Arrow Video’s 4K Re-Issue Of ‘The Last Starfighter’ Will Find Appeal Among Targeted Audiences

Courtesy: Arrow Video

The annual summer movie season officially got underway over the weekend, with the premiere of Disney’s latest reboot, that of its 19819 animated movie, The Little Mermaid.  Just the latest in Disney’s now never-ending stream of live action/CG reboots – not the long ago it was also announced that Moana is going to get a reboot along with pretty much every vintage Disney flick – it is just one of the movies that will make up this year’s all-too-familiar slate of summer movie fare, which will feature more superheroes, sequels, another biopic and something truly stupid in the form of Barbie.  There is one potentially promising offering in the form of Focus Features’ independent release, Asteroid City.

This slate of same old-same old is important to note because odds are those movies could be the last new theatrical releases for a while unless the Writers Guild of America’s ongoing strike ends sometime in the near future. As a matter of fact, it was announced over the weekend that production on Marvel’s Thunderbolts movie has come to a screeching halt thanks to the strike, which passed the one-month mark over the weekend.  With the general lack of much real worthwhile theatrical (and even televised) content on the way this summer (save for the noted indie flick and the upcoming superhero flicks – including the new Transformers sequel and maybe the upcoming Indiana Jones sequel), audiences have plenty of reason to be concerned about ways to escape the workaday world.

Arrow Video will at least partially address viewers’ concerns Tuesday when it re-issues Universal/Lorimar’s 1984 science fiction flick, The Last Starfighter, on 4K UHD.  The re-issue (which ironically was itself a summer release, having made its theatrical debut in July 1984) will come more than two years after Arrow Video re-issued the same movie on separate, standalone DVD and Blu-ray platforms.  The only reason one can imagine Arrow Video would re-issue the movie on 4K now is that maybe 4K tech was not as widespread in 2021 as it is now.  It definitely is a head scratcher.  Regardless, the forthcoming re-issue is a mixed bag that will find its largest appeal among a very targeted audience that does not already own the movie in its previous re-issues from Arrow Video.  That is due primarily to the fact that it is presented exactly as it was in the noted DVD and Blu-ray re-issues, right down to the bonus content, which will be discussed shortly.  The video resolution in the new 4K UHD print is its own positive and will be discussed a little later.  The forthcoming re-issue’s average price point rounds out its most important elements, considering the collective content.  It will also be addressed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this latest re-issue of The Last Starfighter.  All things considered they make the re-issue a presentation that will appeal to the noted very targeted audiences.

Arrow Video’s forthcoming 4K UHD re-issue of Universal/Lorimar’s 1984 sci-fi flick, The Last Starfighter, is an intriguing presentation from the independent British distributor.  It is a presentation that will appeal primarily to audiences who do not already own the movie in its previous DVD and BD re-issues, which were released in late 2020 by Arrow Video.  That is due in large part to its bonus content.  Audiences get in this new 4K UHD re-issue, all of the same bonus content that was featured in the previous re-issues.  From the standard “Making Of” featurette, to the separate feature-length audio commentaries, to the interviews and more, all of the bonus content from those previous re-issues has been carried over to this re-issue.  That means that audiences who already own either the DVD or Blu-ray re-issue will not be missing out if they do not buy the new 4K UHD re-issue.  One of the most notable bonuses is the interview with the composer of the movie’s musical score, Craig Safan.  Safan notes early in his interview, scoring the movie was not easy, pointing out that early on as he and the musicians who recorded the movie’s music, they had no footage to reference for cues.  That was because he was enlisted to score the movie while it was in production, so they only had dots on a screen to reference as they wrote and performed the music.  That could not have been easy, but the result was and still is so enjoyable today.  Safan also makes direct reference to movie music legend John Williams, openly noting he took Williams’ work into account as he composed the movie’s main theme.  That is interesting to note because the movie’s main theme really does have that similarity to Williams’ bombastic compositions in its sound and style.  The full discussion will be left for viewers to discover for themselves.  On another equally interesting note, Safan also makes note of legendary composer Jean Sibelius as an influence in his style in composing the movie’s score.  That reference serves well to show the depth of Safan’s musical knowledge.  In turn it makes him and his work all the more respectable.

Screenwriter Jonathan Betuel, who wrote the story for The Last Starfighter gets his own bonus feature, here, and it is another notable extra.  That is because of the insight he offers in his interview.  Right from the outset of his interview, Betuel reveals that he wrote the movie’s script while he was working a blue-collar job, driving cabs.  That is important to note because Alex, the movie’s main character, was himself an average blue-collar-type figure who was going nowhere in life until he is recruited to become a Starfighter pilot.  In the decades since the movie’s debut, it has gone on to become just as great (at least as a cult movie) as Alex even though it has not had the blockbuster legacy of other sci-fi flicks.  As a matter of fact, it sounds like a long-awaited sequel may finally be in the works.  It sounds like when and if a sequel happens, it will be one of the rare sequels out there actually worth watching.  Another intriguing revelation that Betuel makes during his interview is that his intent was to make the movie an Arthurian tale.  In hindsight, that influence is definitely there, however, the fact that Betuel was able to write the story in fashion that kept it from being a total rip-off makes for so much more appreciation.

On a related note, Betuel reveals that he wrote the movie’s script in only four days.  Considering that it doesn’t just come across as another of so many rip-offs of the Arthurian legend in having been written in such a short time adds even more to the appreciation.  Add in that for the most part the story progresses fluidly and that its pacing is relatively stable, the result of four days’ work is even more impressive.  There is maybe only one hole in the story.  It comes as Maggie accuses Alex’s double of being a sexual deviant of sorts without a prior scene for context.  Other than that moment, the story does well to keep viewers engaged and entertained.

Speaking of keeping people engaged and entertained, viewers were not the only ones so influenced.  Catherine Mary Stuart, who played the part of Maggie, admits during her bonus interview, that the story largely kept her engaged and entertained, too.  She openly states that was a credit to Betuel and his work.  She also tackles her working relationship with fellow lead star Lance Guest during the movie’s production.  She has only positive things to say of working with him (and with director Nick Castle).  Her recollections of her time working on the movie add their own touch of enjoyment of and appreciation for the movie.  When her interview and the others noted here are considered along with all of the movie’s other bonus features, the whole of the bonus content makes for plenty of enjoyment.  However, it should be reiterated here that all of the same bonus content featured in this re-issue of The Last Starfighter is also in the movie’s previous re-issues on DVD and Blu-ray from Arrow Video.  That means audiences who have the movie’s previous re-issues from Arrow Video would be largely wasting their money to buy the same content all over again.  That is the case even for those who own the movie but who perhaps own 4K TVs with Blu-ray players.

Audiences who own 4K TVs will get about the same resolution in the upscale of the movie as those who watch the movie on a 4K TV with the new 4K re-issue.  The CG special effects are crystal clear throughout the movie.  It is clear the starfighters are fully CG, as are the vehicles of the evil alien invaders, the Kodan Empire.  The clarity of the footage in the new 4K scan makes the CG look as impressive as that which would be used nearly two decades later in another underrated sci-fi presentation, the modern classic sci-fi series, Babylon 5.  That show’s CG was another early example of the direction special effects were taking at the time and was impressive considering the era and available technology.  Keeping that in mind, the only comparable CG special effects presented around the time The Last Starfighter debuted were in Tron, which was released only two years prior by Disney.  Obviously, the special effects budget was not there for The Last Starfighter, but were obviously still worthy of applause by comparison, and this new 4K scan makes that clearer.  It is one more aspect that shows why audiences who do not already own The Last Starfighter will want to own the movie in its new 4K UHD re-issue.

Without question, the content featured in the new 4K UHD pressing of The Last Starfighter offers audiences who do not already own the movie’s previous re-issues reason to buy this re-issue.  Keeping that in mind the movie’s pricing proves relatively positive in its own right, too.  Using listings through Target, Best Buy, Amazon, and Walmart, the movie’s average price in its new 4K UHD platform is $34.99.  Interestingly enough, each retailer also lists the movie’s 4K re-issue at the same price.  Comparatively speaking, $34.99 is about the average price that so many 4K UHD movies from other studios are being priced at through the same retailers.  That means that the movie’s average and separate price listings are right in line with those of most other 4K UHD releases.  In other words, viewers who buy the movie will not feel like they are paying an arm and a leg for the movie in comparison to what they will and do pay for other 4K UHD movies.  When this element is considered along with the overall primary and secondary content featured in the movie, the whole makes the latest re-issue of The Last Starfighter a welcome addition for any fan of the movie who does not already own the movie in its previous re-issues but have upgraded to 4K TV and player.

