There are a number of new releases out this week, but let’s be honest, most people are going to be the most excited about the home video release of a certain Dark Knight. There are a few other offerings as well, so read on to see what’s on shelves this week!
The Batman – One of the biggest hits of the year, DC’s The Batman seems to give hope that the DC Cinematic Universe might not be completely hopeless. While Robert Pattinson was a controversial choice for some fans, I always had faith in his ability to play the role because I know he’s a terrific and underrated actor. I went into the film with somewhat tempered expectations; the three-hour running time had me pretty nervous. But the film works quite well, and while there are some definite flaws with it, I honestly truly enjoyed it. I loved the fact that somebody finally made a Batman movie that focuses on his detective work and not just fighting bad guys. Not to say there’s no action in the movie, because there is, but that’s where the three-hour running time works in the film’s favor; it gives us time for both a mystery and action scenes. Pattinson plays the role well, but Colin Farrell steals the show as The Penguin, completely unrecognizable under heavy prosthetic make-up. Like I said, the film does have some flaws; the Batman/Catwoman relationship seems a bit forced, the film could have been a little bit shorter, and there are a few minor nitpicks here and there, but the film looks great and kept my attention for three hours, which is no small feat. The Batman comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and the film looks and sounds amazing in the 4K format. The contrasts are extremely sharp and shadow delineation is exceptional, which really works to make sure that the numerous dark nighttime scenes never obscure the on-screen action. The film’s few slashes of color pop as well, although it’s a dark film that isn’t overly vibrant, but blacks are deep and rich. The soundtrack is like a living thing, with some excellent spatial effects and a real sense of atmosphere. It’s a terrific presentation of the best Batman film in several years.
Umma – Sandra Oh stars in this new horror film, written and directed by first time helmer Iris K. Shim. The film sees Oh plays Amanda, mother of teenage girl Chrissy, who live off the grid due to an unusual medical condition, leading to a fairly isolated life for the two of them. When Amanda’s deceased mother’s ashes are delivered to her, she eschews Korean tradition to bury them (“Umma” is Korean for “mother,” BTW), and just stores the ashes away. Well, you can imagine that that doesn’t go over so well with the dead mom, so this leads to increasingly more frightening things that go bump in the night. The film is under 90 minutes, so the brief running time works in its favor, but it’s an uneven movie. The dramatic elements, such as the relationship between Amanda and Chrissy, work really well, but the horror elements seem to be relegated mostly to a number of cliched jump scares and nightmare imagery. The film never really feels original, although it is well-acted and does have some strong emotional moments. Worth a watch, but probably not going to bowl people over.
Candyman (4K Ultra HD) – While last year’s Candyman reboot failed to light up the box office, that doesn’t mean the franchise doesn’t still have some life in it. This week, the original Candyman film that started it all makes its 4K Ultra HD debut courtesy of Scream Factory. The original film in the franchise, Candyman remains an exceptionally strong horror outing that manages to feel like its own entity, not a rip off of other slasher films that preceded it. And this 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition is the best package yet for fans of the film. First off, it’s a three-disc set, with a 4K disc alongside two Blu-rays that feature the theatrical and uncut versions of the film. The 4K upgrade is really impressive, with super inky blacks, terrific shadow delineation (helpful since much of the film takes place at night), and colors that are both natural and realistic and also pop on occasion with extra vibrance. The Dolby Atmos surround soundtrack is also quite masterful, with excellent sound placement in all of the various speakers as well as a punishing low end bass that will rumble you off your couch. Between the three discs, you get a huge collection of extra features, including no less than four audio commentaries and a dozen making-of featurettes giving you hours of additional content. This really is the way Collector’s Edition releases should be done.
Trekkies 25th Anniversary Edition – If you’re a Star Trek fan, you’re probably familiar with the excellent Trekkies, which gets a nice new edition this week to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The film was one of the first documentaries to really focus on Star Trek from the fans’ perspective. It’s not about the franchise itself per se, it’s about the effect it’s had on people all over the world. Through interviews with hundreds of fans as well as many cast members, the film treks to numerous conventions and captures true fandom in its purest form, often to interesting and humorous results. Really, it’s a film about fandom, it just happens to present its findings through the lens of Star Trek. It’s a terrific film, warm and funny, and it’s great to see the casts themselves ruminate on the franchise’s effect on people as well as the fans. This new 25th Anniversary Edition marks the film’s Blu-ray debut, so that alone makes it worth picking up, but there is also a new 20-minute retrospective documentary featurette with director Roger Nygard and Denise Crosby, who not only played Tasha Yar but also hosts the film and served as a producer. This is a great love letter to Star Trek that’s a solid documentary on its own right and also a really fun look at one of science fiction’s most devoted fanbases.
Also Available This Week on Home Video
- Lockdown – No offense to Michael Pare, but when you see the B-movie king headlining an action movie, you kind of know what to expect. Pare stars (along with Bai Ling and Chanel Ryan) as an FBI agent up against three criminals who somehow took over an entire police station all by themselves. If you can get past that huge plot contrivance, maybe you can enjoy the rest of the film, but I didn’t. It’s one of those low-budget action movies that doesn’t have the budget for any real action, so it’s mostly people talking and yelling at each other. The dialogue is terrible, the acting is mediocre, and the whole film will leave you rolling your eyes. I guess that’s why it’s been sitting on the shelf for some five years, apparently. If you want a film that you can laugh at, invite some friends over and fire up some popcorn, and then go to town. But otherwise, you can safely skip this one.
- Independent Spotlight – A few indie movies hit shelves this week, covering a few different genres. First up is a catalogue Blu-ray release of a Steven Seagal direct-to-video masterpiece (heavy sarcasm font on the word “masterpiece”), A Dangerous Man. The film came out in 2009, which unfortunately was well past Seagal’s prime. He plays an ex-special forces ex-convict (so, double the usual amount on the ex-tough-guy status) who comes across some bad guys, saves someone, and ends up on the wrong side of ore bad guys, all of which he dispatches without even breaking a sweat. Seagal relies on editing to make it seem like he still has his martial arts chops, but the film is pretty much as bad as you can expect. But at least now you can watch it on Blu-ray! Next up is a Spanish-language horror movie called A.K. Tolstoy’s A Taste of Blood. Based on Aleksey Tolstoy’s 1839 short story “The Family Of The Vourdalak,” the film features a pretty neat premise: a man sets off to kill a vampire, and when he returns home to his family at dusk, they’re not sure if he’s still human or has become a vampire himself. And while I half expected it to stumble out of the gate, it actually presents a solid horror/family drama hybrid. The biggest problem with the film comes with the home video release itself, which mixes in an English dub and subtitles, but you can’t control when you get what, so the experience is disjointed. I would have rather just had the original language audio with subtitles, as it distracts from what is a surprisingly satisfying film. Finally, we have a film called Bloody Oranges. The critic quote on the DVD cover proudly proclaims, “Gleefully shows the unspeakable!”, which I guess is supposed to be a good thing, but trust me, it’s not. This French film from director Jean-Christophe Meurisse exists for one reason and one reason only: to shock people. Whether through dialogue or on-screen actions, the film just wants to shock and offend people, and it actually succeeds. It’s depraved and insensitive, and while I can recognize that it is that way simply for shock value and not because it actually believes it has any artistic merit, I don’t need to waste any more space discussing it.