The Final Countdown

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 5/25/21;
Blue Underground;
Sci-Fi Action;
$59.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino, Katherine Ross, Charles Durning, Ron O’Neal.

The premise of The Final Countdown teases an irresistible bit of speculative fiction: What if a single modern U.S. aircraft carrier was available to defend Pearl Harbor against the Japanese fleet?

While modern in this scenario refers to 1980, when the movie first came out, and military tech has evolved a bit since then, those advancements aren’t as much of a radical change as the difference between pre-World War II hardware and what was available during filming. In fact, the aircraft carrier at the center of the story, the U.S.S. Nimitz, is still in service as of 2021.

To put the time gap into perspective, it would be the temporal equivalent of a newer carrier such as the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan going back in time from now to 1982, when Reagan was actually president. But the foundational shift from analog to digital makes the 1980s to today feel much closer than the 1940s feels to the ’80s. Which is all a way of saying the central hook of the story still holds up as an intriguing plot twist more than 40 years later.

Despite a plot involving time travel and naval warfare, The Final Countdown really isn’t that complicated of a movie. In essence, the aircraft carrier Nimitz, while engaged in training exercises, encounters a rift in space-time that sends it back to 1941. The crew investigates their situation, figures out what happened, and decides that no matter the time, their duty is to defend the United States, so they prepare to ambush the Japanese fleet with modern jet fighters before it can attack Pearl Harbor.

The primary fun in the film is watching the characters try to grasp the implications of the premise. The main debate is between the ship’s captain, played by Kirk Douglas, who must decide what the crew’s duty is despite being displaced by time, and a civilian observer played by Martin Sheen, who wonders if it’s possible to change history, and if so, what the ramifications would be. James Farentino plays the ship’s air wing commander, who also happens to be an amateur historian and expert on the Pearl Harbor attack.

The captain’s assessments hit a bit of a wrinkle when a fighter patrol encounters a couple of Japanese scout planes firing on a yacht in order to wipe out any potential witnesses. The boat’s main passenger turns out to be a U.S. senator (played Charles Durning) who could have become president had history not recorded him having disappeared just before the Pearl Harbor attack. Instead, he’s very much alive and sitting in the infirmary of a ship decades more advanced than the technology he’s familiar with, and he has a lot of questions.

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Aside from its place in time travel lore, the film is also mostly known for its authentic depiction of the operations on board a U.S. aircraft carrier, so much so that long stretches of the film are dedicated solely to depicting the processes for launching and maintaining fighter planes, which doesn’t do much to service the story but is catnip for military hardware junkies.

The reason for the authenticity is that the production crew was allowed to film on the actual U.S.S. Nimitz and record real military planes in action. In fact, some of the real naval aviators who worked on the film speculate in a bonus featurette that the Navy agreed to participate because they could use the final film as a recruitment video.

The primary fighter on display here is the F-14 Tomcat, six years before they were similarly featured in Top Gun. The appearance of the F-14 in both films is a primary reason the craft is among the greatest fighter planes from a pop culture perspective, and watching a couple of them dogfight with Japanese Zeros is a pure delight.

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The Final Countdown has enjoyed a few notable home video releases before, arriving on DVD in 2004 and on Blu-ray in 2008. But Blue Underground’s new 4K edition is the ultimate edition of the film, offering a nice-looking new restoration from the original 35mm camera negative, plus all previously available bonus material and then some.

First up is a commentary track carried over from 2004 with the film’s cinematographer, Victor J. Kemper, who discusses the process of shooting the film on board an active aircraft carrier with Blue Underground representative David Gregory.

There are also two featurettes, also from 2004, both of which are upscaled to 4K. “Lloyd Kaufman Goes Hollywood” is a 14-minute interview with Kaufman, the legendary Troma Entertainment founder who worked as a producer on the film, while the 31-minute “Starring the Jolly Rogers” is a fascinating retrospective featuring some of the real pilots who flew the planes in the film.

There are also galleries for the film’s promotional artwork, trailers and TV spots, the latter narrated by the voice of Optimus Prime himself, Peter Cullen.

