Comedy ‘Clifford,’ Peckinpah’s ‘Killer Elite’ Among Titles Due on Blu-ray From Ronin Flix and MVD June 7

The comedies Clifford and The Heavenly Kid and the action films The Killer Elite, from director Sam Peckinpah, and The Mechanic, starring Charles Bronson, are being released on Blu-ray June 7 from Ronin Flix and MVD Entertainment Group.

Starring Martin Short (Three Amigos, Innerspace) as a smart, hyperactive and dangerous 10-year-old, Clifford (1994) co-stars Charles Grodin (Midnight Run, The Heartbreak Kid), Mary Steenburgen (Melvin and Howard, Time After Time) and Dabney Coleman (9 to 5, WarGames). In the film, young Clifford has a lifelong dream: to visit the Dinosaur World theme park. Happily, his uncle Martin (Grodin) has agreed to take him. But when Martin suddenly reneges on his promise, Clifford hatches a devious plan to get even and teach his uncle that all work and no play makes Clifford a very bad boy.

In The Heavenly Kid (1985), Lenny Barnes (Jason Gedrick, Iron Eagle, TV’s “Boomtown”) gets divine intervention to educate him in the ways of love from a hip guardian angel, Bobby Fantana (Lewis Smith, Wyatt Earp, Southern Comfort, TV’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth”), a former rebel-without-a-cause. Fantana helps to mold Lenny into the king of cool so Fantana can finally earn his entry into Heaven. After Bobby gives Lenny an extreme makeover, Lenny learns that being popular isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The film also stars Jane Kaczmarek (TV’s “Malcolm in the Middle,” D.O.A., All’s Fair), Richard Mulligan (TV’s “Empty Nest,” Soap, Scavenger Hunt) and Nancy Valen (TV’s “Baywatch,” Final Embrace). Special features include interviews with stars Lewis Smith and Nancy Valen; audio commentary by director Cary Medoway, moderated by Jeff McKay; and the theatrical trailer.

In Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite (1975), elite assassins Mike Locken (James Caan, Rollerball, The Godfather, Misery) and George Hansen (Robert Duvall, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather) take on jobs too risky for even the CIA to handle. They’re best friends, superior marksmen and on the ‘A’-list when it comes to killing. But when one high-powered hitman betrays another, the intrigue, the violence and the thrills become more than just a dangerous game of who-kills-whom first. It becomes a very personal war. Directed by Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, The Getaway, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia), the film also stars Arthur Hill (Future World, The Andromeda Strain, Harper), Bo Hopkins (A Small Town in Texas, Mutant, Midnight Express), Burt Young (Rocky, Amityville II, Convoy), Mako (The Sand Pebbles, An Eye for an Eye, Conan the Barbarian), Helmut Dantine (The Story of Mankind, The Wilby Conspiracy) and Academy Award winning actor Gig Young (They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Game of Death, The Tunnel of Love). Special features include interviews with Bo Hopkins and production assistant Katy Haber; audio commentary with film historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and Nick Redman; TV and radio spots; and the original trailer.

In The Mechanic, Arthur Bishop (Charles Bronson) is a mob hit man who operates in an uncompromising world where conventional rules of morality don’t apply and one wrong move could cost him his life. He’s always worked alone; but, as age catches up with him, Bishop takes on a competent and ruthless apprentice and teaches him everything he knows. Together they become an unmatchable team of globetrotting killers until the pupil’s ruthlessness puts him on a collision course with his teacher. Special features include an interview with writer Lewis John Carlino; audio commentary with author Paul Talbot (“Bronson’s Loose” book series); audio commentary with cinematographer Richard H. Kline, moderated By Nick Redman; and the theatrical trailer.

Breakout

BLU-RAY DISC REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Action;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13.’
Stars Charles Bronson, Robert Duvall, Jill Ireland, Randy Quaid, John Huston, Sheree North, Emilio Fernán.

A year after Death Wish made him the king of the vigilantes, Charles Bronson stars as Nick Colton, a private bush pilot hired by a woman (Jill Ireland) to free her husband (Robert Duvall) from a Mexican prison.  Bronson and his crew, Hawk (Randy Quaid) and Myrna (Sheree North), perform said task with the quasi-comic aplomb typical of action films from the polyester decade. Breakout is certainly not Bronson at his best, but it’s a popcorn pleaser, one of those Friday-night-at-the-drive-in movies that probably worked best when viewed by a car full of teenagers sipping Coke and doing whatever.

