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Blu-ray Reviews for June 5, 2018

Selections from this week’s Blu-ray releases can be found below in this ongoing weekly summary of reviews. Click on any of the following titles to navigate directly to that review. This week’s releases include: Alex Garland’s sci-fi/horror Annihilation and the boogeyman movie The Midnight Man; and Severn Films’ triple threat of trashy Italian horror cult classics Shocking Dark, Zombie 3, and Zombie 4: After Death. A list of other titles also available this week can be found at the end.


Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Biologist and former soldier Lena (Natalie Portman) is shocked when her missing husband (Oscar Isaac) comes home near death from a top-secret mission into The Shimmer, a mysterious quarantine zone no one has ever returned from. Now, Lena and her elite team must enter a beautiful, deadly world of mutated landscapes and creatures, to discover how to stop the growing phenomenon that threatens all life on Earth. The film also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Tuva Novotny.

By now, Annihilation is well known for having made an inauspicious debut on Netflix after Paramount, the studio behind its production, declined to send it to theaters. While it’s a shame that this route was chosen, as its visuals alone demand a theatrical experience, I can understand why, because Annihilation is a challenging work. Alex Garland, writer/director of the similarly challenging Ex Machina, and screenwriter of the 28 Days Later series and Dredd, has concocted a wild hybrid of B-movie monstrousness married to a Kubrick-esque mind-fuck a la 2001: A Space Odyssey. Take that, and add Annihilation‘s unsettling ending, which can sometimes be a death knell on box office, as audiences like their conclusions both happy and easy to comprehend, and its home on Netflix makes more and more sense.

Another reason Annihilation may be so well known: it’s all-female cast, led by Natalie Portman but supported by the likes of Tessa Thompson and the always wonderful Jennifer Jason Leigh. In fact, the presence of men figure rarely into the plot, except in the form of Oscar Isaac, whose reappearance after being thought dead is the direct catalyst for Portman’s Lena stepping directly into the mysterious world the film calls The Shimmer. If there’s a specific reason for the all-female cast, Garland doesn’t use Annihilation to present it in any broad manner, but of course the viewer can determine the implications of this choice on their own. One thing is for sure: in this particular world, it’s the women who are getting shit done.

Annihilation’s visuals are its biggest selling points, from its use of CGI to create mutants animals to the production design featuring the design of flowers arranged in humanoid shapes, like living statues existing within a botanical garden. But the visuals don’t just start and stop at wonder — especially during the ending, as Lena gets closer to solving the mystery of The Shimmer, the sights she sees maintain the wonder but up the creep factor significantly.

Annihilation requires more than one viewing to fully appreciate its scope, to begin unearthing the true mystery of The Shimmer, and to catch all the subtleties Garlan hid throughout, especially within the confines of the framing device used to propel the story forward. It’s daring, well acted, visually aweing, and again, challenging. You should be absolutely ready for something beyond a simple sci-fi romp should you take your own trip into The Shimmer.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

Part 1 – SOUTHERN REACH

  • Refractions – See how director Alex Garland created the tone, textures and color palettes for the various film environments on set.
  • For Those That Follow – Listen to the cast’s perspective on their roles and learn why they found the story so intriguing.

Part 2 – AREA X

  • Shimmer – See how filmmakers transformed real set locations to create the world of Annihilation.
  • Vanished into Havoc – Check out all the action as cast and crew walk you through the mind-blowing stunts and special effects.

Part 3 – TO THE LIGHTHOUSE

  • Unfathomable Mind – Learn why the visual effects are integral to achieving director Alex Garland’s overall vision for Annihilation.
  • The Last Phase – Listen to the cast and crew share their fondest memories from filming Annihilation.


