It’s kind of a small week this week but with some big releases, including two major box sets, beloved Christmas specials, and a few major catalogue releases. Dig in!
Don’t Breathe 2 – I liked the first Don’t Breathe; I thought it was an incredibly intense horror flick that went a little overboard in a couple of scenes, but by and large was a really good thriller. It was also a massive hit, which is why I’m surprised it took five years for a sequel to come out. (Okay, maybe it lost a year to the pandemic, but even then, four years is a long time for a horror sequel.) I’m not sure if the span between entries in the franchise affected my opinion of it, but I really didn’t like the second film at all. It’s not because it’s not intense; it definitely. is. And it has all the suspense and action you’d look for in a film like this, so it’s not like it’s slow or boring. But there’s an underlying tone to this film which left me feeling a little… uneasy. There’s a brutality to the violence that seemed a little over the top, and it really soured me on the film’s experience. Plus, I felt like there were a lot of moments where the main character’s blindness was a contrivance and didn’t seem to affect his ability to move around or fight bad guys in any way, shape or form. He’s just a little too invincible at times. I suspect most people who liked the first one will enjoy this one as well, but there was something about it that really turned me off. Don’t Breathe 2 comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray and DVD, and the premium format looks and sounds quite good. While not an ultra-high budget film, the 4K transfer does really help with shadow delineation (a plus in a film that takes place almost entirely at night or in the dark) and features crisp, clear imagery. The surround soundtrack does a nice job of making the sound atmospheric, especially in the scenes where Stephen Lang is using his hearing to figure out what’s happening around him. A sharp A/V presentation of a film most people will probably like more than me.
Underworld: 4K Ultra HD Collection – The Underworld franchise is one of those film series that has had a much longer shelf life than it should have. The first film from 2003 featured Kate Beckinsale in head-to-toe black leather in the midst of a vampire/werewolf war. It was a moderate hit, but far from a blockbuster. Well, fast forward 18 years, and we’ve got a total of five Underworld flicks, with persistent rumors that a sixth one is coming. This new 4K Ultra HD collection includes all five movies on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and digital. Throughout the course of Underworld, Underworld Awakening, Underworld Evolution, Underworld: Blood Wars, and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, we are immersed in an underworld where vampires and werewolves are constantly at war. Interestingly, Beckinsale stepped away from the franchise for the third entry, Rise of the Lycans, before coming back for the next two. I had fun revisiting this franchise. I had only seen each of the films once; I liked them but they’re not huge favorites of mine, so watching them back to back definitely enhances the overall arc of the franchise. They’re still not quite masterpieces, but they are fun movies to throw on late at night when you want some mindless fantasy violence. The entire series has been remastered in 4K Ultra HD and are available in the premium format for the first time in this nice set. Housed in a sharp-looking box, you also get each film on Blu-ray and a digital copy of each movie. The 4K upgrade does some nice things for the films, even if they don’t look completely transformed. The biggest improvements are in terms of shadow details; these are films that are incredibly dark, and it’s nice to be able to better interpret what’s happening on screen. Color saturation isn’t a big factor, since some of the films are nearly monochromatic, but the picture looks really good overall. The surround soundtracks, meanwhile, really do a nice job of spreading the sounds and music out to all of your satellite speakers, giving a nicely immersive experience with occasional bursts of booming low end. If you’re an Underworld fan, this box set is not to be missed!
Scream (4K Ultra HD) – With a new Scream movie in theaters next year, the time was right to bring us a 4K Ultra HD version of one of the greatest horror movies of all time. Wes Craven’s Scream was nothing short of a pop culture phenomenon when it came out in 1996, and all these years later, it remains a horror masterpiece. It is, without a doubt, one of my absolute favorites of the genre. So I was excited to get the new 4K Ultra HD version of the film, which also includes a digital copy of the film (yay!). The 4K upgrade is surprisingly good, in my opinion. The film is 25 years old and was not a big-budget release, but the 4K transfer provides a really sharp, clear image, and the improved color saturation really gives the imagery some pop. Improved shadow delineation helps us see better in the darker scenes, although luckily this was never a movie that made everything happen in overly dark and shadowy scenes. The surround soundtrack doesn’t have a ton to work with — the film is heavily dialogue based — but during the more active scenes, you will start to get some nice imaging from the sound field and the rear channels will come to life. Im such a huge fan of this film that I want to own it in the best format possible, and having a digital copy in my library is a huge bonus. RECOMMENDED!
