Lionsgate will release The Terror: Infamy, the second season of the critically acclaimed AMC anthology series, on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Aug. 18.
Executive produced by Alexander Woo, Ridley Scott, Guymon Casady, Alexandra Milchan, David W. Zucker and Jordan Sheehan, and written by Max Borenstein, The Terror: Infamy deals with World War II-era Japanese-Americans on Southern California’s Terminal Island who are menaced by a “bakemono,” or folkloric specter.
Suffering forced evictions and imprisonment after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Terminal Islanders are hounded by prejudice and injustice, as well as bad omens and bizarre deaths. One of them, Chester Nakayama (Derek Mio), decides to take on the malevolent entity, journeying to realms of evil in both the present and the distant past.
The cast also includes Kiki Sukezane, Naoko Mori, Miki Ishikawa, and George Takei.
Director-producer Roland Emmerich is known for epic science-fiction battles between humans, aliens and monsters, but it was the film of an actual battle in World War II that he waited two decades to make.
While collaborating with Emmerich on another project, screenwriter Wes Tooke asked the director, “What’s the one that got away?”
Emmerich told him it was the story of the battle of Midway, the 1942 clash between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy that marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater. He’d tried to make it while at Sony 20 years earlier, but the budget and subject weren’t right for the studio. Thus, with Tooke as screenwriter, Emmerich got together a production team to film Midway, based on the real-life events of this heroic feat, telling the story of the leaders and sailors in the battle.
Midway is available on digital, DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Lionsgate.
“I wanted to make this movie for 20 years, and I’m glad I finally made it,” said Emmerich in the disc commentary.
“Roland insisted that we make every effort to make all aspects of the film as accurate as possible,” Tooke said. “Everything that happens onscreen, in terms of historical events, is factual and in chronological order. It begins in December 1941 with Pearl Harbor and ends in June with the Battle of Midway. It is the most dramatic six months in the history of warfare.”
The cast includes Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Darren Criss, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid and Woody Harrelson.
Quaid plays Admiral William “Bull” Halsey.
“Midway is an amazing story, and it has never been told right,” he noted in the extras.
Harrelson is legendary Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who is given the position of Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, famously termed “the most difficult job in the world,” after the attack at Pearl Harbor.
“Everybody was very conscientious about trying to make it real, and I think they got it right,” said Harrelson in the extras.
One hard-to-believe fact about the Midway battle is the harrowing way the dive-bombers attacked the Japanese ships. It was one of the aspects of the battle that got Emmerich interested in telling the story. In the film, viewers travel along with the pilots as they plummet precipitously toward the target, drop the bomb and pull up at the last minute.
“I wanted to show how incredibly dangerous these dives were,” Emmerich said in the extras. “What these people did — they were pretty much missiles, what we do today with missiles. They were manned missiles, these planes. The later you deployed a bomb, the more chance you had to hit a target.”
The authenticity didn’t stop there. Filmmakers were scrupulous in recreating the era and the weapons of World War II, building replicas of both the torpedo- and bomb-dropping planes, as well as other equipment right down to the screws, nuts and bolts that aren’t used anymore. They were also able to shoot at historic locations.
“When you’re looking at a building that has bullet holes on the side of it from the attack in 1941, you know, ‘OK, we’re going to tell this story as truthfully as we can,”’ said Wilson, in the extras.
Wilson plays Edwin Layton, a U.S. Navy intelligence officer, just one of the actual participants in the battle who are memorialized in the film. Nick Jonas, who was offered many parts, chose to play radioman Bruno Gaido, known for heroically shooting down a Japanese plane before it hit his carrier. He was later lost in the battle. “I wanted to do justice to Bruno because he was a real American hero,” he said. Skrein is Dick Best, the unsung hero pilot of Midway who destroys Japanese ships, but never flies again due to injury.
Emmerich was also careful to acknowledge the bravery of the Japanese, casting several renowned Japanese actors.
“When you make a war movie and you show one side as the bad guys and the other side as the good guys, I think you don’t do war justice because I think you have to understand what was the Japanese side,” he said in the extras. “It enlightens people. It shows that they are also human. They’re also brave.”
The director hopes the film is able to stand as a testament to the Greatest Generation.
“I’m thrilled that we had the opportunity to tell this story because young people today don’t always know the stories about those who fought for their freedom,” Emmerich said. “I think that without the generation who fought in WWII, our world would be very different.”
