Laserblast: Catch-Up Edition

Due to circumstances beyond our control, it's been awhile since we've run a Laserblast column. Please forgive us while we try to catch up with all the most interesting DVD releases from the past few weeks.

GHOST RIDER is out this week in just about every format available: Two-Disc Extended Cut; Widescreen Edition; Full Screen Edition; Blu-ray Disc; and UMD for PSP. (What - no HD DVD?)

PRIMEVAL - the goofy but somewhat enjoyable attempt to use a killer croc as a metaphor for the horrors of war - hits shelves as a DVD and as a Blu-ray Disc.

BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE set some kind of record for stealth release when it showed up - briefly - on theatre screens earlier this year. Since you didn't bother to buy tickets, one assumes you were waiting for the DVD. Well, here it is.

MASTERS OF HORROR serves up another episode, this one entitled THE SCREWFLY SOLUTION, directed by Joe Dante. Check out the DVD here.

With GHIRORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER and INVASION OF ASTRO MONSTER (a.k.a., MONSTER ZERO, Toho Masters series continues their fine job of releasing old Godzilla movies on DVD with interesting extras and high-quality transfers. You can purchase the GHIDORAH DVD here and the MONSTER ZERO DVD here. Click the film's titles for links to in-depth reviews of the discs, which feature both the American dubs and the original Japanese versions, plus audio commentaries, image galleries, trailers, and talent biographies.

Just in time for the release of the sequel, FANTASTIC FOUR is available in an Extended Cut Two-Disc Special Edition.

THE MESSENGERS is a disappointing ghost story, directed by the Pang Brothers, whose THE EYE is due out in remade form soon. Like many foreign-language directors who come to Hollywood, only a portion of their patented spooky style survived the translation. Still, the film has a few moments, despite a clunky, corny script. You can pick it up on Blu-ray disc and on DVD.

PAN'S LABYRINTH - with its mixture of war film and fantasy - earned crtiical respect and Oscar statues. Guillermo del Toro's heartfelt film is now available on disc as a single DVD and as a New Line Two-Disc Platinum Edition.

THE FOUNTAIN was a disappointing piece of vaguely plotted, pseudo-profound filmmaking from Darren Aronofsky, who once impressed us with his much more concise and much more fascinating film, PI. Still, despite the weak storytelling, some people really loved this film. If you're one of them, you can grab the widescreen edition DVD here.

THE HITCHER came and went from theatres pretty quickly when it was released eariler this year. Now you can pick it up as a widescreen edition DVD. This remake is not exactly bad, just unnecessary. Sean Bean is strong in the title role, but he falls short of eclipsing Rutgar Hauer in the original, and the changes to the story (including a gender switch for the survivor) reek of desperation for something - anything - to separate this from the original.

The dreary HANNIBAL RISING is another horror film that made a fast pass through theatres on the way to home video. It's greatest distinction, perhaps, is taking an Oscar-winning blockbuster franchise and diminishing it to the level of direct-to-video knock-off (a feat equally well achieved by THE GRUDGE 2). If you want to see what you missed during the theatrical run, the unrated widescreen DVD is available here, and the full screen version is here. There is also a HANNIBAL Collector's Edition Steelbook of the disappointing sequel to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, directed by Ridley Scott.

FANTASTIC VOYAGE is one of the most spectacular science-fiction films ever committed to celluloid. Although the science is nonsense and the story serves merely as an excuse for the visuals, the movie survives on the strength of its special effects and production design. The plot has a Very Important Person - it doesn't really matter how - the victim of an assassination attempt. Only a team of miniaturized scientists, in a special vessel built just for such emergencies, can get at the plot clot to operate and save the patient. Unfortunately, the assassins have planted a traitor on the team. Although made in the 1960s, the film has the feel of an archetypal 1950s sci-fi film, complete with the macho team captain and the beautiful scientist's assistant, here played by Raquel Welch. Dig the scene when she is attacked by anti-bodies in the bloodstream: as the male crew members try to the attackers off her body, for some reason they all concentrate their attention around her chest - no doubt to facility her breathing. You can now enjoy this and all the other fun in a Special Edition DVD.

A few months ago, EL TOPO - Alejandro Jodorowsky's surreal slice of art house mysticism and Spagetti Western cliches - got brief theatrical exposure. This film isn't really very good, but it is weird enough - and its historical status as one of the first midnight cult movies is just important enough - make it worth checking out. It's available now as a stand alone disc and as part of a box set, The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky.

CIRCLE OF IRON is a interesting little odity from the 1970s. Based on a story developed by the late martial arts star Bruce Lee, the film features David Carrdine in three roles, guiding a young nocie on the path to spiritual enlightenment, which consists of fighting a bunch of opponents and stopping for the occasional philosophical interlude. Christopher Lee shows up at the end as the keeper of the book of enlightenment, which turns out to be not quite what was expected. The film is now available in a 2-Disc Special Edition, loaded with bonus features.

SEIZURE: Although it has long since dropped off his resume, this is actually the first feature film written and directed by Oliver Stone, who most recently gave us WORLD TRADE CENTER. This 1970s relic features cult stars Jonathan Frid (DARK SHADOWS) and Martine Beswicke (DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE) in a tale of an author haunted by dreams of his own characters coming to life. Presumably, Stone wrote the script based on - or during - his days of cocaine-fueled drug addiction., which would help explain the muddled narrative, including an lame "it's only a dream but not it's not" ending. The DVD is available here.

RE-RELEASES

Improving technology keeps old titles alive and kicking, as they are continually re-released in special editions or new formats. Some recent examples include: