New to View: June 29
By Bob Bloom
The following titles are being released on Tuesday, June 29, unless otherwise noted:
His Dark Materials: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray + digital)
Details: 2021, HBO Home Entertainment-Warner Home Entertainment
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: The second season of this HBO limited series based on Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy finds Lyra (Dafne Keen) in the mysterious city of Cittagazze, where she meets a boy and learns their fates are linked to them reuniting him with his father.
At the same time a war has erupted between the evil Magisterium and the witch clans, who do what they can to ensure that Lyra fulfill her destiny.
The two-disc set features all seven episodes. The series also features Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andrew Scott and Amir Wilson.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.78:1 widescreen picture; English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French 5.1 Dolby digital; English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Don’t miss: Bonus options include a featurette on Miranda’s Lee Scorsesby, an explanation about daemons and various other featurettes that go behind-the-scenes to explain various aspects of Pullman’s universe.
Pickup on South Street (Blu-ray)
Details: 1953, The Criterion Collection
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: Richard Widmark and Jean Peters star in this film noir-Cold War thriller about pickpocket Skip McCoy (Widmark), who picks the pocketbook of Candy (Peters), unaware that she has been making deliveries of highly classified information to communist agents.
For months, FBI agents have been trailing her, hoping to nab the brains of the spy ring.
When Candy’s former boyfriend, Joey (Richard Kiley), learns about the theft, he sends Candy to find Skip and retrieve the microfilm in his possession.
The movie, with a screenplay and directed by Samuel Fuller, is a story of greed and redemption as Skip and Candy must use their wits to preserve their lives and thwart the Red menace.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.33:1 full-screen picture; English LPCM monaural; English SDH subtitles.
Don’t miss: Bonus options include a 1989 interview with Fuller, a new interview with author-critic Imogen Sara Smith, a 1982 French television program in which Fuller discusses the movie, a 1954 radio adaptation of the film, a booklet with essays about the film and a chapter from Fuller’s autography telling about the movie.
The Unholy (Blu-ray + digital)
Release date: June 22
Details: 2021, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Rated: PG-13, violence, terror, language
The lowdown: A supernatural thriller about a hearing-impaired young woman who is visited by the Virgin Mary and can suddenly speak, hear and heal the sick.
A Boston journalist, who gets wind of the events in the small New England town, believes he has found a story to revitalize his career.
What he does not know is that the girl, Alice (Cricket Brown), has been possessed by the spirit of Mary Elnor, who was burned for her deal with the devil in the mid-19th century.
The movie, while technically impressive, is more of the same old, same old; a contemporary horror feature with a religious subtext and all the cliches that now manifest themselves in these movies.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the journalist, and the cast also includes William Sadler, Diogo Morgado and Cary Elwes.
Critics were not enamored of the movie, giving it a 26 percent fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 2.39:1 widescreen picture; English and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English audio description track and Spanish 5.1 Dolby digital; English SDH, English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Madame Curie (Blu-ray)
Details: 1943, Warner Archive Collection
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: “Madame Curie” is one of the prestige biopics the major Hollywood studios produced during the 1930s and ’40s to showcase their stars and possibly earn Academy Award nominations.
In this case, the movie received seven nominations: best picture, best actress for Greer Garson and best actor for Walter Pidgeon as well as sound, cinematography, music and art direction. (It did not win any Oscars).
The movie follows young Marie Sklodowska of Poland who defies the conventions of the era to study physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne. Her teacher is Pierre Curie, who later becomes her husband.
The Curies are credited with discovering radium and, for their efforts, were awarded the 1903 Nobel Prize.
The film is more uplifting and more a love story than the 2019 release of “Radioactivity” in which Rosamund Pike portrayed Marie Curie.
This release is a made-on-demand Blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection and can be found at www.warnerarchive.com or other online sellers.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.37:1 (16×9 enhanced) full-screen picture; English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio monaural; English SDH subtitles.
