A Call to Spy

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Shout! Factory/IFC;
Drama;
Box Office $0.16 million;
$19.98 DVD, $22.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some strong violence, disturbing images, language, and smoking.
Stars Sarah Megan Thomas, Stana Katic, Radhika Apte, Linus Roache, Rossif Sutherland, Samuel Roukin, Andrew Richardson, Laila Robins, Marc Rissmann.

Based on actual events, the compelling A Call to Spy tells the story of Britain’s efforts to recruit and train female spies to infiltrate Europe during World War II.

Sarah Megan Thomas, who also wrote the screenplay, stars as Virginia Hall, an American recruited to set up a spy ring in France because her dreams of diplomatic service are dashed due to her having a wooden leg. Most of the film is told from her point of view and details her mission posing as a journalist in Nazi-occupied territories to build a resistance and funnel information back to her spymasters in London.

The initiative to create a corps of lady spies, which came at the behest of Winston Churchill, is overseen by Vera Atkins (Stana Katic), the overqualified secretary of spy chief Col. Buckmaster (Linus Roache). The real-life Atkins would serve as one of the inspirations for Miss Moneypenny in Ian Fleming’s “James Bond” novels.

Among her other recruits is Noor (Radhika Apte), a Muslim of Indian heritage who was the company’s best wireless operator, which earned her a ticket into the field before she had a firm grasp of the covert aspects of espionage.

In fact, one of the central themes of the film, and more fascinating aspects of it, is how much the British government stumbled around trying to figure out how to conduct clandestine missions and minimize risk to their agents. Numerous mentions are made to large numbers of spies being killed due to shoddy security and just plain laziness when it came to following protocol, not to mention some of the prim-and-proper spymasters simply not having the instincts for recognizing obvious traps.

A Call to Spy is not heavy on action or intrigue, but it is loaded with strong drama and a solid emotional foundation, ably anchored by Thomas, both in her performance and her pen.

The Blu-ray includes a three-and-a-half-minute behind-the-scenes featurette built around interviews with the cast and filmmakers.

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‘Rent-A-Pal’ on Disc March 9

Shout! Factory March 9 releases the thriller Rent-A-Pal on Blu-ray Disc and DVD.

Set in 1990, the film focuses on a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal. Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy’s friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.

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‘The Legend of Hei’ to Get Digital Release April 20, Disc Debut May 11

Shout! Factory has announced the April 20 release of The Legend of Hei, an animated fantasy adventure movie from filmmaker Ping Zhang that was derived from a popular flash animation series he created in 2011.

The film will first be available digitally on April 20 and can subsequently be purchased, on May 11, on DVD or in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.

The Legend of Hei follows the story of cat spirit Luo-Xiao Hei on his journey of self-discovery after his home is deforested by humans. He embarks on a search for a new home and runs into a group of other spirit creatures who take him under their wing, with dreams of reconquering the land they say is rightfully theirs. When the group runs into a human known as Wuxian, Hei is separated from the other spirits and goes on a journey that teaches him to control his abilities and allows him to form his own opinion of whether he should ally with the spirits or the humans.

Following successful openings in China and Japan, The Legend of Hei screened at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival and the Japan Media Arts Festival. The film features an English voice cast of Chinese-American talent that includes Emi Lo (Bofuri, Valentine), Aleks Le (Funan, Ne Zha), Howard Wang (Dragon Ball Z, Marvel Avengers Academy), Kaiji Tang (Justice League, Grantz-O), Caleb Yen (Black Clover, Scott & Crowley), and Suzie Yeung (Kemono Friends).

Shout! Factory Cuts Deal for Four Laika Films, Including ‘Coraline’

Shout! Factory and animation studio Laika Feb. 8 announced a new alliance to distribute the latter’s first four award-winning legacy films in the U.S. home entertainment marketplace.

The multiyear agreement provides Shout! Factory with U.S. home entertainment distribution rights in all packaged media to Laika’s first four Oscar-nominated films: Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), The Boxtrolls (2014), ParaNorman (2012) and Coraline (2009).  Leveraging access to archived content from Laika, new bonus content, collectible packaging, and specialty releases are in development. As excitement builds for these upcoming home entertainment product lines, Shout! Factory and Laika will announce additional news and activities in the forthcoming months.

