Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2019 Part 12: Blu-rays and DVDs (Part Two) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, November 26th, 2020  

Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2019 Part 12: Blu-rays and DVDs (Part Two)

Classic and Current Movies and TV Shows from Shout! Factory, The Criterion Collection, BBC, CBS, Warner Bros. Disney, Kino Lorber, and More

Dec 18, 2019
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Welcome to Part 11 of Under the Radar's Holiday Gift Guide 2019. This one is centered on Blu-rays and DVDs, including classic and current movies and TV shows. It's part two of our DVD/Blu-ray guide (check out part one here).

In terms of our Holiday Gift Guide 2019 we have already posted a guide about video games and two drinks related guides, one for coffee, beer, and wine and another for cocktails. Then we posted part one of our collectibles guide. After that we posted part 5 of our 2019 guide, which was about technology. Part 6 was the first part of our DVD/Blu-ray guide. And then part 7 was about board games. Part 8 was about toys for kids. Part 9 featured kid-friendly DVDs/Blu-rays, books, and board games. Part 10 was all about books and graphic novels. Part 11 was the second part of our collectibles guide. And stay tuned for one more guide we'll be posting on music box sets and reissues. And don't forget that Under the Radar print magazine subscriptions also make a great gift. Plus donating to the charity of your choice in the name of the gift receiver is also a good way to go.

A Face in the Crown Blu-ray/DVD (Criterion)

RRP: $39.95 (Blu-ray)/$29.95 (DVD)

It's no wonder that Elia Kazan's masterful 1957 satire is getting a lot of second (and third) looks in our current political climate. The film follows a loudmouthed oaf (a pre-television Andy Griffith) who nonetheless has a dark charisma that appeals to a certain segment of the population. As a radio personality, he realizes he has the power to coerce people to do his bidding just by running his spiteful mouth—he shoots to television stardom, becoming a dangerously unfiltered and egomaniacal media personality with immense political power. Starting to see why this movie might resonate in 2019? Criterion has newly restored the movie for this Blu-ray release, packing it with all-new extra features largely courtesy of Griffith and Kazan's biographers. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Alphaville Blu-ray/DVD (Kino Lorber)

RRP: $13.49 (Blu-ray)/$11.97 (DVD)

Alphaville (aka Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution) is a curious beast. It's a black & white 1965 French New Wave film that combines science fiction and film noir and takes place in an undetermined point in the future. But it was filmed by director Jean-Luc Godard in Paris in existing locations, no futuristic sets were built for the movie. Expatriate American actor Eddie Constantine plays Lemmy Caution, the trenchcoat-wearing secret agent code numbered 003, who travels from "the Outlands" to the city of Alphaville to find a missing fellow agent, capture or kill the creator of the city (Professor von Braun, played by Howard Vernon), and destroy Alphaville's dictatorial and sentient computer system, Alpha 60, which controls the city and has outlawed free-thought. Anna Karina stars as von Braun's daughter, Natacha von Braun (alas Karina just died a few days ago). Special features on Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray edition include an interview with Karina and audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.) 

The Anne Bancroft Collection Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

RRP: $79.97

To be honest, if this collection had only contained The Graduate, we probably still would have recommended it. Instead, this eight-film boxed set celebrates the greater body of work of Anne Banecroft, one of the 20th Century's great actresses. Included are her Oscar-winning turn as Helen Keller's dedicated tutor in The Miracle Worker, her Golden Globe-winning performances in The Pumpkin Eater and The Graduate, and Oscar-nominated work in To Be or Not to Be and Agnes of God. Lesser-known films in the collection include her 1952 debut, Don't Bother to Knock, and the underrated 84 Charing Cross Road in which she starred opposite Anthony Hopkins. Some of the best bonus features come paired with her directorial debut, Fatso, which we reviewed in detail when Shout! Factory released it separately. (The accompanying interview with Mel Brooks, Bancroft's longtime husband, offers a lot of great insight to the film's creation.) The star of the set, of course, is The Graduate, which comes with near-identical extras to the Criterion release from several years ago. Considering this can be had for the price of two or three individual movies, any fans of the superb actress' work will want to have this set in their collection. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Avengers: Endgame Blu-ray (Marvel/Disney)

RRP: $20.99

Avengers: Endgame is the biggest movie of all time, looking at the raw worldwide unadjusted for inflation box office figures. It's the culmination of 12 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starting with 2008's Iron Man, features pretty much every major MCU character, and gives a proper send off to three important heroes and the actors who played them. You've probably already seen it and/or know someone who would want it for Christmas. The Blu-ray edition includes deleted scenes, a gag reel, a documentary remembering the late, great comic book creator/Marvel architect Stan Lee, and more. Excelsior! By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Backbeat Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

