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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Airplane, Sixteen Candles, Gundala, James Cameron’s The Story of Science Fiction, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Survive The Night, and more

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Airplane! – Long before the parody film genre degenerated into garbage like the 17th Scary Movie installment, it was a comedy art form like no other. And the granddaddy of them all is Airplane! Created as a spoof of the disaster movies of the 1970s — most notably the blockbuster that was AirportAirplane! remains to this day one of the funniest movies of all time. And now it’s been released on Blu-ray in a new Anniversary Edition as part of Paramount’s mostly-impressive Paramount Presents line of home video releases, which sees the studio digging into their most popular or influential films and giving us new Blu-ray editions of them. While it’s not the end-all-be-all of special editions, it does include a new documentary feature alongside a few archival extra features (although the lack of a digital copy — as usual with Paramount — is a massive disappointment.) Still, despite the lack of a digital copy, if you don’t already own Airplane! on Blu-ray now is the time to get it. And now is definitely the time to rewatch this classic comedy, because if we all couldn’t use some good belly laughs NOW, I don’t know when we could. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Sixteen Candles – Let me be clear about this right from the start: I’m a huge John Hughes fan. So if you throw a new version of Sixteen Candles at me (or any of his films) I’m going to dive in without hesitation. But I know, some of you are thinking, “Oh, great, yet another version of this film on home video.” And yeah, I understand why you might think that. After all, Hughes’ films have been packaged, bought, processed, and sold on home video more times than I can count. But this… this is an Arrow Video Special Edition. And if you don’t know what that means, it means you’re getting a Criterion Collection-level release, only for a film you already love. In addition to including one of the quintessential teen comedies of all time, this new Blu-ray version of Sixteen Candles boasts new artwork and a booklet, and a massive spread of extra features that includes six new documentary featurettes, an extended version of the film (which is not, admittedly, all that different), a video essay, an archival documentary, and more. Oh, and the film has been remastered and restored, giving us the best picture and sound quality since the film was in theaters. What’s not to love? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Jett: Season One – I will watch anything Carla Gugino stars in. Literally anything. She is easily one of my favorite actresses and I’ve been in love with her since she starred in Son in Law back in 1989. How she hasn’t become a household name is beyond me. Anyway, her latest project is Jett, a new show from Cinemax, where she plays a master thief who is out of prison and trying to care for her young daughter. But, OF COURSE, she gets sucked back into “the life.” Now, while there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about the concept, the show doesn’t just throw crime movie cliches at us. There’s an interesting cast of characters including a charming crime boss, a couple of endearing enforcers, a former undercover policeman, and a mysterious woman who is part of Jett’s life. The show has some funny moments and also has some dark moments, and it’s definitely trying hard to live up to its place on a pay channel where there are no network censorship restrictions; there’s plenty of sex, nudity, swearing, and violence. In fact, if I have one issue with the show, it’s that it tries too hard to live up to that “edgy” label and it goes a bit too dark a bit too often. I think there was an opportunity for a fun and freewheeling show that dialed up the charm here, and instead, it goes grim and gritty, which has been done to death. I still enjoyed it and Gugino is utterly fantastic, but I wish they had gone in a slightly different direction with the tone of the show.

12 Monkeys: The Complete Series12 Monkeys — the movie — is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time, hands down. It’s a brilliant time travel thriller, and I don’t think many films come close to touching it when it comes to sheer creativity and intelligence. So I was cautiously interested when SyFy announced a 12 Monkeys TV show. On the one hand, hey, more 12 Monkeys is something I can get excited about. On the other hand… would it be any good? So I dove into it and what I found is a show that is, well, pretty decent. I wish I could lavish the show with praise, and I promise I’m not just comparing it to the movie, it just never quite gets to the level I wanted it to. It’s a perfectly watchable sci-fi TV series, and I think you can get wrapped up into the storylines, which start off pretty close to the movie and inevitably begin to drift away. That said, it just never gets to the point where I can’t wait to watch the next episode. Is it enjoyable? Sure. Is it compelling? Not entirely, at least not for me. But for fans of the show, the entire four-season run has been collected on Blu-ray for the first time with the new 12 Monkeys: The Complete Series box set from Mill Creek. You get every episode and a slew of extra features, so it’s hard to argue that if you’re a fan of the show, you’re going to want to pick this release up.

