Dog Soldiers: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory, Blu-ray+DVD) – “If we engage the enemy, I expect nothing less than gratuitous violence from the lot of you.” Neil Marshall ransacks and revitalizes every cliché in the book in this howling good reworking of the werewolf tale.
Borrowing liberally from the “survivors under siege” classics Aliens and Night of the Living Dead, Marshall drops his full moon boogie in the deep misty forests of the Scottish Highlands, pits platoon versus wolf pack, and watches the fur fly. Sean Pertwee and Kevin McKidd are the career soldiers on a weekend war game turned into a primal bloodbath, Emma Cleasby the backwoods naturalist who knows more than she’s saying, and Liam Cunningham the ruthless Special Forces officer with a conspiratorial streak. “There was only supposed to be one…” Cunningham moans when his troops find him at the otherwise deserted base camp, wounded and dazed and surrounded by spots of blood and bits of human organs. Their retreat is only marginally more successful and before you can say “Lucky you came along on this lonely dirt road in the nick of time,” they hitch a ride and hole up in the only house for miles around.
Where so many horror movies coast on such coincidences, Marshall works them into the conspiratorial premise of the piece and dangles clues for observant viewers between the blasts of black humor (Wells’ tug of war with a playful dog over the intestines spilling out of his gut), bloody horror, and action heroics. His muscular attack and display of men-under-fire sacrifice is reminiscent of James Cameron, while the shards of cold illumination that backlight the swirling fog, catch the faces of combatants, and silhouette the towering beasts (apparently the full moon had some help) recall Ridley Scott. Give credit to Marshall for borrowing from the best. Dog Soldiers doesn’t transcend genre, it embraces it, energizes it, and takes big bloody chomp out of it.
Director Neil Marshall posted a note about the restoration on his Facebook (the full post is included below), noting that the original negative is apparently lost and the disc was mastered from existing prints. “Like it or not, when the movie was originally released in the UK in 2002, the blacks were crushed, the contrast was high, the colours were rich and the image was grainy as fuck, because let’s not forget, this movie was shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm.” So yes, this is grainy and doesn’t have the detail or clarity of master harvested from the original negative, but it’s a fine edition that the director stands behind.
This edition features both Blu-ray and DVD copies with new supplements, including commentary by Neil Marshall, the hour-long documentary “Werewolves vs. Soldiers: The Making of Dog Soldiers” with new interviews with Marshall, many of his collaborators, and the film’s stars, and a 13-minute featurette on the production design, plus Marshall’s 1999 short film Combat and a couple of photo galleries. The cover features reversible art.
Soul Plane: Collector’s Edition (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD) – Air travel gets all the bling-bling of a rap video when NWA, the fevered urban airline dream of would-be entrepreneur Nashawn (Kevin Hart), takes its maiden flight from Terminal (Malcolm) X. Jessy Terrero’s warped mirror of the urban Black culture seen in the movies wants to be the hip-hop Airplane, crammed with ethnic send-ups, drug humor, and non-stop raunch, but the scattershot spoofing never achieves enough momentum to get this flight airborne. Method Man co-stars as your co-host in the sky, Tom Arnold is an out-of-place middle class passenger in the plane’s unique Low Class steerage section (complete with bus locker luggage racks, bus straps, and an in-flight meal of take-away fried chicken), and Snoop Dogg is your drug-ingesting pilot.
This release features both the R-rated theatrical release and an unrated version with six minutes of additional footage, plus the supplements of the earlier DVD release: select-scene commentary by director Jessy Terrero with actors Tom Arnold, Kevin Hart, Gary Anthony Williams, and Godfrey, the featurettes “Boarding Pass: The Making of Soul Plane” and “The Upgrade” (an interview with Terrero), an extended version of the “Survivor Safety Video” featured in the film, outtakes and deleted scenes.
The Thing with Two Heads (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD) – “They transplanted a white bigot’s head on a soul brother’s body!” reads the tagline of this 1972 cult oddity starring Ray Milland as a racist doctor who, suffering from a fatal condition, plans to have his head grafted onto a living body. After all, it worked in his experiments with an ape (that’s Rick Baker in the monkey suit, doing his best in an absurd situation when the two-headed ape escapes his cage and runs through suburbia). When Milland goes into a coma, his protégé transplants his head onto the body of a prisoner on death row (Rosey Grier). In its own way, this is the Tuskegee Experiment for grindhouse seventies sci-fi culture. You could even make the case for racial politics as the white head, colonized on a black man’s body, tries to claim ownership of the body even while the black head is still alive. But that would be giving too much credit to a ridiculous film that begs the audience to overlook its cheap effects (the dummy head of Ray Milland looks like it’s about to fall off in the crazy chases, while the close-ups look like Milland is on tiptoe trying to peak over Grier’s shoulder). After a certain point, the film simply gives up and embraces the absurdity. When Grier, after eluding police on a motorcycle chase over a motocross mudtrack, shows up at his girlfriend’s place with his unwanted passenger, she asks: “I was wondering… do you have two of anything else?” It’s infamously bad, but that’s the charm for some folks: the weirdest, silliest drive-in movie about race relations of its era. Exploitation veteran Lee Frost (of Love Camp 7, 1969, and Chain Gang Women, 1971, fame) directs. No supplements.
