Labyrinth: 35th Anniversary Edition

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Fantasy;
$40.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Toby Froud, Brian Henson, Ron Mueck.

Master puppeteer Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy Labyrinth is a bit of an odd duck — a bizarre adventure with a chilly reception upon its release that has since become a cult classic. Labyrinth sits alongside similar films such as 1984’s The NeverEnding Story and 1985’s Return to Oz in providing fantastical escapism with slightly darker overtones for a kids movie.

The reason the film’s reputation has grown such as it has is undoubtedly due to David Bowie in the key role of Jareth the goblin king, whose look has become iconic. Casting Bowie afforded Henson the luxury of injecting more songs into the narrative, giving it the feeling of a musical that doesn’t always mesh with the darker elements of the story.

The film was also one of the first roles for Jennifer Connelly, who stars as Sarah, the teenage girl who, annoyed with the constant crying of her baby brother, wishes Jareth would take him away to the land of the goblins — an action she immediately regrets when he indeed shows up to do so. He gives her 13 hours to traverse the maze surrounding his castle and defeat his minions so that she may rescue the baby.

Much of the publicity promoting nostalgia for the film over the years has been to prominently feature Connelly in an elaborate ball gown, playing up the otherworldly high fantasy elements of the story. In fact, this comprises just one short sequence in the film, with Connelly, who was 14 during filming, spending most of the movie in blue jeans like a typical ’80s kid.

The film’s contemporary setting — Sarah is rehearsing for a play based on the goblin lore, hence her familiarity with it — on its own begs the question of how much of Sarah’s adventures are just a dream, though the movie doesn’t offer many clues to suggest it’s anything other than really happening to her. However, like The Wizard of Oz, Sarah’s “real world” offers a number of clues that would seem to influence the goblin world, and it’s fun on subsequent viewings to spot these details in her bedroom.

One of them pointed out by Henson’s son Brian on the new 4K disc is that Sarah has a newspaper clipping of a photo of her mother with Bowie (a photo of Connelly’s actual mother with Bowie) — the implication being that her mother left the family and ran off with Bowie, causing Sarah to subconsciously cast him as the villain in her adventure.

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The story bears more than a passing resemblance to Maurice Sendak’s Outside Over There, which led to some legal controversy before an acknowledgement to Sendak’s work was added to the credits. (Outside Over There, along with The Wizard of Oz and other similar works, are among the books in Sarah’s room).

In addition to Henson and his usual team, Labyrinth also boasts some impressive filmmaking pedigree, with “Monty Python” star Terry Jones getting screenplay credit, and George Lucas assisting with both the script and the editing.

Labyrinth ended up being the final film directed by Henson, who was dismayed by its negative reception. After returning to his forte of children’s television, Henson died in 1990, four years after Labyrinth’s release.

The new 35th anniversary 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition comes in a digibook designed to resemble Sarah’s “Labyrinth” book in the movie. The two-disc set includes the movie on both a 4K disc and a standard Blu-ray Disc.

The regular Blu-ray is the same disc that was released as the 30th anniversary edition in 2016, and includes a commentary track, a picture-in-picture mode and several retrospective featurettes.

The 4K disc includes the film with Dolby Vision, and it looks great despite some dodgy composite shots. The puppetry is expectedly top notch, the key contributor to the film’s sense of fun.

The previously unreleased extras on this set both come on the 4K disc, and include 25 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, plus 55 minutes of footage from the original auditions for the role of Sarah.

The deleted scenes are presented in rough video form, and mostly expand on ideas already in the movie. The scenes are offered with optional commentary by Brian Henson (one of which being a longer scene focused more on the previously mentioned picture of Sarah’s mother).

The audition tapes include actresses such as Molly Ringwald, Tracey Gold of “Growing Pains,” and Back to the Future’s Claudia Wells, among others.

Both the deleted scenes and auditions have an oversight common to such extras on many discs, in that they have a “play all” option but no title cards for each segment, so the only way to identify the segment is to go back to the original menu.

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.

Mark Hamill Honored With Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

“Star Wars” icon Mark Hamill was honored with the 2,630th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a ceremony March 8 in front of the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles with special guests Harrison Ford, George Lucas, Billie Lourd, Kelly Marie Tran and R2-D2. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment releases Star Wars: The Last Jedi digitally in HD and 4K Ultra HD and via Movies Anywhere March 13, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 27.