‘2016 World Series’ Video: Unforgettable

December 5, 2016

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As a journalist and wordsmith, I use words carefully, resisting the common urge to label things the best or the greatest, or to call anything unstoppable or unforgettable.

But with the 2016 World Series, “unforgettable” is fitting, since it had to be among the most dramatic, emotional and meaningful Fall Classics ever, given its two teams’ and their generations of fans’ 176 years of combined frustration, and the remarkable storybook seven-game Series, which no Hollywood script could have topped.

Major League Baseball’s official film The 2016 World Series captures all that with its release from Shout! Factory Tuesday as a DVD and as a Blu-ray/DVD combo, both also with digital copies.

Each also includes these bonus features on the winning Chicago Cubs: Regular Season Highlights (5 minutes); Clinching Moments (3 minutes); World Series Highlights (9 minutes); Parade (2 minutes); and Cubs on David Ross (90 seconds).

Also due Dec. 13 on DVD and Blu-ray is an eight-disc 2016 World Series Collector’s Edition featuring every play of every game.

As for Tuesday’s release, its centerpiece is a feature-length 97-minute chronicle of the Series, which deservedly can be called stirring, enthralling and — yes — unforgettable.

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‘Horror Hunters’ Debuts Wednesday

October 24, 2016

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So cool! Netflix and Amazon have company in the realm of original TV programming for non-cable outlets. Shout! Factory TV’s unscripted series Horror Hunters debuts Wednesday, Oct. 26 in a live stream at 8 p.m. CST, 6 p.m. PST, then encores at 11 p.m. CST, 9 p.m. PST. Video on demand viewing starts Friday, Oct. 28 on Shout! Factory TV.

The show is from and for fans of horror entertainment, as hosts Adam Rockoff and Aaron Christensen explore notable collections of horror memorabilia. They’ll also try swapping items from their own collections for unique items they find.

The pilot show has them meeting Phil Meenan, a major Frankenstein collector, then horror blogger Jon Kitley.

After episodes, watchers can offer feedback and enter to win a Blu-ray prize package from Scream Factory. During screenings, conversations can be entered with the hashtag #HorrorHunters. Also note the purveyors’ Twitter handles of : @Scream_Factory and @ShoutFactoryTV.

I happen to know a mega-collector of horror memorabilia myself, and his house is my favorite place to visit — like walking into a horror museum lined with classic one-sheets, lobby cards and so much more. Thus, I know how frightfully fun this show can be. Count me in!

— Bruce Westbrook

Review: ‘Carrie’ 40th Anniversary Edition

October 4, 2016

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If you, like me, are a fan of Stephen King, you should have a special place in your heart for Carrie, his first published novel (in 1974), which became the first film based on his now voluminous work (in 1976) and even a musical and a movie remake.

But Carrie is special beyond its firsts. The tale of a sweet girl whose religious zealot mother and cruel classmates push her to use her destructive telekinetic powers to the max, it’s simply a great King yarn, and it’s fascinating to explore how it changed, while keeping the same central characters and spirit, in director Brian De Palma’s film version.

You can do this by picking up Scream Factory’s new two-disc Blu-ray “Collector’s Edition” for the film’s 40th anniversary year, due Oct. 11. Along with a new 4K scan of the film’s original negative, it’s got loads of extras for dissecting and probing the production, some of which are repeats (trailers, TV spots, radio spots, still gallery, etc.) and some of which are new.

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Book Review: ‘Get What’s Yours For Medicare’

September 27, 2016

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Philip Moeller’s Get What’s Yours For Medicare: Maximize Your Coverage, Minimize Your Costs, due Oct. 4 from Simon & Schuster, is a companion of sorts to the excellent Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security, a book he co-wrote which returned last spring in updated form.

Baby Boomers nearing retirement age (please note I didn’t say simply “retirement,” since many will continue to work), these books are for you.

Yes, Medicare and Social Security are valuable programs into which you’ve paid federal taxes for years, and you should take advantage of what’s available to you. But no, neither program is simple to comprehend and navigate, and crucial mistakes in enrollment and options are easy to make.

Moeller makes this clear in the early going, with the terse line “This stuff is complicated.” That certainly goes for initial entry into Medicare, a hard lesson that I learned months before reading this book when I struggled to get straight answers from the Social Security Administration and elsewhere about how Medicare works.

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Review: ‘The Passion’ sings on DVD

September 23, 2016

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Chris Daughtry and Jencarlos Canela in ‘The Passion.’

The Passion, which aired live on Fox last spring, is a new musical retelling of Jesus’ final days that’s new on DVD Tuesday, Oct. 4 from Shout! Factory, as a 77-minute performance with no extras.