James Cameron’s The Story of Science Fiction – James Cameron’s excellent 2018 AMC miniseries The Story of Science Fiction comes to home video this week, and if you haven’t seen it before now I can’t recommend it highly enough. Spread over six episodes, the show features Cameron talking to literally every big name in the sci-fi genre that you can imagine about a number of the most influential and popular science fiction films of all time. Each of the six episodes has a different theme (alien life, space exploration, monsters, dark futures, intelligent machines, and time travel), and then each episode deconstructs a handful of the most seminal movies in that genre. You get a good mix of conversations, analysis, and film clips, meaning these aren’t dry documentaries, but it’s like a six-hour making-of bonus feature on your favorite DVD, except the subject of the making-of is science fiction itself. And it wasn’t just hyperbole when I said that Cameron interviews EVERYONE: Steven Spielberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sigourney Weaver, Will Smith, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Keanu Reeves, and Jeff Goldblum are just the tip of the iceberg of the many big names that sit down to talk about these films. This series is — simply put — a MUST HAVE for fans of science fiction.

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark – We have another Arrow Special Edition Blu-ray release this week, and it’s Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, the 1988 cult classic comedy that never found an audience in theaters but has gained a solid following on home video. And this is what I love about Arrow Video. Elvira: MOTD is not essential cinema in any way, shape, or form. But Elvira has a legion of fans who have kept her popular for 40 years, and this release is like a love letter to them. Sure, the film is cheesy and silly, but it also has some charming moments and plenty of “Hey, I know that actor” faces popping up, and it’s a fun viewing experience. And, as usual with Arrow special editions, you get restored and remastered picture and sound, new cover artwork, an illustrated booklet, and tons of extras including two commentary tracks, a feature-length documentary, and multiple featurettes and extras. This is a great release, and fig you’re a fan of Cassandra Peterson’s alter ego at all, you can’t pass this one up.

Survive the Night – Bruce Willis continues his attempt to capture the Direct-to-Video King crown with Survive the Night, a thriller that also stars Chad Michael Murray. Now, I’m a huge fan of One Tree Hill, the series that made Murray a star, so in this particular go around, I was more interested in watching this home invasion thriller for him rather than Willis, but both of them are pretty good in it. It’s a solid enough film, with Murray playing a doctor who gets followed home by a couple of criminals, one of whom has been shot and needs medical attention. From there, it’s a cat and mouse game between a deranged bad guy and Murray and his family (which includes Willis, his ex-sheriff father.) The film is relatively by-the-numbers, but it’s also easily watchable. It’s a solid thriller, if unmemorable, but if you like the people involved, it’s worth a watch.

The Room – It’s funny to me that anybody would choose to name a new movie The Room, considering the notoriety of both Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic The Room and Brie Larson’s Oscar-winning drama Room. It just seems like there’s a lot of — ahem — room for confusion. That said, this newest The Room is a thriller starring Olga Kurylenko an actress who I like quite a bit. She got her start as a Bond girl but has since gone on to craft a career that sees her becoming something of an action and genre heroine. In this film, she plays a woman who moves with her husband to a big ol’ remote house in Maryland. Now, you might think this is gonna be a haunted house flick, but it goes in a different direction, with the couple discovering a room that can grant them their fondest desires. Okay, I like that, give me a little something different. I won’t tell you what happens from there, but I wish the film had remained a little more cohesive. It kind of falls apart as it goes along after a strong start and the ending is not what I would have wanted. Great concept, poor execution equals a film that’s so-so at best.

