It’s a pretty big week this week with a few box office A-list titles, some great 1980s catalog 4K releases, and the usual smattering of TV shows on DVD. Check it out!
Elvis – Hands down one of my favorite movies of the year, Elvis is the movie that Baz Luhrman was made to direct. The helmer behind the brilliant Moulin Rouge and the somewhat-less-brilliant Gatsby, Luhrman brings us the story of Elvis Presley’s life and rocket to superstardom, all with his signature Baz style. With a soundtrack that mixes classic Elvis hits with modern rap and hip hop music (but with the focus squarely on the Elvis classics), the film is told from the viewpoint of Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s controversial manager who ran (and potentially ruined) his life. Now, the film itself is electric, exciting, and filled with great music and visuals, but what really makes it is Austin Butler, who absolutely, unequivocally deserves at least an Oscar nomination for his performance, if not a win. He not only captures Elvis’s voice and mannerisms, but the physical performance he turns in is astounding. The musical/concert scenes see him channeling Elvis in a way that’s uncanny; every sway of the hips, every strum of the guitar, every fall to his knees, it looks like The King himself is inhabiting Butler’s body. It’s truly a magnificent performance. Elvis come to home video on the 4K Ultra HD format (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and it looks and sounds absolutely amazing. The visuals pop off the screen with colors that are incredibly vivid and imagery that’s clean and sharp, while the surround soundtrack gives you both a terrific soundscape as well as music that sounds crisp, clear, and full. It’s a terrific presentation of a film that will definitely be in my Top 10 of 2022 list at the end of the year.
Where the Crawdads Sing – In box office terms, Where the Crawdads Sing is one of those odd movies that falls right in between being a hit and being a disappointment. Grossing $88 million domestic (and $126 million worldwide) off a film with few bankable stars is certainly no small feat. However, considering that the film is based off the novel of the same name by Delia Owens — which was nothing short of a pop culture juggernaut and sales behemoth — it seems like the film could have performed much better. Similarly, the film itself is somewhere between a hit and a disappointment. The story follows a woman accused of murder, and throughout the film we see flashbacks to her youth, where she raised herself in the bayous of North Caroline due to a abusive situation at home. The script is by the same writer who gave us Beasts of the Southern Wild, a film that garnered a lot of critical acclaim but that I personally abhorred, and while this is certainly a better film than that one, I feel like the script is part of the issue. However, Daisy Edgar-Jones, who was terrific in Under the Banner of Heaven on Hulu, is absolutely electric in the lead role and she carries a lot of the film. I enjoyed the movie overall, but I feel like there was potential for it to still be better.
Batman: The Long Halloween Deluxe Edition – The DC Animated Universe likes to alternate between more original animated movies starring well-loved characters and direct adaptations of iconic storylines. Over the last year, we saw Batman: The Long Halloween made into two movies that got released a few months apart. It’s based on a 13-issue miniseries by comics superstars Jeph Loeb and the late Tim Sale, and it’s an incredibly popular story in the Batman mythos. Now, the entire film has been collected into one extra-length movie that combines Part 1 and Part 2, giving us an epic three-hour film. First, the positives: the film has absolutely incredible cinematography. Not only is the animation beautifully stylized, but the actual cinematography is just terrific. Unique camera angles, the use of shadows, camera movement… it all just looks stunning. The animation is also styled after Tim Sale’s definitive art style, which keeps it true to the original comics. Now, the negatives: the film is long, and at times, it drags. There are parts where it is riveting, and there are parts that you wish they hadn’t split it into two parts and increased the running time to three hours. Overall I like it, but I wish it was a little more consistent. Batman: The Long Halloween Deluxe Edition is available on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray), and it does look and sound terrific in the premium format. The animation works well with the deeper color saturation and inky black outlines, and the surround soundtrack offers up a robust sound field. It’s a very strong technical presentation and the film is definitely worth watching, even if it has its flaws.
The Lost Boys (4K Ultra HD) – Just in time for Halloween, Warner Brothers has two great new catalog titles making their 4K Ultra HD debut, The Lost Boys and Poltergeist (which is reviewed right below this entry). The Lost Boys is one of the classic films of the ‘80s, a stylistic vampire action/comedy hybrid directed by Joel Schumacher that gave vampires a punk rock update and turned a generation of ‘80s kids into vampire fans. With a great cast including Keifer Sutherland, Jamie Gertz, Jason Patric, Corey Feldman, and Corey Haim, the film has never been a masterpiece, but it remains well-loved with a generation of people who grew up in the ‘80s. You can’t walk into a pop-culture-fueled shop in the mall like Hot Topic or FYE without seeing The Lost Boys on a poster, t-shirt, or Funko Pop. The 4K Ultra HD release sees the film get a solid audiovisual upgrade. As is usually the case, since the film is over 30 years old, it’s not like the conversion to 4K turns into a brand new, sparkling high def masterpiece. However, colors are a little more vibrant, imagery is a little more sharp, and most importantly, shadow delineation sees a big improvement, which is helpful since so much of the movie takes place at night. The surround soundtrack offers up some nice ambience and directionality, while also giving the soundtrack a nice energetic boost. The release also includes a number of extra features and a digital copy, which is excellent. I think I own three or four versions of the film but I didn’t have it in my digital library until now. This one is a must have for fans.
