James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction

DVD REVIEW: 

Street Date 7/28/20;
RLJ;
Documentary;
$34.97 DVD or Blu-ray;
Not Rated.
Featuring James Cameron, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott.

This six-episode documentary series hosted by filmmaker James Cameron should prove a fascinating viewing experience for any fan of the title genre, primarily due to the high-caliber talent on display sharing their insights on the topic.

The series is structured with each episode taking on a different topic within the genre: “Alien Life,” “Space Exploration,” “Monsters,” “Dark Futures,” “Intelligent Machines” and “Time Travel.” They run a shade over 40 minutes each on disc, long enough to fill an hour-long time slot when commercials are added in (the series originally aired on AMC in 2018).

Much of the series follows a typical documentary format tracing the history of the episode’s topic, with analysis from various talking heads in the form of critics, authors, actors and filmmakers. Particular emphasis is placed on the various social, political and philosophical underpinnings of various sci-fi stories throughout history. One primary thesis that arises is the notion that science-fiction isn’t about predicting the future, it’s about choosing our future — an observation that demonstrates why there’s still considerable value to older sci-fi tales that might otherwise seem outdated.

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But the heart of the program involves Cameron sitting for a series of one-on-one interviews with other high-profile directors as they discuss each others work (with no shortage of praise for one another, as could be expected). The stories the directors tell range from the oft-repeated tales that every fan knows, to interesting insights into what guided certain filmmaking decisions, such as how Steven Spielberg adapted much of his childhood into Close Encounters and E.T.

The discussion with George Lucas raises some eyebrows during the A.I. episode, when Cameron says so many movies depict the machines as bad guys, leading to Lucas stating that’s why he decided to depict robots as the good guys in “Star Wars” — the pair apparently sidestepping the fact that Lucas made three “Star Wars” films in which the good guys fought entire armies of evil robots.

Still, the conversations are fun to watch and the various TV and movie clips offer enough nostalgia that any viewer should find something to like.

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The bonus section includes extended interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith and Sigourney Weaver. These run about three to four minutes each.

‘James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction’ Coming to Disc July 28 From RLJE

The sci-fi documentary series “James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction” will come out on DVD and Blu-ray July 28 from AMC Networks’ RLJE Films.

The series originally aired on AMC Networks in 2018 as part of the AMC Visionaries series.

The show, an intimate look at science fiction’s roots, its futuristic vision and our fascination with its ideas, is hosted by Academy Award winner James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic). It features interviews with ‘A’-list storytellers, stars and others whose careers have defined the field of science fiction movies and television. Interviewees include Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), George Lucas (“Star Wars” franchise), Ridley Scott (The Martian, Blade Runner), Christopher Nolan (Tenet, Interstellar), Will Smith (Men in Black, I Am Legend), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Predator, Terminator) and Bruce Willis (Die Hard, The Sixth Sense).

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Bonus features include extended interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Scott, Nolan, Guillermo Del Toro and Schwarzenegger.

Lionsgate Heroes Get Dads Into Action for Father’s Day

Lionsgate has an army of heroes ready to ramp up the action for dads on Father’s Day, June 21. The studio’s catalog is filled with classics that feature iconic characters, including Rambo, John Wick and the Highlander; the genre’s top directors, including James Cameron, Paul Verhoeven and Roland Emmerich; and the genre’s biggest stars, including Sylvester Stallone, Keanu Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis and many more.

All five installments in the saga of Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo are available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from Lionsgate. In First Blood (1982), Stallone originates the role of the war hero, an ex-Green Beret haunted by memories of Vietnam. In Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), with a screenplay by Stallone and James Cameron (Titanic), Rambo’s survival skills are tested on a top-secret mission that takes him back to the jungles of Vietnam in search of American POWs. In Rambo III (1988), the veteran has finally begun to find inner peace inside a monastery — until his friend and men-tor Col. Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) shows up to ask for his help on a top-secret mission in Afghanistan. Rambo (2008) finds the hero leading a group of battle-scarred, combat-hardened mercenaries on a mission to rescue aid workers in war-torn Burma. Finally, Rambo: Last Blood, billed as the last chapter of Rambo’s story, finds Stallone’s tortured warrior in a brief moment of relative peace before he must unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission.

