Author: Robert Greenberger


Ant-Man Blu-rayMarvel’s Ant-Man, which was an international box office smash this summer, is also a schizophrenic movie demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of working within a shared universe. Where James Gunn was given a corner of the universe to play with the Guardians of the Galaxy allowing him to be cheeky and amusing while introducing cosmic threats that will dovetail in future films, Edgar Wright’s original ideas were too comedic and “out there” to fit in the terrestrial threads already in place.

Despite Wright working on this for years and coming close to bringing his vision to the Avengers’ world, it ultimately fell apart when too many compromises were demanded in order to fit in more closely with the tone and feel of those films. Wright walked and was replaced by director Peyton Reed, best known for the fresh-feeling Bring it On.

Reed did a more than serviceable job in bridging that gap, delivering an entertaining, at time thrilling, feature film that fits nicely within the evolving Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The film is now available for live-streaming via Disney Movies Anywhere and related services with the Blu-ray combo pack coming out December 8.

Ant-Man 2Paul Rudd is well cast as Scott Lang, a convicted criminal who is having difficulties reintegrating into society since most companies won’t give ex-cons a chance. He’s in a strained relationship with his wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new husband, a cop Paxton (Bobby Cannavale). Of course his young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) is the only one to see him as the hero he is.

Lang’s family issues and struggle for a fresh start lead us to his being lured into the home of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), where we learn Pym has been keeping an eye on Lang, hoping to recruit him as an agent of change, helping him prevent his protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from making some very bad choices. Of course there is the grief felt for the missing Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp, and the strain between father and daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) that is predictable but well-delivered. This thread is engaging, emotionally-packed, and very much the origin story of a hero.

Wright’s influence remains in the other half of the film, led by former cell mate Luis (Michael Peña) and assorted misfits. They provide a lot of the comic relief in the film but every time they are on screen, it feels like an entirely different film and this half does not satisfactorily mesh with the other half as we build to the climax.

08-lily-rudd-antman.w529.h529The “Marvelization” of Ant-Man is also evident in how many of the story beats between Pym and Cross are replicated from the Tony Stark and Obadiah Stane beats seen in the first Iron Man, right down to the Ant-Man versus Yellowjacket battle. What saves it, though, is the visual verve brought to the battle in Cassie’s room as we go from terrifying objects being hurled to a real scale vision of a toy train harmlessly smacking against a wall. Overall, it needed to be fresher.

Where the creative committee’s contributions are welcome is found in the opening scene showing a younger Hank Pym quitting his Ant-Man work for S.H.I.E.L.D. with Howard Stark (John Slattery) in place, fitting this in with the overall timeline. Also, Anthony Mackie’s lighthearted turn as the Falcon also established this as being a piece in the Avenger’s overall arc.

The visual effects are top-notch, giving the world of the Ant-Man and the microscopic world he finds himself trapped in are simply wonderful. So the various parts are largely fine, but taken together, creates an unevenness that ultimately disappoints. With luck, the recently announced Ant-Man and the Wasp sequel can find fresh ground to tread.

Michael-Douglas-Paul-RuddThe Digital HD version reviewed looks great and sounds equally fine. Obviously, this deserves to be enjoyed on a big screen with a good sound system.

There are an assortment of special features that are interesting but not compelling. We start with Making of an Ant-Sized Heist: A How-To Guide (14:34), which is a too-brief look at the film’s background; Let’s Go to the Macroverse (8:06), exploring the technology behind the effects; four WHIH NewsFront — Promo (1:21), Vista Corp Heist (1:49), Darren Cross Interview (2:36), and Scott Lang Live (3:25) – all with reporter/anchor Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb, last seen in Iron Man 2); pay attention to the ticker at the bottom; Deleted & Extended Scenes —  Fixing the Cable (3:11), Hank Vaults the Suit (0:31), Paxton and Gale (0:22), Qubit Defense Matrix (0:31), Scott and Cassie (0:40), Wish Fulfillment (0:24), The Future of Pym Particles (1:38), and The History of Ant-Man (1:19), all with optional commentary by Reed and Rudd; and of course the Gag Reel (3:25).

Not part of the digital streaming is Reed and Rudd’s audio commentary, which can be heard on disc.

