Well, it’s a pretty exciting week overall as we’ve got one of the biggest movies of the years hitting home video, so there’s a lot to look forward to. Here’s the full breakdown of this week’s releases!
The Movie: I know that Christopher Nolan is one of the few filmmakers left whose name brings people into theaters, but the fact that he took a three-hour biopic and turned it into a $300 million blockbuster is nothing short of astounding. (And yes, I know the Barbenheimer thing was big, but if Snakes on a Plane taught us anything, it’s that internet hype alone can’t make a blockbuster.) Whatever the reason, people turned out in droves to see the film, and now you can relive it or experience it for the first time on home video (on DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, and Digital). The film is anchored by a masterful performance by Cillian Murphy, who’s been one of my favorite actors for decades. There’s also a powerful all-star cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Alden Ehrenreich, Tony Goldwyn, and many other familiar faces. But the film’s real stand-out feature is that Nolan takes what is essentially a dialogue-driven film and plays it out like a thriller. I don’t know that I personally think it’s the greatest film I’ve ever seen – or even Nolan’s best film – but it’s not hard to see that there’s something special on the screen here.
The 4K Audio/Video: If a Christopher Nolan film doesn’t look and sound exceptional on 4K Ultra HD, then you know we’re in trouble. The picture quality is astounding. The film switches from color to black-and-white, and both look equally terrific. Color saturation is deep and vibrant, while the B&W sequences are sharply contrasted with subtle tones and deep blacks. Image clarity is razor sharp throughout, and the special effects sequences look absolutely astounding. Meanwhile, the soundtracks work very well. Nolan can often bury his dialogue in the mix, but that didn’t happen here as everything is clean and clear. The score is majestic, and you better believe your living room rumbles when that bomb goes off, thanks to a dynamic low end channel. In short, it’s a near-perfect audiovisual presentation.
The Special Features: Extras include a 72-minute seven-part making-of documentary, a press Q&A that runs about a half-hour, a short featurette on the use of black & white in the film, a 90-minute documentary on Oppenheimer and the bomb, and the film’s trailer.
The Wrap-Up: While almost everyone wants to see it, ultimately Oppenheimer probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. There’s an awful lot of dialogue and that running time will tax some people’s patience. However, those that give it their full attention and soak in all of the aspects of filmmaking that shine here will be rewarded.
A Haunting in Venice
The Movie: Kenneth Branagh returns as Agatha Christie’s famed detective, Hercule Poirot, in this follow up to Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. He also returns as the film’s director, and he delivers a film that is a better effort than the middle chapter in what is now a trilogy. This time around, Poirot is retired and living in exile in Venice. He attends a séance, but – naturally – one of the guests is murdered, and Poirot must return to detecting to discover if there’s a killer among them or if more supernatural forces were at work. I wasn’t a huge fan of the second film, Death on the Nile, but I feel like this latest outing is one of the best in the series so far. The mix of potential supernatural aspects with a classic murder mystery is a lot of fun, and the story keeps you guessing until the end. The star-studded cast brings a lot of fun to the proceedings, with familiar faces such as Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Dornan, and Tina Fey joining for this entry.
The Special Features: You get one making-of feature that runs about a half an hour, plus a few deleted scenes.
The Wrap-Up: There have been three of Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot films so far, and none have been box-office smashes, but I suspect they make just enough money (and then deliver on home video and streaming) to keep the studio making them. After A Haunting in Venice, I’m hopeful that we’ll get more.
The Expendables 1-4 (4K Ultra HD Steelbook)
The Movie: I am unabashedly a fan of The Expendables franchise, so you can expect this to be a fairly one-sided review. As someone who grew up on ‘80s and ‘90s action films, I have a deep and long-lasting fandom for Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, and many other action stalwarts of the time. When the first Expendables film came out as sort of an all-star outing of past action stars, I was beyond excited. With each subsequent film, I had more and more fun with the franchise, especially as it really hit its high point with The Expendables 2. I even really liked the third film, which I know some people complained about thanks to younger cast members being introduced. Admittedly, Expendables 4 is the lowest point in the franchise, and the only film in the series that I found to be a bit on the mediocre side, but even it has its fun moments and gets better as it goes. Now, Lionsgate has delivered us a very nice collection of all four films in one sharp-looking Steelbook case which includes all four movies on 4K Ultra HD (and is currently a Wal-Mart exclusive.)
