Under the Radar’s 2023 Holiday Gift Guide, Part 3: New Movies & TV on Home Video | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, February 22nd, 2024  

Under the Radar’s 2023 Holiday Gift Guide, Part 3: New Movies & TV on Home Video

Part II of Our 2023 Home Video Gift Guide

Dec 08, 2023 By Austin Trunick and Mark Redfern Photography by Mark Redfern
Bookmark and Share

Our 2023 home video gift guide was so big that we had to break it up across two parts. Below, you’ll find our gift suggestions for some of the latest movies and TV shows making their debut on home video. Looking for classic films and TV, or perhaps a few holiday movie gift ideas? Click here to head back to our previous home video gift guide entry.

Modern Movies & Television

Avatar: The Way of Water Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/Digital Code (20th Century Studios/Disney)

RRP: $39.99

Even though 2009’s Avatar is the biggest film of all time at the worldwide box office (if you don’t adjust for inflation/higher ticket prices), when writer/director James Cameron took 13 years to craft its sequel some skeptics questioned whether or not audiences would still be excited to return to the alien world of Pandora. Cameron has been doubted before, such as when his three-hour movie about the sinking of Titanic went over budget and past its schedule and we all know how that turned out. Still, no franchise in infallible (see the recent disappointing grosses of various recent Marvel and DC films) and close to a generation had passed between the two Avatar movies. Of course Cameron delivered yet again (when has he not?) and Avatar: The Way of Water is every bit as spectacular as its predecessor, perhaps even more so thanks to various advances in effects technology in the ensuing years. Unadjusted for inflation, Avatar: The Way of Water is now the third biggest film of all-time, just below Avengers: Endgame and just above Titanic, making Cameron the only director to have more than one film in the all-time Top 10, not to mention three films in the Top 5! With Avatar 3 due out in 2025, a relatively short three-year gap between sequels, and the fourth and fifth movies scheduled for 2029 and 2031, Cameron might further dominate the rankings in the future.

I saw Avatar: The Way of Water in IMAX 3D, Cameron’s preferred viewing choice. And it’s really a film that lends itself to 3D. If you have a 3D TV or projector, then the 3D Blu-ray is the way to go, even though 3D home viewing seems to have declined in recent years. Due to the length of the movie, it has to be spread out over two 3D discs, which harkens back to the days of flipping a laserdisc midway through the movie! By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Blue Beetle 4K UHD (Warner Bros.)

RRP: $29.96

It’s a real shame that Blue Beetle didn’t find the audience it deserved when it was released this past summer. Blame it on superhero fatigue or the fact that DC Comics fans are sitting out 2023’s lame duck movie season, waiting for James Gunn’s rebooted DC universe to arrive with 2025’s Superman Legacy. Those who skipped Blue Beetle in the theater missed a fun superhero film with a lot of heart, and told from a unique perspective. Sure, some of the basic superhero origin story beats are familiar, but Blue Beetle is the first major superhero movie to be headlined by a Latino character, Jaime Reyes (played by Cobra Kai’s Xolo Maridueña). It was made by a Latino director, Ángel Manuel Soto, and filmed partially in his native Puerto Rico (as well as in Miami, Atlanta, and elsewhere). And whereas in most of these types of movies, the hero goes it alone and conceals their powers from their family, Jaime’s family is by his side throughout the whole adventure, from when he first fuses with the sentient alien scarab that turns him into a warrior, to the climax where they all help rescue him from the villainous Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon, clearly enjoying playing a baddie). Jamie’s family are fully drawn characters, with screenwriter Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer pulling from his own family background. Highlights include George Lopez as the eccentric, conspiracy theory loving Uncle Rudy (described as the “Mexican Doc Brown”) and Adriana Barraza as Jaime’s beloved Nana, a grandma with a surprising revolutionary past.

The film was originally intended to be an exclusive for HBO Max, before Warner Bros. wisely upped the budget and shifted it to a theatrical release. While a direct sequel to Blue Beetle seems unlikely due to its low box office receipts, Gunn has said that Maridueña will continue to play the character in the rebooted DC universe. Hopefully more audiences will discover the film on Blu-ray or streaming. The Blu-ray release includes a slew of behind-the-scenes documentaries and they show off that the impressive Blue Beetle costume existed in real life, and was not a CGI creation. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Clerks: The Complete Movie Collection Blu-ray (Lionsgate)

RRP: $129.99

“I’m not even supposed to be here today!”

It’s hard for many of us to believe it’s been almost 30 years since the release of Kevin Smith’s Clerks—that is, until you watch all three films in the trilogy back-to-back and see what the march of time does to these characters. (And then, inevitably, look at yourself in the mirror and wonder where the years went.) It’s easy to write off the Clerks movies as little more than delivery vehicles for vulgar jokes and geeky pop culture references—and to be fair, large chunks of these movies consist of exactly that—but taken together, they’re a long-format meditation on male friendship and mortality. Between all of the dick jokes and Star Wars diatribes, the Clerks movies have a lot to say. (And for those who haven’t seen it yet, be warned: Clerks III is the Toy Story 3 of the series. Prepare to cry.)

Housed in a heavy cardboard recreation of the Quick Stop convenience store, Clerks: The Complete Movie Collection includes all three theatrical movies on Blu-ray format, and stuffed with bonus features. Clerks (1994) is Smith’s independent classic, shot with his friends for under $30k at the store where he actually worked—and launched Smith’s expansive, media-hopping ViewAskewniverse. The movie follows store clerk Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) and his best friend, Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson), who works at the adjoining video rental shop, as they offend customers and do just about everything but work while Dante weighs reconciling with his girlfriend or getting back together with his ex. Clerks II (2006) has both now working together at a fast food chain, up to similar antics but twelve years older and coping with different pressures. Clerks III (2022) brings the story back full circle, with Dante helping Randal—who just survived a heart attack—make a film at the Quick Stop about his life as a retail clerk. It’s essentially a fictionalized spin on the making of the original Clerks, full of winks toward the fans who’ve followed Smith’s work for the last three decades.

All three movies come with an insane amount of extras—many, many hours’ worth—as Smith and company like to spoil those of us who’ve enjoyed the individual universe that he’s built. For fans of his movies, this Clerks collection is the ultimate gift. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

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

RRP: $149.99

When Ezra Miller was cast as The Flash in the big screen Justice League movie, many fans were disappointed that they didn’t just turn to Grant Gustin. By the time Justice League came out, Gustin had been playing The Flash (aka Barry Allen) on the small screen for three years and for many people he simply was the Scarlett Speedster. Unlike the MCU, at the time DC Comics’ big screen movies had a whole different continuity to the Arrowverse, a collection of interconnected DC Comics superhero shows on the CW (and briefly on CBS in the case of Supergirl’s first season) that was kicked off in 2012 by the Green Arrow show Arrow.

The year Gustin was born, 1990, saw the debut of the only other live action Flash TV show, which was cancelled after only one season, and the super fast hero was certainly not as familiar to casual TV viewers as such DC heavy hitters as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. And yet The Flash, the second Arrowverse show and spun off after Barry Allen debuted in a few episodes of Arrow, was an instant hit, eventually becoming the CW’s biggest show. Part of that was down to Gustin’s everyman/underdog likability, but he was also backed up by a beloved supporting cast. The show finally aired its last episode this past May and now Warner Bros. have collected the entire series on Blu-ray.

Any show that lasts nine seasons is bound to have its ups and downs, as well as cast changes. Certainly the demands of a network TV show equaling as many as 23 episodes a season, meant that not every episode or season could be a winner. Some fans will tell you the first season was about as perfect as it got, but highlights abounded throughout its run, including a season three musical crossover episode with Supergirl (both Gustin and Supergirl star Melissa Benoist were trained in music theater and got their start on Glee). The bigger Arrowverse crossover episodes were a huge TV event every season, the most notable being Crisis on Infinite Earths, based on the classic mid-’80s comic book miniseries. It not only brought together the casts of all the Arrowverse shows, but also brought back previous DC Comics actors, including Burt Ward (Robin from the 1960s live action Batman show), Tom Welling and Erica Durance (Superman and Lois Lane from Smallville), and John Wesley Shipp (who played The Flash in the 1990s show and also played Barry’s dad in the modern show). Even Ezra Miller had a cameo as the movie Flash, showing that the film and TV versions did coexist in different universes. If there’s one complaint about this box set, it’s that the full crossovers aren’t included, meaning that you only get The Flash episodes and will have to seek out the subsequent episodes of Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and/or Batwoman elsewhere to continue the crossover stories. Still, that’s a minor quibble, and the 34-disc The Flash: The Complete Series is loaded with hours upon hours of extras, including deleted scenes, gag reels, and behind-the-scenes documentaries.

