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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Escape From L.A., The Invisible Man, The Deer Hunter and more

The Invisible Man – One of the first major casualties of the Coronavirus shutting down movie theaters, the Invisible Man was on its way to becoming a respectable box office hit when it was pulled from theaters early. I’ve always loved the various takes on The Invisible Man, from the original Universal Horror classic to movies like John Carpenter’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man. This new take, starring Elizabeth Moss and Aldis Hodge, takes a little bit of a new spin, turning it into more of a psychological horror movie than a special-effects extravaganza or action thriller. And I really liked the film, quite a bit, but if I have one complaint, it’s the pacing. I liked that director Leigh Whannell worked really hard to create mood and an atmosphere to ratchet up the tension. There are a lot of long, lingering shots where you’re not sure if you’re supposed to be seeing something or not, which is quite effective. However, it’s used so much that it pushes the running time over two hours, and for my money, it could have been just a little tighter. Still, I’m glad this isn’t a Michael Bay styled hyper-edited thriller, and it really does get your pulse racing at times. The Invisible Man comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and the premium format shines in adding depth to the shadow delineation (helpful in the many dark scenes) and providing razor-sharp clarity. The surround soundtrack has to deal with many very quiet moments, but there are some nice spatial effects that really work with the onscreen action to make a tense scene even tenser. All in all, it’s a terrific presentation of a very enjoyable film.

The Deer Hunter – Shout Factory delivers their first-ever catalog 4K Ultra HD title this week with Michael Cimino’s critically acclaimed box office hit The Deer Hunter. Starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Meryl Streep, The Deer Hunter is one of those movies I’d only ever seen in bits and pieces. Getting to sit down and watch it in one sitting, it’s easy to see why it was such a big film in its time. It’s still a powerful film, of course, if a little hard to watch. The main complaint is the running time; I know three-hour movies were de rigueur in the ‘70s, but man, that’s a long time to watch a movie that’s so bleak and depressing. That said, the performances by the entire cast are incredible, and the film is an impressive feat. The New 4K Ultra HD transfer does give the film a new sheen. Like any movie that’s over 40 years old, it doesn’t exactly look brand new, but it does get a nice polish. Color saturation is the most noticeable improvement, especially in the Vietnam scenes. The US-set scenes are purposefully drab and lifeless, but the jungles of Vietnam come to life in a new way. The surround soundtrack also boasts a well-spread collection of sounds, giving each speaker a chance to work its magic. If you’re a fan of this film, this is the best presentation of it I’ve seen yet.

