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14th Season Premiere
SCARFACE on Blu-Ray Reviewed

Irvin Kershner’s THE FLIM-FLAM MAN (***½, 104 mins., 1967) is a terrific movie: a homespun slice of rural Americana from writer William Rose that, for some inexplicable reason, never received a proper release on DVD. Thankfully that omission has been rectified with the release of Twilight Time’s limited-edition disc, now available through Screen Archives, which sports a crisp 16:9 enhanced new transfer, preserving Charles Lang’s marvelous use of the Panavision frame.

George C. Scott stars as con man Mordecai Jones, who runs into and out of trouble along with a young man (Michael Sarrazin) who’s AWOL from the military. Sarrazin becomes Scott’s protégé as they travel into the American south, pulling off various cons while being pursued by local police including Harry Morgan. Meanwhile, Sue Lyon (Kubrick’s “Lolita”) appears as a girl who falls for Sarrazin and helps Mordecai and “Curly” escape, while other roles are filled by many recognizable, great character actors of the silver age (Slim Pickens, Jack Albertson, Alice Ghostley, and Strother Martin among them).

Buoyed by a Jerry Goldsmith score that’s tuneful and infectious, “The Flim-Flam Man” ranks with a select group of “rural” movies made in the late ‘60s that offered scenic photography and gorgeous soundtracks to match. While “The Reivers” is a different type of piece (more nostalgic and period-set), its charms are matched by Kershner’s comedic-drama in terms of its use of widescreen, authentic locations and music. As Julie Kirgo points out in her booklet notes, the South has never looked so dreamy as it does here, and the Panavision frame is key in conveying the picture’s surroundings. It’s unfortunate, then, that fans of the movie have long had to make do with widescreen tapes of “Flim-Flam Man” widescreen airings on AMC and the Fox Movie Channel, seeing that the movie never generated a DVD release until now.

Twilight Time’s 16:9 transfer of the movie looks terrific – detailed and ideally framed. Lang’s photography is essential to the picture’s effectiveness and the print utilized is in good shape throughout. The mono audio is clear and well delivered, while an isolated score track of Goldsmith’s brilliant musical contribution and the trailer complete the package.

One of my favorite late ‘60s films that’s at last been given the DVD treatment it’s always deserved, “The Flim-Flam Man” comes unquestionably recommended!

New From Universal

Dated, excessive, overlong, yet intermittently powerful and always watchable, Brian DePalma remake of SCARFACE (**½, 170 mins., R, 1983) arrives on Blu-Ray in a limited-edition Steelbook release courtesy of Universal on September 6th.

The Al Pacino-Michelle Pfeiffer crime thriller starts off like a house on fire but peters out in its final hour, and was previously issued during the early days of the DVD format in a single-disc edition that reprised all of the contents from the deluxe "Signature Collection" laserdisc – itself once a prized possession amongst owners of that pre-DVD format. Along with the supplements, though, came a dreary, weak transfer, which wasn't optimized to take advantage of the superior DVD format (it actually rehashed the laserdisc's transfer, which actually wasn't up to the standards of the LD medium, either).

Universal withdrew the disc and issued an Anniversary DVD edition in 2003 and a “Platinum” version in 2006, which improved upon its predecessors. Needless to say the Blu-Ray trumps all prior editions with an even more impressive, VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer. For a Universal catalog release, this HD master is extremely satisfying, presenting a natural, film-like appearance with little obvious use of DNR and strong, vivid colors. Having never seen the film theatrically, I can only say that the DePalma and cinematographer John A. Alonzo’s visuals are improved substantially here over its prior video versions, enhancing its overall entertainment value. The sound, meanwhile, has been remixed for 5.1 DTS MA, giving the various effects and Giorgio Moroder's score a bass-heavy boost.

Even better is that (almost) all of the supplements from the earlier DVD releases have been reprieved, along with some brand new content. “The Scarface Phenomenon” is a brand new, 38-minute documentary, presented in HD and featuring fresh interviews with DePalma, producer Louis Stroller, co-star Steven Bauer, other critics and various celebrity devotees. Laurent Bouzereau's vintage laserdisc documentary is complimented by deleted scenes and a montage of clips from the movie's censored TV prints, while there’s a look at the “Scarface” video game. It's a great package with one major omission: none of the original trailers or marketing materials have been included.

