Between Blu-ray and Ultra HD, a deep selection of nearly a hundred movie and TV titles hit disc this week. That’s a lot to go through, so let’s dive right in.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
The Meg – Jason Statham fights a giant shark in a monster flick promoted by the studio as a spiritual successor to Deep Blue Sea. Many viewers complained that the actual movie’s tone veers awkwardly between taking its goofy premise seriously and embracing the camp, as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide which way they wanted to go. Nevertheless, it hit at the right time with the right marketing and made a pretty big pile of money. Now you can bring it home on Blu-ray, UHD, or even a 3D edition (which is getting to be a rarity these days).
Alpha – Evoking movies like The Clan of the Cave Bear and Quest for Fire, Albert Hughes (of the Hughes brothers from Menace II Society and The Book of Eli) directs a prehistoric adventure drama with dialogue entirely in a fictional subtitled language. Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as a young hunter who is injured and stranded in the wild, where he encounters and bonds with a wounded wolf, which essentially becomes the first domesticated dog. The film was praised for its striking visuals and a compelling, if simple, story.
Juliet, Naked – Based on a novel by Nick Hornby, Rose Byrne plays a woman who gets entangled in a love triangle between her boyfriend (Chris O’Dowd) and the washed-up former rock star (Ethan Hawke) he’s obsessed with. Reviews for the indie dramedy were generally favorable, but not enthusiastic.
Mile 22 – Mark Wahlberg reteams with director Peter Berg for the fourth time. However, unlike Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon or Patriots Day, this one’s a purely fictional action thriller with no pretense of being based on real events. Audiences didn’t have much interest, while critics complained that the plot is a dumb mess and Berg’s shaky-cam action sequences are even more incoherent than usual.
The Meg leaps out of the water and onto Ultra HD. Best Buy has a SteelBook.
With another (and allegedly last) sequel scheduled for release next year, Studio Canal (via American distributor Lionsgate) upgrades the first three Rambo movies to 4k. The original First Blood, in particular, was in dire need of a remaster. Even though Lionsgate has rights to the fourth movie, Studio Canal does not, which is why it’s not included in this selection.
Also available is the animated Justice League: Throne of Atlantis from Warner Bros.
Billy Wilder’s classic comedy Some Like It Hot rejoins the Criterion Collection almost three decades after a Laserdisc release on the label. (Sorry, looks like this is actually coming out 11/20.)
Warner Bros. reissues discs previously sold separately through the Warner Archive and bundles them into a package called Bogart & Bacall: The Complete Collection. The set contains To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo.
From the Warner Archive itself comes the Hammer horror The Satanic Rites of Dracula with Christopher Lee.
Unfortunately, Cary Grant did not return for the 1941 comedy sequel Topper Returns. Having released the original film on Blu-ray last year, VCI jumps straight to the third movie, skipping over 1938’s Topper Takes a Trip.
Shout! Factory has licensed Kevin Costner’s Best Picture winner Dances with Wolves for a Collector’s Edition SteelBook. This marks the first time the film’s original theatrical cut (the one that actually won all those Oscars) has appeared on Blu-ray. The extra-bloated extended cut is also included.
After the huge success of his directorial debut Easy Rider, Dennis Hopper dragged a crew down to Peru for a very meta project in which he stars as a Hollywood stunt coordinator working on a Western in the country. A self-consciously arty and unconventional film, The Last Movie was not at all what the studio, critics, or audiences of the day expected or wanted. It was a big flop at the time that only started to be reappreciated many years later. After decades of unavailability on any home media, a label called Arbelos Films presents a new 4k restoration.
A notable work from the indie explosion of the early 1990s, Arrow Academy offers Allison Anders’ Gas Food Lodging, starring Ione Skye and Fairuza Balk.
Now that BlacKkKlansman has returned Spike Lee to the cultural conversation, Sony remembers his college comedy School Daze on its 30th anniversary.
Disney delivers a third volume of its Pixar Short Films Collection. Among the eleven shorts in this batch is the Oscar winning Piper.
Kino serves up Harold Ramis’ 2005 crime comedy The Ice Harvest, as well as Sydney Pollack’s mystery thriller The Interpreter from the same year, plus the John Grisham adaptations The Chamber and The Gingerbread Man.
MVD adds a couple of major box office bombs to its so-called Marquee Collection. The Ultimate Edition of John Woo’s 2002 war epic Windtalkers contains both the theatrical cut and an extended version that’s supposedly better. Sadly, I doubt anything will ever be able to redeem the dreadful Basic Instinct 2.
A little late for Halloween, Scream Factory scares up a little more horror with the 1992 thriller Single White Female, while Arrow Video dishes out the 1970 Herschell Gordon Lewis splatter-fest The Wizard of Gore.
Don’t panic! Even though the 1981 television adaptation of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally shot on standard-definition video, BBC promises a restoration that should eke out better picture quality than the old DVDs. The 3-disc set also comes with over five hours of supplements.
If, like me, you refused to subscribe to CBS All Access just to watch Star Trek: Discovery, you can catch up with the show’s first season on disc now. Best Buy even has a SteelBook edition.
Audiences that paid to see Pixar’s Coco last year just about lost their minds being forced to sit through the interminable 21-minute “short” Olaf’s Frozen Adventure before the proper movie started. It was received little better when it aired as a TV special a few weeks later. Frozen completists can now add it to their permanent collections.
Other TV product this week includes the second season of The Crown, the third season of Preacher, and the fifth season of The 100.
The Meg is the type of thing I’ll sit down to watch when it hits cable, but not before. Alpha, on the other hand, I might be open to renting.
I’d also very much welcome an improved copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If I had any money for them (which I don’t right now), I’d love to pick up the First Blood UHD (I don’t care about the sequels), The Last Movie, and School Daze.
What discs are you fishing for this week?