The 4K Audio/Video: The 4K Ultra HD presentation for each film is similar to a lot of other more recent catalogue titles, in that you get a slight upgrade in terms of visual quality. You know, these movies all came out in the last decade, so they already looked pretty great on Blu-ray. Now, you do get improvements such as better shadow delineation, resulting in the numerous dark or nighttime scenes being much more visible, which is nice (especially in the first movie). Image clarity is also improved and color saturation also sees a nice bump. The surround soundtracks offer up excellent use of the surround channels to bolster the action and fill your living room with activity, including a pounding low end bass channel to enhance the explosions, punches, and gunshots.
The Special Features: Sadly, only the fourth film includes any extras. That one gets you an audio commentary, a featurette, and the trailer.
The Wrap-Up: The Expendables are the movies I dreamed of happening when I was a kid watching endless Arnie and Sly action films. They may not be masterpieces of cinema, but I love them and this collection finally gives us all four movies in one great Steelbook set.
WandaVision: The Complete Series (Steelbook)
The Show: Marvel has been a little slow in getting their TV series to home video – I’m sure because they don’t want to cannibalize what’s on Disney+ — but eventually, they’re slowly trickling onto shelves. This week gives us the first (and still one of the best) of the Marvel/Disney+ TV shows with WandaVision: The Complete Series, which has been released on Blu-ray in a super-cool looking Steelbook case. Although it was only six episodes, WandaVision was a tour de force, giving us a glimpse of a happy Wanda/Vision relationship through the lens of various decades’ sitcoms. Each episode saw the story progresses to another decade, and boy does the show nail the tropes of the various eras’ shows. It was brilliantly conceived and executed, and just when it seemed like the show might be an endless parody, things kicked into high gear and the stakes got really high. Watching it all in one or two sittings is especially rewarding, making this home video collection an essential viewing piece.
The Special Features: This has a nice little collection of extra features. First up is Assembled: The Making Of WandaVision, which ports over the excellent hour-long making-of from DIsney+. You also get an additional cast & crew interview feature, a gag reel, deleted scenes, and a handful of concept art cards inside the packaging.
The Wrap-Up: I really loved the entire WandaVision experience and now, those of you who don’t have Disney+ or who just like to collect Marvel movies and shows on home video (and keep physical media alive, yay!) can add this terrific show to your collections.
Death Wish 2018 (4K Ultra HD)
The Movie: I was pretty curious about Death Wish. Not so much because of Bruce Willis, but because it was directed by Eli Roth, who’s pretty much worked exclusively in the horror genre up until now. And not just horror, but extremely gory horror. So how would he handle a more mainstream story about a surgeon who becomes a vigilante after a violent attack on his wife and daughter? Well, he’s surprisingly restrained, actually. Which makes it kind of a shame when there’s a short torture scene in the middle of the film in which Roth just can’t resist the urge to revel in the gore. Aside from that, it’s a pretty measured action/revenge film. Willis is on autopilot, but Dean Norris is always a welcome addition to a cast and Vincent D’Onofrio continues his career resurgence in a welcome supporting role. It’s a decent way to kill a couple of hours, but it’s nothing special. This week, the film gets released on 4K Ultra HD for the first time.
The 4K Audio/Video: The 4K Ultra HD presentation helps out here because this is a movie with a lot of darker or nighttime scenes, and the improved shadow delineation allows us to see all of the onscreen action with no pixelation or blocking. Blacks are deep and color saturation is solid, although it’s a more tempered color palette to begin with. The surround soundtrack offers up some nice action, allowing the more intense or violent scenes to explode to life. All in all, it’s a strong 4K effort.
The Special Features: A solid collection of extras here, kicking off with an Audio Commentary With Director Eli Roth And Producer Roger Birnbaum. Then you also get Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Eli Roth and Producer Roger Birnbaum, extended scenes, a making-of featurette, and two trailers.
The Wrap-Up: Death Wish is an enjoyable enough action thriller that is curiously dropping on 4K Ultra HD now. I guess it’s for the holidays, but this doesn’t exactly seem like the most gift-able movie in the world. Still, if you’re a fan, this is a nice 4K upgrade.
