Farscape: The Complete Series — 20th Anniversary

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Sci-Fi;
$95.99 Blu-ray — 21 Discs;
Not rated.
Stars Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Virginia Hey, Anthony Simcoe, Gigi Edgley, Paul Goddard, Lani Tupu, Wayne Pygram, Jonathan Hardy, Tammy MacIntosh, Raelee Hill, Melissa Jaffer, David Franklin, Rebecca Riggs.

This new 20th anniversary re-release of the complete “Farscape” offers a convenient way for fans who haven’t bought the show already to finally add it to their collections, or to gift it to sci-fi fans who haven’t seen it yet.

The series, which ran for 88 episodes from 1999 to 2003, starred Ben Browder as an American astronaut whose experiment in low-Earth orbit caused him to get flung by a wormhole to the far reaches of the universe, where he allies himself with strange aliens being pursued by the militaristic Peacekeepers. The series was co-produced by the Jim Henson Company, with many of the creatures being created by the famed Creature Shop.

The show was presented in the pre-HD standard 1.33:1 ratio for its first three seasons before switching to widescreen in its fourth, so the bulk of the episodes are presented with the black bars on the sides and upscaled to HD. The image quality is fine and the Blu-ray offers a nice showcase for the series’ imaginative palette of visual effects and alien designs. The space shots were accomplished with CGI and thus are marked by the unmistakable sheen that was typical of the technology available to television in the mid to late 1990s.

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The new Blu-ray set can be had for about $60 on Amazon. However, there are a few quirks to the release that might disincentive anyone who already has the earlier DVDs or Blu-rays from replacing them with this new set.

All the bonus material from the previous Blu-ray complete series sets has been carried over here — a healthy mix of commentaries, deleted scenes and making-of featurettes.

A noticeable and possibly detrimental difference is that the episodes are presented in their airdate order, in contrast to previous DVD and Blu-ray releases in which they were presented in their production order to match the intended timeline of the show. This really only affects the first half of the first season, but given how all the bonus content from the previous season releases was maintained, it’s a bit baffling why the decision was made to go with the airdate order and thus throw the early storylines out of continuity for new viewers. (The episode order apparently follows the same pattern as Netflix, which also ignored the previous DVD/Blu-ray order.)

The key distinguishing feature of this new release is the inclusion of the finale miniseries The Peacekeeper Wars, available for the first time on Blu-ray.

The miniseries was produced in 2004 to wrap up the show’s storylines in lieu of a fifth season, as the show, while popular, had been abruptly canceled by the Sci-Fi Channel in the middle of its fourth season for being too expensive to produce.

Due to licensing issues, Peacekeeper Wars has always been available separately from the series (with A&E releasing the series, and Lionsgate the miniseries). The exception to this was a Best Buy-exclusive DVD set from about 10 years ago in which the retailer was able to pair the disparate releases.

While the bonus material from previous season sets has been preserved here, some extras from earlier Peacekeeper Wars DVD has not been. The Blu-ray version of the miniseries offers deleted scenes and a trailer. Lionsgate’s 2004 DVD had a 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, storyboards, concept art and spacecraft galleries, so fans who want all the material available won’t want to discard that old DVD just yet.

 

Brad Pitt’s ‘Ad Astra’ Gets Home Release Dates

Twentieth Century Fox, now a division of the Walt Disney Co., has set home release dates for Ad Astra, the science-fiction movie starring Brad Pitt that grossed just under $50 million at the domestic box office.

The film will be released digitally on Dec. 3, and on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Dec. 17.

Pitt portrays astronaut Roy McBride, who springs into action when a mysterious life-threatening event strikes earth. He embarks on a dangerous mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.

Extras on the Blu-ray Disc include two deleted scenes, with an optional audio commentary from director, producer and writer James Gray, and several featurettes, including a making-of documentary and a look at the crew of the Cepheus.

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An audio commentary from Gray is available on the Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD version only.

The digital version comes with a look at the special effects.

Warner Archives’ Impending ‘V’ Blu-ray Inspires Reflections on Sci-Fi Miniseries’ Legacy

The 1983 miniseries V is fondly remembered as a landmark of science-fiction television.

Consisting of two 90-minute parts, V tells the story of aliens arriving on Earth offering technological advancement in exchange for help to create the chemicals they need to survive. The governments of Earth agree to the alliance, though as the aliens gain power and influence, a resistance emerges as the visitors’ motives are discovered to be more sinister, and that the aliens are in fact reptilian creatures who seek to steal Earth’s water and use mankind for food.

