These are a few Blu ray DVD releases we thought are worth reviewing. Some are good, some are bad, but we felt that they needed a few remarks and recommendations from us.
Toy Story 4
Did the world need another Toy Story movie? Personally, I was all set with the first trilogy, which came to a nice, organic end. But Disney isn’t going to let a cash cow be, and so we got Toy Story 4. And while the story is familiar, I have to give Pixar credit for finding a way to keep the well-loved characters front and center while introducing new characters that take on a life of their own, like Forky. And crowds clearly reacted to it, as the film was one of the biggest box office hits of that year. Which tells me we’re probably going to get more Toy Story movies in the future. But honestly, if Pixar can keep making them good like this, I guess I’ll be okay with it.
I wish I knew what to think about this movie. First off, I thought it was weird that Fox chose to remake Child’s Play when the franchise has been putting out new direct-to-video movies by the original creator for the past several years. I don’t think this is one of the blu ray DVD releases worth getting. I also really didn’t like the new design of the Chucky doll; he looks like he was designed by somebody who has heard of dolls but never actually seen one. But there were some things to like about the film as well. Mark Hamill was an inspired choice to voice Chucky, and I liked the idea of making him a smart doll who can control all your electronics, which pays off more as the film goes on. But the movie can’t quite decide if it wants to be a comedy or a horror and never really settles on either. I can’t say I disliked it, but I can’t really say I liked it, either.
On its surface, Crawl looks like just another creature feature that could air on SyFy on a Saturday night. However, as directed by horror genre favorite Alexandre Aja, Crawl is so much more than that. I was excited to see the film because it combines two of my favorite genres: disaster film and creature horror. This time around, we see a father and daughter trapped in a hurricane in Florida that has seen water levels rise and their house invaded by a killer alligator. But the film takes its action very seriously, and it works hard to deliver characters we care about (largely thanks to smart writing and great performances by Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario) while never shorting us on thrills and action. Honestly, I had so much fun with this film, I won’t be surprised if it comes in in my Top 10 of 2019 when the end of the year comes.
Director Ari Aster got a lot of attention last year for his hit film. Hereditary, which won over critics and audiences alike. Me? I absolutely hated the film. I have no idea what anybody liked about that movie. So while I try never to judge movies before I see them, I was less than optimistic about watching Midsommar, especially after some of the mixed reviews I’d heard. Well, the good news is that Hereditary now seems like a masterpiece to me, because Midsommar has taken the crown as the worst movie I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to overstate things, but I can’t remember ever hating a movie as much as I hated this one. And at an unforgivable two-and-a-half hours long, I got to hate it for almost twice as long as any other movie, as well. Seriously, if you want to watch a film that’s basically a remake of The Wicker Man only with anything even remotely interesting removed from it, then this is the film for you.
The Omen Collection
Another year, another stellar horror movie collection from Shout Factory’s excellent Scream Factory Imprint. This time around, we get a gorgeous collection of The Omen franchise, which includes the original classic, the three sequels, and the surprisingly good 2006 remake. For my money, the original The Omen (starring Gregory Peck) is one of the best horror movies of all time. And while the sequels (The Omen II: Damien, The Omen III: The Final Conflict, and The Omen IV: The Awakening) offer up mixed results, there are some good moments to be found. Omen III stars a young Sam Neill, and Omen II is a solid, well-written sequel that features a good cast. Omen IV is a made-for-TV movie, and it’s the weakest entry in the bunch. Then you have the 2006 remake starring Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles has been kind of forgotten, but it’s a really strong remake, one of the best ones I’ve seen of a property I love. Wrap all five movies up under some stunning new cover art and add in tons of new extra features (like interviews, audio commentaries, documentaries, featurettes, extended scenes and more), and you’ve got a truly terrific horror collection.
Hellboy (4K Ultra HD)
The original Hellboy film from 2004 gets the 4K Ultra HD treatment on this new release from Lionsgate. This is the Guillermo del Toro/Ron Perlman film, and while I actually prefer Hellboy II, it’s nice to see this entry with a new sheen to it. And the 4K upgrade is a worthwhile one. Not only is imagery razor-sharp, but the deeply saturated colors really give the film a vibrancy it’s never had before, plus the better shadow delineation helps keep the action in the many darker scenes more visible. Plus, you get a digital copy of the film, so even if you already own it on Blu Ray, this is one of the DVD releases that is an upgrade that fans will be happy to see.
