Holiday Geek Gift Guide 2019: Blu-ray and DVD Edition
Wednesday, November 27th, 2019 at 11:18 am
It’s nearly the end of the year, which means it is time to prepare to get gifts for your loved ones, particularly those who may love watching films. Throughout the year, we have seen many films from various genres ranging from the action blockbuster films like Avengers: Endgame and horror flicks like Midsommar to the animated features like Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and fantasy fun like Aladdin (2019).
Check out this year’s Holiday Geek Gift Guide: Blu-ray & DVD Edition“¦
The Little Mermaid, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 28th animated feature, gets restored in 4K. Though some of the bonus features like the Sing-A-Long and the “What I Want From You”¦Is YOUR VOICE” recording session behind the scenes look are pretty standard, this 4K does come with some unique features that are brand new to this rerelease. In the “Alan Menken & the Leading Ladies Song” fans will be able to see Jodi Benson, the original singing and speaking voice for Ariel, join Alan Menken, one of the composers for the film, and Paige O’Hara (Belle), Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas Singing Voice), Lillias White (Calliope), and Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel) to talk about working on their respective projects and recall some of the memories of musically creating their characters with Menken.
Of the many Spider-Man films that are out there now, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is the best of them all. Featuring a refreshing take on the Spider-Man lore, the coming of age animated film centers on Miles Morales, a teenage Afro-Latino, who must don the mask after the Spider-Man of his universe dies. With the help of other Spider-Mans from various universes, Miles will learn what it takes to be a hero while teaching everyone that “anyone can wear the mask.” Bonus features I suggest you look at are “Spider-Verse: A New Dimension,” which is an in-depth look at the various animation techniques that were used in the film; “The Ultimate Comics Cast,” which looks at the recording process, and “A Tribute to Stan Lee & Steve Ditko,” which is a bonus feature that pretty much speaks for itself.
Ralph Breaks The Internet, the sequel to Wreck-It Ralph, may not be as strong as its predecessor, but it’s got more than enough bonus exciting bonus features to keep fans interested. “Surfing for Easter Eggs” guides us through many of the unseen easter eggs from Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars, while “How We Broke the Internet” gives us some insight into animating and visualizing the internet, as well as creating exciting race sequences in Slaughter Race.
Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, is the superhero movie studios’ long-awaited female standalone film. As much as Captain Marvel is about inspiring and empowering, it is also a celebration of sisterhood, which is clearly on display when the film focuses on Carol’s friendship with Maria (Lashana Lynch), a fellow Air Force pilot who believed that her friend and staunch supporter was lost. Along with the usual deleted scenes and commentary, there are some bonus features that are special to this film alone, like “Becoming a Super Hero,” which follows Brie Larson’s journey as she joins the MCU, and see what it takes to be a Marvel Super Hero in every sense of the word, and “The Origin of Nick Fury” where fans will see MCU’s most significant events through Nick Fury’s eyes, and see how his influence helped shape the MCU.
Alita: Battle Angel, Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of the Yukito Kishiro’s beloved manga, didn’t nearly get as much love as it should have at the box office, but has found a home with fans who were excited to see the title come to life in a live-action form. The characters and the world are all visually stunning as it stays true to the spirit of the manga, though I cannot say the same for the quality of the script and simple plot. And the film had so much promise to expand on the mythology had it been more successful. Still, that doesn’t mean it isn’t the kind of film that doesn’t belong on your shelf. Bonus features like “From Manga to Screen” sees Rodriguez and James Cameron, who was originally attached to direct, talk about the process of turning the manga into a live-action film, while “Evolution Of Alita” addresses the technology that was used to bring Alita to life.
The final chapter of Marvel Studios’ The Infinity Saga brought the founding members of the Avengers together for one final battle against Thanos. After 11 years of story building, it has led up to this moment where we say our final good-byes to the characters we loved and watched grow. In it, we see our heroes deal with something that they’ve never dealt with before: loss. At least the kind of loss of unfathomable magnitude. Not willing to be defeated so easily, Avengers: Endgame gives many of its characters, especially Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) a chance to say good-bye to the fans who have stuck by them all these years. As for the bonus features, there’s many looks back on the characters like Downey Jr. and Evan’s auditions, as well as an in-depth look at the characters’ impact in comics, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the world of pop culture.
