New to View: Crowe’s directorial debut draws mixed reaction

By Bob Bloom
The following Blu-rays and DVDs are being released on Tuesday, July 28:
The Water Diviner (Blu-ray)
Details: 2014, Warner Home Video
Rated: R, war violence, disturbing images
The lowdown: Russell Crowe stars in and makes his directorial debut as an Australian farmer who in 1919 goes in search for his three sons, who were last known to have fought in the ill-fated Battle of Gallipoli.
The film received mixed reviews, with many critics praising Crowe’s directorial talent, but not being as impressed with the film or subject matter.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 2.40:1 (16×9 enhanced) widescreen picture; English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English descriptive audio; English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Don’t miss: The bonus materials include a making of featurette and a look at the Battle of Gallipoli.

Helix: Season 2 (Blu-ray + Ultraviolet)
Details: 2015, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: In the second season of this SyFy series, the team of scientists leave their Arctic base to investigate an outbreak of a new and deadly disease on a cruise ship.
The team’s investigation leads them to an island that is inhabited by member of a cult seeking to form a more perfect, Utopian society.
Of course, things are not what they seem, nor do they go well in this sci-fi based TV show.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.78:1 widescreen picture; English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French and German 5.1 Dolby Digital; English SDH, English, Arabic, Dutch, French, German and Turkish subtitles.
Don’t miss: Deleted scenes and outtakes comprise the major bonus components.

White God (Blu-ray)
Details: 2014, Magnolia Home Entertainment
Rated: R, graphic violence, bloody images, language
The lowdown: This Hungarian feature, that country’s submission for the white god2015 Academy Awards for best foreign language film, is an allegory about unwanted dogs who rise up under a new leader and strike back at those who abuse and mistreat them.
The film is violent and disturbing, but fascinating to view.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 2.39:1 (16×9 enhanced) widescreen picture; Hungarian 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; English SDH, English, Spanish and French subtitles.
Don’t miss: Bonus offerings include a behind-the-scenes featurette, an interview with the film’s animal coordinator and an interview with the movie’s writer-director.

Revenge of the Mekons
Details: 2015, Music Box Films
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: A documentary that looks at the British group, the Mekons, who burst onto the punk scene in 1977. The film follows the band from its origins as a group of socialist arts students with no true musical aptitude to a prolific and influential band.
The movie looks at the band’s embracing of folk and country music and its subsequent forays into the art world and failed attempts at attracting a major record label.
Fans of the band will appreciate the insights revealed in the movie.
Technical aspects: 16×9 widescreen picture; English 5.1 Dolby Digital; English SDH subtitles.
Don’t miss: Extras include the Mekons live at the Bell House in Brooklyn, N.Y., a Mekons symposium at Columbia University and outtakes and interviews.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXIII
Details: 1955-66, Shout! Factory
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: Four more fun features with commentary from the crew of the Satellite of Love are released for audiences to laugh and appreciate.
The titles in this set are “Daddy-O,” “Earth vs. the Spider,” “Teenage Crime Wave” and “Agent for H.A.R.M.”
As usual, the comments from the crew are funnier than the films.
Technical aspects: Widescreen and full-screen pictures; Dolby Digital.
Don’t miss: Featurettes about all four films and their casts as well as MST3K hour raps comprise the major bonus features.

Dick Foran Western Collection
Release date: July 21
Details: 1935-37, Warner Home Video
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: In the wake of the success of Gene Autry, Warner Bros. saddled up its own singing cowboy in the person of Dick Foran, who starred in a dozen B-Westerns for the studio between 1935 and 1937.
Foran was more than a cowboy star, appearing in several other Warner features and later moving to Universal Pictures where he starred in serials, horror films and dramas.
Among his career highlights was as the football-player beau of Betty Davis in “The Petrified Forest,” the hero in “The Mummy’s Hand” and played straight man to Abbott and Costello in “Ride ‘Em Cowboy.”
The 12 films featured in this collection are: “Moonlight on the Prairie” (1935), “Song of the Saddle” (1936), “Treachery Rides the Range” (1936), Trailin’ West (1936), “California Mail” (1936), “Guns of the Pecos” (1937), “Land Beyond the Law” (1937), “Blazing Sixes” (1937), “The Cherokee Strip” (1937), “Empty Holsters” (1937), “The Devil’s Saddle Legion” (1937) and “Prairie Thunder” (1937).
Many characters actors from the Warner stock company appeared in these films, including George E. Stone, Robert Barrat, Addison Richards and Milton Kibbee.
Future cowboy star William “Wild Bill” Elliott, under the name Gordon Elliott, appeared opposite Foran in two films, as did future cowboy Wayne Morris.
The release is part of the Warner Archive Collection and can be found at www.warnerarchive.com or other online dealers.
Technical aspects: 1.37:1 (4×3 full-screen picture); English Dolby Digital monaural.

