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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: American Sniper, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Ordinary Angels, One From the Heart: Reprise, Dead Wrong, and We Go On

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

It’s a catalog heavy week this week, largely because my review copy of Dune 2 was delayed by the shipping carrier (it came out on May 21st) and I haven’t been able to review it yet. Hopefully next week. Meanwhile, this week sees some well-loved movies hitting home video in new formats. Check out the full slate below.

American Sniper (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: For my money, I would have really liked to have seen Bradley Cooper win the Oscar for Best Actor for American Sniper; I think he deserved the award, but it wasn’t meant to be. Obviously, by now we all know what an incredible hit American Sniper was when it hit theaters in 2014 and grossed a whopping $300 million at the domestic box office.  The film hit upon a magical combination of canny marketing, an amazing lead performance, a fascinating story, and an all-around good film to capture the American public’s attention. The fact that it’s a war film is secondary to the fact that it’s better than a lot of war films that have come out over the past decade or two, including Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker. Revisiting the film for the first time in several years thanks to the new 4K Ultra HD release from Warner Bros., I find that the film holds up quite well. It’s a strong drama that has some intense action moments to it, so if you’re looking for a thoughtful, tense, invigorating, emotional movie, American Sniper will fit the bill perfectly.

The 4K Audio/Video: Warner has done a nice job of bringing American Sniper to 4K Ultra HD, with a transfer that’s results in the film looking the best I can say I’ve ever seen it on home video. Of course, the film looked pretty great to begin with, but close-ups especially are nicely clean and clear. The colors really stand out as well, however, giving the film a new lifelike look on 4K. The soundtrack isn’t an especially overdone affair, but you get clean and clear dialogue with no crackle or hiss, and the music comes through sounding full and effective. During the more action-oriented scenes, the surrounds become much more active, and gunshots sound booming thanks to a nice bass channel. Overall, it’s a very strong effort for a well-loved film.

The Special Features: There are seven featurettes, ranging subject matter from Chris Kyle himself to Clint Eastwood to the making of the film. You also get the trailer.

The Wrap-UpAmerican Sniper isn’t one of those movies that I imagine most people have on repeat, as it’s a bit of a heavy lift with a highly charged and emotional climax. But it looks and sounds great on 4K Ultra HD and it will make a nice addition to y our collection if you’re a fan of the movie.

Ordinary Angels

The MovieOrdinary Angels found a lot of fans when it hit theaters a couple of months ago; even though it only grossed $20 million domestically, it had a very positive buzz and good word-of-mouth, and in a time when box office grosses are down, a drama about a terminally-ill little girl and an alcoholic hairdresser doesn’t exactly translate to big box office dollars. In this movie, Hilary Swank plays a hairdresser who struggles with her alcohol intake; when she hears about a terminally ill five-year-old whose mother has just died, she decides to get involved with the family and raise money for the grieving father and the sick little girl. From there, it’s a series of, “How much more can one family go through?” moments filled with tears (and some laughs, admittedly) and a few uplifting moments. While the title invokes a faith-based film, it’s really just more of a movie about how ordinary people can make an impact on other people’s lives. Reacher’s Alan Ritchson turns in a good performance as the dad while Swank is reliably effective, and the two little girls in the cast are both terrific as well. You’ll cry a lot watching Ordinary Angels, but you’ll come out of it feeling positive.

The Special Features:  There are four making-of featurettes that run about a half-hour total, an audio commentary track, and about seven minutes of deleted scenes.

The Wrap-UpOrdinary Angels is one of those movies you have to steel yourself to watch — as I think any movie involving an ill child is — but it is based on a true story and they don’t usually make those when there isn’t a story worth telling.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (4K Ultra HD Steelbook)

The MovieKiller Klowns from Outer Space is one of those notorious ‘80s cult classics movie that it seems like everyone in the world saw on HBO when they were a kid… except for me. Believe it or not, I had never seen this movie before this review copy crossed my desk. And usually when that happens, when I don’t have the veneer of nostalgia that so many other people do, I end up disappointed. So I threw in the new 4K Ultra HD release of Killer Klowns from Shout Factory and sat back preparing for the worst. And then a funny thing happened… I absolutely loved this movie! I mean, like, seriously LOVED it! Is it cheesy ‘80s horror schlock? Without a doubt! But there is something magical about it at the same time. The story is pretty simple: aliens who like clowns land near a small town and start killing the citizens in a variety of circus-related ways: cotton candy guns, killer hand shadows, balloon prisons, etc. The film is just so wild an unhinged in its mayhem, but also simple in its structure — average people team up with a lone policeman to fight off the invaders — that it was so much more fun than I expected. The clowns feature animatronic heads/faces that could be laughably cheesy but instead are seriously creepy; there’s no denying the low-budget nature of the film, but. None of that seems to matter once the clowns start killing hapless townspeople. This week, the film debuts on 4K Ultra HD in a super cool Steelbook edition courtesy of Scream Factory, and it’s a great package all around.

The 4K Audio/Video: The audiovisual upgrade is definitely noticeable, even if the film does show its age a little bit. Imagery is super clear with excellent shadow delineation (a must-have for a film where large portions of it occur in the dark), while colors are strong and clarity is terrific. The surround soundtrack won’t win any awards, but it does create a nice, active atmosphere throughout the film.

The Special Features: Things kick off with an Audio Commentary With The Chiodo Brothers, then you get four making-of featurettes, a collection of deleted scenes, a set of bloopers, a few early short films from the Chiodo Brothers, and more.