Creator Kenneth Johnson was inspired by Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here, a satirical story about the rise of European-style fascism in the United States. To make his script more marketable for NBC, Johnson made it a sci-fi parable with seemingly friendly aliens as stand-ins for modern Nazis.

V is a timeless tale,” Johnson said. “It’s Spartacus and the revolt of the slaves. It’s the American Revolution, or the fight against apartheid, or the struggle wherever people are oppressed.”

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Actor Marc Singer, who plays journalist Mike Donovan, a key figure in discovering the true nature of the aliens, said V has resonated with audiences because it tells a classic story.

“There are a lot of things that conspired to make V relevant again over the generations,” Singer said. “But I think the basic reason is that it’s an adventure story of daring-do. Everyone loves to see a hero beating the bad guys. But more importantly, it draws together a community and celebrates the entire world we inhabit. There’s a lot of power in the message that we’re all in this together.”

Warner Archive will release V: The Original Miniseries on Blu-ray Aug. 27, and Singer and Johnson were on hand at San Diego Comic-Con International July 19 to reflect on the franchise’s legacy and future.

The miniseries will be presented on Blu-ray in a 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, instead of the 1980s-standard 4:3 television ratio. Johnson recalled his pilot for “The Incredible Hulk” in 1977 being released theatrically in foreign markets, so he said V was filmed with the idea of a potential theatrical release in mind. Edges of the frame were protected so as not to reveal microphones or other production equipment. This allowed the restoration team at Warner Archive to use the wider aspect ratio.

He also enjoyed getting a chance to give the miniseries a more robust home entertainment soundtrack.

“When they released it on DVD, it had mono sound because Warner wouldn’t let me mix it in stereo,” Johnson said. “I spent twice as much time doing the sound for this Blu-ray to get it right.”

Singer said V fulfilled the desire he had as a kid watching Westerns to be a television hero.

“When I first read the script, the immediate reaction was the writing was terrific and the story was terrific. It was almost as if it was meant to be for me to be in it.”

Singer said he was cast because Johnson had seen him perform a stage production of The Taming of the Shrew, as well as his starring role in the 1982 action-fantasy film The Beastmaster.

Singer said his background in Shakespeare offers a valuable lesson to storytellers.

“Every actor and every writer should start off with Shakespeare, period,” Singer said. “The architecture of his writing was almost legalistic. Every word is like a contract, defining who a character is, and they do not not step out of that identity.”

“Sci-fi applies some of the same architectural tenets to that,” Singer said.

Johnson was not involved in the 1984 sequel miniseries V: The Final Battle or the subsequent series that ran until 1985. He was also not involved with the 2009 rebooted version of the show.

“Where sequels tend to go wrong is they change too much of what works, and lose the connection with the audience,” Johnson said. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

Instead, Johnson is working on his own remake of V with a new movie.

Johnson said the original V was an ambitious project for its time considering the number of visual effects involved.

“When I came up with the idea of a woman swallowing a guinea pig, someone from the production team asked if I can get an actress to do that,” Johnson joked. “We were so hamstrung in those days. But a few weeks ago I was able to attend a retrospective on the visual effects of the original Star Wars, and how things had changed by the time of Rogue One. And I realized they were just as hamstrung on Star Wars the same way I was.”

Johnson said Star Wars actually had it easier than him because their spaceships mostly could be layered over the blackness of space without having to worry about the matte lines.

“It’s a lot different when you try to tae a spacecraft and put it in a sunny wide shot of L.A.,” Johnson said.

Johnson said today’s visual effects resources would be put to full use on the V remake.

“Now I can make the inside of the mothership look like gangbusters,” Johnson said.

High Life

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 7/9/19;
Lionsgate;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $1.23 million;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for disturbing sexual and violent content including sexual assault, graphic nudity, and for language.
Stars Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, Mia Goth. 

With a title more evocative of a stoner comedy than a ponderous science-fiction film, the unconventional High Life explores the existential crisis of a spaceship crew on a seemingly hopeless voyage.

Robert Pattinson gives a restrained yet effecting performance as Monte, a man raising a baby alone on a ship in deep space. The rest of the crew has already died during the long voyage.

Through flashbacks, we learn of the ship’s mission. With Earth in the midst of an energy crisis, it recruits a crew of prisoners to journey to a distant black hole in an experiment to harness its power. But with the ship traveling at near the speed of light, hundreds of years will pass on Earth during the mission, meaning the crew will never see their families again.