Poltergeist (4K Ultra HD) – I don’t know that any other movie has ever scarred me as much as Poltergeist, which I watched when I was probably just a little too young to see it. (And yes, I said ‘scarred,’ not ‘scared,’ although it did that too.) To this day, just the thought of maggots violently turns my stomach, and it goes directly back to that fried chicken scene in Poltergeist (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go back and watch the movie, now available in 4K!) And honestly, I haven’t seen it since then because I know I have such a visceral reaction to it. But with the 4K Ultra HD release, I decided it was time to finally sit down and conquer my fears. And while I still can’t handle the thought of maggots, it was good to revisit the film, which was directed by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper. (At least on paper; many accounts report that Steven Spielberg took over the production from Hooper and actually directed much of the film itself.) Much like The Lost Boys above, the film gets a nice upgrade on 4K that won’t blow you away, but certainly looks and sounds impressive overall. You get a few extra features and a digital copy, making it a nice pick-up for fans of the franchise.
Cobra Kai: Season Four – The hit Netflix series returns for another fun season filled with karate, ‘80s references, great music, solid drama, and some good comedy. By now, I don’t think I have to explain to people the premise off the show (it basically picks up the Karate Kid saga 30 years later), but I can say that the show has become something of a pop culture phenomenon. With Season Five hitting Netflix, this new DVD set is the perfect way to get caught up (especially if you don’t have Netflix). Season Four sees a new enemy come along that changes the dynamic of the show a bit, although Daniel and Johnny Lawrence remain at the heart of it all, as do their kids and students. I know some people accuse the show of being cheesy, but honestly I love it. You care about the characters, it doesn’t try to be more serious than it is, and it gets the blend of drama and comedy just right. Is it steeped in realism? No. But who cares? If you just embrace it, I think you’ll have a ton of fun with it.
Exotica – One of critical favorite Atom Egoyan’s earliest films, Exotica is a really interesting film that I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about. This 1994 drama stars Bruce Greenwood (one of my absolute favorite actors), Mia Kershner, Elias Koteas, and Don McKellar. The film starts as one of those stories where we’re following different characters who seemingly have no connection, but who eventually come together. And I’ll be honest, I was pretty bored with the film at first. But the second half sees things get more interesting, and the ending brings it all together in a way that is both fascinating and unexpected. It’s a surprisingly non-sexy movie for a film set largely in an upscale strip club, but the performances are excellent all around. Exotica has been released as part of the Criterion Collection, meaning we get restored and remaster picture and sound (it’s available on Blu-ray or DVD) and it comes with the requisite nice collection of extra features, including several short films by Egoyan, a conversation with Egoyan and Sarah Polley (who is in the cast as well), and more. It’s not a slam dunk film, but it is a critically well-loved independent film from the ‘90s that put Egoyan on the map, and it’s worth a watch.
The White Lotus: The Complete First Season – A fantastic cast anchors this unique show that got a decent amount of buzz last year when it debuted on HBO. A six-episode series, the show starts off by revealing that there is a mysterious death at the White Lotus resort in Hawaii. It then jumps back a week and we meet the main characters: the guests at the resort that week, and the staff who serve them; now we have to figure out what happened and why. With Jennifer Coolidge, Steve Zahn, Connie Britton, Alexandra D’Adddario, and Sydney Sweeney in the cast, there are a lot of familiar faces to drive the action, and they inhabit a coterie of characters who keep you guessing while also allowing you to delight in the interactions between them all. Created by Mike White — one of those filmmakers who’s made several great and critically acclaimed movies yet remains largely unknown to people outside of film critic circles — the show is intriguing, compelling, dramatic, and funny, all with a central mystery to tie it all together. It got some great buzz when it dropped and the fact that this DVD release is called The Complete First Season leads me to believe that HBO might be bringing it back sooner rather than l later, and I’ll be there to watch it if/when it returns.
