Spooks, romance on tap for Shout Factory

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

I watch a lot of horror movies, whether it’s Halloween or not. Any film that features bumps in the night, barks at the moon or stalking serial killers is my cup of bloody tea. And with Halloween just around the corner, the home entertainment group Shout Factory wants movie collectors to have something of their own to scream about.

TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)

Rated R, 82 minutes.
Director: Michael Dougherty
Cast: Anna PaquinBrian CoxDylan BakerQuinn LordSamm Todd and Leslie Bibb
Available today on Blu-ray through ShoutFactory.com/shop.

To me, no film better captures the spirit of Halloween than the 2007 horror anthology TRICK ‘R TREAT. As soon as you enter, there are jack-o-lanterns on display, kids running around in costumes and houses covered in decor — and it never abandons that aesthetic. It very much feels like a greatest hits compilation of everything that makes the spooky holiday and horror genre special.

The film centers on four (technically five) core stories: 1) There’s the feud between Henry (Tahmoh Penikett) and his Halloween-loathing wife Emma (Leslie Bibb). 2) The horrors of what goes down after a school principal (a scene-stealing Dylan Baker) is visited by a candy snatcher. 3) Laurie’s (Anna Paquin) plight to lose her virginity. 4) A group of teens play a prank on a girl (Samm Todd) by trying to turn an urban legend into a reality. 5) A grumpy old man’s (Brian Cox) unfortunate encounter with Sam (Quinn Lord), the Halloween equivalent of Santa Claus.

Normally with an anthology film you have a candy wrapper that ties all the flavors together. But in TRICK ‘R TREAT, all the stories happen in a parallel timeline, much like PULP FICTION. There’s an organic flow to the narrative that causes one to never notice the seams. The sequences, characters and kills are so unforgettable that you’ll be grossed out, terrified and having a blast.

The collector’s release includes a frame-worthy cover design (complete with a cardboard slipcover and reversible cover art that also includes the original poster design), all new special features and previously released supplemental material to keep one busy for hours, and one hell of a great movie that contains all the tricks and treats one could ever want.

Film Grade: A
Disc Grade: A+

Extras: A handful of new interviews and featurettes with the filmmaker (including writer-director Michael Dougherty, who describes in great detail how the story evolved from short stories thought up during his college years to a celebrated modern classic), an audio commentary with Dougherty, additional scenes, the original animated short with optional commentary, a fun featurette on scary season traditions, a special on the film’s school bus effects, extensive still galleries and a theatrical trailer.

CITY SLICKERS (1991)

Rated PG-13, 114 minutes.
Director: Ron Underwood
Cast: Billy CrystalJack PalanceDaniel SternBruno KirbyHelen Slater and Patricia Wettig
Available today on Blu-ray through ShoutFactory.com/shop.

It has been some time since I’ve seen this 1991 dramatic comedy, but it without a doubt rides away with the “must-own” title of this week’s releases.

CITY SLICKERS, starring Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Jack Palance, is a film about a man trying to overcome a midlife crisis. Mitch Robbins (a super funny Crystal) is married and has children (a young Jake Gyllenhaal plays the son), but something is missing from his life. So his buddies (Stern and Bruno Kirby), who are dealing with their own problems, get the idea to do a cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado. They thought by doing something so foreign to them they could bond and find their smiles again.

I forgot just how good the conversations are in this film. It has so much stinging relevance that it’s incredible, whether it’s a young woman being harassed by a creepy pair of dudes (and the characters discussing how that makes them feel) or everyone dishing about their worst and best day. It’s a movie that’s funny when it wants to make you laugh and touching when it wants to make you feel something.

The only downside of this restoration is some of the colors don’t match on the 4K scan. Some whites have a blue tint while another shot has an orange one. Also, and most unfortunately, the bonus featurettes are poorly rendered. They have a slow frame rate that distracts one from enjoying the great content. It may be a technical glitch on just my disc, but be on the lookout for it.

Grade: A
Grade: B-

Extras: Available today, the film includes an audio commentary by director Ron Underwood and stars Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern, deleted scenes and four featurettes (a reflection on the making of the film, writing the script, an ode to the scene-stealing calf in the film, and a look at the “real City Slickers.”)

DRAGNET (1987)

Rated PG-13, 106 minutes.
Director: Tom Mankiewicz
Cast: Dan AykroydTom HanksChristopher PlummerHarry MorganAlexandra Paul and Jack O’Halloran
Available today on Blu-ray through ShoutFactory.com/shop.

How ever did a movie starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks slip by me? It’s shocking, because this 1987 film is a classic buddy cop movie (a genre which I love) with major star power (including Kevin Spacey’s understudy, Christopher Plummer) and consistent laughs. It’s like it was swept under the rug. Thankfully, Shout Factory (and its Shout Select series) resurfaced it and blew the dust off for its Blu-ray debut.

DRAGNET, a continuation of the original TV show, deconstructs the cop genre, mostly films and series from the ’50s and ’60s. Aykroyd plays a Humphrey Bogart type who sports a fedora and talks like a Speak & Spell (close to his CONEHEADS character). He’s a real by-the-book fella who makes a nice counterpart to Hanks’ laid back style. Like many other buddy cop movies, it’s the characters’ differences that make the film so enjoyable.