Arrow Video’s forthcoming 4K UHD re-issue of Universal/Lorimar’s 1984 movie, The Last Starfighter, is a presentation that while fully engaging and entertaining, should only be considered by fans of the movie who do not already own the movie in its previous DVD and Blu-ray re-issues (which were released in 2020 through Arrow Video, too) and who have upgraded to a 4K TV and player.  That is due in large part to its featured bonus content.  All of the bonus content featured in this latest re-issue is also featured in the noted DVD and BD re-issues, so those audiences will not be missing out on anything on that note.  The picture resolution is quite impressive, but the thing is that anyone who watches the movie on Blu-ray through a 4K TV, those viewers will get the same resolution through the upscale that happens in the process.  The pricing of the new 4K UHD re-issue is positive in that it is right in line with the price of most 4K UHD movies being released today.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the new 4K UHD re-issue of The Last Starfighter.  All things considered they make the re-issue successful, but only for the noted specific audiences.

More information on this and other titles from Arrow Video is available at:




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Schon’s New Live Recording Is A Largely Successful New Offering

Courtesy: Frontiers Music s.r.l.

This Friday, Journey founding member and guitarist Neal Schon will release his new live recording, Journey Through Time through Frontiers Music s.r.l.  The recording features a performance by Schon and fellow musicians Greg Rolie (keyboards, vocals), Marco Mendoza (bass), Dean Castronovo (drums) and John Varn (keyboards, vocals) captured Feb. 9, 2018 at The Independent in San Francisco, CA.  The concert was held as a fundraising event to benefit for people impacted by fires in the area in October 2017, according to information provided about the recording.  Planned for release on separate 3CD/DVD and Blu-ray platforms, the 29-song concert event is a slightly mixed bag presentation that is imperfect but entertaining.  The recording’s success comes in large part through its noted extensive set list, which will be discussed shortly.  The one major issue with the recording is its audio mix.  This matter will be addressed a little later.  Knowing the concerns raised by the audio mix are not enough to doom the recording, the band’s overall performance of the concert rounds out its most important elements.  It will also be examined later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered the concert is a presentation that is sure to appeal primarily to many of Schon’s (and Journey’s) most devoted audiences.

Neal Schon’s new forthcoming live recording, Journey Through Time, is an interesting new offering from the Journey guitarist and founding member.  It is a presentation that is imperfect but still largely enjoyable.  One of the main positives of the new recording is its featured set list.  The 29-song set list (yes, 29 songs) is spread across three discs on the recording’s 3-CD/DVD combo pack.  It pulls from nine of Journey’s 15 total albums while also presenting two other songs made popular by two other equally well-known acts in the form of Fleetwood Mac and Tito Puente.  The set list reaches all the way back to Journey’s 1975 self-titled debut album and reaches all the way up to its 1996 album, Trial By Fire.  It should be fully clarified here that Trial By Fire is represented in this concert set list through a performance of that album’s title track.  That track is part of a three-song medley that also included ‘Patiently and ‘Stay Awhile.’  So even while the set list does reach up to 1996, it should be noted that not every one of Journey’s albums up to that point are represented.  Trial By Fire’s predecessor, Raised on Radio (1986) is not represented in the set list.  Why that is the case is anyone’s guess, considering Schon and then front man Steve Perry were both involved in the album’s creation.  That anomaly aside, the set list featured here pulls quite liberally from what are Journey’s early core albums.  They represent the moment in time before the band’s lineup really started to change, which is perhaps why those records were specifically chosen for this set.  They represent the most familiar period of the band’s catalog for most fans.  To that end, the set list is certain to appeal to plenty of audiences and in turn forms a strong foundation for the recording overall.

While the set list featured herein is clearly a strong positive for the record, the presentation is not perfect.  Audiences will note that throughout the recording, there is a very severe issue with the concert’s audio mix.  From one song to the next, there are points throughout the concert in which the vocals find themselves washed out by the instrumentation.  At some moments, the issue is thankfully only temporary, but at others, it lasts a much longer amount of time.  This aesthetic element detracts considerably from the overall engagement and entertainment considering that audiences want to be able to see and hear concerts from beginning to end.  It is as if at some points, those responsible for the concert’s post-production got lazy (albeit unintentionally) or there simply was no way to fully address the venue’s audio.  If in fact, there was no way to address the impact of the venue’s acoustics then maybe the concert should not have even seen the light of day.  If however, the acoustics were not the issue, then more time could have and should have been spent further cleaning up the audio.  This continued occurrence of the recording’s audio issues weakens the foundation formed by the set list but luckily for fans, is not enough to doom the recording.  Keeping that in mind, there is still one more positive to note.  That positive is the band’s performance of the set list. 

Considering the semi-intimate setting in which Schon and company held its concert, there was clearly not a lot of room to run around and be overly active.  That is a stark contrast to the arenas that Journey has typically filled throughout its decades-long life.  Even with that in mind, the band puts forth its fullest effort in the set’s slower, moments and in its heavier, more energetic moments.  Watching the band, the full focus is there from each performer in each song.  In other words, this concert was not just Schon and company phoning it in.  Rather the entire group gave its all throughout the concert.  The energy and emotion that the group puts forth in each song’s performance will connect even with audiences at home, to the end that the collective performance will immerse said audiences in its own right along with the set list.  When this positive is considered along with the extensive set list of fan favorite songs, the whole makes the recording overall a presentation that despite being imperfect, is still largely entertaining and engaging.

Neal Schon’s new live recording, Journey Through Time, is an interesting new live offering from the Journey guitarist and founding member.  It is a positive offering in that its 29-song set list pulls largely from the band’s formative years, before the band’s lineup started changing along with its sound and style.  It features many of the band’s most popular and beloved songs, which came from that era.  While the set list featured in the concert forms a strong foundation for the recording, the concert’s audio mix is slightly problematic.  There are points throughout the concert at which the vocals do get washed out.  It does not happen in every song, but it is frequent enough to note that it does happen.  Luckily it does not happen enough to doom the recording.  To that end, audiences will note the band’s overall performance here.  Each member of the group gives his all to each performance, thus further immersing audiences in the concert and making it that much more enjoyable for audiences.  Keeping in mind the engagement and entertainment that the group’s performance ensures along with the concert’s set list, the whole therein is more than reason enough for audiences to take in this recording and consider it among the best of this year’s new live recordings.

Journey Through Time is scheduled for release Friday through Frontiers Music s.r.l.  More information on the recording is available at:




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Mercury Studios To Re-Issue George Benson Montreux Jazz Festival Concert

Courtesy: Mercury Studios

Mercury Studios will re-issue jazz guitarist George Benson’s 1986 Montreux Jazz Festival performance this summer.

George Benson: Live at Montreux 1986 is scheduled for release July 14 on a DVD/2CD set, almost 37 years to the day since the performance took place. The company previously released the concert in 2005 on DVD when it was still known as Eagle Rock Entertainment, making the 2-CD presentation a new addition to this re-issue.

The 15-song set list captures performances by Benson representing much of his catalog up to that point. It includes performances of songs, such as ‘On Broadway,’ ‘Lady Love Me (One More Time), and ‘In Your Eyes.’

The recording’s track listing is noted below. The DVD tracklisting is the same as the 2 CDs


1. Feel Like Making Love
2. Off Broadway
3. Weekend In L.A.
4. Lady Love Me (One More Time)
5. Love Ballad
6. Beyond The Sea
7. Affirmation
8. My Latin Brother

1. Love x Love
2. In Your Eyes
3. The Greatest Love Of All
4. 20/20
5. Never Give Up On A Good Thing
6. Turn Your Love Around
7. On Broadway

More information on the recording is available along with other titles from Mercury Studios at:




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Mercury Studios, Jazz Casual Productions Inc.’s New Hybrid Concert/Documentary Presentation Is A Unique Offering’

Courtesy: Mercury Studios/Jazz Casual Productions, Inc.