Distributor: Shout! Factory & IFC Midnight

It was supposed to be just an urban legend… On a snowy night in her grandmother’s sprawling mansion, teenager Alex (Gabrielle Haugh) and her best friend Miles (Grayson Gabriel) discover a mysterious box hidden away in the attic. Inside are instructions for The Midnight Game, an ancient pagan ritual said to summon the player’s greatest fears. It all seems like harmless fun to Alex and Miles — until they unleash the terrifying spirit of The Midnight Man, an unholy force who pits them against their darkest demons and dares them to survive. Horror legends Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street) and Lin Shaye (Insidious) costar in this terrifying, supernatural game of cat and mouse. Play at your own risk…

The best way to describe The Midnight Man would be “dopey,” but I’ll be damned if it’s not trying to be unnerving and creepy. And sometimes, it kind of is — mostly having to do with the visage of the titular monster. You might think that, based on the synopsis, that The Midnight Man is trying to be Candyman for this new post-Conjuring generation, but actually it feels more like Wishmaster, though I’m not sure anyone was clamoring for that late ‘90s Djinn. From the silly dialogue to the even sillier idea of purposely resurrecting a demon in the first place, The Midnight Man is imbued with a modern old fashionedness that feels ripped from the pages of “this is obviously a bad idea” genre offerings that populated theaters and VCRs in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. There’s an earnestness within and a genuine desire to scare its audience with the idea of a boogeyman being summoned to play something known as The Midnight Game, and no amount of hammy self-serious demon speak can ruin that. (Why anyone in their right mind would purposely conjure a demon with the real power to kill you unless you followed a series of increasingly specific and confusing steps is beyond me.)

It’s nice to see Robert Englund and Lynn Shaye sharing the screen given how long the two have been professionally acquainted (they both appeared in the original Nightmare on Elm Street nearly 35 years ago) and their presence offers a mini slice of genre cred, even if neither of them are infallible when it comes to choosing genre projects. Shaye gives it her all and manages to actually be creepy at times, but some of the dialogue she’s forced to spew is beyond eye-rolling. Englund lucks out, playing a more grounded character whose sole purpose is spouting off exposition, but Englund’s casting was key because of his eight-film legacy as Freddy Krueger. If HE’s creeped out by the Midnight Man, then we ALL should be..

Unfortunately, Englund and Shaye are supporting characters in favor of the younger, hipper Gabrielle Haugh, who is unconvincing the entire time, and Grayson Gabriel, who, on the surface, seemed to have been the token friend-zoned friend but who actually (and unconvincingly) later becomes a genuine love interest. (The movie really tries to sell this but it just doesn’t work.)

The Midnight Man is brainless and very corny, but there’s also something about it that prevents me from dismissing it entirely. It’s made with a certain flare, aided by some confident direction with an emphasis on gothic manors, darkness, and an old-school dependence on mythology – all of which tickles my genre bone. (Kids also literally explode during it, so see it for that, at least.)

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Trailer

Distributor: Severin Films

For director Bruno Mattei (VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN’S PRISON) and co-writers Claudio Fragasso & Rossella Drudi (TROLL 2), their final – and most notorious – collaboration went beyond brazen plagiarism to become a fearless act of deranged genius: In this bravura rip-off of both ALIENS and TERMINATOR, a team of badass marines, a tough female civilian and an orphaned girl battle monsters beneath the Venice canals while being chased by an indestructible killer cyborg. Have we mentioned the overwrought dialogue, over-the-top performances and ultimate WTF? twist ending? Geretta Geretta (DEMONS) and Tony Lombardo (RATS: NIGHTS OF TERROR) star in this “schlockfest of awesome” (Cool Target) – actually released outside the U.S. as TERMINATOR II and ALIENATORS and never before available in America – now scanned in 2k from the Director’s Cut negative discovered in a Rome lab vault.

Italian horror director Bruno Mattei, who died in 2007, once said, “I don’t think any of my movies are good.” Having seen just a handful of them, I’m…starting to believe him. If he were being fair, however, he should have added, “but they’re entertaining as hell.”

My introduction to Mattei was thanks to a little ditty called Cruel Jaws, a killer shark flick that was actually released in some foreign territories as Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws. Not only is it a beat-for-beat rip-off of Jaws (with some mobsters thrown in for good measure), it also brazenly lifts footage from the entire Jaws series, mostly shots of sharks, explosions, and exploding sharks. The degree of plagiarism going on was so absurd that Universal, rights holders of the Jaws series, issued a cease and desist the minute producers began testing the waters for a U.S. release. (A few years ago, Shout Factory very prematurely announced they would be releasing the title on Blu-ray, but anyone aware of Cruel Jaws’ litigation history predicted the distributor would inevitably walk back that announcement. They did.) For the freakishly curious, Cruel Jaws can be watched in its entirety on Youtube. (Bring your laughing face.)