Lionsgate’s catalog also includes the saga of another hero driven by vengeance, John Wick. Keanu Reeves stars as Wick in three chapters available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital. In John Wick (2014), the ex-hitman comes out of retirement to hunt down the gangsters that killed his dog and took everything from him. The sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 finds Wick returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt with a large bounty on his life. In John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, Wick has a $14 million price tag on his head after killing a member of the High Table, the shadowy international assassins’ guild.

No action catalog is complete without Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Lionsgate has two of his iconic movies, Terminator 2, available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital, and Total Recall, available on Blu-ray plus Digital HD, DVD and Digital. In the science-fiction classic Total Recall (1990), directed by Paul Verhoeven, Schwarzenegger plays a mild-mannered construction worker who takes a virtual vacation and finds himself embroiled in espionage on Mars unable to determine if the experiences are real. Director James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) has the action star in another sci-fi classic, reprising his role as a robotic killing machine — this time on the side of humans Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her son John (Edward Furlong).

Another classic 1990s action film, Universal Soldier, is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from Lionsgate. The Roland Emmerich-directed science-fiction actioner (1992) pits Jean-Claude Van Damme against Dolph Lundgren in a story of military experiments gone wrong.

Lionsgate has two star-studded ensembles in 2010’s RED and The Expendables. RED, on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital, stars Bruce Willis as a former black-ops agent who reassembles his old team to battle an assassin. It also stars Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and Mary-Louise Parker. Boasting a who’s who of action stars, The Expendables features Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and many more in the story of a CIA operative who hires a team of mercenaries to eliminate a Latin dictator and a renegade CIA agent. It features an appearance by Schwarzenegger and is also available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

Government intrigue also figures into Sicario, about an idealistic FBI agent enlisted by a task force to aid in a drug war at the border. Available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital, the 2015 dramatic action film stars Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro.

Finally, Lionsgate’s catalog features action-filled adventures Cutthroat Island (1995) and Highlander (1986). Directed by Renny Harlin, Cutthroat Island, available on Blu-ray and DVD, stars Geena Davis as a pirate racing against rivals to find a hidden island harboring treasure. Highlander, also available on Blu-ray and DVD, stars Christopher Lambert as an immortal Scottish swordsman battling through time.

Kids’ Series ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten’ With Arnold Schwarzenegger Coming to Amazon Prime, Alibaba’s Youku

Genius Brands’ children’s animated series “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, will premiere in spring 2021 on Amazon Prime.

Alibaba Group will also launch the series in China on its video streaming platform for kids Youku.

“With Amazon Prime in the U.S. and Alibaba in China, we are very excited to launch on these two premiere platforms in the two largest territories in the world,” said Genius Brands’ chairman and CEO Andy Heyward in a statement.

“Years ago, Stan Lee and I spoke of such a project, and I’m excited to finally bring great storytelling to kids around the world, which will also promote lessons of health, exercise, fitness and anti-bullying,” said Schwarzenegger in a statement.

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“Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten” is an action-adventure comedy series targeting kids 4-7 and is co-produced by Alibaba Group, Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment and Schwarzenegger’s Oak Productions. In addition to his likeness, Schwarzenegger lends his voice as the lead character in the series. Co-creator of Deadpool, Fabian Nicieza, who has sold more than 100 million comics worldwide, is scripting the series.

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In “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” five years ago, a tremendous superhero battle blanketed the small town of Greenvale in cosmic radiation. Shortly thereafter, a previously ordinary, diverse group of boys and girls are showing the most unusual superpowers. Their superpowers, however, rather than coming from Kryptonite, or a radioactive spider, come from items in their kindergarten classroom — white glue, wooden blocks, crayons, silly putty, etc. A kindergarten teacher Arnold Armstrong (Schwarzenegger) arrives in Greenvale to train these super-kids. He knows what it is like to control superpowers, because he used to be Captain Courage, the hero whose final battle resulted in the previously unknown powers of the kids. Their new instructor teaches the kids how to become the heroes of tomorrow.

“This is a series of action, comedy, and fun, based on the genius and imagination of the great creative icon, Stan Lee, and with the important lessons of health, exercise, nutrition, and anti-bullying,” according to the Genius press release. “Just as he appeared as a cameo in all of the Marvel movies, Stan himself will be an animated cameo in each episode, with a digitized recreation of his voice as well.”