The Wrap-Up: I had so much more fun with Killer Klowns from Outer Space than I expected to. Scream Factory typically does great releases for the cultiest of cult classics, and this release is no different, especially with that eye-catching Steelbook case to house the fun.

One From the Heart: Reprise (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: I know that Francis Ford Coppola is still revered as one of Hollywood’s great directors, largely on the strength of his Godfather trilogy and movies like The Conversation, so I don ’t want to be too harsh in my commentary on him, but… seriously, what’s the deal with Francis Ford Coppola? On the one hand, he gives us the aforementioned films, and on the other, he gives us movies like Twixt and this forgotten ‘80s offering, One From the Heart (Reprise.) I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really familiar with this film so I did a little research on it. Originally it was slated to be a simple romantic comedy, until Coppola decided he wanted it to be a lavish musical production. He turned down the $2 million one of the studios had agreed to provide and then caused the budget to balloon up to $26 million dollars, much of which came from a private investor. Then the film was one of the biggest flops ever, grossing less than $1 million at the domestic box office. And you’d think that would be the end of it, but Coppola has re-edited the film not once but twice. The theatrical cut was 107 minutes, then in the early 2000s it received a director’s cut which was down to 92 minutes, and now he’s created the “Reprise” version, which adds six minutes of “lost” footage back into it. I mean… it’s just not that good of a film, Francis. It’s not a terrible film, either. Effectively, it’s about a man and a woman who contemplate breaking up and meet strangers who might reinvigorate their love lives. But while Teri Garr is a likable lead, Frederic Forrest is slightly lacking in charisma for me. And the soundtrack features music by Tom Waits (sung by Waits and Crystal Gayle), and while I know Waits has his fans, I’ve never been one of them. The visuals are pretty cool and the film does have some charms, but it’s just not good enough to justify needing three versions of.

The 4K Audio/VideoOne From the Heart comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD for the first time and it looks and sounds quite good. Colors are at a premium, with the lights and scenery of Las Vegas at a premium, which makes it seem like they’re leaping off the screen at times. Image detail is very good overall, although there are a few softer moments that I suspect are more the filmmaking than the transfer itself. The print is largely free of any dirt or debris, which is a nice bonus for an older film. The surround soundtrack focuses largely on the music and dialogue, both of which come through quite nicely, with the music clear and full and dialogue crisp and clear.

The Special Features: Francis Ford Coppola himself contributes an audio commentary, and then there are four making-of and retrospective documentaries that are all new, as well as one more that looks at the restoration of the film for 4K.

The Wrap-UpOne From the Heart: Reprise is a welcome addition to the 4K Ultra HD world because it’s a film from a notable director that likely has its fans and it does like quite good in the premium format. But if you’re not already a fan of the movie, I’m not sure watching it for the first time now is going to be a revelation.

Dead Wrong 

The Movie: Sometimes a movie is impossible to boil down to a sentence or two, so in those cases, I usually let the official synopsis do the talking. So here we go: “Blinded with jealousy over the wealth accumulated by his best friend, a local mob boss, a narcissist of psychotic proportions schemes to steal his infant son to obtain a multi-million dollar settlement from the hospital’s insurance company. In so doing, he ignites a chain reaction that overwhelms the lives of his now suicidal wife, her nymphomaniacal younger sister with whom he’s having an affair, a deeply indebted gambling and alcoholic lawyer, a Brooklyn born bookmaker/pimp and his London strongman, a rural ex-com seeking redemption from his angelic wife and a hard-nosed insurance investigator – all embroiled in a fascinating study of greed, betrayal, love and murder.” Phew! There’s a lot going on there! Which makes me wish there was, well, more going on with the film as a whole. Dead Wrong stars Derek Smith, Katrina Bowden (a favorite of mine), and even Rob Schneider, but it never elevates above the kind of movie that you’d expect with a cast like that. The script is merely okay, the performances are solid but not memorable, and it’s clear the director is going for a Guy Ritchie/Quentin Tarantino sort of vibe, but the end result isn’t on their level. It’s merely mediocre in every conceivable way.

The Special Features: There’s a director’s cut of the film that actually runs six minutes shorter than the original cut (both of which are on this release), but that’s it in terms of extras.

The Wrap-Up: To be fair, Dead Wrong is an easy enough film to throw on and lose 90 minutes to. It’ll keep your attention while you watch it. But it will also be instantly forgettable the moment it’s over.

We Go On

The Movie: While We Go On was originally released on home video in 2017, this week, Lightyear Entertainment brings us a new special edition of the movie on Blu-ray, apparently having been remastered for better picture and featuring new special features. Admittedly I mostly wanted to watch this film because it stars two alums of Smallville (also accomplished actors in their own right): Annette O’Toole and John Glover. But I was intrigued by the story about a young man who is terrified of dying and offers a cash reward to anyone who can show him proof of the afterlife, whether that be a ghost, a spirit, or whatnot. Now, anyone who’s ever seen a movie before knows that this isn’t going to go well, but the film is more than just a crappy jump-fest. Instead, it’s more of a drama that has some minor horror elements to it that has a measured pacing and relies on atmosphere and mood rather than more intense materials. It’s fairly interesting stuff, although ultimately a flawed film.

The Special Features: You get an audio commentary with Annette O’Toole and Clark Freeman, plus two additional commentary tracks with the co-directors and the writer and visual effects director. Plus you get a couple of trailers.

The Wrap-UpWe Go On is an intriguing film. I don’t know that out needed a re-release, but I can also understand an independent studio trying to get new life for a movie they believe in. Worth a look if you missed it the first time.

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