4K ULTRA HD / BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich
“Getting It Right: The Making of Midway” Featurette
“The Men of Midway” Featurette
“Roland Emmerich: Man on a Mission” Featurette
“Turning Point: The Legacy of Midway” Featurette
“Joe Rochefort: Breaking the Japanese Code” Featurette
“We Met at Midway: Two Survivors Remember” Featurette
DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES
Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich
“Getting It Right: The Making of Midway” Featurette
Sony Pictures; Drama; $24.99 Blu-ray; Not rated. Stars Kirk Douglas, Richard Harris, Ulla Jacobsson, Michael Redgrave.
There’s no accounting for what memory can preserve from a movie not seen in decades, and with 1966’s The Heroes Telemark (aside from its convincing portrayal of incessantly frigid temperatures), it’s always been the nifty sweaters Kirk Douglas and Ella Jacobson wear inside a cozy Norwegian home just made for lovin’. Or it would be, were the place not transformed by circumstances into a kind of mission central for fighting Nazis in early 1942.
In this case, memory has not played tricks. The sweaters really are nifty, though with perhaps just enough white in them that I’d be a lock to spill a glass of red wine in the wrong place were somebody to gift me with one. Still, you have to think that this isn’t the likely takeaway that director Anthony Mann had in mind for what turned out to be his final credit for a movie he lived to complete — though this fairly handsome production for its day did pretty fair business in Europe. Yet, in my Midwestern city, it failed to rate a downtown booking, and I caught its local opening engagement at a normally second-run campus movie house in a year when studio execs and marketers had less than a firm idea of what people wanted to see. Probably not Resistance fighting, or at least not in college towns when Blow-Up wasn’t that far away on the horizon.
Still, I’m guessing the picture worked well enough in drive-ins because it had a reliable veteran superstar (Douglas) teamed with an on-the-rise arthouse hunk (Richard Harris) — and this would be way before years of Demon Sauce gave Harris that Keith Richards look he sported in Randa Haines’s underrated Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. Before long, Harris would eschew the likes of Antonioni and Red Desert to find himself playing Cain in John Huston’s The Bible and King Arthur in Joshua Logan’s stillborn stab at Camelot — an entire career right there for a lot of actors. Here, though, he’s playing a character based on Knut Haukelid, who wrote a 1954 remembrance that served as one of two sources for the film — a book called Skiis Against the Atom, which pretty well sums up the 134 minutes we spend here.
Harris (name modified to called Knut Strand) is a resistance fighter in Telemark, Norway, where the Nazis are trying to produce the heavy water that’s needed to construct an atomic bomb amid Germany’s race against the Allies to do just that. Douglas, too, is Norwegian and a physics professor to boot, though from appearances, he also seems to have had time to work in some weight training. Then again, this is a country where all the men and probably lots of women automatically exercise by half-living on skis; even Michael Redgrave (as “Uncle” — who shares the house with Jacobsson) doesn’t look out of sorts, looking more spry than he did in The Browning Version a decade-plus earlier.
Nothing risible is meant by all this because Heroes’ skiing sequences are as memorable as the sweaters. Thus, I’m once again reminded of the remark someone once made to the effect that of you could find someone who shot exteriors like Mann and interiors like Nicholas Ray, you would have the perfect filmmaker. Or at least you would if the exteriors, as here, were shot by Robert Krasker, who was also behind the camera for Olivier’s Henry V, Carol Reed’s The Third Man, Visconti’s Senso, and (for Mann) El Cid.
Jacobbson is not only a honey here but Douglas’s ex-wife — a plot point I’ll just bet you wasn’t in Haulkelid’s book. For most of the going, “Selfless” isn’t exactly the middle name of Kirk’s character here (Rolf’s the name), which makes her less than willing to welcome him back into the sack when he and Harris end up using her place as headquarters in which to plot blowing up the nearby factory where the heavy water is being manufactured. This was during the Swedish actress’s lamentably short run as a Hollywood hopeful, well after she’d appeared partially nude in the internationally popular One Summer of Happiness (1951, though not till ’55 in the States). Even with its delayed release, its ‘PG’-level sexuality agitated a lot of wheezing political hacks into their daily round of agitation over life as it’s lived. Here, however, she mostly keeps the sweater on.