“We are gathering steam with our latest tentpole series, ‘Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,’ and are thrilled to have two of the top digital streaming partners worldwide, Amazon and Alibaba, on board as launch partners, reaching a potential global audience of hundreds of millions, as well as the talents of Arnold and the genius that was Stan,” added Heyward. “In an ever-changing children’s media landscape and current viewing patterns of children around the globe, our strategy is to offer this dynamic series where kids predominantly go to find their entertainment now. We know we have a hit on our hands and cannot wait to share it with kids everywhere.”

Terminator: Dark Fate

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 1/28/20;
Paramount;
Sci-Fi Action;
Box Office $ 62.25 million;
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence throughout, language and brief nudity.
Stars Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta.

The “Terminator” films at this point are not so much as a franchise as they are a premise that keeps rebooting itself.

The 1984 original and its 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, otherwise known as the ones directed and co-written by James Cameron, are considered classics in the sci-fi and action genres, and exist well enough on their own as a self-contained duology ruminating about the nature of fate and the increasingly complicated role machines play in our lives.

Without Cameron guiding the franchise, subsequent sequels fell back on the same basic premise of robots from the future hunting a younger version of someone whose destiny is to lead the resistance against the artificial intelligence Skynet and its machines taking over the world. The only wrinkle was in crafting the action scenes and finding new variations of the Terminators hunting the main heroes — usually Sarah Connor and her son, the future resistance leader John — and finding a way to fit the original Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, into the plot.

Needless to say, with each installment, fans became less enthused about revisiting the war against Skynet.

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While 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was the most similar to its predecessors in terms of setting, at least 2009’s Terminator: Salvation pushed the mythology forward by setting the story after the nuclear armageddon of judgment day. But after negative audience feedback for that installment, producers tried a reboot in 2015 with Terminator Genisys, which again tried to put a new spin on the core premise, without much luck (though it did get a thumbs up from Cameron).

Counting the “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” TV series, Terminator: Dark Fate marks the fourth attempt at a direct sequel to Terminator 2 (with Salvation fitting in more or less as a direct sequel to Terminator 3). Key to the latest installment is the return of Cameron to an active role in the franchise as a producer and co-writer, while directing duties were handled by Tim Miller, who established his action bonafides with 2016’s Deadpool. And Linda Hamilton, the original Sarah Connor from the first two films, would return as well.

But after all the hoopla, the end result just seems like another pointless reboot, plugging in a new set of characters into the roles of the original film and adding some overt political subtext.

The film posits that, with the foundation for Skynet eliminated in Terminator 2, that a new AI will eventually cause judgment day and wage war against humanity. So a new Terminator (Gabriel Luna) is sent to kill the young version of the new resistance leader, Dani (Natalia Reyes), while the future resistance sends a protector for Dani, named Grace (Mackenzie Davis).

Meanwhile, remnants from the averted Skynet future, such as an older Sarah Connor (Hamilton) are still around too, and find a way to join the effort to protect Dani.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Luna’s new Rev-9 model is an interesting design, able to separate his liquid skin into a second killing machine for maximum carnage. The fights and action sequences are pretty good. But the main curiosity factor of the film is just seeing how the writers decided to redefine the franchise’s mythology.

Dark Fate has plenty of interesting ideas about the franchise’s mythology, but so did all of the other sequels that it overwrote. By now there are enough alternate versions of what happens next that fans can take or leave them as they please (with most probably preferring the TV show’s take on it).

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In another sign of the times, a sizeable portion of the film’s bonus materials are available as digital exclusives, meaning disc collectors will have to access them through the redemption code included with the Blu-ray. (Buyers of the standalone DVD will get nothing beyond the film itself in paltry standard-def.)

The Blu-ray still contains a hefty amount of extras, particularly a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes that run more than 50 minutes in total.

The 20-minute “A Legend Reforged” deals with creating the new story, while the 33-minute “World Builders” focuses on the production of the film. While these are pretty standard for these kinds of videos, they should satisfy fans of the film looking for more production details.

The Blu-ray also includes nine-minutes of deleted scenes, some of which are alternate set-ups of what’s in the film and others that add a few insights into what happens to the characters.