The 4K combo pack includes the film on both a 4K disc and a regular Blu-ray, and the extras are fully available on both. In addition, the set doesn’t just repack the old 2008 Blu-ray, but a newly engineered one using the same restoration of the film as the 4K disc.

The set also includes the D-Box motion control from the original Blu-ray, and the “Zero Pilot Journal” essay that was available as text on the DVD release has been reprinted as a physical booklet insert.

Another added treat is a CD soundtrack of the film’s musical score by John Scott. This is the same CD that is available on its own through Screen Archives, and consists of 23 tracks running 54 minutes total.

Rounding out the set is reversable box art and a slipcase with a lenticular cover depicting the Nimitz disappearing into the rift.

All in all, this is a must have for fans of the film, the U.S. Navy and time travel stories in general.

 

Blue Underground Releasing ‘The Final Countdown’ on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray May 25

Indie distributor Blue Underground will release the 1980 time travel classic The Final Countdown on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc May 25 through  MVD Entertainment Group.

The film stars Kirk Douglas as the captain of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitz, which is in the middle of a training exercise when it is transported via a mysterious vortex back in time four decades to just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Joined by his first officer (Ron O’Neal), a defense department expert (Martin Sheen), and an air wing commander (James Farentino) who is also an amateur historian, the captain must decide whether or not to commit the advanced technology of his fighter planes to taking out the Japanese fleet prior to the sneak attack.

The Final Countdown

The cast also includes Charles Durning as a 1940s senator who encounters the future ship, and Katharine Ross as his assistant.

The film is presented with a new restoration, scanned in 4K 16-bit from the original 35mm camera negative, with Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio. The exclusive limited collector’s edition set will include the film on 4K and regular Blu-ray discs, a soundtrack CD and a collectible booklet. The first run of the 4K edition will also include a lenticular slipcover.

Extras include audio commentary with director of photography Victor J. Kemper; an interview with associate producer Lloyd Kaufman; interviews with The Jolly Rogers F-14 Fighter Squadron; theatrical trailers; TV spots; and poster and still galleries.

The Final Countdown 4K collector’s edition carries a list price of $59.95. Fans can save $10 by preordering the set at MVDshop.com.

Tenet

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Action;
Box Office $57.9 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references and brief strong language.
Stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Martin Donovan, Clémence Poésy, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh.

Christopher Nolan’s films often employ time-shifting narrative techniques that challenge the viewer to pay attention in order to be rewarded with a compelling entertainment experience.

With Tenet, is it possible that Nolan has crafted such a bizarre premise that even his smartest fans will have trouble wrapping their heads around it?

If there were a movie or TV show in which the characters were watching a “Christopher Nolan-style” movie, and then the makers of that program had to create a fake film to both represent and satirize a Nolan movie, something like Tenet is probably what they would come up with.

The story involves a CIA agent (John David Washington) who finds himself caught up with a super-secret organization on a mission to stop World War III from being started by enemies from the future who are able to invert the entropy of objects so that the travel backwards in time. The main enemy in the present is a Russian oligarch (Kenneth Branagh) who wants to assemble a device that will wipe out time itself, causing a paradox.

A common trait to Nolan’s films is how much they seem to be meta-commentaries on the art of filmmaking, and Tenet is no exception. In addition to the editing techniques that alter the flow of time much like the way a viewer can jump around a movie using a home video player, Washington’s character is referred to only as “The Protagonist,” a word that literally the word that means the main character of a story.

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At its simplest level, the film could be described as a time travel spy thriller, but that does little to convey just what a viewer is in for. Characters fight other characters who move backwards through the scene, then discover inversion machines that allow them to revisit earlier scenes, forcing characters in two different time frames to interact with each other, culminating in one of the most cinematically engaging, if utterly nonsensical, battles one is likely to witness.

Unlike Nolan’s earlier movies, such as Memento, Inception or Interstellar, where the time-shifting techniques have a certain logic to them, the exposition in Tenet would seem to defy all sense of rationality, yet they still work within the confines of the story as long as one doesn’t think about it too hard.