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“We’ve been huge fans of Laika, Travis Knight, and his extraordinary team,” said Melissa Boag, SVP of family entertainment at Shout! Factory. “Their legendary ingenuity, independent spirit and storytelling have inspired us and continue to entertain audiences worldwide. We’re incredibly excited about this new opportunity with Laika and look forward to presenting these beloved films with enlightening extras and lavish packaging to fans and collectors everywhere.”

“We’re delighted to launch our partnership with Shout! Factory,” said David Burke, Laika CMO and SVP of operations. “Their ability to maximize value for legacy titles by bringing films to entirely new audiences well after their theatrical release cycle is unparalleled in the industry.  We look forward to a long and impactful relationship with these industry leaders.”

The content deal was negotiated by Jordan Fields, VP of acquisitions, and Steven Katz, VP of business affairs for Shout! Factory, and Laika’s Michael Waghalter, head of business development, and Colin Geiger, general counsel and head of business affairs.

The titles were previously released on Blu-ray and DVD by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Shout! Factory Sets Feb. 16 Home Date for Doc on ‘Star Trek’ Actress Who Brought Diversity to NASA

Shout! Factory has announced the Feb. 16 release of Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA, a documentary on the inspiring true story of Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols and how she pioneered the NASA recruiting program to hire people of color, and the first female astronauts, in the late 1970s.

The documentary will be released through digital retailers and VOD. Fans who preorder form Apple also have access to exclusive bonus features, including an extended “The Story Behind the Story” featurette, deleted scenes, trailers and teasers.

Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA will also be screened in select movies theaters on Feb. 6. Information on participating cinemas, and how to get tickets, can be found here.

Nichols transformed her sci-fi television stardom into a real-life science career when, in 1977, she embarked on a campaign to bring diversity to NASA. Nichols formed the company Women In Motion, Inc. and recruited more than 8,000 African-American, Asian and Latino women and men for the agency. Her program continues to influence the younger generation of astronauts as well, including Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut in space. Despite an uphill battle against a bureaucracy that was hesitant to let her get involved, Nichols persevered and is credited by NASA for turning it into one of the most diverse independent agencies in the United States Federal Government.

In addition to Nichols, Woman In Motion features notable celebrities, activists, scientists and astronauts including Neil deGrasse Tyson, George Takei, Pharrell Williams, Martin Luther King III, Al Sharpton, Vivica A. Fox, Walter Koenig, Rod Roddenberry, Michael Dorn, Guy Bluford, Charles Bolden, Ivor Dawson, Frederik Gregory and Benjamin Crump.

Shout! Factory Celebrates Black History Month With Films, TV Series

Shout! Factory has announced that in celebration of Black History Month this February, it will present a collection of films and television series that amplify Black voices and stories in entertainment.

The collection will be available Feb. 1 for viewing on demand on Shout!Factory.com; Shout! Factory TV’s Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, and Android apps; and on various Shout!Factory TV branded channels including Tubi, Amazon Prime Channels, and the Roku Channel.

Included in the collection are powerful documentaries exploring Black history and culture, concert films that highlight brilliant performances, and feature films and series that spotlight influential Black figures and their experiences.

These include The Night James Brown Saved Boston, which showcases the pivotal role James Brown played in the civil rights movement; the groundbreaking performance/variety series “Soul!,” and Proud, which tells the story of the historic World War II battleship with an entirely segregated Black crew.

Also available are several episodes of “The Dick Cavett Show” featuring such illustrious Black guests as Ray Charles, Shirley Chisholm, Quincy Jones, Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, Redd Foxx and Little Richard.

‘Earwig and the Witch’ Bows on Digital in March, Blu-ray Disc and DVD in April

Studio Ghibli has announced the March 23 release of Earwig and the Witch, a Japanese 3DCGG animated feature directed by Goro Miyazaki (From Up on Poppy Hill, Tales from Earthsea) and produced by studio co-founder Toshio Suzuki.