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray), the second Hollywood adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel (the first was the evocative 1931 classic Island of Lost Souls with Charles Laughton) updates the science but keeps the story in the vague past. Burt Lancaster plays of obsessive, amoral scientist who uses genetics to transform animals into humanoid creatures in unsanctioned experiments and Michael York is the shipwrecked sailor who drifts onto his island after surviving days adrift at sea. The original Moreau was a brutal vivisectionist who kept his creations in line with the fear of pain and the constraints of “the law,” as overseen by “the sayer of the law” (played by Richard Basehart here). In this version, it is fear of his punishment that keeps his creations under his control. Barbara Carrera co-stars as Moreau’s beautiful companion, also one of his experiments. Directed by Don Taylor, the film is blandly handsome but has little of the horrific atmosphere or transgressive suggestions of the 1931 classic. While there are some impressive make-up effects, many of the animal-men costumes are rather sloppily applied. No supplements.
The Bridge (1959) (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD), Bernhard Wicki’s drama of the last days of World War II, is reviewed on Cinephiled here.
Pit Stop (Arrow, Blu-ray+DVD Combo) will be covered later along with another Jack Hill film, the cult oddity Spider Baby, also from Arrow and released in a director-approved special edition.
Young Hercules: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory, DVD) – Ryan Gosling quite famously got his big break in The All New Mickey Mouse Club, appearing alongside the fellow future stars of Britney Speers, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake in the final seasons of the rival. What’s less well-known is that just a few years later, when Gosling was all of 17, he took the roll of the teenage demi-god in this juvenile spin-off of Sam Raimi’s tongue-in-cheek mythadventure series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
He’s the skinniest strongman you’ll ever see: Young Hercules as a boy band pinup of a mythical hero with shaggy hair, a crooked grin and abandonment issues thanks to deadbeat dad Zeus. It’s a high school show for the ancient age, with Hercules going off to Cheiron’s Academy, a mix of military academy and boarding school where he meets his future sidekick (Dean O’Gorman), among others. Kevin Tod Smith reprises the role of God of War (and Hercules’ half-brother) Ares (which he played in both Hercules and Xena) to sabotage Hercules’ efforts.
Gosling committed himself completely to the project, undertaking extensive martial arts training and moving to New Zealand for the nine months it took to film 50 half-hour episodes on a starvation budget and at a breakneck pace. The attitude it strictly juvenile, with big performances, broad humor, and cartoonish sound effects. And of course there is a basic lesson to be learned in every adventure. Gosling is an untutored talent in the early episodes, working to own his scenes in a series where overacting is the norm, and he gets by mostly on charisma and sheer physical effort. It was TV boot camp and you can see him learning on the job as his confidence grows and his performance settles down. As he stops trying so hard, he starts taking command. You could say this is show that created the modern Gosling. He came out of this series and into major roles in the movies Remember the Titans (2000), The Believer (2001), and The Slaughter Rule (2002).
50 episodes six discs on DVD plus the featurette “Writing the Legend of Young Hercules.”
Also new and notable:
Timbuktu (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD), Abderrahamane Sissako’s Oscar-nominated drama from the African nation of Mauritania, takes on religious fundamentalism in the story of self-proclaimed jihadists who take over titular city in Mali and impose their version of Sharia law on the diverse population (which they selectively ignore when it comes to their own conduct). It’s a satire with a gentle touch when it comes to individual behavior and an unblinking acknowledgement of the brutal reality of such hardline religious militancy. While the gun-toting jihadists play moral police in the city, a farmer (Ibrahim Ahmed) living outside the city is pulled into their unforgiving justice after a dispute with a neighbor. The images are beautiful and the drama is provocative and pointed. In French, Arabic and English with English subtitles. Blu-ray and DVD with an interview with Abderrahamane Sissako.
Digital / VOD / Streaming exclusives:
While We’re Young, Noah Baumbach’s generational comedy starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a middle-aged couple trying to keep up with their new, young friends (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried), arrives on VOD before disc.
Creep, the feature debut of director Patrick Brice (his new comedy The Overnight is now opening around the country), is a psychological thriller with a dark wit and just two characters, played by Brice and co-writer Mark Duplass. And just a heads up: it goes to Netflix in four weeks, part of its new deal with the Duplass Bros., who apparently have found a way to sustain themselves by making movies and TV shows in place of sleep.
Available on Friday, June 26, same day as select theaters nationwide, is Big Game with Samuel L. Jackson and the comedies A Little Chaos with Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman and The Little Death from Australia.
