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Blu-rays of the Week
This big, lumbering mess was a complete flop in 1984, but it’s hard to blame then-unknown Helen Slater, charming in the lead but unable to do what Christopher Reeve did in the 1978 Superman.
Faye Dunaway’s notoriously campy villainess is fun but wearying; even at director Jeannot Szwarc’s original 125-minute length (cut to 105 minutes for American release), this is only on par with the lazy Superman III. The film looks sharp on Blu-ray; extras include a DVD of the even clunkier 138-minute “international cut,” vintage making-of featurette and Szwarc’s commentary.
Ash vs. Evil Dead—Complete 3rd Season
The final season of this horror comedy series finds Ash once again doing battle with the evil dead, although this time it’s personal: he discovers he has a teenage daughter, whose own life has been fatally marked by such blood-letting.
As always, the tongue-in-cheek gore is either too much of a bad thing or not enough of a good thing, but the performances of Bruce Campbell and sparkplug newcomer Arielle Carver-O’Neill are a bonus. There’s a stellar hi-def transfer; extras are director commentaries on all episodes.
Earth’s Natural Wonders—Season 2: Life at the Extremes
In this second season of documentary explorations of astonishing landscapes, these four engrossing one-hour episodes glimpse at how populations are able to survive in some of the most arduous conditions on the entire planet.
From high in the mountains to deep into the rain forest, intrepid camera crews document how these people make the best of the inclement regions in which they’ve settled. The hi-def imagery is quite astounding to watch; extras are brief making-of featurettes at the end of each episode.
(Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.)
Gotham—Complete 4th Season
The Batman backstory continues as millionaire Bruce Wayne makes his slow march toward vigilantism while the police commissioner and mayor find it more difficult to control villains coming out of the woodwork, from the Riddler to the Penguin (played with unctuous glee by Robin Lord Taylor).
Despite familiar storylines and characters, the series’ 22 episodes provide fine entertainment for all Caped Crusader fanatics. The Blu-ray transfer is terrific; extras include The Best of DC TV’s Comic-Con Panels San Diego 2017, Solomon Grundy: Born on a Monday, The Sirens Take Gotham and deleted scenes.
Hot August Night III—Neil Diamond
Forty years after his sold-out 1972 concert led to the classic live album Hot August Night, Neil Diamond returned to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles for another epic performance, this time interspersing songs he played that seminal evening with handfuls of later hits.
Unfortunately, many of the newer songs are unmitigated pap (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” “Forever in Blue Jeans,” “America”), but his older catalog is so sturdy that the good outweighs the not so good: “Cherry Cherry,” “Holly Holy,” “I Am, I Said,” Play Me” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.” Diamond is in remarkably good voice and his band sounds great throughout. Hi-def video and audio are first-rate; lone extra is a 15-minute backstage featurette. The complete concert is also on two audio CDs.
Sila and the Gatekeepers of the Arctic
This pinpoint study of what climate change is doing to the Arctic was directed by Corina Gamma, who introduces people in an Inuit village at the world’s northernmost point to see how they live and cope with drastic changes to their very way of life.
This illuminating documentary is, in its quiet way, as devastating as anything else you may see on this always sadly relevant subject. There’s a splendid hi-def transfer; extras are bonus interviews.
The Walking Dead—Complete 8th Season
For the latest season of one of television’s biggest shows, the plots of both The Walking Dead and its popular spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, merge to present characters from both shows dealing with one another’s destinies.
Acted, written and shot with utmost professionalism, the series—despite its tendency toward repetition—continues to please its many fans. The hi-def transfer sparkles; extras comprise several audio commentaries and featurettes.
Village of the Damned
Made in 1960 at the height of Cold War hysteria, this creepily subtle horror film feels at times like an extended episode of Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone, definitely a compliment. After a mysterious episode blacks out the denizens of an entire town, several of the women become pregnant: their children quickly mature to become a race of, well, superkids, who threaten in their own quietly malevolent way to take over.
Director Wolf Rilla displays an air of eerie menace throughout, and the B&W photography helps create a sense of foreboding—until the literally explosive ending. There’s an excellent hi-def transfer; lone extra is an audio commentary.
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