Don’t miss: Extras include a Pete Smith Specialty short, “Romance of Radium.”
Details: 2020, Shout! Factory-IFC Films
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: A standard biopic that follows the early struggles of David Bowie amid his first visit to the United States in 1971, where he created his iconic, celestial alter-ego, Ziggy Stardust.
Johnny Flynn portrays Bowie, who discovers that American audiences are not yet ready for him or his music. Bowie realizes he must reinvent himself to attain stardom, thus his transformation into Ziggy.
The problems with the movie are manyfold: it fails to capture Bowie’s magnetism and does not offer anything you can’t find in his music.
The main positive is Flynn’s performance with captures the essence of Bowie.
Technical aspects: 1080 high definition, 1.85:1 widescreen picture; English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English audio descriptive track; English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
“Mae West Collection” (Blu-ray)
Details: 1932-40, Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: It may be hyperbole to say that the early 1930s movies of Mae West led to the creation of the movie industry production code, i.e., moral censorship, but they were significant factors.
The movies of Mae West were filled with double entendres and sexual innuendos, most of which were written by West herself.
Of the nine movies in this collection, West had input into some aspects of the scripts by adapting her own plays or as a screenwriter.
West’s early films, produced before the production code took effect, are her best. These are where her bawdy humor really shines. After the institution of the code, her works were, well, emasculated.
Here’s a look at the movies in the set:
“Night After Night” (1932) is West’s debut. She plays a supporting role; the stars of the film are George Raft and Constance Cummings, who, desperate to improve their street-smart images, hire a proper spinster (played by Alison Skipworth) to accompany them to dinner at a high-class establishment.
West plays Raft’s former girlfriend and exposes his past to his new patron.
“She Done Him Wrong” (1933) was West’s first starring role. It was based on her 1928 Broadway play, “Diamond Lil.” West plays Lady Lou, a bawdy nightclub singer in the 1890s. When she is not singing, she spends most of her time tossing her witty barbs at the overheated clientele.
She though she keeps these men at arm’s length, she also accepts diamond-studded gifts from her admirers. The film costars Cary Grant, in one of his first major roles, even though he had supporting parts in eight previous movies.
The film was nominated for a best picture Academy Award — it did not win.
“I’m No Angel” (1933) stars West, who also wrote the screenplay, as a carnival performer with higher ambitions — specifically wealthy men. One of her jobs is as a lion tamer.
Cary Grant again costars as her main love interest.
“Belle of the Nineties” (1934) was a vehicle co-written by West. The new censorship guidelines were starting to be imposed on her movies. She plays a St. Louis nightclub performer who relocates to New Orleans and becomes the top attraction of “The Sensation Club.”
The plot involves jewel thieves, a fixed boxing match and murder. Also on hand is Duke Ellington and his Orchestra to provide musical accompaniment for several of West’s songs.
“Goin’ to Town” (1935), also co-written by West, has her portraying a former saloon girl turned debutante and the benefactor of her fiancé’s ranch and oil business after a fatal shootout.
The new man she sets her sights on is a British oil expert, who looks down his nose at West’s Cleo Borden. In the end, though, West gets her man.
“Klondike Annie” (1936), again co-written by West and directed by the legendary Raoul Walsh, takes place, as the title infers, during the Alaskan Gold Rush of the 1890s.
West plays Rose Carlton, a kept woman who wants to escape her past. She flees on a ship to Alaska where she is influenced by and becomes friends with her new cabin mate, Sister Annie Alden (Helen Jerome Eddy). When Sister Annie becomes sick and dies, Rose takes her identity and is inspired to a new calling.
With her new purpose, Rose tames the wild town and its immoral people.
In “Go West Young Man” (1936), with dialogue by West and direction by Henry Hathaway, West plays movie star Mavis Arden, who is bound by a contract that says she cannot marry for five years.
