Christopher Reeve in Superman (Photo: Warner)

By Matt Brunson

(View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray, 4K and DVD. Ratings are on a four-star scale.)

80 For Brady
Rita Moreno, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, and Lily Tomlin in 80 For Brady (Photo: Paramount)

80 FOR BRADY (2023). Like Book Club (Keaton, Fonda, Bergen, Steenburgen), Last Vegas (De Niro, Douglas, Freeman, Kline), and Going in Style (Freeman, Caine, Arkin), here’s yet another film in which a few award-winning senior citizens are gathered to perform in material far beneath their abilities. But at least those other movies firmly kept their focus on the sexagenarians, septuagenarians, and octogenarians at their disposal — conversely, 80 for Brady, like Michael Jordan’s Space Jam before it, primarily serves as an athletic ego trip, to say nothing of a promotional tool for the NFL. It’s loosely based on the story of four elderly women (played by Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno, and Sally Field) who in 2017 journey to the Super Bowl in Houston to watch quarterback Tom Brady and his New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons. Lame hijinks ensue, and one gets to witness such idiocies as a Tom Brady bobblehead talk to Tomlin’s character or an accidental drug trip that results in Moreno’s character seeing everyone with Guy Fieri’s head. Brady serves as producer and co-star, so expect lots of adulation tossed his way. In short, the ladies do more for this film (and Brady) than the film (and Brady) does for them.

Blu-ray extras include a making-of featurette; deleted scenes; and a pair of pieces on the actors.

Movie: ★½

Anne Francis and James Cagney in A Lion Is in the Streets (Photo: Warner Archive)

A LION IS IN THE STREETS (1953). With its central character a boorish, populist politician who convinces the riffraff to pick up arms in an attempt to overthrow U.S. democracy, no one can accuse A Lion Is in the Streets of not maintaining at least a sliver of contemporary currency. Beyond that, there’s not much to recommend about this ragged and unconvincing drama that plays like a fictionalized biopic of Huey Long — never mind that All the King’s Men, also a fictionalized biopic of Huey Long, had come out four years prior and took the Best Picture Oscar, rendering this one’s mere existence moot. James Cagney stars as Hank Martin, a Southern junk peddler who initially seems like a good guy as he marries a kindly schoolteacher (Barbara Hale) and leads the fight against a factory owner (Larry Keating) he claims has been cheating the local cotton farmers. But as he eyes the governor’s mansion, he quickly turns to the dark side, falling in with a corrupt kingmaker (Onslow Stevens) and embarking on an affair with a younger woman (Anne Francis). Cagney effectively barks and bites and bellows, but his energy can’t disguise the increasingly ridiculous developments.

Blu-ray extras consist of the 1953 cartoon Duck! Rabbit, Duck! featuring the titanic teaming of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd, and the theatrical trailer.

Movie: ★★

David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth (Photo: LG)

THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976). Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, a key cult offering of its decade, casts androgynous rocker David Bowie as an androgynous alien who arrives on Earth with the sole purpose of finding a way to transport water back to the dying members of his planet. Instead, as the years pass, he becomes corrupted by human vices (booze, sex, endless TV watching) and finds it increasingly difficult to return home. Roeg’s first directorial effort since the amazing one-two punch of 1971’s Walkabout and 1973’s Don’t Look Now — for my money, two of the 20 best films of the 1970s — The Man Who Fell to Earth (adapted by Paul Mayersberg from Walter Tevis’ novel) isn’t nearly as affecting, although it wears its cult creds well. It’s stylized, elliptical, and slowly paced, but those who can hop aboard its wavelength are sure to be impressed by Roeg’s refusal to cut any artistic corners. A short-lived Showtime series followed in 2022, with Chiwetel Ejiofor playing a new character and Bill Nighy cast in Bowie’s old role.

Extras in the 4K edition include a 1977 interview with Bowie for French television; interviews with Roeg, Mayersberg, and co-star Candy Clark; and a piece on the soundtrack.

Movie: ★★★

Dorothy Mackaill in Safe in Hell (Photo: Warner Archive)

SAFE IN HELL (1931). Similar to 1932’s Rain, the W. Somerset Maugham adaptation with Joan Crawford, this is likewise a pre-Code drama in which a prostitute flees the U.S. to avoid punishment for a crime and finds herself stranded on a tropical island filled with leering men. In this one, the protagonist is Gilda (Dorothy Mackaill), who’s parked by her boyfriend (Donald Cook) on an island where those wanted by the law cannot be extradited. Naturally, this means her fellow visitors are all hardened criminals, yet the worst individual in her orbit turns out to be the lustful Mr. Bruno (Morgan Wallace), who serves as the isle’s sheriff and executioner. Director William A. Wellman (an Oscar winner for co-scripting the 1937 version of A Star Is Born) nails the seedy, claustrophobic milieu, and the ending pulls no punches. Charles Middleton is good as the crooked lawyer who comes to Gilda’s aid — he would later become known for playing Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe. This film also introduced the jazz standard “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” which would later be recorded by Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and countless others.