The city of San Francisco, California is one of the most notable municipalities in America.  It is home to the famed Golden Gate Bridge, one of the greatest engineering accomplishments in America and the world.  It is also home of two championship professional sports teams in the form of the NFL’s 49ers and Major League Baseball’s Giants.  These are just some of its claims to fame.  Along with being known for these items, San Francisco is also known for being the center of one of the most important movements in the history of modern music, the psychedelic rock movement.  Now in a new, forthcoming presentation from Mercury Studios and Jazz Casual Productions, Inc. a renewed focus is being placed on the bands that formed the genre’s foundation.  A Night at the Family Dog/Go Ride The Music/West Pole is scheduled for release Friday through the companies’ partnership.  The three-part presentation finds itself worth taking in partially through its “liner notes” printed on its insert.  The information in the liner notes will be discussed shortly.  The concert presentation, A Night at the Family Dog builds on the foundation formed by the DVD’s liner notes.  It will be examined a little later.  Go Ride The Music and West Pole collectively make up another key part of the overall presentation and will also be examined later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this overall presentation.  All things considered they make the presentation in general one that any rock fan will find watching at least once.

A Night at the Family Dog/Go Ride The Music/West Pole, the new three-part examination of the bands that formed the foundation of the psychedelic rock movement, is a presentation that any rock fan will find worth watching at least once.  The engagement and entertainment guaranteed by the program comes in part through its “liner notes.”  Printed on the inside of the case’s insert, the notes were crafted by famed producer/critic Ralph Gleason’s son, Toby Gleason.  Gleason, who also contributed notes to another recent release from Mercury Studios and Jazz Casual Productions, Inc. – Love You Madly/A Concert of Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral was the sole writer of this presentation’s notes.  He writes of A Night at the Family Dog, was his father’s final music television production.  The concert, of sorts, hurt his reputation in the jazz community, according to the younger Gleason.  He writes that this did not bother his father because as he points out in the notes, the featured bands – The Grateful Dead, Santana, and Jefferson Airplane each were influenced by famed figures in the jazz community.  Not only that but he writes of Marty Balin, that the Jefferson Airplane vocalist was himself influenced by classical music and the blues.  This is something that many viewers themselves might not have known.  As a result, such revelation could actually encourage audiences who otherwise might not listen to such music to perhaps give those sounds and styles a chance.  The jazz, classical and blues influences on each band’s sound and style is in fact audible to audiences who listen closely to each act.

In his writings about Go Ride The Music and West Pole, Toby Gleason notes the programs were his father’s first steps into covering the psychedelic rock movement.  He lays the groundwork here, pointing out that the features are meant to exhibit the tie between psychedelic rock and television.  The groundwork that all of this information creates forms a solid foundation for the overall presentation and in turn does plenty to encourage audiences to take in each separate presentation.

Moving deeper into the presentation, A Night at the Family Dog in fact proves fully engaging and entertaining.  The concert recording, which features performances from the likes of Santana, Jefferson Airplane, and The Grateful Dead, feels like such an intimate presentation, thanks to the setting.  That seeming intimate setting creates such a great sense for audiences.  Much the same can be said of the recording’s production values.  The grainy footage creates a welcome sense of nostalgia.  Even presented on a 4K UHD television, the footage still looks mostly positive, and the sound mix is just as enjoyable.  This is a credit to those charged with resurrecting the footage for this presentation.  Clearly the footage was not spit shined, but it was cleaned up just enough to make it look and sound just like it did when it was originally presented.  The positive general effect that results from that positive overall production is a welcome viewing experience and equally positive sense of nostalgia that makes the concert presentation fully worth watching.

Go Ride the Music and West Pole are of their own interest in that they are documentaries of sorts, but not necessarily documentaries in the purest sense of the term.  Rather, as the younger Gleason points out, they are meant to exhibit how the sounds created by the psychedelic rock genre’s founding bands played into a very specific style of visual presentation on screen.  They collectively look like the earliest music videos, and in hearing the elder Gleason talk briefly about the impact that the music had on its on-screen presentation makes for more appreciation for such visualization.  That is because it helps viewers understand this was not just videographers or filmmakers trying to be ironic or anything.  Rather it was an artistic approach meant to coincide with the style of music.  It really is interesting.  When the content featured in Go Ride The Music and West Pole is considered along with that in A Night at the Family Dog, the whole of said content makes the entirety of this presentation worth watching at least once.

A Night at the Family Dog/Go Ride The Music/West Pole, the new hybrid concert/documentary presentation from Mercury Studios and Jazz Casual Productions, Inc., is an intriguing new offering from the companies.  Its interest comes in part through its liner notes.  The notes, crafted by Ralph Gleason’s son Toby, lays a solid groundwork for the unique overall presentation, previewing the content featured in each show.  Each presentation offers audiences its own unique content, with the first offering audiences an intimate concert performance of sorts.  The other two programs are their own unique music video/documentary shows produced by Ralph Gleason.  They are their own works separate from one another, each serving well to show the influence of the psychedelic rock movement on screen.  Each element examined here is important in its own way to the whole of this presentation.  All things considered they make A Night at the Family Dog/Go Ride The Music/West Pole a unique overall presentation that is worth watching at least once.

More information on A Night at the Family Dog/Go Ride The Music/West Pole and other titles from Mercury Studios is available at:




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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’ Standalone Presentations Entertain Despite Lacking One Key Bonus Feature

Courtesy: Netflix/capelight Pictures/mpi Media Group/Amusement Park Films

Netflix’s reboot of the timeless story All Quiet on the Western Front will get another release Tuesday when the company releases the movie on separate DVD and Blu-ray platforms.  The forthcoming standalone releases are rather intriguing presentations because unlike so many movies, they were not released at the same time as the movie’s 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack in late March.  Why officials at Netflix, Capelight Pictures and Amusement Park Films opted to go this route is anyone’s guess.  Keeping that in mind, it is in fact one of the negatives of the new DVD and Blu-ray releases, which will be addressed later, along with the lack of one key bonus content that only came with the movie’s 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack.  As discussed in this blog’s existing review of the 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack, one of the positives of the movie is the bonus content that is featured in these standalone releases.  They will be discussed shortly.  The cinematography round out the movie’s most important elements and will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is its own crucial part of the presentation’s whole.  All thing considered they make the new standalone DVD and Blu-ray presentations of All Quiet on the Western Front honestly somewhat a pair of mixed bags.

Netflix’s award-nominated and winning reboot of All Quiet on the Western Front is a powerful new take on the timeless anti-war allegory about a young German soldier sent to the front to fight in World War I.  It is not an easy watch, but one that is worth seeing when audiences are in the proper mindset to process the new update.  Part of what makes the movie so worth watching is the bonus content that is presented with the movie’s new standalone DVD and Blu-ray presentations. The new platform releases come with the same “making of” featurette and feature-length audio commentary from Director Edward Berger that are included in the movie’s 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack. To that end, audiences are not necessarily losing out any most of the bonus content in these standalone releases.

The bonus “Making Of” featurette that accompanies the movie’s new standalone releases spends ample time talking about the trench scenes. Audiences will be shocked to learn here that the crew actually had to build the trenches. Obviously heavy machinery was brought in to dig the trenches, but still the overall work that had to have gone into establishing the look in the trenches once they were dug had to have been so intense. One can’t help but wonder if it gave the crew a new appreciation for how much work the real soldiers did to create trenches during the war without all that heavy machinery to help.

Viewers learn from one of the cast members that the conditions in the trenches — the water that got the cast’s pants and feet wet for instance — actually played into the performance because it made the situation all the more real for the performances. As if this is not enough, viewers are also treated to an in-depth discussion on how the prosthetics and dummies were made for this movie. Considering the graphic nature of war, lots of time had to be spent on getting everything right on that aspect, and audiences get at least a glimpse into the amount of time and work that went into this key aspect of the movie’s look.

The costume department also gets its own attention in the “making of” featurette, making the viewing experience all the more in-depth. The amount of work that went into making the cast’s costumes look as realistic and believable as possible is just as engaging as the discussion on the prosthetics and the work that went into setting up the trench and battlefield sets.