Overall, though, if you're a big fan of the movie and were disappointed by the presentation on the earlier DVD and laserdisc editions, "Scarface" is well worth the upgrade.

Also new from Universal is HANNA (**, 111 mins., 2011, PG-13), director Joe Wright’s visually impressive but off-putting, vapid Euro-thriller about a young girl (Saorise Ronan), raised by her government-op father (Eric Bana) in a secluded winter wonderland, who finally leaves her lifelong hiding spot to combat Bana’s former nemesis: a gum-chewing, Texas-accented CIA agent (Cate Blanchett), who abducts “Hanna” but quickly gets more than she bargained for.

Seth Lochhead and David Farr’s script plays heavy on the fairy-tale metaphors but isn’t remotely believable at any stretch; Hanna goes from being a completely isolated, almost robotic young girl to wanting to flirt with boys at parties once she meets a family traveling through Europe (this in spite of the fact that her social skills aren’t exactly refined, having never actually seen teenage boys in person before!). Tom Hollander’s bleached-blonde bad guy is ridiculous and Blanchett’s villain likewise feels “off,” but then again, so does the whole movie: this is a mean thriller heavy on graphic violence with some disturbing elements and concepts that’s positively shocking for a PG-13 rated film. In fact, this is without a doubt the singular most graphic PG-13 film I’ve ever watched – and after sitting through “Hanna” and “The King’s Speech” (rated R for a few f-bombs whereas the PG-13 “Hanna” includes explicit torture and killings), there’s no longer any shred of doubt that the ratings system is broken in this country.

Where the movie works, to a degree, is in its visual style: Wright’s direction and Alwin Kuchler’s cinematography are both spectacular, and Ronan’s performance is unusual and compelling. While certainly not suitable for children (in spite of its rating), ‘Hanna” may be worth a viewing simply for its artistic elements – though I wouldn’t count the Chemical Brothers’ obnoxious, grating soundtrack as one of them.

Universal’s Blu-Ray includes a dynamite AVC encoded 1080p transfer and DTS MA soundtrack. Extra features include Wright’s commentary, deleted scenes, a featurette and an alternate ending that would’ve ended the film on a more redemptive note than the finished film. A digital copy is also included.

Also new from Universal is Season 7 of THE OFFICE (aprx. 10 hours, 2010-11), the final season for Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, better known as the boss on NBC’s hit comedy.

After a very erratic sixth season, “The Office” sends Carell off with one of its more inspired campaigns in recent years, though the show’s guest-star packed finale (which includes all kinds of “surprise” cameos that were spoiled in every commercial that aired before the show ran) isn’t all that funny as it tries and establish the new boss of Dunder-Miflin’s Scranton branch.

Regardless, “Office” fans will find much to enjoy in Carell’s swan song, and Universal’s multi-disc set includes all 24 episodes of “The Office”’s seventh season in 1080p transfers, DTS MA soundtracks and with extras including over 100 (!) minutes of deleted scenes, a blooper reel, extended episodes, commentaries, webisodes, and the entire “Threat Level Midnight” – Michael Scott’s fake movie which ends up making for one of the series’ all-time worst episodes.

INCENDIES Blu-Ray/DVD (***, 130 mins., 2010, R; Sony): Superb Canadian thriller (in French) from director-writer Denis Villeneuve follows twins (Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) who, following the death of their mother, travel to the Middle East to uncover the father and brother they never knew. Somewhat leisurely paced, “Incendies” is absorbing and extremely well-made, and Sony’s Blu-Ray adds to the film’s allure courtesy of a superb AVC encoded 1080p transfer with DTS MA audio and extras including commentary with the director and one Making Of featurette.

WIN WIN Blu-Ray (**½, 106 mins., 2011, R; Fox): Paul Giamatti plays a down-on-his-luck, small-town lawyer and high school wrestling coach who opts to become the guardian of one of his elderly clients (Burt Young). Along with this decision comes a $1500 monthly stipend and the arrival of Young’s grandson (Alex Shaffer), a tough high school kid who has run away from his mother and her abusive boyfriend, and who quickly displays a knack for wrestling.

