Coppola’s Gothic Thriller ‘B’Twixt Now and Sunrise’ Due on Blu-ray Feb. 28

The 2011 gothic thriller B’Twixt Now and Sunrise, written, directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, arrives on Blu-ray (plus digital) Feb. 28 from Lionsgate.

Featuring Coppola’s “Authentic Cut,” the film is available for the first time on Blu-ray. “The Authentic Cut of B’Twixt Now and Sunrise is a story more personal to me,” Coppola said in a statement.

The film stars Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern and Elle Fanning, with musician Tom Waits narrating.

In the film, when struggling supernatural fiction writer Hall Baltimore (Kilmer) arrives in an isolated small town as part of his book tour, he hears about the local lore of vampires and an infamous mass murder. Eager for inspiration, Baltimore is swept into a surreal fever dream of eccentric characters — from the oddball sheriff (Dern) to the ghost of a young girl (Fanning) to visions of Edgar Allan Poe (Chaplin) — that forces him to confront his own troubled past.

Bonus features include Twixt: A Documentary by Gia Coppola.

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Top Gun: Maverick

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 11/1/22;
Paramount;
Action;
Box Office $716.58 million;
$25.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray, $37.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of intense action, and some strong language.
Stars Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Jay Ellis, Bashir Salahuddin, Charles Parnell, Jon Hamm, Val Kilmer.

Among the many considerable plaudits earned by Top Gun: Maverick during a historic box office run, one of the most remarkable might be the degree to which it retroactively makes its predecessor a better film.

The long-awaited (and pandemic-delayed) sequel to 1986’s Top Gun finds Pete Mitchell, callsign Maverick, the hotshot fighter pilot played by Tom Cruise, older but not much wiser — still flaunting the rules and refusing to evolve beyond his core identity as a naval aviator.

Tucked away from official duty while serving as a test pilot for a new stealth fighter called the Darkstar, Maverick is summoned back to Top Gun with orders to train a group of elite graduates from the famed dogfighting school for a mission to bomb an illegal nuclear facility in an unnamed rogue nation (which is definitely not Iran, wink wink). The mission is said to be nearly impossible to pull off, with the pilots forced to contend not only with GPS jamming and anti-aircraft missiles, but also the threat of new technologically superior fifth-generation enemy fighters. The key to survival will be how could the pilot in the cockpit truly is.

The film is essentially what it would feel like if the entirety of the first “Star Wars” movie were focused just on the pilots training for and carrying out the attack on the Death Star.

As to Maverick’s own personal growth, one stumbling block may be that he still blames himself for the death of his best friend, Goose, in the original film. The sequel, thus, provides some measure of a pathway to atonement in the form of Goose’s son, Rooster (Miles Teller), who is among the new generation of pilots vying for a spot in the mission, and who resents Maverick for trying to impede his own career.

In his return to San Diego (even though in real life that’s not where Top Gun is located anymore), Maverick even gets a chance to catch up with old flame Penny (Jennifer Connelly), whose character is mentioned in the original film as a prior dalliance for the young pilot.

Thus, the two films, when taken together, tell the grand arc of Maverick learning where he fits in the world — and either adjusting to the new reality or testing its limits until it kills him.

While it also succeeds on its own merits, the sequel is evocative of the original but not a straight retread. There are scenes and characters that echo what came before, but the screenplay uses such nostalgia to enhance the story, rather than rely on it. In turn, circumstances of the original film take on greater meaning now that we know how they pay off.

That’s because Top Gun: Maverick works on so many levels, from an emotionally exhilarating story of an ersatz family coming together, to an eminently watchable, fist-pumping patriotic thrill ride.

Joseph Kosinski proves to be a deft choice for the director’s chair, bringing his reputation for strong visual dynamics to bear in making the film seem like a tribute to the late Tony Scott, whose work helming the original helped redefine the action genre. Fittingly, Top Gun: Maverick is a throwback to the heyday of action films that didn’t try to be more than they needed to be — entertaining crowds with charismatic movie stars, exciting combat, a love story to raise the stakes, and some chart-topping pop tunes (which in the case of this film should give Lady Gaga a chance at another Oscar).