All things considered, the “Making of” featurette that comes with All Quiet on the Western Front offers quite a bit of interest and added engagement and entertainment for viewers. Considering that this and the feature-length audio commentary are both included in the Blu-ray side of the movie’s 4K UHD/BD combo pack and the standalone DVD and BD platforms, it leaves one wondering why the platforms were not all released the same day back in March. Only the people at Netflix, capelight Pictures and Amusement Park will likely ever know. Either way, audiences who do not want to have to churn out the extra money for that 4K UHD/BD combo pack will still be getting most of the same extra content as those who are open to spend the extra money. At the same time, considering that the bonus content is featured exclusively in the combo pack’s BD side, maybe the extra money would have been worth spending so that when 4K tech becomes less cost restrictive, they can enjoy the movie in full 4K UHD and the bonus content on the BD side.

Now keeping all of this in mind, there is one bonus extra featured in the combo pack not included in the standalone releases. That extra is the companion booklet that features discussions from Berger and from historian/professor Daniel Schonpflug. The duo’s separate discussions spread across the 24-page booklet find each man sharing his respective background on the movie and the book from which it was spawned.

Berger, for instance, talks during his interview, about how he and the movie’s other creative heads developed the fight scenes online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic preventing them from meeting in person.  He notes in this discussion, those involved in the movie’s creation were spread across three continents, so coming together to develop the battle scenes was not an easy feat.  On the matter of developing the story for the reboot, Berger also addresses the noted heavy emotional sense that permeates the movie.  He said making the story so emotionally heavy was intentional because of how the war impacted Germany and its citizens.  Speaking of that impact, Berger notes the fallout of the war, including how the kaiser ended up abdicating his rule and thus left the country essentially in a state of anarchy.  This is something that is rarely if ever taught in American classrooms at any level. 

Berger also discusses working with actor Felix Kammerer, who played the role of Paul in this outing.  He had only positive comments about Kammerer in that discussion, and justifiably so.  This will be addressed a little bit more later.  He also talks about keeping himself grounded and focused while making the movie.  In simple terms, this is a discussion on not letting his ego get the better of himself, which clearly paid off in watching the movie.  There is even a mention of fellow famed movie maker Stanley Kubrick in these discussions that is certain to engage audiences.

Schonpflug’s discussions build even more on those from Berger.  Schonpflug takes on topics, such as Remarque’s own experience as a conscripted soldier in the German army as it relates to his timeless novel.  That is another item that few if any American teachers bring into discussions on this novel when they introduce the book to students.  The revelation that Schonpflug makes here is enlightening to say the least.  On an equally interesting note, Schonpflug also notes that in Germany, All Quiet on the Western Front was actually censored – and even burned – by the government at different points because of its overarching anti-war message.  Yet again here is something that is rarely if ever taught about the book in American classrooms at any level.  The shock of the realization is engaging in its own right and is just as certain to get audiences to start doing their own deeper research into the book. 

As if all of this is not enough, Schonpflug also addresses how much of the war Remarque left out of the book, and his praise for Berger’s take on the novel in two more separate discussions.  In regards to how Remarque presented the war in his novel, Schonpflug changed a number of scenes from his early drafts at the request of his then publisher.  He gives the example of the moment Paul kills a French soldier, and the impact that it has on him.  Berger adds that moment into this reboot, but changes it in his own way from the novel’s presentation.  Schonpflug notes other changes Berger made to his take on the story in his thoughts on how Berger handled the movie, speaking of the changes.  In the end, he praises Berger, saying Berger has fully succeeded in his imagining of the story.  He is definitely right in that commentary.

Considering all of the information that the men provide through their “interviews” the collective information provides so much extra to the movie’s presentation. It is sad that this extra was not included in either the standalone DVD or Blu-ray presentation. It makes the extra money shelled out for the combo pack more worth it even for those who may not yet have the noted price restrictive 4K technology yet. Simply put: yes, this is the effort of all involved to push more people toward 4K tech and away from Blu-ray and DVD technology and sadly in this case it works at least for viewers who want the full viewing experience. That is not to defend all involved for going this route. It is meant merely in an observation of a negative that robs so many viewers of that full viewing experience.

Thankfully the lack of the bonus booklet is not enough to doom the movie in its DVD and BD presentations. There is still much to appreciate from the movie itself for those who maybe are less inclined toward bonus content. That includes the movie’s cinematography and the work of the cast.

In examining the movie’s cinematography, the way the cameras move through the trenches and capture the frantic nature of the battles is so powerful in its own right.  Seeing the smoke of the gas and from the shots fired as the soldiers make their way across the battlefield is just as intense and gripping.  On the same note, a calmer moment, such as when Paul, Kat, Tjaden and the other soldiers are relaxing, enjoying the cooked goose is just as rich in its color and angles.  Seeing the men admiring the French woman from a distance as they pass by really goes to show such a nice wide shot of the land.  On a related note, Schonpflug also addresses the reality of sexual violence committed against French women by German soldiers in his interview.  That is another eye-opening revelation that is never taught here in the U.S. about World War I.  Even the opening scene of Paul and his friends planning to join the German Army is strong in its own right.  That is because of the peacefulness and color of the buildings and streets in their hometown.  It is a subtle, perhaps unintended, message, but becomes deep when one considers how such a town likely looked after the war.  When audiences take into account Berger’s statements about his deliberate approach to getting every shot right, it adds even more to the appreciation for the work that went into the cinematography.  Between these examples and so many others available to note, the whole of the movie’s cinematography makes for its own exceptional presentation and experience for viewers.  The result is a foundation that is strengthened all the more for the presentation.

The work of the cast strengthens that foundation even more, beginning with and not limited to the work of Kammerer.  To think that Kammerer’s first day in the movie industry was the first day of principal photography for the movie, he ended up presenting quite the talent throughout the movie.  From a bright-eyed young recruit who lied to get into the German Army to a very quickly more seasoned soldier, hardened by combat, to eventually, a young man who realized the fallacy of what he was doing, Kammerer is to be applauded throughout the story.  Case in point is Paul’s shock of having to collect dog tags from other, dead soldiers in his first experience in the trenches.  One of those soldiers was one of his own friends.  The tears that he shed, and having to keep going were the beginning of that change that Paul underwent.  Thankfully, Kat took him under his wing and helped him to retain a certain amount of his humanity before things got even worse as the story progressed.  The look of shock as he stabs the French soldier and then realizes what he had done, resulting in so much sadness and shame, is another of the most powerful moments in Paul’s change.  That is because it is really at that moment he realized the fallacy of what he and the rest of the army were doing.  That epiphany humanized Paul all the more, and continued to show Kammerer’s talent as an actor.  Kammerer’s portrayal as Paul and another new group of soldiers is sent back to the front near the war’s end continues to show that talent, too.  He portrays Paul as someone who is just fed up with it all and wants to go home like everyone else but knows he has a job to do.  The way in which Kammerer carries himself in the moment makes a person feel so much for him at that very moment.  What happens to Paul in the impending battle (which will not be revealed here for the sake of those who have not yet seen the movie) makes the outcome all the more hard hitting, emotionally. 

Albrecht Schuch (System CrasherBerlin AlexanderplatzMitten in DeutschlandNSU), who plays the part of Kat – Stanislaus Katczinsky – is also to be applauded for his own work opposite Kammerer.  That is because of the way in which he manages to help keep Paul grounded. The focus that he brings out of Kat even in the intensity of battle helps to show the experience that Kat already had by the time Paul came into the war.  His sensitivity as he talks about wanting to be back with his wife and the vulnerability that he brings out of Kat as he addresses his son’s death from smallpox makes him an even more endearing figure.  To a point, audiences can actually argue that Schuch’s portrayal of Kat makes Kat something of, perhaps, a father figure to Paul even more than just a friend.  It is that presence that helps to make Kat and Paul so enjoyable to watch together throughout the movie and just another example of the importance of the cast’s work.