The Sheik: Paramount Presents – Rudolph Valentino remains to this day one of the biggest silent movie stars of all time. While his legend probably isn’t as familiar to younger viewers nowadays, cinephiles know he was a huge star in his day and is still fondly remembered as perhaps the first heartthrob of Hollywood. As familiar as I am with Valentino’s legend, I’ve actually watched surprisingly few of his films. Without a doubt one of his most famous films is The Sheik, in which Valentino plays an Arabian sheik who falls in love with an adventurous European woman and abducts her back to his home country. Okay, so maybe it’s not the most forward thinking or #MeToo friendly plot in the world, but as the film celebrates its 100th anniversary, it is interesting to go back and see what cinema was like in a different era. The film is definitely a romance (although a reluctant one at first) with some comedy mixed in, and the new musical score that accompanies it gives it new life. While there are some moments that are a little slow (as I find to be the case with many silent films), overall I found it quite enjoyable, and I can see why it was a huge box office smash hit in 1921 and why Valentino was so loved by the ladies. This new Paramount Presents special edition of the film includes a new retrospective featurette, beautiful gatefold packaging, and a digital copy of the film. Nice stuff!
Sex & The City: The Complete Series + Movies – I know it’s easy to pick on Sex & The City if you’re a male film reviewer. Obviously, the show was geared more for a female audience, and it was quite successful in reaching them. But I always enjoyed the show, personally. It’s funny, it could be well-written, the cast had great chemistry, there were terrific guest stars… in short, it was always a lot of fun to watch. So if you’re looking someone to take cheap shots at the show and make jokes about Jimmy Choos, well, you’re in the wrong place. It’s been a while since we’ve had any new S&TC product (although there’s a revival series on the way next year), and while there’s nothing actually new in this set, it is by far the most complete collection for S&TC fans to date. Inside this 18-disc box set, you get all 96 episodes of the show (six seasons total) on Blu-ray, as well as the two theatrical films. To my knowledge, it’s the first time the entire series and both movies have been collected in one place on Blu-ray, which is definitely the preferred format for watching the show, in my opinion. In addition, there are over three hours of extra features; while they’re all previously released features, it’s nice that they weren’t ignored for this collection. If you’re a die-hard Sex & The City fan, this is the best way to own the whole shebang all in one place.
Walker: Season One – As a huge fan of Supernatural, obviously I was interested to see where Jared Padalecki would end up when the show ended its epic 15-season run. I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect it to be on a reboot of Chuck Norris’s well-loved Walker, Texas Ranger show. But here we are, and while Walker isn’t the kind of show I would normally gravitate towards, I wanted to give it a chance. The show sees Padalecki as Walker (who is a Texas Ranger) who returns to Austin and tries to reconnect with his children while pairing up with a new partner and looking into the death of his wife. The show definitely puts more focus on the drama and the family aspect of the show than Norris’s vehicle did, but there’s still time for action and wrangling criminals. While I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show, I have to admit, I did get wrapped up in it. Padalecki is always a likable lead, and the supporting cast features a lot of familiar faces that I like, such as Lindsey Moran (The 100), Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files), Austin Nichols (One Tree Hill), and Odette Annable (Supergirl.) It’s an easy show to watch, and I think people will enjoy it.