3 From Hell
Rob Zombie. I wish I liked Rob Zombie movies more. I mean, ultimately, it’s hard to deny that he has talent behind the camera; he knows how to stage an action scene and obviously can craft horror that is visceral and shocking. Unfortunately, his aesthetic is just not one I care for. Every time I watch a Rob Zombie movie, I feel like I need to shower for a week. They are dark, disturbing, and grisly. 3 From Hell marks the third film in the loose trilogy that started with House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. I guess the takeaway here is that if you liked those films, I don’t see any reason you won’t like this one. Personally, it just wasn’t for me.
Star Trek: Picard Movie & TV Collection
With the new Picard series coming from CBS all Access, CBS Home Video has delivered a new home video collection on Blu ray and DVD releases to rejuvenate fans’ interest in one of Trek’s greatest characters. This affordable collection features two to-part episodes (The Best of Both Worlds and Chain of Command, two of Picard’s finest hours), as well as all four Next Generation feature films. On top of that, each show/movie is accompanied by extra features, giving you a surprising amount of bang for your buck. None of the stuff included here is new, it’s all been available before, but for Trek fans who want a little refresher or just a chance to see some of Picard’s greatest hits, this is a nice little collection.
Haunting of Hill House
The hit Netflix show comes to home video for the 12 of you out there who don’t have a Netflix Collection. Or, for those die-hard fans of the show who want to be able to watch it whenever and wherever they want, this new Blu ray collection (also available as DVD releases) includes not only the complete first season, but three of the episodes are extended director’s cuts, giving you even more Hill House to dive into. The set also comes with a nice amount of extra features, meaning even if you can watch this show on Netflix, if you’re a die-hard fan, this is a good way to get even more HHH stuff to hold you over until the next season comes out.
Galaxy Quest: 20th Anniversary Edition
Okay, let me get the bad stuff out of the way before I get to the good. This was one of the more complex blu ray DVD releases to review. The bad news about this release is that, aside from a gorgeous new Steelbook case, there’s nothing really new about this 20th Anniversary Edition of Galaxy Quest. But the good news is that if you don’t already own the film, this is a must-have. First off, the film is an absolute blast. It’s a terrific, smart parody of Star Trek with an amazing cast that includes Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell, Justin Long, and more. And, even though the extra features aren’t new, there are a good amount of them, ensuring plenty of Galaxy Quest to watch beyond the movie. I love this film, and this is a terrific version in a nice case for those of you who don’t already have it. This is one of my favorite blu ray DVD releases.
Ultra Q & Ultraman: The Complete Series
There’s a lot of history behind these two releases. Back in the 1960s, special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya launched his own company, Tsuburaya Productions, after he worked on some of the biggest Japanese films of the time, including Godzilla and Mothra. His first production was Ultra Q, which would lead the way to the uber-popular UltraMan franchise. Ultra Q: the Complete Series is a beautiful new box set that includes all 28 episodes of the series on four discs, packaged with a nice booklet That show led to Ultraman: the Complete Series, which for me is the better show. You also get more of it, with six discs including all 39 episodes, as well as a booklet for this set. Ultraman is a little more like the classic Japanese superhero shows I remember from my childhood, but both of the series have their charm. What’s great is just how terrific these sets are: complete series, on Blu-ray (and looking better than ever before), with illustrated booklets and nice packaging, all at a ridiculously affordable price. Mill Creek has hit it out of the park with these two releases, and there are releases scheduled already for every part of the Ultraman franchise. Score!