On yet another note, the cast members who took on the role of the German and French officials on board the train deserve their own applause.  Yes, they were largely supporting cast in the case of this movie, but the tension that they manage to create amongst themselves when they are on screen is fully believable, even though it is known that this moment was somewhat fictionalized.  They include Daniel Bruhl as German diplomat Matthias Erzberger and Thibault de Montalembert as French General Ferdinand Foch.  Devid Striesow (The CounterfeitersBefore The FallDownfall) is just as deserving of applause in his role as General Friedrichs.  That is because of the contrast that he creates to the more level-headed approach of Erzberger, who was determined to bring the conflict to an end and save Germany any more suffering.  Now, Friedrichs is not a real person.  He was a character created for this take on the timeless anti-war protest story, but that aside, the way in which Striesow brings Friedrichs to life is so worthy of applause.  That is because he shows that insistence that Germany fight on even as peace is being negotiated.  Even before then, there is another scene in which Striesow leaves audiences wondering if Friedrichs is going to take his own life as he recalls the military successes of his father and grandfather.  Interestingly he does not end up taking his own life, but that moment is so powerful in its simplicity and Striesow’s performance.  Between his work and that of Bruhl, de Montalembert, and other supporting cast, their work proves just as important as that of the lead cast.  When all of that work is collectively considered the result is a group of performances that makes for just as much engagement as the work of those behind the cameras, bringing the story to life.  When all of that work is considered alongside the movie’s bonus content, the whole therein together with the overall story makes the new home physical release of All Quiet on the Western Front a must see, at least once, and a rare reboot that is actually worth watching.

Netflix/capelight Pictures/Amusement Park Film’s 2022 reboot of All Quiet on the Western Front is a surprisingly engaging presentation.  That is because it proves itself a reboot that is actually worth watching.  Its appeal comes in part through the bonus content that accompanies the movie’s new physical home release.  The interviews with its director Edward Berger and historian/professor Daniel Schonpflug are among the most interesting of the bonus features.  That is because of the background and history that the pair offer regarding the new movie, the book, and how each stacks up against the real story of Germany’s role in the first World War.  The feature-length audio commentary and the standard “making of” featurette build on the foundation formed by the interviews to make for even more engagement and entertainment.  The overall foundation formed therein is strengthened even more through the movie’s cinematography, which is just as engaging, what with the angles, the use of lighting and even something as simple as filters.  The gritty portrayal of the battles and the contrast of the calm of the countryside make that clear.  The work of the movie’s cast, both lead and supporting, builds even more on that foundation and puts the finishing touch to the presentation.  That is because each actor’s work is so believable.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered they make this new physical home release of All Quiet on the Western Front one of the surprisingly best of this year’s new home releases.

All Quiet on the Western Front is scheduled for release Tuesday on separate, standalone DVD and Blu-ray platforms. The trailer for the new reboot of All Quiet on the Western Front is streaming here. More information on this and other titles from Netflix is available at:



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Mercury Studios, Jazz Casual Productions’ Ellington Re-Issue Is A Must Have For Any Jazz Fan

Courtesy: Mercury Studios/Jazz Casual Productions, Inc.

It goes without saying that Duke Ellington is among the greatest and most revered names not only in the jazz community but also in the musical universe.  The songs that he and his orchestra composed and performed remain some of the greatest of their kind to this day, having been covered countless times by artists and acts from across the music community, not just from the jazz realm.  Ellington’s legacy was bolstered even more late this past April with the re-issue of the previously out-of-print two-part presentation, Love You Madly/A Concert of Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral.  Released through a partnership between Mercury Studios and Jazz Casual Productions, Inc. the hybrid documentary/concert is a must have just as much for any Ellington fan and any casual jazz fan.  The booklet that accompanies the presentation sets the foundation for what audiences get to see in the documentary and concert.  It will be discussed shortly.  The documentary itself is definitely of its own interest and will be discussed a little later.  The concert feature is also important to note because it is just as enjoyable as the documentary.  It will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the overall presentation.  All things considered they make Love You Madly/A Concert of Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral a thoroughly engaging and entertaining work that Ellington fans and casual jazz fans alike will appreciate.

Mercury Studios and Jazz Casual Productions, Inc.’s recently unearthed out-of-print presentation, Love You Madly/A Concert of Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral, is a wonderful new offering for any jazz and Ellington fan alike.  Its appeal begins before audiences even start watching, thanks to the booklet that accompanies the main presentation.  The booklet opens with a brief introduction by Toby Gleason, son of the presentation’s creator, Ralph Gleason.  The younger Gleason writes in his liner notes that as a child he himself was so moved by Ellington’s music (thanks to his dad) that even he was converted into a fan.  He further qualifies the presentation’s engagement and entertainment by pointing out that his dad’s work was so appreciated by Ellington himself that Ellington praised the hybrid work in his autobiography, Music Is My Mistress.  Gleason goes so far as to directly cite Ellington’s statements about his father’s work to help viewers understand and appreciate what they are about to watch.

From there, author Ashley Kahn takes the lead, composing the remainder of the booklet’s liner notes.  She picks up where Tony Gleason left off, noting “Gleason’s first love was jazz, an ardor grounded by an insider’s appreciation of the reality of gigs and sessions and making ends meet.”  As she continues her working, Kahn points out that Gleason himself was turned onto the work of Ellington and company when he was a child, just like his own son.  That makes for even more interest in the story that these two presentations offer.  Yet another interesting note that Kahn adds is that in 1965 (the same year from which the featured presentations rose), Ellington had been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and that it marked the first time that a jazz composer had ever been nominated for the prize in the award’s music category.  According to Kahn’s notes, Ellington never won the award, despite the nomination, and that caused quite a bit of controversy.  She leaves the story there.  In researching the story further, it is found that the controversy stemmed from the Pulitzer Board not even awarding an award in the music category that year rather than allow an African American to be recognized for his work.  So therein is the controversy.  In essence, he was denied, allegedly, purely out of racism from those in positions of power.  That Kahn leads audiences to make the discovery on their own is actually a very good thing.  It shows that she leaves audiences wanting more in the best way possible.  That that end, kudos are in order for Kahn.

As Kahn continues her discussion, she lays the groundwork for the concert at Grace Cathedral, offering the historical background.  She explains that Ellington was not the first composer or musician to perform at the church, but the performance put on by Ellington and his orchestra was still a monumental presentation.  As Kahn points out, the performance would go on to be just the first of his Sacred Music performances.  He and the group would go on to perform the far-reaching presentation at New York City’s Presbyterian Church and at other locations at cities nationwide.  Between all of this and so much more presented by Kahn and by Gleason’s son, the overall picture painted by the pair in the liner notes is fully immersive.  It sets a solid foundation for the presentation featured in each work that gives audiences much to anticipate in a positive way.

Once audiences transition from the set’s liner notes to the first of the features, the documentary Love You Madly, the very first thing that they get is a vintage, black and white documentary of Ellington and company in intimate settings, such as the Monterey Jazz Festival, at the Basin Street West Jazz Club and even the Grace Cathedral, which itself is, again, presented in full as the second feature.  Throughout the course of the performances, Gleason talks one on one with Ellington about how he composed various songs.  Ellington is so eloquent as he talks about how he composed the songs that made him famous.  Audiences will be fully engaged in his conversations with Gleason.  Case in point is his discussion early on about the inspiration behind ‘Far East Suite.’  Ellington explains to Gleason, the composition rose from the group’s trip to the Middle East.  This is more proof of the importance of having background information for any instrumental music.  Considering the song’s title is ‘Far East Suite,’ the first thing that likely would come to mind is Asia.  However as Ellington explains, again, that was not the case.  This leaves no room for misinterpretation.  The percussive approach on the clarinet and the subdued but steady drums really helps listeners get the picture of the camels, minarets and other items so commonly associated with that region of the world.

On yet another note, Ellington’s discussion on how he developed the arrangement for ‘In My Solitude’ is interesting in its own way.  He explains he wrote the song while waiting for another act to finish recording a song in a studio.  The gentle, flowing fashion of the song, of which audiences get a clip, makes more sense in understanding that back story.  On yet another note, he explains that ‘Sophisticated Lady’ — another of the greatest songs Ellington ever composed — it took him a month to compose that song.  It certainly would have been interesting to get even more story on that topic.  It is yet more proof of the interest that Ellington’s discussion brings to Love You Madly.  Between these discussions and so many others offered throughout the documentary (and the rich performances from his orchestra), what audiences get in whole is such an immersive documentary. 

