New to Blu-ray/DVD: The Lodger, T2 Trainspotting, CHIPS, The Unholy, Grey Lady, Dirty Dancing, Life of Significant Soil, & Power Rangers: Dino Super Charge

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Editor’s Notes: The Lodger, T2 Trainspotting, CHIPS, The Unholy, Grey Lady, Dirty Dancing, Life of Significant Soil, and Power Rangers: Dino Super Charge – The Complete Season are out on this respective home entertainment formats June 27th.

The Lodger

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The Lodger (The Criterion Collection), subtitled “A Story of the London Fog,” stars Ivor Novello as Jonathan Drew, a quiet, secretive young man who rents a room in a London boarding house. Drew’s arrival coincides with horrible crimes attributed to a serial killer known as the Avenger, whose victims are young blonde women. The landlady’s attractive daughter Daisy (June Tripp), who is being courted by Joe Chandler (Malcolm Keen) — a police detective on the killer’s trail — becomes entranced by the lodger’s sensitivity and vulnerability. As director Alfred Hitchcock increases suspense, various clues and circumstantial evidence begin to point to Drew as the murderer terrorizing London.

This was Hitchcock’s third film, but the first to contain many of the “Hitchcock touches” that would become part of his later movies, earning him the title “Master of Suspense.” He incorporates elements of fun to balance the melodrama and the thrills. It’s also the first film in which the director makes a brief appearance, a device that would become one of his signature trademarks. Hitchcock never liked the ending he was forced to use because of conventions of the time. Novello was a popular matinee idol and it was thought audiences would not accept a downbeat ending. Fourteen years later, when he was working in Hollywood, Hitchcock faced the same problem with Cary Grant in Suspicion.

Later versions of The Lodger were made in 1944 and in 1953, the latter under the title “Man in the Attic.”

Bonus materials on the Blu-ray release, in black & white with tinted sequences, contains a new score by composer Neil Brand, performed by the Orchestra of St. Paul’s. Also included is Downhill, another 1927 feature directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Ivor Novello. Other bonus features include an interview with film scholar William Rothman on Hitchcock’s visual signatures; new video essay about the director’s artistic use of architecture; excerpts from audio interviews with Hitchcock by filmmakers Francois Truffaut and Peter Bogdanovich; radio adaptation of The Lodger from 1940, directed by Hitchcock; plus critical essays on The Lodger and Downhill.

T2 Trainspotting

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T2 Trainspotting (Sony Home Entertainment) is Danny Boyle’s sequel to his own Trainspotting (1996). It’s 20 years later, and the adventures of the original quartet are continued. Mark (Ewan McGregor, socially awkward Spud (Ewen Bremner), Simom “Sick Boy” Williamson (Johnny Lee Miller), and sociopath Begbie (Robert Carlyle) have gathered together in their former neighborhood. The film is primarily about these four characters and how they have changed over the years. They ponder aging, mortality, and how quickly time passes. Adding resonance is the fact that, because of the actual passing of two decades, the actors look older and don’t require elaborate make-up.

The original film was known for its unusual camera angles, which Boyle attempts to duplicate, but what seemed edgy and novel 20 years ago lacks similar impact. The film is essentially four character studies with not much of a plot. Boyle takes his time reacquainting the audience with these four colorful guys. Knowing the original makes for a richer viewing experience, but the movie works, albeit not as well, as a stand-alone flick. Taken as a whole, the movie is a cynical meditation on empty lives, wasted opportunities, regret, and self-pity with a veneer of masculine bravado. Early scenes are light and rekindle the male camaraderie from the original, but as the film progresses, we see a much darker underside of these four lives.

Bonus materials on the R-rated widescreen Blu-ray release include deleted scenes; a conversation with director Danny Boyle and the cast; and commentary with director Boyle and writer John Hodge. A digital HD copy is enclosed.

CHIPS

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CHIPS (Warner Home Video) is based on the TV series that ran from 1977 to 1983 about the adventures of a couple of California Highway Patrol cops played by Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada. The movie attempts to duplicate the easy camaraderie of the two cops from the original, but director Dax Shepard seems obsessed with crude, unfunny gags and endless action sequences instead.

Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) and Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Pena) have just joined the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in Los Angeles. Jon Baker is a beaten-up former pro motorbiker trying to put his life and marriage back together. Poncherello is a cocky undercover Federal agent investigating a multi-million-dollar heist that may be an inside job. Unfortunately, the plot is needlessly complicated for an action comedy and requires an abundance of exposition to make sense of the mayhem.