But how new is it?

Obviously, its Biblical story  is over two thousand years old. But beyond that, The Passion’s use of pop songs to convey its plot has been done — and done better — in the smash 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar,.a hard act to follow in giving Bible sagas contemporaneity.

But wait: I’m not condemning The Passion, which is earnestly and often beautifully performed, and which does have novel spins.

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‘Stranger Things’ random thoughts: Of burgers and quibbles

September 23, 2016

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Having just finished screening Season 1 of Netflix’s Stranger Things, I’ve got some random thoughts on the ’80s-set saga of a Goonies-style gang of young nerds, a mysteriously powered small girl and a determined mom and sheriff tackling a scary other-dimensional threat in an Indiana town after a boy disappears.

Yes, the reviews are gushy (pushovers), but honest carping counts too, and someone’s gotta play devil’s advocate.

To wit:

Natalia Dyer, as the allegedly alluring (how’s that for alliteration — again!) teen lusted after by a big-haired dude at school, is too thin — make that emaciated — make that nearly skeletal — for the story’s time setting. Her stick-figure form is 2016 talking, and it undercuts the series’ 1980s period-piece veracity. If I’d been the casting director, I’d have told her she’s a fine actress and has the part — provided she eats some burgers.

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Video Review of ‘Dementia 13’: Ax me about Coppola’s first time

July 20, 2016

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William Campbell, Luana Anders in Francis Coppola’s ‘Dimension 13’

Everyone has to start somewhere, and before winning Oscars as one of the most prominent directors of our time, Francis Ford Coppola started with B-movie master Roger Corman, assisting on films such as 1963’s The Young Racers. Then he got his shot to write and direct his own film, Dementia 13, which returns to home video July 26 on a Blu-ray release from The Film Detective.

(Prior to this Coppola is rumored to have directed some scenes in Corman’s The Terror, also recently released by The Film Detective, but he wasn’t credited for that.)

Reportedly presented in its correct 1:78:1 aspect ratio for the first time on Blu-ray, the black-and-white Dementia 13 is derivative of the edgier new horrors of Psycho and the embryonic slasher genre, while also offering a traditional haunted house tale. So it’s far from original.

Yet Coppola, then billed as Francis Coppola, showed flashes of raw talent — especially in shot composition, mood-setting and use of music — which would bloom in the ’70s when he helmed The Godfather, The Conversation, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now and others.

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Blu-ray Review: ‘Flight of the Butterflies’

July 13, 2016

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Again, movies made for IMAX theaters are arriving on home video from Shout! Factory, this week with Flight of the Butterflies and Rocky Mountain Express.

The former is an absorbing saga which shows how a researcher and his wife traced the mysterious annual migratory patterns of millions of Monarch butterflies over the course of decades — and finally found their secret winter home on a Mexican mountaintop.

That story is told with a mix of wondrous documentary footage of the colorful insects and well-played re-enactments of the researchers, who also included a collaborating Indiana Jones-style young couple roaming Mexico on a motorbike to find the missing Monarchs.

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Book review: Stephen King’s ‘End of Watch’

June 3, 2016

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Stephen King’s End of Watch (Scribner, 431 pages, due June 7) is the kind of book for which the term “page-turner” was invented. (Note: It’s not to be confused with a 2012 cop movie of the same title.)

A riveting read from start to finish, End of Watch rousingly concludes the saga of retired-cop-turned-private-detective Bill Hodges who, along with sympathetic cohorts, confronts a final appalling plot by the deranged killer of Mr. Mercedes, who spent follow-up book Finders Keepers in a vegetative state.

Or did he?

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Blu-ray Review: ‘Journey to Space’

May 31, 2016

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As a longtime resident of Houston — aka Space City — I’m a huge space exploration fan. As such,  I want to support Journey to Space, a Giant Screen film from 2015 arriving  June 7 on home video, with a single-disc Blu-ray and 4K UHD + 3D Blu-ay + Blu-ray two-disc combo, both from Shout!Factory.

But as a reviewer I must be honest, and honestly, the material here feels overly familiar for anyone who’s paid cursory attention to NASA’s doings from the Shuttle program onward.

Yes, space is awesome, so it feels funny saying “been there, done that.” But we’re not talking space — we’re talking filmmaking.

Besides, the wow-factor of a theatrical presentation with an enormous screen, ear-blasting sound and audience involvement is understandably muted when the program is brought home. And at just over 40 minutes, along with minor extras, Journey to Space barely has time to reach orbit before it’s over.

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