A good array of high-definition titles newly issued on Blu Ray and
HD-DVD ought to satisfy your viewing needs this week, especially for
those not interested in the Major League Baseball Divisional playoffs
(I know where I’ll be Wednesday and Thursday, however!).
Without further ado here’s a quick rundown to the latest offerings:
New & Coming Soon on Blu Ray
KING OF NEW YORK: Blu Ray (***, 106 mins., 1990, R; Lionsgate, available Oct. 23rd):
Abel Ferrara’s most satisfying work to date is a taut,
well-performed gangster chronicle of a recently-released drug lord
(Christopher Walken) up to his old tricks in the Big Apple. Walken is
tremendous and a great supporting cast includes early turns from David
Caruso and Wesley Snipes as a pair of cops on his trail, plus Larry
Fishburne as one of Walken’s henchmen. Lionsgate’s
high-definition Blu Ray release, due out later this month, sports a
crisp transfer with plenty of detail (along with some infrequent
blotches of MPEG noise), 6.1 DTS-HD and 5.1 Dolby EX audio, and a good
amount of extras, including two commentaries, a featurette,
documentary, trailers and TV spots. Recommended!
THE CONDEMNED: Blu Ray (*½, 113 mins., 2007, R; Lionsgate):
Run-of-the-kill variant on “The Most Dangerous Game,”
co-produced by WWE Films and starring none other than “Stone
Cold” Steve Austin. “Stone Cold” essays one of
several death-row inmates who are flown to a remote island, where they
become participants in a reality game show where its contestants are
hunted one-by-one. Lionsgate’s Blu Ray release looks and sounds
superb (with 5.1 Dolby EX and 7.1 DTS-HD sound), and offers a gaggle of
extras (two commentaries, five-part Making Of featurette), but
it’s standard-issue thrills worth a rental if that.
DELTA FARCE: Blu Ray (**, 89 mins., 2007, PG-13; Lionsgate):
Mediocre, intermittently amusing, comedy vehicle for Larry the Cable
Guy finds Larry and his army-reserve pals mistakenly sent to Iraq.
It’s not exactly “In The Army Now” (the hideous
Paulie Shore comedy with the great Robert Folk score) but it’s
still fairly desperate nevertheless. Lionsgate’s DVD includes an
excellent 1080p HD transfer with 7.1 PCM audio, 5.1 Dolby EX sound,
deleted scenes, director commentary, and several Making Of featurettes.
HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES: Blu Ray (*½, 88 mins., 2002, R; Lionsgate):
Rob Zombie mess of gore, unappealing characters and incoherent story
hits Blu Ray in a fine HD presentation that should please Zombie fans.
The 1080p transfer is quite good while 7.1 DTS-HD audio, 5.1 Dolby EX
sound, director commentary, casting footage, interviews, trailers, and
an interactive “Zombietron” game round out the package.
More of a trick than a treat!
TEKKONKINKREET: Blu Ray (**½, 111 miuns., 2006, R; Sony):
stylized, flamboyant anime (albeit directed by an American, Michael
Arias) was based on a popular magna entitled “Black &
White.” This interestingly designed but disjointed tale follows a
pair of street urchins in a faltering metropolis where Yakuza and nutty
aliens populate the streets; some impressive visual sequences are
partially off-set by an oddball narrative and particularly bizarre
ending that’s best left explained by anime devotees. Sony’s
Blu Ray disc is, at least, sensational: the 1080p transfer is gorgeous,
filled with color and detail, while 5.1 uncompressed PCM sound is
offered in Japanese with English subtitles (an English 5.1 dialogue
track is also on-hand). Extras include a 40-minute Making Of
featurette, commentary from Arias, and an interview with Arias and
British music duo Plaid, who perform the film’s soundtrack. Well
worth a look for anime fans, in spite of its erratic story.
REIGN OVER ME: Blu Ray (**½, 124 mins., 2006, R; Sony):
Audiences weren’t ready for a truly serious Adam Sandler vehicle
about a grieving man who lost his family in the events of 9/11, with
“Reign Over Me” flopping in theaters earlier this year.