Sniper: G.R.I.T. – Global Response & Intelligence Team
The Movie: I don’t know how a direct-to-video action series returning for its umpteenth outing keeps getting better with every film, but it does. I’ve been a huge fan of the Sniper series since the beginning, starting with the original Tom Berenger theatrical release. When Sony rebooted the franchise with Chad Michael Collins in the lead role, I started following it again and have really enjoyed every entry. But the last few films have taken on a new tone, adding a regular series of recurring characters (Lady Death, Zero, Intelligence Pete, and Colonel Stone) and really upping the humor quotient. They’re not comedies or anything like that, but they have that same sensibility that you’d see in a Ryan Reynolds movie, where the bad-ass action sequences are bookended by some funny quips or bits of dialogue between the characters. In this latest outing, sniper Brandon Beckett is now a part of G.R.I.T.: Global Response and Intelligence Team, a covert offshoot of the CIA that takes on missions that can’t be officially sanctioned. Beckett and Zero set out to recover the missing Lady Death and take out some bad guys along the way, and things get wild from there. What makes the film so great is the characters and dialogue, coupled with the top-notch action scenes and terrific cinematography. I watch a LOT of direct-to-video action movies and I’m also always disappointed in them, yet the Sniper movies just get better and better. Crazy.
The Special Features: There are no bonus features on the DVD.
The Wrap-Up: The Sniper franchise continues to impress me; for being a direct-to-video series, they look great, feature real action sequences, and bring us action-filled stories that are exciting and enjoyable. As usual, Chad Michael Collins is terrific in the lead role and the supporting cast has really gelled into a fantastic ensemble. It’s old-school action in the best way!
The Office: The Complete Christmas Collection
The Show: I’m not a particularly big fan of The Office, never have been. But I don’t need to sit here and list out all of my problems with the show. While the entire series has been collected both in individual season sets and complete series box sets, occasionally you need a gift for a colleague or officemate, and that’s where The Office: The Complete Christmas Collection comes in. Available on Blu-ray or DVD, this new collection features all seven Christmas-themed episodes of the perennially popular show, including: “Christmas Party”, “A Benihana Christmas”, “Moroccan Christmas”, “Secret Santa”, “Classy Christmas”, “Christmas Wishes” and “Dwight Christmas.” If you want to be able to relive all of the holiday episodes without having to go shuffling through your existing DVD collections, this is a great way to do it.
The Special Features: Usually compilations like this are devoid of extra feature, but here you get an extended cut of one episode, audio commentaries on select episodes, and deleted scenes. I mean, they’re just taken from the full-season releases, but I’m still glad to see them included.
The Wrap-Up: If you need a Secret Santa gift this holiday season, The Office: The Complete Christmas Collection is a perfect gift since so many people love this show.
The Buster Keaton Collection Vol. 5: Three Ages and Our Hospitality
The Movie: This new Blu-ray release from Cohen Media marks the fifth volume in an absolutely terrific series. With this disc, you get two Buster Keaton classics, Three Ages and Our Hospitality. Three Ages sees Keaton playing characters in three different time periods: the Stone Age, the Roman Age, and the Modern Age (which would be circa 1923, when the film was released). Our Hospitality, meanwhile, is basically Keaton’s take on the Hatfield/McCoy feud, only in a comedic way. Keaton plays a man who falls in love with a woman from a rival family who are out to kill each other. It’s typical comedy genius. It’s been a while since the last volume of this series, and I was worried that Kino Lorber had finished with it, so it’s great to see them continuing to bring us the films of one of silent comedy cinema’s true masters.
The Special Features: There are no extra features included. Hard to fault them for that when the films are a century old.
The Wrap-Up: The bonus features are nice, but the real attraction is the two main films which have been restored and remastered and look better than any previous version. The Buster Keaton Collection Vol. 5 is definitely recommended for fans of Keaton or classic silent comedies.
Eye for an Eye: The Blind Swordsman
The Movie: I hesitate to boil films down into a simple tagline, but sometimes it’s the easiest way to describe a movie. Eye for an Eye: The Blind Swordsman is pretty much a revenge action thriller in which the lead character is – quite literally – a blind swordsman. This period action film sees a blind bounty hunter come across a helpless woman who has been assaulted and her family murdered by criminals and sets out to get revenge. It is a gritty action film that features some dazzling displays of sword fighting, which is something I really dig. It’s not really breaking any new ground, but if you want a cool action flick with plenty of dueling blades, you’ve come to the right place.
The Special Features: There are no bonus features on the disc.
The Wrap-Up: I’m not always a fan of period action pieces, which seems to be a staple of Asian action cinema these days; I prefer movies set in more modern times. That said, Eye for an Eye: The Blind Swordsman is a tough, violent action epic that doesn’t pull any punches and should find an audience on home video.
What’s New on Home Video – November 28th, 2023 – Oppenheimer, Poirot, Expendables, WandaVision, The Office & More!
User Review( votes)