Available for digital purchase in advance of disc:
’71 (Lionsgate, Digital HD)
Ex Machina (Lionsgate, Digital HD)
Classics and Cult:
The Fisher King (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD)
She Must Be Seeing Things (First Run, DVD, VOD)
Sugar Hill (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray)
Needful Things (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray)
Harry in Your Pocket (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray)
Bank Shot (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Cops and Robbers (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Fled (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Johnny Be Good (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Mean Season (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Stone Cold (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Thrashin’ (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Me Without You (First Run, DVD)
Roman de Gare (First Run, DVD)
A MusiCares Tribute to Carole King (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray)
Disruptive Film: Resistance to Power Everyday Everywhere, Vol. 1 (Facets, DVD)
Children of Giant (PBS, DVD)
TV on disc:
Ripper Street: Season Three (BBC, Blu-ray, DVD)
Workaholics: Season 5 (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Campbells: The Complete Series (Timeless, DVD)
When Calls the Heart: Heart and Soul (Shout! Factory, DVD)
That Show with Joan Rivers (Film Chest, DVD)
The Forger (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD)
Song One (Cinedigm, Blu-ray)
If There Be Thorns (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital)
Cross (Well Go, DVD, Digital HD)
Teen Beach 2 (Disney, DVD)
Big in Japan (Strand, DVD)
Stop the Pounding Heart (Big World, DVD)
Zero Motivation (Zeitgeist, DVD, Digital)
Ghoul (2015) (Vega Baby, DVD, VOD)
Spike Island (Level 33, DVD)
Lost For Words (Green Apple, DVD, VOD)
Stop the Pounding Heart (Big World Pictures, DVD)
An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD)
Just-in: The Director contacted us moments ago with the following statement regarding the talks/debate that have being developing on several forums. His words as follows:
It seems myself and Scream Factory have been experiencing some major flack regarding the Dog Soldiers blu-ray release. So I figure I should fill in a bit of background here. First of all, I wholeheartedly support the Scream Factory release. The previous blu-ray (not available in the UK) was made without any involvement from me, and I remember when it came out the general consensus was that the picture quality was not great. All credit to Scream Factory for wanting to involve the film-maker in this process as much as possible.
When they first announced this blu-ray release last year, the original plan was to work with me to create a whole bunch of original extras based on new interviews with all the key cast and crew, but that the movie itself would essentially be the same version as last time. I asked them to delay the release because I felt that we could do better for the fans and try and track down some original film elements to make a fresh HD transfer. Since the movie never received a theatrical release in the US (although I believe it screened at The Egyptian for a week) I knew we’d have to turn to the UK to find the best possible elements available. What I didn’t know was that after an exhaustive search I’d discover the original negative was nowhere to be found. Neither the UK producer, distributor or film processing lab has any idea where the negative is. Without it we simply could not achieve the kind of high quality HD transfer I would have wished to deliver. Instead we managed to get hold of 2 original cinema prints, and despite being 13 years old and having a few scratches here and there, they represent the most accurate version of the original theatrical release that we could find.
However, as close as they are, they are just cinema prints, and in terms of colour timing for the new blu-ray we were limited to the parameters of the print itself. Which means, in basic terms, if the contrast is high on the print and the blacks are crushed (as indeed they are) then there is no more visual information to be gained from them. You can’t brighten up the image and see what’s hidden in the darkness like you can when you’re working from the negative or from digital. All that will happen is that the black will turn to grey and just give the movie a washed out flat look.
Another issue seems to be that one scene in particular now seems to be a daytime scene when it used to be a nighttime scene. Well, this is wrong on both counts. It’s meant to be a dusk scene, and since it features shots of the sunset then it’s graded accordingly – with a warm sunset glow that then gets cooler and darker as it fades into night. Again, this is all taken directly from the print. It was never intended to have such an extreme dark blue tint over it. We had major continuity issues filming this sequence because the weather kept changing from dull grey and rainy to bright sunlight. This is far from ideal for pulling off convincing day-for-night photography.
Like it or not, when the movie was originally released in the UK in 2002, the blacks were crushed, the contrast was high, the colours were rich and the image was grainy as fuck, because let’s not forget, this movie was shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm. So under no circumstances was a blu-ray of this movie ever going to look as smooth and pristine as a movie shot on 35mm or any of the hi-res digital formats we use today. In fact, transferring it to HD actually highlights the grain just as it does any other detail, so this version inherently looks more grainy than before. It’s unavoidable unless you have the money to do a full restoration and clean-up, but again, you need the negative for that.
So, is this version of Dog Soldiers the best it could ever be? No. Of course not. If we had the negative and a shit-load of cash we could have done a lot better. Is it the best it could be under the circumstances? Yes. Will it appeal to everybody? No. But that’s movies for you!
At the end of the day everybody involved, myself included, put in a lot of work to give the fans a blu-ray worth forking out their hard-earned cash for. And nobody involved, myself included, got paid anything for doing it. There are no royalties, ancillaries or anything else. This is not an attempt to exploit the fans. It was, on my part, an attempt to give the fans something new and unique, and not simply a repackaged version of what’s already out there.