Lucifer: The Sixth and Final Season – Lucifer was never a massive ratings hit (hence why it jumped from Fox after the first three seasons to Netflix for the final three), but man, I can think of very few shows that have a more devoted fan following. People who love Lucifer REALLY love Lucifer. And it’s easy to see why. Part fantasy mythos, part detective noir, part black comedy, the show feels like little else out there and is extremely enjoyable.The best part about the show is actor Tom Ellis, who is perfectly cast as Lucifer. He’s got the whole “devilish grin” thing down pat, and he really makes the show work as well as it does. This final season doesn’t hold much back; even though it’s only ten episodes, there’s a lot going on and I personally think they wrap things up in a satisfactory way. Once again, this is a show I enjoy visiting on home video, although I wish they’d put it out on Blu-ray and not just DVD.
SEAL Team: Season Five – Well, five seasons in and it’s pretty clear: David Boreanaz just continues to star in hit after hit, and SEAL Team is a bona fide hit. After Buffy, Angel, and the long-running Bones, taking on an action-adventure role in SEAL Team is a perfect fit for the congenial TV mainstay. I like SEAL Team; it’s not a favorite for me but I find it enjoyable. I love action movies, and this one of the few shows on network TV that comes close to giving you an action film every week. And while there’s no denying that it’s Boreanaz who carries the show (and he does so effortlessly), the ensemble cast is also quite good. There’s a reason he’s been a leading man on TV for the last two decades. With Season Six about to debut on Paramount+, this DVD set is a great way to get caught up before the new season drops.
The Equalizer: Season Two – While more people today might remember the Denzel Washington Equalizer movies than the 1980s TV series with Edward Woodward, it’s the TV show that is the genesis of this new reboot. Queen Latifah stars as the titular Equalizer, who once again answer’s the question of “Who do you go to if you can’t go to the cops?” She’s actually a former government special operative who acts as a vigilante justice-dispenser of sorts. Week to week, the show has its fair share of fun action moments, even if the dialogue sometimes borders on the painful. But Queen Latifah is in top form in the lead role, the cases are interesting, and the bouts of action can be quite exciting at times. Is it as good as the original show? Probably not, but with three decades between them it’s really not that easy to compare the two. This new collection compiles all 18 episodes from Season Two just in time for the new season to hit the airwaves.
Kamen Rider Kuuga: The Complete Series – This new seven-disc Blu-ray set from Shout Factory brings us a Japanese TV show that will please fans of shows like Kamen Rider Zero One or franchises like Ultraman. In the show, archeologists accidentally unleash monsters called Grongi on the earth. An average Joe named Yusuke has a connection to an archeological artifact that transforms him onto an armored, motorcycle-riding warrior who fights these monsters. This series debuted in 2000, and it fits squarely into the genre of “armored heroes fighting monsters” television that Japan has the market cornered on. It has some fun action scenes, some cheesy moments, lots of monsters, some humor, some drama, and it can be a lot of fun if you’re not looking for cinematic genius. It’s the kind of show where I can watch a handful of episodes, then I need a break for something a little weightier, and then a week later, I can crush another handful of episodes. This box set collects all 40+ episodes, and fans of Japanese genre television and shows like Ultraman and Power Rangers will enjoy it for sure.
Also Available This Week on Home Video:
- Post Mortem – This Hungarian horror film also serves as a period film, set in the time of the original Spanish Flu in the earlier half of the twentieth century. Our main character Tomas, a former soldier who seemingly died and miraculously survived in the war, now takes photos of the recently deceased and their loved ones, posing the living and dead together in one final portrait. When a young girl reaches out to him for help in her village that is plagued by multiple ghosts, Tomas investigates. I’m pretty picky about my horror movies these days, but Post Mortem gets more right than wrong. It’s creepy and atmospheric without being boring, and while it does offer some jump scares, they never feel overly forced or exploitative. The film occasionally has some pacing issues, but it’s at least an enjoyable watch. Horror fans might do well to track it down.
- Theodore Roosevelt – The History Channel’s lates presidential biography focuses on Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States. Told in two parts, the film is a mix of traditional documentary and dramatic re-enactments. Now, I don’t generally know a lot about Roosevelt, so I can’t tell you if they covered every important moment in his life or his presidency, but I felt like I learned a lot about him. Mixing things up between his presidency/policies and events in his personal life, we get a pretty solid picture of Teddy as a man and a leader. The dramatic re-enactments are solid; they have that typical History Channel feel, but the acting is good enough that it doesn’t take the air out of the proceedings whenever they cut to one like can happen sometimes. For a complete picture of Roosevelt’s presidency you might want to find a good book on him, but if you just want the highlights, Theodore Roosevelt will do the job.
What’s New on Home Video – September 20, 2022 – Elvis, Crawdads, Batman, Cobra Kai, The Lost Boys, Poltergeist, & More!
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