Blu-ray extras consist of the 1931 live-action shorts Crimes Square and George Jessel and His Russian Art Choir; the 1931 cartoon The Dumb Patrol; and the theatrical trailer.

Movie: ★★★

James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland in The Strawberry Blonde (Photo: Warner Archive)

THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941). This James Cagney vehicle is simply irresistible, with the actor delivering a typically terrific performance as Biff Grimes, an aspiring dentist who lusts after the seductive title beauty (Rita Hayworth) but instead ends up with her best friend (Olivia de Havilland), a nurse who at first unnerves him with her progressive views. Initially unfolding like a straight-up comedy, the picture takes some somber turns late in the game but remains a warm and winsome movie. Composer Heinz Roemheld’s music score earned an Oscar nomination, although it takes a back seat to such prominently featured standards as “The Band Played On” (with its lyrics involving a strawberry blonde) and “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis” (three years before Judy Garland immortalized it in the classic film Meet Me in St. Louis). That’s George Reeves, TV’s future Superman, as the college dandy who engages in fisticuffs with Biff.

Blu-ray extras consist of the 1941 live-action short Polo With the Stars; the 1941 Bugs Bunny cartoon Tortoise Beats Hare; a pair of radio broadcasts (one with Cagney and de Havilland, the other with Hayworth); and the theatrical trailer.

Movie: ★★★½

Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder in Superman (Photos: Warner)

SUPERMAN: 5-FILM COLLECTION (1978-1987). The original tagline for 1978’s Superman was “You’ll Believe A Man Can Fly,” and that promise gets amplified with this 4K UHD set. This collection contains the majority of the content from Warner’s superb 2011 Blu-ray box set The Superman Motion Picture Anthology, with a couple of disappointing omissions. Not included are the Expanded Edition of Superman (with eight more minutes) nor the additional disc of savory extras (although this edition still retains plenty of bonus material). Also MIA from the earlier edition is 2006’s Superman Returns with Brandon Routh, although I expect that will receive its own 4K coming-out party in due time — at any rate, this new 4K offering rightly keeps the focus on the best cinematic Man of Steel of all time.

Even with the explosion of comic-book films in the 21st century, director Richard Donner’s comparatively old-school Superman (1978) remains the best superhero movie ever made. Anchored by an iconic performance from Christopher Reeve, it’s full of humor and heart, paying enormous respect to the tenets of the comic-page panel while occasionally flashing a delightful tongue-in-cheek attitude. This excellent effort also contains one of John Williams’ best scores, a rich screenplay by the heavyweight team of Mario Puzo (The Godfather), Robert Benton (Bonnie and Clyde), David Newman (ditto), and Leslie Newman, and terrific performances down the line. Gene Hackman (as Lex Luthor) and especially Margot Kidder (as Lois Lane) take top honors, but there are also notable contributions from Valerie Perrine (Eve Teschmacher), Glenn Ford (Pa Kent), and, yes, even eccentric Marlon Brando (Jor-El). Nominated for a trio of Academy Awards for Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound, this earned a special achievement award for Best Visual Effects.

Christopher Reeve and Terence Stamp in Superman II

Superman II (1981), in which our hero squares off against three super-foes (Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas, and Jack O’Halloran) from Krypton, is slam-bang entertainment, with ample time also spent on the relationship between Clark and Lois. That Phantom Zone graphic (first introduced in Superman) remains trippy, and Stamp is clearly having a blast as the most dastardly of the villains (“Kneel before Zod!”).

After filming ample footage for Superman II, the first movie’s director, Richard Donner, was famously replaced on the sequel by Richard Lester, an occurrence which finally gave way in 2006 to Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. Several major scenes have been excised or altered, and there’s restored footage of Brando as Jor-El  — consequently, loyalists overpraised this edition as superior. That’s hardly accurate for a few reasons, chief among them being that this cut lazily apes the climactic “Earth spinning backwards” portion of the first film, which was easily the worst part of the otherwise flawless original.

Annette O’Toole, Richard Pryor, and Christopher Reeve in Superman III

Superman III (1983), also directed by Lester, exhibited the falloff experienced by too many grasping second sequels. While hardly a disaster, it still qualifies as a massive disappointment, with Richard Pryor in a featured role as a computer whiz duped by a criminal mastermind (Robert Vaughn) into tangling with the Man of Steel. Kidder’s Lois Lane barely appears, as Clark’s love interest in this picture is Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole) from his Smallville days. Individual moments click, but the main story is alternately too dreary and too daft.