Everything seems forced and calculated to elicit laughs. There’s no subtlety, and the film succeeds in making the relationship between Ponch and Jon a board room attempt to milk cash from a familiar title and perhaps launch a franchise. There are lots of motorcycle stunts and car crashes, which have become so omnipresent in action pictures that they no longer create the impact they once did.

Buddy films have been successful at the box office in the past (21 Jump Street, Bad Boys, Ride Along), but their popularity and box office shelf life depended on screen chemistry between the leads. Though Shepard and Pena do the best with the lame material given them, they never click in the fun buds department.

Bonus materials on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include 10 deleted scenes and director/star Dax Shepard sharing his inspiration for updating the TV classic. A digital HD copy is enclosed.

The Unholy

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The Unholy (Vestron Video) takes place in New Orleans where, over a two-year span, two priests have been murdered at the altar in St. Agnes’ Church. The Vatican closes the church until it can find a suitable replacement. A young priest, Father Michael (Ben Cross), experiences what may be regarded as a miracle when he survives, unscathed, a fall from a tall building. The Vatican reopens St. Agnes and stations him there, hoping that his miraculous experience has given him the spiritual strength to overcome whatever evil may await him in the church.

Father Michael doesn’t realize it, but his superiors think he is “The Chosen One” professed to vanquish a demon who manifests itself as a seductive woman before killing sinners in the act of sinning. As Father Michael investigates the previous two deaths, he encounters some unsavory characters who hang out at a local Satanic nightclub called The Threshold.

Made in 1988, the film is essentially a B picture with an A-movie cast. Besides Cross, the cast includes Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty, and Trevor Howard, all of whom add gravitas to the plot. Director Camilo Vila bogs things down with a sluggish pace, particularly in the early part of the movie. For the most part, the picture plays as a suspenseful horror thriller, but last act scenes involving cheap special effects diminish the overall impact.

Bonus materials on the digitally restored widescreen Blu-ray release include audio commentary with director Camilo Vila; isolated score selections and audio interview with composer Roger Bellon; audio interview with Production Designer and C0-Writer Fernando Fonseca; the featurettes “Sins of the Father” with Ben Cross, “Demons in the Flesh: The Monsters of The Unholy,” and “Prayer Offering” with Fernando Fonseca; original ending with optional audio commentary with producer Mathew Hayden; theatrical trailer; TV spots; radio spots; and original storyboard gallery.

Grey Lady

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Grey Lady (Anchor Bay) is a thriller about James Doyle (Eric Dane), a suspended Boston cop conducting his own investigation into the murder of his sister and his partner. In a pre-title sequence, Doyle and partner Maggie (Rebecca Gayheart, Dane’s real-life wife) respond to a 911 call. A woman claims that a man is stalking her and calling her Deirdre — the name of Doyle’s recently murdered sister. Arriving on the scene, Doyle realizes that he and Maggie have been set up. Maggie, who has just learned she is pregnant, is killed and Doyle is wounded.

Because of the circumstances surrounding Maggie’s death, Doyle’s superiors suspend him, prompting him to head to Nantucket, where he hopes his aunt and cousin can help him solve the mystery of who killed his sister.

This is a solid, if unremarkable, police procedural film that incorporates all basic elements of the genre. Though the film seems more a made-for-TV movie than a theatrical feature, it nonetheless holds our attention as writer/director John Shea builds suspense. Made on a small budget without name actors, it contains an appropriately mysterious atmosphere, a sense of danger lurking just around the corner, and noir-ish montages.

Dane is pretty wooden and never convinces that he is undergoing his one-man investigation while still feeling guilty over Maggie’s death and grief over his sister’s violent death. That’s a lot of trauma for one guy to deal with, and Dane’s Doyle simply doesn’t reflect the inner turmoil he must be undergoing.

There are no bonus features on the R-rated widescreen DVD release.

Dirty Dancing

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Dirty Dancing (Lionsgate) is what the filmmakers are calling a “reimagining” of the 1987 hit film. This made-for-TV movie features the story from the original film told from a fresh perspective.