Gundala: Rise of a Hero – Even though Hollywood has given us the Marvel Cinematic Universe, America isn’t the only country making superhero epics, as evidenced by the new Indonesian superhero film Gundala: Rise of a Hero. Apparently based on a very successful Indonesian comic book (although not one I’m familiar with), the film is an origin story of a man who lives a hard life and then gets superpowers, eventually leading to his rebirth as a superhero. It’s nothing groundbreaking from a story point of view, but I was impressed that the budget and production values were much better than some of the other foreign superhero films I’ve seen. There are some great action sequences, including no small amount of martial arts, but there are super-powered action scenes as well. It is subtitled and I don’t know if it’s going to blow away audiences fed a steady diet of the biggest and best that Marvel has to offer, but it’s an enjoyable action/sci-fi romp.

Also Available This Week on Home Video:

  • Day of the Warrior & Return to Savage Beach – Mill Creek continues their Blu-ray releases of the entire Andy Sidaris catalog with two new entries on Blu-ray this week: Return to Savage Beach and Day of the Warrior. Sidaris has developed a huge cult following by spending his career making movies with scantily clad female secret agent-types getting into crazy adventures in exotic locales. Return to Savage Beach is — not surprisingly — a sequel to Savage Beach, while Day of the Warrior is a stand-alone film. After the last two releases in the line were directed by Christian Sidaris (I assume Andy’s son?), these two films see Andy back behind the camera, directing Julie Strain in all her B-movie queen goodness. As with all of Sidaris’s movies, these are cheesy action films but they don’t try to be anything other than what they are, and honestly, they’re hard films not to have fun with.
  • The Other Lamb – While this film is being marketed as perhaps a psychological thriller or a dark drama, it veers further into art-house drama territory than may be evident. Ostensibly the story of a young woman named Selah who is an unwitting member of a cult, the film is much more of an atmospheric outing than it is a narratively driven one. The film features long bouts of silence, plenty of shots of people staring off into the distance, and a pace that could be described as “glacial.” And it’s a shame, because I find cults fascinating, and I usually enjoy watching films that deal with them. It’s not to say this is a bad film; it’s well-acted and features some impressive cinematography. It’s just much less of a compelling story than it is a series of images and feelings. People who like artsier fare will probably dig it, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.
  • Four Kids and It – You look at the cast of this film, and it makes you wonder. Michael Caine; he’s not exactly hurting for work. Matthew Goode; star of Watchmen and Downton Abbey. Russell Brand; successful comedian and actor. Paula Patton; working actress with a few notable roles. So you look at these pretty well-known people, and then you look at the CGI muppet-ET-fraggle-puppet “it” of the film’s title, and you wonder, “did all these people just need a paycheck?” Apparently the film is based on a bestselling kids book, but I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of it before. With all that said, it turns out the movie is actually a relatively enjoyable family film. The story is nothing new (kids discover Magical Creature, must protect it from Bad People), but the cast is likable (obviously, as we just discussed) and the film moves along at a good little clip. Michael Caine providing the voice of the It works pretty well, and I think kids will like this film, even if parents occasionally cringe.
  • The Phantom Rider: Classic Cliffhanger – VCI Video brings us another classic Hollywood serial with the Blu-ray release of The Phantom Rider. This western serial was originally from Universal Studios and it runs a whopping four hours, starring Buck Jones as a lone state ranger trying to fend off a gang of outlaws. As with the other serials I’ve seen from VCI, this is a nice historical archive of a long-gone art form (the pre-movie serial cliffhangers), but I don’t know that it pays all that well as a complete story from start to finish. The running time is excessive, and while I understand that’s because it was originally told over a couple of dozen entries back in 1936, I wonder if there might not be some value to editing together a two-hour feature-length film as a bonus feature. Still, VCI has remastered the picture and the film looks better than it has any right to, so fans of Jones or the old Hollywood cliffhangers will find a lot of bang for their buck.

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