Then came Rats: Nights of Terror, in which a group of punks surviving in a post-apocalyptic world fell victim to…rats. It was quite the night(s) of terror.

Finally, Mattei put his mark on the zombie sub-genre with Hell of the Living Dead, which I did see at one point and remember absolutely nothing about. It was probably pretty good!

Shocking Dark, my latest immersion in the world of Bruno Mattei…might be a new favorite. As its synopsis suggests, and which isn’t an exaggeration, Shocking Dark honestly looks like a $50 remake of Aliens, right down to the lifting of different characters and their very different traits. Naturally there’s a Ripley (though she’s called Sarah — as in The Terminator’s Sarah Connor), as well as a Newt, who recites a bit of Aliens dialogue with, “My mom told me monsters weren’t real – she was wrong.”

There’s a Hicks and a Hudson. There’s also a Vasquez:

Most importantly (spoiler), there’s a hybrid of Burke, Bishop…and the T-800 from The Terminator:

Sadly, however, there is no Jonesy:

Shocking Dark  was even marketed as Terminator II (this would be three years before Terminator 2: Judgment Day actually existed), going as far as to use this poster:

There’s shameless, and then there’s shameless, and then there’s that.

Shocking Dark is hysterical right off the bat, and once the hysteria dwindles a bit as the viewer becomes acclimated to its histrionics, the more and more familiar beats of the plot solidify and offer a different kind of enjoyment. Your mileage will vary, but your reaction will likely transition from “I can’t believe how stupid this is!” to “I can’t believe how shameless this is!”

The budget on this thing was probably less than half a Maserati. Most of the action takes place in a “tunnel below the canals of Rome” which looks suspiciously like the basement of a power plant, with a brief finale that unfolds on the streets of Rome where the film finally goes full-on Terminator. It should come as no surprise that the special effects are also terrible, with the alien looking nowhere near like the Xenomorph from the Alien series. By now it should be assumed that the acting in films of this caliber are quite poor, but for Shocking Dark it bears repeating. Yeesh.

If I were to offer any kind of accolades, it would be the decision to take the Bishop-inspired android and turn him into a carbon copy Terminator. Granted, this is all predicated on the understanding that a couple of screenwriters were forced to rip off two of the biggest sci-fi/action flicks of all time, but let’s be honest: if Shocking Dark were a piece of fan fiction on an Alien message board, it would be commended for its cleverness in tying another popular James Cameron character into the conflict. Yes, Shocking Dark steals, but it steals cleverly.

Look, Shocking Dark is a terrible movie and actually kind of racist, but I can’t deny it was a hell of a good time. A prerequisite for enjoyment of Shocking Dark is an appreciation for trash cinema. You should know this before getting yourself into trouble. And if you’re constantly bored and sad like I am, here’s a fun double-feature idea for you: Aliens, and Shocking Dark. Back to back, their similarities will be far more prevalent, and hence, far more entertaining (though Aliens will be suddenly severely lacking “Arnold Schwarzenegger”).

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Terminator in Venice – An Interview with Co-Director / Co-Screenwriters Claudio
  • Fragasso and Co-Screenwriter Rossella Drudi
  • Once Upon A Time in Italy – An Interview With Actress Geretta Geretta
  • Alternate Italian Titles


Distributor: Severin Films

Shortly before completing the sequel to his classic ZOMBIE, the legendary Lucio Fulci became ill and left the Philippines-based production. But when director Bruno Mattei (SHOCKING DARK) and writers Claudio Fragasso & Rosella Drudi (TROLL 2) stepped in to finish, the result became the most “insanely enjoyable” (The Lucid Nightmare) zombie romp in EuroCult history: After a deadly virus is stolen from a government facility, it will unleash a “wildly entertaining” (Realm Of Horror) combination of Fulci’s signature extreme violence, Mattei/Fragasso-style surreal logic, and big bloody buckets of goo-spewing mayhem that must be seen to be believed. Deran Sarafian, Beatrice Ring (INTERZONE) and Massimo Vanni (RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR) star in this “total blast” (Bloody Disgusting), now featuring a 2k scan and uncut for the first time ever in America.

