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This Halloween has already provided a dynamic roster of releases for horror buffs, as evidenced by my past two columns that have featured the likes of Warner’s spectacular 4K UHD edition of “The Shining” and a fascinating slate of genre curios from Kino Lorber. This week brings two major releases in Arrow’s “An American Werewolf in London” and Shout’s five-disc THE OMEN COLLECTION: DELUXE EDITION, a superior Limited Edition package apparently concocted before Disney completed their sale of Fox’s entertainment assets and locked up their back catalog from further licensing (for now anyway).

This super box-set sports the original chronicles of Damien Thorn, aka the Anti-Christ, as well as John Moore’s okay 2006 remake and the horrid 1991 TV movie “Omen IV: The Awakening.”

In spite of its flaws, the original THE OMEN (***, 111 mins., 1976, R; Fox) and its two sequels form a trilogy that’s a rarity in the horror genre: glossy “A-list” studio productions with outstanding Jerry Goldsmith scores, effective Panavision cinematography, and a compelling story line that runs through all three pictures. The pay off may not be worth the wait, and some narrative opportunities are fumbled in the sequels, but with Goldsmith’s symphony of horror carrying the viewer through effortlessly, it’s still an annual viewing experience for this critic around this time of year.

Concerning director Richard Donner’s 1976 original, it’s still hard to believe Gregory Peck and Lee Remick attached themselves to such a piece of pulp-horror nonsense, but the picture is so well-made — expertly directed by Donner, atmospherically shot by Gilbert Taylor — that it remains something of a genre favorite, if not a classic. The widescreen images and use of music are quite unsettling, even if the film’s satanic-oriented plot has been copied so often by now that the picture has lost much of its original punch. Goldsmith’s soundtrack, which certainly established itself as a bona-fide masterpiece of genre music, does wonders for the film, which moves at a steady pace, accentuating psychological horror almost as much as it does the outright apocalyptic elements in David Seltzer’s screenplay.

Sourced from a new 4K restoration of “The Omen,” this is a dynamic 1080p (2.35) AVC encoded transfer that surpasses the previous HD master Fox produced in terms of clarity, color and overall sharpness. What was muddy and dreary in the previous Blu-Ray from a decade ago is far more textured here, resulting in a wonderful presentation that looks like a layer of fog has been removed from the image. On the audio side, the DTS Master Audio options are comprised of the remixed 5.1 track from previous releases along with the original mono and an isolated score track, as featured on the previous BD.

For new extras, Shout! has produced recent interviews with writer David Seltzer (23 mins.), actress Holly Palance (13 mins.) and composer Christopher Young (19 mins.), plus included a new commentary from project consultant Scott Michael Bosco. Seltzer’s conversation is the most revealing, detailing his career from ghostwriting “Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory” to being hired to write “another ‘Exorcist’” by producer Harvey Bernhard. Seltzer discusses the original involvement of star Charles Bronson and how Fox was irritated over the rabid success of his “Omen” novelization, which Seltzer retained the rights to (and which Seltzer hints was partially responsible for his lack of involvement in the sequels). Young provides a tribute to Jerry Goldsmith, not just on “The Omen” but his entire career, while Palance divulges her relationship with Donner and work on the film.

Shout has also wisely culled together all the extras from a number of prior DVD/BD editions, including retaining the commentary from Nick Redman, Lem Dobbs and Jeff Bond from the 2008 Blu-Ray. The trio offer an interesting account of the film’s production, with plenty of attention given to Goldsmith’s Oscar-winning score and how it functions so brilliantly in the movie. Two other commentaries have been reprieved from even earlier DVDs, including a 2006 talk with Richard Donner and screenwriter (and, obviously, “Omen” fan) Brian Helgeland, as well as an earlier (and often hilarious) discussion with Donner and editor Stuart Baird. Donner and Helgeland’s talk covers some of the same terrain as the Baird-Donner commentary, though it’s amusing how Donner has some variations on the same anecdotes he discussed previously. While all four tracks will be of interest for fans, the Donner-Baird discussion is the most consistently engaging of the bunch, while more production detail is relayed in the Redman-moderated conversation.

Additional extras include Donner’s introductions from prior releases, trailers/TV/radio spots, “The Omen Revelations” and “Curse or Coincidence” featurettes, and a brief talk with filmmaker Wes Craven discussing his fondness for the picture. Also on-hand is the 45-minute “666: The Omen Revealed” (2000) documentary, plus lengthy archival interviews with Jerry Goldsmith and David Seltzer, along with a deleted scene. That sequence — showing Mrs. Blaylock’s original demise — is presented in rough workprint form and offers commentary by Donner and Baird as well.

Goldsmith’s interview segments include the composer’s views on how Donner wanted the sequence where Damien panics outside the church to echo the throbbing, primal sound of John Williams’s “Jaws” theme; about winning his Oscar (calling himself “familiar with losing”); how his wife Carol came to sang “The Piper Dreams,” and about working within the confines of the film’s stringent budget. In fact, the producers coughed up an additional $25,000 to hire Goldsmith at the time, since he was initially outside the realm of the picture’s then-miniscule studio budget! (The film cost $2 million without the composer’s services).

During the other documentary materials, it’s also interesting to hear how Donner stripped a good deal of the overtly horrific elements out of the picture (he and Baird talk about how they cut out Billie Whitelaw’s extended fight with Gregory Peck from the final cut because it was too excessive), and one of the biggest revelations comes when they talk about the movie’s original ending — where Peck, Remick, and Damien are dead, ending the film on an ambiguous note and asking the audience to question if Peck wasn’t simply insane.

Alan Ladd, Jr. (who seemed to add a good deal of his own input into now-classic ’70s films like this and a little movie that followed called “Star Wars”), then-bigwig at Fox, asked Donner if Damien couldn’t be alive at the end of the movie, and the filmmakers agreed to shoot the now-famous final sequence, where the demonic little tyke smiles at the camera while holding the President’s hand at the Thorns’ funeral. The disparity between Donner wanting the film to be a psychological thriller and Seltzer’s original intent of creating a supernatural horror movie comes through quite clearly here, both in the finished product and the various extras housed on this Blu-Ray release.

Both DAMIEN OMEN II (**½, 107 mins., 1978, R) and THE FINAL CONFLICT (**½, 108 mins., 1981, R) continued to chart Damien’s apocalyptic rise, first as a young teen unaware initially of his heritage, and later — as portrayed by Sam Neill in “The Final Conflict” — a political prodigy newly appointed U.S. ambassador to England.

