Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory

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Discs Section: Pick of the Week

hill street blues complete series dvdHill Street Blues: The Complete Collection

Capt. Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) heads up an inner city police precinct with smarts, heart and determination, but even with the best officers at his command the job can be a constant struggle. Of course not all of his cops are quite at that level, and the various dramas they endure and sometimes cause keep the station constantly in flux.

One of the most acclaimed TV series of the ’80s, this Steven Bochco-created cop show is the clear precursor to ones like NYPD Blue in its mix of police dramas and personal story lines. Its epic ensemble allows for season-long arcs across multiple characters, and the show does a fantastic job of ensuring that each of the characters get their own moments and episodes to shine. Shout! Factory’s box set includes all 144 episodes (seven seasons, each in their own snapcase) as well as multiple special features offering insight into the show’s creation and talents.

[DVD extras: Featurettes, interviews, gag reel, commentaries]

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escape from tomorrow bluEscape from Tomorrow

Jim loses his job just as his family is settling in for a few days of vacation in Disney World, but while he struggles to keep the bad news from his nagging wife and creepy little kids he succumbs to the park’s darkly mysterious pull. He becomes obsessed with two French teenage girls, following them around and thinking unclean thoughts, and that’s the sanest thing he encounters and does on his journey into madness.

Writer/director Randy Moore‘s odd, pseudo artsy and occasionally surreal film gained attention and notoriety for being shot on Disney’s grounds without their permission. The Mouse House wisely ignored the film instead of fighting a legal battle, and while the resulting black & white nightmare has its share of narrative problems it remains a fairly fascinating piece of cinema that won’t be replicated anytime soon. Family drama, horror, satire… it’s all of these and none of them, but it’s definitely worth a watch.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, making of, poster gallery, trailer – Note: the Blu-ray is exclusively available at Best Buy until 7/28/14]

sisters bluSisters (UK)

Danielle (Margot Kidder) and Philip meet in an unconventional way, but after they hit it off the two spend a night together only to see their morning interrupted by murder. A neighbor, who happens to be a reporter, witnesses the crime and drags the police into it only to discover a missing dead body. She begins her own investigation and finds a truth far more twisted than she expected.

Brian De Palma‘s 1973 thriller was his first real foray into the genre, and the film sets a blueprint for themes and styles he would return to again and again in films like Blow Out, Obsession, Dressed to Kill and others. Kidder actually does great work here as well, and while some of the story becomes clear before its intended reveal the film’s unspooling is still craftily done. Arrow Video’s region B release features a fantastic transfer and a handful of new extras.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, interviews, booklet]

sophies choice bluSophie’s Choice

Stringo (Peter MacNicol) is a young wannabe writer hoping to find his inspiration in Brooklyn, but what he discovers instead is a woman named Sophie (Meryl Streep) whose past in a Nazi concentration camp and present in a fiery love affair with a man named Nathan (Kevin Kline) fills his head and heart. He learns more about life and love from the two of them than he ever had on his own.

Alan J. Pakula‘s film is remembered most for Streep’s Oscar win and the narrative drama behind its title, but there’s so much more to the movie including an equally fantastic supporting cast and an atmosphere that engulfs, enraptures and entertains. MacNicol and Kline shine both in Streep’s light but also with a glow of their own as the men coming to terms with their love for this enigmatic woman. There’s a beauty to the whole affair, both for the senses and the heart, and far from being a bland drama this is a wonderful piece of cinema.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Conversation featurette, commentary, trailer]

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Bad Country

Bud Carter (Willem Dafoe) turns a bad guy (Matt Dillon) into a snitch, but when word gets out the two become targets of the region’s most notorious crime lord (Tom Berenger). Almost the entire cast is made up of familiar faces including Amy Smart, Neal McDonough, Bill Duke and others, and they combined with some competent action sequences make for an easy enough watch.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette]

The Best Offer

Virgil (Geoffrey Rush) is a renowned art appraiser called in by a reclusive woman to evaluate and handle her parents’ estate. He’s somewhat removed from the world, but his separation pales beside her own. Together these two broken souls make for an odd and mysterious pair. This engaging and fresh setup opens on to an unconventional and low-key adult thriller anchored by a very strong performance from Rush. Jim Sturgess and Donald Sutherland also star.