Let’s catch you up on the Italian Zombi series, which currently holds steady at four entries, despite the last chapter being titled Zombie 5: Killing Birds.

It all began with George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which was released in Italy under the title Zombi. Following that, horror director Lucio Fulci (The Beyond) made his own unrelated undead ghoul flick, which was released as Zombie in the U.S., but as Zombi 2 in Italy, therefore suggesting it was a sequel to Romero’s film. (It wasn’t.)

Following, Fulci made Zombi 3, Claudio Fragasso made Zombi 4: After Death, and Claudio Lattanzi made Zombi 5: Killing Birds, though, according to that latter’s Wiki page, “…zombies only feature in the last half hour of the movie, and only one character is attacked by birds.”

Meanwhile still, the Zombi films were released in Britain under the Zombie Flesh Eater moniker, which ejected Dawn of the Dead from the cannon and reset the numbering scheme (Zombi 2 became Zombie Flesh Eater 1, etc.). Indeed, every territory had their own titling scheme, numbering scheme, and even added or dropped otherwise totally unrelated films to make them part of the ongoing series. (One territory added the joyfully nuts Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, which was the best choice they could have made.) Honestly, it’s all confusing as fuck and probably not worth the effort to navigate, because when you think about it, every zombie movie ever made could be a sequel to the one that came before.

Basically, if you’re a passionate movie collector living in the U.S. AND you have OCD, your complete Zombi series would consist of Zombie, and then Zombi 3-5, and it probably kills you.

Haw haw!

Having recently revisited Fulci’s Zombie/Zombi 2 in preparation for my mini Zombi 3/4 marathon, a film I hadn’t seen for a very long time, I was expecting my newfound appreciation for Italian horror and the film’s ongoing semi-respected reputation to usher in an undiscovered enjoyment of the gory zombie shocker. That didn’t happen. Surprisingly, Zombie is actually kind of dull, relocating most of its action to an island in the Caribbean after a promising opening in which a small boat containing a handful of ghouls washes up in New York harbor.

I’m no big fan of Fulci’s films in any legitimate way (although I sort of adore City of the Living Dead), but despite his very diverging outputs of quality, the man at least had a distinct visual style, which makes Zombi 3 feel so odd. Zombi 3 is just stupidity, featuring flying, biting zombie heads and one action set piece after another. And the gore! So much gore! Sadly, there’s a reason for this. Fulci (who was very ill during filming) and two ghost directors Claudio Fragasso (the film’s screenwriter) and Bruno Mattei (Italian shlockmeister director of the highest order) present Zombi 3 as a more ridiculous and action-packed experience. Whatever sense of mood, or satire, or “moral” Fulci was vying for in Zombi 2 has gone right out the window here (or perhaps was phased out after some of Fulci’s footage was tossed and replaced with new material from his collaborators). Plotwise, Zombi 3 takes somewhat of a page from George A. Romero’s The Crazies with the presence of hazmat-suited soldiers laying waste to anything deemed a threat, as well as Return of the Living Dead, relying heavily on the idea of the zombie scourge spreading across the landscape from the cremation of infected corpses. The zombies are also of the running variety. But Zombi 3 is also much funnier than that beloved zombie comedy, even though it wasn’t trying to be. Hysterical overroughtness tends to happen when you’re dealing with an Italian horror production, usually aided by the overly emphatic dubbing which offers every character a very animated and highly emotional presence.

(And again, flying zombie head.)

Picking on Zombi 3’s lack of plot feels like low-hanging fruit given the Frankensteinian nature of its production, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: there’s barely a plot beyond a couple groups of wandering people intermittently finding each other, running afoul of ghouls, and getting eaten. That’s honestly about it.