“Damien: Omen II” isn’t a bad movie by any means, but it is a somewhat formulaic – and disappointing – one considering the potential of the project. Damien’s growth and understanding of his demonic background could have made for a richly dramatic and eerie tale, but the resulting film is rather blandly delivered, mostly playing out like a rehash of its predecessor, subbing William Holden and Lee Grant for Peck and Remick. The dismissal of Mike Hodges, who also wrote the script, after filming began could be a main reason for the movie’s lack of elegance, as Don Taylor was hired – based on the comments in Shout’s new interviews – to “get the job done” with a minimum of artistry. The few scenes of Hodges that remain – like Damien’s introduction behind a fire from burning leaves – carry a visual integrity that would’ve been fascinating to see play out had he not been replaced.

As David Seltzer points out on the first “Omen” Blu-Ray, the sequels also made a major error by turning Damien from an “innocent villain” into a bad guy relatively early in “Damien: Omen II,” making the film a prototypical “slasher” from that point forward. There are still many elements about the movie that are worth recommending: Goldsmith’s score and several crackerjack death sequences (gotta love Lew Ayres’ demise!) make the movie entertaining in spite of its near constant predictability.

Though “The Omen” was initially slated to chart Damien’s life in four installments (note Leo McKern’s line about the “four faces” of the Anti-Christ early in “Omen II”), declining box-office revenues on “Damien: Omen II” cut the series down to a trilogy, which was concluded in 1981’s “The Final Conflict.”

Regarded by most viewers as the weakest entry of the three films, “The Final Conflict” is a problematic movie still worthy of re-evaluation. Sam Neill’s performance as the adult Thorn, the vivid photography of Phil Meheux and Robert Paynter (who replaced Meheux after he was dismissed by the studio), and another outstanding Goldsmith score — for many his finest of the series and one of his strongest of the 1980s — make the finale an interesting variant on its predecessors. There’s more of a mature, apocalyptic tone to the film, and several marvelous moments — namely, the terrific, wordless opening, underscored only with Goldsmith’s accompaniment, and the rousing “fox hunt” sequence — help to compensate for the tepid, anti-climactic finale, which works only because of the music…and for Damien meeting his demise at long last.

The AVC-encoded (2.35) transfers on the sequels are both fine– I’m not sure how they stack up with Fox’s previous Blu-Rays, but those releases looked quite superb for their time so I wouldn’t be surprised if these are derived from the same masters. There’s a bit of softness in the image of both I don’t recall from the Fox discs (guess I’ll have to reorder those for a comparison!), but they are each perfectly acceptable. Soundtracks include an effectively engineered Dolby Stereo mix on “The Final Conflict” (2.0 or 5.1 DTS MA, the latter of which curiously offers more audible “infant cries” during its climax) and either the original mono or a remixed 5.1 DTS MA mix for “Damien: Omen II.” Goldsmith’s marvelous soundtracks only improve as the series progresses in their thematic depth and dramatic effectiveness, and their presence constantly lifts the material in every frame.

Each film also offers previously-available commentary tracks (from producer Harvey Bernhard on “Damien” and director Graham Baker on “The Final Conflict”) plus trailers and a good array of new extras.

“Damien: Omen II” includes fresh interviews with stars Robert Foxworth (16 mins.), Lee Grant (15 mins.), and Elizabeth Shepherd (26 mins.). Both Grant and Foxworth recall working with William Holden and the replacement of original director Mike Hodges with Don Taylor, while Shepherd further details the restrained tone Hodges had in mind and which sequences he shot. This interview is the most revealing of the trio since it sounds as if Hodges would’ve made a more nuanced and “elegant” sequel, relying less on shock horror, while Shout has also included a new commentary again with Scott Michael Bosco, the trailer, and the Percy Rodriguez-narrated archival featurette “Power and the Devil: The Making of Damien: Omen II,” which was last seen in a standalone Image DVD release of “The Omen Legacy” documentary.

In terms of the other commentaries, Bernhard’s commentary on the 1978 sequel “Damien: Omen II” does go into some detail about the sequel’s woes, including the early firing of Hodges — whom the producer blames for taking too much time filming establishing shots — and the general problems involving the rather pedestrian screenplay of the first “Omen” follow-up. Director Graham Baker’s old DVD commentary from “The Final Conflict” is, at best, weak — Baker has little to say about the movie and the result is one of the least satisfying and sporadic commentaries I’ve ever heard on disc.

For “The Final Conflict”’s special features, Shout’s disc boasts a new commentary from Scott Michael Bosco (which has some interesting theological components but is hampered by poor recording quality), trailers/TV spots, and a trio of fresh interviews.

Director Graham Baker (25 mins.) and writer Andrew Birkin (20 mins.) are on-hand along with Bernhard’s production assistant Jeanne Ferber to describe the shoot. Birkin was basically given free reign by Bernhard to craft the sequel, though the duo did face challenges once Alan Ladd, Jr.’s tenure at Fox ended and a new slate of executives took over. This resulted in Damien no longer being “the hero” of Birkin’s first-draft script, though no real time is spent divulging the differences between drafts – it seems, for the most part, the duo had a lot of autonomy to make the picture they wanted, all the way down to hiring first-time director Graham Baker to helm the piece. Baker’s interview is actually much more interesting than his 2000 commentary track, and is worth a look, while Ferber recalls working with the irascible Bernhard on the British shoot. (If you’re wondering why Richard Donner received an Executive Producer credit on “The Final Conflict,” the mystery only intensifies here as Birkin reveals that he never met him once!)

Also included in Shout’s set is THE OMEN (**, 110 mins., R)’s remake from 2006, which came and went without making much of an impression.

This straightforward re-do from director John Moore (“Behind Enemy Lines”) met with moderate box-office results in June of 2006 but didn’t do well enough to generate a sequel. Here, Liev Schrieber and Julia Stiles are the not-so fun couple who find out too late that Damien is the Anti-Christ; Mia Farrow, meanwhile, has a grand time stepping into the Billie Whitelaw role and comes off as the most enjoyable part of this recycling.