The film will first be available on digital platforms. On April 6 consumers can buy the film in a limited edition Steelbook and a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack from from GKIDS, with distribution from Shout! Factory.

Based on the children’s novel Earwig and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones, the film follows the story of a little girl named Earwig who is growing up in an orphanage in the British countryside. Her life is changed dramatically when a strange couple takes her in, and she is forced to live with a selfish witch. Having no idea her birth mother had magical powers, she sets out to uncover the secrets of her new guardians and, in the process, discovers a world of spells, potions, and a mysterious song that may be the key to finding the family she has always wanted.

Bonus features include feature-length storyboards, a documentary on the creating the film, interviews with the Japanese voice cast, teasers and trailers.

An official selection for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, Earwig and the Witch saw its premier in Japan on December 30, 2020 and is scheduled for release in theaters beginning Feb. 3.

Shout! Studios Gains Rights to Thriller ‘Dead of Night’

Shout! Studios, the multi-platform filmed entertainment and production arm of Shout! Factory, and VMI Worldwide announced a distribution collaboration to bring new suspense horror thriller The Dead of Night to a wide variety of entertainment platforms in the United States.

Written and directed by Robert Dean, The Dead of Night stars Matthew Lawrence and Lance Henriksen in the story of nomadic murderers dressed as wolves besieging a small rural town and terrorizing a ranch run by a brother and sister. The cast also includes Jake Etheridge, Colby Crain, Leah Bezozo and Kyle Overstreet.

The multiyear deal gives Shout! Studios extensive U.S. distribution rights to The Dead of Night, including digital, video-on-demand, broadcast, theatrical and home entertainment packaged media. Shout! plans a strategic launch of this movie across all major entertainment platforms in 2021.

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Actioner ‘400 Bullets’ Set for March 2 Blu-ray Disc, DVD, Digital Release

Shout! Factory has announced the March 2 home release of 400 Bullets, a military action film written and directed by Tom Paton (Black Ops, Redwood).

The Blu-ray Disc and DVD include commentary with Paton and behind-the-scenes featurettes. The film also will be available through digital retailers.

400 Bullets follows a Gurkha soldier named Rana Rae (Jean-Paul Ly) who is guarding a British military outpost when Capt. Noah Brandt (Andrew Lee Potts) arrives looking for refuge from a group of rogue special ops and a cell of heavily armed Taliban.

The two soldiers must fight for their lives as they attempt to call for backup before the rogue squad, led by the backstabbing Sgt. Bartlett (James Warren), can hunt them down to retrieve a case of missile guidance chips that Noah intercepted. Rana and Noah, armed with only 400 bullets and the Gurkha’s deadly weapon of choice – the kukri blade – must battle their way through multiple enemies in a brutal showdown to the death.

400 Bullets boasts a stellar British cast that in addition to Ly (Jailbreak, I Am Vengeance) includes Andrew Lee Potts (The Crown, Primeval), James Warren (The Gentlemen, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword), Adele Oni (The Witcher, Years and Years), Steve Blades (All the Devil’s Men, Recoil), and Wayne Gordon (Into the Badlands, Cinderella Man).

Shout! Kids Releasing Animated ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Great Escape’ March 23, 2021

Shout! Factory will release the animated movie Sherlock Holmes and the Great Escape on DVD and digital platforms March 23, 2021, through its Shout! Kids imprint.

The movie presents all the characters as animals, with Holmes as a dog and Watson as a cat.

In the late 19th century, Mack, a heroic outlaw who stole from the rich to give to the poor, was loved and respected by the people. When the world’s greatest dog-tective, Sherlock Holmes, assisted in catching Mack, the people were angry with him for arresting their hero. But four years later, Mack has escaped from prison. While Sherlock is on the case to recapture Mack, he discovers the heartbreaking reason behind the outlaw’s escape, and decides to let him fulfill his final wish before Mack’s voluntary surrender to the police. However, everyone’s plans change when Mack’s daughter is kidnapped. Sherlock must employ all his wits if he is to rescue Mack’s daughter and save the day.

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