The aerial photography is breathtaking, with the only potential drawback from a visual standpoint being the use of the F-18 Superhornet as the primary hero fighter. The F-18 has been featured in a lot of movies before, but it looks like a generic assembly line fighter jet and just doesn’t have the sexy big-screen presence of the F-14 Tomcat, which was featured in the original film.

Of course, switching from the F-14 to the F-18 was pretty much mandated by the constraints of reality, as the Tomcat was retired from active service in 2006, replaced by the F-18 as the primary naval fighter (with the F-35 set to take on more prominence going forward). The only country today still flying the F-14 in their fleets is Iran (just like the “fictional” enemy in the film, wink wink).

Cinematically, the film takes the original’s catchphrase of “the need for speed” to the next level, putting the actors in real F-18s to pull legit G-forces that you can see on their faces and practically feel through the screen. With the F-18 coming in both single and dual-pilot configurations, the production could stick the actors in the backseat and film them as if they were flying the single-seat version.

The earnestness of the filmmaking and cinematography gives the film an unmatched level of verisimilitude that makes it effortless to enjoy — despite what seems to be a cottage industry of former fighter pilots popping up on YouTube to analyze the technical inaccuracies of the film.

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The key question of the film is, as an aging pilot, where does Maverick belong? To many film fans, the answer to that question isn’t just that he belongs in the air, but in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat, which is perhaps the most iconic fighter plane of all time thanks in no small part to being featured in 1980s films such as Top Gun.

Being well aware of this, it’s a good bet the filmmakers will find a way for Maverick to find his way back to the F-14. And when they do, it’s a pure hit of that sweet sugar we all crave.

The filmmakers know exactly what they’re doing, taking full advantage of basic screenwriting lessons of setup and payoff. This is a screenplay that tells you exactly where it’s going, and it’s a ride you want to take.

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The 4K presentation of Top Gun: Maverick is simply stunning, with reference-quality visuals and sound that should really push the boundaries of what home theaters can do. The HD presentation features a shifting aspect ratio, expanding to fill the screen during the aerial scenes to take advantage of the Imax photography used during production.

The film is offered in standalone 4K, Blu-ray and DVD editions — frustratingly, none of the wide releases are combo packs, aside from a code to access a digital copy being included with the 4K and Blu-ray sets. There is a limited-edition Steelbook with both 4K and Blu-ray included. A gift set of both films on both 4K and Blu-ray is due Dec. 6.

Only the Blu-ray editions include bonus materials, which are also accessible through the digital copy at some retailers.

These include several insightful behind-the-scenes featurettes. The eight-minute “Breaking New Ground” delves into the challenges of finding the techniques to make the film as realistic as possible, including creating new cameras for the cockpits; the nine-minute “Cleared for Take Off” invites viewers into the training the actors received to film the aerial sequences; the five-minute “A Love Letter to Aviation” deals with Cruise’s passion for flying and how he piloted his own World War II-era P-51 Mustang plane in the film; and the seven-and-a-half-minute “Forging the Darkstar” looks at the filming of the fictional plane prototype in the opening sequence, for which the the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works development team was brought in to lend an air of authenticity.

Also included are music videos for the songs “Hold My Hand” by Lady Gaga (the new love theme that in tandem with the original film’s theme serves as the basis for the new film’s musical score), and “I Ain’t Worried” by Onerepublic (the song that accompanies the beach football scene that is this film’s version of the original’s volleyball scene).

Exclusive to the 4K disc (and digitally) is “Masterclass With Tom Cruise,” a terrific 50-minute discussion with Cruise at the Cannes Film Festival about his career.

Among the extras available digitally are a 26-minute promotional video of comedian James Corden going through pilot training with Cruise. There’s also a short video from CinemaCon of Cruise introducing a screening of Top Gun: Maverick while filming an aerial stunt for the upcoming Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, a trailer for which also is included.