That the documentary was originally presented in 1965, its audio and video have clearly stood the test of time quite well.  The rich sound of the stand up bass in some of the song and the equally powerful sounds from the horns in the performances are collectively so powerful.  Perhaps the only downside to the audio overall, is that during the course of Ellington’s discussions, audiences will find they have to adjust the volume upwards in order to better hear him. That is a minor inconvenience, though.  Overall, the documentary gives audiences so much to appreciate from beginning to end.

 While the documentary, Love You Madly, offers viewers so much to enjoy it is just one of the parts of this collective that makes the whole engaging and entertaining.  The secondary program, the full concert presentation of A Concert of Sacred Music At Grace Cathedral, presents just as much for viewers to enjoy.  This is especially after audiences are taken into the cathedral with Ellington and Gleason near the end of Love You Madly.  That portion of the documentary really serves well to set the stage for the concert (no pun intended).  The simple presentation, ‘In The Beginning, God’ is so powerful in its simplicity.  The hybrid spoken word/sung vocals alongside the subtle piano line, percussion and bass line early on creates a fully engaging work in its own right.  Just as interesting is the manner in which the song so subtly switches between its more bluesy leanings and a more modern classical approach in Ellington’s performance on piano during that portion of the opus.  The transitions back and forth are incredible in their fluidity. The big band sound that comes later in the composition is just as certain to keep listeners engaged.  The whole is such an incredible work that will move any listener.

On another note, the balance of jazz and gospel in ‘Ain’t But The One’ makes for its own interest.  It is half the time as ‘In The Beginning, God,’ but still packs a great punch in its shorter presentation.  What’s more, it is more direct in the noted balance.  What that means is that not only do audiences get diversity in this song, but diversity between the concert’s first two songs.  The diversity continues in the fully instrumental composition, ‘New World A-Coming,’ which opens with a decidedly Gershwin-esque piano flare from Ellington.  As the song progresses, Ellington puts his own influence to the presentation.  The result is a song that is just as engaging and entertaining as any of the concert’s other works.

As if the noted performances are not enough, the vocal talents of Esther Marrow in ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and ‘Come Sunday’ are powerhouses.  There is something incredible about the power of her vocals as she just stands there so simply.  It puts forth a display of effortless talent.  The tap dancing of Bunny Briggs and the scatting of Jimmy McPhail on the concert’s finale, ‘David Danced Before The Lord’ is yet another incredible moment especially considering the length of the song.  Briggs’ skill with his talent is beyond words.  It goes without saying that to be able to go as long as he did, putting accents in all the right places along the way, means he had to have had some very strong leg muscles.  McPhail’s scatting, that percussive performance, pairs with his smoother, velvety soft vocals to make his performance just as enjoyable as those put on by the duo’s friends in the group.  Simply put, whether in this finale, at the other points discussed or any of the concert’s other moments, the whole of the concert proves fully engaging and entertaining thanks to the expert talent displayed by all involved.  When all of this is considered along with everything presented in the documentary, Love You Madly, the whole makes for even more enjoyment.  All things considered, this dual presentation is a wonderful gem that is a wonderful, welcome offering for any jazz and Ellington fan alike.

Mercury Studios and Jazz Casual Productions, Inc.’s recently released documentary/concert presentation, Duke Ellington: Love You Madly/A Concert of Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral is a powerful, immersive presentation that Ellington’s most devoted fans and casual jazz fans alike are sure to enjoy.  That is due in part to the foundation formed by the set’s liner notes.  The liner notes are composed in part of the song of the original documentary and concert’s producer, Ralph Gleason and also by author Ashley Kahn.  The information the pair provides paints a rich picture of the documentary and concert contained within the presentation.  The documentary portion of the set presents a wonderfully intimate picture of Ellington.  For lack of better wording, it personalizes him…humanizes him.  It shows that even being so revered in the upper echelons of the musical universe, he really is just another person.  It makes him all the more respected.  The concert at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco puts the finishing touch to the set.  That is because it presents a side of Ellington and company that at the time (and since) few if any audiences had and have known.  The balance of the secular and non throughout the concert is impressive to say the least.  The sound and video is just as impressive, especially considering the age of the footage.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this collection.  All things considered they make Duke Ellington: Love You Madly/A Concert of Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral a work that Ellington’s most devoted fans will appreciate just as much as more casual jazz fans.

Duke Ellington: Love You Madly/A Concert of Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral is available now.  More information on the recording is available along with other titles from Mercury Studios at:




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Marvel Studios’ Latest ‘Ant-Man’ Sequel Is An Underappreciated Addition to the MCU

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Audiences got some bad news this week when it was announced that the Hollywood Screenwriters Guild went on strike.  The strike started at midnight Tuesday, and as of Thursday, there seems to be no end to the strike as of yet in the near future.  The strike means what writers for the late-night talk show circuit have quit working, along with writers for television shows in general and for movies.  How long the strike will go on is anyone’s guess, but luckily there is still some new content for audiences to take in while they wait for the strike to end.  Some of that content will come May 16 in the form of the new home release of Marvel Studios’ latest entry in the Ant-Man franchise, Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania.  The movie made its digital debut late last month and will be released separately this month on 4K UHD/BD combo pack, Blu-ray, and DVD.  The movie has received very mixed reviews from audiences and critics alike since making its theatrical debut Feb. 17.  The reasonings for the mixed reviews (especially the criticisms) have been across the board, but the movie really is not that bad.  Is it perfect or memorable?  No.  However, it is still engaging and entertaining.  That is due in no small part to its story, which will be addressed shortly.  The story’s pacing ties directly into the engagement and entertainment generated through the story.  It will be examined a little later.  The cast’s work on screen rounds out the most important of the movie’s elements and will also be examined later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered these elements make Ant-Man & The Wasp: Qantumania a surprisingly enjoyable addition to the Marcel Cinematic Universe.

Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, the third installment in the MCU’s Ant Man franchise, is a surprisingly enjoyable presentation.  The movie’s enjoyment comes in part through its featured story.  The story is relatively simple.  It picks up after the events of the Infinity War.  The world loves Scott Lang/Ant-Man, knowing he took part in the war, fighting alongside the Avengers. He is even being honored by hi former boss and co-workers at Baskin-Robbins.  Just as everything seems to be going right, he finds out that his daughter Cassie has crated a link to the Quantum Realm – he, Hank Pym (the original ant-Man) and Hank’s daughter Hope have already been in order to rescue Hank’s wife Janet.  The whole group gets sucked back into the Quantum Realm thanks to what Cassie has been doing while Scott was “away”.  As a result of the group returning to the Quan Realm, a revolution breaks out, with the realm’s peace-loving inhabitants rising up against the evil ruler Kang The Conqueror, who had been exiled there by other Kangs for his evil deeds.  The revolution happens because even before Scott, Hank and Hope originally went into the Quantum Realm, Kang had been establishing his empire, as is revealed by Janet.  The final showdown comes as the group faces off against Kang, returning peace to the Quantum Realm.  So really the story here is, in the simplest terms, sort of a war story.  It is a story of revolution.  At first the fact that Cassie was to blame for the group getting sucked into the Quantum Realm kind of makes the story a bit silly, kind of like how Tony Stark was really to blame for the whole story in Avengers: Age of Ultron (interestingly enough, the original Ultron story in the comics involved Hank Pym, not Tony Stark.  How’s that for a “6-degrees of separation”?). 

Writer Jeff Loveness wastes no time setting the stage for the story to come.  On the same note, he also makes sure to stick right to the focus of each act throughout the course of the story, not allowing the movie to get bogged down in any unnecessary exposition and other drama that could have so easily sidetracked the story.  This plays directly into the movie’s pacing.  Considering that the movie runs just over two hours (which is quite shorter than most of Marvel Studios’ existing blockbusters) the pacing keeps the story moving forward so fluidly from beginning to end and in turn makes the story all the more engaging and entertaining.  The group gets sucked into the Quantum Realm in the first act.  In the second act, Kang and his history are revealed, leading up to the huge, climactic battle in the third act.  There is nothing there that is unnecessary at any point.  Maybe this is what so many people who disliked the movie had qualms with, considering how so many of Marvel’s movies have otherwise allowed themselves to become so gluttonously overdone with their stories and pacing.  People, perhaps, wanted more of that and when they didn’t get that over-the-top presentation here, it caused them some sort of discomfort.  If that is the case, then that is their problem.  The pacing works so well without feeling too short at any point throughout the story, ensuring the movie’s enjoyment all the more.