Two more videos focus on specific sequences: an eight-and-a-half-minute look at the making of the climactic dam fight, and a two-and-a-half-minute visual effects breakdown of creating one of the film’s fictional vehicles.

The digital version includes a full-length commentary with director Miller and editor Julian Clarke, which hints at some of the publicized story disagreements Miller had with Cameron and other members of the production. Millers introduction to and commentary on the deleted scenes also is a digital exclusive.

Rounding out the extras on the digital side are a five-minute featurette about creating a new Terminator villain, a two-and-a-half-minute vignette comparing the various robotic characters of the franchise, and animated pre-visualizations of three of the film’s action sequences.

 

‘Wonders of the Sea’ Documentary on 4K Blu-ray Oct. 1

Screen Media will release the documentary Wonders of the Sea as a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack Oct. 1.

Narrated by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the film presents a unique journey through the world’s oceans and an examination of threats to it.

From Fiji to the Bahamas, explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau and his children Celine and Fabien embark on a journey around the world. Three years of research went into the development of new filming techniques to capture the beauty and mystique of the sea, making viewers feel as if they are diving alongside the Cousteau family.

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Rarely-seen multicolored creatures perform in an exceptionally vibrant underwater world that promises to fascinate, educate and entertain viewers of all ages.

Schwarzenegger Actioner ‘Red Heat’ Due on 4K Ultra HD Oct. 29 From Lionsgate

The action thriller Red Heat will come out Oct. 29 on 4K Ultra HD combo pack (plus Blu-ray and digital) with Dolby Vision from Lionsgate.

From the director of 48 Hrs, the 1988 film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Belushi. It follows a tough Russian policeman who is forced to partner up with a Chicago police detective  to apprehend a Georgian drug lord who killed his partner and fled the country.

The title is coming to 4K as Schwarzenegger returns to the big screen in Terminator: Dark Fate.

Red Heat also stars Peter Boyle, Ed O’Ross, Laurence Fishburne and Gina Gershon.

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Special features include the “Arnold Schwarzenegger — The Man Who Raised Hollywood” featurette; the “Political Context of Red Heat” featurette; the “East Meets West” featurette; the“A Stunt Man for All Seasons” featurette; the “I’m Not Russian, But I Play One on TV” featurette; the “Making of Red Heat” featurette; and the original trailer.

Tubi Licenses ‘The Apprentice’ Catalog Featuring Donald Trump

Ad-supported VOD app Tubi May 6 announced it has secured streaming rights to all 15 seasons of “The Apprentice,” the reality TV show that helped put Donald Trump, his family members and Omarosa on the national stage.

Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted the final season after Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016.

San Francisco-based Tubi secured the rights from MGM, which created the long-running series from 2004 through 2017.

The debut season of “The Apprentice” premiered on NBC delivering an average weekly viewership of 20.7 million and was one of the network’s most-watched series with adults 18-49. The franchise has broadened globally with over 20 localized versions.

Notable U.S. contestants included Bill Rancic, Piers Morgan, Bret Michaels, Arsenio Hall, Trace Adkins, Leeza Gibbons, Khloe Kardashian, Cyndi Lauper, Lil Jon, Vivica A. Fox and Geraldo Rivera, among others.

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Last month, a New York appeals court ruled Trump could not dismiss a sexual defamation lawsuit filed by former contestant Summer Zervos just because he is President.

“In our quest to democratize content and make more premium content accessible, we are making a big push into the reality television space,” Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi said in a statement. “‘The Apprentice’ is our second big series (after Lionsgate’s ‘Anger Management’) announcement this month, and we will have more in the near future.”

Tubi claims to consistently rank as one of the most-watched apps on platforms such as Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Android, among others.

‘Hardbodies,’ ‘Krull,’ ‘Last Action Hero’ Among VHS-Era Classics Due on Blu-ray From Mill Creek in January

Recalling the VHS rental era when the video store reigned, Mill Creek Entertainment in January will release on Blu-ray Disc six of the time periods’ classics, featuring such stars as John Candy, Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Sporting retro art mimicking the VHS release, the Blu-ray collection includes Happy Birthday to Me, Silent Rage, Last Action Hero, Hardbodies, Who’s Harry Crumb? and Krull.