1980s Comedy ‘Real Genius’ Graduates to 4K Ultra HD Sept. 13

The 1985 comedy Real Genius will be released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Sept. 13 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film follows a group of crazy college geniuses who put their heads together to do good and a little mischief; Chris (Val Kilmer) is the top brain who just wants to party, Mitch (Gabe Jarret) is the 16-year-old whiz kid, and Lazlo (Jonathan Gries), America’s number one brain, literally lives in a world of his own — Chris’ closet. Supposedly hard at work on a lab project, they still find time to turn the dorm into an ice-skating rink, and throw a beach party in the auditorium complete with a lagoon. When the geniuses discover that their unscrupulous mentor Professor Hathaway (William Atherton) has had them working on a secret weapon for the military, they plot an elaborate revenge. Their plan culminates in an incredible scheme that outsmarts the military.

The 4K Ultra HD disc includes the feature scanned from the original camera negative and presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision, reviewed and approved by director Martha Coolidge. Sound includes new Dolby Atmos and 5.1 audio, reviewed and approved by Coolidge, plus the original Dolby Stereo.

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The Blu-ray disc has the feature presented in high-definition, sourced from the 4K master and 5.1 plus Dolby Stereo audio, as well as special features including a new “Balloon Chair” deleted scene and a raw takes montage, the TV Version of the film, and feature commentary with Coolidge.

Mafia Mystery ‘The Birthday Cake’ Coming to Disc July 27

Screen Media will release the crime drama The Birthday Cake on Blu-ray Disc and DVD July 27.

In the film, Gio (Shiloh Fernandez) continues a family tradition by bringing a cake to a memorial celebration of the 10th anniversary of his father’s mysterious death, hosted by his uncle (Val Kilmer), a Brooklyn mafia boss. Gio’s life begins to change as he pieces together what really happened to his father.

The cast also includes David Mazouz, Ewan McGregor, Lorraine Bracco, Ashley Benson, Aldis Hodge, Penn Badgley, Emory Cohen, Vincent Pastore and Jeremy Allen White.

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Amazon Acquires Documentary ‘Val’

Amazon Studios has acquired U.S. and Latin American rights to the documentary Val, about actor Val Kilmer.

From directors Leo Scott and Ting Poo, this is the first feature in the slate of documentaries and doc-series being produced by A24, which has a nonfiction arm led by Ben Cotner.

Amazon Studios will release the documentary later this year in the United States and Latin America. A24 controls all remaining worldwide rights.

For more than 40 years Kilmer, one of Hollywood’s most mercurial and/or misunderstood actors has been documenting his own life and craft through film and video. He has amassed thousands of hours of footage, from 16mm home movies made with his brothers, to time spent in iconic roles for blockbuster movies such as Top GunThe DoorsTombstone and Batman Forever. The documentary reveals a life lived to extremes and a look at what it means to be an artist and a complex man.

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“At least once a day for years I looked around and got this bittersweet feeling that there are a thousand reasons that this project could’ve been shipwrecked,” Kilmer said in a statement. “I mean, what could a film look like of a man filming himself, sometimes daily, years at a time? It is unimaginable that this movie actually could’ve ever come to light without the partnership of my dear friends, Leo and Ting, and my producing partners. Tireless hours of editing and endless emotions with each new cut. I couldn’t be more proud to share this with the world.”

“Filmmakers Leo Scott and Ting Poo have a unique, cutting-edge style and artistry, weaving together never-before-seen footage into a beautiful, raw story about this renowned and celebrated actor, artist and man,” Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “We’re excited to work with Val and the A24 team on their first produced documentary feature and to share this unprecedented film with audiences.”

‘Top Gun’ Flying Back to Theaters for 35th

The Tom Cruise action classic Top Gun will land at more than 150 Dolby Cinemas at AMC across the country for an exclusive one-week engagement beginning May 13.

Newly remastered, the film will be presented with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio.

The limited theatrical release is timed to Top Gun Day on May 13, as well as the 35th anniversary of the film, which was originally released on May 16, 1986.

