It’s all fun and games this week as the latest batch of Blu-ray and Ultra HD discs features beloved playtime pals Woody, Buzz, and their spooky new friend Annabelle. Let’s open up that toy chest and see what other goodies we can find.
New Releases (Blu-ray)
Toy Story 4 – If you thought Toy Story 3 offered fitting closure and a good stopping point for the franchise, well, you’re clearly not a movie studio executive. The gang is back for a fourth adventure (the first without disgraced creator John Lasseter), and the consensus seems to be that it’s another strong entry. Singled out for special praise this time were Keanu Reeves as daredevil stuntman toy Duke Caboom, Tony Hale as a suicidal plastic utensil called Forky, and the return of Annie Potts as Bo Peep. For those still interested in the format, a 3D edition will be released overseas on October 21st.
Annabelle Comes Home – The Conjuring timeline is so confusing that I can’t get a clear answer on the movies’ proper chronological order even when I Google it. From what I can tell, this third Annabelle spinoff takes place after the events of the first one and either before or after the original The Conjuring. Also, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reportedly appear briefly, but most of the movie is another series of jump-scares with the killer doll terrorizing their young daughter and a babysitter.
Midsommar – The follow-up feature from Hereditary director Ari Aster stars Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor as a couple of American college kids on vacation in Sweden when they’re invited to a rural folk festival that turns out to be a freaky pagan cult ritual. Unlike most horror films that hide their scares in shadows and darkness, Aster chose to shoot this one entirely in bright daylight. Reaction was a lot more mixed than his last movie. Critics seemed to like it more than audiences did. Note that the Blu-ray only contains the 147-minute theatrical cut. A 171-minute Director’s Cut is available exclusively by streaming from Apple TV.
The Wedding Guest – Eclectic filmmaker Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, The Trip) tries his hand at an action thriller with an equally unlikely leading man in Dev Patel playing a brooding hitman. Unfortunately, while critics were supportive of the casting and the choice of settings in India and Pakistan, they were less enamored with a disappointingly formulaic plot.
Light of My Life – Trying his hand at directing for the first time since his disastrous mockumentary boondoggle I’m Still Here, recent Oscar winner Casey Affleck takes on heavier subject matter with a post-apocalyptic thriller set in a world where most of the female population has died off. Affleck plays a father struggling to protect his young daughter by disguising her as a boy. Considering the sexual harassment scandal that kept Affleck from presenting at the 2018 Oscar ceremony, his decision to cast himself as the savior to virtually all the women in the world was met with some criticism, but reviews from the festival circuit were mostly mixed-to-positive.
This is a slow week for the Ultra HD format. Toy Story 4 debuts with a SteelBook at Best Buy and a Target exclusive that comes with a storybook. Beyond that, the only other title available is a double-feature of Jordan Peele’s Us and Get Out.
As an addendum to last year’s Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood box set, Criterion explores the director’s earlier career with 3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg.
Could Arrow Video be taking a swipe at Disney by releasing the 1972 exploitation flick Toys Are Not for Children on the same day as the new Toy Story movie? I love the chutzpa.
Warner Bros. uses the new Annabelle movie as an excuse to bundle together a Conjuring Universe: 6-Film Collection even though a 5-film collection was already released earlier this year. Considering how eager the studio is to crank out even more sequels and prequels and spinoffs to this franchise, expect more such sets to follow multiple times a year.
Something of an influence on the Conjuring and Annabelle films, the 1974 Amicus horror portmanteau From Beyond the Grave frames four scary shorts as stories told by an antiques shop owner (Peter Cushing) about the haunted items in his possession. That movie gets exhumed by the Warner Archive in anticipation of Halloween.
Kino digs up some lighter horror fare with Bob Balaban’s 1993 zombie comedy My Boyfriend’s Back.
Universal already packaged the CG-animated Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch in a Best Buy exclusive SteelBook when the movie hit video in February. If you missed that, here comes another version with alternate artwork.
Other Universal titles include Sydney Pollack’s 1979 Robert Redford vehicle The Electric Horseman and Mike Nichols’ 1998 political satire Primary Colors.
Thirteen years after the series was unceremoniously canceled, HBO finally returns to Deadwood for a very satisfying wrap-up movie that reunites creator David Milch with almost all of the surviving cast.
Lionsgate gathers together all three seasons of AMC’s dopey Into the Badlands for a Complete Collection box set.
A few months too late to piggyback off the big theatrical reboot, the cornball 1974-1976 live action adaptation of Shazam! makes its way out of the Warner Archive.
I have the 3D SteelBook for Toy Story 4 on preorder from Zavvi. I’m also very likely to add Deadwood: The Movie to my collection to go with the TV series box set.
I’d be curious to rent Midsommar, and now seems like a good time to revisit Primary Colors.
What do you want to play with this week?