Well, you’d think with Valentine’s Day being this week, the studios would have loaded up on romance films, but instead we get some big screen blockbusters, a number of great catalog releases, and a few more obscure films filling the shelves this week. Read on for the full breakdown of what’s available.
The Movie: I think we can all largely agree that in the post Avengers: Endgame world, the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn’t been quite what it once was. That said, people are being way too hard on Marvel. Take for example, their latest film, The Marvels, which teams up Captain Marvel (from the hit film of the same name), Ms. Marvel (from the fantastic Disney+ series), and Monica Rambeau/Photon (from WandaVision), and teams them up on an interstellar adventure. Is the film a masterpiece? No. But is it a highly enjoyable adventure film with a likable cast, plenty of action, and some really fun moments? Absolutely. I personally thought people were way too hard on the Captain Marvel movie (which I love), and I feel like this is an extension of that dislike. I also think a film anchored by three female leads probably didn’t sit too well with certain members of the viewing public. But I’m here to tell you that The Marvels is a perfectly good film that’s a lot of fun to watch. It’s not without its flaws and its certainly not upper echelon Marvel, but there’s no reason I can see why people shouldn’t like it.
The Special Features: There are two making-of featurettes, an audio commentary, deleted scenes, and a gag reel. Not bad!
The Wrap-Up: The Marvels is officially the lowest grossing MCU film, and while I wish I could say that surprises me, people never really seemed to want to give this movie a chance. I gave it a chance and enjoyed the heck out of it, and I think there’s a good chance you will too.
The Movie: I want you to imagine a scene in your head where Priscilla Presley and Elvis Presley are having an interaction, and Elvis is somewhat distant, off-putting, or neglectful towards Priscilla, and she quietly swallows her pride and just takes it. Now I want you to repeat that scene in your head 15 more times. Congratulations, you’ve just seen Priscilla. The new drama from acclaimed director Sofia Coppola claims to “flip the story of Elvis and Priscilla Presley,” but honestly, it just seems to tell the same story we always see: Elvis loved Priscilla but wasn’t really a great husband. I thought the movie was going to give us more of a view into who Priscilla was, but really who she was (at least while she was with Elvis) was whoever he wanted her to be. There was nothing in this movie to make me really feel for her or root for her beyond that I felt somewhat bad that her marriage wasn’t particularly good. Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi turn in good performances as Priscilla and Elvis, but I found the film way too repetitive and lacking any real emotional depth. As a result, I got bored with it pretty quickly.
The Special Features: There are two special features that run about 40 minutes total. One is a half-hour making-of called The Making of Priscilla: A Film by Liv Michael, while the other runs about ten minutes and is a more general look at the film.
The Wrap-Up: I was really looking forward to Priscilla telling us the real story of one of pop culture’s most famous wives, but I don’t feel like I came out of the movie with any more knowledge about her than I went in with. I have to say that Priscilla was a big disappointment for me.
Universal Classic Monsters: Limited Edition Collection
The Movie: So, at this point, getting a new Universal Classic Monsters Collection on home video has become sort of an annual event. In the last decade, we’ve had two different collections on DVD, two different collections on Blu-ray, and two Ultra HD collections. This is the latest offering in Universal’s repackaging of the classic monster films, this time released as a gorgeous limited edition coffee table book edition. First off, the set features eight of the most popular and well-loved of Universal’s classic monster films: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Each film has been remastered in 4K, and they’ve all been packaged together in a gorgeous new set with a wealth of extra features. It’s an 8-disc set that includes each movie on a 4K disc (with no Blu-ray Discs this time around, but that’s okay because they’re readily available on Blu-ray if that’s your preference), and you also get digital copies of each movie. Now, what sets this collection apart is that it’s housed within an (approximately) 11×14 full-color hardcover book, which offers up write-ups of each film that feature behind-the-scenes trivia, making-of information, and profiles of the key actors and creators. It’s a gorgeous book with stunning cover art (and a soft touch feel to the hard covers), and it’s limited to only 5,500 copies, so this is a real collector’s item for the fans of Universal’s classic monsters.
