‘District 9’ Flies to 4K Ultra HD Oct. 13 From Sony

The sci-fi film District 9 will come out on 4K Ultra HD Oct. 13 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

From producer Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and director Neill Blomkamp, the film was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture.

District 9 plunges viewers into a world where aliens have landed — only to be exiled to a slum on the fringes of Johannesburg. One lone human discovers the mysterious secret of the extraterrestrial weapon technology. Hunted and hounded through the bizarre back alleys of an alien shantytown, he discovers what it means to be the ultimate outsider on your own planet.

Bonus materials on 4K include the original theatrical trailers and a “Comic-Con Extravaganza” featurette.

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Archival special features on Blu-ray include deleted scenes; director’s commentary; “The Alien Agenda: A Filmmaker’s Log,” a three-part documentary; “Metamorphosis: The Transformation of Wikus”; “Innovation: Acting and Improvisation”; “Conception and Design: Creating the World of District 9”; Alien Generation: Visual Effects”; and “Joburg from Above,” an interactive map of satellite and schematics of the world of District 9.

‘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.

Sci-fi Horror Film ‘Ingenium’ Due on Demand July 7 From Level 33

The sci-fi horror film Ingenium will come out on demand July 7 from Level 33.

In the film, Felicitas’ world is turned upside down after being attacked on vacation in Bangkok. She doesn’t know if her nightmares are taking over or if something bigger is trying to control her life. The only way to find out the truth is to free her best friend Natascha from an insane asylum, as she is key to a mysterious superpower that both women were never supposed to discover.

The film won Best Horror/Sci-Fi Film at the Crystal Palace International Film Festival; Jury Prize, Best Sci-fi Film, Best Actor Esther Maaß and Best Supporting Actress Judith Hoersch at the Anatomy Crime and Horror Film Festival; Dreamer Award Outstanding Science Fiction Feature at the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival; Directors Choice at the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival; and Best Feature and Best Actress Esther Maaß at the Paris Art and Movie Awards.

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Lionsgate Releasing Sci-Fi Adventure ‘G-LOC’ Aug. 11

Lionsgate will release the sci-fi adventure G-LOC on DVD, digitally and VOD Aug. 11.

The movie stars Stephen Moyer (“True Blood”) and Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) in a poignant, allegorical story set in a fantastic other-world where humans are pitted against one another for survival.

With Earth virtually destroyed, Bran Marshall (Moyer) flees to the Rhea, a planet hostile to Earthlings. Escaping onto a Rhean supply ship, he finds the crew slaughtered, with the only survivor a female warrior named Ohsha. As the two try to kill one another, the ship is damaged by meteorites. Bran and Ohsha must join forces to salvage the craft before it impacts the planet below — and the humans that live there.

The cast also includes John Rhys-Davies, Tala Gouveia, Toby Osmond and Shayne Ward.

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The Invisible Man (2020)

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Horror;
Box Office $64.91 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for some strong bloody violence and language.
Stars Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen.

Writer-director Leigh Whannell’s new version of The Invisible Man is a masterfully crafted example of using a relatively simple premise to build suspense while keeping the audience guessing.

The script is centered on the concept of the “invisible man” as a metaphor for the constant fear experienced by someone who escapes a traumatic situation only to wonder if they will eventually be found and hunted by their abuser.

Elisabeth Moss gives a compelling performance as Cecilia, who in the opening scenes carries out an elaborate plan to leave her boyfriend, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), in the middle of the night while he sleeps. We never see their relationship in play, only hear about it second-hand from her, which immediately puts us in her head and begins the mind games that make the film so effective.

Cecilia gets word that Adrian has died, and begins to ease out of her fears once she learns he left her a $5 million inheritance. Yet she can’t shake the feeling that he’s somehow still haunting her, surmising that as a leading scientist in the field of optics he was able to construct some sort of invisibility suit.

Her friends and family begin to doubt her sanity, and even the audience is left to wonder what’s really going on, and how much of her troubles are either in her head or a result of her losing touch with reality.

Even when the film peels back the curtain about what’s really going on, we’re still left guessing as to who is doing what, who is planning what, and whether there’s another layer of manipulation we have yet to comprehend.

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And to think, the studio’s original plans for the film would have had it be a more conventional remake starring Johnny Depp as the title character, fitting into the shared “Dark Universe” of Universal movie monsters before that franchise became a non-starter after the awful 2017 version of The Mummy snuffed it out.

Instead, it was re-conceived by Whannell, co-creator (along with James Wan) of the “Saw” and “Insidious” franchises, and placed under the auspices of producer Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions, experts at crafting low-budget suspense thrillers for big returns (even before the coronavirus lockdowns cut short its theatrical run, the film grossed $126 million worldwide against a budget o $7 million).

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The Blu-ray includes a terrific solo commentary track by Whannell, which is one of the better examples of such an accompaniment nowadays. Both witty and effusive, Whannell delves into the challenges of shooting the film in Australia to make it look like America, while setting up shots to cover the empty spaces where someone we can’t see might be standing.

The Blu-ray also includes nine deleted scenes totaling about 13-and-a-half minutes. The scenes are pretty good on their own and even inform some of the scenes in the final film, but why they were removed is understandable.

There are also four making-of featurettes that pack a lot of insight into less than a half-hour of screentime. The primary one is the 11-minute “Director’s Journey With Leigh Whannell,” which serves as a basic behind-the-scenes featurette and is a good companion to the commentary.

The four-minute “Moss Manifested” puts the spotlight on Elisabeth Moss and her interpretation of the role, and the five-and-a-half-minute “The Players” focuses on the rest of the cast.

Finally, “Timeless Terror” examines how Whannell reimagined the story and imbued it with modern themes.

‘Dropa,’ ‘Point Defiance’ and ‘Highway 395’ Due on Disc From BayView in May

BayView Entertainment is bringing two thrillers and an action film to disc in May.

The science-fiction thriller Dropa is dropping on DVD May 12. Set in an alternate future America, the film follows a government assassin who comes out of retirement to track down a killer extraterrestrial murdering the former members of his team.

Directed by Wayne Slaten, the film stars Jason Douglas, David Matranga, James Hong, Shayla Bagir, Jacob Reynolds and Michelle Ellen Jones.

The thriller Point Defiance is due on DVD May 19. In the film, a stockbroker’s world is turned upside down while under house arrest after his troubled brother returns from military duty in Afghanistan, forcing him to face a dark secret about his past.

Directed by Justin Foia, the film stars Derek Phillips, Josh Crotty, Lauren Elaine, Sarah Butler and Steven Swadling.

Finally, Highway 395 (2000) is traveling to Blu-ray May 26. In the actioner, Sheriff Wade confronts drug couriers on Highway 395, a criminal releasing from jail and a serial killer in the California desert.

The film stars Fred Dryer, Blake Adams and Greg Crooks.

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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.