The Games
Release date: July 21
Details: 1970, Fox Home Entertainment
Rated: G
The lowdown: A drama set during the Rome Olympics of 1960 that focuses on four competitors in the 26-mile marathon race, including Harry Hayes (Michael Crawford) of Britain and Scott Reynolds (Ryan O’Neal) of the United States.
The film follows the athletes’ training regimens, alongside their personal dramas, which include one of them suffering from a heart condition and another being mercilessly by his trainer.
“Love Story” author Erich Segal adapted the screenplay.
The release is a video-on-demand DVD from the Fox Cinema Archives collection and can be found at www.foxconnect.com or other online retailers. This is another of Fox’s unwise pan-and-scan adaptations of a widescreen picture.
Technical aspects: 4×3 pan-and-scan, full-screen picture.

Eskimo
Release date: July 21
Details: 1933, Warner Home Video
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: One of MGM’s most prolific directors, W.S. “Woody” Van Dyke, who also helmed the studio’s “Trader Horn” and “Tarzan, the Ape Man,” took his camera to Alaska to shoot this adventure movie.
The film, the first feature to be shot in Alaska and in a Native American language, tells the story of Mala (Ray Mala), who makes a 500-mile trek with his wife, Aba (Lulu Wong Wing) to trade skins for a rifle.
Mala goes on a hunt, and when he returns he discovers his wife was killed while trying to escape the advances of a lecherous ship’s captain. Mala kills the captain, not realizing it’s against the law, and becomes a fugitive, hunted by the Mounties.
Mala, who later had a featured role in MGM’s “Mutiny of the Bounty,” was not much of an actor. He was later featured in a couple of Republic Pictures serials and other films.
The release is part of the Warner Archive Collection and can be found at www.warnerarchive.com or other Internet DVD dealers.
Technical aspects: 1.37:1 (4×3) full-screen picture; English Dolby Digital monaural.

The Culpepper Cattle Co.
Release date: July 21
Details: 1972, Fox Home Entertainment
Rated: PG
The lowdown: A teenager convinces a rancher to let him join a cattle drive in this period Western, that was among a spate of cowboy films that featured young protagonists.
During the drive, the boy learns what it means to be a man and the responsibility of being a cattle driver.
The release is a video-on-demand release from the Fox Cinema Archives series and can be found at www.foxconnect.com or other online dealers.
Technical aspects: 16×9 widescreen picture.

Ghost Town (Blu-ray)
Details: 1988, Scream Factory
Rated: R, graphic violence
The lowdown: A horror film about a sheriff’s deputy who heads to a nearby ghost town to investigate the disappearance of a woman.
There he finds an evil spirit from the town’s violent past, where he must break the spell that holds the undead townspeople so they can find peace and eternal rest.
Technical aspects: 1080p high definition, 1.78:1 widescreen picture; English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio stereo; English subtitles.

Centurions: Part One
Release date: July 21
Details: 1986, Warner Home Video
Rated: Not rated
The lowdown: This Hanna-Barbera animated series follow a trio of heroes who use their abilities to battle a cyborg terrorist, Doc Terror, and his machine aide, Hacker, who are constantly devising schemes for evil. The heroes get their powers from their exo-frame battlesuits to make them ore than man and machine. The release is part of the Warner Archive Collection and can be found at www.warnerarchive.com or other online dealers.
Technical aspects: 1.37:1 (4×3) full-screen picture; English Dolby Digital monaural.

Coming next week: The Comeback

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. He reviews movies, Blu-rays and DVDs for ReelBob (ReelBob.com), The Film Yap and other print and online publications. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com. You also can follow Bloom on Twitter @ReelBobBloom and on Facebook. Movie reviews by Bloom also can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

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