Escape From L.A. – Shout Factory’s excellent Scream Factory imprint brings us a new Collector’s Edition (on Blu-ray) of Escape From L.A., John Carpenter’s 1996 sequel to 1981’s cult classic Escape From New York. Kurt Russell returns as Snake Plissken, and while Escape From L.A. was a box office bomb, I think there’s a strong case to be made for the second film to start to grow its cult following. When the movie came out, I was extremely disappointed in it, largely because I’d spent the lat ten years becoming the biggest John Carpenter fan in the world and loving so many of his movies. I think my expectations were way too high at the time. Revisiting it for the first time in two decades, I absolutely loved it this time around. Sure, the special effects in the surfing scene are STILL terrible, but the movie is a lot more fun than I remember and it’s a worthy follow-up to EFNY. This new Collector’s Edition isn’t quite as loaded with extras as some of Scream Factory special editions are, but there are new interviews with Bruce Campbell and Stacy Keach which for some reason aren’t mentioned on the outer packaging. Weird. Still, I urge you to revisit this under-appreciated B-movie gem.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Agatha Raisin: Series Three – I love Ashley Jensen. She’s been terrific in everything from Ugly Betty to Ricky Gervais’s Extras to Eleventh Hour with Patrick Stewart. Here, she finally headlines her own show, and while it’s yet another British mystery series, Jensen raises it above being “yet another” British mystery series. The show has a bit of a Murder, She Wrote vibe as Jensen plays a former big business executive who retires to small town life, only to become an amateur detective. The show is a lot of fun and the mysteries aren’t too intense, and like I said, Jensen is terrific in the lead role. This is a fun one to sit down with. Of course, I always recommend going back and starting at the beginning, but honestly, you can pick this show up just about anywhere and follow along and enjoy it.
  • WB Archive Spotlight Warner Brothers excellent Warner Archives service brings us some new releases this week, all making their Blu-ray debut. As always, all of these are available via and your favorite online retailer. First up, we have Tin Cup, the delightful Kevin Costner/Rene Russo comedy set in the world of high stakes golfing. I’m a huge Kevin Costner fan, and I really enjoy this movie. It’s very typical ‘90s rom-com fare, but I especially love the ending. I don’t want to spoil it if you’ve never seen it, but it’s one of the best endings to any sports movie I’ve ever seen. This one is definitely worth revisiting. Next up, we have Blood on the Moon, a western starring Robert Mitchum and Barbara Bel Geddes. Directed by the great Robert Wise (West Side Story, Star Trek: The Motion Picture), the film is a pretty engaging western about a man who gets hired on by an old friend, only to realize he’s on the wrong side of the law. There’s a lot of moody scenes, eye squinting, and gunslinging showdowns, but there’s also romance and introspection. I’m not a huge western fan but I did enjoy this film. Next up we have Action of the Tiger, a seafaring adventure film starring Van Johnson and a very young Sean Connery in a supporting role. In fact, the film was directed by Terence Young, who would go on to direct Connery in his first Bond outing in Dr. No. It’s a solid adventure thriller, made better by a brisk running time that doesn’t leave much room for bloat or slow pacing. Finally, Reflections in a Golden Eye (which sounds James Bond related, but isn’t), stars Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando in a steamy melodrama about an insatiable housewife in a loveless marriage. Based on the novel of the same name by Carson McCullers, this two disc-set includes two versions of the film: the original full-color theatrical release, and a golden-tinged version (think a shiner sepia tone) that was how director John Huston wanted the film presented. It’s an interesting effort, although I think I prefer the regular color version better. A fine collection of Blu-ray debuts this week!
  • PBS Spotlight – We have a few new PBS releases, starting with two new releases for the younger kids, which is super handy if you’re stuck at home with little ones currently (or with summer vacation around the corner). PBS Kids: 15 Pet-Tastic Tales is a compilation of 15 episodes of hit PBS kids shows, such as Super Why, Wild Kratts, Caillou, Arthur, Daniel Tiger, and many others. Not surprisingly, each episode is pet-related, making this one a fun one for any kids who love animals. Next up, we have one I’m particularly fond of, The Berenstain Bears: Tree House Tales, Volume 3. Of course, I grew up reading the Berenstain Bears books myself as a kid, but my kids also grew up with them and watched the Bears cartoon on DVDs when they were young. I have to say, I find this show very endearing, filled with characters we love, good life lessons, and some solid humor. This “best of collection” includes 26 episodes, giving you over five hours of terrific kids’ programming for a low, low price. Switching gears a bit (although clearly still related, especially if you DO have kids at home right now!), we have Relieving Stress With Yoga. Hosted by Peggy Cappy (who has a number of Yoga titles out), this is a two-disc set with a little over two hours of yoga exercises on it. There isn’t a ton to review here; Peggy takes you through some yoga routines that focus on a number of different areas. I actually like Yoga, and Peggy has a nice cadence for leading it, so if you’re looking for a new workout routine, this is definitely worth the price. Finally, we have Cat and Dog Tales collects two episodes of Nova: Cat Tales and Dog Tales. Each one takes a look at the science of the relationships between humans and their pets, focusing individually on dogs and on cats. It doesn’t quite explain why dogs are awesome and cats are evil (purely a personal opinion!) But it does offer some insights, and there’s a lot of great footage of super cute pets! Fun!

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