Tom McCarthy wrote and directed “Win Win,” a very likeable yet uneven character-dramaedy that offers Giamatti a sympathetic role and fine supporting turns for Amy Ryan (as Giamatti’s wife), Bobby Canavale and Jeffrey Tambor. The movie has some very funny and poignant moments, yet the story’s focus never feels consistent, veering from Giamatti’s perspective to a “high school wrestling movie” (shades of “Vision Quest,” however briefly) and then back again. In the process the movie loses some of its momentum, which is regrettable since there are a lot of good things in “Win Win.”

Fox’s Blu-Ray boasts a satisfying 1080p AVC encoded transfer, 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack, and a number of extras including deleted scenes, interviews with McCarthy and others, a featurette and music video.

Also New From Fox this month:

BLOOD SIMPLE Blu-Ray (***, 95 mins., 1985, R; MGM/Fox): The Coen Brothers' first film doesn't offer nearly as much dark humor of their later pictures – something that's either good or bad, depending on your point of view.

Either way, “Blood Simple” is still a suspenseful and quirky film noir variant, with small-town Texas wife Frances McDormand having an affair with John Getz, while spurned husband Dan Hedaya hires detective M. Emmet Walsh (in one of the character actor's best roles) to investigate the couple. From there, it's a complicated web of double-crosses with occasional touches of the Coens' off-kilter sense of humor giving just enough distinction to the material.

It’s their sense of humor that gets the bigger boost in their 96-minute alternate cut of “Blood Simple,” which first saw a limited theatrical release a decade ago and has now arrived on Blu-Ray. An audio commentary track is provided by "Kenneth Loring of Forever Young Films" -- quite obviously a joke perpetrated likely by one of the Coens themselves, pretending to be a snobby British member of the crew! MGM’s oft-delayed Blu-Ray edition of the picture includes a respectable AVC encoded 1080p transfer with 2.0 DTS MA audio, that faux-commentary track and the trailer.

“Blood Simple” isn't one of my personal favorite Coen films, but it's nevertheless essential viewing for film buffs, newly available on Blu-Ray separately or as part of Fox’s new COEN BROTHERS COLLECTION, which also includes “Fargo,” “Raising Arizona,” and “Miller’s Crossing.”

After the "Vertigo"-like variant that was "Obsession," DePalma did Hitchcock again -- more or less -- in DRESSED TO KILL (**½, 105 mins., 1980, Unrated), his tale of a psychiatrist (Michael Caine) investigating a series of brutal murders with patient Angie Dickinson and call girl Nancy Allen involved with a stalker. This 1980 thriller generated a great deal of controversy in its day, and MGM’s Blu-Ray here includes a more explicit, unrated version with added sex and violence. With or without the uncensored footage, you get DePalma's persistent homages to Hitch, trademark use of anamorphic widescreen cinematography, and a story that seems quite familiar, no matter how good it looks. “Dressed to Kill” isn't my favorite DePalma film for a number of reasons, one of them being that the filmmaker repeats himself even more blatantly here than in any of his early work (the coda is a homage to “Carrie,” of all things!), but is still worth a look if you're a fan of the director or Angie Dickinson (who was, however, body-doubled in the soft-lit nude scenes).

Now on Blu-Ray, “Dressed to Kill” boasts a pleasing AVC encoded 1080p transfer. Its remixed 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack is fine, while extras reprieved from the earlier DVD include a 40-minute documentary which provides a solid overview of the film's production, a comprehensive look at different edits of the film (from the R to the unrated and even the bastardized TV version!), an interview with co-star Keith Gordon, and the original trailer.

Also new from MGM is Sam Peckinpah's controversial STRAW DOGS (***, 118 mins., 1971, Unrated), the memorable, tough early ‘70s thriller with Dustin Hoffman as a meek college professor who runs afoul of some British hooligans after moving to his wife's home village in England. How entertaining you find the picture is strictly a matter of taste, but the movie remains powerful despite some of its shortcomings, and the violence still potent after all these years. For technical quality, MGM’s Blu-Ray is a massive step-up from prior video releases and looks surprisingly good considering its age, and Jerry Fielding's score sounds adequate in the DTS-MA 5.1 track.