RRP: $22.97

When you hear the phrase "the fifth Beatle" you might think of Pete Best, The Beatles' original drummer who was dismissed from the band in 1962, just before they shot to fame, to be replaced by Ringo Starr. But back when Best was still in the band there was another fifth member, Stuart Sutcliffe, the band's original bassist. He most notably played with the band when they were based in Hamburg in 1960, but left the band in 1961 to pursue his promising art career and stay in Hamburg with his fiancée, Astrid Kirchherr, who was a photographer who took the first professional photos of the band. The 1994 film Backbeat chronicles The Beatles' Hamburg days and Sutcliffe and Kirchherr's romance. American actor Stephen Dorff's sports a convincing Liverpool accent in his portrayal of Sutcliffe and also notable is Sheryl Lee (Twin Peaks' Laura Palmer) as Kirchherr and Ian Hart as John Lennon (having previously played the singer in the 1991 film The Hours and Times). Shout! Factory's new Blu-ray release of the film seems to include mainly special features from previous editions, such as deleted scenes, an audio interview with Kirchherr, an interview with Hart and director Iain Softley, a separate interview with Softley, casting session videos, a TV feature on the film from 1994, and audio commentary (featuring Hart, Softley, and Dorff). Backbeat is an interesting and compelling portrait of one the greatest and biggest bands of all time, before anyone noticed them, and the members who got left behind, and it would appeal to any Beatles fan. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.) 

Batman Beyond: The Complete Series Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)

RRP: $99.95

Batman: The Animated Series remains the gold standard for TV superhero cartoons 27 years after it debuted in 1992. In 1999, four years after Batman: The Animated Series left the air, it was followed up by Batman Beyond. The show takes place in a future Gotham City (2039 to be exact), when Bruce Wayne is in his 70s and has long since retired as Batman. In this city of flying cars and tall skyscrapers, 16-year-old high school student Terry McGinnis comes into Wayne's reclusive world and eventually becomes a new, high tech Batman, with Wayne guiding him remotely from the Batcave. Kevin Conroy, who played Batman in The Animated Series, reprised his role in Batman Beyond (and again later in Justice League and various other cartoons and video games). With Conroy recently playing Wayne in live action for the first time in the Batwoman TV show, in part 2 of the CW's Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event, playing a brutal older version from an alternate Earth, it's a good time to revisit Batman Beyond. The show lasted only three seasons, from 1991 to 2001, but won two Daytime Emmys. This Blu-ray box set collects all 52 episodes, with 41 of them remastered. It also includes the animated film Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker and two new special features celebrating Batman's 80th anniversary. The box set also includes a chrome Batman Beyond Funko Pop! figure and lenticular collector cards featuring original animation artwork from the show. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Big Trouble in Little China Blu-ray (Scream Factory)

RRP: $27.99

Big Trouble in Little China is one strange film and all the better for it. It's an American fantasy martial arts comedy from 1986 directed by John Carpenter. Kurt Russell stars as Jack Burton, a charismatic truck driver. When the fiancée of his friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) is kidnapped fresh off the airplane from China, Burton and Chi enter the crazy secret mystical world in San Francisco's Chinatown. They are aided by lawyer Gracie Law (Kim Cattral). Like so many cult classics of the 1980s, it wasn't a box office hit upon release, but found an audience on VHS. Special features on Scream Factory's Blu-ray include new interviews and commentary with various members of the cast and crew (including producer Larry J. Franco and actors Dennis Dun and James Hong), as well as special features from previous editions of the film (including interviews with John Carpenter and Kurt Russell). By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

The Day After Blu-ray/DVD (Kino Lorber)

RRP: $29.99 (Blu-ray)/$11.97 (DVD)

Few movies have the power to change history, let alone TV movies, but that's exactly what The Day After did. The film first aired on ABC on November 23, 1983 and depicted a devastating nuclear war between America and the Soviet Union. When then President Ronald Regan screened the film more than a month before it aired it rattled him and four years later he signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty alongside the Soviet Union's leader Mikhail Gorbachev. In his memoirs, Regan sited The Day After as a definite influence on him moving ahead with the treaty.

Instead of focusing on the world leaders or even taking place in a major coastal city such as New York or Los Angeles, The Day After was about the effects of a nuclear blast on regular people in Lawrence, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri. The film starred JoBeth Williams, Steve Guttenberg, John Cullum, Jason Robards, and John Lithgow and was directed by Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Kino Lorber's new two-disc Blu-ray edition of The Day After includes both the original 122-minute TV cut (framed for old TVs with the 1.33.1 aspect ratio) and the 127-minute theatrical cut that was released in select other countries (with the 1.78.1 aspect ratio). There are also interviews with JoBeth Williams and Nicholas Meyer, as well as audio commentary from film historian Lee Gambin and comic artist/writer Tristan Jones. While we are no longer in the Cold War, it is scary to think that Russian nuclear weapons are still pointed in our general direction and events similar to those in The Day After are still possible. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Doctor Who: The Macra Terror DVD (BBC)