The major heavy here is bad old Anton Diffring (a kind of meaner-looking Peter Van Eyck), an actor immediately recognizable to any movie lover with a memory and a pulse; he probably played more Nazis on screen than Roy Rogers played characters in billion-decibel shirts who were named “Roy.” Diffring and the rest of the film play out in ways that one pretty well expects, and the result is a respectable (but that’s all) finale to Mann’s career that’s ultimately less distinguished than its great skiing scenes. Mann would begin one more picture — 1968’s A Dandy in Aspic — before succumbing to a heart attack in the middle of filming. Lead Laurence Harvey took over, though Columbia Pictures gave Mann full on-screen credit; I’ve never seen it, but Britain’s classy Indicator series has a release coming March ’18 that’ll probably be all-region.
Heroes on Blu-ray appears to be the product of a master with some mold on it, one that really gets (going from 1966 memory) all there is to be gotten out of Krasker’s visuals — a rap that has nothing to do with this Blu-ray’s status as an on-demand selection. Though the word “Choice” doesn’t appear (per usual) on the disc jacket, this release appears to be another of Sony’s manufactured-to-order high-def releases of predominantly Columbia Pictures product. The problem for on-demand naysayers (and Sony issues BD-Rs) is the large number (out of relatively few issued titles) of movies that I, at least, like, love or treasure as oddball curios: The Bitter Tea of General Yen, The Triplets of Belleville, Gideon of Scotland Yard, Real Genius, Spanglish, the Sofia Coppola Marie Antoinette and the Gillian Anderson Little Women.
The last, at least, is one you’d think might be worth a full-scale marketing job, what with a brand new sibling go-around scheduled for Christmas under the eye of director Greta Gerwig. But this is just an observational aside and nothing more because I’m adverse to plopping Anton Diffring and Louisa May Alcott into the same piece of writing.
Cinedigm is partnering with Mark Yellen Productions and Rosenbloom Entertainment to produce a multi-season, episodic series about feminist and adventurer Emily Hahn, the literary author who introduced Shanghai and greater China to U.S. audiences through her articles published in The New Yorker magazine in the 1930s.
The indie home entertainment distributor, which is majority owned by Hong Kong-based Bison Capital, is using its Chinese connections to begin shooting in 2019 on location in Shanghai and Hong Kong, taking advantage of Shanghai’s Bund waterfront, which has one the richest collections of Art Deco architecture in the world.
The series will be released in the U.S. and China through both physical and digital media.
“Emily Hahn was a charismatic, unconventional free spirit who wrote about her experiences with courage and compassion,” Chris McGurk, CEO, Cinedigm, said in a statement. “Now is the perfect time to re-introduce audiences to the vibrant, complex, and intriguing world of 1930s Shanghai from a uniquely female perspective.”
A feminist trailblazer before the word existed, Hahn wrote hundreds of articles and short stories for The New Yorkerfrom 1925 to 1995, as well as fifty-two books in many genres, most notably China to Me and The Soong Sisters.
Hahn, who died in 1997 at the age of 92, led a most unconventional life – especially for a woman in the 1930s and 40s.
She was the first woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in mining engineering – choosing the field after a professor reportedly told her, “The female mind is incapable of grasping mechanics or higher mathematics or any of the fundamentals of mining taught” in engineering.
Prior to graduating, Hahn drove across the country in a Model T Ford dressed as a man, chronicling the trip in letters to her brother-in-law – who, recognizing her literary talent, then forwarded them to The New Yorker.
That was the beginning of a life that would include stints in the Belgian Congo, living with a pygmy tribe for two years and crossing central Africa solo on foot.
Hahn’s time in Shanghai from 1935 through 1941, included the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong in 1941. Captured by the Japanese during World War II, Hahn taught Japanese officials English in exchange for food. She was repatriated in 1943.
Like chapters out of Casablanca, Hahn was romantically involved with numerous high-profile men, including Victor Sassoon, Chinese poet and publisher Shao Xunmei, and Charles Boxer, head of British intelligence in Hong Kong, with whom she had two children after the war.
Ever the nonconformist, Hahn would later write that Shao got her addicted to opium. “Though I had always wanted to be an opium addict, I can’t claim that as the reason I went to China,” she wrote.
“Emily was able to champion female empowerment and embrace cultural diversity at a time when those concepts were completely alien to most, making it very relevant in today’s climate of change,” said Chip Rosenbloom, president of Rosenbloom Entertainment.
Street 2/27/18; Universal; Drama; Box Office $54.55 million; $29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray; Rated ‘PG-13’ for some thematic material. Stars Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ben Mendelsohn.