The Flash’s first season debuted at a difficult time for me, when I was saying goodbye to my father as he was dying from cancer. The optimism and hope exuded by the show in that first season helped me grapple with my grief. The Flash had a good run (pun intended) and while it was time to end the show on its own terms, it will be missed. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 4K UHD/Blu-ray/Digital (Disney)

RRP: $39.99

Writer/director James Gunn was almost cancelled. When years old insensitive jokes the filmmaker posted to Twitter were dug up, Disney fired him from Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, even though the first draft of the script was already written. The Guardians cast issued a statement in support of their leader, but then Warner Bros. snapped Gunn up to helm a project from Marvel rival DC. The Suicide Squad was Gunn unleashed, an incredibly violent and outlandish R-rated superhero film that was well-received by critics and led to the spinoff Peacemaker TV series on the then-named HBO Max. Gunn was eventually wisely rehired by Disney, but his commitments to The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker delayed the production start for Guardians 3 and now Gunn has formerly left Marvel and Disney altogether to help run DC’s film division and write/direct 2025’s Superman Legacy. So Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 is one last Marvel hurrah from Gunn and likely the last Guardians film with the original character lineup. Gunn’s style is so imprinted on the three films, it would be jarring for another director to step in at this point.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 was one of the lone superhero bright spots at the box office in 2023. All the other live action superhero films released this year have either underperformed or outright flopped, including Marvel flicks Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and The Marvels, as well as the last vestiges of the DCEU (Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Flash, and Blue Beetle). Although the animated superhero film Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse was a huge hit. Like the first two films, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 was filled with heart and humor, and featured creative action sequences and a killer soundtrack. It was also a little darker than its predecessors due to a flashback subplot involving Rocket and animal testing. Special features include a gag reel, deleted scenes, director’s commentary, and behind-the-scenes documentaries. Whether or not superhero fatigue is a real thing, it appears that DC is in good hands with James Gunn. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny 4K UHD/Blu-ray/Digital (Disney)

RRP: $39.99

It’s a bit bewildering that Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny didn’t do better at the box office and with critics. Almost everyone I know who saw it absolutely loved it. Perhaps it was due to the 15-year gap since Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a film that was poorly received by fans. Most younger moviegoers weren’t as familiar with the character, as they weren’t even alive when the previous film came out, and older patrons were still reeling from the disappointment caused by The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Maybe they shouldn’t have first screened the film at the Cannes Film Festival a month before its release, where the hoity-toity critics were harsher than necessary, leaving the film with a not great Rotten Tomatoes score for several weeks before a wider range of reviewers got to see it. Also, the summer of 2023 was overcrowded with blockbuster releases (a similar thing happened in the summer of 1989, when Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was one of the biggest movies of the year), leading to several films underperforming, including The Flash, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Blue Beetle, The Little Mermaid, Elemental, and others. It was especially hard to compete with the combined force of Barbie and Oppenheimer. Whatever the reason, hopefully more viewers can discover the delights of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny now that it’s on Blu-ray and streaming.

It is the first Indy film not to be directed by Steven Spielberg, who stepped aside after years of development to give a younger filmmaker the chance to inject a fresh perspective into the franchise. James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, The Wolverine, Logan, Ford v Ferrari) took over directing duties. It’s also the first Indy film not to be produced by George Lucas and is the last to feature Harrison Ford in the title role.

The entire opening takes place in 1944, thanks to some nifty de-aging technology, which makes it feel like one of the beloved first three Indiana Jones films. Then events jump ahead to 1969 and Indy is retired, before being brought back into action by his goddaughter Helena Shaw (a game Phoebe Waller-Bridge), which leads, of course, to a globe trotting adventure, one that also features the return of Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood and John Rhys-Davies as Sallah.

Ford is currently 81, but you wouldn’t know it based on how he holds his own in The Dial of Destiny, all the way up until the surprising climax. This 4K release includes a five-part making of documentary and an option to watch the film with just its score as the audio. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Legion of Super-Heroes 4K UHD/Blu-ray/Digital (Warner Bros.)

RRP: $11.99

This movie should’ve 100% been titled Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Superman’s teenage cousin (aka Kara Zor-El) is the main character and the whole opening of the movie is centered around her, showing Krypton’s destruction from her perspective and then jumping to Kara’s difficulty adjusting to life on 21st century Earth. It is then that Superman sends her to the 31st century to train at Legion Academy, with the best student joining Legion of Super-Heroes, a future crime fighting team inspired by Superman. From then on it’s more of a Legion of Super-Heroes movie, but Supergirl remains the lead character, alongside Brainiac 5, who Kara is initially at odds with.