SONS OF ANARCHY Season 3 Blu-Ray (588 mins., 2010; Fox): Creator Kurt Sutter’s  (“The Shield”) effectively cast, violent FX series about a gang of outlaw bikers who take justice (and injustice) into their own hands is back in HD for its third go-round. Katey Sagal and Ron Perlman are tremendous as the married leaders of the “Sons of Anarchy,” with Charlie Hunnam as their conflicted son, and the third season offers 13 more episodes of action-packed night-time soap-opera entertainment that’s solidly performed and written. Fox’s Blu-Ray is a three-disc platter including a number of extras (including Season 4 bridge scenes, featurettes, deleted scenes, extended episodes and a gag reel), AVC encoded 1080p transfers and DTS MA soundtracks....Keanu Reeves plays a downtrodden Buffalo toll gate worker who gets wrapped up in a robbery that changes his life – for the better – in Malcolm Venville’s HENRY’S CRIME (**½, 108 mins., 2011, R), a not-bad character dramedy co-starring Vera Farmiga and James Caan. Fox’s BD of this Mimran Schur release includes an AVC encoded 1080p transfer and DTS MA soundtrack, but no extras...also new from Fox on Blu-Ray are SKATELAND (98 mins., 2009, PG-13), an indie drama set in the ‘70s with Ashley Greene and Shiloh Fernandez (AVC encoded 1080p transfer, 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack and deleted scenes), plus the “inspirational” sports movie THE 5TH QUARTER (89 mins., 2009, PG) with Aidan Quinn and Andie MacDowell (1080p transfer, 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack and Making Of featurette).

New on Blu-Ray From Anchor Bay

CAMELOT: Season 1 Blu-Ray (515 mins., 2011; Anchor Bay)
SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA Blu-Ray (347 mins., 2011; Anchor Bay): Starz’s lavish cable hit “Spartacus” was cut down by star Andy Whitfield’s bout with cancer, leading to the production of a lengthy prequel series “Gods of the Arena,” which arrives on Blu-Ray in an extremely impressive BD package with loads of extras (extended episodes, commentaries on all episodes, individual featurettes, bloopers and more) and top-notch 1080p transfers with Dolby TrueHD audio.

“Spartacus”’ success, meanwhile, lead to the creation of “Camelot,” a moody “reimagining” of the days of Lancelot, Arthur and Merlin that premiered earlier this year. Unfortunately for Starz, “Camelot” failed to capture the same audience as “Spartacus,” and was canceled a few weeks ago after its one season on cable.

Thus, Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray box of “Camelot”’s first season is also its last, with the multi-disc set including a number of featurettes that are mostly promotional in nature. The 1080p transfers and TrueHD soundtracks are all just fine, but despite a fine cast (Joseph Fiennes, Eva Green, Claire Forlani) and technical credits (including a Mychael and Jeff Danna score), the show – of what I sampled – is overly brooding and dull.

A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE Blu-Ray (87 mins., 2011, R; Anchor Bay): A serial killer (AJ Boween) escapes and tries to find his ex-girlfriend (Amy Seimetz) in a particularly disturbing thriller from writer-director Adam Wingard that’s a cut above the norm for this type of thing. “A Horrible Way to Die” doesn’t try and exploit its scenario for easy scares, but instead uses a flashback/present-day narrative set-up to show how Seimetz couldn’t realize Boween’s true nature due to her alcoholism, which she’s now dealing with in the present with a new boyfriend. This is a better-than-average indie horror effort made with some sensitivity and effective performances. Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray includes commentary and a featurette, plus an AVC encoded 1080p transfer and Dolby TrueHD audio.

THE ENTITLED Blu-Ray (91 mins., 2011, R; Anchor Bay): Kevin Zegers plays a young man who decides to abduct the children (one of them the lovely Laura Vandervoort from “Smallville” and “V”) of three socialites (Ray Liotta, Victor Garber and Stephen McHattie) in this Aaron Woodley film shot in 2009. Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray includes an alternate ending and a featurette, plus an AVC encoded 1080p transfer and Dolby TrueHD soundtrack.

