Sci-Fi Fantasy ‘Lion-Girl’ Available on Blu-ray From MVD and Cleopatra

Go Nagai’s science-fiction fantasy Lion-Girl is available on Blu-ray Disc from MVD Entertainment Group and Cleopatra Entertainment.

In the film in the year 20XX, humanity has almost come to an end. A tsunami of meteors have bombarded the entire planet, leaving a very small number of survivors. They kill each other for more food, more power, causing 30 years of bloody civil war. The meteorites contain a mysterious ray inside the rock. If a human being is exposed to this ray, the cells in the body mutate and destroy themselves, causing certain death. But in very rare cases, some humans survive the exposure. Those who get exposed to the space ray and survive undergo a metamorphosis into horrific “meteorite beasts.” People call them Anoroc, and they hunt and kill human beings for their lifeforce. But Earth has the last defender of humanity against Anoroc — Lion-Girl — a superhero Yakuza fighter.

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Special features include director’s commentary, a conversation with Japanese manga legend Go Nagai, a Q&A with key cast members at the Hollywood theatrical premiere, and The Making of Lion-Girl documentary.

Shin Ultraman

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 7/11/23;
MVD/Cleopatra Entertainment;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $0.6 million.
$19.95 DVD, $24.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Akari Hayami, Ryo Iwamatsu, Takumi Saitoh, Tetsushi Tanaka, Masami Nagasawa.

A typo on Amazon listed the running time at 1 minute. Could it be the longest 60 seconds we’ll spend watching a movie this year? The anti-fanboy in me kicked into overdrive at the hint of an effects-driven comic book, manipulating CGI with such opiatic force that viewers are suckered into confusing digitized pyrotechnics with storytelling. Fluent in Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Anthony Mann, and even Infra-Man, Ultraman was, as of yet, virgin territory. Like a visually impaired deaf man taking refuge at a multiplex on a scorching summer day we proceeded with caution, hoping if nothing else that the air conditioning was working. For you fellow duffers out there, let us begin with the title. Why kick in the Shin rather than simply calling it Ultraman? Shin has almost as many different interpretations as shalom. The filmmakers figured they couldn’t miss with a qualifier that conveyed either “new,” “true” or “God.”

It wasn’t until a couple of episodes of the homonymous 1966 “Special Effects Fantasy Series” upon which this was based were under my belt that the accursed purist that lurks within sanctioned the screening. The first TV incarnation was primitively produced campy fluff that one assumes had the same effect on generations to follow that Flash Gordon’s sparkler-propelled tin spaceships had on mine. By the time the series first hit my youthful radar, I was too absorbed by the cult of 007 and U.N.C.L.E. to spare time for Japan’s souped-up sardine can answer to the Jolly Green Giant. Not unlike fellow countryman and kaiju, Godzilla, the cult of Ultraman refused to die as evidenced by the numerous revivals, 37 to be exact, the character has endured throughout the decades.

The Japanese government learns the hard way that it’s going to take more than a tent and a few gallons of orange oil to hamstring the swift rise in effortless destructiveness brought forth by the rampaging colossi currently terrorizing the countryside. A species suppression enforcement unit led by Kimio Tamura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is established to exterminate the pixelated and armor-plated oppressors. Tamura heads up what at first glance appears to be four members of a high school science club whose levels of nerdiness range from Liza Dolittle on the low end to full-blown Screech. Rather than sitting in a war room and staring at a giant map, they gather at a remote location and sit apart transfixed by their laptops. The oddly effective low angle coverage of their workspace appears to be the result of cinematographers Osamu Ichikawa and Keizô Suzuki’s decision to strap a camera on a pooch in celebration of “Take Your Dog to Work Day.”

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Is what we have here a superhero flick or a monster movie? At first blush, Ultraman’s outer-casing is silver, then silver and red, and finally silver and green. (He changes color more often than a mood ring.) Other than size, the most noticeable shared trait between Ultraman and Godzilla is a limit of one facial expression per kaiju. Ultraman is half human, half extraterrestrial. The military’s determined inability to put a dent in the sudden surge of dam-busting, building-crumbling kaiju makes one thing clear: Only a monster can kill a monster. As sure as Glenda’s a good witch, Ultraman is a misunderstood mammoth. Alas, the monsters our hero wages battle against resemble digitized dinosaurs found in video games. Awkward though they might be, the feelings of warmth articulated by a human in a costume over a cold, stiff slab of CGI make for a more immersive experience.

