Fresh off its Oscar victory, this year’s Best Picture winner comes to Blu-ray and UHD this week. In doing so, it draws a lot of attention away from a big superhero epic that failed to live up to its hype.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
‘Justice League‘ – The DC Extended Universe finally seemed to be gaining momentum after the success of ‘Wonder Woman’. Warner Bros. was all set to capitalize on that with a gargantuan ‘Avengers’-style team-up crossover that unites the Amazonian warrior princess with Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill), The Flash and Aquaman. Unfortunately, fans weren’t satisfied with the results and the film significantly underperformed. Initially directed by Zack Snyder, personal tragedy and behind-the-scene turmoil resulted in significant amounts of the movie being rescripted and reshot by ‘Avengers’ mastermind Joss Whedon. Among other things, critics and viewers complained about serious tonal mismatches, messy plotting, a lame CGI villain, and terrible VFX work trying to erase the beard Cavill had grown for another movie and couldn’t shave. The most expensive DCEU entry to date, it was also the lowest grossing at the box office. Nonetheless, fans and completist collectors have plenty of discs options to choose from, including 3D, 4k, SteelBooks at Best Buy (with ugly comic book art, sadly) or a Digibook at Target.
‘The Shape of Water‘ – Guillermo del Toro’s latest dark fairy tale is a ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ riff about a homely, mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) who falls in love with a fish-man in captivity at the government research lab where she works. Before its release, the film was jokingly referred to as a ‘Hellboy’ prequel about the Abe Sapien character. Nobody’s scoffing anymore, now that it brought home Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture (as well as music and production design). If you missed this one while catching up on the other Oscar nominees, it’s available now on Blu-ray and UHD.
‘I, Tonya‘ – Margot Robbie would probably not have been the first person I’d think to cast in a bio-pic about disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding, but she reportedly has a lot of fun in the role and the movie itself was praised for its blackly comic take on the story. Allison Janney picked up a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Harding’s bitter mother.
‘Call Me by Your Name‘ – Set in the early 1980s, a teenage boy (Timothée Chalamet) spends a summer vacationing with his parents in the Italian countryside, where he falls in love with an older man (Armie Hammer). In a lot of ways, movies like this are the reason why Middle America hates the Oscars. Acclaimed by critics for Chalamet’s breakout performance and for its sensitive handling of a coming-of-age and first-love story, the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, of which it took home Best Adapted Screenplay for James Ivory (of Merchant-Ivory fame).
‘The Disaster Artist‘ – It should have been the indie success of the year. James Franco directs and stars as the eccentric weirdo Tommy Wiseau in a comical telling of the behind-the-scenes insanity that went into the making of ‘The Room’, Wiseau’s legendarily awful cult movie. Co-starring Franco’s brother Dave and a great supporting cast of comedians and other fans of ‘The Room’ (including all three ‘How Did This Get Made?’ hosts), the movie was greeted to a lot of rave reviews and even went on to win Franco a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy. Unfortunately, the awards train was promptly derailed by the director/star’s sexual misconduct scandal, and the movie was blackballed at the Oscars aside from a writing nomination that didn’t have Franco’s name on it. The home video release arrives with little fanfare, as distributor Lionsgate apparently doesn’t want to spend any more money to promote it.
‘Ferdinand‘ – The people behind the ‘Ice Age’ and ‘Rio’ franchises adapt a beloved children’s book about a bull who’d rather smell flowers than fight in a matador ring. (A wise decision. Those bulls get killed in the end.) This entails stretching a 72-page picture book into 108 minutes of screen time. The trailers looked unimpressive, but the movie made money and scored both Golden Globe and Oscar nominations, so it must have turned out OK.
‘Justice League‘, ‘The Shape of Water‘ and ‘Ferdinand‘ all get Ultra HD editions simultaneously with standard Blu-ray. Disappointingly, only ‘Justice League’ was deemed worthy enough to merit a SteelBook.
Back in 1993, it felt like a real stretch for Martin Scorsese to follow up ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Cape Fear’ with a period piece adaptation of Edith Wharton’s delicate social drama ‘The Age of Innocence‘. Venturing into Merchant-Ivory territory seemed outside his wheelhouse, but Scorsese found an angle into it. Not terribly successful at the box office, the film is one of the director’s most underrated works and has been treated terribly on home video. Hopefully, the Criterion Collection will be able to reverse that trend.
Flicker Alley released Georges Méliès’ groundbreaking 1902 silent short ‘A Trip to the Moon‘ on Blu-ray in 2012. From what I can tell, the new Deluxe Edition features the same video restoration (in either the original hand-tinted colors or in black-and-white) and 65-minute documentary, but adds two new musical scores and an improvised piano track.
Near the end of his career, Fritz Lang directed his final two noir thrillers in 1956. Pulled out of the Warner Archive this week are ‘Beyond a Reasonable Doubt‘ and ‘While the City Sleeps‘.
Katharine Hepburn won her third Best Actress Oscar (out of four) for the 1968 adaptation of the popular stage play ‘The Lion in Winter‘. She stars with Peter O’Toole in a historical drama about political back-stabbing in the court of King Henry II. Kino boasts that the 50th Anniversary Edition sports a 4k restoration licensed from Studio Canal, but film restoration specialist Robert A. Harris wasn’t too impressed with it.
Arrow Video breaks up last year’s ‘George A. Romero: Between Night and Dawn‘ box set into separate standalone releases of ‘The Crazies‘, ‘Season of the Witch‘ and ‘There’s Always Vanilla‘.
Scream Factory goes chasing after schlock auteur Larry Cohen’s comedic 1990 horror thriller ‘The Ambulance‘.
Synapse first released Dario Argento’s ‘Suspiria‘ last December in a limited edition SteelBook that sold out pretty quickly. That same 4k restoration now makes its way to standard keepcase packaging in single-disc or two-disc Special Edition versions.
TV product this week includes the respective first seasons of Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale‘ and History’s ‘Knightfall‘, the second season of AMC’s ‘Into the Badlands‘, and the third season of ‘Fear the Walking Dead‘ (which was a decided improvement over the prior two seasons).
As a collector, I’d be quite inclined to buy the ‘Justice League’ SteelBook if only it had better artwork. As is, I will probably reserve the movie for a rental.
I’m quite curious to catch up with ‘The Shape of Water’, ‘I, Tonya’, ‘Call Me by Your Name’, and ‘The Disaster Artist’.
I already own the 2012 Blu-ray edition of ‘A Trip to the Moon’ and don’t feel a huge need to double-dip just for a couple of new musical scores on a 13-minute movie.
The disc I’m actually most excited for this week is ‘The Age of Innocence’.
What calls out to you this week?