1950s Sci-Fi Classic ‘Giant From the Unknown’ Due on Disc Jan. 19 From MVD

The 1958 sci-fi classic Giant From the Unknown will come out on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 19 from MVD Entertainment Group and Film Detective.

A 500-year-old Spanish conquistador rises from the dead in this cult classic following Dr. Frederick Cleveland and his daughter Janet, who are joined by scientific researcher Wayne Brooks in the pursuit of ancient artifacts from Spanish conquistador Vargas. When a lightning storm interrupts their search, the team finds much more than artifacts when the long-lost Vargas returns to life, with a murderous rage and an axe to grind. Giant from the Unknown features make-up design from horror mainstay Jack Pierce, known for his work on Frankenstein (1931) and The Mummy (1932).

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The release features a new 4K transfer from the original camera negative. Extras include audio commentary with author/historian Tom Weaver and guests; audio commentary with co-star Gary Crutcher; an all-new interview with actor/screenwriter Crutcher; an all-new interview with author/film historian C. Courtney Joyner; a collector’s booklet with still gallery and liner notes by Weaver; and the original trailer.

Sony Releasing ‘Gattaca’ 4K Ultra HD Steelbook March 23

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the 1997 sci-fi movie Gattaca on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 23, 2021, in limited-edition Steelbook packaging.

Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin and Jude Law star in the thriller about an all-too-human man who dares to defy a system obsessed with genetic perfection.

The 4K edition has been remastered from the original camera negative. The Steelbook cobo pack includes 4K, regular Blu-ray and digital copies of the film. Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes, a blooper reel and the featurette “Welcome to Gattaca.”

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Sci-fi Thriller ‘Synchronic’ Coming to Digital Jan. 12, Disc Jan. 26 From Well Go

The sci-fi thriller Synchronic will debut on digital Jan. 12 and on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 26 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

From directing duo of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (The Endless), the film stars Anthony Mackie (“Altered Carbon,” Falcon in the “Avengers” franchise), Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy), Katie Aselton (Bombshell) and Ally Ioannides (“Into the Badlands”) in the story of two paramedics whose lives are ripped apart after they encounter a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects.

When New Orleans paramedics and longtime best friends Steve (Mackie) and Dennis (Dornan) are called to a series of bizarre, gruesome accidents, they chalk it up to the mysterious new party drug found at the scene. But after Dennis’s oldest daughter suddenly disappears, Steve stumbles upon a terrifying truth about the supposed psychedelic that will challenge everything he knows about reality — and the flow of time itself.

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Bonus features include commentary with directors and product, a making-of featurette, previsualization, a VFX breakdown, a deleted scene and an alternate ending.

‘Max Cloud’ Floating to Digital Dec. 18, Disc Jan. 19 From Well Go

The sci-fi action-adventure Max Cloud will debut on digital Dec. 18 and Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 19 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

When teen gamer Sarah finds an “easter egg” and accidentally opens a portal into her favorite side-scroller, she becomes trapped in a notorious intergalactic prison, home to the galaxy’s most dangerous villains. To escape, she must finish the game with a little help from her not-so-savvy friend on the outside — or remain a 16-bit character forever.

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Director Martin Owen (Killers Anonymous) teams up with star Scott Adkins (Ip Man 4Triple Threat). The film also stars John Hannah (“Spartacus,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D”), Tommy Flanagan (“Westworld,” Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel) and Franz Drameh (“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”).

Nicolas Cage Actioner ‘Jiu Jitsu’ Due on DVD Dec. 22 From Paramount

The Nicolas Cage actioner Jiu Jitsu will come out on DVD Dec. 22 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

The title is available now on VOD and digital and in select theaters.

The sci-fi actioner follows an ancient order of Jiu Jitsu fighters who face a vicious race of alien invaders in an epic battle for the survival of Earth. The film also stars Alain Moussi, Frank Grillo, Rick Yune, Marie Avgeropoulos, Juju Chan and Tony Jaa.

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Sci-fi Thriller ‘Songbird’ to Debut Via PVOD Dec. 11

The STX Films sci-fi thriller Songbird, produced by Michael Bay, will premiere in the United States as a premium VOD release Dec. 11.