REVIEW: Justice League Unlimited: The Complete Series

JusticeLeagueUnlimitedCompleteSeries_Blu_1000x1000_16f6f83bEvery time a four-color property moves from print to other media, changes are made, mostly a result of the different medium being employed. Sometimes the changes stagger the imagination while others are subtle and acceptable. Warner Animation has more often than not been incredibly faithful to the source material, resulting in some of the most satisfying comics-to-screen adaptations.

As a result, the anticipation for a Blu-ray release of the excellent Justice League Unlimited has been high and finally, last week, Warner Archive released the show in a three-disc collection. The series, which ran July 31, 2004 – May 13, 2006, is the follow-up to the equally wonderful Justice League.

While the original series focused on the traditional original members of the JLA, the new series expanded its roster to just about every hero from the DC Universe. For many viewers, it was the first time they were exposed to many of these colorful characters. For we fanboys, it was a sheer thrill to see the obscure (Aztek) to the fan favorite (Doctor Fate) finally make it to television.

Alive_little_problemThe episodes were entertaining and were largely standalone as we saw varying combinations of heroes go into action while the backgrounds were filled with cameos galore. The orbiting headquarters felt like a club for heroes, a chance for them to relax between fights. There was the occasional meta-arc such as the shadowy Project Cadmus (thank you Jack Kirby) and the how-could-they-not Secret Society of Super-Villains.

Thankfully, the series benefitted from a stellar array of voice actors who brought verve to the characters, anchored by Kevin Conroy’s Batman but scanning the credits its fun to see who was popular in geekdom when the shows were produced. Today we see Morena Baccarin on Gotham but back then the Firefly actress was also busy voicing Black Canary giving her deeper ties to DC Comics. And Adam Baldwin double-dipped in both well cast parts as Hal Jordan and Rick Flagg.

Justice_League_(Justice_League_Unlimited)2What we didn’t know was that this would be the final series set in the expanded, semi-interconnected animated universe and we can look back on those shows with great fondness and boy, do they hold up well. Credit for that starts with Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, aided and abetted by an army of writers, artists, and animators. It helped tremendously that comic book veterans were recruited to pen episodes, so the adaptations were less jarring.

Some of the best loved comic stories made it to the screen, such as J.M. DeMatteis’ adaptation of Alan Moore’s “For the Man who has Everything”. And the animated series did not shy away from some mature themes, such as drumming Huntress out of the league for attempting to kill a man, regardless of her justification. Hawkgirl’s return, after betraying her teammates in the previous series, is back and has to deal with the repercussions of her actions. The stories span time and space, switching from action-packed to light-hearted to downright romantic. It also tied up loose ends from other series in the brilliant “Epilogue”, which closed out the second season, touching on Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and the JLU.

The transfer to high definition is clean and crisp with excellent sound. The special features which appeared on the previous DVD releases are back here including creator’s commentary on the episodes “This Little Piggy” and “The Return”; “And Justice for All”: a featurette on the process of revamping the series with new characters and a new creative direction; “Cadmus Exposed”: Mark Hamill and series creative personnel discuss this popular series story arc; “Justice League Chronicles”: The series’ writers, producers and directors discuss their favorite moments among final season episodes.

If you haven’t experienced these you should. If you watched them previously, you want these.

REVIEW: Trainwreck

Trainwreck-blu-rayAmy Schumer has become quite the comedienne, taking the stage, television, and now film by storm. Trainwreck, her starring vehicle for director Judd Apatow, was my first sustained exposure to her and thought the fresh eyes could glean what the fuss is all about. Still trying to figure it out.

The story is about a woman who is professional star and a personal wreck who meets and falls for a guy, only to screw it up at much the same time she screws up her relationship with her sister, and loses her job. That it is about a woman and not a man has garnered a lot of buzz but the overall story is tired and predictable.

Apatow’s previous films have offered up fresh takes on old themes along with sharply delineated characters that avoid the clichés and bring with them a tremendous amount of heart. In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and This Is 40 were all written by him and perhaps he should have been allowed to give Schumer’s script a pass.

