This week marks the last big retail push before Christmas, and the home video slate is jam-packed with lots of new Blu-ray and Ultra HD releases. Not too many of them feel very festive, strangely.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
Venom – If you wanted a new Spider-Man movie, go see the animated Into the Spider-Verse. The webslinger himself does not appear in the standalone spinoff based around one of his most famous villains (last seen in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3). Sony calls the movie an “adjunct” to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and hopes to launch a tangential shared universe with other Marvel characters it has the rights to. Tom Hardy plays a lowlife who gets infected with an alien symbiote that turns him into a very toothy monster. Critics were not especially fond of the darkly comic super-antihero flick, but audiences at it up to the tune of $850 million, so you can definitely expect to see more of him in the future. Disc options include Blu-ray and UHD, with Pop Art SteelBooks for both at Best Buy. Target has a different exclusive (Blu-ray only) with a photo book.
The Predator – Hideous monsters abound this week. Ace Hollywood screenwriter Shane Black, who appeared as an actor in the original 1987 Predator, helms Fox’s latest attempt to relaunch the franchise. Despite seeming like a sure bet, the movie turned out to be a huge dud. Reviews were awful and fans didn’t care for it either, resulting in poor word-of-mouth and disappointing box office. It can’t be worse than 2010’s Predators, can it? That hardly seems possible.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls – In an unexpected twist, gross-out schlockmeister Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) delivers the most family-friendly movie of the week with a PG-rated kids’ adventure about an orphan who learns that his wacky uncle (Jack Black going full ham) is a warlock. The solid reviews and decent business were a big rebound for Roth after his misbegotten Death Wish remake with Bruce Willis earlier this year.
A Simple Favor – After the failure of his big-budget Ghostbusters reboot, director Paul Feig shifts gears with a much smaller-scale comedic thriller about a mommy vlogger (Anna Kendrick) trying to solve the disappearance of her friend (Blake Lively). Despite a confused marketing campaign that seemed totally at a loss for how to sell the movie (the trailers gave no indication that it’s at all funny), the picture fared well with critics and made a comfortable profit relative to its modest budget.
Fahrenheit 11/9 – Michael Moore has steadily slid from relevancy ever since he failed to prevent George W. Bush from getting re-elected. That hasn’t stopped him from doing his usual shtick, but it has stopped a lot of people from paying much attention to him. Moore’s latest political broadside takes a scattershot satirical look at Trump’s America. By most accounts, it’s not one of his stronger efforts.
Life Itself – Dan Fogelman, creator of the wildly popular TV series This Is Us, writes and directs an ensemble rom-com juggling a big cast of familiar faces through five storylines. He should probably stick to television. The movie was a dreadful flop seemingly liked by no one.
Venom, The Predator, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, and A Simple Favor all debut on Ultra HD day-and-date with their standard Blu-ray editions. Best Buy has SteelBooks for the first two of those.
If you didn’t already buy the Predator: 3-Movie Collection when it was released just a few months ago, Fox reconfigures the package to add the fourth movie. Logically, it’s now called the Predator: 4-Movie Collection. As much as I have a guilty pleasure soft spot for Predator 2, being forced to buy the lousy Predators would really irk me.
Open the pod bay doors, because the much-delayed 4k restoration of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey is finally ready to dock. Frustratingly, Best Buy still lists the SteelBook as “Coming Soon” and won’t let me order it.
On the heels of its recent theatrical re-release, Universal delivers a 25th Anniversary Edition of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning Holocaust drama Schindler’s List.
If you’re not equipped for 4k yet, Warner Bros. offers a comparably remastered Blu-ray edition of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I can’t say for certain whether the new Blu-ray of Schindler’s List has also been remastered or is just a recycling of the last release from 2013. Worst case scenario, at least the prior Blu-ray was good quality.
The Blu-ray counterpart for Fox’s Predator: 4-Movie Collection, on the other hand, contains pretty crummy old Blu-ray copies of the first two movies. Don’t be tricked into buying this. Only the 4k editions have been remastered.
A month after that comprehensive Ingmar Bergman box set, the Criterion Collection rolls out a standalone copy of the filmmaker’s early effort Sawdust and Tinsel.
Also from Criterion is the 1946 French noir drama Panique, directed by Julien Duvivier and starring Michel Simon.
Twilight Time’s latest round of limited editions includes a pair of religious dramas (1955’s A Man Called Peter and 1962’s Satan Never Sleeps), an Oscar-nominated historical pageant (1969’s Anne of the Thousand Days), and a camp melodraman starring Elizabeth Taylor (1972’s X, Y & Zee).
Due to a rights conflict, Arrow Video was forced to cancel its release of the Spaghetti Western classic Django that I mentioned last week. The 1981 slasher Bloody Birthday should still be on track, though.
Fresh out of the Warner Archive are the 1940 Errol Flynn swashbuckler The Sea Hawk, the 1968 war adventure Dark of the Sun, and Hammer Films’ 1958 Horror of Dracula.
Star Christopher Lee returned to the Dracula character for a string of sequels, starting with Hammer’s 1966 Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Scream Factory has the rights to this one.
I don’t think I would personally classify John Carpenter’s 1984 sci-fi drama Starman as a horror film, but Shout! Factory has elected to release a Collector’s Edition of it under the normally horror-centric Scream Factory label for some reason.
Meanwhile, Neil Simon’s mystery spoof Murder by Death and a 40th Anniversary Edition of the Steve Martin comedy The Jerk get inducted into the Shout Select line.
Just in time for Robert Zemeckis to give the story a glossy Hollywood sheen, Cinema Guild reissues the acclaimed documentary Marwencol in a new Special Edition.
Flicker Alley compiles new restorations of over a dozen silent shorts for a collection called Méliès: Fairy Tales in Color .
After already skipping to the end, Kino finally finishes off the classic supernatural comedy trilogy with the middle entry, Topper Takes a Trip.
Somehow eluding placement in the Criterion Collection, the notorious X-rated porno comedy Deep Throat will have to settle for a Collector’s Edition from a label called Sunset Films.
All seven seasons of Shawn Ryan’s terrific cop drama The Shield get boxed up into a Complete Series collection from Mill Creek. Be advised, however, that all of the episodes have been reformatted into 16:9 widescreen despite being composed for 4:3 originally.
Judd Apatow explores The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling in a 4.5-hour documentary miniseries for HBO that I hear is fascinating.
The 1977 Jim Henson holiday classic Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas arrives on Blu-ray as a manufactured-on-demand disc from Sony. Much like the recent release of Fraggle Rock, the special was originally shot on standard-definition video and has been upconverted to HD.
VCI manifests the 1979 TV remake of The Miracle Worker. Patty Duke, who’d won an Oscar for playing Helen Keller in the 1962 movie, moved into the role of teacher Anne Sullivan and won an Emmy for her trouble. Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert takes over as Helen in this version.
I need to get my hands on that 4k SteelBook for 2001. That’s my priority for the week.
I’ll probably give The Predator a rental but am not planning to blind-buy it.
My ever-growing wish list will expand considerably this week with the additions of Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, Horror of Dracula, The Sea Hawk, Murder by Death, the Méliès collection, and the complete series set of The Shield.
Will you buy anything for yourself this close to Christmas?