Another month, another bundle of essential Umbrella Entertainment releases. Where we’ve reviewed notable releases from Umbrella throughout the year, we can’t review them all. So, with that in mind, this new column is simply one to showcase the new releases from Umbrella for that month. Keep an eye out for these on the first of each month going forward.
(We are not paid by Umbrella to push these releases at all, we simply love their work and feel that folks should be aware of the great releases that are on offer.)
From Umbrella: Directed by Louie Gibson, son of acclaimed actor and director, Mel Gibson. Happy Hunting follows Warren, a degenerate drifter, suffering from debilitating alcohol withdrawals on a daily basis. On his way down to Mexico, he becomes stranded in Bedford Flats, a one-horse town nestled deep in the American desert. It was a once-prosperous hunting community that has been reduced to an impoverished dust bowl. Unfortunately for Warren, it turns out that the town’s pastime is rounding up drifters and hunting them as part of an elaborate sporting event. To make matters worse, he’ll go into alcoholic withdrawal unless he finds a way to stay loaded. It all builds to a blood-soaked, live-or-die showdown deep in the desert.
Happy Hunting currently sits with a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes from six reviewers, with Hollywood Reporter saying: ‘A nasty little piece of work that surprises with both its topicality and incisiveness, Happy Hunting unfailingly reminds us about the social problems we try to ignore that just won’t go away.’
From Umbrella: Men of Wood and Foam tells the story of the pioneers of the Australian surfboard industry. It uncovers a golden decade in surfing, starting in 1956, when surfing was transformed into a sport and culture with its very own music, movies, fashion and heroes. Underpinning this exciting transformation was a small group of artisans who started out in the 1950s making wooden surfboards in their backyards along Sydney’s eastern beaches, before eventually moving to Brookvale where they experimented with “blowing foam” to make lighter and more responsive surfboards from plastic. Now, the entrepreneurs and adventurers reflect on the glory years, when they created a culture.
Continuing their dedication to showcasing Aussie documentaries that talk about the Australian way of life, Umbrella Entertainment are releasing a jam packed two disc edition of Men of Wood & Foam. A review and interview will be up soon.
From Umbrella: When a wealthy sheikh (Jamie Farr, M.A.S.H) puts up $1 million in prize money for a cross-country car race, there is one person crazy enough to hit the road hard with wheels spinning fast. Legendary driver J.J McClure (Burt Reynolds, The Longest Yard) enters the competition along with his friend Victor (Dom DeLuise, Blazing Saddles) and together they set off across the American landscape in a madcap action-adventure destined to test their wits and automobile skills.
A fast-moving 80s comedy extravaganza, from legendary director Hal Needham (Smokey and the Bandit), featuring an all-star cast, including: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Telly Savalas, Shirley Maclaine, Jackie Chan, Sid Caesar, Marilu Henner, Don Knotts, Richard ‘Jaws’ Kiel, Jim Nabors, Ricardo Montalban and more, Cannonball Run 2 is a smash-up trip down memory lane.
Cannonball Run II sits with a grand 13% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it well and truly rotten. Roger Ebert had this to say at its release: ‘Cannonball Run II is one of the laziest insults to the intelligence of moviegoers that I can remember. Sheer arrogance made this picture.’ However, over the years, there has been a great affection for Cannonball Run and its sequel, so this release may tickle your fancy if you fall into that camp.
From Umbrella: Mel Gibson commands an elite military team dispatched during WW II to locate and rescue the survivors of a shot down plane, stranded on a South Pacific island occupied by the Japanese. One of the castaways, a defecting Japanese official, holds the secret to ending the war, and must be saved at all costs. Boasting a top-notch cast including Mel Gibson (Mad Max), Sam Neill (The Dish), John Phillip Law (Barbarella) and John Waters (Breaker Morant). Attack Force Z is a fast moving, action-packed World War II adventure story in the tradition of “THE GUNS OF NAVARONE”.
Umbrella continue their dedication to re-releasing and updating classic Australian films with this release of Attack Force Z. Here, the film is presented in a 4K scan, with a featurette titled The Z-Men Debriefed featuring executive producer John McCallum, and actors John Waters and Chris Haywood.
There’s no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and by the looks of it, nobody saw it outside of Melbourne. Attack Force Z was only released theatrically there, taking in $88,000 at the box office. Mel Gibson called the film ‘pretty woeful… it’s so bad, it’s funny’. Hopefully this Umbrella release gives viewers the opportunity to reassess the film in a new light.
From Umbrella: In The Navy: In this rollicking nautical musical comedy, Abbott and Costello are two sailors bound for duty on the high seas. They befriend singing star Dick Powell, who has ditched the limelight for a quiet enlisted life and must help him evade an ambitious reporter (Claire Dodd) intent on using his new identity for her big story.