I had mixed feelings while watching the 2006 “Omen.” On the one hand, the film is reasonably well-produced and Moore adds a few visual twists (namely, a number of nightmarish dream sequences) that truly surprise since they’re unexpected. Sadly, the film otherwise is so bland, banging all the same notes as the original but with less style and inferior production values. Whatever deviations are made from David Seltzer’s original script (an additional death sequence at the beginning; less of a reliance on biblical prophecy) are also ill-advised and Stiles was far too young to carry off her part.

Shout’s Blu-Ray is basically just a remix of the old Fox BD with a commentary track, a few extended scenes and an alternate ending that’s not a whole lot different than what ended up in the final cut. Of the few Making Of featurettes, there’s a fairly lengthy look at Marco Beltrami’s music, while the ancient MPEG-2 (1.85) encoded transfer is dated and 5.1 DTS Master Audio sound rounds out the disc.

As I mentioned before, though, at least the remake is superior to THE OMEN IV: THE AWAKENING (*, 94 mins., 1991), a weak TV movie – again produced by Harvey Bernhard – that recycles plot elements from the previous films in a cheapjack manner minus their widescreen proportions and Goldsmith’s elegant scores. In their place is Jonathan Sheffer’s overwrought soundtrack and Faye Grant as an attorney who runs afoul of “Delia,” a disciple who may be the offspring of Damien Thorn himself. This Canadian-lensed affair is utterly predictable – it’s a shame Bernhard didn’t go through with making “The Omen IV: Armageddon 2000” instead, since he drafted Stanley Mann to pen an adaptation of Gordon McGill’s quite-readable book sequel and nearly shot the film in 1984 (but to no avail).

“Omen IV” makes its Blu-Ray debut here in a competent 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded transfer with 2.0 DTS MA stereo sound. Released theatrically overseas like a few made-for-Fox Network TV-films from that era (the underrated Patrick Bergin “Robin Hood” among them), Shout’s Blu-Ray offers a brief trailer and 20-minute interview with screenwriter Brian Taggart, but its most useful feature is the inclusion of the 103-minute “The Omen Legacy” documentary – an entertaining 2001 AMC look (remember when they used to make movie-related specials?) at the series with copious interviews and Jack Palance’s hugely entertaining narration.

Overall, this is a terrific Blu-Ray box-set that easily surpasses Fox’s format release from 2008, with hours of terrific special features and a superlative new transfer of the original making for a must-own for “Omen” fans.

Of the handful of ‘50s sci-fi/horror remakes that were released in the ‘80s, there’s more of a fan base now for the 1988 re-do of THE BLOB (***, 93 mins., R; Shout! Factory) than even David Cronenberg’s version of “The Fly.” Falling a bit behind the pinnacle of John Carpenter’s “The Thing” but ahead of Tobe Hooper’s stylishly designed but otherwise vapid “Invaders From Mars,” the ‘88 “Blob” is a fun, fast-paced and gooey opus – a clever update on the ‘50s Jack H. Harris production that launched the career of Steve McQueen.

Co-scripted by Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption”) and Chuck Russell (“The Mask”), their “Blob” is set in a small northern California town awaiting the start of ski season. As in its predecessor, a glutinous mass emerges from a meteorite that crashes in the remote hills, consuming everything in its path. A high school outcast (Kevin Dillon), his school’s star quarterback (Donovan Leitch) and a resourceful cheerleader (Shawnee Smith) are the first to encounter the Blob, which exponentially grows the more bodies it consumes. A team of scientists in Hazmat suits arrives on the scene after local authorities prove fruitless to contain it, but there’s an ulterior motive in the actions of one particular scientist (Joe Seneca, who I recognized from his role in the “Amazing Stories” episode “Dorothy & Ben”) that fits the ‘80s “evil scientist” stereotype to a tee.

The Tri-Star released “Blob” is nifty, fast-moving genre entertainment. The make-up and practical effects are impressive for their time, especially given the absence of CGI, and a number of death sequences – from the Blob consuming a victim via a kitchen sink and an attack on a movie theater that reprises the signature moment from the 1958 version – are amusingly designed and executed. The cast is also solid, with Dillon, Leitch and Smith serving as a sort of “Breakfast Club” triumvirate – the movie doesn’t go to great lengths to develop their characters, but there’s enough set-up to their parts that the character arcs are satisfying. On the musical end, Michael Hoenig’s synthesized score doesn’t plod along like some of John Carpenter’s efforts, aspiring at times for an orchestral sound – which likely would’ve helped the film.

After being available in a fast-selling Twilight Time limited-edition, “The Blob” is back on Blu-Ray in the U.S. from Scream Factory. This offers the same A/V presentation as the prior disc, which isn’t a bad thing at all: the Sony master results in a superb transfer (1.85), boasting the kind of detail we only see infrequently in catalog releases and solid colors to go along with it. The 5.1 DTS MA mix is mostly contained to the L/C/R front channels (in keeping with its original Ultra Stereo exhibition), with two trailers in HD also on-hand.

A wide swath of all-new supplements highlights Scream Factory’s single-disc BD. These include two new commentaries (one with Chuck Russell, cinematographer Mark Irwin and other crew; plus another commentary with Shawnee Smith) and a bevy of fresh interviews, conducted exclusively for this package. These include talks with Russell; cast members Leitch, Jeffrey DeMunn, Bill Moseley and Candy Clark; cinematographer Mark Irwin; makeup artist Tony Gardner, production designer Craig Sterns and a handful of other crew members; plus archival footage of Gardner and his FX crew behind-the-scenes, also debuting here for the first time. An isolated score track, trailers and a commentary with Russell and Ryan Turek have been ported over from prior releases, resulting in another tasty treat for genre buffs this Halloween.

THE DEVIL RIDES OUT Blu-Ray (***, 95 mins., 1968; Shout! Factory). FRIGHTFUL PLOT SUMMARY: Superior Hammer thriller, scripted by Richard Matheson from Dennis Wheatley’s novel, finds Christopher Lee in a dapper, heroic role for a change – playing the Duke de Richleau, who has to save the son (Patrick Mowers) of his deceased friend from a satanic cult presided over by the villainous Mocata (Charles Gray). Under Terence Fisher’s direction, “The Devil Rides Out” is one of several Hammer adaptations of Wheatley novels and easily the best – a fast-moving and entertaining film that’s far superior to the other films based on Wheatley books that followed (the hilariously bad “Lost Continent” and late-era Hammer effort “To The Devil, A Daughter”). Definitely recommended for Hammer fans! BLU-RAY BREAKDOWN: Shout’s Blu-Ray includes a new 2K scan (1.66) from 20th Century Fox’s interpositive, a big improvement on Studio Canal’s older HD master (also included) that had some tweaked FX work. There are all-new extras (commentary from Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr; featurettes with historians Kim Newman and Jonathan Riby) plus vintage supplements (commentary with Lee and Sarah Lawson; archival featurettes) on-hand. AISLE SEAT FRIGHT FACTOR: One of the most satisfying of Scream’s Hammer releases to date for one of Hammer’s better efforts from its era, available just in time for Halloween on October 29th.