The mystery-shocker Happy Birthday to Me (1981) follows popular high school senior Virginia Wainwright (Melissa Sue Anderson), who survives a freak accident, but suffers from memory loss and traumatic blackouts. As she attempts to resume a normal life, something terrible is happening — her friends are ruthlessly murdered one-by-one. Will she be the next victim or is she the killer? The terrifying truth is finally uncovered at Virginia’s 18th birthday party.

The release is restored with the original soundtrack.

Chuck Norris, six-time World Karate Champion, stars in Silent Rage (1982), his first suspense film, as the tough, street-fighting sheriff of a small Texas town terrorized by a psychotic killer. He is faced with the dilemma of stopping the invincible murderer, made virtually indestructible through genetic engineering. A young group of researchers are responsible for developing the serum, and the head of the research institute is determined to continue the genetic experiments regardless of the consequences. Norris’s sheriff singlehandedly routs a dozen brutal bikers from a truck stop hangout, while rekindling an old romance with Alison Halman (Toni Kalem), a researcher at the institute.

In Last Action Hero (1993), young movie fan Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien) knows the first three Jack Slater movies by heart, and the fourth one is just about to be released. With the aid of a magical ticket, while watching the opening action sequence during an advance screening, Danny is transported into the movie. On the other side of the silver screen, Danny becomes the sidekick of Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the toughest cop on the police force. Complications arise when one of the bad guys takes Danny’s magic ticket and escapes out of the movie into the real world. Danny and his hero must chase the arch villain in the real world, a world where evil guys can actually win.

The film, which includes the song “Big Gun” written for the film by AC/DC, features a number of cameo appearances by stars inlcuding Chevy Chase, Jim Belushi, Sharon Stone, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Damon Wayans.

In the classic teen comedy Hardbodies (1984), three middle-aged geezers move into a swinging beach house and hire a young stud to teach them how to score with the local beauties. The ‘80s band Vixen and hundreds of Southern California swimsuit models co-star in the cult comedy originally made for broadcast on the Playboy Channel but picked up for theatrical release by Columbia. Stars include Grant Cramer, Teal Roberts, Courtney Gains, Kane Hodder and Gary Wood.

The sci-fi fantasy Krull (1983) explores a mystical time and place that belongs to neither the past nor the present, where extraordinary creatures of myth work their incredible magic, and where a horrific, omnipotent Beast is the ruler. Prince Colwyn sets out on a daring mission to rescue his young bride who is held captive by the Beast, but slayers and alien beings under the command of the Beast oppose him at every turn. Colwyn must first reach a faraway cavern to recover the legendary Glaive, a flying blade capable of phenomenal powers.

Directed by Oscar nominee Peter Yates, the film stars Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Liam Neeson and Francesca Annis.

In Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989), John Candy stars as the bumbling private eye Crumb. When Harry, the last of the great sleuthing Crumbs, finally gets a shot at a frontpage kidnapping, it’s only because his boss Eliot Draisen (Jeffrey Jones) doesn’t want the case solved. At stake is the gorgeous daughter of multi-millionaire P.J. Downing, a $10 million ransom, and Draisen’s mistress (Annie Potts). Attired in a bizarre array of goofball disguises, from a Hungarian hairdresser to a hefty housewife, Harry is determined to crack the case.

‘Predator’ Coming Aug. 7 on 4K UHD From Fox

The sci-fi actioner Predator will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and digital (including Movies Anywhere) Aug. 7 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Fox will also release a three-movie collection, with PredatorPredator 2 and Predators, on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD.

Limited-edition steelbook versions will be available at Best Buy and FYE.

In Predator, deep in the jungle, several bodies have been discovered skinned and hanging from trees. Military covert specialist Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team are called in to eliminate the threat. They discover the Predator alien has come to earth with cloaking technology, extensive combat skills and a desire to hunt humans for sport.

Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD bonus features include deleted scenes and outtakes, audio commentary by director John McTiernan, “Inside the Predator” featurettes, “Predator: Evolution of a Species — Hunters of Extreme Perfection,” text commentary by film historian Eric Lichtenfeld, “If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: The Making of Predator,” special effects featurettes, short takes with the filmmakers, a photo gallery, and a Predator profile.