Buck Privates Have Come: Bud and Lou return to civilian life in this hysterical slapstick adventure film. Slicker Smith and Herbie Brown are caught with Evy (Beverly Simmons), a young stowaway, on board their returning ship by Sgt. Collins (Nat Pendleton).
The Naughty Nineties: Comedy legends Bud Abbott and Lou Costello take to the river in a riotous ride up stream in The Naughty Nineties. In the 1890s, cardsharps take over an embattled Mississippi riverboat with the intention to transform it into a floating.
Umbrella continue with their releases of older films that may usually slip by the radar. Sure, Netflix may not stock them, but Umbrella will. There’s no Rotten Tomatoes rating, but if you want an idea of what the vibe at the time was for these films, check out their New York Times reviews here: In the Navy, Buck Privates Have Come, and The Naughty Nineties.
Six Shooter Westerns: The Professionals and Collection 3
From Umbrella: The Professionals: Academy Award (r)-winners Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin headline the top-notch, rip-roaring Western action/adventure The Professionals. Four soldiers of fortune are hired by a wealthy Texas oil baron (Ralph Bellamy) to rescue his kidnapped wife (Claudia Cardinale), who’s been spirited across the Mexcian border by a band of mercenaries led by Jesus Raza (Jack Palance). They make their way across the treacherous landscape to retrieve the beautiful kidnappee, but discover all is not what it seems in the explosive climax.
Collection Three includes: Gun Fury, Terror of Tiny Town, The Redhead From Wyoming, Hangman’s Knot, The Man From Laramie.
Umbrella have regularly provided a platform for Western fans to get their fix under the banner of ‘Six Shooter Westerns’. These have regularly been stand alone releases (like The Professionals) or in a bundle which puts a bunch of forgotten genre flicks together in a ‘Collection.
The Professionals has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 93% with film critic Christopher Null saying ‘It’s a little dated and has a few shot-on-bad-studio-set moments, but on the whole it’s an impressive film, even if you don’t normally care for Westerns.’ The films in Collection Three don’t have a Rotten Tomatoes score, but if you’re a Western fan, you’ll no doubt be picking it up.
From Umbrella: Little Penguins are the smallest penguin in the world and are the only species that live and breed in Australia. This documentary focuses on the penguin colony that live on Western Australia’s, Penguin Island. The island’s Discovery Centre houses a small group of rescued penguins, which have either been injured, orphaned or abandoned as chicks. Australian Penguins gives an insight into their amazing stories of survival and all the funny things this group of Little Penguins get up to.
Just off the coast of Western Australia is an amazing island, Penguin Island. This small limestone island is home to an amazing diversity of natural wildlife – from the smallest species of penguin in the world, to the largest species of pelican, this island is truly a unique environment. Out of all of Western Australia’s coastal locales, Penguin Island has attracted a unique combination of wildlife. These varied creatures have chosen to make it nature’s nursery, claiming it as an ideal place to raise their young. The main focus of this documentary is to spread an understanding about the various elements which attract such a diversity of wildlife to this amazing environment and fragile ecosystem.
Just like Men of Wood & Foam, Umbrella have released a documentary set focusing on one of Australia’s greatest aquatic critters – the penguins. There’s not much to add for this one other than, if you like penguins, then you’ll love this release.
From Umbrella: South Africa, 1901. The British war against the Boers has deteriorated into bitter guerilla warfare. A unit of the Bushveladt Carbineers, made up mainly of Australians, is ordered by the British High Command to the fight the Boer on it’s terms and take no prisoners, an order which will prove fatal to a man they call “The Breaker” – Lieutenant Harry Morant. Based on a true story, this classic Australian motion picture of injustice and the horror of war has swept the world to become one of the most acclaimed Australian movies ever made…
Breaker Morant is one of the best Australian films ever made. It’s a stunning feature that is exceptionally powerful. This is a barebones release, which is fine, however there’s no denying that with the Criterion release out there, one has to suggest picking that up instead of this one.
Breaker Morant sits with a score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with reviewer Dennis Schwartz saying ‘It’s deservedly one of the most acclaimed Australian films.’
From Umbrella: Adapted from the 1928 novel by Mary Grant Bruce, authour of the popular Billabong series of children’s books, Golden Fiddles is a life-affirming family drama, exploring the hardships and ever-present turmoil during the Great Depression.
Walter and Anne Balfour’s small South Australian farm yields barely enough to feed them and their four children. With little money to speak of and the bank hounding them for monthly mortgage payments, life is anything but blissful.
Forced to sell a beloved pony to make ends meet and yearning to provide a better life for his family, Walter is a broken man. But when Anne receives a letter informing her that her recently deceased uncle has bequeathed a sum of over 400,000 pounds the Balfours face a dramatic change in both lifestyle and location.