Zombi 3 is not a “good” film by any stretch, but lordy is it entertaining. It also feels incredibly unlike anything Lucio Fulci has ever done, but with him having been responsible for only 60% of the final cut, that shouldn’t come as any surprise.

My second go-around with Fulci’s original semi-classic Zombie will likely be my last. But Zombi 3? I’ll definitely be revisiting this one…much sooner than later.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • The Last Zombies – Interview With Co-Director/Co-Writer Claudio Fragasso and Co-Writer Rossella Drudi
  • Tough Guys – Interview with Actors/Stuntmen Massimo Vanni and Ottaviano Dell’Acqua
  • The Problem Solver – Interview with Replacement Director Bruno Mattei
  • Swimming with Zombies – Interview with Actress Marina Loi
  • In the Zombie Factory – Interview with FX Artist Franco Di Girolamo
  • Audio Commentary With Stars Deran Sarafian and Beatrice Ring
  • Trailer
  • Bonus Disc: CD Soundtrack


Distributor: Severin

In between the celebrated insanities of ZOMBIE 3 and TROLL 2, director Claudio Fragasso (here under the name ‘Clyde Anderson’) and writer/collaborator Rossella Drudi put the penultimate batshit nail in the coffin of the legendary ZOMBIE series: When a white scientist’s cure for cancer enrages an island voodoo priest, it will unleash the ultimate plague of ninja zombies, exploding heads, appalling performances, eye-gouging, face-ripping, power ballads and big bloody mouthfuls of flesh-chomping havoc…and that’s just the first 20 minutes. Adult film superstar Jeff Stryker, Candice Daly (THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS) and Jim Gaines (ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD) star in this “ludicrously entertaining” (Ballistic Blood Bullets) Philippines-filmed schlock-fest, now scanned in 2k and uncut for the first time ever in America.

Zombi 4: After Death began life simply as After Death, which explored similar ground but was otherwise completely unconnected to the Zombi series. But, in keeping with the Italian horror tradition, producers shoehorned it into the Zombi series in hopes of making a few more shekels.

Zombi 4 comes to you courtesy of Claudio Fragasso, screenwriter of Zombi 3, but who is most known (and infamous) to American audiences as being the co-writer/director of Troll 2. (I can’t state I’ve seen every Fragasso film, but the ones I have offer a very specific kind of entertainment. Troll 2 isn’t an exception to that rule, but more like an indicator of what a Fragasso film looks and sounds like.) As you watch Zombi 4, it’s clear that the filmmakers were going for something different, as it actually feels more in line (at least at first) with another popular Italian horror franchise, Demons, than the Zombi series. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some pretty lengthy scenes of zombie carnage with ghouls getting their entire heads exploded all while doing the slow-moving, dead-grunting thing, but the film’s opening deals with voodoo priests, hellish concubines, and mythological aspects, offering a bit more gimmickry beyond just “oh fuck, zombies,” which had been primarily the driving force of the series up to that point. (Zombi 3 played around with scientific experimentation being the reason behind the resurrection of the dead, but this whole subplot honestly feels like it’s going down in an entirely different movie, and in Zombi 4 it goes largely ignored beyond one line of dialogue.)

The plot of Zombi 4 is also more streamlined and coherent than the previous, but there’s also not a whole lot of substance, either. Characters end up in a place where they shouldn’t be, get stranded, and begin a fight for their lives as legions of ghouls begin unearthing and very very very slowly coming at them. Continuity is also insanely out the window, not just in terms of logic (characters transport from one environment to another with no explanation as to where they are or how they got there), but also in terms of flatout recklessness. For instance, one character (played by gay porn star Jeff Stryker) bellows that the only way to put the zombies down is to shoot them in the head; however, a little later, he sprays some automatic bullets into the chests of half a dozen ghouls and brings them down, anyway.

Zombi 4 is only slightly less insane than its predecessor, but believe me — that hardly has an effect on its overall level of enjoyment, which is damn near in line. The gore remains, as does the bad dubbing, worse dialogue, and the overall sense of “what IS this?” you’ll be frequently asking yourself. The assault rifle action hardly ever lets up, and when it does, there’s some bad bad dialogue to fill the void. (“When a man’s afraid he’s gonna die, there’s nothing he wants more than a woman by his side…and I want YOU.” ) That the zombies also talk and even use weapons (like the aforementioned assault rifles) only add to the nutsness on which Zombi 4 mostly depends to be worth a damn.