Anna and the Apocalypse
I interviewed one of the producers of Anna and the Apocalypse at New York Comic Con a few years back, and I got really excited for the film. Then, it pretty much went only to arthouse or boutique theaters and kind of disappeared from view, leaving me pretty disappointed. Well, we finally have a home video release (on DVD only, sadly), and I can honestly say the film is worth the wait. Hopefully we can add it to blu ray releases soon. It’s a high-school set musical zombie horror-comedy, and if that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will. Okay, maybe it being a musical doesn’t do it for you, but I am pleased to report that the songs are absolutely terrific; they’re modern and upbeat and catchy and fun. I would totally buy a soundtrack for this movie. Think Warm Bodies with singing and you get some idea of what you’re in for. Mark my words, Anna and the Apocalypse is a future cult classic. Get in on it now so you can say you were watching it before it was popular.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XII
Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a big favorite of mine, so I’m always happy to see a new MST3K release. This time around the films included in the set are: The Rebel Set, Secret Agent Super Dragon, The Starfighters and Parts: The Clonus Horror. That’s about eight hours’ worth of movies, all in that inimitable MST3K style. And while I can’t say these are the best of the best of MST3K episodes, there’s no denying that there were plenty of laughs to be found. You also get a few extra features, making this set a real treat for fans, especially those who have been missing any new MST3K to watch.
Well, this is an interesting one. Devil’s Revenge was co-written and co-produced by William Shatner, who also has a starring role in the film. He manages to get fellow Star Trek actor Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager) along for the ride, meaning I’m sure a few Trek fans will jump on board for the ride. Unfortunately, they’re not going to get much out of it, as not only is it a horror movie and not sci-fi, but it’s also pretty terrible. Shatner is in full Shatnerian mode, the film’s script is pretty awful, and the movie as a whole is low-budget filmmaking at its worst. Unless you’re a die-hard fan of so-bad-it’s-good filmmaking, skip this one.
This Asian horror film features some decent performances from its cast (most of whom are largely unknown here in the U.S.), but that can’t help it overcome an unclear story and some cliched horror movie tropes. The film starts off with a young boy and his mother being menaced by an unseen force, but then we jump to years later when the now-grown boy returns to the house, only to once again confront a malevolent spirit. What the film lacks in cohesive storytelling, it makes up for with unnecessary jump scares that don’t do much more than annoy you after a while, since most of them have very little payoff. The film’s ending will probably win over some people and confuse others, but I had lost interest by then.
Genius Party/Genius Party Beyond
The subtitle of these Blu ray DVD releases is “12 Impacts by 12 Directors,” which basically means you get 12 short animated films by 12 directors. But the reason they’re called impacts is because they’re clearly meant to be more than just short, linear, simple tales. This release includes two feature-length films, each of which takes some visionary anime directors and sets them free with the only edict being to craft a short film that captures “the spirit of creativity.” The result is much like any anthology work, with some short films that are really pretty astounding, and some that are just mediocre. Without fail, they’re almost all visually stunning, but some of them lack in the story department. Still, with over three hours of animation, you do get some really stunning short works here.
Cohen Media brings us new Blu ray DVD releases of the classic romance drama from the early ‘80s. Starring a much younger Maggie Smith, the film is based on a famed 1928 novel by Jean Rhys, and it was famously adapted by Merchant Ivory Productions, the well-loved company that specializes in period dramas. The film generated pretty mixed reviews, and it’s easy to see why. Despite some terrific performances — Isabelle Adjani won the 1981 Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award and Maggie Smith is predictably excellent – the film is unfortunately on the slow side and gets bogged down in its drama sometimes. It’s nice to have a definitive Blu-ray version of the film as it certainly has its fans, but I think I might side with its detractors.
Terry O’Quinn, Mako, Bubba Smith, and Julian Lee star in this cult classic action film from the ‘80s. This latest release from the terrific MVD Rewind Collection is a pretty time-worn story, with a murder witness turning to a martial arts master to help him survive. This results in a number of action sequences that – while dated – are still fairly effective. The movie has its cheesy moments, but if you like ‘80s actioners, there’s some good fun to be had here. As a new Blu-ray from MVD rewind, the film has been cleaned up, and it also comes with a nice collection of extra features, including interviews and featurettes. I don’t know that this is one of the better-known cult classics out there, but I’m sure it has an audience that will enjoy this new release.