Arrow Halloween Treats

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON Blu-Ray (***, 98 mins., 1981, R, Arrow): John Landis’ wild ‘n wacky, cult favorite 1981 horror hit returns to Blu-Ray in a “definitive” Limited Edition Blu-Ray from Arrow sporting miles of supplements and a new, 4K restored transfer approved by Landis himself.

This is a notably superior transfer to any presentation we’ve seen of the film before. Sure, the film’s soft and grainy spots still look well, softish and a bit dirty, but the colors and clarity of the image (especially during the London sequences) still shine through, in a manner surpassing Universal’s two prior format releases. The 5.1 remixed DTS Master Audio soundtrack, meanwhile, is limited in its fidelity by the age of its elements, but it’s pleasing at times whenever the sound takes advantage of directional effects, or the bouncy array of genre-themed tunes that pop up (along with Elmer Bernstein’s sparse score) on the soundtrack. While not too “revisionist,” the original mono soundtrack is also on-hand for those who prefer it.

Arrow’s extras boast a bountiful assortment of goodies. While all the supplements from its prior Special Edition packages are back here (commentary, Landis interview, outtakes, the prior “Making Of” and other featurettes), a new feature doc produced by Arrow looks at the history of the Werewolf in film and sports interviews with Landis, Joe Dante, David Naughton and many others. There are also new video essays from filmmaker Jon Spira (about the film’s “Jewish identity”), Colin Hardy and Simon Ward (on the film’s influences), and SFX artist Dan Martin (various props from the film), plus a new commentary from filmmaker Paul Davis (an older commentary from Griffin Dunne and David Naughton has also been ported over).

Speaking of Davis, his terrific documentary “Beware the Moon” is also on-hand, offering a feature-length recounting of the picture’s inception and production, from Landis’ original script through casting, filming and its extensive special effects work. Image galleries, trailers and TV spots, a mini fold-out poster, and 60-page softcover book put the finishing touch on another stellar Arrow release. Highly recommended!

RINGU COLLECTION Blu-Ray (Arrow): Japanese filmmaker Hideo Nakata struck gold with his film “Ringu” back in 1998. The terrifying tale of a video tape that causes everyone who watches it to die within several days was a smash hit in its native country. In the U.S., “Ringu” was turned into the hugely popular “The Ring” and became one of numerous films that started a cycle of Japanese horror that ran throughout most of the 21st century’s first decade.

Arrow’s beautiful Limited Edition Blu-Ray package boasts a new 4K restoration of Nakata’s original “Ringu,” which was followed by George Lida’s “Spiral,” a sequel that met with poor commercial and critical reaction. Nakata returned to make “Ringu 2” as well as the prequel “Ringu O,” all four features of which have been collected here in this superb Arrow box-set. Lossless 5.1 DTS MA and 2.0 PCM Japanese audio tracks with English subtitles are present plus a bevy of supplements: commentaries on “Ringu” from David Kalat and Alexandra Heller-Nichols on “Ringu 0”; the doc “The Ringu Legacy” offers new interviews in a fresh retrospective of the series, while “A Vicious Circle” boasts Kat Ellinger’s look at Nakata’s career and supporting segments involve the participation of Heller-Nichols, Jasper Sharp and an archival interview with author Koi Suzuki, whose original book inspired the series. Archival deleted scenes, trailers, and a limited edition 60-page booklet make for another spectacular package for J-horror fans.

MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES Blu-Ray (122 mins., 1957; Arrow): Reportedly heavily-fictionalized account of Lon Chaney’s life and times – and his work in and out of some of the silent era’s most indelible makeup creations like the Phantom of the Opera and Hunchback of Notre Dame – made for a glossy Hollywood product. Jimmy Cagney plays Chaney opposite Dorothy Malone as his not-always understanding wife, with the script (credited to R. Wright Campbell, Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts) spending much time on Chaney’s upbringing and deaf-mute parents, whose communication methods necessitated Chaney to articulate without being able to speak. Some of his cinematic achievements are recreated – even if the tilting is too heavy towards Chaney’s private life – and Joseph Pevney handles it all in widescreen proportions. Arrow’s 1080p (2.35) transfer is a new restoration from the original negative and looks fresh and detailed. Uncompressed PCM audio, a Kim Newman featurette, image gallery and trailer are all included, but Tim Lucas’ commentary is the most noteworthy component as it details more precisely Chaney’s real-life struggles and triumphs and how they are portrayed (or not) in the finished film.

TWO EVIL EYES: Blu-Ray (**, 120 mins., 1990; Blue Underground): Horror-meisters George Romero and Dario Argento teamed up — to disappointing results — for this 1990 Poe anthology. Romero’s “The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valedemar” is a typical “just desserts” tale of a cheating wife (Adrienne Barbeau) who tries to embezzle funds from her dying husband, while Argento’s “The Black Cat” follows a crime scene photographer (Harvey Keitel) who uncovers all kinds of trouble being caused by his girlfriend’s feline friend. A terrific, eclectic supporting cast includes Sally Kirkland, Martin Balsam, E.G. Marshall, John Amos and Kim Hunter, and the production boasts both a bombastic Pino Donaggio score and make-up work from the great Tom Savini, but the storylines (penned by Romero and Argento and Franco Ferrini, respectively) are both frustratingly pedestrian, failing to take advantage of their directors’ talents. Blue Underground’s new Blu-Ray edition of “Two Evil Eyes” usurps their format release from a decade ago, boasting a new 2K (1.85) transfer with 7.1 DTS MA audio and both new and reprised extras. These include a new commentary with Troy Howarth and interviews featuring stars Ramy Zada and Madeleine Potter, Pino Donaggio, Franco Ferrini, Luigi Cozzi, Everett Burrell and Barbara Anderson. Carried over are archival supplements featuring Tom Savini, Dario Argento and George Romero, Claudio Argento and Asia Argento, while a copy of Donaggio’s CD soundtrack, lenticular slipcover and Michael Gingold’s booklet commentary round out the Limited Edition set.