RRP: $24.98

The Macra Terror is one of the many lost early episodes of Doctor Who. There are 97 of 253 episodes from the show's first six years that are missing. The BBC didn't anticipate the coming of home media and wiped many of the episodes from the 1960s (and not just of Doctor Who), to save storage space, assuming that once an episode has aired it will never need to be watched again. Whoops! Some missing episodes have been found over the years, such as when copies were sent to foreign markets, but many of the episodes of the first two Doctors are likely forever lost. Luckily, audio of every lost episode exists, often recorded by fans at the time directly from the TV. And so the BBC has started to reproduce lost episodes with the original audio and new animation. The Macra Terror was the seventh serial of the fourth season of Doctor Who and stars Patrick Troughton as The Second Doctor, along with companions Polly (Anneke Wills), Ben (Michael Craze), and Jamie (Frazer Hines). The time and space travelers find themselves at an Earth colony in the future where the inhabitants are subjected to mind control and some claim to have seen giant crab-like creatures. This two-disc set includes the animated recreation in both color and black & white (which is how the original version was broadcast). Special features include animation tests, a bonus animated episode, and more. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Doctor Who: Jon Pertwee Complete Season Four Blu-ray (BBC)

RRP: $34.99

The BBC are also releasing complete classic Doctor Who seasons on Blu-ray. All non-lost episodes of classic Doctor Who have previously been released on DVD, serial by serial. For Blu-ray they are cherry picking seasons, different ones featuring different Doctors, rather than going chronologically. For Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor they have picked his fourth season (and the 10th overall Doctor Who season). It starts with the 10th anniversary special The Three Doctors, which was the first time multiple versions of The Doctor were brought together. It mainly features Pertwee and Patrick Troughton as The Second Doctor. William Hartnell, who played The First Doctor, was too ill to fully take part, so his character is trapped somewhere, interacting with the other two Doctors only via the TARDIS view screen, in a role that Hartnell filmed separately in one day. Other serials of the season include Carnival of Monsters, Frontier in Space, Planet of the Daleks (which saw Dalek creator Terry Nation return to write it), and The Green Death (which was the last regular appearance by Katy Manning as companion Jo Grant). Special features include a new short featuring the return of Manning as Grant, alongside Stewart Bevan as Professor Clifford Jones, a new documentary on the Pertwee era, and optional updated special effects for Planet of the Daleks, as well as various special features from previous DVD releases. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Doctor Who: Colin Baker Complete Season Two Blu-ray (BBC)

RRP: $34.99

Also released is the 23rd season of classic Doctor Who. It was the second and last season to feature Colin Baker as The Sixth Doctor. Baker's era is much maligned, but it's really down to the writing and his costume (which he hated), rather than his performance, that are the problems. Still, the producers can't be faulted for a lack of ambition, as the whole season had a unifying arc entitled The Trial of the Time Lord, in which The Doctor was forced to defend himself in court to his fellow Time Lords and various new adventures are presented as evidence of his transgressions. It is a shorter season of only four serials and 14 episodes. There was actually a whole other six-serial 23rd season that was written, but when the BBC postponed the season for almost a year as a cost-cutting measure those scripts were scrapped and it was re-written from scratch. Baker didn't actually want to leave his role as The Doctor, but BBC One controller Michael Grade wanted him out, and Baker refused to film his regeneration scene. When The Sixth Doctor became The Seventh Doctor, Seventh Doctor actor Sylvester McCoy had to briefly wear a wig to pretend to be The Sixth Doctor. Despite all that, this is a great gift for classic Doctor Who fans. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Doctor Who: The Complete Eleventh Series Blu-ray (BBC)

RRP: $64.99

The gamble of finally casting a woman as The Doctor paid off big time. Jodie Whittaker's performance as The Thirteenth Doctor has been generally well liked, the ratings have been good, and changing the gender of the character has felt pretty seamless; Whittaker simply is The Doctor. Whittaker's second Doctor Who season starts in January, making it a good time to catch up on the first. It was the first season with writer Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch) as the showrunner and is the eleventh season overall of the modern era of Doctor Who. The season premiere, "The Woman Who Fell to Earth," successfully introduced The Thirteenth Doctor and her new companions Graham O'Brien (Bradley Walsh), Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), and Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill). The season's best episode might be "Rosa," in which the heroes end up in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 and have to make sure Rosa Parks goes ahead with her famous bus protest, even though a racist time traveler from the future is bent on engineering a different outcome. The two-disc Blu-ray set includes all 10 episodes and various special features. By Mark Refern (Buy it here.)

Doctor Who: Resolution Blu-ray (BBC)

RRP: $24.98

Traditionally each Christmas Day the BBC and BBC America have aired a special episode of Doctor Who. Perhaps because the show had exhausted clever ways to shoehorn a Christmas theme into the special episodes, starting this year the show switched to specials that aired on New Year's Day, beginning with Resolution. The special does take place on New Year's Day, but isn't overly concerned with the holiday. Instead it features the return of one of The Doctor's most fearsome foes, the first time that Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor has faced them (I won't ruin the surprise of who they are, in case you haven't seen it). The special aired only three weeks after the eleventh season's finale ("The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos") and was actually a more epic ending to the season than the actual finale. The twelfth season actually begins on the next New Year's Day, with a special episode airing on January 1, 2020. The Blu-ray includes a making of documentary, among other special feature. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

The Fly Collection Blu-ray (Scream Factory)