Aladdin is perhaps one of the best Walt Disney Animated Studios features to come from the Disney Renaissance. From Disney veterans Ron Clements and John Musker, the film featured thrilling action, fantastical musical numbers, and gorgeous animation, so it is easy to see why it is a fan favorite and an instant classic. Though some of its bonus features are pretty typical of a Disney animated musical – the usual sing-a-longs and voice recording sessions are on here – there is also the bittersweet feature that has a rare look at the late Robin Williams recording his dialogue for Genie.
Though the overall majority of critics say the live-action take of Aladdin is among one of Walt Disney Studios’ weaker efforts, I still think it is one of the better live-action adaptations of their animated classics when compared to other films like Dumbo or Alice In Wonderland. Both Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott are just as likable as their animated Aladdin and Princess Jasmine counterparts, and Will Smith brings the character of the Genie to life with his sense of style and flair. The production design on this is just as great as the seaport setting for Agrabah allows it to feel more global with many different characters from countries around the world visiting it. Not only does it feel all-inclusive, but there is also a great message of female-empowerment within it. As far as bonus features go, you can expect to see the usual deleted scenes and cover songs, but if you want to see bonus features, then there’s “Speechless: Creating A New Song For Jasmine,” which sees Menken, along with co-lyricists Justin Paul and Beni Pasek, break down Princess Jasmine’s song, something of which she has never had before, and “A Friend Like Genie,” which sees how Will Smith brings talent, experience, and his magic to the iconic role of Genie.
If Pixar’s Toy Story 3 was a perfect ending to the animation studio’s flagship franchise, then Toy Story 4 is the perfect epilogue. In the sequel, Woody finds himself in a very unfamiliar place in his life as he is cast aside by his new owner, Bonnie. Though he is getting played with less and less, he does rediscover his purpose in life when Bonnie creates a new toy called Forky, who is essentially a spork with googly eyes, pipe cleaner for arms, and two broken popsicle sticks for legs. The film uses their relationship as a means to express themes of existentialism and fatherhood, and because of that, it stays true to Pixar’s philosophy of prioritizing story above anything else. My favorite bonus features to look out for are “Let’s Ride with Ally Maki,” where the actress who voices Giggle McDimples gives viewers a look at the recording process and all of the silly antics that can happen during it. Plus a look at what you can do at Pixar while you wait for the recorded dialogue to be processed and “Anatomy of a Scene” where Toy Story 4 animators talk about how a scene goes from page to the screen.
Though it may be one of the weaker live-action adaptations of a Disney animated classic that the studio had to offer, the new Lion King was an excellent showcase of how far the animation and photorealistic technology has come. This reimagining sees a majority Black cast now take point voicing animals that we would see in the African Savannah. The “Journey to The Lion King” bonus features looks at how the filmmakers honored and elevated the music of the animated original, blended the traditional filmmaking techniques with virtual reality technology, and reflect upon how the film still resonates with the world. And then there’s “Perfecting the Pride,” which takes a look at the research process and what the filmmakers were looking for when they took a trip to Africa to see the grasslands and the Savannah.
Jordan Peele’s second directorial effort “examines the human condition and uses scares as a vehicle to take a look at the monsters that lurk beneath our skin and what would happen if it were ever to crawl out of it.” Though the commentary bonus feature is lacking, there are some other interesting bonus features to look forward to that takes a look at some of the film’s major themes, such as duality and metaphors.
Director Chad Stahelski continues to expand the John Wick mythology with John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, which takes the title character around the globe once more as he tries to outrun assassins who are after him after he killed a member of the high table on Continental grounds. The franchise constantly impresses with its storytelling and fight choreography. And the Blu-ray comes with some pretty great bonus features as well, such as “Bikes, Blades, Bridges, and Bits” which takes a look at some of the more complex action sequences in the film, and “Dog Fu” which highlights all of the canine contributions seen in the film, and House of Transparency,” which a look at how the production design team makes everything about the world that we see in these John Wick films look so inviting and pleasant.
It may not be the stronger Spider-Man film, but it isn’t the weakest either. Set just days after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home sees Peter Parker (Tom Holland) adjusting to his new life, not only as a reborn person, but as an Avenger without his mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Now alone and away on a class trip in Europe, he mets a potential new mentor in Quentin Beck, a superhero going by the name of Mysterio, who helps him with new threats abroad. But all is not what it seems. “Stepping Up” looks at Parker’s progression as a person and a hero within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while “Suit Up” takes a look at all the new suits and accessories he will get. Then there’s “Now You See Me,” which explores why Mysterio was chosen for the latest Spider-Man film, and some of the challenges that the creative team needed to overcome to make sure his character was presented in a way that would respect the comic book material while also serving his purpose for the film.