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK 4K UHD Combo Pack (**½, 108 mins., 2019, PG-13; Lionsgate): I wasn’t aware of Alvin Schwartz’s popular stories for older kids when I was growing up, but there’s apparently been a robust audience for the series since its debut in the early 1980s. This long-gestating film adaptation is an agreeable enough concoction of familiar genre tropes with a couple of scary monsters that pop up after a group of teens in the late ‘60s uncover a book of stories written by a now-deceased girl in their town. Guillermo Del Toro co-produced and co-wrote the film, which uses its PG-13 rating to its advantage as director Andre Ovredal treats the horrific goings-on in a more restrained manner than his R-rated competition, with the kids living out Schwartz’s assorted vignettes and flashing back to the terrifying events that came to populate their town of Mill Valley.

A box-office hit for CBS Films, which disbanded shortly after its release, “Scary Stories” debuts just in time for Halloween from Lionsgate. The 4K UHD platter (2.39) includes both HDR and Dolby Vision support along with 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio and a smattering of extras: “The Bellows Construct” and “Creatures From The Shadows” featurettes, set visits and a Digital HD copy plus the Blu-Ray.

Synapse New ReleasesDebuting this week, just in the nick of time for All Hallow’s Eve, from Synapse are a pair of eclectic foreign offerings. WATCH ME WHEN I KILL (96 mins., 1977, R) is Antonio Bido’s giallo starring Paola Tedesco as a nightclub dancer who witnesses a murder and is subsequently stalked by a gloved killer. Together with her boyfriend (Corrado Pani), the duo try and stay one step ahead of the killer while trying to expose his identity. Synapse’s Blu-Ray includes a new 4K transfer (1.85) of the original negative with exclusive color correction; DTS MA English and Italian 2.0 soundtracks; an isolated score track of Trans Europa Express’ music; commentary from Mondo Digital’s terrific Nathaniel Thompson; a UK interview with “academic” Mikel Koven; three of Bido’s short films; and a bonus CD of the film’s cult favorite prog-rock soundtrack.

Naoyoshi Kawamitsu’s UNDERTAKER (65 mins., 2012, Not Rated) also debuts this week from Synapse. This brief Japanese import is set in a world afflicted by zombies, and chronicles the efforts of an undertaker and a young boy to bring home the remnants of assorted loved ones to their respective families, proving they’re at peace. A moody tale now on BD from Synapse featuring a 1080p (1.78) transfer, a Making Of, Kawamitsu’s original short, deleted scenes, a still gallery, the trailer, and 2.0 DTS MA Japanese stereo audio with English subtitles.


On 4K UHD

Another wonderful addition to Warner’s growing stable of 4K UHD releases, THE WIZARD OF OZ (****, 102 mins., 1939, G; Warner) debuts this week after a number of incarnations on Blu-Ray. This new 4K UHD retains the same features/extras disc from its 2013 BD (which dropped some supplements but retained its “Jukebox” selection of music cues) and adds, most notably, a brand new 4K mastering of the ‘39 MGM classic.

This is a lovely UHD transfer with both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision capability – the result brings more vividness to the film’s Technicolor hues than ever before. It’s not a gaudy revisionist transfer though – Warner hasn’t cranked up the HDR to ridiculous levels, but more taken advantage of a wider color pallet that enhances one’s enjoyment of the Judy Garland perennial to a degree never before seen on home video. The DTS MA 5.1 audio is in-step with previous releases, adding a gentle stereophonic stage to the original mono mix.

The 4K UHD also includes the last release’s commentary with historian John Fricke and Arthur Freed’s daughter, Barbara Freed-Saltzman, and the doc “The Making of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” which offers a colorful and compulsively watchable retrospective on the film’s oft-told production history. A Digital HD copy is also housed in this warmly recommended set from Warner.

THE LION KING 4K UHD Combo Pack (**, 118 mins., 2019, PG; Disney): Pointless exercise in remaking one of Disney’s highest-grossing animated features from director Jon Favreau is a beat-for-beat reworking of its predecessor – but now with a photo-realistic recreation of the African kingdom utilized for its surroundings. The result is a strange melding of National Geographic realism with Broadway show tunes and cartoon characters who look “real” but still speak, reciting basically the same dialogue in a piece that doesn’t work nearly as well with its “heightened realism” playing at odds with its source material. It all ended up grossing an expected billion-plus for Disney worldwide, but dramatically, there’s not much reason to visit this good-looking but soulless vessel.

Disney’s 4K UHD of the 2019 “Lion King” is out this week offering what is, unsurprisingly, a razor-sharp, beautiful looking HVEC transfer with HDR and Dolby Atmos sound. Extras include a Making Of documentary, commentary with Favreau, music video, fluffy featurettes, a Digital HD copy and the Blu-Ray (with 7.1 DTS MA sound and a 1080p transfer).

SCARFACE “The World Is Yours” 4K Ultra HD Limited Edition (**½, 170 mins., 1983, R; Universal): Dated, excessive, overlong, yet intermittently powerful and always watchable, Brian DePalma remake of “Scarface” debuts in 4K Ultra HD this month in a standalone configuration, or as part of the deluxe “The World Is Yours” Limited Edition box-set, complete with collectible packaging and additional extras.

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 trumped all prior editions with an even more impressive, VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer – and now the 4K Ultra HD, complete with DTS X audio and HDR enhancements, does that presentation one better. The usual expected upgrades with a heightened sense of contrast and a wider color pallet are both on display, though this isn’t quite as dazzling a UHD release as, say, Universal’s recent 4K remaster of Martin Scorsese’s “Casino.” Still DePalma and cinematographer John A. Alonzo’s visuals are improved substantially here over its 1080p version, enhancing its overall entertainment value. The sound, meanwhile, was previously remixed for 5.1 DTS MA, giving the various effects and Giorgio Moroder’s score a bass-heavy boost, and is presented here in DTS X audio.

Universal’s 4K UHD “Gold Edition” contains the movie in 4K UHD with a Tribeca Film Festival 35th Anniversary panel featuring DePalma, Pacino, Pfeiffer and Steven Bauer reflecting on the film’s enduring popularity. Other extras have been carried over from previous releases: “The Scarface Phenomenon” is a 38-minute Blu-Ray documentary, presented in HD and featuring interviews with DePalma, producer Louis Stroller, other critics and various celebrity devotees. Laurent Bouzereau’s vintage laserdisc documentary is also included, complimented by deleted scenes and a montage of clips from the movie’s censored TV prints. A Digital HD copy is also on-tap.

