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The August DVD/Blu-Ray Roundup Featuring DIVERGENT, Lionsgate, Shout!'s Latest

Blu-Ray cover of the Shailene Woodley sci-fi thriller, "Divergent" released by Summit Entertainment
Courtesy of Getty Images

Well movie geeks and Blu-Ray and DVD fans it's time for my latest installment of the round up featuring a nice group of choices to choose from that I'll definitely recommend and those that aren't worth your time. Lots to choose from because we've got Paramount, Shout! Factory, Magnet, A&E and Summit Entertainment (a most welcomed new member).

"Leviathan" Starring Peter Weller, Amanda Pays, Richard Crenna, Hector Elizondo, Ernie Hudson, Lisa Eilbacher and Daniel Stern Shout! Factory/1989/R/1 Hour 38 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1 Anamorphic Widescreen/DTS 5.1 HD English Special Features: New Interviews with Actors Hector Elizondo, Ernie Hudson and Creature effects artists Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr./Original Theatrical Trailer

Perceived as a Alien styled rip off, this film is an engaging thriller that from my point of view has gotten better with age. Weller is the leader of a group of underwater miners looking for rare minerals for a powerful corporation when one of his workers discovers a sunken Russian ship near their drill station. Exploring the ship and bringing back a safe of vital information, the crew discovers that ships crew all died from an experiment involving genetic alteration. Soon two of it's crew members die from a mysterious rash and then starts to mutate into an undersea creature that not only absorbs them, but also their personal characteristics and memory. Weller and the remaining survivors desperately try to escape and also destroy the mutation before it reaches the outside world. The film is expertly made by Director George Pan Cosmatos ("Tombstone", "Rambo: First Blood Part 2") and has some terrific production design by Ron Cobb and a menacing suspense score by the late great Jerry Goldsmith. The cast is very likeable and you're really rooting for them all the way with a nice ending that is very comical, the film works for that very reason and at times, it is a little gory, but very effective. (***1/2)

"Without Warning" Starring Martin Landau, Jack Palance, David Caruso and Kevin Peter Hall Directed By Greydon Clark Shout! Factory 1980/R/1 Hour 36 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1 Widescreen/English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Special Features: Audio Commentary with Producer and Director Greydon Clark/Greg and Sandy's Alien Adventures/Producers vs. Aliens with Daniel Grodnik/Hunter's Blood with Greg Cannom/Independents Day with Dean Cundey/Theatrical Trailer/Still Gallery

This is a cheesy and I emphasize cheesy sci-fi horror film that features two future Oscar Winners in Jack Palance ("City Slickers") and Martin Landau ("Ed Wood"), a future television star in David Caruso ("N.Y.P.D. Blue and CSI: Miami") and a future unforgettable alien hunter in Kevin Peter Hall ("Predator" and "Predator 2") directed by Clark in which Hall plays a jellyfish looking alien (that's a stretch) that pretty much is on the hunt for victims in a small town looted with odd balls and crazed nut cases. When two young boys playing in the forest (including Caruso as one of the boys) disappear out of thin air, the local folks including a nutty Palance and serious hunter in Landau begin to suspect deadly jellyfish attacks! This is a cheesy, well intentioned film shot on a 150,000 budget at the time with professionalism featuring some good effects work and visuals. This pretty much a post card to the horror shlock that came out after the breakout successes of "Halloween" and "Alien". This one is for real horror fans otherwise I cannot recommend it. Thumbs down (**)

"Divgergent" Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Miles Teller, Ray Stevenson, Tony Goldwyn, Jai Courtney, Maggie Q and Kate Winslet Summit Entertainment/2014/PG-13/2 Hours 20 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1 Anamorphic Widescreen/DTS 7.1 HD English Special Features: Audio Commentary with Director Neil Burger/Audio Commentary with Producers Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick/ Bringing Divergent To Life/Faction Before Blood/Deleted Scenes/Beating Heart Music Video/Theatrical Trailers & Poster Gallery