The film will be available at $19.99 for a 48-hour rental.

Songbird is the first film to shoot in Los Angeles entirely during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the studio.

Directed by Adam Mason (Into the Dark), the film is about fighting for love at the end of the world. It stars K.J. Apa, Sofia Carson, Craig Robinson, Bradley Whitford, Peter Stormare, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Walter Hauser and Demi Moore.

Songbird will bow on a “major streaming service” in 2021, according to the studio.

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‘Lake Michigan Monster,’ ‘Silent Running’ Among Titles Due on Blu-ray in November From MVD and Arrow

Lake Michigan Monster, Silent Running, Burst City and He Came From the Swamp: The William Grefe Collection are coming to Blu-ray in November from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.

Lake Michigan Monster (2018), due Nov. 3, is an action-packed tale of nautical derring-do and monster mayhem. It was the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Feature at the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival. The low-budget film — shot with most of the cast also performing multiple roles behind the camera — is a love letter to the sci-fi creature features of the 1950s. This story about an eccentric ship captain determined to tame the beast that slew his father was shot on 16 mm black-and-white film and is the stuff of Saturday matinees. On the shores of Lake Michigan, the eccentric Captain Seafield (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, who also writes and directs) enlists a colorful crew of misfits in a bid to slay the hellish sea monster that prowls the murky depths. But as Seafield’s obsession with exacting revenge on the creature that killed his father threatens to consume him, can weapons expert Sean Shaughnessy (Erick West), sonar whiz Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters) and former N.A.V.Y. — Nautical Athletes and Adventure Yunit — officer Dick Flynn (Daniel Long) hold the show together? Extras include two commentaries and multiple interviews.

Killer sharks, human jellyfish and living mummies appear in the first ever collection of works by William “Wild Bill” Grefé, the maverick filmmaker who braved the depths of the Florida everglades to deliver outrageous exploitation fare. Bringing together seven of Grefé’s most outlandish features, all new to Blu-ray, He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefé Collection, due Nov. 24, features demented jellyfish men (Sting of Death, 1966), zombified witch doctors (Death Curse of Tartu, 1966), homicidal hippies (The Hooked Generation, 1968) and seductive matrons (The Naked Zoo, 1971) — not to mention the ubiquitous go-go dancing college kids. Also in the collection are The Psychedelic Priest (1971), Mako: Jaws of Death (1976) and Whiskey Mountain (1977).

Burst City (1982), due Nov. 10, features dystopian sci-fi, Mad Max-style biker wars against yakuza gangsters and the police, and performances from members of the real-life Japanese punk bands The Stalin, The Roosters, The Rockers and INU. In a derelict industrial wasteland somewhere on the outskirts of Tokyo, two rival punk bands and their unruly mobs of fans gather for a Battle of the Bands-style protest against the construction of a nuclear powerplant, bringing them head to head with the yakuza industrialists behind the development of their turf. This extraordinary celebration of Japan’s punk music scene of the early 1980s thrust Sōgo Ishii (now known by the name of Gakuryū Ishii), the underground filmmaking wunderkind behind such works as Half Human: Einstürzende Neubauten (1986), Angel Dust (1994) and Electric Dragon 80,000V (2001), to the next level and is cited as an early landmark in Japanese cyberpunk cinema.

Due Nov. 17 is Silent Running (1972). Visual effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull (The Andromeda Strain, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) contributed to the ground-breaking special photographic effects of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Four years later, he stamped his own indelible mark on the science fiction genre with his directorial debut — Silent Running. In the not-so-distant future, Earth is barren of all flora and fauna, with what remains of the planet’s former ecosystems preserved aboard a fleet of greenhouses orbiting in space. When the crews are ordered to destroy the remaining specimens, one botanist, Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern), rebels and flees towards Saturn in a desperate bid to preserve his own little piece of Earth that was, accompanied only by the ship’s three service robots.

The Last Starfighter (Limited Edition)

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

MVD/Arrow;
Sci-Fi;
$39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Lance Guest, Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Preston, Dan O’Herlihy, Norman Snow, Dan Mason, Chris Hebert, Barbara Bosson, Vernon Washington.