RRP: $79.97

Scream Factory's The Fly Collection not only includes David Cronenberg's Jeff Goldblum-starring body horror masterpiece and its sequel, but the original Vincent Price trilogy that inspired it—now, this is how you package films. All five movies come with new audio commentaries, while the two from the 1980s overflow with newly curated extras that feature many all-new interviews with the films' crews. Watch the two series separately for a great look at how greatly sci-fi horror changed over the course of only 30 years. (From the differences, more than 100 years may as well have gone by.) Goldblum's 1986 turn as the scientist transforming into an insect is the best of the bunch, but also the toughest to stomach; the Academy Award-winning makeup is as gross as anything you'll see to this day. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Four Weddings and a Funeral - 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

RRP: $22.97

This year Four Weddings and a Funeral was remade as a Hulu series created by Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton and also returned as the charity short film One Red Nose Day and a Wedding made by original director Mike Newell and reuniting the original cast. This year also sees the 25th anniversary of the romantic comedy written by Richard Curtis. The film was a surprise hit upon its release in 1994, making $245.7 million against a £3 million budget and becoming the highest-grossing British film in history at the time. The film also made a star out of Hugh Grant, who wasn't that well known outside of his native England, despite multiple previous film roles. But it's also an ensemble piece about a group of friends, mainly taking place at the four weddings and one funeral they all attend together over the course of a year or so. Special features on the 25th Anniversary Edition include a new 4K scan from the original camera negative and a new interview with director of photography Michael Coulter. There are also features from previous editions of the film, including audio commentary and various documentaries/featurettes. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

The Good Fight - Season Three DVD (CBS/Paramount)

RRP: $39.98

Everyone knows that there are already too many streaming services to pay for, what with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, DC Universe, Apple TV+, and others, with HBO Max coming next year. CBS All Access doesn't get as much attention as some of the bigger streaming services, but it does feature some notable original shows, such as Star Trek: Discovery, Jordan Peele's Twilight Zone reboot, and the upcoming Star Trek: Picard. Its first original drama, however, was The Good Fight. A spinoff of The Good Wife, Christine Baranski reprises her role as Diane Lockhart, joining a new law firm that's primarily made up of African American lawyers. It's a highly left-leaning, progressive show that pulls no punches when it comes to President Donald Trump. One episode of the second season centered on whether or not the infamous Trump "pee tape" was real. In season three Diane investigates potential extramarital affairs of Trump. The season also dives headfirst into the #MeToo movement, with the law firm's recently deceased founder Carl Reddick posthumously accused of sexually harassing and raping his longtime assistant. Meanwhile Diane's husband Kurt McVeigh, a Republican gun expert played by Gary Cole, has been accidentally shot (just a flesh wound) when taking Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. on a hunting trip. If you're a diehard Republican, this might not be the show for you, although there's much more to it than Trump bashing, with plenty of other characters, subplots, and interesting court cases. Special features include deleted scenes, a gag reel, and as a bonus, the pilot episode of Star Trek: Discovery. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Good Omens Blu-ray (BBC)

RRP: $29.98

Good Omens is the long awaited adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's 1990 novel of the same name, with Gaiman also writing the adaptation and acting as showrunner. It stars David Tennant as the demon Crowley and Michael Sheen as the angel Aziraphale, unlikely best friends who have known each other since God created the Earth. It starts with their first meeting at the Garden of Eden and even has brief scenes at Noah's Ark and the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, but much of the action takes place in present day England, as Crowley and Aziraphale team up to take on both heaven and hell to stop the literal end of the world (meaning the Antichrist and Armageddon and the whole deal). Tennant and Sheen have fantastic chemistry together and while Good Omens may only have one season (only one book was written and Pratchett died in 2015, although Gaiman hasn't ruled out a second season), they should definitely find a way to work together again. The impressive supporting cast includes Frances McDormand as the voice of God and the show's narrator, Jon Hamm as the Archangel Gabriel, Nick Offerman, Michael McKean, Miranda Richardson, Derek Jacobi, and Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Satan. The BBC co-production may have already aired earlier this year on Amazon Prime, but even if you already watched it there, the Blu-ray set is loaded with special features, including deleted scenes, audio commentaries, making of documentaries, and more. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

The Good Place - The Complete Third Season DVD (Shout! Factory)

RRP: $19.95

The Good Place is one of the most original and laugh-out-loud funny TV comedies of the decade. It's almost sad that it's ending with its current fourth season, but there's something to be said for a show ending on its own terms and going out strong. Certainly too many great shows have overstayed their welcome. The initial concept is that four humans end up in the afterlife, The Good Place, which is run by Michael (Ted Danson) and his android assistant Janet (D'Arcy Carden). The humans are Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop, William Jackson Harper as Chidi Anagonye, Jameela Jamil as Tahani Al-Jamil, and Manny Jacinto as Jason Mendoza. In the first episode Eleanor (who was a selfish saleswoman back on Earth) reveals to Chidi (who was an ethics professor) that she doesn't belong in The Good Place after all, she was really an awful person on Earth and she's been confused with another Eleanor Shellstrop, who was a lawyer who defended convicts on death row. A big twist at the end of season one completely changed up the show for season two. Season three flipped the script once again, with the four being sent back to Earth with their memories of the afterlife wiped, giving them a second chance to prove themselves worthy of The Good Place. Notable recurring performers in the season included Maya Rudolph, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Adam Scott. Special features on the season three DVD set include extended episodes, a gag reel, and a visual effects reel. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Gotham - The Complete Series Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)