The 4K Audio/Video: The 4K Upgrade definitely makes a difference in the visual presentation of each movie. While the films are in black and white so you don’t get the extra pop of colors, the grey tones are more subtle, the blacks are deeper, the shadow delineation is much stronger, and the overall image clarity is sharper than previous home video editions. The soundtracks are working with limited fidelity due to the age of the films, but I certainly don’t hear anything to complain about. Technically speaking, you can’t beat the job Universal has done with these transfers.
The Special Features: As with all of the previous Universal Monsters collections, this one doesn’t shy on the bonus features. While none of them are new for this release, you still get a ton of added value content. Dracula comes with the Spanish-language version of the film, four making-of/retrospective featurettes, and more. Frankenstein includes four making-of/retrospective featurettes, two audio commentaries, a short film, and a featurette on restoring the classic Universal movies. The Mummy gives us two audio commentaries, four making-of/retrospective featurettes, a documentary on the Carl Laemmle years at Universal, and more. The Invisible Man comes with a making-of feature, a 00 Years of Universal documentary, a commentary track, and more. The Bride of Frankenstein offers up two making-of/retrospective featurettes, an audio commentary, and more. The Wolf Man adds four making-of/retrospective featurettes, another featurette on Lon Chaney Jr as well as a 100 Years of Universal featurette, a commentary and more. Phantom of the Opera includes a featurette, a commentary track, and more. Finally, Creature From the Black Lagoon brings us a featurette, a commentary track, and more. Most of the “and more” includes trailers, photo galleries, and the like.
The Wrap-Up: While I don’t always love constantly repackaging movies that have been available plenty of times before, Univeral really impressed we with this Limited Edition Collector’s Set. If you’re a fan of the classic Universal Monster series and don’t already own the Blu-ray collections (or want to have the films in your digital library), this set is a must-have!
Footloose (4K Ultra HD Steelbook)
The Movie: Kevin Bacon’s 1980s magnum opus has gone beyond being just a film and has become an icon in the pop culture landscape. On the surface, a movie about a town that has outlawed dancing sounds… well, it sounds a little ridiculous. But this was the ‘80s, and the film takes on the storyline with enough gravitas to make it work. Then you add in the classic soundtrack (with Kenny Loggins’ title track a standout pop masterpiece) and those iconic dance sequences, plus Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer heating things up, and the result is a film that has transcended its ‘80s origins to become a true classic. The film makes its 4K Ultra HD debut this week from Paramount, and it comes packaged in an awesome Steelbook case with fantastic ‘80s themed artwork (is that a cassette tape?!?) that will make this one stand out on your shelf.
The 4K Audio/Video: 4K Ultra HD releases of older movie can often be a bit of a mixed bag. The format offers up improvements over Blu-ray, obviously, but it’s not like you can magically transform the source elements from a movie that’s almost 40 years old. However, Paramount has given Footloose a nice restoration and the results show. Image clarity is razor sharp, colors pop nicely, and there’s enough film grain to retain the cinematic feel of the film. The Dolby Atmos surround soundtrack is a little front-channel heavy, but since the driving force of the film is the dialogue and the music, that makes sense. That said, both the dialogue and music sound terrific, but don’t expect too much from the rear surround channels.
The Special Features: You get two audio commentary tracks, including one with Kevin Bacon himself. Then there are four making of and retrospective featurettes, two interview featurettes (one with Bacon and one with Sarah Jessica Parker), and a few other goodies.
The Wrap-Up: If you haven’t revisited Footloose in while, this is the best way to do it. The 4K looks and sounds really good, the Steelbook case is gorgeous, and the film itself is a delight. Kick off your dancing shoes and enjoy some Footloose in 4K!