Kung Fu: The Complete First Season – Speaking of rebooted TV shows, the classic Kung Fu show from the ‘70s gets new life as a CW series, which makes its debut on Blu-ray and DVD this week. Starring Olivia Jiang, the show sees a young woman who goes off to a monastery in China when she finds herself at an impasse in her life. Returning home, she finds that her city has been overrun by crime, and she uses her kung fu skills to help clean things up while dealing with triads, family drama, new romance, and more. Being a CW series, the show is easy to watch; it’s slickly edited, populated with a young attractive cast, and has a pretty modern vibe and tone to it. I do want to give the showrunners credit, too, for using an almost entirely Asian cast for a show about Asian characters. Unlike the original Kung Fu in which David Carradine played a half-Chinese man, the cast here brings a good dose of Asian representation to the screen. This first season collection includes all 13 episodes from the first season, and I can see this being a show that fans of the CW’s output will take to.
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- Original Christmas Specials Collection (Steelbook Edition) – With the fourth quarter upon is, the holiday offerings are hitting shelves, and this one is a perennial favorite. It’s been out on DVD and Blu-ray before, but this year we get the Rankin Bass Original Christmas Specials Collection housed in a nice steelbook case. I know there are a lot of steelbook collectors out there, so if you’re looking for a new one that will give you some good holiday offerings for the kids, this will kill two birds with one stone. This set includes five Christmas specials on five discs: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town, The Little Drummer Boy, Frosty the Snowman, and Cricket on the Hearth. With Rudolph and Santa Claus is Coming to Town being stone-cold stop-motion animation classics and Frosty the Snowman a 2-D animation classic, it’s hard to argue with the quality of these specials from yesteryear. The set also includes a nice handful of extra features such as making-of featurettes, animation tests, and commentary tracks. A perfect gift for the holiday season!
- The Hidden Life of Trees – Based on his own bestselling book, writer Peter Wohlleben features in this new documentary about trees, forests, their life cycle, and how it all affects us. I always thought The Hidden Life of Trees book was one of those Who Moved My Cheese motivational-type books, but it turns out it’s actually about trees and their surprisingly complicated ecosystem. This film sees Wohlleben travel to forests all over the world and explain what it all means and how fascinating trees can be. It’s a surprisingly interesting film considering it’s about, you know, trees. The relatively concise running time (about an hour and 15 minutes) helps, but people who liked the book or are interested in science/nature should check it out.
- WB Archive Spotlight – There are three new Blu-ray debut releases from the Warner Archive this week. All of these manufactured-on-demand titles can be purchased from can purchased at the Warner Archive’s Amazon Shop, or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold. The three titles this week span different genres, but it’s a really good batch of films. First up is 1982’s Night Shift, starring Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton, and Shelly Long. It’s also the feature film directorial debut of no-less than Ron Howard (not counting a Roger Corman film in 1977). This comedy sees Winkler as a hapless morgue attendant convinced to run a brothel by the loudmouthed Michael Keaton. It was a breakout role for Keaton, even if the film wasn’t a huge hit. The movie is painfully ‘80s, but it’s still great to see a young Keaton fully unleashed and Ron Howard honing his directorial skills. Next up is 1964’s Children of the Damned, a sort-of sequel to 1960’s Village of the Damned. Really, it’s more of a follow-up film than a sequel, as it doesn’t really tie in to Village at all. In this film, scientists discover six children from all over the world who possess telekinetic powers. Brought to England to study them, the kids escape and hole up in a church while the military tries to retrieve them. It’s not an out-and-out great film, but honestly, it’s a pretty cool little sci-fi flick from an era when sci-fi was often relegated to cheesy alien invader flicks. I dug it. Finally, we have a horror movie from classic Hollywood, 1966’s Eye of the Devil. Starring David Niven, Sharon Tate, Donald Pleasance, and Barbara Kerr, the film sees Niven as a vineyard owner who’s suffered multiple bad crops in a row, causing his vineyard to face potential disaster. His wife begins to suspect something strange is afoot when weird characters and mysterious men in robes start to show up on their property. As she rages against occult goings-on, forces conspire against her and… well, I don’t want to spoil anything. However, I will say that it’s a surprisingly good film for a mid-60s horror movie; like sci-fi, horror wasn’t always treated well at that time and I found this one to be quite impressive. Plus, that cast is hard to beat. Good stuff!