The confrontations keep it moving. If director Shinji Higuchi’s (Shin Godzilla) aim was an adult update of a childhood favorite, why bleep profanity? The period re-creation and twangin’ ’60s score are welcome additions, as is the stream of insightful chuckles contained in Hideaki Anno’s script. It’s brought to our attention that the holes created by monsters’ powerful rays leveling mountains will make it easier for contractors to build highways. In addition to his screenwriting chores, superfan Anno received credit as producer, editor, concept designer, co-cinematographer, music editor, and the man in the Ultraman suit.  

Zarab is extraterrestrial number two, a clothes rack from another planet topped by a fedora, looking to pit countries against each other so that humankind will wipe itself out in the resulting chaos. (Is Ultraman so naive as to think he can take him out with a bullet?) E.T. No. 3 is Mefilas, the only non-CG baddie in the bunch. He’s a good idea gone bad thanks to repetitious comic banter. Growing up, the Toho monster movies never played in their original language. While searching for special features, I scored something much more rewarding than a trailer. If nostalgia is what you’re after, it doesn’t get more authentic than a dubbed English audio track.

 

Horror Flick ‘What the Waters Left Behind: Scars,’ Japanese Sci-Fi Fantasy ‘Shin Ultraman’ Due on Blu-ray and DVD July 11 From MVD and Cleopatra

The horror flick What the Waters Left Behind: Scars and the Japanese science-fiction fantasy Shin Ultraman will be released on disc July 11 from MVD Entertainment Group and Cleopatra Entertainment.

What the Waters Left Behind: Scars is available on Blu-ray and DVD. In the film, after a packed gig in the middle of nowhere and a wild night out, an indie rock band’s RV gets stuck in the middle of nowhere. The situation is tense: there is trouble within the band and member Billy Bob (Matías Desiderio, Palermo Hollywood) lives up to his reputation as the band’s black sheep when he first sleeps with a groupie and then flees. The remaining band members Jane (Clara Kovacic, The 100 Candles Game) and Mark (Juan Pablo Bishel), as well as manager Javi (Agustin Olcese, The Red Book Ritual) and companion Sophie (Eugenia Rigón, Abracadabra) go in search of the ruins of Epecuén. They soon realize not only that they are not alone, but that they are also in acute danger — and that you should also be careful with groupies. Bonus features include trailers and a slide show.

Shin Ultraman, due on Blu-ray and DVD, is a reimagining of one of Japan’s classic superheroes, full of cosmic twists, villains, and giant Kaiju. The 37th film in the “Ultraman” franchise and the second reboot of a tokusatsu series to be adapted by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi — after the success of Shin Godzilla — it was the sixth highest-grossing domestic Japanese film of 2022, earning ¥4.44 billion (roughly $33.5 million). In the film, there’s never a dull day on Japan’s newly established SSSP Kaiju defense taskforce, led by Kimio Tamura, (Hidetoshi Nishijima, Drive My Car). After a particularly challenging encounter, a silver giant descends from the sky to rescue the planet. Dubbed Ultraman, the giant’s identity and purpose are a mystery. Nominated for eight Japan Academy Film Prize Awards (2023), including Best Picture and Best Director, the film also stars Hideaki Anno (Shin Godzilla) as Ultraman, Takumi Saitoh (13 Assassins) and Masami Nagasawa (Before We Vanish). Special features include trailers and a slide show. The Blu-ray features a bonus English-language version.

Horror Film ‘The Long Dark Trail,’ Todd Rundgren Concert Film Due on Disc From Cleopatra and MVD in February

The horror film The Long Dark Trail and the concert film Todd Rundgren —The Individualist Live are due on disc in February from Cleopatra Entertainment and MVD Entertainment Group.

Described as Stand by Me meets Midsommar, The Long Dark Trail, will be released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc Feb. 21. It tells the story of two impoverished teenage brothers who flee home after finally fighting back against their physically abusive father. Hoping to find and reunite with their estranged mother, they embark on a dangerous journey to a cursed forest in Northwestern Pennsylvania, not aware that she has become a disciple of a violent and sadistic cult that dwells there. Bonus features on Blu-ray include a slide show and extra movie trailers.

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Todd Rundgren — The Individualist Live, due Feb. 3, features the musician’s “The Individualist Live” concert, which was filmed and recorded live during the summer of 2019 at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, Penn. Together with long time band members Jesse Gress, Greg Hawkes, Prairie Prince, Bobby Strickland and Kasim Sulton, Rundgren treats the audience to more than two hours of music covering his career of hit songs. The three-disc set includes two audio CDs plus the concert DVD. DVD special features include interviews and interaction between Todd and his fans as he answers some of their questions.