We’re told that Amy Townsend is the star writer for S’nuff, a magazine that makes Maxim and FHM seem tame. She is assigned to interview a sports doctor despite disliking athletics of all kinds. Her boss, Dianna (Tilda Swinton) holds out the Executive editor’s post as a carrot for taking on the work. Meantime, she is avoiding emotional entanglements, drinking, dancing, and having a series of one-night stands which seems to stem from words of advice given to her and her sister Kim (Brie Larson), by their crude father Gordon (Colin Quinn). On the other hand, she has a warm spot for dear old dad, now confined to a nursing home given his multiple sclerosis.

She finally seems to settling into a relationship with the musclebound and possibly closeted Steven (John Cena). Despite being rude and crude, he gets his heart broken when Steven discovers Amy has been sleeping around and tells her she’s not a nice person and honestly, she isn’t.

That starts to change when she beings to interview the near-perfect Aaron Conners (Bill Hader) and a softer side seems to emerge. Over a period of time, she falls for the doctor and they begin to date and she’s having her first genuine adult relationship. She doesn’t want to screw it up but of course does, triggered in part by her father’s sudden death. She spirals downward just as one would expect towards the end of Act Two.

Everything comes crashing down around her until she finally hits bottom and rebounds making amends first with Kim then with Aaron. Her final over-the-top act comes out of the blue and is intended to be a showstopper when it just stops. They still kiss and all will be well. Awww.

Amy and Aaron, though, are deeply under-developed characters and you are not emotionally invested in either nor is there real warmth and chemistry between the performers. In fact, Aaron seems more himself with his patients including LeBron James, who provides as adept with comedy as he is with a basketball, stealing every scene he’s in.

Schumer may be a gifted talent but it’s not on display her since Amy is unlikable, the humor is tame, and nothing feels new and different, just tired and by the numbers. None of the supporting characters feel fleshed out, spoiling a rich ensemble.

Universal Home Entertainment has released the film in a combo pack that includes Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD. Additionally, both discs come with the theatrical version and a four-minute longer unrated version. From what I can tell, there’s just more, nothing earth-shattering and special.

The film comes with a nice assortment of Special Features including additional Deleted and Extended Scenes; a two-part Gag Reel; Lin-o-Rama, where several actors are shown ad libbing for scenes; a traditional Behind-The-Scenes featurette; Directing Athletes: A Blood Sport , a more scripted than not look at working with James, Tony Romo, and Amar’e Stoudemire; The Dogwalker, the complete film-within-a-film starring Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei; and finally, from Comedy Central, the Trainwreck Comedy Tour Featurette.

REVIEW: Terminator Genesys

Terminator Genesys coverThere was a wonderful science fiction romance in James Cameron’s original 1984 film The Terminator. It had a touch of everything: time travel, killer androids, romance, and hints of a technology gone haywire. It was shot on a modest budget with a familiar but not star cast, anchored by the hulking presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ever since, though, the sequels have tended to eschew the original themes in favor of retreading immortal lines of dialogue, action pieces, and the eternal struggle between man and machine. With the exception of the first sequel, which introduced the world to the joys of CGI, they have been a middling mess. Even Fox’s The Sarah Connor Chronicles had more to do with a terminator trying to kill Sarah and/or John Connor than the large themes of man versus technology.

Sarah ConnorTherefore, it was refreshing to get back to basics in this summer’s Terminator Genesys.  The property is now in the hands of Paramount Pictures that wanted to refresh and reinvigorate the franchise. The reboot, out Tuesday on disc from Paramount Home Entertainment, does not ignore what came before it, but does also carve out a reality of its own. Right there is one of the more confounding aspects of the premise, since it starts in a parallel timeline merely paying lip service to the prime timeline (a similar conceit occurred in 2009’s Star Trek, also from Paramount). By presupposing you know the core elements, it defeats the fresh start aspect, keeping new audiences from falling in love with the T-800, Sarah, John, and Kyle Reese.

Terminator GenesysThe script from Patrick Lussier (Dracula 2000) and Laeta Kalogridis (Birds of Prey, Bionic Woman) requires a flow chart to determine which characters and elements belong to which timeline. We have a final showdown with Skynet in 2029, which has the human resistance accessing their time travel device. John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends his best friend Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 in order to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) he knows will be sent to kill her. However, Reese arrives to see a T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun) on the attack and the Sarah he meets already knows her future. And more, she’s protected by an aging T-800 she calls “Pops”.