NEW FROM LIONSGATE: 40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS (**½, 95 mins., R) was a predictable 2002 comedy that took a simple premise (Hartnett swears off sex for 40 days in order to better connect with women) and turned it into an uneven, yet highly watchable, vehicle for the actor. The first half stresses the comedic potential of the material with "American Pie"-like gags (plus the presence of "Road Trip" co-star Paulo Costanzo), while the second half settles into a typical, but cute, romance with Harnett discovering true love with Shannyn Sossamon (thankfully much better here than she was in "A Knight's Tale"). Director Michael Lehmann directs Robert Perez's uneven script with a sure hand, and it all goes down nice and easy -- a slight but entertaining movie that should be perfectly satisfying for its intended audience. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray includes a 1080p AVC encoded transfer, commentary from Lehmann, and the teaser trailer...More Tyler Perry madness is on-hand in the latest theatrical release TERRY PERRY’S MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY (107 mins., PG-13, 2011), which hits Blu-Ray in a digital-copy combo pack offering a 1080p transfer, 7.1 DTS MA audio, and four featurettes. A Perry feature-turned-cable-sitcom, MEET THE BROWNS, arrives on DVD in a three-disc set including its first 20 episodes in 16:9 (1.78) transfers and 5.1/2.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks. Finally, there’s LAUGH TO KEEP FROM CRYING (140 mins., 2010), a taped edition of his play of the same name about a family in an urban neighborhood, with ample songs included. Lionsgate’s DVD boasts cast/audience interviews, a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 audio...Will Ferrell decides that EVERYTHING MUST GO (**½, 97 mins., 2011, R), a quirky indie comedic-drama about a salesman who loses his wife and job and subsequently opts to put everything up for sale on his front lawn. Dan Rush’s little-seen film boasts a fine supporting cast (Laura Dern, Rebecca Hall, Stephen Root) but doesn’t entirely click. Lionsgate has brought the picture to both DVD and Blu-Ray; the former including a 16:9 transfer, 5.1 audio, commentary with Rush and co-star Michael Pena, two featurettes and deleted scenes. The Blu-Ray includes the same configuration with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer, DTS MA audio and an identical supplemental package...Rainn Wilson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman star in Spencer Susser’s little-seen indie film HESHER (106 mins., 2011, R), which Lionsgate brings to DVD this month in a Special Edition offering deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes, a 16:9 (2.44) transfer and 5.1 audio...Finally, the “Care Bears” are back in CARE BEARS: SHARE BEAR SHINES MOVIE (70 mins., 2011), an hour-plus feature for the little ones, that includes a 16:9 transfer, 5.1 audio and an interactive game that should keep young kids preoccupied for a little while at least.

Other new bargain-priced Miramax Blu-Rays coming out from Lionsgate this September include SCARY MOVIE 2 (*½, 82 mins., 2001, R), the Wayans’ limp follow-up to their earlier smash, plus SCARY MOVIE 3 (**, 85 mins., 2003, Unrated), which brought onboard “Airplane!” co-helmer David Zucker in an effort to inject more life into the comedy franchise. Both of these (dated) comedies look good with their AVC encoded 1080p transfers and DTS MA soundtracks, with loads of extras ported over from their prior DVD editions (commentaries, deleted scenes, bloopers, etc.)...Nicole Kidman scored a box-office success with THE OTHERS (**½, 104 mins., 2001, PG-13), Alejandro Amenabar’s well-mounted yet predictable ghost chiller that likewise joins the growing list of Miramax-Lionsgate titles. Javier Aguirresarobe’s cinematography gains the most from the AVC encoded transfer, while once again DTS MA audio and extras carried over from the earlier DVD edition (documentary and featurettes, the trailer) top off the package.

Cult Wrap-Up

Mill Creek is known for their bargain-priced box-set collections of B-movies, and this month brings two new releases from the label for cult movie aficionados.