And for fans of 1970s kitsch, like me, buying this movie is a no-brainer. Is it really something I’m going to watch once, twice, then again a few years later? The answer is an emphatic yes.

The film has been cleaned up nicely for its high-definition debut, arriving on Blu-ray Disc exactly 20 years after it was issued on DVD by what was then Columbia TriStar Home Video. (A 2019 Blu-ray, from Powerhouse Films, was only available in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Australia/New Zealand). 

Released under Kino Lorber’s Studio Classics banner, Breakout comes with an audio commentary by film historian Paul Talbot, author of two books on Bronson: Bronson’s Loose: The Making of the ‘Death Wish’ Films and Bronson’s Loose Again! On the Set with Charles Bronson. The Blu-ray Disc also comes with assorted trailers, TV spots and radio spots.

Days of Thunder

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Drama;
$29.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13.’
Stars Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Randy Quaid, Nicole Kidman, Michael Rooker, Cary Elwes, John C. Reilly, Fred Dalton Thompson.

Almost immediately upon its release in 1990, Days of Thunder was labeled by critics as a car racing version of Top Gun, a reputation that isn’t exactly unearned.

Days of Thunder shares the same production team of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, the same director in Tony Scott, and also stars Tom Cruise, who plays another hotshot looking to fulfill his need for speed with reckless abandon.

In this case, Cruise’s character is named Cole Trickle, an Indy circuit washout looking to make a name for himself in NASCAR. He takes on the mentorship of a master pit crew chief played by Robert Duvall, but a devastating crash shakes his confidence.

Robert Towne’s screenplay (with Cruise sharing a story credit) throws not one but two rivals at Trickle. First is Michael Rooker’s Rowdy Burns, the top dog of the circuit whose career is cut short in the same wreck that impairs Cole. When they become fast friends due to shared misfortune, Rowdy asks Cole to take over his racing team, setting up the showdown with rival No. 2, another rookie driver named Russ Wheeler, played by Cary Elwes, whose blink-and-you’ll-miss-it introduction obscures a rise through the ranks so unexpectedly rapid that one wonders why the movie isn’t about him.

The requisite love interest, which like with Top Gun comes with professional complications, is Cole’s and Rowdy’s neurologist, played by Nicole Kidman, who was 22 at the time of filming lest anyone wish to question the likelihood of her character’s medical credentials. The swirling rumors of the day suggested Cruise became enamored with Kidman after seeing her in 1989’s Dead Calm and arranged for her to be in Days of Thunder so they could meet. When 1990 began he had been married to Mimi Rogers, but divorced her in February. Cruise and Kidman were married from December 1990, six months after Days of Thunder hit theaters, to 2001.

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For the most part, Days of Thunder comes across as a series of exciting racing scenes and establishing shots of NASCAR speedways strung together with a by-the-numbers plot and some perfunctory dialogue. Duvall is as good as he usually is, while Cole Trickle is such a stock character in the Tom Cruise mold that naming him is more a screenwriting formality than a necessity of the story.

This new edition of Days of Thunder is presented as both a standalone Blu-ray under the “Paramount Presents” label, as well as a 4K Ultra HD disc with digital copy. The 4K version doesn’t come with a separate Blu-ray Disc, which is something of a break from the industry norm of 4K/Blu-ray combo packs, so consumers will have to pick whether they want the higher-definition resolution of the 4K version or the fancy Paramount Presents slipcover with fold-out movie poster. The film looks great either way, particularly because the racing footage is so good.

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The new Days of Thunder Blu-ray seems to have avoided the fate of most of the other titles in the Paramount Presents line, which to this point has offered Blu-ray re-releases with most of the bonus materials from previous editions left out this go-around (it seems anything previously available only in SD got the axe, with maybe a new short retrospective featurette to replace it).  That’s because the previous Days of Thunder Blu-ray from 2008 had zero extras on it aside from the film’s trailer, so anything offered here is a step up. The extras, sparse as they may be, are the same on both the Blu-ray and 4K discs.

The new discs don’t include the trailer, but they do have a seven-minute “Filmmaker Focus” featurette which is essentially a retrospective interview with Bruckheimer interspersed with clips from the movie.

There’s also an isolated audio track containing just Hans Zimmer’s musical score, his first of many collaborations with the Bruckheimer/Simpson team. Zimmer’s music is a highlight of the movie, but compared with the rest of Zimmer’s works it comes across as one of the more generic efforts in a career built on establishing a baseline sound for reliable action cues.