Tracks include:

  • “How About a Little Fanfare / I Think You Know”
  • “Open My Eyes”
  • “Hello It’s Me”
  • “We Gotta Get You a Woman”
  • “I Saw the Light”
  • “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference”
  • “Black Maria”
  • “An Elpee’s Worth of Tunes”
  • “Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel”
  • “Too Far Gone”
  • “A Dream Goes on Forever”
  • “The Death of Rock And Roll”
  • “Can We Still Be Friends”
  • “Real Man”
  • “Love of the Common Man”
  • “Compassion”
  • “Couldn’t I Just Tell You”
  • “Fair Warning”
  • “The Individualist”
  • “Black and White”
  • “Honest Work”
  • “Lost Horizon”
  • “Bag Lady”
  • “Buffalo Grass”
  • “Tiny Demons”
  • “The Want of a Nail”
  • “Fade Away”

Thriller ‘Frost’ Due on Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 11 From Cleopatra and MVD

The thriller Frost will be released on Blu-ray (plus CD) and DVD Oct. 11 from Cleopatra Entertainment and MVD Entertainment Group.

In the film from writer James Cullen Bressack (Hot Seat, Fortress) and director Brandon Slagle (Crossbreed), a young woman, Abby (Devanny Pinn, Ride Along 2), and her estranged father, Grant (Vernon Wells, Commando), fight to survive after being stranded on a remote mountainside during a winter storm.

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The Blu-ray includes a bonus CD soundtrack, slide show and bonus trailers from Cleopatra Entertainment. The soundtrack features contributions by Rick Wakeman (YES), Geoff Downes (YES/ASIA) and Terry Reid. The DVD includes the slide show and bonus trailers.

‘Atlanta Rhythm Section’ Anthology, Horror Film ‘A Taste of Blood’ Among Titles on Disc From MVD and Cleopatra in May

The concert films Atlantic Rhythm Section: Sound and Vision Anthology and Grounded With the Goo Goo Dolls and the horror film A.K. Tolstoy’s A Taste of Blood are being released on disc from MVD Entertainment Group and Cleopatra Entertainment in May.

Southern Rock group Atlanta Rhythm Section presents a multimedia package featuring studio and live recordings in Atlantic Rhythm Section: Sound and Vision Anthology on DVD plus CD May 6. The disc includes new versions of the band’s biggest hits “Imaginary Lover,” “So Into You” and “Spooky” plus cover versions of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bachman Turner Overdrive, ZZ Top and more. The DVD features video and audio of a full concert performance. Additional bonus content on the DVD includes an interview with key band members, a band biography, discography and more.

Available May 20 is the concert film Grounded With the Goo Goo Dolls on Blu-ray plus CD and DVD. In the midst of the pandemic, the Goo Goo Dolls put on a  rock show of their most popular songs on an Augmented Reality FanTracks Stage. From the heartfelt “Indestructible” to other hits such as “Iris,” the band played a twenty-plus song back catalog for a career-spanning set live from Thunder Studios in Long Beach, Calif. Viewers can enjoy the full slick, multi-camera angled show.

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Based on Aleksey Tolstoy’s 1839 short story “The Family of the Vourdalak,” A.K. Tolstoy’s A Taste of Blood, due on Blu-ray and DVD May 10, tells the story of a man, who after going off to kill a vampire, returns home at the magic hour, between night and day. His family has doubts about whether he’s still human or whether he’s been bitten by the undead. His teenage daughter is determined to defend him, but doubts and fears grow as the darkness of the night approaches. The Blu-ray includes a bonus CD soundtrack.

Horror Film ‘The Hex’ Available on DVD From MVD

The horror film The Hex is available on DVD from MVD Entertainment Group and Cleopatra Entertainment.

In the film, a grieving girl unravels her murdered mother’s secrets connected to a witch doctor’s curse. She wants to put an end to this haunting hex by traveling to where it originated, but her journey casts her deeper into sinister depths.

Directed by Reine Swart (Z Nation, The Lullaby, Dominion, Detour), the film stars Coco Lloyd (Trypophobia), Mary-Anne Barlow (Wild at Heart, Prey) and Christopher Jaftha (Table Manners, Bedford Wives).

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Extras include the theatrical trailer and image slideshow.

Concert Film ‘Delta Rae — Coming Home to Carolina’ Due on Blu-ray Combo Nov. 20 From MVD

The concert film Delta Rae — Coming Home to Carolina will come out as a Blu-ray combo pack (with DVD and bonus CD soundtrack) Nov. 20 from Cleopatra Entertainment and MVD Entertainment Group.