Spending the summer at Kellerman’s Borscht Belt resort with her family in 1963, Frances “Baby” Houseman (Abigail Breslin) falls in love with the camp’s dance instructor, Johnny Castle (Colt Prattes), and undergoes a social and sexual awakening. Modernized, updated versions of memorable songs including “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” “Love Man,” Do You Love Me,” “Hungry Eyes,” and “She’s Like the Wind” are teamed with well-known songs new to “Dirty Dancing,” such as “Fever” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

The framing device of the film is Baby sitting in a Broadway theatre in 1975 about to see a show called Dirty Dancing: The Musical. This departure from the original is both jarring and foolish. Creators Wayne Blair and Jessica Sharzer have bloated the story, making it an hour longer than the original. Sub-plots involve Baby’s sister obtaining the ukulele she plays in the talent show, how Baby got her white dress, and Mrs. Houseman’s (Debra Messing) frustration with her distant husband (Bruce Greenwood).

There is virtually no screen chemistry between Breslin and Prattes, which is instrumental in sinking this production. Prattes is a better dancer than Breslin, whose Baby is supposed to improve as the movie goes along but never does. Often, the filmmakers duplicate scenes almost shot for shot from the original, yet then go the alternate route of adding unnecessary padding that slows the pace and causes viewers to lose any inkling of interest in these characters. If anything, this dud will whet your appetite for the original which, though made 30 years ago, looks and sounds as fresh as ever.

Bonus materials on the widescreen DVD release include the featurettes “Dirty Dancing: The Legacy Lives On” and “Dirty Dancing: Don’t Step on the 1, Start on the 2.”

Life of Significant Soil

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Life of Significant Soil (Candy Factory Films) is a look at the anatomy of a union as it follows Conor (Alexis Mouyiari) and Addison (Charlotte Bydwell) as they make their way through their failing relationship. When they realize they are trapped, they begin working together in an attempt to escape what seems like their last animosity-filled day together. What they soon come to accept is that they’ve gone through the exact same process again and again — from animosity to delusion, delusion to love, and back again. As they relive the entire arc of their relationship, they can’t help but feel the monotony is permanent.

Making a film about a relationship going stale has its challenges. While the director must show deterioration and sadness, he must also provide a compelling reason for the viewer to care for Conor and Addison. Unfortunately, the actors never succeed in drawing us in. Another problem is conveying the monotony of going through routines day to day without making its depiction, itself, monotonous.

Because of the film doesn’t benefit from the immediate recognition that star power provides, the writing and performances must be top notch to involve us. Director Michael Irish explores the numerous layers of dying passion as he tries to use this one microcosm to establish universal truths about the fading of love. Though the premise can be fascinating, it also makes for a melancholy tone that some viewers might find depressing. This is not the film for folks who’ve just undergone a painful break-up.

Irish likes to linger on scenes, allowing us to read into what the characters are thinking or to emphasize their reactions. Because contemporary moviegoers have been conditioned to expect fast pacing, these scenes hurt rather than help the film. It’s almost as if Irish doesn’t trust his actors enough to convey what he wants and holds shots longer as a visual punctuation to make sure we “get it.”

There are no bonus features on the unrated, widescreen DVD release.

Power Rangers: Dino Super Charge – The Complete Season

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Power Rangers: Dino Super Charge – The Complete Season (Lionsgate) contains all 20 episodes from the season. The Power Rangers must battle an evil intergalactic villain in this action-filled franchise that remains one of the top-rated and longest-running children’s live-action series in TV history. This American television series was created by Haim Saban and the Toei Company. It is the second season and continuation of Power Rangers Dino Charge and the 23rd season overall of the Power Rangers TV franchise. The season aired from January 30 to December 10, 2016 on Nickelodeon.

The Dino Charge Rangers disband after defeating Sledge, but their job isn’t done. One of Sledge’s most dangerous criminals, Heckyl, and his alter ego Snide, are determined to pick up where Sledge left off and harness the power of the Energems to rule the universe. With new weapons, new allies, new zords (mechanical devices piloted by the Rangers), and the new T-Rex Super Charge mode, the Rangers are ready to settle the score against one of their most dangerous enemies.

Episodes include “When Evil Stirs,” “Forgive and Forget,” “Roar of the Red Ranger,” “Nightmare in Amber Beach,” “Forged Under Fire,” “Riches & Rags,” “Love at First Fight,” “Recipe for Disaster,” “Silver Secret,” “Freaky Fightday,” “Worgworld” and eight others.

There are no bonus features on the unrated 4-disc DVD set.

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About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.