‘Apocalypse Now’ 40 Years Later

The acclaimed Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now has been a saga in more ways than one, plagued by a change of lead ac­tors from Harvey Keitel to Mar­tin Sheen, a typhoon in the Phil­ippines and Sheen’s heart attack during filming, critical and skeptical press, and multiple edits.

But this month for its 40th anniversary director Francis Ford Coppola re­leases what he considers his “final cut.”

Apocalypse Now Final Cut will be released in select Imax theaters Aug. 15 and 18, followed by region­al theaters Aug. 23 from NAGRA myCinema, and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (two 4K discs, four Blu-ray discs and a digital copy) and digital 4K Ultra HD (for the first time ever) Aug. 27 featuring new special features from Li­onsgate. The release includes Dolby Vision HDR and Dol­by Atmos audio. In addition, the film has been enhanced with Meyer Sound Labo­ratories’ newly developed Sensual Sound, a technology engineered to output audio below the limits of human hearing. It’s all to realize the best version of the film. “A lot of the things that we did to truncate the movie I put back in this version,” said Coppola in a Q&A shot at the Tribeca Film Festival in April with director Steven Soder­bergh that is part of the extras.

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As for the problems that beset the production, doc­umented in the award-winning Hearts of Darkness (also included in the extras with footage shot during filming by Coppola’s wife, Eleanor), Coppola told So­derbergh, “In filmmaking and in life, extraordinary things happen to you, and it’s up to you to make them be positive.”

Brando

Restored from the original negative for the first time ever, Apocalypse Now Fi­nal Cut is Coppola’s most realized version of the film, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards, won three Golden Globes and is one of AFI’s top 100 films. Starring Sheen, Marlon Bran­do, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hop­per, Laurence Fishburne and Harrison Ford, the war epic, in­spired by Joseph Conrad’s story Heart of Darkness, follows Army Capt. Willard (Sheen), a trou­bled man sent on a dangerous odyssey into Cambodia to assassi­nate a renegade American colonel named Kurtz (Brando), who has succumbed to the horrors of war and barricaded himself in a remote outpost.

Duvall

“I had this idea to do it like The Guns of Navarone, some extraor­dinary, big World War II movie,” Coppola told Soderbergh. “The irony is that the movie took on its own life, became stranger and more surreal, and in a sense, I think it went in a direction correct for that issue — because the Viet­nam War was very strange.”

The very innovative nature of the film made Coppola cautious and worried. He decided to release a “work in progress” of the film at the Cannes Film Festival to allay critics who were calling it a disas­ter. It ended up winning the Palme d’Or triumph at the festival in 1979 (shared with The Tin Drum).

His caution resulted in a truncated cut of the film that he later expanded in the 2001 release Apocalypse Now Redux. But this is his ultimate cut.

“I realized that I wanted to make a version that I like,” Coppola said in the introduction to Final Cut included in the extras. “It was longer than the 1979 version but shorter than Apocalypse Now Redux, and it’s the one that I recommend to you and it’s the one that is my favorite.”

The 40th anniversary release features multiple archival and new special features, including the film’s theatrical cut and extended cut (Redux), as well as the acclaimed Hearts of Darkness documentary:

 

4K UHD SPECIAL FEATURES

DISC ONE

  • NEW: Introduction to Final Cut by Francis Ford Coppola

 

DISC TWO

  • Audio Commentary by Director Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now Redux)

 

DISC THREE

  • An Interview with screenwriter John Milius
  • A Conversation with Martin Sheen and Francis Ford Coppola
  • “Fred Roos: Casting Apocalypse” Featurette
  • The Mercury Theatre on the Air: Heart of Darkness – November 6, 1938
  • “The Hollow Men” Featurette
  • Monkey Sampan “Lost Scene”
  • Additional Scenes
  • “Destruction of the Kurtz Compound” End Credits (with Non-Optional Audio Commentary by Francis Ford Coppola)
  • “The Birth of 5.1 Sound” Featurette
  • “Ghost Helicopter Flyover” Sound Effects Demonstration
  • “The Synthesizer Soundtrack” Article by Bob Moog
  • “A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now” Featurette
  • “Heard Any Good Movies Lately? The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now” Featurette
  • “The Final Mix” Featurette
  • “2001 Cannes Film Festival: Francis Ford Coppola” Featurette
  • “PBR Streetgang” Featurette
  • “The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now” Featurette
  • Disc Credits

 

