- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2018

Here’s a pair of classic films celebrating anniversaries with releases in the Blu-ray format.

The Sandlot: 25th Anniversary Edition (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated PG, 101 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $7.49) — Director David Mickey Evans’ “A Christmas Story” of summer movies returns to the high-definition format to deliver an amusing ode to America’s favorite pastime.

Set in 1962, the coming-of-age classic features the complex life of youngster Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry), a new kid in a suburb outside of Los Angeles and clueless on how to play baseball (“yur killing me Smalls”).

Luckily, he manages to find a friend in Benny Franklin Rodriguez (Mike Vitar), who’s willing to teach him the game along with a group of pint-sized, sandlot veterans.

Scotty and his new pals eventually end up on a harrowing adventure after he borrows his stepdad’s signed Babe Ruth baseball to use in a game, and the collectible ends up in the realm of a dog referred to as the “Beast.”

The movie demonstrates the best parts of a child’s introduction and appreciation of baseball: camaraderie, practice, living the game, and above all, having fun.

By the way, I blame the new stepfather (a humorless Denis Leary) for Scotty’s dilemma. Keeping a priceless piece of memorabilia unprotected in his home office, not in a locked case and just waiting to be borrowed, was a recipe for disaster.

Cinema connoisseurs will appreciate that the 1080p digital transfer, culled from the 20th anniversary Blu-ray, looks fantastic upscaled on a 4K player.

Colors nearly burst from the screen especially when highlighting the cars of the era, the primary-hue painted houses, the various shades of green on the sandlot grass, fireworks and flashing lights at a carnival. The grain is at a minimum, and details such as the minute scuffs and slime on the mangled Babe Ruth ball are very noticeable.

Best extras: Viewers only get a vintage and very promotional, 6-minute featurette, pulled from the 20th anniversary Blu-ray that talks up the movie before its release. However, the package does offer some hard copy goodies.

They include an anniversary mini-poster and a 16-page, full-color booklet about the movie, complete with photos from the set, a few storyboards and a preface by the director.

Additionally, owners get a set of 10 limited edition Topps baseball cards spotlighting the entire kids team and even includes the dog Hercules (better known as the “Beast”).

Now, instead of all of the inserts, I would have preferred a retrospective on the movie and why some call “Sandlot” the best baseball movie ever made.

Up in Smoke: 40th Anniversary Edition (Paramount Home Entertainment, rated R, 86 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $13.99) — One of the dumbest movies ever made helped cement the careers of comedy duo Cheech and Chong and unleashed the unwelcomed stoner genre of filmmaking.

Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin managed to brilliantly tap into the drug culture of the 1970s through some great albums, and the natural progression was to capitalize their success with a film career.

Their first effort, directed by record producer Lou Adler, arrived in 1978 and involved pot-saturated slacker Pedro De Pacas (Mr. Marin) meeting a brainless amateur drummer Anthony Stoner (Mr. Chong).

Bonding over their love of drugs and music, the new friends get caught up in criminal activity and unwittingly drive a van made of high-grade marijuana over the Mexico border and into Los Angeles with the vehicle’s exhaust system getting everyone stoned in their path.

Watching the movie straight, not recommended, it manages to squeeze a few hearty laughs out of the premise, especially when it’s just the duo on screen and most notably, the pair smoking a joint the size of a small kielbasa.

I’ll avoid mentioning the film’s co-stars, to save them the humiliation, but what were you thinking Stacy Keach and Tom Skerritt? 

What is interesting was the film actually promoted the fledgling Hollywood punk scene by offering moments with bands such as “The Berlin Brats,” “The Dills” and “The Whores.”

Most surprising to this train wreck is the detail and clarity of the high-definition transfer. The 40-year-old movie looks great with sharp colors and decent details.

Best extras: Viewers get a variety of bonus content, mostly culled from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases.

My tip is to listen to the amusing optional commentary track with Mr. Marin and Mr. Adler, recorded in 2000, while first watching the movie to hear some funny memories about the project.

Next, a new interview, for the 40th anniversary release, offers Cheech and Chong sitting together and Mr. Adler (recorded separately). It offers another load of nostalgia briefly covering how the comedy team got started and the first time they smoked marijuana.

Only ardent fans will continue by diving into 11-minutes worth of hazy deleted scenes; a vintage, 11-minute featurette on the movie; and a painful-to-watch animated music video for the heavy-metal song “Earache My Eye.”

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