The timelines are altered the moment Reese is sent back in time and he crosses paths with his younger self who passes on the message, “Genesys is Skynet”. He knows what he needs to do but it immediately puts him at odds with Sarah, who hates feeling trapped by fate, reminded regularly by Pops that she is destined to mate with Kyle in order to produce John. He convinces her to come with him to 2017 to prevent Genesys, the killer app that will totally connect everyone and every device (I guess Linux, iOS and Windows) in one massive network. It would also give rise to the artificial intelligence that becomes Skynet (and takes shapes as Matthew Smith) and will determine humanity must be eradicated.

Then things blow up a lot.

arnold_schwarzenegger_terminator_genisys-wide-1940x1212By the exhausting conclusion, people and things are put into place establishing a new status quo, a timeline not beholden to anything that came before. As a reboot, it’s fine. As a movie, it lacks some of the needed warmth and reason to exist. The post-credit scene hinting at a sequel was entirely superfluous and given the dismal box office, Paramount’s sequel plans are on indefinite hold. Producer Dana Goldberg admitted last month that they are taking time to find out what didn’t work for audiences so they can retool and try again. They’d better hurry since Arnold is already 67.

Emilia Clarke makes for a marvelous Daenerys on Game of Thrones but frequently lacks the steeliness we expect from Sarah, as previously depicted by Linda Hamilton and Lena Heady. On the other hand, she brings a warmth and humanity to Sarah not seen since the first film. Her chemistry with Schwarzenegger is strong, allowing us to enjoy his performance, which can border on self-mockery.

Terminator Genesys 1Courtney and Jason Clarke are far too earnest and saddled with stiff dialogue, robbing them of chances to be real people rather than archetypes.

Still, the scene stealer throughout the film is J.K. Simmons as a cop who witnessed the events in 1984 and is the only one to believe Sarah and Kyle in 2017.

Visually, Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) does a nice job with the sets, special effects, and action sequences. He’s less successful with people which is odd considering he cut his teeth on the character-heavy series Homicide, Oz, The Sopranos, and even Thrones.

The movie looks terrific on screen with a nice high definition transfer.  The Dolby Atmos sound track is even better so the hoe viewing experience is a strong one.

There are various versions to pick from including the standard Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD combo which was reviewed. The Blu-ray comes with just three bonus features: Family Dynamics, a look at the casting process as the crew extolls their various virtues; Infiltration and Termination, which explores the location shooting in San Francisco and New Orleans; and Upgrades: VFX of Terminator Genesis. No deleted scenes, commentary, or even gag reel.

REVIEW: James Bond Limited Edition Blu-ray Steelbooks

steelbook-blu-ray-james-bond-casino-royaleJames Bond endures, with the 24th film, Spectre, scheduled to open November 6. The sinister organization has plagued 007 from the earliest films but have yet to rear their hoary heads in the current incarnation with Daniel Craig as Bond.

For those who are new to MI-6 and international espionage, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM) and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment want you to come up to speed. To that end, they have released seven of the films in special edition Blu-rays, DVDs and collectible box-sets.

The Limited Edition Blu-ray Steelbooks spotlight the six films featuring the SPECTRE organization (From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, For Your Eyes Only) and the three recent features (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall) each featuring packaging inspired by the films’ iconic opening title sequences.

Steelbook James Bond collectionFor those who own these in some other high definition incarnation, you won’t need these. They contain the same special features although they do come with Digital HD codes.

The Steelbooks are solid, durable and visually attractive. Each one is distinctive just like their title sequences, carrying on the Maurice Binder tradition.

So, how do the films hold up? Sean Connery set the tone all others have attempted to match with varying degrees of success. The Cold War tensions infuse Russia along with some thrilling, authentic action sequences. A real sense of spectacle can be found on Thunderball, given all the aquatic Deering-do. Ernst Stavro Blofeld, played by a variety of actors, menaces Bond time and again but the worst may well be in On Her Majesty’s Secret service, the once-reviled George Lazenby vehicle. It is far better than its rep and packs an emotional wallop.