RRP: $112.99

Batman has made his way to both the big and small screen many times over, but never quite like in Gotham. It's a Batman series masquerading as a Batman prequel. Future Batman Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) is but a boy in season one, when his parents are murdered in front of him, leaving him to be brought up by his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee). But the main character is a young police detective, James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), the future Police Commissioner. And while it's a prequel to the adventures of The Dark Knight, the young Wayne battles most of his iconic villains before he even becomes Batman, including The Penguin, The Riddler, Catwoman, Ra's al Ghul, Mad Hatter, and Poison Ivy. As long as you lean into the colorful ridiculousness, it's quite fun for the Batman fan, even if it's a bit of alternate history. All five seasons are collected on this Blu-ray set, all building up to Wayne finally becoming Batman, just like how Smallville handled Superman. Each disc includes a slew of special features. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.) 

Green Book Blu-ray/DVD (Universal)

RRP: $9.50 (Blu-ray) $10.00 (DVD)

Some diehard cinephiles may not have been happy about Green Book winning the Oscar for Best Picture earlier this year. And sure, the film may have been packed with what could be termed as "Oscar bait," it being a historical true story dealing with race. But taken on its own merits, Green Book is a good film with excellent performances from Viggo Mortensen as Italian American bouncer Frank "Tony Lip" Vallelonga and Mahershala Ali as the jazz pianist Don Shirley. In 1962, Shirley hires Vallelonga to be his driver and bodyguard on a tour of the Deep South and an unlikely friendship blossoms. Special features on the Blu-ray edition include various making of type documentaries. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Heathers - 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray (RLJE/Lakeshore)

RRP: $39.98

Heathers probably couldn't be made today, in a post-Columbine world, at least not in its existing form. In fact the 2018 premiere of the Heathers TV series based on the movie was postponed due to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and show was eventually cancelled after one season, with some episodes not even airing on the intended Paramount Network, due to content concerns. The 1988 original is the darkest of dark high school comedies. Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) tires of her popular girl clique, all named Heather, and falls for the murderous new bad boy at school, Jason "J.D." Dean (Christian Slater). J.D. manipulates Veronica into helping him murder popular students and making them seem like suicides. Ryder and Slater have palpable chemistry and Daniel Waters' screenplay is filled with memorable lines. Heathers was not a hit, but has grown into a cult classic. This 30th anniversary steelbook edition includes new interviews with Waters, director Michael Lehmann, composer David Newman, and actress Lisanne Falk, along with classic special features from earlier editions of the film. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.) 

Hedwig and the Angry Inch Blu-ray/DVD (Criterion)

RRP: $39.95 (Blu-ray)/$29.95 (DVD) 

John Cameron Mitchell's 2001 musical was an instant cult hit, even if it failed to sell tickets to mass audiences. A dizzying mix of varying film styles and DIY ethos, it was Hedwig's lively rocky music—taken from Mitchell's and lyricist Stephen Trask's stage version—and Mitchell's own heightened performance as the movie's damaged yet charismatic lead that have helped it endure for decades. The movie follows singer Hedwig, born in Germany as a male, who undergoes a botched sex change operation for her G.I. lover, who leaves her. Later an American immigrant, she follows another ex-lover around the country, performing incendiary rock concerts with her band at a chain of dirty seafood buffets. We get her story through these songs, which play like music videos. Criterion's Blu-ray includes a new restoration and recent conversations with the cast and crew, as well as all of the old supplements from the nearly 20-year-old DVD release. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

John Carpenter's Vampires Blu-ray (Scream Factory)

RRP: $29.99

It's true what Joni Mitchell said about us being unable to appreciate what we've got until it's gone. Vampires underwhelmed many critics and horror fans when it was released in 1998, probably because it was hard to accept that not every film John Carpenter made was going to be a masterpiece on par with Halloween, The Thing, They Live, or Escape from New York. But then, Carpenter would only go and make two more films over the next 21 years (and counting), and we started to look back and realize that, hey, Vampires is a lot better than we'd initially gave it credit for. The film follows a hotshot vampire hunter (James Woods) as his team attempts to hunt down the powerful Master Vampire who wiped out most of their colleagues. He must work with a sidekick (Daniel Baldwin) and the vampire's prior victim (Twin Peaks' Sheryl Lee) to stop the monster before he possesses an artifact that could bring about the end of the world. It's a fun film that rips down a lot of the tired vampire tropes, and this special edition features new interviews with both James Woods and John Carpenter. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

 

Klute Blu-ray/DVD (Criterion)

RRP: $39.95 (Blu-ray)/$29.95 (DVD) 