When a scientist character in the film trying to explain inverted time tells the hero, “Don’t try to understand it … just feel it,” she’s basically giving instructions to the audience, too.

And that’s pretty much the only way a viewer can make sense of what’s going on — by not trying to. Just enjoy the film in the moment, accept the notion that the characters have a handle on it, and take it in as an expression of pure cinema.

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There have been some grumblings about the sound mix favoring background noise and music to the point of making the dialogue hard to hear, and requiring subtitles, but I was able to make out what the characters were saying just fine. Perhaps it’s just a factor of getting used to it after multiple viewings.

The Blu-ray includes a comprehensive, multi-part behind-the-scenes documentary that runs about an hour and 15 minutes and covers the production from Nolan’s conception of it, to casting it, to crafting the action scenes, to post-production, editing and music. Viewers who’ve just watched the film and are still trying to make sense of it can take some satisfaction in seeing the stunt coordinator breaking his brain trying to conceive of how to depict a fight between two characters moving in opposite directions through time, and know they aren’t alone.

Bill & Ted Face the Music

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 11/10/20;
Warner/MGM;
Sci-Fi Comedy;
Box Office $3.4 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some language.
Stars Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Anthony Carrigan, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Holland Taylor, Kid Cudi, William Sadler, Jillian Bell, Hal Landon Jr., Beck Bennett, Amy Stoch.

The third “Bill & Ted” movie, coming 29 years after the second, turns the lengthy gap between sequels into an asset while bringing fans back into the familiar world of the franchise.

The film is something of homage to and an amalgam of the first two, which saw an emissary from the future, Rufus (played by the late George Carlin, who gets a tribute in the new film), travel back in time 700 years to put young slackers Bill and Ted (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) on course to bring about universal harmony with the music of their band, Wyld Stallyns.

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In the first film, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Rufus lends them a time machine in the shape of a phone booth to travel into the past to collect historical figures to pass their history report and graduate high school, assuring they can remain together. The second film, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, saw the duo the target of a future warlord who despises that society took inspiration from them. The robots he sends into the past to hunt them down succeed in killing them, but Bill and Ted are able to navigate the afterlife with the help of the Grim Reaper (William Sadler) to return to Earth, stop the robots, and win a battle of the bands on their path to superstardom.

As the third film opens, however, Bill and Ted have yet to write the song that will bring about global unity, and continue their desperate efforts to do so. Their lack of success has begun to tear the fabric of reality apart, leading to another emissary from the future, Rufus’ daughter (Kristen Schaal), to bring them a message from the Great Leader (Holland Taylor) chastising them for not fulfilling the prophecy.

Accordingly, Bill and Ted decide to visit their own future selves to try to find the song they were supposed to have written.

Meanwhile, their grown daughters Billie and Thea (Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving), who were introduced as babies at the end of Bogus Journey, come up with a plan to go back in time to gather the greatest musicians in history to form the ultimate band to help their dads.

Meanwhile, the Great Leader re-interprets the prophecy of how Bill and Ted influence future society, and after coming to the conclusion they have to die to restore reality, sends a robot back in time to do the deed.

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Even under the direction of Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest), Face the Music can’t match the energy levels of the first two films. This isn’t that surprising, though, since the film is dealing with the central theme of trying to live up to your potential even if the ability to do so seems to have passed you by. It’s a fun adventure that should elicit and lot of warm nostalgia smiles.

The Blu-ray comes with a handful of extras, led by the film’s 43-minute Comic-Con@Home panel. Hosted by Kevin Smith, whose Jay and Silent Bob characters drew obvious inspiration from Bill and Ted, the panel features several of the stars and key filmmakers participating through Zoom to discuss the making of the film and the origins of the franchise. The fact that the physical San Diego Comic-Con had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and replaced by an online one may prove to be something of a boon to Blu-ray and DVD bonus features, as the Virtual panels are yielding a slew of neatly packaged videos ready to plop on a disc or YouTube.

The other extras aren’t so extensive, consisting of four short promotional featurettes ranging from 50 to 80 seconds each.