The Movie: At first, I assumed that Willy’s Wonderland was just a quickly made direct-to-video knock off of Five Nights at Freddy’s, made to capitalize on that film’s breakout box office success. But then I found out it was actually made in 2021, two years before the theatrical FNAF hit theaters. That said, it was clearly made as a knock off of FNAF: The Video Game, because the story is way too similar to be a coincidence. In this film, a group of teenagers (and Nicolas Cage) get trapped in a defunct Chuck E. Cheese-style restaurant in which the animatronic characters are coming to life and killing people. But here’s the thing: the film is weird. Like, on the one hand, it’s not entirely unenjoyable, even if the budget is a fraction of the FNAF budget. On the other hand, what is Nicolas Cage doing here? He literally doesn’t have a single word of dialogue, playing a character who’s a surprising bad-ass. (I theorize he’s the guy from Drive Angry; I think this works as a pseudo-sequel to that underrated flick.) And at first, you’re like, “Nicolas Cage is playing a tough character who doesn’t talk, I guess that’s kind of cool.” But he gets weirder as the film goes on. There’s one scene where he’s playing pinball and – I kid you not – it’s like he’s having sex with the pinball machine. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. I really don’t entirely know what to make of this one.
The Special Features: There are three featurettes, a set tour, the trailer, and an image gallery.
The Wrap-Up: If you want more Five Nights at Freddy’s but don’t want to wait for the sequel, then Willy’s Wonderland might serve as a placeholder in the meantime. Just be aware that it’s a bit of an oddball film. It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely odd.
Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny
The Movie: I love me some Tenacious D; Jack Black and Kyle Gasser’s pseudo-spoof folk-metal band has produced some truly great songs. But obviously, the two actor/musicians want to be on the screen and that led to the 2006 comedy Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny, which makes its Blu-ray debut this week courtesy of Shout Factory. The story sees two slacker musicians setting out on an epic quest to steel a magical guitar pick from the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame so they can become the greatest band of all time. But as much as I love the duo’s music, I have mixed feelings about the movie. On the one hand, there are some truly great songs in here, plus you have Dave Grohl playing the devil. That’s pretty cool. On the other hand, the film panders to the lowest common denominator in a way which seems occasionally like it was written with the sole purpose of killing your brain cells. The film is kind of stupid, and sometimes not in a good way. There are definitely funny parts, but there are also parts that had me cringing. Like I said, it’s a mixed bag.
The Special Features: This disc includes an audio commentary with Jack Black and Kyle Gasser, plus another commentary with the movie’s director. In addition, there are deleted scenes, a number of archival featurettes, internet shorts, a must video, the trailer, and more!
The Wrap-Up: Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny was one of those movies that came out right before Blu-ray and thus never got a Blu-ray re-release from its parent studio. Shout Factory has come along now and righted that wrong, so if you’re a fan of the film, you can finally own in it in a preferred High Def format.
Hollow Man Steelbook (Wal-Mart Exclusive)
The Movie: Mill Creek Home Entertainment and Wal-Mart have teamed up to bring out four of their most popular catalog titles on Blu-ray, all packaged in gorgeous Steelbook cases. The four titles are Hollow Man, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Anaconda, and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. I’m reviewing each of them separately, but they’re all part of the same promotion, so I’m mentioning them all here. Read on four individual reviews of each title. Hollow Man is the 2000 sci-fi/horror movie starring Kevin Bacon and Elisabeth Shue from director Paul Verhoeven. One of the greatest directors of the ‘80s and ‘90s, Verhoeven gave us RoboCop, Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers, and Total Recall, among other great films. Hollow Man was one of his last Hollywood films before heading back to his native Germany, but it’s a really great flick. It’s effectively an update of The Invisible Man, but with cutting edge special effects and a modern sensibility. I always loved this movie, and the Steelbook Blu-ray release is a great pick-up for fans.
The Special Features: Aside from the disc offering the Director’s Cut, you get one bonus feature: Full Transparency: Scoring Hollow Man – A New Interview with Composer Jerry Goldsmith’s Biographer Jeff Bond.