Jane Fonda deservedly won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in 1971's Klute. She plays Bree Daniels, a struggling model/actress who's also a high-class prostitute on the side. A seemingly happy married man goes missing and one of his friends, former police officer John Klute (Donald Sutherland), agrees to investigate his disappearance, which brings him to Bree. Roy Scheider also stars. Alan J. Pakula directed the movie and it was the first in what became known as his "paranoia" trilogy, followed by 1974 conspiracy thriller The Parallax View and 1976 Watergate drama All the President's Men. Special features on Criterion's new Blu-ray includes a new interview with Fonda on the movie, conducted by fellow actress Illeana Douglas. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Local Hero Blu-ray/DVD (Criterion)

RRP: $39.95 (Blu-ray)/$29.95 (DVD)

Local Hero is a charming film from 1983 that over the years has garnered critical acclaim and a cult following, but it's also not a film many know about. It stars Peter Riegert as Mac, a Houston, Texas-based oil executive who is sent by his slightly bonkers boss Felix Happer (Burt Lancaster) to the small Scottish seaside village of Ferness to essentially buy up the whole town so they can put in a new oil refinery there. He is aided by Scotish company representative Danny Oldsen (in an early role from Peter Capaldi, many years before playing The Doctor in Doctor Who). The quirky characters of Ferness contribute to much of Local Hero's surprising humor. Criterion's new edition of the film includes audio commentary with director Bill Forsyth and film critic Mark Kermode, a new conversation between Forsyth and film critic David Caurns, a 1983 episode of The South Bank Show on the production of the film, and more. Many more should discover this charming gem, so gift it to them. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Mary Poppins Returns Blu-ray/DVD (Disney)

RRP: $19.00 

Emily Blunt was perfectly cast as Mary Poppins in this sequel 54 years in the making, but set 25 years after the original film. The Banks kids from 1964's Mary Poppins have now grown into Ben Whishaw as Michael and Emily Mortimer as Jane, with the recently widowed Michael having two kids of his own now. Their magical former nanny returns in a time of crisis, floating in by umbrella of course, and what follows is a delightful adventure featuring musical numbers, Lin-Manuel Miranda as a cockney lamp-lighter, a journey into the an animated world of a priceless decorated bowl, and much more. Plus Dick Van Dyke, who played Bert in the original film, returns as a new character and dances up a storm despite being in his 90s. The Blu-ray includes over an hour of special features, including a deleted song, bloopers, deleted scenes, and a sing-along version of the film. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

1984 Blu-ray/DVD (Criterion)

RRP: $39.95 (Blu-ray)/$29.95 (DVD)

1984 is not an easy film to watch, as one might expect from a film based on George Orwell's 1949 novel about a dystopian future ruled by a totalitarian government constantly monitoring its people and always at war. Still, Michael Radford's film was actually released in 1984 and featured a stunning central performance from John Hurt as Winston Smith. It's considered the best adaptation of the novel. Criterion's new Blu-ray release includes a new 4k digital restoration by cinematographer Roger Deakins and new interviews with Radford and Deakins. You can also watch the film with either of the two soundtracks created for it. Dominic Muldowney originally did the score, but then the producers enlisted Eurythmics to do a new, more '80s synth-pop friendly score, a move Radford was firmly against. Eurythmics weren't aware of the other score when they recorded their score, which is the one that was used in the film's theatrical release. How many fingers do you see? Four or five? By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Blu-ray/DVD (Columbia)

RRP: $22.96

Quentin Tarantino has been talking lately about whether or not he'll follow through on his plan to stop at 10 films. Will Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, his ninth film, actually be his swansong, as it perfectly encapsulates everything that's great about the filmmaker? Will he actually make that R-rated Star Trek film he hatched, which would be his first film for a preexisting franchise? You can understand why a director with such a near-spotless track record wouldn't want to gamble with his legacy by making one or more too many films with declining quality. But he is only 56. Clint Eastwood is 89 and still directing movies. It's hard to imagine Tarantino really giving up filmmaking anytime soon. If he does pack it in one film early with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it would be a helluva a way to go out. The film is set in Los Angeles in 1969, with the Manson murders as the backdrop, in particular the real life murder of actress Sharon Tate. But just like in his 2009 World War II drama Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino messes with history. Margot Robbie plays Tate and Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt play the fictional characters Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, a washed up TV star and his stunt double. The film also features Al Pacino, Lena Dunham, Damian Lewis, Bruce Dern, Dakota Fanning, Timothy Olyphant, Margaret Qualley, Emile Hirsch, Nicolas Hammond, Kurt Russell, and the late Luke Perry. Special features on the Blu-ray edition include seven additional scenes and various featurettes. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Peanuts 70th Anniversary Holiday Collection Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)