 

‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ Due on Disc Nov. 10

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Bill & Ted Face the Music on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Nov. 10. The film, which is currently available for premium VOD rental and purchase from MGM and Orion Pictures, will be released via standard digital sellthrough Oct. 20, and standard VOD Nov. 10.

The third film in the “Bill & Ted” franchise, following 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, finds Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprising their roles as the time traveling title duo, who are tasked with emissaries from the future with writing the song that will unite humanity for all time.

The film was slated for a wide theatrical release over the summer that was pushed back as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, it was released via PVOD and in a handful of theaters that opened after quarantine restrictions were lifted, earning $3.3 million at the domestic box office.

Directed by Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”) and written by franchise creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, Bill & Ted Face the Music also stars William Sadler, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Anthony Carritan, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Hal Landon Jr., Beck Bennett, Amy Stoch, Jillian Bell and Holland Taylor.

The Blu-ray and DVD will include a “Be Excellent to Each Other” featurette. The Blu-ray will also include the featurettes “A Most Triumphant Duo,” “Death’s Crib” and “Social Piece (Excellence),” and the Bill & Ted Face the Music Comic-Con@Home panel.

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‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Season Four on Disc Sept. 24

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Fourth Season on Blu-ray and DVD Sept. 24 (order date Aug. 20).

The season deals with the Legends fighting the forces of magic and myth.

The cast includes Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Tala Ashe, Jes Macallan, Courtney Ford, Ramona Young, Nick Zano and Dominic Purcell. In addition, Matt Ryan reprises his role as the title character from “Constantine.”

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The Blu-ray and DVD includes all 16 episodes, plus deleted scenes, a gag reel, and the featurettes “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: Legendary Storytelling” and “Post Production Theater.” The Blu-ray will include 1080p HD video with DTS-HD master audio for English 5.1.

The fourth season is currently available to own digitally, and a digital copy is included with the Blu-ray.

11th Season of Modern ‘Doctor Who’ on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 29

 Doctor Who: The Complete Eleventh Series, the first season of the legendary British sci-fi franchise to feature an actress in the title role, will arrive on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 29 from BBC Studios.

In taking on the 13th incarnation of the Doctor since “Doctor Who” debuted in 1963, Jodie Whittaker becomes the first female Doctor. In the 11th season since the series was restarted in 2005, The Doctor arrives on Earth to thwart an alien hunter and takes on three new companions (Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill) for more adventures through space and time.

The three-disc season 11 set will include 10 episodes.

The 2019 New Year’s Day special Doctor Who: Resolution will be released as a separate Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 19.

BBC Releasing Blu-ray of Tom Baker’s First Season on ‘Doctor Who’

BBC Studios June 19 will release Doctor Who: Tom Baker — Complete Season One on Blu-ray, featuring 20 episodes from the 1974-75 season of the classic British sci-fi series “Doctor Who.”

Comprising the show’s 12th season, the remastered episodes feature Baker’s introduction as the fourth actor to play The Doctor, a time-travelling alien who fights evil throughout the universe with the help of his human companions. The season includes the serials “Robot,” “The Ark in Space,” The Sontaran Experiment,” “Genesis of the Daleks” and “Revenge of the Cybermen.”

The marks the first time a complete season of the 1963-89 original run of the franchise is being released in a single volume. Previous DVD releases have been per serial or special compilations.

The six-disc Blu-ray includes more than 17 hours of bonus content, including:

  • “Tom Baker in Conversation,” a candid new one-hour interview with the actor.
  • “Behind the Sofa,” a selection of clips viewed by several stars of the show.
  • New making-of documentaries for “The Sontaran Experiment” and “Revenge of the Cybermen.”
  • An option to watch “Revenge of the Cybermen” with brand new, updated special effects.
  • An omnibus movie version of “Genesis of the Daleks,” unseen since its broadcast in 1975.
  • “The Tom Baker Years,” A 1991 special featuring highlights from the Fourth Doctor’s run, available on disc for the first time.
  • Immersive 5.1 surround sound mixes for “The Ark In Space” and “Genesis of the Daleks.”