The Wrap-Up: Hollow Man wasn’t a massive hit in theaters, but it wasn’t a flop, either. A couple of direct-to-video sequels showed up several years after the film was released, but they don’t live up to the thrills of the original. Mill Creek has brought out some heavy hitters for this Steelbook promotion, and Hollow Man is definitely worth picking up.
I Know What You Did Last Summer Steelbook (Wal-Mart Exclusive)
The Movie: I Know What You Did Last Summer was the first major post-Scream horror movie, and while that might not resonate as much 25 years later, it was a really big deal at the time. When Scream came out in 1996, the slasher genre was all but dead, and Scream completely reinvigorated it. 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer was not only the first slasher film released after Scream, it was made in the wake of Scream’s success, so it brought a lot of the same qualities to the screen: a popular and pretty young cast, a dash of humor, and some good kills that weren’t overly gory. With Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. in the cast, it was a lot of fun, mixing some post-Scream sensibilities with good old-fashioned slasher tropes. I love this movie; it’s one of those slasher films that you can watch again and again and have a great time with every time. Again, I have to commend Mill Creek on the design of these Steelbooks, as they have a cool pop-art style to them that makes them really eye catching.
The Special Features: Unfortunately, while last year’s 4K release of the film from Sony had some cool bonus features, this one comes as a bare bones drop.
The Wrap-Up: As far as ‘90s slasher films go, it’s pretty much a one-two punch of Scream followed by I Know What You Did Last Summer. The cast, the soundtrack, the ‘90s sensibilities… I just love it!
Anaconda Steelbook (Wal-Mart Exclusive)
The Movie: I’ve said this in many reviews in the past, but I LOVE creature/monster flicks. You take any sort of snake, shark, alligator or various other animals and make them gigantic, and I’m all in. 1997’s Anaconda was one of Jennifer Lopez’s first film roles, and it still holds up over 25 years later as a great creature feature. Co-starring Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Owen Wilson, Eric Stoltz, and Kari Wuhrer, the film sees a documentary crew up against a 30-foot long (and very hungry/pissed off) Anaconda in the rivers and jungles of South America. Sure, there are a few dodgy moments with some of the special effects (this was still fairly early in the use of CGI in non-megabudget films, and the movie blends CGI and traditional animatronic effects), but the action moves along at a good pace and hits all the right marks as the giant snake takes out our leads one by one. This isn’t high art, but if you love giant creature movies, it’s one of the great ones.
The Special Features: There’s just one bonus feature here, There’s a Devil Inside Everyone: Directing Anaconda – A New Interview with Director Luis Llosa.
The Wrap-Up: I sit through a lot of bad monster movies to get to the few good ones, so I know that I can watch Anaconda anytime I want and enjoy it, and that’s valuable. This cool new Steelbook Blu-ray is a great way to add a reliable awesome fright flick to your collection.
Walk Hard Steelbook (Wal-Mart Exclusive)
The Movie: In the early 2000s, Judd Apatow and his stable of filmmakers seemed like they could do no wrong. Movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Stepbrothers were box office hits and audience favorites. I was personally never all that enamored with the Apatow comedy factory’s style of filmmaking. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story was probably one of the least successful films to come out of said overrated Apatow camp, but it’s easily one of my favorites. A parody of films like Walk the Line and other musical biopics, it revels in its ridiculousness but also has some really smart humor to it. John C. Reilly stars as Dewey Cox and Jenna Fischer plays his put-upon love interest, Darlene, as we follow Dewey from his earliest days to becoming a musical legend. With an all-star cast making cameo appearances, there’s a familiar face popping up every couple of scenes, and that just adds to the fun. So many parodies rely solely on just lowest-common-denominator humor to get them through – and there is some of that here – but Walk Hard also expertly nails the genre it’s making fun of, resulting in a truly enjoyable movie.
The Special Features: This disc is packed with extra features ported over from the original release. You get a making-of feature, deleted and extended scenes, 16 full musical performances, a commentary track, outtakes, and a lot more.