A fun and at times, engaging but slow paced adaptation of Veronica Roth's hit novel with two more films in the works stars Shailene Woodley (who I've grown to love as an actress) as Tris, a young woman who much to her surprise except for a secret underground group is a "Divergent", a person of special power who has the ability to think for herself and is huge danger to the totalitarian government that is ruling the city of Chicago. Tris starts to develop the strength and confidence to fulfill what will be her future destiny with the help of Four (James) in the fight for freedom. The film is ably directed by Neil Burger ("The Illusionist", "Limitless") and the real star of the show is definitely Woodley, who really is a bonafide superstar and really makes this character her own. Her easy going demeanor really brings a dimension to the character. The film really moves at a snails' pace which is fine for setting up the story, but it really is lacking in energy unlike "The Hunger Games" which does have a pace and energy to it. It does have some stylish visuals and a solid score by Junkie XL, the film is really saved by Woodley herself along with a few scattershot positive performances by Ashley Judd, Maggie Q, Jai Courtney (whose having a good time here unlike the deadly serious "A Good Day To Die Hard") and Miles Teller, pretty much continuing his solid role from "A Spectacular Now" that also starred Woodley. Unless you're a real fan of the books, you won't enjoy it as much. If you like action, then it is a worthy film in that sense. Marginal thumbs up mainly for Woodley's performance (***)

"Rosemary's Baby" Lionsgate Starring Zoe Saldana, Patrick J. Adams, Carole Bouquet and Jason Issac Directed by Agniezska Holland 2014/NR/ 4 Hour Mini-Series/Aspect Ratio:1.78:1 Widescreen/Special Features: Fear is Born: The Making of Rosemary's Baby/Grand Guignol: Paris Production Design

This remake (or as star Zoe Saldana) blatanly insists that this is not of Ira Levin's memorable book as well as Roman Polanski's classic thriller (which I've personally missed the boat on and never been a fan of) stars Saldana and Adams as a couple (naturally) who are about to have a baby (naturally) and of course, it is the son of you know who: old scratch himself that's who. While this mini-series is stacked and padded with more characterization much like the Levin's novel, this series is an utter bore and surprisingly from a solid director like Holland and it also seems like she was not in charge or the film taken away from her in post-production. There really isn't anything too positive to say about this to be quite honest and even Saldana, who's a much better actress than this is clearly over the top and with the adaptation courtesy of James Wong ("Final Destination") and Scott Abbott, which doesn't quite push or even dare explore Polanski's terroritory in anyway. The film isn't even campy enough to enjoy in that regard. At least I know one thing, former Bond hottie Carole Bouquet from "From Your Eyes Only" is still with us and still looking amazing which is the only consolation. Stick with Polanski's film, because you're not missing anything you don't already know if you've seen his film and read the book.

"The Ong Bak Trilogy (Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior/Ong Bak 2:The Beginning/Ong Bak: The Final Battle)" Starring Tony Jaa Magnet/2003, 2008 & 2010/R/Ong Bak: 1 Hour 45 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1/Ong Bak 2: 1 Hour 38 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1/Ong Bak The Final Battle:1 Hour 39 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1

This is the series of films that made Tony Jaa an international marital arts superstar and in particular the cult classic "Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior" (***1/2) being the best of the series in which a sacred Buddha statuette called Ong-bak is stolen from Ting's village by a shady businessman intent on realizing a profit, Ting takes it upon himself to reclaim the pilfered religious treasure by following the trail of clues to Bangkok. The film was a major hit and a best seller here in the U.S. on DVD and video which featured pure and exciting stuntwork that is thrilling and rivals only that of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". All that is ruined somewhat by two very lackluster and CGI ridden sequels "Ong Bak 2:The Beginning" (*) and "Ong Bak: The Final Battle" (*) which are real major disappointments after a major promising start with a fun and sensational original film. This box set features all three films at a decent price on Blu-Ray and DVD and if it's possible, try to get the original "Ong Bak" on its own and skip the sequels altogether because doesn't break any new ground.