SCI-FI INVASION is a 50-movie pack that offers a few interesting titles in addition to some grade-Z fare that has been released elsewhere (and often). All the titles are housed on dual-layer discs, but since the discs cram 4-5 movies on each, there’s an obvious amount of compression involved. That said, you’re not paying big money for this release, and the quality on a few of the movies isn’t bad. Among the more interesting inclusions in this package:

-SLIPSTREAM, the 1988 Steven Lisberger sci-fi bomb that never got a release on this side of the Atlantic. Mark Hamill, Bill Paxton, Bob Peck and F. Murray Abraham star in a well-mounted production with a ramshackle script and a seriously outstanding Elmer Bernstein score. Though presented in full-screen, the print shown here is the same as the one used for the European DVD, and at least the sound is in full stereo.

-HYPER SAPIEN: PEOPLE FROM ANOTHER STAR was a 1986 sci-fi fantasy from Talia Shire’s producer-husband Jack Schwartzman. Unlike “Never Say Never Again,” “Hyper Sapien” was basically ignored by distributor Warner Bros. (who knows how it ended up in this compilation) and never saw a major release. It’s certainly an odd “E.T.” rip-off with Sydney Penny as one of several aliens (wearing bad white wigs) who end up in the wilds of the U.S.A. (really Canada, but who cares?). Arthur B. Rubinstein scored the movie, which looks extremely rough in a poor pan-and-scan transfer.

-STAR KNIGHT is an embarrassing 1986 Spanish production with Harvey Keitel (!), Klaus Kinski and Fernando Rey slumming in a perfectly awful hybrid of medieval period adventure and a sci-fi/fantasy. Must be seen (or at least partially seen, since it’s so interminably bad) to be believed.

-THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET starred Joe Morton in an acclaimed 1984 film from John Sayles.

Also on-hand in this package: 984 Prisoner of the Future; Abraxas Guardian of the Universe; The Alien Factor; Alien Prey; Amazing Transparent Man; Assassin; The Bat; Battle Beyond the Sun; Beyond the Moon; Brian Twisters; Crater Lake Monster; Creeping Terror; Day Time Ended; Death Machines; Escape From Galaxy 3; Eyes Behind the Stars; The Brain From Outer Space; Extraterrestrial Visitors; Fugitive Alien; Future Hunters; Future Woman; Galaxina;: Giant of Metropolis; Hands of Steel; The Head; Horror High; Hundra; Invaders From Space; It’s Alive (1968); Life Returns; The Manster; Mission Stardust; Morons From Outer Space; Night Fright; Night of the Blood Beast; Primal Impulse; R.O.T.O.R.; Raiders of Atlantis; Robo Vampire; Rocket Attack USA; Star Pilot; Top Line; Trapped by Television; War of the Robots; Wasp Woman; and Welcome to Blood City.

Also available from Mill Creek is the 12-film collection DANGEROUS BABES, a satisfying assortment of Crown International titles including the hilariously awful Mae West 1978 swan song SEXTETTE with Timothy Dalton, Dom DeLuise, George Hamilton, Ringo Starr, Tony Curtis, Regis Philbin and Rona Barrett; the 1972 release BLUE MONEY; Troy Donahue in 1990's CLICK: THE CALENDAR GIRL KILLER; Virginia Mayo and Bruce Davidson in 1978's FRENCH QUARTER; HOT TARGET; NIGHT CLUB; NOON SUNDAY with Mark Lenard and Keye Luke (the first feature shot on Guam); Karen Black in 1981's SEPARATE WAYS; THE SISTER-IN-LAW with John Savage; THE VIRGIN QUEEN OF ST. FRANCIS HIGH; WEEKEND WITH THE BABYSITTER and YELLOW HAIR AND THE FORTRESS OF GOLD.

From MGM’s Limited Edition Collection comes CAPTAIN AMERICA (97 mins., 1990, PG-13) – no, not the exciting recent Marvel movie, of course, but rather Albert Pyun’s watchable yet intermittently embarrassing comic-book production that was shot for Menahem Golan’s post-Cannon Group 21st Century Film Corporation.