The Wrap-Up: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story was never a big box office hit, but it has morphed into a relatively perennial cult classic, and somehow that just feels right.
A Creature Was Stirring
The Movie: This Is Us’s Chrissie Metz stars in a new horror movie out this week called A Creature Was Stirring. Now, you may be wondering why a Christmas-themed horror film is coming to home video in February, and the answer is that it isn’t really a Christmas film. Sure, it takes place during a massive snowstorm at Christmastime, but unlike a movie such as Krampus, that’s about the extent of it. In this film, Metz’s Faith is a nurse who takes care of her teen daughter, who has a mysterious condition. During a blizzard, a pair of travelers make their way into Faith’s home seeking shelter from the storm and become trapped there, with all the secrets Faith and Charm are trying to hide, which might include something – literally – monstrous. I don’t want to say too much more, as most of what works in the film comes from the mystery and the suspense of what exactly is happening. The downside of the movie is that it doesn’t all work, and it feels like the filmmakers had enough material for half a movie and stretched into a feature-length picture instead. It’s just not quite tight or cohesive enough.
The Special Features: Sadly, just the film’s trailer.
The Wrap-Up: A Creature Was Stirring is one of those movies that has some neat things to offer but doesn’t quite stick the landing. Horror fans will enjoy checking it out for something a little different, but it probably won’t grow beyond a cult audience.
The Canterville Ghost
The Movie: There are so many direct-to-video animated films coming out these days that are just mediocre that it’s hard to get excited about any of them. However, I was a little surprised by Shout Factor’s The Canterville Ghost. Not produced by any of the major film or animation studios, The Canterville Ghost is a British production, a new update on Oscar Wilde’s original story about a ghost who fails at haunting. In the story, the ghost of Simon De Canterville has successfully haunted every family out of his residence, until a family of Americans comes to live there. They’re not scared, so he teams up with their American daughter (who wants to move back to the States) to try and scare them out. The film has a pretty terrific cast, including Stephen Fry, Freddie Highmore, Imelda Staunton, and Hugh Laurie, among others. And while the film isn’t an instant classic, it is enjoyable and fun, and the target audience (kids) will likely enjoy it quite a bit. The animation is a touch on the bland side, but the great voice work gives the film a little extra oomph and there are some nicely humorous moments to be found. Better than a lot of direct-to-video animation that comes across my desk.
The Special Features: There are no extra features on the disc, which isn’t unusual for a movie like this.
The Wrap-Up: If you want an animated movie that the family can enjoy that’s a bit different from the usual big screen fare full of minions and talking toys, The Canterville Ghost might be a nice change-up.
Under The Fig Trees
The Movie: I don’t get a lot of movies to review from Tunisia (a country probably known best to most film fans as being where Star Wars’s Tatooine scenes were filmed), but occasionally one crosses my desk. Under the Fig Trees is a sweet little drama, a small film with big characters. In a small Mediterranean town, a group of laborers work picking and sorting figs from fig trees. Under the watchful eye of a less-than-amiable boss, this coterie of people discusses their lives, their relationships, and their problems. Some fall in love, some fall out of love, some rail against their reputations, and some just sit back and watch. It’s a free flowing, easy-moving film, but somehow it all comes together to work better than it should. It’s not the kind of movie that you’re going to throw on with a bunch of friends, but if you ’re in the mood for a contemplative film about life and love on a quiet evening (and you don’t mind subtitles), Under the Fig Trees can offer you just that.
The Special Features: There are no extra features on the disc.
The Wrap-Up: I don’t always get into this kind of movie that eschews plot for atmosphere and character, but Under the Fig Trees works well for what it is. It’s not the kind of movie I want to watch all the time, but as a palate cleanser between showier films, it’s a solid viewing experience.
What’s New on Home Video – February 13th, 2024 – The Marvels, Priscilla, Universal Monsters, Footloose & More!
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