"Oculus" Starring Karen Gillan, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane and Brenton Thwaites Directed by Mike Flanagan FOX/2014/R/1 Hour 44 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1/English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Special Features: Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Mike Flanagan And Trevor Macy/Inside The Mirror: Creating Oculus/Original Oculus Short with Optional Commentary by Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy/Commentary by Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy/Theatrical Trailer

An interesting and original horror film that really works for the first 90 minutes, which is and in which I still have the same exact problem with the original "Scream" in that it fails to live up to the excellent material established with a rather mundane and disappointing ending. The film features the sexy Karen Gillan of the hit "Guardians of the Galaxy" and Brandon Thwaites as brother and sister who are reunited after a stint in a mental hospital ten years after the murder of their parents (the lovely Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane) inside their home. Gillan however suspects that it was work of an evil possessed mirror that was hanging inside their fathers' office which ultimately possesed them both driving them insane and abusive towards the siblings. Trying to get evidence and proof that what happend was the result of the mirrors evil misdeeds and to destroy the mirror once and for all, the siblings endure a battle between reality and the mirrors devious tricks to a final resolution that if I had written it, would've had Gillan completely succuming, then being taken over by the mirror's power and happily leaving with it into the dark sunset while putting her rather annoying brother out of his misery in the process and it continues its' reign of terror for future films to come and a great excuse to see Karen Gillan again as an ultra sexy baddie. Well, I didn't write it so alas this ending is not to be...unless it happens in Oculus 2, which there will be no doubt in a sequel coming due to the success of this film. Flanagan's direction is very solid and visually stylish that does have a fresh nature to it and it's good to see. I could easily compare this film to the 1990 horror film, "Mirror Mirror" with Rainbow Harvest and the late Karen Black, which featured almost the same premise and had a sudo eroticism to it as the mirror seduced the main character into working with it and offing its victims. Still it is a very solid film for what it is and I love Karen Gillan! Thumbs up except for the ending (***1/2)

"Need For Speed" Starring Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Scott Mascudi, Dominic Cooper and Michael Keaton Dreamworks 2014/PG-13/2 Hours 11 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1 Widescreen/English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Special Features: Audio Commentary by Director Scott Waugh and Actor Aaron Paul/Capturing Speed: Making an Authentic Car Movie/Ties That Bind/The Circus Is In Town/The Sound of Need for Speed/Deleted Scenes/Monarch & Maverick Outtakes: Laugh it up with Scott Mescudi and Michael Keaton/Need for Speed Rivals Trailer

This is a surprisingly entertaining, energetic, but overlong and thrilling adaptation of the hit video game series that features "Breaking Bad's" Aaron Paul, in a terrific performance as up and coming racer and mechanic Tobey Marshall with a very tight knit crew of gearheads who do their thing on the illegal race car circuit and soon develops a serious rivalry with the wealthy Dino Brewster (Cooper) and with his family business in dire straits Marshall takes the job restoring a rare Ford Shelby Mustang which eventually sells for millions of dollars. Brewster's greed as fame take hold and sets up Marshall in a deadly race that results in the death of his best friend and the sister who used to be his girlfriend. After serving two years for manslaughter, Tobey is released with a plan to prove his innocence and that his friend's death was caused by Brewster himself. With the help of his crew and the lovely Julia (Imogen Poots, "Fright Night"), a passenger that Tobey reluctantly takes on in order to drive a Shelby Mustange from New York to California in less than 48 Hours while the mysterious Monarch (the great Michael Keaton), the organizer of the biggest illegal street races spurrs him on while Tobey and Julia evide police, a bounty put on by Dino and personal business with Dino, so Tobey can reveal the truth his friend's death. The film is a visual and exciting stunner that really caught me by surprise. The film is very intense in parts and very exciting throughout with inprobable stuntwork. Paul and Poots are really great playing off each other and are easy to root for with fine support from the rest of the cast. Keaton is absolutely fun as Monarch, the shadowy figure behind the scenes that lives in a lighthouse which is great casting as well as a kick ass musical score by Nathan Furst, this Blu-Ray is an absolute winner visually and sonically that'll give any sound system a real workout making it a must own. The film is alot of fun and should've made money at the box-office but was hampered by a very shitty ad campaign that really didn't do the film justice. Strong thumbs up (****)