After a sensational sequence when the duo goes undercover to a secret Pagan meeting, the film (no pun intended) drags a bit. However, the jokes never stop coming and it doesn’t take long for it to find its footing again. It reminded me a lot of THE NICE GUYS, a film my wife and I will throw on every once and a while when we are looking to smile. I can see us adding DRAGNET to that list.

Film Grade: B+
Disc Grade: B

Extras: A new interview with co-star Alexandra Paul and audio commentary with pop culture historian Russell Dyball, a promotional look at the film with Aykroyd and Hanks, a photo gallery, original promos and trailers and a cardboard slipcover and reversible cover art (with original and newly designed cover art).

THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1998)

Rated PG-13, 132 minutes.
Director: Randall Wallace
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprioJeremy IronsJohn MalkovichGérard DepardieuGabriel Byrne and Anne Parillaud
Available today on Blu-ray through ShoutFactory.com/shop.

I’m a sucker for historical films and period pieces … and Leonardo DiCaprio movies. 1998’s THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK came out a year after Titanic and the same year as THE MASK OF ZORRO (a movie that it shares a lot of DNA with). It’s got a magnificent cast (also including Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu and Gabriel Byrne) and an engaging enough story (about an malicious king guarding the secret of having a much nicer twin brother and the musketeers who are trying to restore order to the crown).

The fight choreography is nothing spectacular, the musical score is too History Channel-like and the mystery plot is all too predictable. However, the chemistry among the actors (pretty much anything with Jeremy Irons is gold), the incredible set-pieces and Shout Factory’s crisp 4K scan of the original camera negative are the power behind the throne. It’s a solid swashbuckling time.

Film Grade: B+
Disc Grade: B-

Extras: Like CITY SLICKERS, many of the archival featurettes (“Myth and the Musketeers,” “Director’s Take” and a behind-the-scenes special) weren’t rendered properly to have the smoothest watch. It has a slow frame rate that distracts from its captivating historical lessons. The new interviews with producer Paul Hitchcock and production designer Anthony Pratt are good material, especially when they discuss all the production troubles they had. And, unfortunately, the cover art isn’t as attention-grabbing as the other releases this week; it looks like an enhancement on an image (the iron mask in flames) in a much larger painting.

GET SHORTY (1995)

Rated PG-13, 105 minutes.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast: John TravoltaGene HackmanRene RussoDanny DeVitoDelroy Lindo and Dennis Farina
Available today on Blu-ray through ShoutFactory.com/shop.

As well regarded as this 1995 comedy is, I prefer its more ridiculous 2005 sequel, BE COOL. GET SHORTY has a slower pace and is more intellectual than I was craving from a movie about the making of movies.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld (MEN IN BLACK) and screenwriter Scott Frank (Logan) provide their cast with a plethora of witty dialogue and insults that would make R. Lee Ermey proud. John Travolta brings his signature sharp attitude as his character, Chili Palmer, wants out of the loan shark business and into the film business. Gene Hackman delights as a B-movie producer with his first big hit. Supporting parts from Rene Russo, Delroy Lindo and Danny DeVito are also noteworthy.

GET SHORTY is a stylish caper movie that also satirizes the Hollywood scene.

Film Grade: B
Disc Grade: B+

Extras: The only updates to this Shout Select release compared to its previous Blu-ray release are the better picture quality (remastered from a new 4K transfer) and new packaging (an oil painting of a Hollywood lot with the film’s theatrical poster hanging on a building side). The tall list of featurettes are good renders (it’s especially great to see Gene Hackman talk about the film, because he seems like a guy that doesn’t like to do interviews) and the audio commentary with Sonnenfeld is a disc highlight.

VALLEY GIRL (1983)

Rated R, 99 minutes.
Director: Martha Coolidge
Cast: Nicolas CageDeborah ForemanElizabeth DailyMichael BowenCameron Dye and Frederic Forrest
Available today on Blu-ray through ShoutFactory.com/shop.

This 1983 teen romance tells the cute story of a sweet valley girl, Julie (Deborah Foreman), who develops a crush on Randy (Nicolas Cage), a punk kid from the alley. The problem is Julie’s snobby friends (Elizabeth Daily, Michelle Meyrink and Heidi Holicker) disapprove of Randy and want her to get back together with her jerk of a boyfriend, Tommy (Michael Bowen), leaving her to choose between her heart and her popularity.

While so many ‘80s films go solely for the laughs (and centers more on the male characters), VALLEY GIRL manages to crack you up and relate to many elements in its story, the chief one being the portrayal of parents in the film.

Julie’s parents (Colleen Camp and the great Frederic Forrest) have thoughtful conversations with their daughter and don’t try to control her too much like so many movie parents do. They allow her to make decisions of her own and offer their advice when they have it. It’s quite sweet and refreshing, like the rest of the movie.

Film Grade: B+
Disc Grade: A

Extras: VALLEY GIRL has the best looking cover and best special features of this month’s Shout Selects. The release comes with a new 4K scan, a new convo with director Martha Coolidge and select cast members (they fascinatingly talk about the pressures from the studio to have nudity and how the Coolidge slyly incorporated it into the film), a new featurette on the history of San Fernando Valley, an extended cast and crew interview from its 20th anniversary, a new storyboard-to-film comparison, audio commentary with Coolidge, original music videos (the soundtrack is jam-worthy), an archival conversation between Coolidge and Cage (who had an absurd lime green snake jacket and tinted shades), and a making-of.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.