The Limited Edition 4K UHD “The World Is Yours” package adds Blu-Rays of both the 1983 and 1932 versions, along with a Digital HD copy and a nifty, surprisingly heavy, gold “The World Is Yours” collectible statue. Either way you go, this is a solid UHD catalog presentation highly recommended for fans.

STUBER 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (**, 93 mins., 2019, R; Fox): Labored comedy vehicle stars Kumail Nanjiani as a driver who gets mixed up with a cop (Dave Bautista) searching for a killer in a would-be throwback vehicle to the mismatched buddy comedies of yore – just minus the laughs. Topper Clancy’s script does the bare minimum in terms of developing the two leads and general scenario while Michael Dowse’s direction is unable to give the project the needed momentum to shift it into another gear, stranding Nanjiani and Bautista in a disappointing vehicle that delivered drab box-office last summer. Fox’s 4K Ultra HD (2.39) offers HDR, Dolby Atmos audio, deleted scenes, a gag reel, commentary from Nanjiani and Dowse, and a Digital HD copy, with the Blu-Ray also including a Digital HD copy, the same extras, and a 1080p transfer with 7.1 DTS MA sound.

WONDER WOMAN: BLOODLINES 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (83 mins., 2019, PG-13; Warner): Wonder Woman’s origin is recounted at the same time she tries to help a young girl working with Villainy, Inc., whose vile members are trying to invade Themyscira. Appearances from the Cheetah and other classic DC villainesses try to spice things up, but “Bloodlines” is mostly a bloodless outing, rehashing familiar material with a more “contemporary” perspective, right down to WW’s reworked costume. Warner’s 4K UHD (1.78) does look nice, to be sure – the HDR infused presentation offers bold colors – plus 5.1 DTS MA audio, a DC showcase short “Death,” two bonus cartoons, a featurette on the Cheetah, a peek at DC’s next animated adventure “Superman: Red Son,” plus a Digital HD copy and the standard Blu-Ray.


 

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Also New & Noteworthy

VERONICA MARS – The Complete First Season DVD (411 mins., 2019; Warner): Kristen Bell’s Veronica Mars is back in this Hulu series revival – actually the show’s fourth season (with a feature spinoff from a few years back serving as a bridge between them all), and easily its weakest. Creator Rob Thomas pits Veronica against a mad bomber preying upon spring breakers in Neptune, and while her boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring) is back from military deployment to offer some support, it’s mostly her efforts – along with her now-ailing detective dad (Enrico Colantoni) – that penetrate through a series of suspects and small-town politics to expose the truth.

A few characters from the series’ original run pop up here and there but this “Veronica Mars” is a darker, less satisfying and notably less “sharp” rendition of Bell’s tart heroine. The main plot line isn’t that compelling and takes a long time to get going (there’s also way too much Patton Oswalt as a pizza delivery man/conspiracy theorist), while the show seems to want to take on a more “adult” tone that it can’t pull off. It’s all amplified by a dismal, contrived “downer” ending that Thomas seems to have concocted simply because he couldn’t come up with a fresher angle for a certain character to fit within the formula he’s apparently tired of rehashing.

The disappointing “first season” of VM streets October 22nd from Warner on DVD featuring a Comic Con featurette, 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

THE SWAN PRINCESS 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray (89 mins., 1994, G; Sony): Initially written off as a “Beauty and the Beast” ripoff, Richard Rich’s independently-produced animated adaptation of “Swan Lake” became a minor box-office hit but a much larger success on the home video market. David Zippel and Lez De Azevedo’s tuneful songs (a couple of which are very much in the Menken/Ashman mold) carry this story of Princess Odette, transformed into a swan by a sorcerer, and the efforts of her friends and the dashing Prince to save the day. Jack Palance, John Cleese, Steven Wright and Sandy Duncan provide the voices for this very entertaining, breezy outing that produced countless sequels that continue to be mined from the franchise today. Sony’s debut Blu-Ray (1.85, 7.1 DTS MA) of “The Swan Princess” is now available featuring a retrospective “Looking Back at 25 Years of The Swan Princess,” the original Making Of and a handful of sing-alongs.

GALAXY QUEST Blu-Ray 20th Anniversary Steelbook (***, 101 mins., 1999, PG; Paramount): Take a bit of “The Last Starfighter,” mix with generous doses of “Star Trek” satire, add a game cast, and you have all the makings for a light, often very funny sci-fi comedy that’s become a fan-favorite in the 20 years (really?) since its original release.

Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, and Tony Shalhoub bring a deft comic touch to this engaging comedy, which managed to please sci-fi fans, Trekkies, young kids, and genre aficionados upon its release in ‘99. Industrial Light & Magic’s effects are superior to their later Trek offerings and although David Newman’s score doesn’t offer any surprises, “Galaxy Quest” is terrific fun, and far more entertaining than, say, Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs.” Paramount is commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Dreamworks production with a Steelbook release featuring the same BD in terms of its original specs: a 1080p (2.35) transfer with 5.1 Dolby TrueHD sound, a Making Of featurette, deleted scenes, Thermian audio track and more.

THE RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE Blu-Ray (112 mins., 1982; Cohen Film Collection): Early ‘80s, period-set French import became something of an art house sensation upon its release in the U.S. Gerard Depardieu stars as Martin Guerre – a man who returns to his small village in 16th century France after participating in a war. Is he the same husband to wife Nathalie Baye that he was before, however – or an imposter who’s actually warmer and more likeable than the spouse he replaced? Director Daniel Vigne and writer Jean-Claude Carriere adapted Janet Lewis’ novel for this beautifully designed evocation of time and place that serves up an interesting mix of mystery, romance and period intrigue. Later remade less effectively in the U.S. as the Richard Gere-Jodie Foster vehicle “Sommersby,” “Martin Guerre” makes its Blu-Ray debut from Cohen featuring a 4K restored transfer (1.85) with DTS MA French audio, an English dubbed track, the trailer, and an interview with Baye.