It also has a hell of a soundtrack, featuring tremendous ‘80s synth goodness by composer Al Festa, along with the rocking Zombie 4 Anthem Living After Death, which would have sounded right at home in Rocky 4, had Rocky 4 been a zombie movie.

If you’re in the mood for a curious and somewhat introspective take on Italian zombie horror, Fulci’s Zombie/Zombi 2 seems like the most obvious choice. But if you’re in the mood for something crazier, by all means, skip that one and jump right to Zombi 3 and Zombi 4: After Death. Fans of nutso Italian horror like Demons, StageFright, and Troll 2 (yep, it counts) are about to fill the Zombie voids in their lives they never knew they had.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Run Zombie Run! – Interview With Director Claudio Fragasso and Screenwriter Rossella Drudi
  • Jeff Stryker in Manila – Interview With Actor Chuck Peyton
  • Blonde vs Zombies – Interview With Actress Candice Daly
  • Behind-The-Scenes Footage
  • Trailer
  • Bonus Disc: CD Soundtrack


Also Available This Week:

Distributor: Shout! Factory & IFC Midnight

Amanda Schull (12 Monkeys), Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us), Shawn Ashmore (X-Men) and Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation) star in this unnerving, edge-of-your-seat thriller that “keeps executing its euphoric bacchanal of bizarre plot points” (Paste) until its final twisted reveal.

What unholy force lies locked away in this crumbling, booby-trapped, middle-of-nowhere farmhouse? When a woman and her son mysteriously vanish, FBI agent Daria Francis (Schull) is dispatched to the small town of Devil’s Gate, North Dakota to investigate the number one suspect: religious fanatic Jackson Pritchard (Ventimiglia), husband and father of the missing persons. But when Francis and local deputy Colt Salter (Ashmore) arrive at Pritchard’s foreboding property, they discover much more than they bargained for lurking in the basement. Unfolding over the course of 24 delirious hours, this head-spinning sci-fi creature feature hits viewers with a bonkers blitzkrieg of genre-bending twists and turns!

Special Features:

  • Trailer

Distributor: Shout! Factory

Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther, The Imitation Game, The End of the F***ing World) is one-of-a-kind: a fabulous, glitter-bedecked, gender-bending teenager whose razor-sharp wit is matched only his by his outrageous, anything-goes fashion sense. When his glamorous mother (Bette Midler, Ruthless People) is forced to send him to live with his straight-laced father (Larry Pine, The Royal Tenenbaums), Billy finds himself a diva-out-of-water at his new ultra-conservative high school. Undaunted by the bullies who don’t understand him, the fearless Billy sets out to make a big statement in his own inimitable way: challenging the school’s reigning mean girl (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine) for the title of homecoming queen. This proudly offbeat comedy is an irresistible ode to outsiders and nonconformists of all stripes.

Special Features:

  • Trailer

Distributor: TNT via Warner Bros.

Embark on the latest journey of TNT’s hit series The Last Ship: The Complete Fourth Season, arriving on Blu-ray™ and DVD on June 5. From blockbuster filmmaker and executive producer Michael Bay (Transformers franchise), the fight to save mankind aboard The Navy destroyer U.S.S. Nathan James continues with an all-star cast including Eric Dane, Bridget Regan and Adam Baldwin.

Season four of The Last Ship follows Tom Chandler (Dane) after he’s given up his heroic titles and responsibilities and sought solace –  and anonymity – with his family in a small fishing village in Greece. Meanwhile, Captain Slattery (Baldwin) and the crew of Nathan James have discovered that the virus has “jumped kingdoms” and now infects the world’s food crops, bringing humanity to the brink of global famine. As the ship traverses the Mediterranean in search of a solution that can save the world’s food supply, Chandler encounters his own enemies in Greece. His “hero’s journey” becomes a modern day retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey.