Ari Aster’s Midsommar is an unconventional film about a toxic relationship going up in flames – both literally and figuratively – that proves that horror can just be as terrifying during broad daylight as it is during the night. Through its isolated and remote Swedish forest setting, we see a beautiful world that is untouched by modern society, one where people will go through great lengths to defend and keep their traditions intact. As the film unravels the mystery and its characters meet their fate, we finally see that Aster is a master of his craft in both building a story and terrifying us with nods to horror cult classics like The Wicker Man.
It may not be a true Fast And Furious film, but Fast And Furious Present: Hobbs And Shaw is a nice spinoff that continues the franchise’s tradition of crazy over the top action sequences and beyond cheesy one-liners. The chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham is good enough to keep things entertaining and they are the only ones who can prevent the film from falling lower than mediocrity. As far as bonus features go, they are the usual standard stuff like alternate openings, deleted scenes, and commentary, but there’s also “Practical Action,” which takes a look at some of the stunt choreography that didn’t require CGI, and “Progress Of A Fight Scene With Director David Leitch,” which takes a look at how an action sequence goes from concept to execution.
Recommendations by Adam Frazier.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet (Season 12) Blu-ray | DVD
Netflix’s Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet is now available as a 3-disc Blu-ray set thanks to the fine folks at Shout! Factory. Jonah Heston (Jonah Ray) and the bots -– Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn), Crow (Hampton Yount), and Gypsy (Rebecca Hanson) — return for six 80-minute episodes, including Mac and Me, Lords of the Deep, and the Pacific Rim knock-off, Atlantic Rim.
Marking the 40th anniversary of the film, Scream Factory is releasing the cult-favorite monster flick Prophecy on Blu-ray for the first time ever! Directed by John Frankenheimer (1962’s The Manchurian Candidate), the film stars Robert Foxworth (Damien: Omen II) and Talia Shire (Rocky, The Godfather) as a married couple who travel to Maine to research the impact of the lumber industry on the local environment only to discover the surrounding woods are occupied by ecological freaks of nature hungry for man-flesh. The Blu-ray, which comes with tons of new special features, is now available now.
Directed by John Badham (WarGames, Short Circuit, Saturday Night Fever), 1979’s Dracula stars Frank Langella (Masters of the Universe, Frost/Nixon) as the titular vampire in this stylish adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic gothic horror tale. Co-starring Sir Laurence Olivier (Sleuth, Spartacus, Rebecca) as Professor Van Helsing and Donald Pleasence (Halloween, The Great Escape) as Dr. Jack Seward, this atmospheric production (with a score by the legendary John Williams) is now available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory. Featuring a 4K scan of the original film elements, and tons of in-depth special features, Dracula (Collector’s Edition) is available now.
On December 10, 2019, be afraid. Be very afraid. Scream Factory is releasing The Fly Collection in a definitive Blu-ray box set. The massive five-disc set includes 1958’s The Fly starring Vincent Price, Return of the Fly, The Curse of the Fly, David Cronenberg’s classic 1986 remake, starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, and its 1989 sequel, and is packed with hours of engrossing, in-depth special features.
The complete list of bonus features includes a bevy of new interviews and audio commentaries with cast and crew, including with producers Mel Brooks and Stuart Cornfeld, cinematographer Mark Irwin, screenwriter Mick Garris, and composers Howard Shore and Christopher Young. There’s also some excellent, previously released materials, like “Fear Of The Flesh: The Making Of The Fly,” which covers the three stages of The Fly‘s production: Larva, Pupa, and Metamorphosis! You can pre-order the five-disc The Fly Collection right now at Amazon for $59.37!
Directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, the holiday classic It’s A Wonderful Life was released this year for the first time ever in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. The 4K combo pack includes the restored black-and-white film in 4K high definition along with a colorized version on Blu-ray, as well as three special features that are new to 4K: “Restoring a Beloved Classic,” “Secrets from the Vault,” and “It’s A Wonderful Wrap Party.” The film looks better than ever now and the story stands the test of time. Perfect viewing for the holidays and it makes a great gift.
Remember, if all else fails, there’s also the Amazon.com Gift Card, you can have emailed to the recipient (arrives immediately) or you can print out the gift card at home and give it to the intended that way. If you order in enough time, you can get the physical gift card sent directly to you or to the gift recipient.