Directed by Jeff Wamester and written by Josie Campbell, Legion of Super-Heroes is one of the latest in the Tomorrowverse, a series of interconnected animated films based on DC Comics superheroes, all released directly to DVD/Blu-ray (and eventually to the Max streaming service). The animation is colorful and attractive and the voice work, led by Meg Donnelly as Kara, is strong. Some have even suggested that Donnelly could play Kara in the upcoming Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow live action film (she’s certainly the right age and looks the part), provided they don’t stick with Sasha Calle, who played an alternate timeline version of Supergirl in The Flash movie. Special features include various behind the scenes documentaries featuring Wamester, Campbell, Donnelly, and other voice actors, as well as two episodes from Superman: The Animated Series featuring Supergirl’s arrival on Earth, “Little Lost Girl - Part 1” and “Little Lost Girl - Part 2.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Mission: Impossible 6-Movie Collection 4K UHD/Blu-ray/Digital (Paramount)

RRP: $83.99

Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible series is simply the best action movie franchise going. While there have been some fantastic Bond films in the last few decades, the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig 007 eras haven’t been as consistent as Mission: Impossible. Of the seven films in the series thus far only one does hold up well. This box set collects the first six movies and includes each movie on both 4K and Blu-ray (which is nice, as some releases these days only include a 4K disc, but my projector isn’t 4K whereas my TV is).

The series started out strong with 1996’s Mission: Impossible, which introduced Cruise’s Ethan Hunt (as well as Ving Rhames’ Luther Stickell) and was directed by the great Brian De Palma, back when he was still near the height of his powers. The stunts aren’t as spectacular as the later films, but the sequence where Hunt is the suspended by wires when breaking into the CIA headquarters is still iconic and the climax in the Channel Tunnel is still thrilling.

2000’s Mission: Impossible 2 is the one film in the franchise that hasn’t aged well. Unlike De Palma, director John Woo imposed too much of his own style on the film and the nu-metal fueled soundtrack (Limp Bizkit, Uncle Kracker, Buckcherry, etc.) sounds dated.

Things improved for 2006’s Mission: Impossible III, which marked J. J. Abrams’ big screen directorial debut (he got the job thanks in part to his spy TV series Alias). The late Philip Seymour Hoffman was a sufficiently menacing villain and the movie introduced Simon Pegg’s Benjamin “Benji” Dunn, who would be an integral part of future movies.

2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol took things to the next level. Animation director Brad Bird made his live action directing debut with the film and did a fantastic job. This was the one where Cruise really started doing crazier stunts, such as when he climbed around the outside of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai. A case could be made for this being the best of the series, although the last two installments have perhaps been even more thrilling.

Christopher McQuarrie took over as director for 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which brought on board Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, a disavowed MI6 Agent. McQuarrie has directed every Mission: Impossible movie since and in him Cruise seems to have found a trusted collaborator.

2018’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout featured even more daring stunts, such as when Cruise actually did a HALO jump and really flew a helicopter during the climax. Cruise even broke his ankle and sustained other injuries when jumping from one roof to another in England (they used the take in the film), delaying filming by several weeks. Henry Cavill was also fantastic, playing against his Superman type.

Each disc is loaded with special features and the set includes a booklet made up to look like a top-secret dossier on each film. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (Limited Edition Steelbook) 4K UHD/Blu-ray/Digital (Paramount)

RRP: $44.99

Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie may have topped themselves with this year’s Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. It features Cruise’s greatest stunt, in which he jumped off a cliff on a motorcycle and then base jumped with a parachute off the motorcycle. A behind the scenes documentary on the 4K/Blu-ray release shows how much preparation went into the stunt. In the film, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt doesn’t have much time to consider what to do. In order to save the day, he has no choice but to make that jump. In reality, Cruise practiced the jump in safer conditions many times over, so that when it came to filming it he was fully prepared. But equally thrilling is the lengthy car chase through Rome. And for the nail-biting climax on the train, they actually had to build the locomotive as no one was willing to let them crash a real vintage train. It is truly phenomenal that in the age of CGI effects, Cruise and his team actually make the Mission: Impossible films with as many practical effects and real stunts as possible. As the special features on this release show, that’s actually Cruise fighting Esai Morales on a real moving train, rather than in a studio in front of a green screen.