In the decades since its release, The Last Starfighter has proved to be one of the seminal space fantasies of the 1980s, and Arrow Video’s new special-edition Blu-ray gives it the treatment it deserves.

On the surface, the 1984 space adventure would appear to be a mish-mash of a few of the biggest trends at the time. The plot is a bit Star Wars meets Tron, involving a teenager named Alex (Lance Guest) living in a trailer park and dreaming of a better life as he distracts himself playing a video game called Starfighter. After he sets the high score on the machine, he learns it’s a recruitment tool monitored by a fast-talking alien named Centauri (Robert Preston of The Music Man in his final film role) who wants him to become a warrior for an interplanetary alliance preparing to fend off an invasion, joining the ranks of the starfighters — who serve as elite gunners for the Star League’s fighting ships.

However, when an attack cripples the fleet and kills all the other starfighters, Alex is left as the final hope for the galaxy, aided by his pilot and navigator, Grig, a humanoid lizard played by Dan O’Herlihy, who is perhaps best known as the old man from Robocop.

Overt parallels with the story of Arthur pulling the sword from the stone are no accident, as screenwriter Jonathan R. Betuel had been reading The Once and Future King when he got the idea of substituting a video game for Excalibur.

The film story also offers a touch of The Wizard of Oz in its tale of someone transported from obscurity to a strange land and confronted with the task of freeing it from evil.

But in focusing on the sci-fi and video game crazes that dominated the era, the film and its notion of fanboys becoming the next Luke Skywalker was the ultimate fantasy fulfillment for boys (and perhaps a few girls) growing up in the ’80s.

As if Alex’s offworld adventures weren’t enough, the film adds a subplot about a robot lookalike sent to replace Alex on Earth so no one will notice he’s missing. This dovetails into yet another plot thread of the film, a love story, with Alex promising to take his girlfriend (Catherine Mary Stewart) away to a better life. His robot doppelganger, however, throws a complication into their relationship with his awkward attempts to understand humanity. He’s also the target of alien bounty hunters who want to eliminate the last starfighter to ensure the invasion goes smoothly — the robot serving as a nice decoy while the real Alex prepares for his mission. (The film is at least wise enough to broach the question of why the robots aren’t doing the fighting, even if it doesn’t want to delve too heavily into the answer.)

So, with these additional elements, the presages elements of Starman, which came out later the same year, as well as 1999’s Galaxy Quest, another story of people connected to fictional space adventure discovering the fantasy is real.

It almost seems like too much stuffed into one movie, but director Nick Castle makes it work, aided by several energetic performances and a rousing musical score by Craig Safan. The worldbuilding is sufficient enough to warrant a sequel, but one never emerged despite a few ideas being kicked.

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The bigger irony may be how the film’s credits promote a tie-in video game, which would seem to be an obvious marketing tool for the film, but Atari never got around to making it. A few games based on the film did pop up over the years, but most of these were just retools of pre-existing games, and certainly didn’t match the gameplay depicted within the film itself. As chronicled in the Blu-ray extras, one fan did manage to eventually program a Starfighter cabinet that served as a reasonable facsimile to the game as depicted within the movie.

While the trope of a video game as a recruitment tool has been aped in subsequent movies and TV shows, in terms of film history The Last Starfighter might be most notable as one of the first films to use extensive CGI for visual effects, particularly using computer animation to depict things meant to exist in reality — in this case for all the spaceflight shots. Before this, CGI had been limited mostly to depicting displays on computers and in simulations. Even in Tron, which came out two years earlier in 1982, the CGI effects were used to depict the digital landscape within a computer.

Though the effects were groundbreaking at the time, they are far from photorealistic and still carry the obvious sheen of early CGI, reminiscent of how video games looked in the 1990s. The filmmakers in various bonus materials discuss how time limitations forced them to not fully develop some of the shots as detailed as they would have liked, or the movie could have taken another year to finish. But it was an important step in advancing the technique for visual effects within the industry. For context, it was only nine years before Jurassic Park, and 11 years before the first Toy Story.