Darkest Hour is a solid character drama about Winston Churchill’s first few weeks as prime minister of Great Britain in 1940, as he was thrust into the chaos of the early days of World War II.
With Hitler on the verge of conquering France and setting his sights on England, Churchill must contend not only with his country’s rapidly deteriorating military position, but also calls for peace talks from within his own party — from the very people whose appeasement policies helped put Churchill in this difficult position to begin with.
The crisis comes to a head with the evacuation at Dunkirk, as Churchill is determined to rescue British troops despite long odds his plans can succeed. In showing what took place in the halls of British government as the soldiers waited on the beaches for a rescue, Darkest Hour serves as an interesting companion piece to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which hit theaters just a few months earlier and presented the point of view of the evacuating troops.
Gary Oldman practically disappears into the role of Churchill, aided by a complex body makeup to add age and girth. Numerous actors have taken a turn at Churchill over the years, but Oldman’s is likely to draw some inevitable comparisons with John Lithgow’s Emmy-winning take on Netflix’s “The Crown” due to the close proximity of the projects. While Lithgow is just as effective in portraying Churchill’s self-assuredness, temper and arrogance, there’s no mistaking it’s Lithgow. Whereas with Oldman it’s easy to get caught up in his performance, as really it’s only his eyes that provide the telltale reminder of who is actually up there on screen.
As far as comparisons go, however, Ben Mendelsohn is in a less-enviable position for his brief turn as King George VI, with both Colin Firth’s turn in The King’s Speech and Jared Harris on “The Crown” providing fresh points of comparison for performances as the king in earlier and later periods of his life, respectively. Mendelsohn, at least, has the advantage of somewhat resembling the real-life George, as noted by director Joe Wright in a solo commentary track included with the Blu-ray.
Wright’s commentary ends up presenting a nice mix of behind-the-scenes information and some insights into the real story. There are also two short featurettes: an eight-minute making-of video and a four-minute look at Oldman’s performance.
Street 12/19/17; Warner; Drama; Box Office $188.05 million; $28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD; Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense war experience and some language. Stars Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy.
Christopher Nolan is the kind of filmmaker who doesn’t stick to a particular genre or subject matter. Rather, when he delves into a project, he leaves an indelible mark on it that immediately sets it apart from other films that would aim to cover similar ground. Indeed, at those times when Nolan’s vision can even be classified as one thing or another, his films, such as Kubrick’s before him, stand apart as his own unique take on the genre. Much as Insomnia was Nolan’s murder mystery, Inception was his heist film, and Interstellar his science-fiction film, Dunkirk is unmistakably Nolan’s “war film.”
Told through stunning visuals with minimal dialogue, Dunkirk relates the soldier’s experience of the 1940 evacuation of the eponymous French town, where during the early years of World War II Allied troops were surrounded by Nazis and had to be evacuated from the beach. With time of the essence, the British even called upon civilian ships to save as many troops as possible, so they could regroup and hold off further German advances until the Americans were ready to enter the war.
The film relates the evacuation through three storylines covering three different time frames. In one, a group of grunts scours the beaches, desperate to find room on any ship to flee the impending doom to come. In the second, a civilian yacht is commissioned to head to Dunkirk, and encounters several soldiers adrift at sea. In the third, a Royal Air Force fighter squadron races to the beach to provide cover from German air raids against the exposed crowds of British soldiers waiting for a ride home.
The three time frames occasionally overlap, as events from one are foreshadowed in another. The film is generally cut together to cross between the time frames to give a sense of the shared experiences of the men involved, even those who never meet each other. Some find courage in their duties. Others seek only to outrun their fears.
Nolan shot much of the film with Imax cameras, allowing it to pull the audience in with its immersive framing, letting viewers absorb the details of a wide picture. Needless to say, the larger the screen, the more impactful the images will be.
To achieve his vision, Nolan and his crew had to innovate many new filmmaking techniques in order to place the Imax cameras in places they were never intended to be. Much of this is covered in the bonus material, showing how Nolan pushed the boundaries of aerial photography by mounting cameras on both ends of a plane that could keep up with and maneuver with the fighter planes during the dogfight scenes.
Rather than a series of disparate bonus materials, the Blu-ray extras are contained on a single bonus disc and consist solely of a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes that can be played separately or as a whole documentary that runs nearly two hours.