[DVD extras: Trailer]

The Black Torment

A man returns to his estate with his new wife in tow only to discover acts of evil and mystery are afoot among his family and staff. He soon finds himself the main suspect in a series of murders that may or may not involve the supernatural. This 1964 thriller is like a lushly gothic episode of Scooby Doo that actually manages a chill or two along the way.

[DVD extras: Interview]

Dead Shadows

A man whose parents died under mysterious circumstances during the arrival of Halley’s Comet finds his life once again thrown into bloody disarray when a different comet appears over a decade later. His neighbors begin exhibiting some odd behavior, and soon his entire apartment building has descended into chaos. This French flick features a few interesting visuals and a solid idea at its core, but a reliance on unimpressive CGI and a script that too frequently grows deadly dull makes for an ultimately uninteresting affair. Scream Factory knows their retro horror, but unfortunately their attempts at handling new releases have been less successful.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes, interview, trailer]

The Demons

The Church of England does not look kindly on witches, and their distaste for the devilish damsels leads to all manner of horrific treatment and shenanigans. Much of it is focused in one of London’s more deranged convents which means nunsploitation for everyone! Jess Franco’s films do little for me, but his style has it fans thanks in large part to his stylish excesses and love of the naked ladies. Redemption’s Blu-ray is the film’s first home video release in the United States.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview, deleted footage, trailers]

Devil’s Due

A pair of newlyweds conceive a child while on their honeymoon, but they discover too late that she’s a surrogate for the devil! Radio Silence, the creative team behind the haunted house segment in V/H/S get a crack at their first feature and the result is a bust. All the hallmarks of bad found footage are here, and neither of the leads create anything resembling an empathetic situation you’ll care about thanks in part to their idiotic behavior. The lack of scares doesn’t help either. The Radio Silence guys are entertaining in their own right, and their V/H/S segment is fantastic, so here’s hoping this is just a fluke.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, shorts]

Gimme Shelter

Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) is a pregnant teen with nowhere to go. Her mother (Rosario Dawson) boots her out, her father (Brendan Fraser) doesn’t care and the streets become her new home until a stranger offers a helping hand. This true story offers a refreshing performance from Hudgens alongside its rather pedestrian and ultimately unmemorable tale.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes]

Gloria

Gloria (Paulina Garcia) is middle-aged and single, but that doesn’t keep her from having a positive outlook and attitude towards life. This Chilean film, their Best Foreign Language submission for last year, embraces a rare reality with an uncommon character who refuses to let life get her down. Garcia gives a strong and lively performance, and the film finds energy in her day to day existence.

[DVD extras: Featurette]

Hallucination Strip

Bud Cort plays an Italian college student (?) who makes a habit of going against the grain whether through his protests or his misbehavior, but a petty theft lands him in a battle between the police and the mafia. There’s also dancing. Lots and lots of dancing. This mid ’70s Italian film feels like a psychedelic throwback to the previous decade, and while it doesn’t quite hold together it’s never less than oddly interesting.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview, trailer, booklet]

The Legend of Hercules

After being disowned by his father (Scott Adkins) young Hercules (Kellan Lutz) discovers who he is and whose god-like sperm he really sprung from. Armed with the truth and an army he sets off to pay dear old dad a visit. It’s a mystery how this laughably bad adventure landed a theatrical release, and it’s a shame Renny Harlin has fallen to this level.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras:Commentary, making of]

Locker 13

Workers at an Old West theme park settle in for a conversation about a mysterious locker, and the stories make up the various segments of this anthology film. This aims more for a Twilight Zone feel than straight up horror, but the stories’ attempts to end on stingers never quite land with more than a meh. The low budget doesn’t help matters.

[DVD extras: None]

The Strange Woman

Hedy Lamarr stars as a young woman who knows that just because her needs aren’t always in line with her wants doesn’t mean she can’t have them both. Unfortunately for her and those around her though that kind of attitude doesn’t exactly go over well in the 1820’s. It’s an odd film in how her somewhat progressive behavior is treated as morally repugnant, but Lamarr’s performance brings this incorrigible woman to glorious life.

[DVD extras: None]

Discs Section: Also

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen the movie/TV show and/or review material was unavailable:

Approved for Adoption
Dynasty: Season Eight
Mr. Selfridge: The Complete Second Season
The Rocket
The Selfish Giant
Super Skyscrapers
These Birds Walk
Up the Junction


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