"Noah" Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, Logan Lerman and Sir Anthony Hopkins Directed By Darren Aranofsky Paramount/2014/PG-13/2 Hours 18 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1 Widescreen/ English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Special Features: Iceland: Extreme Beauty/The Ark Exterior: A Battle for 300 Cubits/The Ark Interior: Animals Two by Two

A cinematic and at times, entertaining and partially fictious depiction of the Biblical story of "Noah" played by Oscar Winner Russell Crowe ("Gladiator") in which God called upon him to build an ark that would house two of each animal and his family before the great flood in which the world would be soaked in rain for forty days and forty nights. Director Darren Arranofsky has taken a few liberties which includes some rather violent material involving Ray Winstone as well a bit of love story between Emma Watson and Logan Lerman and a rather odd performances by Oscar Winners Jennifer Connelly ("A Beautiful Mind") as Noah's wife and Sir Anthony Hopkins ("Silence Of The Lambs") that don't make this rather uneven, but spectacular looking epic that much better in all honesty. "The Ten Commandments" still stands as the best Biblical interpretation to date, "Noah" is not a bad film and it does have flashes of brilliance, but still uneven in its tone. Marginal thumbs up however for the solid production and Crowe, who is quite good here. (***)

"Bad Grandpa .5" Starring Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicholl, Catherine Keener and Spike Jonze Directed by Jeff Tremaine Paramount/2013/Not Rated/1 Hour 26 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1 Widescreen Special Features: Round Table Interview With Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze, and Jeff Tremaine/Casting Billy/Deleted Scenes/Outtakes

Okay I thought when this was announced that this would be an extended version of the original film with outtakes reinserted into the film not that the film needed anything else because it was fine as is. "Bad Grandpa.5 " is esentially a documentary on the making of the Oscar nominated film (yes, I said that!) starring Johnny Knoxville in which he co-wrote with Oscar winner Spike Jonze ("Her") and writer/director Jeff Tremaine that essentially chronicles the making of the film from beginning to end with some new new scenes and hijinks included featuring Oscar nominee Catherine Keener, who was credited in the original film but never got to see her and more of Jonze's old lady which we only got to see during the outtakes of the films' end credits. This disc is pretty much an major extended supplement disc with very interesting and entertaining material that to be honest should've included in the original Blu-Ray/DVD combo release back in April when the film was released. This is definitely for die hards of the film and also pretty good for a documentary, so there is some value to this package if it's for a low price.

Other Odd's and Ends

"Walburgers Season 1" Lionsgate/221 Minutes/3 DVD's. This fun and entertaining series featuring Oscar nominated actor/model/producer Mark Wahlberg, his brothers, family and friends including "Blue Bloods" Donnie Walberg revolving around their family owned and operated resturaunt in Massachusetts which features alot of laughs and is a fun revealing look behind the Wahlberg clan which is definitely one of the better A&E programs that have been airing of late aside from the always funny "Storage Wars", "Shipping Wars" and "Brandi & Jarrord: Married To The Job". A fun set, that leads up to the premire of Season Two which starts airing this week.

This month's movie pick is:

"Her" Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara and the voice of Scarlett Johansson Directed by Spike Jonze Warner Bros./2013/2 Hours 6 Minutes/Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1

A mesmerzing and original film features Phoenix as a nerdy divorcee working in an office who suddenly starts to fall in love with his own computer operating system named Samantha featuring the soothing voice of Scarlett Johansson which leads to other personal complications. The film is visually stunning and featuring great performances throughout, this is easily Spike Jonze's best film period and one that shouldn't be missed.

Well, that's it for these sets of reviews and look for the Twilight Time Blu-Ray coming shortly. So to recap quickly:

Leviathan/Thumbs up

Noah/Marginal Thumbs up

Need For Speed/Enthusatic Thumbs up

Divergent/Marginal Thumbs up (Especially for Shailene Woodley)

Oculus/Marginal Thumbs up

Without Warning/Thumbs down

The Ong Bak Trilogy/Thumbs Up for the first film, Thumbs Way Down for 2 & 3

Rosemary's Baby (2014)/Thumbs Way Way Down

So there you have it and now the Blu-Ray is now off! Till next time.