RRP: $99.99 

It's hard to enter the holiday season and not desire to watch some of the Peanuts holiday specials. In fact, they regular top the TV ratings on the night they are shown each year, despite most fans having already watched them time and time again. They have become that much of a tradition and also new generations of children discover the joy of watching Linus wait for The Great Pumpkin and so on. This is billed as Peanuts 70th Anniversary Holiday Collection, although we're talking about the 70th anniversary of Charles M. Schulz's comic strips, which hit that milestone next year, having debuted in 1950. The first TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, didn't premiere for another 15 years. That's included in this box set, along with 1966's It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and 1973's A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Each disc also includes bonus specials and episodes, such as 1992's It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown and 1988's "The Mayflower Voyages" episode of the miniseries This Is America, Charlie Brown. While this far from a definitive collection (there are 45 Peanuts TV specials in all, going all the way up to 2011's Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown), but it covers Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas and the limited edition set comes packaged in Snoopy's iconic red doghouse, complete with a Snoopy figure. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

RoboCop Blu-ray (Arrow)

RRP: $39.95

"I'd buy that for a dollar!" Well $39.95 to be exact. RoboCop is a 1987 sci-fi classic directed by Paul Verhoeven. If you appreciate films of that decade you've liking seen it, but in short, Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is a murdered cop turned into a sophisticated crime fighting cyborg and a dystopian future version of Detroit. The film holds up incredibly well 32 years later. Alas, the quality of the original RoboCop has never been closely matched by either of its sequels, a Canadian TV miniseries, a more family friendly Canadian TV series, a cartoon show, and a 2014 remake. Only the original RoboCop is a classic. Although there is a direct sequel, RoboCop Returns, in the works that ignores everything else featuring RoboCop and hopefully that'll be a return to form. Arrow's new Blu-ray release includes the more violent director's cut, as well as the original theatrical cut. There's also lots and lots of bonus content, as well as an extensive booklet and a fold out poster. It's also available in a steelbook edition. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Scooby-Doo Where Are You? The Complete Series Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)

RRP: $89.95

It can get exhausting when considering all the straight-to-video and direct-to-DVD Scooby-Doo movies that have been made of the years, including a pretty good one featuring Batman, not to mention some of the live action movies and all the various TV series. Next year also sees the release of the new computer-animated theatrical film SCOOB!, which seems to be an origin story and had a promising first trailer. But it all started with Scooby-Doo Where Are You?, the original Saturday morning cartoon from Hanna-Barbera that first aired in 1969 and 1970 on CBS, returning in 1978 on ABC, with The New Scooby Doo Movies and other Scooby shows airing in between. I'm sure you know the premise: Scooby (a talking dog) and his four teenage friends (Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, and Shaggy Rogers) travel around in the Mystery Machine van, solving crimes and de-masking criminal ("And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"). This set collects all 41 episodes of Scooby-Doo Where Are You? on Blu-ray. It comes in a cool box that resembles a haunted house and also contains a little POP! Scooby-Doo keychain. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Shampoo Blu-ray/DVD (Criterion)

RRP: $39.95 (Blu-ray)/$29.95 (DVD)

Shampoo wouldn't be a hit today, but it was the third most successful film of 1975. That was also the year that Jaws was the #1 movie of the year, a picture that helped define the modern blockbuster. Looking at the top movies of 2018, for example, almost the whole Top 11 are big budget tentpole-movies featuring superheroes or other action heroes. But the 1970s was a different time, where character-focused dramas could be some of the biggest movies of the year. In 1975, Shampoo was bookended by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Dog Day Afternoon at #2 and #4. Shampoo stars Warren Beatty as George Roundy, a womanizing Beverly Hills hairdresser hoping to start up his own salon. It takes place in 1968 at the exact time Richard Nixon was elected president. Roundy's girlfriend is struggling actress Jill Haynes (Goldie Hawn), but he is cheating on her with various women connected to a potential investor in his new business, Lester Karpf (Jack Warden). Not only is Roundy sleeping with Karpf's wife, Felicia (Lee Grant), but also with Karpf's mistress, Jackie Shawn (Julie Christie), who happens to be Roundy's ex-girlfriend. He also has a one-off sexual encounter with Karpf's adult daughter Lorna Karpf (Carrie Fisher). Shampoo hasn't completely aged well, what with Roundy's disrespectful treatment of women and some gay slurs (some assume Roundy is gay because he's a hairdresser). But the film does have a manic energy fueled by Beatty's performance. Special features on Criterion's new Blu-ray are somewhat sparse, with just a new conversation between critics Mark Harris and Frank Rich on Shampoo, an excerpt from a 1998 appearance by Beatty on The South Bank Show discussing the movie, and an essay by Rich. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Someone to Watch Over Me Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

RRP: $25.49

As a Ridley Scott fan—thanks to 1982'a Blade Runner, 1979's Alien, and 1991's Thelma & Louise—I've always been curious to check out Someone to Watch Over Me, a thriller Scott directed in 1987. Thanks to Shout! Factory's new Blu-ray release of the movie I finally did. The film wasn't much of a hit upon its release, but has 1980s style to spare due to Scott's atmospheric shots of New York City at night. Upscale socialite Claire Gregory (Mimi Rogers) witnesses the murder of her friend. Married working class police Detective Mike Keegan (Tom Berenger) is assigned to protect her. Things get messy when they fall for each other. Lorraine Braco (in one of her first major roles, pre-Goodfellas and The Sorpranos) plays Keegan's wife, Ellie. The Blu-ray release isn't overloaded with special features, but does include new interviews with writer Howard Franklin and director of photography Steven Poster. This would be a good gift for Ridley Scott completists. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Star Trek: Discovery Season Two Blu-ray/DVD (CBS/Paramount)

