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Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2018 Part 11: DVDs and Blu-rays (Part Two)

Classics and Recent Films from Criterion, Shout! Factory, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Sony, Lionsgate, Universal, and More

Dec 22, 2018 Holiday Gift Guide 2018
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Welcome to part 11 of our Holiday Gift Guide 2018, which centers on DVDs and Blu-rays. It’s the second part of our DVD and Blu-ray guide, check out part one here for suggestions for TV shows, family films, and other movies. Below we highlight some classics, as well as some recent films. There are superheroes big and small, serial killers, barefooted off-duty cops, teenage werewolves, New York City hustlers, some city slickers, a jerk, and more.

We have previously posted part 1 of our 2018 gift guide (for video games), as well as part 2 (for board games), part 3 (for technology), and part 4 (for collectibles). Then there was part 5, for toys and other gifts for kids and parents, which was split into two parts: one on kid-friendly toys, books, and DVDs/Blu-rays and another one on kid-friendly board games and technology. Part 6 covered apparel and household items. Part 7 was the first installment of our guide for DVDs and Blu-rays. Part 8 was a drinking guide. Part 9 was the first installment of our guide for reissues, vinyl, and music box sets. And Part 10 featured graphic novels and books.

And in the next few days will still also be posting a gift guide centering on more music box sets and reissues. And don’t forget that Under the Radar 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.

Ant-Man and the Wasp Blu-ray (Disney)

RRP: $21.00

Given its troubled production history (with director Edgar Wright exiting over creative differences after years of development, to be replaced by Peyton Reed), it was surprising that 2015’s original Ant-Man film worked as well as it did. Sure, it wasn’t the most epic of Marvel movies, but it got by on Paul Rudd’s charm playing Scott Lang, a thief turned shrinking superhero, and his chemistry with the rest of the cast. Reed and all the main players returned for this more self-assured sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp. Since the last movie, Rudd also appeared as Ant-Man in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and this movie picks up after those events. This time Evangeline Lilly’s The Wasp (aka Hope van Dyne) shares title billing with Ant-Man and more than holds her own. Michelle Pfeiffer joins the cast as Janet van Dyne, Hope’s mother who has been lost for decades in the quantum realm. There are some amazing flashback scenes featuring Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas (who plays Hank Pym, Janet’s husband and Hope’s father) in which they have de-aged the actors via digital effects to look as they did in the 1980s and the results are flawless. They bode well for next year’s Captain Marvel, where the same effect has been applied to Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury character throughout the film. Ant-Man and the Wasp is simply a ton of fun and one of the more family friendly Marvel movies (although it is still rated PG-13). Special features on the Blu-ray include deleted scenes, a gag reel, and various behind-the-scenes documentaries. (Buy it here.)

Avengers: Infinity War Blu-ray (Disney)

RRP: $39.99

It’s all been leading up to this. Ten years of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, starting with 2008’s Iron Man, culminate in Avengers: Infinity War, which brings together almost every character from the MCU to battle Thanos (Josh Brolin), including characters that have never interacted before (The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and more). The film was well-received by critics and broke some box office records (it’s the biggest film of 2018 and the fourth biggest film of all time at the U.S. box office). And of course it all ended on that crazy cliffhanger, with part two, Avengers: Endgame, due out next April. Who knows what comes after that, with some actors seemingly poised to leave the MCU and brother directors Anthony and Joe Russo ready to move on as well. Special features on the Blu-ray include over two hours of bonus content, including an intro and commentary by the directors, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and various behind-the-scenes documentaries. (Buy it here.)

Band Aid DVD (Shout! Factory)