When her car breaks down on a publicity tour, she is stuck living in a boarding house full of strange characters, one of whom is farm hand Randolph Scott, who quickly catches her eye.
The movie is considered one of her lesser films, mostly because of various cuts by censors around the country.
“Every Day’s a Holiday” (1937) features a screenplay by West, who plays con artist Peaches O’Day, who is run out of town by police Capt. Jim McCarey (Edmund Lowe), who threatens to arrest her if she stays.
Peaches returns, though, disguised as a brunette and Parisian sensation, Mademoiselle Fifi.
The movie also features Louis Armstrong on trumpet accompanying West in a rousing song.
The final movie in the collection is “My Little Chickadee” (1940), a Western comedy co-written by West and W.C. Fields, who basically spoof their own screen images.
West plays Flower Belle Lee, whose reputation is tarnished because of her relationship with a masked bandit. Fields is Cuthbert J. Twillie, a con man who Flower Belle marris, believing he is a wealthy catch.
When they arrive in the town of Greasewood, Twillie’s bragging gets him appointed sheriff, while Flower Belle continually keeps him at bay and sets her sights on saloon owner Joseph Calleia and law-and-order mainstay Dick Foran.
Technical aspects (all nine movies): 1080p high definition, 1.37:1 full-screen picture; English DTS-HD Master Audio; English subtitles.
Don’t miss: Each movie in the collection features a commentary track by various film historians including David Del Valle, Kat Ellinger and Lee Gambin. “She Done Him Wrong” features an introduction by late Turner Classics Movie host Robert Osborne as well as a bonus cartoon, “She Done Him Right.”
Here Are the Young Men (Blu-ray)
Details: 2020, Well Go USA Entertainment
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: Three Dublin high school graduates celebrate their freedom with a debaucherously epic bender that results in a very bad accident.
The trio must face up to the most daunting challenges of their young lives as well as face their own inner demons.
The film is very male dominated, and the script just misses the mark. Also, viewers may find it hard to accept these self-absorbed young men. Plus, a lot of the plot is telegraphed.
The cast features the wonderful Anya Taylor-Joy, but she is given very little to do.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 16:9 (enhanced) widescreen picture; English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; English SDH subtitles.
Major Dundee: 2-Disc Limited Edition (Blu-ray)
Details: 1965, Arrow Films
Rated: PG-13, graphic violence, language, sexual situations
The lowdown: Sam Peckinpah’s “Major Dundee” is the stuff of legend — especially its post-production history in which the movie was severely cut, then, 30 years later, restored.
This two-disc set features the 122-minute theatrical and 136-minute extended versions of the movie.
Sources report that Peckinpah’s original cut was 4 hours, 38 minutes, which was eventually edited to 156 minutes.
But, since neither of those versions have seen the light of day, the two in this set are what is available to fans of Peckinpah and the movie.
The story takes place in the last days of the Civil War. Charlton Heston stars as Major Amos Dundee, exiled to command a prisoner-of-war camp in the New Mexico territory.
After a massacre of ranchers and a relief column of cavalry by Apaches, led by Sierra Charriba, Dundee raises a private army comprised of Confederate prisoners, a small group of black soldiers and anyone else he can recruit.
Friction between Dundee and Confederate Capt. Ben Tyreen (Richard Harris), who was once friends with Dundee, arises and makes the campaign the more difficult.
The makeshift command fights, not only among themselves, but Indians and French soldiers of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico.
Despite its checkered history, the movie has earned a 97 percent fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 2.35:1 widescreen picture; English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio monaural; English SDH subtitles.
Don’t miss: Extras include three commentary tracks; a visual essay about the movie’s echoes of “Moby Dick”; interviews with nine actors who worked with Peckinpah, including James Coburn, Ali MacGraw, L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong and David Warner; a talk with filmmaker Mike Siegel about his ongoing project about Peckinpah; extended and deleted scenes, silent outtakes; and a 60-page booklet about the movie.