DISC FOUR

  • Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (with Optional Audio Commentary by Francis and Eleanor Coppola)
  • NEW: Tribeca Film Festival Q&A with Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Soderbergh
  • NEW: Super 8mm Behind-the-Scenes Footage
  • NEW: “Dutch Angle: Chas Gerresten & Apocalypse Now” Featurette
  • NEW: “Apocalypse Now: A Forty Year Journey” Featurette
  • NEW: “Sensual Sound Technology from Meyer Sound” Featurette
  • John Milius Script Excerpt with Francis Coppola Notes (Still Gallery)
  • Storyboard Collection
  • Photo Archive

–            Unit Photography

–            Mary Ellen Mark Photography

  • Marketing Archive

–            1979 Teaser Trailer

–            1979 Theatrical Trailer

–            1979 Radio Spots

–            1979 Theatrical Program

–            Lobby Card and Press Kit Photos

–            Poster Gallery

–            Apocalypse Now Redux Trailer

 

DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Audio Commentary by Director Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now Redux)

TV Miniseries ‘Lonesome Dove’ Riding to Blu-ray Steelbook July 9 From Mill Creek

The TV miniseries Lonesome Dove is coming in a special edition steelbook Blu-ray July 9 from Mill Creek Entertainment for its 30th anniversary.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Larry McMurtry and set in the late nineteenth century, the sprawling epic of the Old West is the story of the last defiant frontier, a daring cattle drive and an undying love. Augustus McCrea (Robert Duvall) and Woodrow F. Call (Tommy Lee Jones), former Texas Rangers, are partners and friends who have shared hardship and danger. Gus is the romantic, a reluctant rancher who has a way with women and the sense to leave well enough alone. Call is a driven, demanding man, a natural authority figure with no patience for weakness. He is obsessed with the dream of creating a new homestead. The two men could hardly be more different, but both are tough fighters who have learned to count on each other, if nothing else. Call’s dream not only drags Gus along in its wake, but also draws in a group of fearless wranglers, trackers and scouts. Through sandstorms, stampedes, bandits, floods and snow, these characters live on to become legends of the great American West.

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Winner of seven Emmy Awards, and one of the highest rated miniseries in television history, Lonesome Dove also stars Diane Lane, Danny Glover, Angelica Huston, Robert Urich, Steve Buscemi, D.B. Sweeney, Ricky Schroder and Chris Cooper.

Special features include a making-of featurette; cast interviews; on location with director Simon Wincer; original sketches and concept drawings; and an interview with McMurtry.

‘The Natural’ Swinging to 4K Ultra HD From Sony

For its 35th Anniversary, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing the baseball film classic The Natural on 4K Ultra HD disc and in 4K via participating digital platforms June 4.

In the film, Robert Redford stars as Roy Hobbs, who seemingly comes out of nowhere to become a legendary baseball player with almost divine talent. But on his way to stardom in the big leagues, Hobbs’s dreams are shattered when a mysterious woman and a silver bullet end his career prematurely. Sixteen years later, Hobbs finds himself coming back to baseball, seeking to overcome physical pain — and nefarious forces — to lead his team to the pennant.

Nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography, Best Original Score and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, the film also stars Robert Duvall, Glenn Close in an Academy Award-nominated performance, and Kim Basinger.

The 4K Ultra HD disc includes two versions of the film in 4K with HDR: the original theatrical version and the directors’ cut, each restored from the original camera negative, supervised and approved by director of photography Caleb Deschanel and director Barry Levinson. Both versions of the film also include newly remixed Dolby Atmos audio, along with the original stereo and 5.1 tracks for the theatrical version.

Bonus materials on the 4K UHD include Levinson’s intro to the director’s cut and the theatrical trailer. The blu-ray disc includes the theatrical cut and several featurettes.

Fox Releasing ‘Widows’ on Disc Feb. 5

The heist-thriller Widows arrives on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Feb. 5 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), and co-written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), the film focuses on four women with nothing in common but the debt their dead husbands left to a crime boss after a botched job got them killed.

The widows — Viola Davis (Fences), Michelle Rodriguez (“Fast & Furious” Franchise), Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) and Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale) — come together to attempt a heist to pay off the debt.

The cast also includes Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson.

The film earned $42 million at the domestic box office.

The Blu-ray includes a photo gallery and nearly 60 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes, including “Widows Unmasked: A Chicago Story,” “Plotting the Heist: The Story,” “Assembling the Crew: Production” and “The Scene of the Crime: Locations.”

The digital download of Widows is expected Jan. 22, according to Apple’s iTunes.