RRP: $16.97

Zoe Lister-Jones is a true talent to watch. You might know her for her TV work. She currently stars as Jen Short in the underrated CBS ensemble comedy Life in Pieces (Colin Hanks plays her husband and the show has become funnier than Modern Family of late). Before that she had main roles on Whitney and Friends with Better Lives, as well as guest starring on New Girl, The Good Wife, and Bored to Death, on top of various indie films. With Band Aid she not only stars, but writes and directs the film, as well as writing some of the film’s songs. She stars as Anna. She and her husband Ben (Adam Pally) are stuck in a bit of a rut and having trouble overcoming a tragedy from a year earlier. They are fighting all the time, often about mundane things such as the dishes. Both are casual musicians and they work out a way to channel their conflict into songs, eventually forming a band with the help of their neighbor Dave (Fred Armisen), a recovering sex addict. The film has real emotional weight, but is also quite funny. Also, unlike some movies with fake bands, the songs are pretty good (I could see us covering the band in Under the Radar if they were real). The film is filled with all sorts of comedy actors you might recognize from TV and no doubt some of them are Lister-Jones’ friends, including Susie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Hannah Simone (New Girl), Retta (Parks and Recreation), Chris D’Ella (Whitney), Colin Hanks (Life in Pieces), Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy), Brooklyn Decker (Friends With Better Lives), and more. Band Aid was sadly under-seen when released in theaters in 2017, but hopefully will be discovered by home audiences and perhaps Lister-Jones’ next directorial effort will garner more attention. Special features include deleted scenes, outtakes, and an amusing music video in which Armisen tries to make it all about him by moving his drums in front of his bandmates. (Buy it here.)

Batman Ninja Blu-ray/DVD (Warner Bros.)

RRP: $19.98

There have been lots of Batman adaptations, but none quite like this one. This animated film was actually released in theaters in Japan, where it was produced, but was straight to DVD/Blu-ray/digital in America. Junpei Mizusaki directed the anime film, which was rewritten and reworked for the American version. Batman and several of his allies (Robin, Nightwing, Alfred, Catwoman, etc.) and villains (The Joker, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Bane, Penguin, Deathstroke, Gorilla Grodd, etc.) all get transported back in time to Feudal Japan (the 1500s). Everyone else has arrived two years earlier, leaving Batman at a disadvantage. It’s a visually stunning, truly crazy film, one that includes large-scale battles between giant castle robots (it was made in Japan after all). Special features include three featurettes and the original Japanese audio. (Buy it here.)

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children Blu-ray/DVD (GKIDS/Shout! Factory)

RRP: $22.97

Despite it being put out by GKIDS, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is not a kids’ film. It’s not technically rated, but it’s recommended for those 13 and up. Birdboy is a Spanish animated film that takes place on a post-apocalyptic island populated by anamorphic talking animals, including the titular Birdboy, who has a demon trapped inside of him. It’s somewhat disturbing and quite surreal. In 2016 it won the Goya Award (kind of like Spain’s Oscars) for Best Animated film. Special features on this Blu-ray/DVD combo release include an interview with the filmmakers and two short films, including the original Birdboy short. (Buy it here.)

Black Panther Blu-ray (Disney)

RRP: $16.99

What else can be said about Black Panther? It is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first film to be fronted by a black superhero, starring Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa (aka Black Panther), the king of the fictional African country Wakanda, a hidden technologically advanced utopia. With over $1.35 billion made worldwide, it’s the eighth highest grossing film of all time and there is some expectation that it may become the first superhero film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Like 2017’s Wonder Woman, the first big screen movie in a long time to be fronted by a female superhero, it became a cultural touchtone and the kind of film that people who don’t usually go see superhero movies checked out. Special features on the Blu-ray include deleted scenes, a gag reel, a roundtable with the filmmakers, and various behind-the-scenes documentaries. (Buy it here.)

The Breakfast Club Blu-ray (The Criterion Collection)

RRP: $39.95

The Breakfast Club is hard to forget about. Thirty-three years later the 1985 release is still considered one of the greatest teen movies ever and it’s probably late writer/director John Hughes’ finest achievement. The concept is simple: five high schoolers have to spend their Saturday in detention, cooped up in the school library for eight hours. Their reasons for being there are varied, as are their personalities. It’s not so much about the plot, this is a film built on character development. And while these teenagers could come off as stock clichés (the jock, the nerd, etc.) in the wrong hands, Hughes had a way of tapping into what made teenagers click and had a knack for finding their voices, with dialogue that seemed genuine and didn’t talk down to the young audience. The big appeal of this Criterion Collection edition is that it features 50 minutes of never-before-seen deleted and extended scenes, including a great section where the janitor, Carl Reed (played by John Kapelos) reveals to the students where he thinks they will end up as adults. There are also new interviews with actors Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, a video essay featuring Hughes’ production notes read by actor Judd Nelson, and much more. (Buy it here.)