Invaders of the Lost Gold (Blu-ray)
Release date: June 22
Details: 1982, Severin Films
Rated: Not rated, violence, nudity
The lowdown: In the last days of World War II, a group of Japanese soldiers attempting to hide millions in gold are attacked by a tribe of headhunters.
More than 30 years later, an expedition, led by a veteran and grizzled guide, played by Stuart Whitman, heads into the jungle to search for the lost treasure.
The movie is a story of greed — with violence, murder, nudity, sex and all sorts of exploitative facets included to entice viewers.
The cast includes such veterans as Woody Strode, Harold “Oddjob” Sakata and Edmund Purdom.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, widescreen picture; English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio monaural; English closed-captioned subtitles.
Strike Commando (Blu-ray)
Strike Commando 2 (Blu-ray)
Release date: June 22
Details: 1986, 1988, Severin Films
Rated: Not rated, violence
The lowdown: Both these action movies borrow from such films as “Rambo: First Blood Part,” “Missing in Action,” “Apocalypse Now, “Rambo” and even “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Reb Brown stars as Sgt. Mike Ransom in “Strike Commando” with Brent Huff taking up the role in the sequel.
In “Strike Commando,” Ransom is on a hellbent-for-vengeance mission against merciless Vietcong, evil Russians and double-crossing American officers.
The Philippines jungle runs red as Ransom exacts revenge. The movie costars Christopher Connelly, Luciano Pigozzi and Jim Gaines.
In the sequel, Ransom battles ninjas, KGB agents and rogue CIA agents.
Both films are crammed with violent action, explosions and hand-to-hand combat. And both offer theatrical and extended cuts of the movies.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.85:1 widescreen picture; English and Italian monaural; English and Italian SDH subtitles.
Don’t miss: Extras include interviews with co-screenwriter Claudio Fragasso about both movies, Rossella Drudi on “Strike Commando” and Huff on “Strike Commando 2.”
Action U.S.A. (Blu-ray)
Release date: May 11
Details: 1989, MVD Rewind Collection
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: A action-packed B-movie about a young woman on the run from the goons of a mobster who believes she knows the whereabouts of some gems stolen by the woman’s boyfriend, who was murdered by the hitmen.
Why they killed him without first trying to find out the location of the loot is a question I cannot answer.
Anyway, the movie is long on stunts and explosions, since it was directed by former stuntman John Stewart.
This is your typical southern drive-in fare that is entertaining in its own right.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.78:1 widescreen picture; English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 LPCM; English subtitles.
Don’t miss: Extras include an interview with Stewart, a behind-the-scenes look at the stunt work and a commentary track.
Other titles being released on Tuesday, unless otherwise indicated:
The Perfect Candidate (DVD & VOD) (Music Box Films Home Entertainment)
DIGITAL DOWNLOAD, STREAMING or VOD
In Treatment: Season 4 (HBO Home Entertainment)
Punk the Capital: Building a Sound Movement (PTC Entertainment)
Wrath of Man (Warner Home Entertainment)
No Sudden Move (HBO Max, July 1)
Fear Street Trilogy Part 1: 1994 (Netflix, July 2)
First Date (Magnet Releasing, July 2)
The God Committee (Vertical Entertainment, July 2)
Scenes From an Empty Church (MPI Media Group, July 2)
Summer of Soul (… Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised (Hulu, July 2)
Those Who Wish Me Dead (Warner Home Entertainment, July 2)
The Tomorrow War (Amazon Prime, July 2)
Unchained (Leomark Studios, July 2)
Werewolves Within (IFC Films, July 2)
Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries: Season 2: Episode 6 (Acorn TV, July 5)
I am a founding member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. I review movies, 4K UHD, Blu-rays and DVDs for ReelBob (ReelBob.com), The Film Yap and other print and online publications. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow me on Twitter @ReelBobBloom and on Facebook at ReelBob or the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My movie reviews also can be found at Rotten Tomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.