Though I didn’t entirely buy Sandler’s sincere but not
entirely convincing performance, there’s strong supporting work
from Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland
on-hand in writer-director Mike Binder’s slow-moving but
effective enough melodrama. Sony’s Blu Ray release (available
October 9th) offers a top-of-the-line 1080p transfer with uncompressed
5.1 PCM audio, though not much in the way of extras (Making Of, photo
montage, and an “extended jam session” with Sandler and
New on HD-DVD
THE GETAWAY: HD-DVD (***, 116 mins., 1994, Not Rated; Universal):
Under-rated remake of the Sam Peckinpah-Steve McQueen-Ali McGraw
‘70s thriller boasts Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger in the better
of their two big-screen affairs (it’s a classic compared to
“The Marrying Man”), with the original Walter Hill script
followed fairly faithfully by director Roger Donaldson and writer Amy
Jones. More over, the film’s excellent supporting cast (James
Woods, Michael Madsen, Jennifer Tilly, David Morse, Richard Farnsworth
and a young Philip Seymour Hoffman) makes revisiting the ‘94
“Getaway” an unexpected pleasure in Universal’s
superb HD-DVD edition, which includes a colorful, crisp (if
occasionally grainy) 1080p, VC-1 encoded transfer and 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
PATCH ADAMS: HD-DVD (**, 116 mins., 1998, PG-13; Universal):
Maudlin Robin Williams drama-edy from writer Steve Oedekerk and
director Tom Shadyac, who both illustrate why they ought to have
stuck to comedy with this 1998 effort (which still performed well at
the box-office, coming at a peak in Williams’ career in
features). Williams’ performance as a crazy doctor who inspires
terminally ill patients by cracking jokes is either heartwarming or
exploitive (or possibly both) based on your personal point of view, but
there’s no denying how saccharine and at-times unwatchable this
formula mess is, right down to Marc Shaiman’s cloying score.
Universal’s HD-DVD offers a decent 1080p, VC-1 encoded transfer
with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio, commentary from Shadyac, outtakes, deleted
scenes, and a documentary examining the production of the film.
New and Coming Soon on DVD
ROOTS: THE NEXT GENERATION (1978-79, 688 mins., Warner):
sequel to the classic David L. Wolper-produced mini-series traces the
lives of author Alex Haley’s ancestors from following the Civil
War to the present day, offering another who’s-who of actors from
its era (Debbie Allen, Marlon Brando [as a Nazi], James Broderick,
Irene Cara, Diahann Carroll, Bernie Casey, Robert Culp, Olivia de
Havilland, Ruby Dee, Norman Fell, Henry Fonda, Pam and Rosey Grier,
Andy Griffith, Dorian Harewood, James Earl Jones, Dina Merrill, Harry
Morgan, John Rubinstein, Stan Shaw, Marc Singer, Greg Morris, Richard
Thomas, Hal Williams and Paul Winfield among them). Production values
remain high in this massive production, with another fine score
supplied by Gerald Fried. Warner’s four-disc box-set arrives next
week and includes a new behind-the-scenes documentary to compliment
fine full-screen transfers and mono sound.
SPECIES: Collector’s Edition (***, 108 mins., 1995, R; MGM/Fox):
Double-disc edition of the highly enjoyable 1995 Roger
Donaldson-directed sci-fi romp offers most of the same extras as the
previous DVD editions (two commentary tracks, featurettes), but adds a
new Making Of and an alternate ending (more of an unused epilogue) with
stars Michael Madsen and Marg Helgenberger. Visually the 16:9 (2.35)
transfer is as vibrant as I recall the film appearing on past releases,
while 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital sound compliment the audio presentation.
MEERKAT MANOR (273 mins., 2007; Genius Entertainment):
Hugely popular Animal Planet series hits DVD in a superb two-disc set
offering the series’ complete first season in excellent 16:9
(1.85) transfers with 2.0 Dolby Surround audio. This chronicle of a
group of South African meerkats is an emotionally wrenching journey
that ought to please kids and adults alike, with pitch-perfect
narration provided by Sean Astin. Extras include a preview of Season 2
and a “Top Ten” from Season 1.
THE SECRET WORLD OF ALEX MACK: Season 1 (1994, aprx. 7 hours; Genius Entertainment):
Popular ‘90s Nickelodeon series stars Larisa Oleynik as a
13-year-old who gains super powers after her first day in junior high.
Kind of like “Degrassi” meets the “X-Men,” with
loads of shenanigans and an appealing performance from Oleynik (Jessica
Alba is also on-hand too!). Genoius’ two-disc set offers okay
full-screen transfers and 5.1 audio. Recommended for fans.
EMMANUELLE: Special Edition (94 mins., 1974, Unrated; Lionsgate):
The original French “soft core” classic is back on DVD in
the U.S. with a restored 16:9 (1.70) transfer with 2.0 French stereo
audio (and optional English subtitles). Despite the lack of extras,
Sylvia Kristel has never looked better!
TIME: A ROOM WITH A VIEW in HD! Until
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