Laserblast, September 7: Supernatural, Smallville, Hatchet

Also this week: FORBIDDEN PLANET, DOCTOR WHO, TOMMY, PHANTOM, TMNT, TCM Hammer Horror Collection, and more!

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Tuesday, September 7 is filled with more DVDs and Blu-ray discs than store shelves can possibly hold. Not all of them are new titles – many are re-issues – but there are more than enough worthwhile offerings to make a serous dent in a dedicated collector’s pocketbook. Read on, to see what’s in store…
SUPERNATURAL: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON arrives on 6-disc DVD and a 4-disc  Blu-ray set. Bonus features include “Supernatural: Apocalypse Survival Guides – Bobby’s Exclusive Video Collection,” “Ghostfacers: The Web Series,” Producer-Writer Commentary on Episode 4, The End,” Unaired Scene from Episode 9,The Real Ghostbusters,” and a Gag Reel.
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If that’s not enough television for you, this week  offers up SMALLVILLE: THE COMPLETE NINTH SEASON, which also arrives in a 6-disc DVD set and a 4-disc Blu-ray set. Extras include “Kneel Before Zod” (a look at the Kryptonian criminal), “Justice for All” (the Smallville creative team bring the Justice Society of America to television for the first time), and Cast-Creator Commentaries on episodes “Idol” and” Kandor.”
SyFy Channel’s PHANTOM, an adaptation of the pulp action hero, also makes its way onto home video in the DVD and Blu-ray formats. That’s just about it for high-profile new titles; fortunately, lots of older stuff is resurfacing from the vault.
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Horror hounds will now get to see Victor Crowley’s predations in the magic of high-def, thanks to a Blu-ray release of HATCHET; the disc ports over the bonus material from the previous DVD release and adds a new audio commentary from writer-director Adam Green (whose recent film FROZEN arrives later this month). HATCHET 2 is currently appearing at film festivals, so you better catch up with the first one.
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Fans of classic cinematic science fiction will want to pick up FORBIDDEN PLANET on Blu-ray. The film has been released on DVD in several forms, including a tin collector’s set, but its lovely production design and colorful special effects demand the image resolution that only high-def can provide.
Three DOCTOR WHO titles arrive on DVD this week: PLANET OF FIRE and THE KING’S DEMONS (starring Peter Davison) and THE CREATURE FROM THE PIT (starring Tom Baker).
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Writer-director Ken Russell’s outrageous film fantasy TOMMY, based on The Who’s seminal rock opera, has been remastered and restored in high-def picture and sound for its Blu-ray debut, 35 years after the film reached theatres back in 1975. Unfortunately, the disc lacks featurettes and audio commentary, even though most of the principals are still around, including Russell, Roger Daltrey (who plays the lead), and Pete Townshend (who created the opera and supervised the music).
Previously available titles reappearing on DVD include:

  • K-PAX (Collector’s Edition)
  • JURASSIC PARK III (Widescreen Collector’s Edition)

Previously available titles arrving in Blu-ray include:

  • THX 1138
  • LOST IN SPACE (with William Hurt)

There is also a 6-FILM HORROR BLURAY COLLECTION, featuring the likes of HAUNTING OF WINCHESTER HOUSE and I AM OMEGA. Plus the usual direct-to-video obscurities.
Have fun!

Stardust coming to Blu-ray on September 7

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click to pre-order

Paramount has sent out a press release announcing that STARDUST (2007) will make its U.S. Blu-ray debut on September 7. The good-natured fantasy film – based on the novel by Neil Gaiman – was previously available on DVD and Region 2 Blu-ray disc. The new Blu-ray disc will port over bonus features from the DVD release and add some new ones, including audio commentary and an extensive behind-the-scenes featurette. STARDUST was adapted for the screen by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn; the later also directed. Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Robert DeNiro star.
Read the press release below:

Prepare for a magical journey filled with witches, pirates, maidens and true love as STARDUST makes its Blu-ray debut on September 7, 2010 from Paramount Home Entertainment. The epic adventure stars Claire Danes as Yvaine, the embodiment of a fallen star, who is pursued by the youthful and inexperienced Tristan (Charlie Cox) because he believes that retrieving the star will win him the heart of the village beauty (Sienna Miller). But a ruthless witch named Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) has other plans for Yvaine—she intends to eat her heart to gain eternal youth. As Tristan attempts to protect Yvaine, they encounter a number of wildly entertaining characters, including Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro), a much-feared seafarer who is partial to performing the can-can. Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, the rollicking fairy tale is filled with action, humor and stunning visuals and will leave viewers believing in the power of true love.
The STARDUST Blu-ray features “Crossing the Wall: The Making of Stardust”, a new behind-the-scenes documentary that takes viewers on a journey into the supernatural kingdom of Stormhold, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, as well as a new commentary by writer and director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman and a new featurette entitled “Nothing is True…”.
The STARDUST Blu-ray is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Castilian Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Latin American Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital with English, English SDH, French, Danish, German, Castilian Spanish, Latin American Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Finnish and Swedish subtitles. The disc includes the following new bonus features:

  • Commentary by writer and director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman
  • Crossing the Wall: The Making of Stardust (HD): The Quest for the Stone; A Portal to Another World; What Do Stars Do?; A Quest of Enormous Importance; Have You Seen a Fallen Star?
  • Nothing Is True…(HD)

The following previously released bonus features are also included on the disc:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Blooper Reel
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)


Stardust – Fantasy Film Review

This genre film is not very generic, which is to say it has a distinctive personality that sets it apart from run-of-the-mill fairy tale films. The personality happens to be British (despite the American stars), but that’s all to the better: the ghosts, witchcraft, flying pirates, and other fantastic imagery filling the film are treated with a distinctive touch of deadpan black humor that prevents STARDUST from lapsing into formulaic family fantasy film-making. It’s not Monty Python or HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, but if you have a taste for either of those, you should be on the correct wavelength to receive transmissions from this particular star.
The story follows young Tristran (Charlie Cox), whose father crossed the wall that separates an English village of Wall from an enchanted land, where a dalliance with a Princess in servitude to a witch resulted in the conception of our hero. In order to gain the love of the lovely Victoria (Sienna Miller), Tristran follows in his father’s footsteps, crossing the wall to retrieve a fallen star. The star, however, turns out to be in the lovely human form of Yvaine (Claire Danes). For reasons of their own, Yvaine is also being sought by the witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) and by the surviving heir to the magical kingdom (who has killed off his brethren to insure in ascension to the throne).
The coming attractions trailer does a poor job of representing the film, suggesting an insipid, almost childish comic fantasy. STARDUST contains humor to be sure, but it tends to be of the quirky, English variety, and the tone is distinctly adult, although children should be pleasantly amused. Contrasting with the whimsical charm and romantic adventure, we see witches divining the future by carving up the entrails of harmless animals; there is a wonderful running gag about the growing ranks of dead heirs to the throne, who must remain on Earth as ghosts until a new king is finally selected; and to top it all off, the film serves up a decapitation when Lamia grows tired of a rival witch. Not your typical Disney film by a long-shot.
One of the many droll highlights is Robert DeNiro’s turn as a pirate (who literally captures lightening in a bottle) named Captain Shakespeare. Although he poses before his crew as a threatening, murderous rogue, the captain has a softer, effeminate side that he reveals to Tristran and Yvaine in private. In plot terms this explains why he aids the besieged couple (who certainly could use some aid, considering that they are pursed by multiple villains), but the true value lies in the bizarre delights of seeing Travis Bickle turned into a transvestite. (The trailer’s brief glimpse of DeNiro is unimpressive; the revelation that he is hiding a personal secret makes sense of his off-kilter performance.)
Danes is lovely and convincing as Yvaine, a role that could have been a non-descript love interest. Being non-human, she has none of the personality quirks that distinguish the other characters; her only distinctive characteristic is her disparaging, almost but not quite modern “attitude” toward the naive Tristran. As the male lead, Cox initially seems too boyishly bland, but that is merely part of the film’s strategy, which charts his change into a dashing romantic hero. (If he can do it, there is hope for us all!) If one were forced to make comparisons, it would be to Orlando Bloom As Will Turner, but frankly, Cox has more genuine panache, and the romantic triangle in STARDUST is handled far more deftly than the belabored soap opera theatrics in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN sequels.

Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia
Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia

Peter O’Toole shows up for a few moments of fun as the dying king, who is amazed to see that he still have four out of seven sons living (he had killed his brothers long before his own father’s death). Rupert Everett generates laughs as the first royal heir we see tossed to his death by a rival brother. However, the real scene-stealer is Pfeiffer, who has not had this much fun on screen since playing CATWOMAN in 1992’s BATMAN RETURNS. As the evil Lamia, she makes Glenn Close’s Cruella DeVille in 1010 DALMATIANS look like a mildly annoying spoiled brat in comparison.
The only area where STARDUST sometimes falls to Earth is in the special effects department. The early attempts to wow the audience with visual pyrotechnics feel like a desperate attention-grabbing device, as if fearful that bored viewers will walk out if there is nothing spectacular in the first five minutes. The computer-generated imagery is distinctly lacking in magic and often ill-conceived; for example, the falling star is astronomical in approach, suggesting science-fiction rather than fantasy. Fortunately, at some point the filmmakers seem to realize that the effects work best when they are punctuating magical moments in the story; from then on, they augment the fairy-tale feeling of the film.
A bit like SHREK, STARDUST puts a spin on familiar fairy tales; this is, thankfully, not a made-to-order fantasy flick. The oddball elements may surprise viewers expecting something a bit more ordinary in approach, but the surprise should be a pleasant one, even for those without a predilection for quirky British humor. The nice thing about STARDUST is that, for all the knowing winks at the audience, it never undermines the magic and romance at the heart of the story, which works just as well as – in fact much better than – more earnest endeavors. It just goes to show that you can have your cake and eat it too, even with your tongue pressed in your cheek.

Fallen star Yvaine (Clare Danes) astride a unicorn.

STARDUST (2007). Directed by Matthew Vaugn. Screenplay by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn, from the novel by Neil Gaiman. Cast: Clare Daines, Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mark Strong, Jason Fleming, Sienna Miller, Robert DeNiro, Peter O’Toole, Rupert Everett