Optimism reigns, with plans to uproot the family and leave their small farm for the bustling city of Adelaide. The Balfours begin an exciting journey, where their good fortune and new-found wealth will challenge and change each and every one of them in ways they never quite imagined.
Accurately capturing an era of economic and social upheaval, this Logie Award winning Australian/Canadian miniseries features Justine Clarke (Tangle), Cameron Daddo (Inland Empire), John Bach (The Lord Of The Rings), Rachel Friend (Neighbours), Kate Nelligan (The Prince of Tides), Pippa Grandison (Muriel’s Wedding) and Penne Hackforth-Jones (Mao’s Last Dancer).
Just like Six Shooter Westerns, Umbrella‘s dedication to Australian stories shines through with their regular Classic Australian Stories label. These have varied from being TV series to classic films. Reviews are scarce, but if you have a nostalgia kick for the actors and the era shown, then this will be for you.
From Umbrella: Directed with clinical precision by Academy Award(R) winner Robert Wise, The Andromeda Strain is a compelling account of the earth’s first biological crisis. After an errant satellite crashes to earth near a remote New Mexico village, the recovery team discovers that everyone in the town are victims of a horrible death, with the mysterious exception of an infant and an old homeless man. The survivors are brought to a state-of-the-art underground laboratory, where the puzzled scientists race against time to determine the nature of the deadly alien virus before it wreaks havoc. A trailblazer in the areas of special effects and inventive sets, The Andromeda Strain is based on Michael Crichton’s best-selling novel that created national paranoia for it’s topical relevance to the first moon landing and is perhaps the most chillingly realistic science fiction thriller ever made.
The Andromeda Strain – like most of Robert Wise’s films – is a solid genre flick that hits the right spots. This disc is barebones, but don’t let the dissuade you if 70’s sci-fi is your thing. Sitting at 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Andromeda Strain is certified fresh, with reviewer Jeffrey M. Anderson having this to say about the film: ‘Wise and screenwriter Nelson Gidding focus on the details and the science of the story, giving it a natural suspense that nearly holds up for the entire 131 minutes.’
From Umbrella: Michael Douglas stars as a choreographer who subjects 16 dancers to a gruelling audition in this Academy Award(r) nominated adaptation of the landmark Broadway musical. Featuring Marvin Hamlisch’s Oscar(r) nominated music and Jeffrey Hornaday’s (Flashdance) sizzling choreography, this thrilling portrayal of life behind the velvet curtain is truly “One Singular Sensation”!
From Umbrella: The Heroes of the Somme uses original archive from the Western Front to uncover the stories of seven of the men whose remarkable bravery won them the Victoria Cross, Britain’s most prized military medal. World War One’s Somme Offensive was fought in North Western France. It lasted 141 days and involved 13 allied nations fighting 14 separate battles. July 1st 1916, Day One of the battle, was the worst in British military history, when General Haig’s Army suffered 60,000 casualties. By the end of the offensive the total for both sides was a million. This extraordinary sacrifice was made for just 6 miles of empty farmland. Of the more than a million British and Dominion troops who fought on the Somme, just 51 were awarded the Victoria Cross. In this programme, military historian Dr Gavin Hughes travels to France to piece together the stories of seven of them. Their experiences, covering four key days of the battle, tell the story of the entire offensive. Gavin uses a copy of a 100 year old battle map to navigate the Somme landscape today. It once belonged to a British General. Now Gavin is using the map to pin point the locations of individuals and the battalions they fought in. The VC winners themselves came from across Great Britain and its empire. The first to be awarded a medal for his actions on the Somme was from Ulster, and the programme features others from Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland, England and New Zealand. These men came from every rank and social background. The programme features contributions from leading modern historians, who explain the broader context of the battle, and describe how the offensive has come to be remembered, rightly or wrongly, as a exercise in futile military sacrifice. Meanwhile interviews with modern day family members reveals the personal stories of each character, exploring the differing fortunes they experienced, and the variety of reasons for which they fought One man made war an adventure. For another adventure turned into sacrifice. One’s bravery was remembered for a century. Another’s forgotten within a decade. One soldier fought because it was his heritage. Other’s because it was their duty. This programme reveals how they all risked everything, all won the Victoria Cross and were all heroes of the Somme.
Finally, we have a documentary on war. Umbrella are nothing but dedicated in their bid to deliver varied, and interesting films, that fill a niche. While there’s no Rotten Tomatoes score for this documentary, the plethora of positive reviews on Amazon suggest that this is one to seek out if you’re interested in war history.
And that’s it for November. There was originally going to be a release of Suspiria as well, but that has been delayed to December, so you’ll have something to look forward to there.