To ensure obedience, the ship’s computer is programmed to shut down life support every day unless it receives a report detailing a set of required tasks and maintenance has been completed.

The ship’s doctor, Dibs (Juliette Binoche) is obsessed with using artificial insemination to impregnate one of the female crewmembers, but background radiation prevents the fetuses from developing.

With the crew forbidden from engaging in sexual contact with other crewmembers, their primary means of combating ennui is a sex room with an elaborate machine to satiate their desires.

Monte, however, refuses to partake in any sexual activities, a decision that likely explains how he ends up the last crewmember alive.

Over time, we learn how the crew’s numbers dwindle as a result of their desperation and criminal natures, and how Monte ends up with a daughter to give him a modicum of purpose to carry on a seemingly pointless daily routine.

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Director Claire Denis has crafted a film that is visually striking but viscerally unnerving, thanks to a constant sense of dread and discomfort as it explores the baser nature of humanity. The film is practically an ode to bodily fluids of all kinds.

The visual effects seem to stem from a practicality that helps serve the premise. The ship is stark and utilitarian, essentially a giant box in space, a starkly efficient design for what is essentially a prison barge.

In the void of space, High Life finds not the profundity of 2001: A Space Odyssey or the optimism of Interstellar, but a sense of resignation to the inevitable. And in doing so, it redirects its basic questions about the nature of existence back upon the audience.

The Blu-ray includes two decent featurettes that run about a half-hour in total.

The 19-minute “Audacious, Passionate, and Dangerous: Making High Life” is a general behind-the-scenes piece about the production, featuring interviews with the cast and filmmakers discussing the project and their interpretations of it.

The 11-minute “Visualizing the Abyss: The Look of High Life” deals more with the design of the spaceship and the sets, and depicting the science of flying at lightspeed toward a black hole.

Sci-fi Thriller ‘Project Ithaca’ Due on Disc and Digital Aug. 6 From Lionsgate

The sci-fi thriller Project Ithaca arrives on Blu-ray (plus digital), DVD and digital Aug. 6 from Lionsgate.

The film is currently available on demand.

In Project Ithaca, a blend of science fiction and horror, a malevolent alien species has been abducting humans for decades, possibly centuries. Their endgame: to harvest enough human emotional energy to open a wormhole through which their spacecrafts can pass and conquer our world. To end this threat, the U.S. military initiates Project Ithaca, a top-secret plan to teleport a human-alien hybrid, SERA, aboard the “mother ship” to destroy it. SERA awakes inside the alien craft along with five others. Divided, they will die; only together can they defeat the aliens and find a way home.

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Project Ithaca stars James Gallanders, Deragh Campbell and Daniel Fathers.

‘Mothra’ Hatches on Steelbook Blu-ray July 9 From Mill Creek

The 1961 sci-fi kaiju classic Mothra will be unleashed in a special edition steelbook Blu-ray July 9 from Mill Creek Entertainment.

This special edition release marks the North American Blu-ray debut of Mothra and includes both the U.S. theatrical cut as well as the original, extended Japanese version of the film. Special features include feature-length commentary with authors and Japanese sci-fi historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, trailers, and a photo gallery.

The film is presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio with DTS-HD Master Audio for both English and Japanese tracks and English subtitles on a dual-layered Blu-ray disc.

“We are excited to offer Mothra on Blu-ray as a gorgeous steelbook release,” said Barrett Evans, VP of marketing for Mill Creek Entertainment, in a statement.  “The timing is ideal to present the original Mothra as new audiences will soon see the iconic character in the upcoming Godzilla: King of the Monsters movie.”

Mothra was produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, directed by Ishiro Honda, with SFX directed by Eiji Tsuburaya — the same team that created the original Godzilla feature film.

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The gigantic moth became one of the most popular Japanese characters appearing in 14 feature films.

In Mothra, following reports of human life on Infant Island, the supposedly deserted site of atomic bomb tests, an international expedition to the heavily-radiated island discovers a native tribe and tiny twin female fairies called “Shobijin” who guard a sacred egg. The overzealous expedition leader kidnaps the Shobijin to exhibit in a Tokyo stage show but soon they summon their protector, hatching the egg and releasing a giant caterpillar. Mothra finally transforms into the ultimate beast, impervious to modern weapons.