Special Features:

  • Exclusive 13-Minute Documentary
  • Behind-the-Scenes Look at Season Four
  • Character Featurettes

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Dominika Egorova is many things. A devoted daughter determined to protect her mother at all costs. A prima ballerina whose ferocity has pushed her body and mind to the absolute limit. A master of seductive and manipulative combat.

When she suffers a career-ending injury, Dominika and her mother are facing a bleak and uncertain future. That is why she finds herself manipulated into becoming the newest recruit for Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people like her to use their bodies and minds as weapons. After enduring the perverse and sadistic training process, she emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow the program has ever produced. Dominika must now reconcile the person she was with the power she now commands, with her own life and everyone she cares about at risk, including an American CIA agent who tries to convince her he is the only person she can trust.

Special Features:

  • A New Cold War: Origination and Adaptation
  • Agents Provocateurs: The Ensemble Cast
  • Tradecraft: Visual Authenticity
  • Heart of the Tempest: On Location
  • Welcome to Sparrow School: Ballet and Stunts
  • A Puzzle of Need: Post-Production
  • Director Commentary by Francis Lawrence
  • 10 Deleted Scenes (With Optional Commentary by Francis Lawrence)
  • Movies Anywhere Digital Code

Distributor: Cinedigm

In RWBY: Volume 5 Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang are each entangled in journeys of their own, but they allshare one destination: Haven Academy. Whether it’s the promise of ancient relics, mystical maidens, or simply more power, it’s clear that the stage for the next great battle for Remnant has been chosen. The question is, with so many players in this game, who’s going to come out on top?

Special Features

  • None

Distributor: Shout! Factory 

An out-of-commission satellite picks up a lovelorn ballad on her radio antenna and descends to Earth to find the source of such sincere emotions. But on the way, she is caught in a raging magical battle and transforms into Satellite Girl. Meanwhile, the balladeer in question – a loser twentysomething at a café open mic – meets the fate that befalls all broken-hearted lovers: he is turned into a farm animal. But love knows no bounds, and aided by the wise and powerful Merlin – a wizard who has been turned into a roll of toilet paper – our duo must evade the all-consuming incinerator monster, the wily pig witch, and other nefarious adversaries in an attempt to be together.

Special Features

  • Coffee Vending Machine And Its Sword Short Film
  • Trailers

Distributor: Arrow Video

Premiering at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival, Smash Palace was the second feature of Roger Donaldson following the success of Sleeping Dogs, a film which had heralded the arrival of the New Zealand New Wave.

Smash Palace concerns itself with the marriage of former racing driver Al (Bruno Lawrence, The Quiet Earth) and French-born Jacqui (Anna Jemison, Nomads). The pair had met when she nursed him back to health following a career-ending injury. They married, returned to Al’s native New Zealand to take over his late father’s wrecking yard business – the Smash Palace of the title – and had a child. But over time stagnation has set in, Jacqui’s resentment of Al has grown, and things are threatening to spill over…

Playing out as a darker, more haunting New Zealand variation on such US separation movies as Kramer vs. Kramer or Shoot the Moon, Smash Palace offers a brilliant, vivid messy portrait of masculinity in crisis, driven by Lawrence’s immense central performance – once again confirming his status as one of New Zealand’s finest actors.

Special Features:

  • High Definition (Blu-ray) presentation
  • Original mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Commentary by writer-director Roger Donaldson and stunt driver Steve Millen
  • The Making of Smash Palace, a 51-minute documentary on the film’s production featuring interviews with Donaldson, actor Keith Aberdein, filmmaker Geoff Murphy and others
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Ian Barr, a contemporary review by Pauline Kael and the original press book

NEW PODCAST LOOP

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J. Tonzelli is a writer, film critiquer, and avid Arnold/Van Damme/Bronson enthusiast who resides in rural South Jersey. He is the author of "The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween" and the "Fright Friends Adventure" series, co-authored with Chris Evangelista. He loves abandoned buildings, the supernatural, and films by John Carpenter. You can read some of his short fiction at his website, JTonzelli.com, or objectify him by staring at his tweets: @jtonzelli. He apologizes for all the profanity.

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