City Slickers Blu-ray (Shout Select/Shout! Factory)

RRP: $29.99

I first saw City Slickers as a sophomore in high school. I loved the film, but could not totally relate to Billy Crystal’s Mitch Robbins character, who has just turned 39 and is experiencing a midlife crisis, unhappy with his job and the direction his life is going. It’s interesting to re-watch the film now that I’m closer to Mitch’s age, and while I’m not having a midlife crisis, I can better relate to the pressures of holding down a job and raising a family. In the film, Mitch’s best friends Phil Berquist (Daniel Stern) and Ed Furillo (Bruno Kirby) convince him to go on an adventure vacation where they pretend to be cowboys and actually drive a herd of cattle. Of course, not all goes according to plan, often with hilarious results. Jack Palance won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as grizzled trail boss Curly Washburn. And if you look closely, you’ll notice a young Jake Gyllenhaal as Crystal’s son, Danny Robbins. This Blu-ray includes audio commentary from director Ron Underwood and Crystal and Stern, as well as deleted scenes, and various making of documentaries. Remember, that, according to Curly, the secret of life is “just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.” What’s your one thing? (Buy it here.)

Die Hard: 30th Anniversary 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray (20th Century Fox)

RRP: $14.96

Die Hard may have spawned four sequels (most of them are pretty good, although 2013’s A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth and most recent film in the series, is truly terrible), but nothing beats the 1988 original. Bruce Willis was hardly a proven action star when he was cast as John McClane, an off-duty NYPD cop who is in a Los Angeles office tower to accompany his semi-estranged wife to her company’s Christmas Eve party when terrorists take over the building. McClane is the only person who can stop them. Prior to Die Hard he was best known for the quirky romantic detective TV series Moonlighting and the raunchy comedy Blind Date. Die Hard, of course, made him an international star. But Alan Rickman, as charismatic villain Hans Gruber, is just as memorable. This 30th anniversary edition includes the movie in both 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray. It includes commentary from director John McTiernan and production designer Jackson DeGovia, among other special features. “Shoot the glass!” (Buy it here.)

Election Blu-ray (The Criterion Collection)

RRP: $39.95

Writer/director Alexander Payne has a very solid track record, including Sideways, The Descendants, Nebraska, and 2017’s underrated shrinking comedy Downsizing. But lest us not forget his earlier work, especially his second film, 1999’s Election. The black comedy was co-written by Payne and Jim Nash and adapted from Tom Perrotta’s 1998 novel of the same name. It centers around a high school student council election, which may not sound like a riveting concept, but it’s all about the characters. Matthew Broderick, 12 years removed from his Ferris Bueller’s Day Off high school rebel role, plays well-liked high school teacher Jim McAllister, who faces up against seemingly goody-two-shoes student Tracy Enid Flick (a pitch-perfect Reese Witherspoon), who is running for student council president, but conceals a dark side. Tracy previously had an affair with another teacher, Jim’s best friend, who was subsequently fired, so Jim holds a grudge against her and attempts to sabotage her election chances, first by convincing popular well-meaning jock Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) to enter the race. Things get darker and funnier from there. The film wasn’t a box office success, but was beloved by critics and was nominated for various awards, including an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Special features include a new restored 4K digital transfer approved by Payne and a new interview with Witherspoon, among others. Pick Flick! (Buy it here.)

Hereditary Blu-ray/DVD (A24/Lionsgate)

RRP: $14.96

Ari Aster’s Hereditary admittedly starts slow, making you question if it’s more of a psychological family drama than a horror film, but once it gets going it’s truly scary and gripping. And the ending is completely bonkers. Toni Collette is stunning as a wife, mother of two, and artist dealing with the death of her own mother. Soon her life begins to unravel in truly creepy and unexpected ways. Special features on this Blu-ray include deleted scenes and a making-of documentary. Read our interview with Alex Wolff, who plays Collette’s teenage son. Also read our full review of Hereditary. (Buy it here.)

Isle of Dogs Blu-ray/DVD (20th Century Fox)

RRP: $34.99

Wes Anderon’s previous stop-motion animated film, 2015’s Roald Dahl adaptation Fantastic Mr. Fox, was a true delight, so fans were no doubt pleased to hear that he was returning to the medium with Isle of Dogs. This one is an original screenplay by Anderson and it takes place in a dystopian near-future Japan where an outbreak of canine flu has banished some dogs to an island. Undeterred, a young boy comes to the island searching for his pet. Anderson is a true auteur and as with most of his films, Isle of Dogs was praised by critics and did well at the box office for an indie film. The Blu-ray includes cast interviews and various featurettes. (Buy it here.)