Mothra stars Emi Ito and Yumi Ito (known as the popular singing duo “The Peanuts”), Hiroshi Koizumi (Mothra vs. Godzilla), Kyoko Kagawa (High and Low), Jerry Ito (The Manster) and Frankie Sakai (Shogun). Musical numbers by Emi and Yumi Ito are featured in the film as they sing “Mosura No Uta (The Mothra Song),” “Daughters of Infant Island” and “Mosura ya Mosura.”

Shout! Factory Releasing Complete ‘Space: 1999’ Series on Blu-ray

Martin Landau in “Space: 1999”

Shout! Factory will release Space: 1999 — The Complete Series on Blu-ray and DVD July 16.

The set will include all 48 episodes of the 1975-77 sci-fi series, plus a disc of bonus material.

Barbara Bain and Martin Landau in “Space: 1999”

The show focuses on the adventures of the team at Moonbase Alpha after a nuclear waste explosion pushes the moon out of Earth’s orbit and hurtling through space. Martin Landau stars as base commander John Koenig. The cast also includes Barbara Bain, Barry Morse and Catherine Schell.

“Space: 1999” Eagle Transporters

The complete-series release marks the first time the second season will be available on Blu-ray in the United States. The first season was released on a now out-of-print Blu-ray set by A&E in 2010. Both seasons have been available on Blu-ray overseas for years.

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ShoutFactory.com is taking preorders on a limited-edition set that comes with a four-inch snowglobe featuring an Eagle Transporter landing on the Moon.

‘Captive State’ to Be Unleashed on Disc and Digital June 11

The sci-fi thriller Captive State will land on Blu-ray, DVD, digital (including Movies Anywhere) and on demand June 11 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film is set a decade after an extraterrestrial force occupied Earth, deceiving humanity with the promise of peace and unity, and Chicago police officer William Mulligan (John Goodman) is tasked with maintaining law and order in a city on the brink of rebellion. Gabriel (Ashton Sanders), the young brother of a fallen militant and the son of Mulligan’s ex-partner, is faced with the crucial choice, collaborate or fight back.

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Bonus features include “Igniting a War,” in which producer/co-writer/director Rupert Wyatt explains how the cast helped achieve realism against the backdrop of an alien invasion story; “Building the World of Captive State,” in which filmmakers and cast discuss their experiences shooting on location in Chicago; and feature commentary with Wyatt.

‘Replicas’ Coming to Digital April 2, Disc April 16 From Lionsgate

The science fiction thriller Replicas, starring Keanu Reeves, arrives on digital April 2 and Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD and on demand April 16 from Lionsgate.

Reeves (“John Wick” franchise, “The Matrix” franchise) stars in and co-produces the thriller from producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura (Transformers), which also stars Alice Eve (Star Trek: Into DarknessShe’s Out of My League), Thomas Middleditch (TV’s “Silicon Valley”, The Wolf of Wall Street), Emily Alyn Lind (TV’s “Revenge”), Emjay Anthony (The Jungle BookBad Moms), and John Ortiz (Silver Linings PlaybookAmerican GangsterBumblebee).

Reeves plays William Foster, a neuroscientist on the verge of transferring human consciousness into a computer when his wife (Eve) and children are tragically killed in a car crash. Desperate to resurrect his family, William recruits a fellow scientist (Middleditch) to help secretly clone their bodies and create replicas. When William learns that he can only replicate three of the four family members, he makes a decision with fateful consequences.

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Special features include an audio commentary with director Jeffrey Nachmanoff and executive producer James Dodson, a making-of featurette, and deleted scenes.

Season One of ‘Nightflyers’ Out on Disc From Universal

Season one of the Syfy series “Nightflyers” is available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The release includes all 10 episodes in the first season of the space horror series, based on the sci-fi novella of the same name from George R.R. Martin. Set in the year 2093, the series follows a team of scientists aboard the Nightflyer, the most advanced ship ever built, as they embark on a journey to find other life forms. Their mission takes them to the edge of the solar system, and to the edge of insanity, as they realize horror isn’t waiting for them in outer space — it’s already on their ship.

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The ensemble cast includes Eoin Macken (“The Night Shift”), Sam Strike(“EastEnders”), Maya Eshet (“Teen Wolf”), Angus Sampson (“Fargo”), Jodie Turner-Smith (“The Last Ship”), Gretchen Mol (“Boardwalk Empire”), David Ajala (“Fast & Furious 6”) and Brían F. O’Byrne (“Million Dollar Baby”).