Earthy, familial alt-pop outfit Delta Rae juggles gospel-tinged country-rock, sensual-soul and harmony-laden Americana. Formed in 2009 as a four-piece around the talents of siblings Ian, Eric and Brittany Hölljes, along with Elizabeth Hopkins, the North Carolina-based band expanded to a sextet the following year with the additions of Mike McKee and Grant Emerson. In 2011 the group inked a deal with Sire/Warner Bros. The resulting Carry the Fire, their major-label debut, arrived in 2012. Carry the Fire reached No. 11 on the U.S. Heatseekers chart and No. 13 on the folk chart. Delta Rae released their second album, After It All, in the spring of 2015. Following a relocation to Nashville, the band signed with Big Machine in 2017 and issued a pair of EPs — “A Long and Happy Life” and “The Blackbird Sessions” — in quick succession. The front part of 2019 saw a spate of new singles, though in July of that year, Delta Rae announced their departure from Big Machine following a massive company buyout. Choosing to go independent, they quickly launched a crowd-funding campaign for their next release, a two-part double album called The Light & the Dark. The first volume, The Light, appeared in March 2020.

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The concert film Coming Home to Carolina was filmed with 14 4K Ultra HD cameras, before hometown fans in Raleigh, N.C., during their final shows one week before Christmas, from their highly successful 2019 sold out “Take Me There” tour, that features some of the bands biggest hits including “Take Me There,” “Down by the River” and “Dance in the Graveyard” interspersed with scenic performance scenes at Raleigh River, interview segments at the band’s home where they recorded most of their first album of songs, ending in a bonfire jam at the Local Watering Hole.

Tracks include:

  • “Take Me There”
  • “Holding on to Good”
  • “Outlaws”
  • “Out of the Badlands”
  • “Country House”
  • “Surrounded”
  • “Pay No Rent”
  • “Any Better Than This”
  • “The Wrong Ocean”
  • “If I Loved You”
  • “Morning Comes”
  • “Bottom of the River”
  • “The Chain”
  • “Dance in the Graveyards”

 

‘Le Choc Du Futur’ Coming to DVD Nov. 10 From MVD

Cleopatra Entertainment and MVD Entertainment Group will release the electronic music drama Le Choc Du Futur (The Shock of the Future) Nov. 10.

The film, which premiered at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival, takes place in the Paris of 1978, when old formulas do not charm listeners anymore, creating the need for new music to arise in its place. In an extremely male-dominated industry, Ana (Alma Jodorowsky) uses her electronic gadgets to make herself heard, creating a new sound that will mark the decades to come: the music of the future.

The DVD release also includes an exclusive interview with director Marc Collin, a slide show and other bonus features.

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Concert Film ‘Judy Collins & Jonas Fjeld,’ Horror Film ‘Daddy’s Girl’ Coming to DVD in September from MVD, Cleopatra

Two films from Cleopatra Entertainment are coming on DVD in September from MVD Entertainment Group: the concert film Judy Collins & Jonas Fjeld and the horror film Daddy’s Girl.

Due Sept. 11 is Judy Collins & Jonas Fjeld. In the concert film, Judy Collins — along with Norwegian folk artist Jonas Fjeld and Americana band Chatham County Line — perform at the Oslo Opera House. Filmed in February 2020 on the heels of the newly formed groups’ studio release Winter Stories, the DVD and companion CD is a collection of classics, new tunes and a few surprises. Tracks include “Mountain Girl,” “City of New Orleans,” “Winter Stories,” “Sweet Refrain,” “Northwest Package,” “Wildwood,” “When Morning Comes to America,” “Hun Kom Som En Engel,” “River,” “Angels in the Snow,” “Highwayman,” “Frozen North,” “Bury Me With My Guitar On,” “Both Sides Now” and “Amazing Grace.”

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Coming Sept. 29 is Daddy’s Girl. In the horror film, Zoe is a young woman held captive by her stepfather after the suicide of her mother. A former Abu Ghraib prison guard and now prolific serial killer, her stepfather trawls local bars using Zoe as bait to attract new, young female victims. A string of missing persons soon captures the attention of a rookie cop and a vigilante who both attempt to catch the evasive and sadistic killer. Bonus features a slide show and trailer. The film’s director won Best Director at the 2019 International Fantasy Film Awards, and the film was nominated for Best Independent Feature Film by the National Film & Television Awards.