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The new Arrow Video edition is a huge improvement over the previously released Blu-ray from Universal Pictures, which originally distributed the film in theaters. The picture and sound are a step up thanks to Arrow’s fresh remastering of the film elements.

In addition, the bonus materials from previous releases have all carried over alongside a trove of new ones.

Among the legacy materials are a 32-minute, four-part making-of documentary from the 1999 15th anniversary DVD, a 25-minute retrospective featurette from the 2009 25th anniversary Blu-ray, several photo galleries and the film’s trailers. There’s also the informative 1999 DVD commentary by Castle and designer Ron Cobb, who just died this past September.

Among the new extras are two additional commentary tracks, both of which are worth a listen. One is by Mike White of “The Projection Booth” podcast, which is a bit more of a fan’s perspective on the film and it’s place in the sci-fi genre. The other is star Lance Guest with his 16-year-old son, Jackson, which serves as a nice inter-generational reflection.

The new featurettes are a series of retrospective interviews with people involved with the film: 10 minutes with Stewart, 12 minutes with Safan, 10 minutes with Betuel, and 10 minutes with special effects supervisor Kevin Pike.

There’s also an eight-minute video of sci-fi author Greg Bear discussing Digital Productions, the effects house that used a Cray supercomputer to render the film’s CGI.

Rounding out the package is an eight-minute interview with arcade game collector Estil Vance, the aforementioned fan who took it on himself to re-create the game as depicted in the film.

 

‘Hammer Films: The Ultimate Collection’ Coming on Blu-ray Nov. 17 From Mill Creek

Mill Creek Entertainment will release the “Hammer Films: The Ultimate Collection” mega-set, containing 20 movies and hours of newly created bonus features, on Blu-ray Disc Nov. 17.

This 10-disc collection features the films for the first time in HD, produced by Hammer in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. They include:

The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960)
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1963)
These Are the Damned (1962)
The Old Dark House (1963)
The Gorgon (1964)
The Snorkel (1958)
Maniac (1963)
Die! Die! My Darling (1965)
Scream of Fear (1961)
Stop Me Before I Kill! (1961)
Never Take Candy From a Stranger (1960)
Cash on Demand (1961)
The Stranglers of Bombay (1960)
The Terror of the Tongs (1961)
The Pirates of Blood River (1962)
Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)
The Camp on Blood Island (1958)
Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)
Creatures the World Forgot (1971)

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Daniel Griffith of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures serves as producer of the new Blu-ray bonus features, which include:

    • a 12-Page movie and feature guide booklet;
    • Hammer Film featurettes and retrospectives;
    • “The Actors of Hammer Film”;
    • The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb Retrospective”;
    • The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll Retrospective”;
    • “Hammer at Columbia Pictures”;
    • The Revenge of Frankenstein commentary with filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr and author/film historian Steve Haberman;
    • The Old Dark House commentary with The Monster Party Podcast featuring James Gonis, Shawn Sheridan, Larry Strothe and Matt Weinhold;
    • The Gorgon commentary with writer/director Joshua Kennedy (House of the Gorgon);
    • The Snorkel commentary with writer/producer Phoef Sutton, writer/film; historian Mark Jordan Legan and screenwriter/film historian C. Courtney Joyner;
    • Never Take Candy From a Stranger commentary with filmmaker/historian Constantine Nasr; and
    • Scream of Fear commentary with author/film historian Steve Haberman.

 

 

‘Possessor Uncut’ Due on Digital Nov. 3, 4K and Blu-ray Disc Dec. 8 From Well Go

The sci-fi thriller Possessor Uncut will come out on digital Nov. 3 and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack and Blu-ray Dec. 8 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

From writer-director Brandon Cronenberg (Antiviral), the film follows elite corporate assassin Tasya Vos. Using brain-implant technology, Vos takes control of other people’s bodies to execute high-profile targets. As she sinks deeper into her latest assignment, Vos becomes trapped inside a mind that threatens to obliterate her.

The film stars Andrea Riseborough (BirdmanOblivion), Christopher Abbott (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, “Catch-22”) and Academy Award nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh (Best Supporting Actress, The Hateful Eight, 2015).

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Bonus material includes deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes footage.