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The film, starring Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards,  is available now on digital, 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray, with more than four hours of bonus content, including a featurette that explores the film’s legacy and enduring popularity through interviews with Cruise, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and members of the cast of the new film Top Gun: Maverick.

The story of an elite group of pilots competing to earn the title of “Top Gun” ultimately earned a worldwide box office of more than $350 million.

Top Gun

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Action;
$14.99 Blu-ray, $22.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside, Rick Rossovich, James Tolkan, Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan.

The new Blu-ray editions of 1986’s Top Gun were clearly timed to coincide with what would have been the theatrical release of the film’s long-awaited sequel. However, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic shutting down theaters, Top Gun: Maverick was pushed back six months to Dec. 23.

The new Blu-ray does include a trailer for the new film, plus a new six-minute “The Legacy of Top Gun” featurette in which Tom Cruise and some of the filmmakers behind the sequel discuss the impact of the director Tony Scott’s original, which has become an iconic depiction of fighter aircraft combat action. The film still holds up well (despite some cheesy over-the-top machismo that is part of its charm).

Of course, the other thing the film is well known for is its beach volleyball scene that has fueled the film’s reputation as a homoerotic fantasy. The volleyball scene has become so intrinsically associated with the film that a recent board game based on the film lets players either try their hand at the airplane combat of the famed Top Gun dogfighting school, or simulate the volleyball game.

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The bright, vivid image of the new Blu-ray transfer shows off every detail, to the point where it’s impossible not to notice how almost everyone is sweating profusely in practically every scene (it must be hot on those airplanes and carriers). The disc also brings out the film’s legendary soundtrack in a 5.1 mix that perfectly services the action.

The other extra listed as new for this edition is the five-part half-hour retrospective “On Your Six: Thirty Years of Top Gun.” It’s filled with great stories about the production ( such as Scott getting a Navy captain to turn an aircraft carrier around in order to get the perfect lighting from the sun). It was obviously filmed a few years ago, since this year is the 34th anniversary of the film, and Cruise talks about having just read an early draft of the sequel screenplay (the same sequel that is now finished and waiting to hit theaters).

The Blu-ray also includes all the bonus material from previous releases, including a commentary with the filmmakers and naval experts; storyboards; vintage interviews; four music videos (which have not aged particularly well); an earlier behind-the-scenes featurette from the 2008 Blu-ray; and an interesting look at the real Top Gun school, also from 2008.

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Western ‘A Soldier’s Revenge’ Shoots to Disc and Digital June 16 From Well Go

The Western A Soldier’s Revenge will come out on digital, Blu-ray and DVD June 16 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film is written and directed by Michael Feifer and stars Neal Bledsoe (“The Man in High Castle”), Rob Mayes (“Mistresses”), AnnaLynne McCord (“90210”), Val Kilmer (Batman ForeverThe Doors) and Jake Busey (Starship Troopers).

The story follows Civil War soldier-turned-bounty-hunter Frank Connor (Bledsoe), a man haunted by wartime horrors who spends his time post-war polishing off two things: whiskey and fugitives. When two desperate children arrive on his doorstep and enlist his help to find their missing mother (McCord), Frank must face his past in order to take down the notorious Major Briggs (Mayes), with whom he has a score all his own to settle.

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Shout! Factory to Issue 2003 Bob Dylan Film ‘Masked and Anonymous’ on Blu-ray Disc

Shout! Factory has set a March 10 home release date for Masked and Anonymous, a 2003 drama directed by Larry Charles that was originally written by Charles and Bob Dylan, who also stars in the movie.

The film will be available on Blu-ray Disc. Bonus features include a new interview and commentary with Charles, deleted scenes, a making-of documentary, and the original theatrical trailers.

Dylan plays the enigmatic Jack Fate, a former traveling troubadour who is bailed out of jail by his manager to headline a sketchy and misguided benefit concert for a decaying America. The concert is organized by Uncle Sweetheart, a corrupt concert promoter who plans on raking in huge sums of money for himself through the event. Meanwhile, journalist Tom Friend (Jeff Bridges) investigates the corrupt concert and tries to unveil the truth to the public.

