Alita: Battle Angel

Blu-ray Highlights: Week of July 21st, 2019 – Angels or Demons

As the world continues to react in horror to that Cats trailer that dropped late last week, another Uncanny Valley abomination from earlier this year hits home video. This is a tough time to be a CGI or mo-cap artist in Hollywood.

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New Releases (Blu-ray)

Alita: Battle Angel – James Cameron literally spent decades developing an adaptation of his favorite 1990s manga and anime, but because he’s decided to stay in Avatar land for the rest of his life, he eventually turned the reins over to Robert Rodriguez. (I’m curious how those two ever became friends.) All told, they spent nearly $200 million on the film, and yet for some reason still wound up with a mo-cap lead character with some of the most terrifying Uncanny Valley effect since The Polar Express. My first response to the trailer was, “OH HELL NOOOOOOOOO!!”, and that was not an uncommon reaction. The movie bombed in the United States. Although it did better overseas, at best it broke even. Nevertheless, word-of-mouth from those who saw it claimed that, if certainly not great, it’s not as terrible as the trailers looked. I guess that’s an endorsement? Hoping to recoup some investment, Fox offers up a plethora of disc options, including a ridiculously overpriced Collector’s Set. In a nice turn, all of the 4k Ultra HD editions also include 3D.

Hellboy – Even with Guillermo del Toro directing twice, neither Sony nor Universal had great success with the Hellboy franchise. The rights then passed to Lionsgate, which decided to make a reboot so unimaginative that nobody could think of a better title than to just call it Hellboy again. Frequent Game of Thrones director Neil Marshal takes over with Stranger Things star David Harbour in the lead, but apparently the audience for a movie like this really would have preferred another entry from del Toro and Ron Perlman instead, and nobody else was interested. Buzz on the picture was terrible and it flopped. Potential buyers get lots of disc choices anyway, including two different SteelBooks (for Blu-ray and Ultra HD, respectively) from Target or Best Buy.

Missing Link – Hugh Jackman voices an intrepid explorer searching for the elusive Sasquatch (Zach Galifianakis) in a new stop-motion comedy from Laika Animation. Although reviews were mostly positive, the weird-looking creature design was perhaps too off-putting for children, and the film’s marketing was practically nonexistent. It was a box office dud, but may eventually find an audience on streaming or syndication.

Critters Attack! – The horror comedy franchise about scuzzy little alien monsters gets a fifth installment produced by Syfy as a DTV feature. How this ties in (or whether it ties in at all) with the Shudder network’s Critters: A New Binge streaming series is unclear to me.


In addition to the expected 4k editions of Alita: Battle Angel and Hellboy, Lionsgate breaks on through to the other side and gives an Ultra HD upgrade to Oliver Stone’s bio-pic The Doors. The movie has suffered from poor video editions on every format up to now, but the new 4k restoration is said to be a big improvement. It also features a new Final Cut that’s actually three minutes shorter than the original version.

Catalog Titles

The Criterion Collection edition of Spike Lee’s masterpiece Do the Right Thing reportedly restores cinematographer Ernest Dickerson’s original stylized color timing, which was stripped out for the last Blu-ray release from Universal. That alone makes it an essential purchase in my opinion.

Criterion’s other title this week is Michael Radford’s adaption of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (or 1984, as the new packaging calls it). The disc claims a “New 4k digital restoration,” but the prior Blu-ray from Twilight Time already looked pretty excellent. The Criterion copy offers some new bonus features, but does not appear to have an isolated music track for the alternate Eurythmics score, which Twilight Time provided.

Shout! Factory serves up the classic 1949 noir thriller Criss Cross starring Burt Lancaster.

Warner raids its Archive for Merrill’s Marauders, the 1962 WWII adventure from director Samuel Fuller.

Arrow blinds us with Weird Science. The goofy John Hughes comedy from 1985 is available in a new Special Edition or a SteelBook.

Sony pays a visit to Pacific Heights, director John Schlesinger’s 1990 thriller starring Michael Keaton as the tenant from hell in a rental house owned by yuppies Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith.

Kino discovers that Death Takes a Holiday in the classic 1934 romantic fantasy starring Fredric March.

Later, Kino gets a little surreal with Luis Buñuel’s Death in the Garden (1956) and The Milky Way (1969).

Scream Factory delivers a second volume of the Universal Horror Collection containing four mad scientist chillers from the 1940s.

As for Universal itself, the studio has a reissue of the Straight Outta Compton SteelBook edition that was previously a Target exclusive back in 2016.

My $.02

As mentioned, Do the Right Thing is a must-buy for me, especially while the Barnes & Noble Criterion sale is still active. I’m less certain that I need to double-dip on Nineteen Eighty-Four since I’m still pretty satisfied with the Twilight Time copy on my shelf.

I’ve always liked The Doors, but never quite enough to own a copy on home video. Will that change with the 4k edition? I haven’t decided yet.

Maybe I’m curious enough to rent Alita, but it reminds me far too much of Spielberg’s Ready Player One, which I loathed and still regret wasting a free VUDU credit to stream.

Will you buy anything for the hell of it this week?


  1. njscorpio

    Not familiar with the source material, I was totally underwhelmed by ‘Ready Player One’. Action that appears too artificial already creates a mental disconnect for me. Just as an uncanny valley appearance to a face can undermine the emotion trying to conveyed, resulting in creepy instead of touching…overly artificial action scenes result in boredom instead of excitement because it virtually wipes away any illusion of threat or danger. In the case of ‘Ready Player One’, establish all of that within a virtual reality, and I’m totally checked out. (Threats in VR can work…just look at the plug pulling scene in ‘The Matrix’).

    I expected this same kind of disconnect with ‘Alita’, but once the movie got rolling, I became comfortable with the CGI similar to ‘Chappie’. I say, even if the CGI design is turning you off in the commercials and trailers, give it a shot.

    • Bolo

      I felt Salazar’s performance really shone through the effects, but then again I was never troubled by the character design in the first place. She brought a genuine likeability and warmth that kept my focus on the character itself more than nitpicking the technical rendering of her face. I saw the film 3D (was it actually screened in 2D anywhere?) and I find my eyes have a hard time perceiving detail in 3D films, so maybe when I watch the 2D version at home the shortcoming of the effects will be more noticeable.

      That being said, Josh has been griping about this movie for years now. The idea that this would be anything other than a hatewatch for him is hard to believe. But maybe that will bring him closure.

  2. Csm101

    I have the non steelbook Weird Science on order. I’ll be picking up Alita uhd/ 3D combo along with Hellboy uhd.

  3. Barsoom Bob

    I’m in the pro Alita camp, it was a fun, exciting good watch, with good odds for repeatability viewing.
    It’s a movie, not a documentary, and a sci-fi fantasy at that, I think a little bit of suspension of disbelief is in order.
    It’s not an original idea, I think Ghost in the Shell was a more subtle and emotional take on the concept, but this is way better than RP1. You can say what you want about James Cameron, but he gives you a hell of a ride in his films !

  4. Julian

    ‘The movie has suffered from poor video editions on every format up to now.’ Funny, because just 11 days ago, photogdave
    said: ‘That Doors disc was one of the best LDs ever pressed!’

    • Josh Zyber

      There was a Pioneer Special Edition Laserdisc with nice packaging, a bunch of supplements, and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, but I don’t remember it having a great transfer. Pretty much all prior video editions of this movie were criticized for being soft and noisy with smeary colors.

  5. Timcharger

    First new movie Tuesday purchase I’ve made in, in a ?couple years? Come on the free markets system, bundle in 3D with 4K in premium steelbook packaging, and I’ll pay Day 1 prices for it.

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