RRP: $33.44 (Blu-ray)/$26.98 (DVD)

The previous Star Trek prequel series, Star Trek: Enterprise, is probably the worst Star Trek series and brought an end to Star Trek on TV for a long while after it was cancelled in 2005. Since then there were the three Kelvin Timeline movies featuring a new cast as Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew, but on the small screen there was a 12-year drought. Then in 2017 Trekkies got the new Star Trek series they deserved, Star Trek: Discovery. The main problem with Discovery is that it airs exclusively on the CBS All Access streaming service that you have to pay extra for, because it is 100% worth watching. It's the most cinematic of Trek shows, in terms of design, cinematography, and special effects. Sonequa Martin-Green stars as Michael Burnham, a former first officer and the science specialist on the Discovery. She's human, but was raised on Vulcan after the death of her parents. This is not the first Star Trek show to be lead by a woman (Star Trek: Voyager has that honor), but it's the first where the captain of the ship isn't the main character. The show takes place around 10 years prior to the original 1960s series. Season one saw an epic war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, as well as a visit to the Mirror Universe. Season two finds the Discovery investigating seven mysterious signals and trying to track down Burnham adoptive brother, who just happens to be Spock. All 14 episodes are collected on this set. Special features include nine behind-the-scenes featurettes, two Star Trek: Short Treks, audio commentary on select episodes, deleted and extended scenes, and gag reel. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

RRP: $24.99

Vida (Patrick Swayze) and Noxeema (Wesley Snipes) win the chance to compete in a national drag queen pageant in Los Angeles and decide to bring the down-and-out Chi-Chi (John Leguizamo) with them. They get their hands on an old convertible and set off on their cross-country road trip only to break down in a conservative Podunk, where they're forced to wait until their car is repaired. While the sheltered townfolk have never seen anything like them, the trio make their presence felt in the community.

You'd think a movie from 1995 starring three straight actors as fish-out-of-water drag queens would have more problems, but To Wong Foo holds up far better after 25 years than probably anyone expected. The filmmakers—who appear in a newly recorded documentary about the making of the film—tried to be respectful of their main characters and their situation, even if the premise is hard to believe. All in all, though, it's a fun, campy, and heartfelt comedy. Other bonus features include deleted scenes and promotional spots. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

 

Toy Story 4 Blu-ray/DVD (Disney)

RRP: $16.99

They didn't need to make a Toy Story 4. 2010's Toy Story 3 was acclaimed by critics and fans as one of the best movies of the year (Quentin Tarantino even named it his #1 favorite movie of that year) and made more at the box office than the first two Toy Story movies combined, becoming the highest grossing animated movie ever (well, until Frozen came out four years later and Frozen's record has since been broken several times over). Thematically, it was also a perfect end to the series, with Andy growing up and leaving for college and eventually giving his toys to a new little girl, Bonnie. So some were skeptical when Toy Story 4 was announced, but director Josh Cooley pulled the film off very nicely, nearly reaching the heights of Toy Story 3 and naturally continuing the story with Bonnie, bringing back Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and introducing some delightful new characters, including homemade creation Forky (Tony Hale), Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), and Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves). With the film's poignant ending, the question now arises, "do we really need a Toy Story 5?" Then again, if they keep making the films at this level of quality then why not? Special features include deleted scenes and various behind-the-scenes documentaries. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Untamed Heart Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

RRP: $16.67

Untamed Heart is a forgotten gem from 1993. It stars three actors who were decidedly up-and-coming at the time, but was only a modest box office success at the time. Marisa Tomei was fresh off her Oscar win as Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny and stars as Caroline, a waitress in a diner. Her fellow waitress and best friend Cindy is played by Rosie Perez, a year after her star-making turn in White Men Can't Jump and just before getting her own Best Supporting Actress nomination for Fearless. Christian Slater, already known for Heathers, Pump Up the Volume, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, plays Adam, a quiet busboy at the diner who also has a rare heart condition. Adam comes to Caroline's rescue when she is almost raped walking home by two men she used to go to high school with. Soon a romance between Caroline and Adam blooms. All three give credible performances and this Blu-ray would make a good gift for a fan of any of the actors. Special features are slight, with only audio commentary from director Tony Bill and the film's trailer. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

When Harry Met Sally: 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

RRP: $29.99

One of the all-time greatest romantic comedies comes to Blu-ray in a new 30th Anniversary Edition from Shout! Factory. Rob Reiner directed the film about two friends who fall in love over the years, with fantastic chemistry between stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, not to mention great supporting performances from Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby as their best friends (they have both sadly died since the film's release). This release includes a new conversation with Reiner and Crystal and a new 4K scan of the original camera negative. Also includes are various special features from previous editions, including audio commentary from Reiner, Crystal, and late writer Nora Ephron. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

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