As much as the movie’s story and its pacing do to make the story engaging and entertaining, they are just part of what makes Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania worth watching.  The cast’s work throughout the movie makes for its own share of enjoyment, too, and there are plenty of moments in which that work shines.  Case in point when Scott is first “captured” by the realm’s natives.  Veb (David Dastmalchian – The Dark Knight, The Suicide Squad, Dune), the little blob-like character who first talks to Scott, is so loveable even in this moment.  That is a credit to Dastmalchian and his work.  The simple approach that he takes as he brings Veb to life, trying to interpret for the people makes for such a fun, lighthearted moment.  In that same scene, Scott also has to interact with the mind-reader, Quaz (William Jackson Harper – The Good Place, Dark Waters, Midsommar) as Quaz scans Scott’s thoughts to find out his true intentions.  The back and forth between the pair makes for so many laughs as Quaz keeps asking Scott to stop thinking whatever he is thinking.  It is another small moment, but makes for so many laughs.  Perhaps this and so many other lighter moments also turned off so many audiences.  Unlike so many of the “heavier” movies that Marvel (and DC) have churned out in recent year, the Ant-man movies have all been much lighter in their mood, and this movie is no exception to that rule as this and so many other scenes show.  The cast’s work in each scene adds so much to that enjoyment. 

Perhaps the most notable work from the cast comes from embattled star Jonathan Majors, who plays the role of Kang The Conqueror.  Majors gives Kang such a cold, calculating demeanor throughout his performance.  He has no concern for anyone.  In the sequence in which he is confronting Scott and Cassie in their cells, for instance, his total disregard for Cassie’s well-being is so completely disturbing.  It is almost sociopathic for lack of better wording.  He presents this almost Darth Vader persona as he simply waves a couple fingers, throwing the pair against their cells’ walls, and even M.O.D.O.K. (yes, M.O.D.O.K. is introduced in this story) against another wall.  His anger as he faces off against the natives is just as powerful, considering how cool, cold, and calculating he had been throughout the story.  Seeing the race in his face and hearing it in his scream as he blasts the crowd is shocking.  That is because it shows so well, Kang’s true power, his anger.  Even early on as Janet recalls Kang’s nature as he offers to return her to her home, his persona is almost scary in how calm he is.  That is because audiences know deep down how devious he clearly is, thanks to Janet’s recollection.  Majors is to be applauded for his work throughout the movie.  Needless to say, if Marvel drops him on the assault charge for the incident which he is accused of committing, it will be interesting to see how he is replaced, especially considering all of the credits and post credits content he already filmed for the movie and for Disney+’s Loki series.  Needless to say it would be a huge loss if they drop him, considering how impressive he was in his role throughout the movie.  He really stole the show, even as enjoyable as it is to watch Paul Rudd and company once again.  He was the movie’s real star.

When the work of Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania’s cast is considered alongside the work put in to bring the movie’s story to life, and with the story’s pacing, the whole make this movie a surprisingly enjoyable presentation that is honestly underappreciated just as its predecessors, Ant-Man and Ant-Man & The Wasp.  It likely won’t be one of the MCU’s most memorable entries years down the road, but is still worth watching. 

Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania is available digitally now.  It is scheduled for physical release May 16 on 4k UHD/Blu-ray combo pack, Blu-ray, and DVD.  More information on this and other movies from Marvel Studios is available at:




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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’ Reboot Getting BD, DVD Release

Courtesy: Netflix/capelight Pictures/mpi Media Group

Netflix’s reboot of All Quiet on the Western Front is coming to standalone Blu-ray and DVD platforms.

The movie is scheduled for release May 9 on DVD and Blu-ray, more than a month after the movie was released on 4K UHD/BD combo pack. Pre-orders are open here.

Unlike with the 4K UHD Blu-ray combo pack, the movie will be limited in terms of its bonus content on its DVD platform. According to information provided in a news release announcing the details for the forthcoming release, the DVD will only feature a trailer for the movie, and a teaser clip.

The Blu-ray release will feature a feature-length audio commentary from director Edward Berger, a making-of featurette, trailer and teaser.

By comparison the movie’s bonus content in its 4K UHD/BD combo pack consists of everything in the Blu-ray platform, as well as a booklet with extensive insights from Berger and from historian Daniel Schonpflug in which he talks about the historical significance of the story that is All Quiet on the Western Front.

More information on this and other titles from Netflix is available at:



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‘The Last Starfighter’ Getting 4K UHD Re-Issue

Courtesy: Lorimar Films/Universal/Arrow Video

The Last Starfighter is getting the re-issue treatment from Arrow Video again.

The 1984 science fiction story from Universal and Lorimar Films is scheduled for release on 4K UHD May 30. Its latest re-issue will come more than two years after the company released it on DVD and Blu-ray.

The story of The Last Starfighter follows a young man named Alex Rogan who is recruited to battle a group of evil aliens through a video game. He is at first reluctant to join the galactic force that is working to stop them, but then agrees. It is, at its heart, a sort of underdog story that follows a young man who was going nowhere and sees him become an unsuspecting hero of the galaxy.

More information on this and other titles from Arrow Video is available at:




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DC Studios’ ‘Black Adam’ Deserves At Least Some Credit

Courtesy: DC Studios/Warner Brothers

Big changes are coming to the DC universe now that James Gunn and Peter Safran have taken over as the new heads of DC Studios.  Those changes will begin this year with the new Flash movie, which will be the company’s answer to Marvel Studios’ multiverse.  The movie will completely reset the entire DC cinematic (and television) universe.  New movies centered on Superman and Supergirl alike are already planned for the new universe, as well as a new Batman movie.  Swamp Thing is even getting a new try on the big screen under the watchful eyes of Gunn and Safran while Blue Beetle is getting its first ever outing, and Aquaman is getting at least one more outing.  Beyond that, little else is known about the cinematic side of things for DC Studios.

The uncertainty of DC Studios’ future beyond its first phase is important to note due to the results of two of its most recent connected movies, Shazam: Fury of the Gods and Black Adam.  Neither proved a success at the box office, with the latter resulting in an even worse result than the former in regard to their respective ticket sales.  While audiences wait to find out whether stars Zachary Levi (Shazam) and Dwayne Johnson (Black Adam) will finally face off down the road, they can at least take in Black Adam on 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack, Blu-ray and DVD.  Released to its home physical platforms Jan. 3, the movie proves itself a movie worth watching at least once that also opens the door for future movies leading up to a bigger Justice Society movie.  The movie proves itself worth watching at least once because of its story, which will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home physical release adds to the reason for audiences to watch the movie.  This will be discussed a little later.  The cast’s work on camera adds its own share of engagement and entertainment, too, so it will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Black Adam.  All things considered they make Black Adam maybe not the best of DC Studios’ offerings but also not its worst.

Black Adam was one of the last movies to be entered into the DCEU before the entrance of James Gunn and Peter Safras as the new heads of DC Studios and while not a great movie, it also is not the worst of DC Studios’ previous generation.  As a matter of fact, it actually is worth watching at least once.  That is due in part to its story.  The story is simple: Black Adam is freed from his prison of sorts after more than 5,000 years because a professor named Adrianna (played by Sarah Shahi – Alias, Old School, Bullet to the Head) summons him.  She summons him because she and her brother, Karim (Mohammed Amer – Mo, Americanish), are about to be killed by a group of mercenaries.  As a result of him being freed from his prison (He was put in the prison by the same wizards whose powers would eventually be the source of Shazam’s own power), Black Adam is still very angry and takes out his anger on those mercenaries.  From there, he goes on to face off against the members of the Justice Society, who are there to essentially apprehend him because of the danger that he poses in their eyes.  The danger lies in what the Justice Society knows about Black Adam’s history.  At first the two sides are at odds, but as the bigger story unfolds, Black Adam ends up on the side of the Justice Society just as he occasionally would in the comics world, in order to stop an evil force from the pits of Hell.  Of course, the collective ends up defeating the big bad in the end when they put aside their differences and finally fight together, and honestly the story is tied up nicely.  To that end, the concerns raised in the media about whether a sequel will ever come for Black Adam under the new DC Studios regime really should be a moot point.  Yes, there could be a second movie, but the way in which the story closes, it does just as well as a standalone story.  Add in that in the comics realm, Black Adam only comes into focus every now and then, and that negates the need for an immediate sequel.