Sometimes you hear about how expensive some modern blockbuster movies are and you wonder where all the money goes. But when you see all that goes into the Mission: Impossible movies you can certainly see why they are so expensive to make. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One also led to actual political policy being made, after President Joe Biden screened the film at Camp David, it helped lead to him signing an executive order on regulating AI (the film’s villain is an AI called the Entity). The only drawback to this movie is that it ends without a full on resolution, we have to wait until the next film (now coming in 2025 thanks to the actor’s strike) for this section of the Mission: Impossible saga to be resolved. The mind certainly wonders how Cruise and McQuarrie will top themselves next time. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Moonage Daydream 4K UHD/Blu-ray (The Criterion Collection)

RRP: $49.95

Brett Morgen’s 2022 film about David Bowie is not your standard music documentary. Firstly, Bowie died in 2016, so this was never going to be a fly-on-the-wall/day-in-the-life type production. But nor does it feature talking head type interviews with those closest to Bowie. Instead, Moonage Daydream is a disorientating and hypnotic continual montage, a purposeful jumble of footage of Bowie from different eras, mixed with images from silent films (such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis) and 1950s alien invasion movies (such as director Byron Haskin and producer George Pal’s The War of the Worlds).

Moonage Daydream is fueled by stunning performance footage, stretching from Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust glam days to his Berlin period and into the 21st century. Bowie acts as narrator, via fascinating archival interviews that are weaved into the film. It is the first film to be officially authorized by the Bowie estate and Morgen was given access to a treasure trove of previously unseen footage. The film certainly makes the case for Bowie being one of the most singular and influential artists of all time, in any medium. One who was constantly evolving and not just keeping up with the times, but leading the way. “So rather than be pinned down, my momentum was to hit and run very fast,” Bowie says in the film. “Once I’d done something and said it, drop it and move on.”

Criterion’s release includes the film on both 4K and Blu-ray, features audio commentary by Morgen, a previously unreleased 1974 Bowie live performance of “Rock ‘n’ Roll with Me,” a documentary on the film’s sound design, and more.

Morgen’s non-stop approach might be exhausting to some, but as Bowie says in Moonage Daydream, “Everything is rubbish and all rubbish is wonderful.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Blu-ray/DVD/Digital (Sony)

RRP: $40.99

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a master class on how to follow-up an adored film with a sequel that delivers everything you loved about the original and yet pushes it into brand new groundbreaking territory. 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse made $384 million worldwide and won the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar (as well as the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award in the same category). Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has made a staggering $690 million worldwide and is the front-runner to again win the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar (some experts have even predicted it has a chance of being nominated for Best Picture). Writers/producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller pulled out all the stops and made a film that’s both non-stop exciting and also a dazzling work of art.

My 10-year-old daughter Rose saw it seven times in the movie theater, the most times by far that she’s ever seen the same film in the theater, and has so far seen it a further three times at home. It’s now her all-time favorite film, supplanting her previous favorite film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. I saw Across the Spider-Verse five times in the theater and have seen it once at home.

The film wisely opens with an extended sequence featuring Gwen Stacy (aka Spider-Gwen or Spider-Woman), as voiced by Hailee Steinfeld, and they better make that long teased spinoff film featuring Gwen and other Spider-Women. Gwen’s universe is rendered in expressive watercolors befitting the covers of the original Spider-Gwen comic book series. Soon Gwen and the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man (voiced by Shameik Moore) are traversing the multiverse, most memorably visiting Earth-50101, which is inspired by India, where they team up with Karan Soni as Pavitr Prabhakar (aka Spider-Man India) and Daniel Kaluuya as the incredibly cool Hobie Brown (aka Spider-Punk), whose character design resembles old 1970s British punk flyers, zines, and album covers. The films ends on a cliffhanger that will lead into Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, originally scheduled for release in 2024, but now delayed to an unknown date because of the actor’s strike and likely also due to all the care that goes into making these films. The Blu-ray release has over 90 minutes of special features, including a deleted scene, commentary, and various making-of documentaries. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem 4K UHD & Blu-ray (Paramount)

RRP: $34.95

Cowabunga! The Turtles are back in Mutant Mayhem—which was the most I’ve had watching a TMNT movie since I was a kid and caught Secret of the Ooze at the local mall cineplex. This movie places emphasis on the “teenage” element of the equation, with the Turtles acting—and being voiced by—actual teenagers. It’s a coming-of-age take on their origin story, but also pits the world’s most fearsome fighting teens against a cadre of mutant villains attempting to pull off a potentially-apocalyptic plot. Rendered in an eye-grabbing, computer-animated but stop motion-esque style, the movie’s also very funny—coming from some of the same team behind Superbad and Pineapple Express.

Paramount’s 4K + Blu-ray release of the film packs a well-utilized Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which spreads the action around the room. (The soundtrack features a score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, punctuated with well-placed needle drops such as Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” and 4 Non Blonde’s “What’s Up?”) Available in a rad-looking steelbook case, Mutant Mayhem is the perfect gift for TMNT fans ages 4 to 44. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.