include much in the way of special features beyond the theatrical trailers for the films, but it does feature surprisingly decent picture and audio, given the elements provided. If you’re into martial arts films, this is a great price for all of the films included. Definitely one of my favorite sets in this week’s roundup column, so pick it up if you get a chance!

 

Martial Arts Movie Marathon (Shout! Factory)

Martial Arts Movie Marathon (Shout! Factory)

Martial Arts Movie Marathon: The Skyhawk, The Manchu Boxer, The Dragon Tamers, The Association

Distributor: Shout! Factory

Street Date: May 20th 2014

 

  • Yet another recent martial arts themed DVD release is the Martial Arts Movie Marathon from Shout! Factory. This set includes The Skyhawk, with Kwan Tak Hing playing the role of Wong Fei Hung (which Jet Li would later become known for). There’s also The Manchu Boxer, which is essentially Enter the Dragon with different actors. One of my favorites in this set is The Dragon Tamers from the legendary John Woo, who would later go on to make classics like Hard Boiled, The Killer, and A Better Tomorrow I and II. There are some fun fight sequences as our heroes go up against a sinister sibling duo. Finally, The Association rounds out this DVD set, with a Detective going up against a prostitution ring. This one features the aforementioned Angela Mao Ying, and is quite a bit of cheesy martial arts fun. The DVD from Shout! Factory features transfers from rather poor elements, but each film seems to look better as the movie progresses. No features on this one, but the audio/subtitle tracks are solid. Definitely recommended!

 

Hapkido/Lady Whirlwind Double Feature (Shout! Factory)

Hapkido/Lady Whirlwind Double Feature (Shout! Factory)

Martial Arts Double Feature: Hapkido & Lady Whirlwind

Distributor: Shout! Factory

Street Date: April 22nd 2014

 

  • This April release from Shout! Factory is, again, tons of fun for fans of martial arts cinema. Hapkido stars Angela Mao Ying as one of three students expelled in Korea, who are forced to move back to China to setup their own martial arts school. Considering their style inferior, a local Japanese club challenges them to a battle to establish territorial dominance. Though it’s a complete rip-off of other genre movies from the time, this one sure is a lot of fun! The fight sequences in particular are well handled. With Lady Whirlwind, Angelo Mao Ying stars once again as a woman who comes to town seeking vengeance against the man who left her pregnant sister alone to die. However, the two team up to take down the local opium gang, but not before agreeing that once it’s all over, they will have their final duel. The transfers provided to Shout! Factory here are a bit hit-and-miss on this one, as Hapkido looks much better than Lady Whirlwind. I’m guessing the original film elements were not very well preserved. The good news is that Shout! has included some fun trailers and interviews for bonus material. This set is great entertainment, even with a so-so transfer on one of the titles, I still recommend this set at the current price point.

Well folks, that’s going to do it for this week’s Blu-Ray Roundup column. Stay tuned to We Live Film in the coming week for the next installment with reviews for the latest Blu-Ray and DVD releases.

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