Throughout the course of the story, the writing team of Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani does well to make sure Black Adam’s turn and the Justice Society’s role in that turn does not cause the story to get bogged down in itself.  That is definitely to be applauded.  There could have been so much ruminating on Adam’s history, but thankfully, the trio of writers save that back story for a brief sequence late in the story, allowing instead, the bigger story play out first.  It all plays out so well.

Another side item worth noting in the story is the subtle political commentary addressing America’s involvement in foreign nations.  The topic comes up more than once, the most notable moment coming as Adrianna chides Hawkman (Aldis Hodge – Die Hard with a Vengeance, One Night in Miami…, Hidden Figures) for the Justice Society’s sudden appearance in Kahndaq after no outside nation had come to the country for decades, allowing the country to be controlled for such a long time.  This is just one of a handful of moments when the topic is addressed and thankfully does not overpower the story, either, but certainly cannot be ignored.

Now for all of the good that the writing team does in this story, it is not entirely perfect.  There are some plot holes so to speak, the most notable being why exactly Adrianna is even searching for the crown in the first place.  She makes the statement at one point that the crown belonged in a museum, so was that why she wanted to find the cursed powerful crown?  This is never really explained away, and in turn does create some problems in the story’s bigger picture.  Ironically, if not for her search for the crown, Black Adam might never have been woken and Kahndaq might never had been liberated from the mercenaries and their evil grip.  To that end, one could argue that this somewhat negates that primary plot hole.  Keeping that in mind, it is easy to argue that the writing exhibited in Black Adam is for the most part a positive that works well for the movie’s presentation.

Building on the foundation formed through Black Adam’s writing is the bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release.  The bonus content is presented on the movie’s Blu-ray disc in its 4K UHD/BD combo pack and obviously on the BD disc on the standalone Blu-ray format.  This is important to note because as this critic has noted so many times previously in other reviews, 4K technology is still so cost prohibitive today that not everyone has a 4K UHD BD player and/or TV.  Most people have Blu-ray players and standard hi-def monitors.  So by placing the bonus content on the BD disc on both platforms ensures a wider range of viewers will get to take in said content.

Now keeping all of this in mind, there is plenty of bonus content for everyone to enjoy, beginning with the separate bonus features focusing on the history of Black Adam and the Justice Society in the comics realm.  The separate features serve as wonderful starting points for those viewers who might be less familiar with their histories.  In learning said histories, those noted viewers could ultimately end up becoming new fans of both properties and end up looking for the original comics.  On another note, learning through both features that Johnson himself is a lifelong comic book fan is another positive for the comic book community.  That is because people who are fans of Johnson but who might have otherwise not been fans of comic books might now be encouraged to become fans themselves.  The “making of” featurette – titled here, “From Soul to Screen” adds even more depth to the viewing experience as it takes audiences into more depth in the movie.  Audiences will be especially interested to learn here, that instead of just using so much green screen and special effects, the movie’s crew and creative heads opted instead for another technology to help make each scene more realistic in its look, and it pays off greatly, too.  The tech in question is something known as LED screens.  The screens play the actual backgrounds that are used throughout the movie.  They allow the cast to actually see what they otherwise would have had to envision with a green screen, which clearly plays into not only the look of the movie, but the cast’s performance.

Speaking of the cast’s performance, the ability to see what they are doing in each scene definitely plays into the appeal of the cast’s work.  It is just part of what plays into that appeal, too.  Even in moments when the LED screens are not being overly used, the cast puts on plenty of enjoyable performances, not the least of comes from Noah Centineo (The Perfect Date, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before).  Centineo plays the part of Atom Smasher, one of the younger members of the Justice Society’s current makeup.  He essentially serves as the cast’s comic relief throughout the movie, but in doing so he makes the most of his time on screen.  There is something about his comic timing that harkens to Tobey Maguire’s take of Peter Parker in Marvel’s Sam Raimi-helmed Spiderman movies.  Not to mention a movie from another studio and comic book company, but the comparison is inescapable.  That certain lack of confidence even as he is trying to learn the ropes makes for plenty of enjoyment.  Centineo could have hammed it up in his moments on screen, but he opts for the less is more approach, making for so much enjoyment.  One can only hope that should a Justice Society movie be part of DC Studios’ future schedule, he will be part of that movie.  It would be interesting to see a more developed persona for Atom Smasher, should that happen.  No doubt he would do well.

Quintessa Swindell (Voyagers, Master Gardener), who takes on the role of another younger Justice Society member named Cyclone, puts on just as much of an enjoyable performance even though she seems to get even less screen time and even lines.  She spends more time as a supporting character, but in the few moments she gets to interact with her cast mates, she does an admirable job.  One of those very rare moments comes as she explains to Atom Smasher how she got her powers.  As with Centineo, hopefully she will have more presence in the future, should a standalone Justice Society movie be in the cards.

Pierce Brosnan (Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, Mrs. Doubtfire) deserves just as much applause as he takes on the role of Dr. Fate.  His calm demeanor even in the most tense situations makes him an expert counter to Hodge’s more intense performance as Hawkman.  The counterpoint that the two create through their respective performances shows a definite chemistry between the actors off screen.  That apparent chemistry makes for so much enjoyment watching the duo share lines.

The members of the Justice Society are not the only cast members who deserve credit for their work.  Johnson deserves his own share of applause as the movie’s titular character.  The controlled demeanor that he presents as Black Adam is first awoken is actually quite powerful in its subtlety.  He could have so easily just done the typical thing and gone all out as has been done in so many situations in other movies by other actors.  Thankfully he did no go that route, instead showing that brewing, controlled anger.  It makes Black Adam come across as that much more dangerous right from the outset.  That is because even as powerful and destructive as he is, he does not necessarily show a lot of deference to anyone, save for Adrianna.  It is a great way to set up Black Adam especially as Adam’s change takes place over the course of the story.

On another note, his deadpan delivery about showing respect to prisoners as Adam tries to show sarcasm is so subdued, and that actually makes for another funny moment that real fans will find enjoyable.  On a similar note, his dogged determination to find Amon (Bodhi Sabongui – The Baby-Sitters Club, A Million Little Things) is just as powerful.  That is because even as clear as it is that he is determined to catch Amon’s kidnappers, there is a certain control in Adam’s presence.  Again, in so many other similar style action flicks, such sequences are over blown, but in this case, the control that he gives Adam actually makes his concern for Amon so wonderfully understated, and that makes for its own appeal for Adam.  Between these moments and others throughout the movie, Johns proves his performance is just as engaging and entertaining as those presented by his cast mates.  All things considered, the cast’s overall work throughout the movie makes for just as much appeal for this presentation as the movie’s story and its bonus content.  That overall content comes together to make Black Adam a movie that deserves to be seen at least once.

Black Adam, one of the last of DC Studios’ movies released prior to DCU’s forthcoming reset, is an interesting finale note to the company’s previous cinematic realm.  It is not the company’s best nor worst entries and deserves to be seen at least once.  That is proven in part through its relatively simple story, which tells how Black Adam became an unsuspecting her in the modern world even despite (and because of) his past.  It makes him an anti-hero figure that audiences will root for because of his imperfections.  People, for some reason, go for that brooding style persona, and will here, too.  The story does not waste a lot of time setting things up or even ruminating on Black Adam’s motivations and feelings, either.  Those discussions are there, but thankfully are limited in their use.  This makes for solid pacing, and in turn, sustained engagement and entertainment for audiences.  The bonus material that accompanies the movie in its home physical release adds to the interest in the movie.  That is because of the background that it provides on a variety of topics, including and not limited to the comic book history of Black Adam and the Justice Society.  The bonus content that focuses on the movie’s production elements makes for its own interest and in turn increases that engagement and entertainment.  The cast’s overall work builds even more on the presentation, with each main actor giving his and her own enjoyable performance.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered they make Black Adam a movie that while not the best or worst of DC Studios’ offerings in recent years, a presentation that is still a mostly enjoyable superhero flick.

Black Adam is available on 4K UHD/BD combo pack, Blu-ray, and DVD.  More information on this and other cinematic offerings from DC is available at:



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