Quick Takes

Also New From Shout! Factory: Set in medieval Denmark but shot with contemporary language, OPHELIA (106 mins., 2018, PG-13) offers a twist on “Hamlet” by way of Lisa Klein’s novel. Daisy Ridley (“The Force Awakens”) plays Ophelia, here portrayed as (what else) a motherless and rebellious lass brought into Elsinore Castle by Naomi Watts’ Queen Gertrude. She manages to capture the attention of Prince Hamlet (George MacKay) while their kingdom sits on the brink of military and political upheaval in Claire McCarthy’s film, co-starring Clive Owen and Tom Felton. Shout’s Blu-Ray streets November 5th featuring cast/crew interviews, deleted scenes, the trailer, a 1080p (2.39) transfer and 5.1/2.0 DTS MA sound…Also available November 5th is former New Line Cinema frontman Robert Shaye’s directorial effortAMBITION (87 mins., 2019, Not Rated), a weak thriller starring Katherine Hughes as an aspiring musician whose competitors being to be offed in all kinds of horrifying ways. You’ve seen this all before – and executed better – with the Unique Features release co-starring Giles Matthey, Bryan Batt and Lin Shaye (the director’s sister). Shout’s Blu-Ray includes a 1080p (2.35) transfer and 5.1/2.0 DTS sound…Finally, in CINDERELLA AND THE SECRET PRINCE DVD (90 mins., 2018, PG; Shout! Factory), Cinderella and the three mice head to the Royal Ball – only to find out that the dashing Prince has been turned into a Mouse by a witch and has been switched with an imposter. Lynne Sutherland’s independently-produced animated film offers PG-level intensity but otherwise is suited for kids, who may enjoy the DVD’s animation (2.35). 5.1/2.0 Digital sound is also included in Shout’s release, available November 5th.

Film Movement New Releases: Ori Sivan’s HARMONIA (98 mins., 2019) applies the Biblical story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar to this drama about the tempestuous conductor of the Jerusalem Philharmonic, his harpist wife, and a young man from East Jerusalem whose baby the conductor’s spouse offers to carry. Film Movement’s DVD is available next week and includes a 16:9 transfer and 2.0 Hebrew stereo audio with English subtitles…Another interesting Israeli importAN ISRAELI LOVE STORY (93 mins., 2019), chronicles the real-life love affair between a theater director (Pnina Gary) and Eli Ben-Zvi, the son of Israeli’s second president. Superior production values grace this production, also available October 22nd from Film Movement featuring a 16:9 (1.85) transfer and 2.0 Hebrew audio with English subs…Dropping November 12th on DVD, SCARED OF REVOLUTION (74 mins., 2019) is Daniel Krikke’s portrait of Umar Bin Hassan, a man who was a member of The Last Poets — a ’60s group that laid the groundwork for numerous hip-hop artists — but suffered through a life of broken relationships and addiction. This documentary adapted from Christine Otten’s book “The Last Poets” chronicles Hassan’s personal journey to reclaim himself, and is presented on disc featuring a 16:9 (2.35) transfer and 5.1 sound (this Dutch production was fully shot in English).

PBS New Releases: The life and sadly abbreviated career of Raul Julia is given a deserving American Masters treatment in RAUL JULIA: THE WORLD’S A STAGE (85 mins., 2019). Co-produced by actor John Leguizamo, this feature-length profile of Julia, from his first performances on Puerto Rican stages to his Broadway stardom and work in Hollywood, provides a bittersweet look at his dynamic talent across multiple art forms – and a dizzying array of diverse roles. His performances also helped lay the groundwork for a whole generation of Latino performers that followed – a testament to his brilliance. PBS’ DVD includes 14 bonus segments, a 16:9 transfer and stereo sound…Also new to DVD this month from PBSPRESS (350 mins., 2019) is a new BBC/Masterpiece co-production hailing from “Doctor Foster” writer Mike Barlett, set in a newspaper where its staff of crusading journalists find as much heat away from the headlines whenever they step away from today’s 24-hour news cycle. Charlotte Riley, Ben Chaplin, Priyanga Burford, and David Suchet comprise the superb cast at the heart of “Press,” now on DVD from PBS sporting 2.0 stereo sound, 16:9 transfers and over 20 minutes of interviews featuring interviews with the cast and executive producer Faith Penhale.

MAGICAL LAND OF OZ (165 mins., 2019) is a three-part examination of life Down Under, from the highest snow peaks to its frigid southern seas, and all the diverse wildlife housed within. Barry Humphries provides the narration in this co-production of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the BBC, looking at the world on the “Land” and “Ocean,” as well as how wildlife has adjusted to the “Human” environment. The single-disc DVD is now available sporting a 16:9 transfer and stereo sound…Finally, AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (60 mins., 2018) finds hosts Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison joining the rest of the ATK cast for an hour-long special with twists on classic yuletide fare and recipes for desserts like the Millionaire’s Shortbread (sign me up). The 2018 special is now available featuring a 16:9 transfer and stereo sound.

STAR TREK: PICARD MOVIE & TV COLLECTION Blu-Ray (CBS): With the highly anticipated new CBS streaming series “Picard” looming, CBS has tapped into the Star Trek back catalog for a series of episodes and features highlighting Jean-Luc Picard’s most memorable adventures. Included here are “The Best of Both Worlds” (of course) and “Chain of Command” from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” plus all four of the TNG crew’s cinematic adventures: Generations, First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis. The TV episodes have been edited into a pair of feature-length presentations, and the box-set is capped with an exclusive 16-page original comic book.

STRANGE BUT TRUE Blu-Ray (96 mins., 2019, PG-13; Lionsgate): Five years after a high school boy dies in a tragic accident, his former girlfriend (Margaret Qualley) visits his mother (Amy Ran) with news that she’s pregnant…with his child. Greg Kinnear, Brian Cox, Blythe Danner, and Nick Robinson co-star in this adaptation of John Searles’ book, scripted by Eric Garcia and directed by Rowan Athale. One of the last films to hail from CBS Films (the unit has since been disbanded), “Strange But True” spins a fairly suspenseful dramatic character study, and arrives on Blu-Ray this week from Lionsgate. The 1080p (2.39) transfer is fine with 5.1 DTS MA audio, a single featurette and a Digital HD copy included…Olivia Colman stars in THEM THAT FOLLOW (98 mins., 2019, R), a strange story set in a community of Pentecostal snake handlers where the daughter (Alice Englert) of the local pastor (Walton Goggins) is set to be married but not to the father of her upcoming child. Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage’s independent film co-stars Kaitlyn Dever and Jim Gaffigan, and is less a horror movie than a downbeat character study set in an unusual surrounding. Lionsgate’s DVD (2.35, 5.1) is out this week featuring interviews with Anglert, Goggins and co-star Thomas Mann.