Malevolence 1, 2 & 3
This is a weird little trilogy of horror films from writer and director Steven Mena. Effectively following a young boy who is abducted by a serial killer, the trilogy follows them through several years and sees the roles of each character change throughout the films. What’s most interesting to me, though, is how the first and third films are largely low-budget affairs populated by unknown actors. The second film, however, stars Michael Biehn, Alexandra D’Addario, and Peyton List. Not sure how the second film seemed to luck into such a cast, but it’s easily the best film of the three. Each movie has been released as a Blu-ray/DVD combo and comes packed with extra features.
Speaking of Alexandra D’Addario, she stars alongside a stellar cast in Night Hunter, which also features henry Cavill, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion, and Minka Kelly. I have to admit, I’m a little surprised that writer/director David Raymond managed to assemble such an impressive cast for such an incredibly grim and dark movie. The film deals with sexual predators, obsession, police work, and lots of dour faces, and while it’s not a terrible film or anything like that, it’s just so oppressively grim that it gets to be a bit much at times. It’s worth a watch for the great cast, but not one when you’re looking for something to get you pumped up.
Acorn Holiday Pop-Up Collectibles
Acorn Media offers up three cool new holiday gift ideas this week with their Pop-Ups: single disc releases featuring cool pop-up packaging of three of their most popular shows. The releases are from the shows Brokenwood Mysteries, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and Midsomer Murders. Each one includes a stand-alone Christmas-themed episode, and the packaging (made of a thick, glossy cardboard) actually pops up into a little Christmas-decorated 3-D standee that will make a nice display on an office desk or a mantle. The shows have been released before, so these are best as gifts or as fun little collectibles for die-hard fans of each show.
This is a bit of a strange movie Marketed as a horror film, it’s really more of a drama with some dark elements to it. The story is fairly amorphous, too; this isn’t really a plot-driven narrative, which makes it hard to boil down to a one or two-sentence synopsis. Instead, it’s a film that utilizes some excellent cinematography and strong performances to elicit a sense of melancholy and dread. Which is great, if that’s what you’re looking for. But if you’re looking to get scared at Halloween time, this probably isn’t going to do the trick.
This documentary is a powerful look at women taking on a male-driven arena. Now, I had never heard of the Whitbread Round the World Race, but apparently this sailing competition was considered one of the deadliest sporting events in the world. And also apparently, it was only competed in by men. That all changed in 1989, when 26-year-old Tracy Edwards wanted to compete but none of the male-only crews would take her on. So she fronted her own crew of all women and… well, to tell the results would spoil the fun of the film, but suffice it to say it’s an inspirational story.Maiden tells the tale of the crew that challenged gender conventions, and it’s hard not to get caught up in it. At just over an hour-and-a-half, the film is well paced, too, making it an easy watch.
This French drama doesn’t feature any stars known in the US, but it does feature an incredible lead performance by Vincent Lindon. The film sees Lindon playing a man who must fight back against the corporation that he and thousands of other workers made huge sacrifices for, only to find themselves laid off when the company promised their jobs were secure. While the film is a drama, it could almost be a documentary, as steeped in real-world situations as it is. And while Lindon’s performance is the highlight here, the film stands on its own merits as a tense drama with real-world consequences at play. Worth a watch if you’re not turned off by subtitles.
A Christmas Carol
While the packaging for this new version of the classic, A Christmas Carol, isn’t all that fancy, there’s no denying that it’s an impressive release. This is the 1951 film starring Alistair Sim, perhaps not as well known as the George C. Scott version, but equally loved by many people. This two-disc Collector’s edition also includes an earlier 1935 version of the film (starring George Cole) as well as a plethora of extra features, including an audio commentary, multiple featurettes, a colorized version of the film, and more. On top of that, even though the film is only being released on DVD (where’s the Blu-ray?!?), it has been remastered and features improved picture quality. Hard to argue with that.
This month’s A Girl And Her Horse entry is Princess Emmy, and it’s a bit different than the usual fare, because this time around it’s animated. The story focuses on a young princess who can secretly talk to horses, but then has to prove she’s worthy of keeping her gift. The story is a little on the unexciting side and it’s clearly geared for younger viewers, but I will say that the animation style is pretty nice. The younger kidlets might enjoy this one, but older kids might find themselves a little bored.