Roger Moore’s more erudite and comical Bond shows up in For Your Eyes Only and is among the best of his outings.

It is currently up to Craig to carry on the tradition and despite looking nothing like Ian Fleming’s prose descriptions, he brings the right danger and gravitas to the role as the franchise received an overdue freshening. The rebirth cycle took three films with Spectre tidying up loose ends.

If you don’t want the entire 23 films (and some are clearly lesser offerings), the Steelbooks are not a bad sampler to have.

If you missed Bond 50, there is also The Ultimate James Bond Collection features all 23 films together in one Blu-ray box-set, which includes a 24th space for Spectre. This one also offers “Everything or Nothing”, a 90-minute documentary on the untold story of 007 and a pocket-sized James Bond 50 Years of Movie Posters book including the best posters from Dr. No through to SPECTRE.  This collection will is exclusively available at

REVIEW: Edward Scissorhands: 25th Anniversary

Edward-Scissorhands1-e1439324392425Too often filmmakers interpret or reinterpret works from other media, nowhere near often enough creating new characters and situations. Look at Tim Burton, for example, he started off taking Pee Wee Herman and producing a feature version of his television series. He returned with the original and still funny Beetlejuice before tackling his version of Batman. Since then, he has not given us anywhere near enough original fare but all can be forgiven if you pause to consider Edward Scissorhands. Thankfully, 20th Century Home Entertainment has seen fit to cause us to consider the film since it has released Edward Scissorhands: 25th Anniversary on Blu-ray.

edward-scissorhands-and-PegWhen it opened a quarter century back, I adored it, calling the Johnny Depp vehicle as a modern day fairy tale and it still holds up. I last watched it two years ago, showing it to my 9th graders as part of a film unit. They were taken by the visuals and the story, the timeless look of suburban America and the universal theme of fear of the unknown.

Up on the mountain outside the small community, an inventor (Vincent Price) has created life but lacked the ability to complete the boy (Johnny Depp), giving him a variety of shears for hands. In time, just before he could apply the hands as a birthday gift, the man dies of old age and Edward lives in the musty castle all alone. That is, until local Avon saleswoman Peg Boggs finds him and decides to bring him home to live with her family: husband Ed (Alan Arkin), shy daughter Kim (Wynona Ryder), and son.

edward-scissorhands-and-KimOnce they and their neighbors see Edward can use his bizarre appendages to design gorgeous topiary, they flock to be near him. He goes on to become a much-desired hair dresser, revealing new aspects of each woman’s personality. Along the way, he continues to long for Kim, who is freaked out by him, and prefers the company of her stoner, small-minded friends.

Then things take a turn for the worst and suddenly Edward is haunted, haunted, and literally run out of town for being too different. It is very much representative of the 1950s mindset although the pastel color scheme has a more timeless feel. The lovers are separated by fear and hatred giving us a bittersweet ending, without a happily ever after.

The film is narrated, much like a good old fashioned fairy tale, by a grandmother, and frames the tale as something magical.

Visually, the movie has Burton’s usual quirky sensibilities but they’re strong and totally appropriate to the subject matter. The Danny Elfman score is also pitch perfect.

Fox has remastered the film and it sparkles in its AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 track is a match to the visuals and it is a joy to watch.

Given the film’s age, there’s little surprise that the special features are a meager lot. It starts with a standard EPK package (4:39). We also have Theatrical Trailers (4:17).  There are commentaries on separate tracks from Burton and Elfman, which can be interesting but far from revelatory. An anniversary package deserves a little more TLC so it’s a wee bit disappointing but overall, this is well worth having.

REVIEW: Nakatomi Plaza: Die Hard Collection

Nakatomi Plaza Die Hard CollectionGiven its setting during the Christmas season and with “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” playing as the credits rolled, Die Hard rapidly became a beloved Holiday classic. So, it’s no surprise to see 20th Century Home Entertainment kick off the Holiday gift giving season with the release of Nakatomi Plaza: Die Hard Collection. All five films in the series along with a bonus disc are packed into the base of a plastic replica of the famous locale of the first film. The structure measures 15″ high, mounted on a base which measures 7 1/8″ square and will stand proudly atop your mantle or bookshelf, a reminder of the series; enduring popularity despite the premise wearing thin with each installment.