Matt Salinger (nephew of J.D.) plays Steve Rogers as he fights the Red Skull both in the ‘40s and again after he’s frozen in time; Scott Paulin essays his arch-nemesis while a better-than-the-movie-deserves supporting cast includes Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin, Michael Nouri and Melinda Dillon. “Captain America” does move along briskly and has a few fun moments but is basically let down by threadbare production values and a hokey script credited to Stephen Tolkin. Pyun claims his film was ruined by Golan in post-production, but this charge isn’t supported by his recent so-called “Director’s Cut” which the director is selling himself on his website. (Whatever you do, don’t bother spending money on the Blu-Ray version, which looks atrocious and isn’t worth your time or cash).

MGM’s DVD of “Captain America” is in stereo (the good news) but has been mastered from an old 4:3 presentation (the bad news) no better than its VHS/laserdisc releases from the early ‘90s. Since the movie wasn’t shot in widescreen the framing doesn’t seem to be a big loss, but the picture – even with its abundant shortcomings – is due a superior package than this barebones, manufactured-on-demand release (Shout!, meanwhile, has Universal’s superior Reb Brown TV movies due out on a double-feature DVD platter this fall).

Our friends at Synapse Films, meanwhile, are ready to unleash a Blu-Ray/DVD edition of THE EXTERMINATOR (102 mins., 1981, Unrated), James Glickenhaus’ nasty exploitation movie about a Vietnam vet (Robert Ginty) who decides to clean up the mean streets of NYC after thugs beat up, and paralyze, his best friend.

There are some exploitation films I enjoy (particularly Mark L. Lester’s “Class of 1984"), but “The Exterminator” falls short of the better pictures in its genre, even though it does have a few inspired moments (including a Vietnam prologue that’s more exciting than the rest of the film). More often then than not, though, “The Exterminator” plods along when it ought to be crackling with action, spending too much time on cop Christopher George’s pursuit of Ginty and his relationship with Samantha Eggar (scenes which all could’ve easily hit the cutting room floor).

Synapse’s Blu-Ray of this Avco-Embassy release looks as strong as the source material allows – the AVC encoded 1080p transfer is most impressive during the movie’s aerial shots of the Big Apple, while both a mono soundtrack and 2.0 restored DTS MA stereo mix do justice to the film’s not-entirely-primitive sound design. Extras include a commentary with Glickenhaus, the trailer and a TV spot.

Also New and Recently Released

A CINDERELLA STORY: ONCE UPON A SONG DVD (88 mins., 2011; Warner): Lucy Hale stars in this latest direct-to-video follow-up to the Hilary Duff “Cinderella Story” as a teen who wants to be a recording artist. Unfortunately her wicked stepmother (Missi Pyle) and stepsister (Megan Park) thwart her attempts at stardom, going so far as to steal her singing voice and her would-be boyfriend.

This ABC Family movie is passable for what it is, and Warner brings the cable-film to DVD this month in a fine 16:9 transfer with 5.1 audio. Ample extras include a number of featurettes aimed at the “tween” market.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES Season 2 DVD (927 mins., 2010-11; Warner): Former “Degrassi: The Next Generation” cast member Nina Dobrev’s fetching appearance is the highlight of this glossy, prime-time teen series which generated terrific ratings for the CW Network during its freshman season and returned for another strong campaign in Season 2.

Based on the popular books by L.J. Smith and co-developed by “Dawson’s Creek” creator Kevin Williamson, “Vampire Diaries” follows Dobrev’s heroine, Elena Gilbert, as she falls for a “Tiger Beat” worthy vampire-hero in Paul Wesley, only to encounter resistance from his more villainous, older brother played by “Lost”’s Ian Somerhalder – and this year, a vampire queen named Katherine who returns from a lengthy slumber in the crypt (also played, interestingly enough, by Dobrev).

Warner’s DVD box-set of “Vampire Diaries”’ second season includes 16:9 (1.85) transfers, 5.1 soundtracks and a number of extras including unaired scenes, a gag reel, three featurettes and cast interviews.

TWO AND A HALF MEN Season 8 DVD (337 mins., 2010-11; Warner): Charlie Sheen’s off-screen antics and much-publicized battles with producer Chuck Lorre ultimately cost him his day job as leading man on CBS’ top-rated sitcom “Two and a Half Men.” This, in effect, made Season 8 of the series its final one with Sheen, since Ashton Kutcher has since been added to the cast of the comedy which returns to CBS next month.

