It's a massive release week for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as "Spider-Man: Far From Home" arrives along with the 4K debuts of "Antman," "Doctor Strange" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" (not to mention a little animated film known as "Frozen").
Up until a few days ago, the home video release of "Spider-Man: Far From Home" felt bitter sweet as it appeared to signal the end of Spider-Man's run in the MCU as Marvel and Sony Pictures seemed to have abandoned their shared custody of the character. Thankfully they've kissed, made up and promised that there will be at least one more Tom Holland film that takes place within the MCU, rather than just the Spiderverse that Sony is building on its own. So, with the focus put back on "Far From Home," we can revel in what was a very good film that might not nearly be as good as "Homecoming" (due to the lack of Michael Keaton), the film is an enjoyable romp through Europe that finds Peter Parker trying to outrun the emotional devastation of "Avengers: Endgame" by abandoning his hero identity for a more normal carefree-teenager persona.
Elsewhere we get a sequel to the video game inspired "Doom," a fairly bad sci-fi-horror action film with a ridiculously good cast that included Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike and Dwayne Johnson. None of them return for "Doom: Annihilation," but the plot is essentially the same as a group of space marines respond to a distress call. Things go wrong from there. Sadly, the film isn't very good. However, if you are looking for a solid action film I would highly recommend "The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil," a South Korean film that sees a gangster enlist the help of taking out the serial killer known as "K." Don Lee from "Train to Busan" stars as the crime boss. Apparently Sylvester Stallone's production company has picked up the rights for a remake.
This week's telelvision releases feature the first seasons of the rebooted "Charmed" series along with the DC Universe's DC's "Doom Patrol," the CBS All Access horror/thriller "Tell Me a Story" and HBO's acclaimed "Chernobyl" "Charmed" is a reboot of the late '90s series about three witch sisters. "Chernobyl" is a five-part miniseries that explores the nuclear accident from 1986 from a variety of perspectives. It was nominated in nineteen Emmy Award categories and won for Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Directing, and Outstanding Writing. "Doom Patrol" is a bizarre comedic superhero team that features a leader with 64 personalities with their own distinct abilities. It gets stranger from there. "Tell Me a Story" explores darker versions of fairy tales. It's sort of the sinister version of "Once Upon a Time."
"Maiden" isn't going to win any awards for cinematography (it appears to have been shot on VHS tape), but it is one of the most uplifting and engaging documentaries that you'll see this year. The film tells the story of Tracy Edwards, a young woman determined to assembled the first all-female crew to compete in the Whitebread Round the World Yacht Race. Seeing as this was 1989 (which feels like the dark ages) the general male population found the idea to be humorous. Humorous until Edwards and her crew proved to be more formidable than expected.
The newest wave of 4K titles from Marvel and Disney features "Antman," "Doctor Strange", "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Frozen" (just ahead of the theatrical release of its sequel). Unfortunately, I wasn't sent review copies so I can't compare them to the Blu-ray releases. I've got my fingers crossed that Marvel will release a giant 4K set featuring all the MCU titles.
Other 4K releases this week also includes four classic films in "Gremlins," "Pan's Labyrinth," "The Shining" and "Zombieland." The first three films were all shot on 35mm and should show improvements in detail and a wider range of color ("Pan's Labyrinth" was mastered in 4K, but I'm still incredibly interested in seeing the results). I have had the chance to sit down with "Zombieland" and despite being filmed digitally in 2K, there is improved detail to be found in every texture and the color upgrade is even more dramatic (without ever going too far). They've even produced a short retrospective "Raised from the Dead: Zombieland, A Decade Later" and have included all the previous bonus features (including those that only appeared on the Best Buy version of the release). The film itself is one of my favorite horror comedies and features a great cast, a nimble script and the best cameo in the history of cinema.
As we head into October I've started to put together a Halloween movie guide. So, here's a peek at two titles that will be appearing.
The "Addams Family" franchise is about to be pushed back into the spotlight with an animated film. In 1991 cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld moved into the director's chair with a colorful adaptation of the original television series with the inspired casting of Anjelica Huston, Raúl Juliá, Christopher Lloyd and Christina Ricci. The film was a modest success and in 1993 we were given "Addams Family Values." I enjoyed these as a young teenager, revisiting them provided a nice swell of nostalgia. They've aged rather well. Sonnenfeld would go on to give us "Men In Black."
The second release is something of a cheat in that it is actually a 15-film Alfred Hitchcock collection called "The House of Hitchcock" (it comes in packaging that is based on the "Psycho" mansion). The set is essentially a repackaging of the limited edition 2016 release "Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection." If you don't already own that set, this is a nice collection.
The films in the set are:
- Shadow of a Doubt
- Rear Window
- The Trouble With Harry
- The Man Who Knew Too Much
- North by Northwest
- The Birds
- Torn Curtain
- Family Plot
Moving on to Christmas, because that's apparently what we do, we have the delightful and underappreciated "Anna and the Apocalypse," a holiday musical with zombies. If you enjoyed "Shaun of the Dead" or any other silly and bloody comedy you're likely to enjoy this. It's easily the best Christmas genre film since 2010's "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale."
It's also time for the annual rerelease of the classic Peanuts holiday specials. This time around they are celebrating with "Peanuts: 70th Anniversary Holiday Collection." I'd personally steer you towards the 4K set that was released last year, but the Snoopy plush and doghouse packaging is appealing. They've also added new commentaries and a feature short titled "It's Not the Holidays without Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown." The set includes the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas specials that you know and love.
Growing up I would record the audio of "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" on my boombox and play back the stories at night. The idea of owning the complete series on DVD that I could watch at any given moment would have blown my mind. Universal is also releasing the original run of She-Ra cartoons from 1985 in "She-Ra: Princess of Power." You should, however check out the recently retooled "She-Ra and the Princesses of Power" on Netflix.
At the start of September Warner Bros. released the fantastic "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete Series" on Blu-ray and a month later they're offering "Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island," a sequel to the 1998 (has it really been that long?). The original "Zombie Island" film was interesting in that it was one of the first Scooby-Doo! story to feature supernatural elements, rather than just the guy next door wearing a costume. It paved the way for the "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated," which is my favorite Scooby-Doo! era. "Return to Zombie Island" isn't on par with the original, in fact its a few tiers down. It does feature a cool cameo. Not a waste of time, but not nearly as good as I would have liked.
Originally a radio drama, the story of "Gunsmoke" goes all the way back to 1952. It debuted as a half-hour television show in 1955 where it ran as a series until 1975. The radio broadcasts ended in 1961., the same year that the television episodes were expanded to an hour. Starting in 1966 the series was broadcast in color. Over the past few years Paramount has been releasing the show's 20 seasons. This weeks sees both halves of the fifteenth season of "Gunsmoke" and collects the 1969-70 season of 26 episodes. It is interesting to note that the fifteenth season was something of a revival for the series. The first seven seasons saw the show finish in the top ten television ratings. The next five years saw the series drop substantially in the ratings. Beginning with season thirteen and continuing on through the eighteenth season the series once again moved into the top ten. The fifteenth season finished the year as the second most viewed series.