The first, with Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis), attempting to stop terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) from killing everyone at a holiday part attended by his ex-wife (Bonnie Bedelia), is riveting, taut, and filled with some wonderful human moments from the major characters. McClane is world-weary everyman merely trying to survive, risking all to save the woman he still loves, encouraged by a lone cop (Reginald VelJohnson) via walkie-talkie.

Die HardAdapted by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart from Roderick Thorp’s Nothing Lasts Forever and The Detectives, the film was expertly directed by John McTiernan. The critical and box office success led 20th Century Fox to order up a sequel.

Set in a deserted airport terminal, McClane is called to do the impossible a second time and with less satisfying results although it was nice seeing Dennis Franz play a different kind of cop.

The third installment followed the then-popular trend of mismatched buddies and they wisely paired Willis with Samuel L. Jackson, playing a different kind of everyman. They ran from one end of Manhattan to another, avoiding a sniper who turned out to be Gruber’s brother (Jeremy Irons), seeking revenge.

The last two focus more on John and his children, one at a time, in increasingly hard to swallow premises, made good only by the interplay between father and offspring.

die-hard-movie-13045-hd-wallpapersSo, if you already own either the wonderful Die Hard Collection, Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Collection or the Die Hard Legacy Collection, do you need this one? Well, do you have room for the tower? Do you want the bonus disc with an hour of stuff? The box containing the discs also comes with a 32-page booklet with some BTS photos and there are collectible cards featuring the antagonists.

For the record, the box contains the Blu-ray versions of Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard: With A Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard (includes Unrated Version), A Good Day to Die Hard (includes Unrated Version) and a code for their digital HD versions.  The bonus disc is not available digitally.

Decoding Die Hard (1:47:01) contains seven featurettes: Origins – Reinventing the Action Genre; John McClane – Modern Day Hero; Villains – Bad to the Bone, Sidekicks – Along for the Ride, Fight Sequences – Punishing Blows, Action – Explosive Effects; and, The Legacy – The Right Hero for the Right Time. All of these are repurposed from the Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Collection.

The collection in one form or another is well worth having as Bruce Willis is always fun to watch regardless of how preposterous the premise.

REVIEW The Rocky Horror Picture Show 40th Anniversary Celebration

Rocky Horror Picture Show 40th Anniversary Blu-rayIt goes without saying that the 1970s cannot be recounted without examining certain cultural phenomena. The Godfather and star Wars certainly helped redefine filmmaking and both had major impact on pop culture. But then there was the growth of cult cinema, which endures to this day, and was sparked by the arrival of a 20th Century Fox flop, a failed adaptation of a British stage play that gained some cred when it moved to Los Angeles. Little did anyone suspect that when New York’s Waverly theater began screening The Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight, it would engage a generation.

I had heard of it soon after the screenings began but didn’t see it for the first time until my college roommate showed it in our dorm room so I could see and hear it for myself before it screened on campus with complete audience participation. I was taught which lines to repeat, when to throw toast, and the rest.

Thanks to home video, the film’s popularity has never waned as subsequent generations have discovered it and made it a part of their experience. So, here we are marking its anniversary with The Rocky Horror Picture Show 40-th Anniversary Celebration. 20th Century Home Entertainment has released it in a variety of formats but even its most basic single-disc Blu-ray edition is packed with wonderful stuff.

Richard O’Brien never expected his twisted homage to science fiction films would ever grow beyond the Royal Court Theater. Working with director Jim Sharman, they were clearly in sync and having fun. Anchored n stage by Tim Curry, the show gained a nice following, crossing the ocean to play at the Roxy Theater where core members of the film cast assembled, It was so enthusiastically received that a bidding war for film rights erupted.

The movie was shot cheaply and quickly, as befit its story, and opened in England on August 14, 1975 and at the UA Westwood in Los Angeles on September 26. Mainstream audiences and their critics didn’t get it. More, they didn’t like it and it was quickly yanked from its limited release. The Waverly began their screenings April 1, 1976 and finally, it found its intended audience.