The film has a star-heavy cast, including Bob Dylan, John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, Penélope Cruz, Val Kilmer, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson, Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Cheech Marin, Ed Harris, Chris Penn, Steven Bauer, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Paul Chan, Christian Slater and Fred Ward.

Jay & Silent Bob Reboot

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 1/21/20;
Lionsgate;
Comedy;
Box Office $3.41 million;
$19.98 DVD, $21.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive strong crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and some nudity.
Stars Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Harley Quinn Smith, Shannon Elizabeth, Jason Lee, Fred Armisen.

The latest addition to Kevin Smith’s View-Askewniverse is an unexpected treat for longtime fans of the filmmaker’s work. That it even exists is somewhat of a miracle.

Smith had been trying to make Clerks III, but when one of the key actors dropped out, he shelved the project. With progress on a Mallrats sequel also stalled, Smith instead wrote another “Jay & Silent Bob” movie, with the urging of his long-time friend and co-star Jason Mewes, who plays the stoner Jay in the films alongside Smith’s Silent Bob. But before production began, Smith suffered a heart attack in early 2018, though he eventually recovered.

As a result, Jay & Silent Bob Reboot might be Smith’s most personal film since 1997’s Chasing Amy, though in a completely different way. Where that film, his third, was an introspective rumination on the fleeting nature of young love, his latest romp is a comedic reflection of his entire career, and more often than not a parody of it, while also taking aim at Hollywood’s penchant for remakes, reboots and an endless string of comic book movies.

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Chasing Amy also happens to be an apropos starting point for dissecting Reboot, since that’s the film that gave birth to the idea of the Jay and Silent Bob drug dealer characters being the inspiration for the fictional “Bluntman and Chronic” comic book featured at the heart of that film’s story.

Reboot unabashedly tells the same story, albeit updated, as 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, in which the duo, fearing damage to their reputations, trekked from New Jersey to Hollywood in an attempt to stop a film version of “Bluntman and Chronic” from being made.

Jay and Silent Bob end up profiting from that film (see Clerks II), but after 18 years the studio wants to reboot it, and through some legal maneuvers manage to gain copyright control over the duo’s actual identities, preventing them from using their own names. As a result, they scheme to return to Hollywood to disrupt production of the reboot, too. The twist now is that the reboot’s director is Kevin Smith, playing a fictional version of himself.

Along the way, Jay and Silent Bob join forces with a rebellious teen (played by Smith’s real-life daughter, Harley Quinn Smith) and her friends, as they make their way to “Chronic-Con,” a blatant spoof of Comic-Con. Smith manages to work references to nearly all his previous movies into the adventure, including updating the audience on what happened to a few of the main characters from the shared universe (and even answering a 25-year-old question that lingered back to his original film, 1994’s Clerks).

This is all catnip for Smith’s fans, who can easily forgive the juvenile humor and crude behavior surrounding the central antagonists, even as the story veers off the rails in its final act. Such are the trademark selling points of Smith’s works, not drawbacks, in a way only someone such as Smith could get away with. These are at their core stoner comedies, after all.

Sophistication isn’t the goal here, just the boundless energy and sense of fun of a pop-culture-obsessed filmmaker embracing what he loves. Smith even manages to sneak in a few heartfelt moments of character, paying off decades of the audience’s investment in their stories.

And, seemingly as a result of the goodwill generated by the film’s roadshow tour, the departed Clerks III cast member decided to sign up after all, and it looks like that film is now a go, too.

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The film’s home video editions offer a few interesting, if somewhat unstructured, behind the scenes material. Primary among them is nearly an hour of cast interviews that have been cobbled together as some sort of ersatz making-of documentary. Presenting their thoughts without the framework of an interviewer, they mostly talk about their characters and the wackiness of the story.

Then, there’s a separate half hour of Smith and Mewes interviewing their co-stars.

Rounding out the extras are a 10-minute blooper reel and two minutes of Smith and Mewes fixing their Jay and Silent Bob hair.