MADNESS IN THE METHOD DVD (99 mins., 2019; Cinedigm): Jason Mewes plays himself – an actor trying to change Hollywood’s perception of him by reinventing his career as a serious performer. It doesn’t go well in this in-joke laden (actually, the whole thing is an in-joke!) feature sporting appearances from Kevin Smith, Vinnie Jones, Stan Lee, Danny Trejo and many others. Cinedigm’s DVD is now available featuring a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 audio.

THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE Blu-Ray (105 mins., 2019, R; Universal): Jesse Eisenberg headlines this entertaining enough comedy about a hapless nerd (guess who) who joins a karate dojo where he’s tutored by its Sensei (Alessandro Nivola) in martial arts and falls for a female instructor (Imogen Poots). Not as much fun as “Cobra Kai,” this Billy Stearns-directed Bleecker Street release is still lightly amusing and appealingly performed. Universal’s Blu-Ray (1.85) includes 5.1 DTS MA audio, a Digital copy, and cast/crew interviews.

DAVID CROSBY: REMEMBER MY NAME Blu-Ray (93 mins., 2019, R; Sony): Compelling, poignant documentary paints an introspective portrait of David Crosby – not just via his career and social work (and, of course, music), but more specifically a personal journey of his life after Crosby Stills and Nash were disbanded in 2015. Setting out to make his own mark at age 76, Crosby produced a pair of new albums that met with critical acclaim in a world very different from the 1960s – and a music industry that’s obviously changed as well. Cameron Crowe produced this superb profile of Crosby’s late-stage evolution as a performer, now on Blu-Ray from Sony featuring a 1080p (1.85) transfer and 5.1 DTS MA audio. Extras include an interview between Crosby and Crowe; deleted/extended scenes; the trailer; and bonus interview footage.

Acorn New Releases: Out October 29th, just in time for Halloween, is A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES (355 mins., 2018), the Sky (UK) TV production based on the bestselling novels by Deborah Harkness. Romance, supernatural intrigue and a bit of “adult Potter” fantasy are on-hand in this series starring Teresa Palmer as a witch more interested in her historian profession than casting spells. After she unknowingly calls up an ancient, cursed manuscript, however, she has to unravel a mystery alongside a geneticist who’s also a vampire (Mathew Goode). Well-cast and performed, with veterans Trevor Eve and Alex Kingston also on-hand, “A Discovery of Witches” makes its DVD debut from Acorn featuring 45 minutes of featurettes, 16:9 transfers and 5.1 sound on two discs…Also available October 29thQUEENS OF MYSTERY (284 mins.) is an enjoyable, lighter British mystery series starring Olivia Vinall as a detective who works with her three genre-author aunts to solve murders in a quaint British village – along with investigating the disappearance of her mother from two decades prior. Ample humor peppers the series, plus narration from Juliet Stevenson, making for a pleasant mix for mystery buffs. Acorn’s three-disc DVD set includes over an hour of featurettes and easter eggs, a 16:9 transfer and 2.0 stereo sound.

YELLOWSTONE – Season 2 Blu-Ray (469 mins., 2019; Paramount): Top-rated Paramount Network series continues its contemporary western drama in Season 2. This time out, rancher John Dutton (Kevin Costner) again attempts to stabilize his surroundings even while violence escalates and personal allegiances shift. The Dutton legacy remains on the line in this second season of “Yellowstone,” which lands on Blu-Ray November 5th from Paramount in a stacked Blu-Ray package. Extended episodes, over three hours of behind-the-scenes materials, a flurry of featurettes, deleted scenes and cast/crew interviews are included along with 1080p transfers and 5.1 soundtracks.


Holiday New Releases

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE 4K UHD Combo Pack (1946, 130 mins., Paramount): The perennial Frank Capra holiday drama (though I admit that it’s not one of my favorites) debuts in 4K UHD this season with all-new special features. The main draw, of course, will be Paramount’s 4K restored transfer – featuring HDR and Dolby Vision, along with Dolby TrueHD mono sound – that gives a gorgeous new sheen to the Jimmy Stewart-Donna Reed Christmas classic. There are also original cast home movies and a featurette on Paramount’s restoration of this Republic release, plus a Digital HD copy.

The UHD combo pack also houses the Blu-Ray of the Colorized version of the film – note Paramount’s separate Blu-Ray combo will include both the B&W and Color versions of the film, but this UHD only includes the Colorized disc. The 1080p transfer is remarkably clear and consistently devoid of DNR as well.

A CINDERELLA STORY: A CHRISTMAS WISH Blu-Ray (86 mins., 2019, PG; Warner): Laura Marano stars as an aspiring singer saddled with a job at a billionaire’s “Santa Land” theme park as a singing elf. Fortunately the local Santa (Gregg Sulkin) proves to be a dashing bringer of yuletide joy – even though Marano’s stepmother and stepsisters are hellbent on stopping her from attending the annual Wintergarden Christmas Gala. Michelle Johnston helmed this latest entry in the “Cinderella Story” series, offering a holiday twist on the formula laid down by the previous Hillary Duff movie. Warner’s Blu-Ray combo pack includes two featurettes, a 1080p (1.78) transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound along with a Digital HD copy.

New Christmas Releases From Universal: A nifty Blu-Ray compilation from Universal, DREAMWORS ULTIMATE HOLIDAY COLLECTION (Universal) is new for this season presenting nine different holiday tales: Trolls Holiday, Shrek The Halls, Donkey’s Caroling Christmas-tacular, Merry Madagascar, Madagascar Penguins: A Christmas Caper, Dragons; Gift of Night Fury, Kung Fu Panda Holiday, Home for the Holidays, and the feature “Rise of the Guardians.” 1080p transfers and either DTS MA or Dolby TrueHD sound comprise the tech specs in this conveniently-packaged box-set for families…The Veggietales gang is back in VEGGIETALES: THE BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT (58 mins., 2019; Universal), finding Bob and Larry in the midst of preparing for their first Christmas show when everything goes wrong. The duo remember the promise of the first Christmas itself in this faith-based special for kids, sporting a number of extras on DVD: all-new song remixes, karaoke features, commentary, a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

NEXT TIME: More of the latest reviews! Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!

 

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