Because of the problems, Season 8 of “Two and a Half Men” only ran for 16 episodes before production was shut down, and Warner’s DVD box set includes its entire run in 16:9 transfers and 5.1 soundtracks. Fans of the show may be disappointed that its lead cast member was dumped from the series without any kind of goodbye, but it’s not the first time in the annals of TV that it’s happened (remember Valerie Harper’s contractual feud which turned “Valerie” into “Valerie’s Family” and, later, “The Hogan Family”?).    

BASEBALL’S GREATEST GAMES DVD (A&E/NewVideo): Three new DVDs in A&E’s retrospective of classic MLB games includes the Mets’ victorious win over the Red Sox in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series (boooooo); the Red Sox’ miraculous comeback over the Yankees in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS (yay!), which ignited their run to the World Series; and the supremely memorable 7th game of the 1991 World Series where the Twins conquered the Braves 1-0. Stereo soundtracks are included on all three DVDs, which look as good as the material allows.

MICKEY SPILLANE’S MIKE HAMMER DVD (Aprx. 34 hours; A&E): Mickey Spillane’s private eye first hit the small screen in this 1958 NBC series with Darren McGavin as the iconic pulp detective. A&E’s 12-disc box-set preserves the entire run of “Mike Hammer,” offering some 78 episodes in their original black-and-white, half-hour formats with crisp mono soundtracks.

BAD DREAMS/VISITING HOURS Double Feature DVD (Shout): A pair of ‘80s horrors from the Fox vaults -- previously available on out-of-print Anchor Bay packages -- make for an appealing double-feature for genre buffs.

“Visiting Hours” is a 1982 Canadian thriller with Lee Grant as a TV journalist attacked by a loon (Michael Ironside) enraged by her report about domestic violence. She ends up surviving but is stalked in the hospital by Ironside in a film from director Jean Claude Lord from a Brian Taggert screenplay. Linda Purl and William Shatner co-star in what amounts to a slower-paced, less exciting rendition of “Halloween II,” with Shout’s DVD offering a 16:9 (1.78) transfer and trailers.

Jennifer Rubin, meanwhile, starred in “Bad Dreams,” a 1988 box-office flop from director Andrew Fleming (“The Craft”) about a woman plagued by – well, you can figure it out – who finds out that she’s daughter of a couple involved in a Jim Jones-like sect whose members mostly all died in a horrific mass-suicide. Naturally the sect’s leader (Richard Lynch) is still haunting her. Fleming and ‘80s script guru Steven E. DeSouza penned this routine but watchable horror outing which includes a 16:9 transfer and extras carted over from the out-of-print Anchor Bay release including commentary by Fleming, the alternate ending, interviews, featurettes, and a new 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.

DEAD CERT Blu-Ray and DVD (82 mins., 2010; Shout): Craig Fairbrass opts to build his nightclub on top of sacred land belonging to a 500-year-old vampire in this Black and Blue Films production which hits both Blu-Ray and DVD this month from Shout. The label’s DVD edition includes a 16:9 transfer, 5.1 soundtrack, and extras including commentary by producer-director Steve Lawson, a Making Of featurette, and the trailer; the Blu-Ray offers the same extras with 7.1 audio and a 1080p transfer.

THOR AND LOKI: BLOOD BROTHERS DVD (72 mins., 2011; Shout): Marvel and Shout’s latest adaptation of a Marvel graphic novel, “Loki,” by Robert Rodi and Esad Ribic, makes for a compelling 72-minute DVD production, faithfully rendered from its source material, which recounts Thor’s brother’s rise to lead Asgard. Rodi and Ribic are interviewed in the supplemental section, which also includes a Making Of featurette and the trailer.

NEW FROM E ONE: Mandy Moore plays a marriage counselor with a “perfect” husband (Kellan Lutz) whose world is turned upside down when she finds out her folks (Jane Seynour, James Brolin) are getting a divorce in LOVE WEDDING MARRIAGE (90 mins., 2011, PG-13), a rom-com that marks the directorial debut of actor Dermot Mulroney. IFC’s Blu-Ray disc includes a 1080p transfer, 5.1 soundtrack and the original trailer.

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