Christopher Reeve in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

The first Superman earned enough at the domestic box office to land on the all-time Top 10 Biggest Moneymakers list. But after plummeting grosses ($134 million for Superman, $108 million for Superman II, $60 million for Superman III), Warner largely gave up on the franchise and handed it over to notorious ‘80s schlockmeisters Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, whose Cannon Group was largely responsible for the fall of Charles Bronson’s career and the rise of Chuck Norris’ and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s (all unpardonable crimes). The resultant Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), which appears to have been filmed for a buck fifty, is an absolute embarrassment, with Superman squaring off against Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow), Hackman and Kidder returning for no discernible reason, and Jon Cryer and Mariel Hemingway looking extremely out of place. The film grossed a paltry $15 million, and it was nearly two decades before Supes would find his way back to the big screen.

Among the extras are audio commentaries by key personnel; deleted scenes; making-of featurettes; and the 1951 theatrical release Superman and the Mole Men (starring George Reeves). Sadly missing (since it was on the other set’s extra disc) is the 1958 TV pilot for The Adventures of Superpup, so cheesy that it almost makes the ‘60s Batman TV show look as sober-minded as Hill Street Blues by comparison.

Superman: ★★★★

Superman II: ★★★½

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut: ★★★

Superman III: ★★

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace: ★½

Unicorn Wars (Shout! Factory & GKIDS)

UNICORN WARS (2022). I must say, the box copy declaring that this was “Bambi meets Apocalypse Now” had me intrigued — after all, I saw the 1969 classic short Bambi Meets Godzilla at an early age and have never forgotten it, so a meeting between the sensitive deer and Colonel Kurtz sounded too good to be true. The copy isn’t meant to be taken that literally, but the general idea of juxtaposing cuddly critters with the horrors of war works to gangbusters effect in this audacious, adults-only toon tale. A Spanish-French co-production written and directed by Alberto Vázquez, this uses as its backdrop the lengthy conflict that exists between unicorns and teddy bears. The primary setting is the Magic Forest, as a squad of teddy bears fresh from boot camp is sent to search for missing comrades. Among the recruits are two brothers, the sadistic Bluey and the gentle Tubby, and it’s their complicated relationship that not only drives the plot forward but also informs the flashbacks. Even with a final twist that’s pretty easy to figure out, this is a heady and harrowing piece that employs kiddie-fodder conventions of the “aw, how cute” variety to subversive, startling effect.

Blu-ray extras include an interview with Vázquez; a rough cut of the film; and a pair of theatrical trailers.

Movie: ★★★½

Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins in Pretty Poison (Photo: Fox)


PRETTY POISON (1968). Pretty much ignored at the time by audiences and most reviewers (except the New York Film Critics Circle, which awarded it Best Screenplay), Pretty Poison was quickly sought out by adventurous filmgoers, thereby turning it into a minor cult offering. Anthony Perkins, stirring memories of Psycho, plays Dennis Pitt, a nervous young man who’s just been released from prison for causing a house fire that ended up killing his aunt. His parole officer (John Randolph) implores him to stop daydreaming all the time and focus on making a clean start, but that advice gets tossed aside once he meets Sue Ann Stepanek (Tuesday Weld). Sue Ann’s a high school honor student and cheerleader who’s charmed by Dennis as he explains that he’s a CIA agent working undercover to foil an international plot unfolding in her small Massachusetts hometown. But as the pair become lovers and begin planning assorted pranks, it’s soon apparent that Sue Ann is really the dangerous individual in this coupling. Weld’s excellent performance as the lethal Lolita is the centerpiece of this film (in his book Alternate Oscars, Danny Peary makes the case that she deserved that year’s Best Actress Academy Award), although Noel Black’s understated direction and Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s layered script also deserve mention.

Movie: ★★★


Review links for movies referenced in this column (all links open in new window):
Book Club
Don’t Look Now
The Godfather
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Going in Style (2017)
Space Jam
A Star Is Born (1937)


  1. Hahahahaha! Matt, I just watched Unicorn Wars! What a delight! I laughed out loud numerous times, and I loved the end. Maybe I’m a tad slow, but I figured out the final set-piece seconds before it actually happened. I just figured that thing was a Lovecraftian tribute until the last moment before the final form… I thought the ending was pretty dang cool… I wish it wasn’t the truth… I would most likely not have watched this if I hadn’t seen that you’d reviewed it… I just don’t think I’d have rolled the dice on it, so you spread an hour and a half of fun with your recommendation… thanks!

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