In the current Entertainment Weekly, Curry (Dr. Frank N. Furter), Patricia Quinn (Magenta), Meat Loaf (Eddie), Barry Bostwick, and Susan Sarandon were reunited and in their reminiscences you got a sense of the organized chaos surrounding the production. It probably helped that Bostwick and Sarandon were new to the production, as were their characters Brad and Janet.

The story doesn’t always make sense but boy, does it look sharp and have a great soundtrack. The performances were spot on, with tongue just firmly enough in cheek so they got the joke and shared it with the audience. The combination of Sci-fi tropes, rock score, and amazing visuals helps keep it entertaining on repeat viewings. The high definition edition is crisp, matched with a strong audio track.

The single Blu-ray disc offers the film in in its USA and UK release versions along with Audio Commentary by O’Brien and Quinn. Most of the special features are repurposed from previous editions but is nice to have them here. Many of these can also be downloaded to your computer. These include:

  • Rocky-oke: Sing It!
  • Don’t Dream It, Be It: The Search for the 35th Anniversary Shadowcast, Part I
  • An-tic-i-pation: The Search for the 35th Anniversary Shadowcast, Part II
  • Mick Rock (A Photographer)
  • Mick Rock’s Picture Show (A Gallery)
  • A Few From The Vault
  • Outtakes
  • Alternate B&W Opening
  • Alternate Credit & Misprint Ending
  • “Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show” (1995)
  • Beacon Theater, New York City (10th Anniversary)
  • Time Warp Music Video
  • The Midnight Experience
  • Pressbook & Poster Gallery

REVIEW: San Andreas

San Andreas Box Art 2DWe haven’t had a good old fashioned disaster movie in ages. The timing for San Andreas is interesting in that most Californians have stopped worrying about the big earthquake, focusing instead on the drought and/or the wildfires. But the seismologists have never stopped fretting that a quake, more devastating than the 1906 San Francisco event, is imminent. After several decades of “imminent” waiting, I can see how attention has wandered.

The Dwayne Johnson-led action film is a brutal reminder of just how much devastation is likely to result from such an earthquake. With CGI effects to enhance the imagery, this is a visual feast of destruction. And like every good epic in this genre, we follow the impossible efforts of one man not only to survive but to rescue his family despite the odds. As a result, the horrific reality is undercut by the muscular heroics. We know they’re going to nearly die but survive, the nuclear family intact, as San Francisco vanishes around them.

The movie, out now on Blu-ray from Warner Home Entertainment, is exciting and entertaining despite stretching credulity, As with so many of this films, the scenes of death and destruction are sometimes hard to watch and always prolonged beyond necessity. Whereas you could get to know the cast aboard the vessel trying to land in Airport or survive The Towering Inferno, the editing is much faster so it changes the pacing and tempo and you can get lost in the debris.

The story begins with the scientists at Cal Tech, led by Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti). They believe they have perfected predicting quakes so of course, their equipment is immediately tested with the Bog One, which is bigger than most worst case scenarios imagine. We watch as Hoover Dam and Los Angeles get smashed as the wave heads north up the San Andreas Fault line.

Enter rescue helicopter pilot Ray Gaines (Johnson), abandoning his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), to do his duty around Los Angeles. She accompanies her soon-to-be stepfather Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd) and her mother Emma (Carla Gugino) into and out of danger until dad has come to the rescue. They wind up being accompanied by Daniel’s sister Susan (Kylie Minogue) and things continue to move at a breathless clip.

You root for everyman Johnson to save the day time and again, because that’s all these movies want you to do. There’s no room for discussions over safety inadequacies or the general nature of human behavior. Instead, our core characters stand in for mankind and we munch our popcorn, hoping they survive without too much trouble.

Director Brad Peyton (Journey 2) keeps things moving along, sometimes too quickly, but rarely taking his eye off the family that gives the film a heart more recent efforts like 2112 skipped. We’re left reassured we will survive and rebuild.

The high definition transfer is excellent at 1080p, 2.40:1 so every bit of concrete and steel, every drop of water, and every fleck of blood is sharp. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless soundtrack is a peerless match the visuals making this one satisfying home viewing experience.

There are only a few special features included, which is surprising given the scope of the project. The Audio Commentary from Peyton offers up many a nugget of interesting information about the filmmaking process. Then there are some relatively short pieces starting with San Andreas: The Real Fault Line (6:23), as cast and crew recall shooting specific moments; Dwayne Johnson to the Rescue (9:24), as the star recounts making the film’s opening and closing sequences;  Scoring the Quake (6:13), with Composer Andrew Lockington; Deleted Scenes (4:40), a collection of eight scenes, with option commentary from Payton; a Gag Reel (1:22); and, a Stunt Reel (2:56).

REVIEW: Arrow: The Complete Third Season

REVIEW: Arrow: The Complete Third Season

Arrow S3 3DArrow was the first serious approach to superheroics based on the DC Universe in quite some time. There was little risk picking a second tier character that some but not many may have known about. Producer Greg Berlanti assembled a team consisting of Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg to sift through nearly 70 years of Green Arrow material and figure out how to turn it into a weekly series for the CW.

Once they figured out it was a story of redemption, of Oliver Queen’s journey from spoiled rich kid to a man avenging his father’s death and maturing into the man he was intended to be, they hit pay dirt. The series was rich with nods to the DCU and the adaptations from the source material served to make the show strong and fascinating.

They hit pay dirt with the casting of Stephen Amell as Queen but even better was the amazing chemistry he had with his supporting cast, notably Emily Bett Rickards, originally brought on for a bit role, but grew into the series’ heart and soul.

Season one was all about coming back to Starling City and Queen atoning for his sins and his alter ago, the Hood, reclaiming the metropolis. Season two was a journey towards becoming a hero as his support team grew, but the price that came with his newfound role was steep. Season three, out now on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, was all about identity.

Across the 23 episodes, every member of the main cast had to reassess their role on the team, their connection to Queen, and their personal goals. We saw his kid sister Thea (Willa Holland) grow up, trained by her biological father, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), to become a capable fighter. We saw Sarah Lance (Caity Lotz) die in Merlyn’s game for power with his former liege, Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable), who had come calling to Starling City. Her death propelled her sister Laurel (Katie Cassidy) to stop her alcoholic spiral and train to become the new Canary, complete with sonic cry.

The season’s meta arc was Ra’s wanting Queen as his heir, to wed his daughter Nyssa (Katrina Law), and relocate to Nanda Parbat. The others had to protect the city while trying to help Queen. But there were many a distraction along the way. Queen Consolidated was bought out by Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), renamed Palmer Technologies, and we watched the eager, affable Palmer build a suit of armor nicknamed A.T.O.M. to protect his city. More time was spent with the new spinoff series, Flash as members of that cast casually dropped by for teamups and shakes.

Additionally, there were side stories about Diggle (David Ramsey), his wife Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson), and their Argus work which also involved the Suicide Squad.

As a result, things sprawled and grew diffuse, robbing Queen of the spotlight. His journey was constantly being obscured by everyone else’s. Even the main supporting team seemed to be losing screen time to other threads so across the season things were engaging but messy. What really hurt were the ludicrous flashbacks, taking Oliver Queen off his island exile and actually bringing him to Hong Kong and even a secret visit to Starling. If they are done with the island, maybe they should be done with the flashback device and move on.

By the end of the season, Arsenal (Colton Haynes) was gone, Laurel was accepted as the Black Canary and Thea suited up as Speedy. Palmer’s armor seemed to work better when he was miniaturized. And Merlyn is the new Ra’s al Ghul as his opponent Damian Darhk has set his sights on the ravaged Starling City – all of which sets up the new season beginning tonight.

The show has never looked stronger with terrific set designs for Nanda Parbat, sleeker, more appropriate costumes. The production and effects team deserve their kudos which come with some nice bonus material on the final disc

The high definition transfer is sharp and the sound good. The episodes are spread across four discs, each one with episode-specific deleted scenes. Disc four has a nice package of features starting with “Second Skins: Creating The Uniforms of Arrow”; “Nanda Parbat: Constructing The Villain’s Lair”; “The Man Beneath the Suit – Atom’s First Flight”; the ever-present Gag Reel, and the well-traveled Warner TV panel from 2014’s Comic-Con International (also found on several other releases this fall).