The Jerk: 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray (Shout Select/Shout! Factory)

RRP: $34.93

Prior to The Jerk, Steve Martin was primarily known as a stand-up comedian, for his comedy albums and multiple appearances hosting Saturday Night Live. He had had a cameo in The Muppet Movie, but he was generally untested on the big screen. When The Jerk made $73 million at the American box office (and a total of $100 million worldwide), on a $4 million budget, it’s safe to say Martin passed the test. The film poster’s tagline sets the scene: “He was a poor black sharecrooper’s son who never dreamed he was adopted.” Martin’s character of Navin R. Johnson isn’t that much of a jerk, he’s a well-meaning fool who simply doesn’t know any better. He sets out to find his destiny, leaving his adoptive family behind, and ends up finding wealth and falling in love with a woman named Marie (Bernadette Peters), before losing it all again. Martin and Peters were in a real life relationship at the time and their chemistry is palpable. Much of the humor is crude and not always politically correct (by today’s standards), but it’s also laugh-out-loud funny with many memorable lines and absurd moments. Comedy veteran Carl Reiner directs and even has a cameo as himself. This 40th Anniversary Edition includes new interviews with Martin and Reiner, plus a separate conversation with Carl Gottlieb and Michael Elias, who co-wrote the film with Martin. (Buy it here.)

Lady Bird Blu-ray/DVD (A24/Lionsgate)

RRP: $39.99

Lady Bird, from writer/director Greta Gerwig (also an actress, although not in this film), was a huge hit with critics (it has a 99% on Rotten Tomatos) and was nominated for five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Its success was fueled not just by Gerwig’s screenplay, but also the masterful performances of Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf as a daughter and mother who don’t always get along. Ronan plays Christine “Lady Bird” McPerson, a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California. The film is semi-autobiographical (Gerwig also grew up in Sacramento and attended Catholic School). Special features include audio commentary from Gerwig and cinematographer Sam Levy. (Buy it here.)

Matinee: Collector’s Edition Blu-ray (Shout Select/Shout! Factory)

RRP: $34.93

Joe Dante’s 1993 film Matinee stars John Goodman as B-movie film producer/director Lawrence Woolsey, who brings his latest film to Key West, Florida in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His newest black & white horror creation is Mant! (a riff on The Fly, as a half-man/half-ant creature terrorizes a city). Woolsey has a unique way of presenting a film, including buzzers in the theater’s seats that go off during scary moments and a man dressed in a Mant costume who seems to run out of the screen. The real main character is teenaged boy Gene Loomis (played by British actor Simon Fenton, with a convincing American accent), whose father is in military and caught up in the crisis. He has a love of film and is taken under the wing of Woolsey. Matinee is a coming-of-age story and a love letter to the era of B-movie filmmaking. Special features include new interviews with Dante and other crew members and the complete movie-within-a-movie, Mant! If you look carefully you can spot a then unknown Naomi Watts, who appears briefly in another movie-within-a-movie, The Shook-Up Shopping Cart, a parody of 1960s Disney live action comedies (it’s about a shopping cart that comes to life.) (Buy it here.)

Midnight Cowboy Blu-ray (The Criterion Collection)

RRP: $39.95

Midnight Cowboy holds the distinction of being the only X-rated film to win the Best Picture Academy Award, although its rating was later adjusted to an R and the X-rating no longer exists, replaced by the little used NC-17. It’s also the first film with gay-related content to win Best Picture. The 1969 classic stars Jon Voight (in his first big film role), a wannabe hustler and cowboy who travels to New York City and realizes getting women to pay for sex is harder than he thinks. There he befriends the streetwise cripple Enrico Salvatore “Ratso” Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman, a newly minted star thanks to The Graduate). There are so many memorable things about Midnight Cowboy, which was written by Waldo Salt (adapting James Leo Herlihy’s 1965 novel of the same name) and directed by John Schlesinger. There are the performances by Voight and Hoffman, both at or close to career-best. There’s the score by John Barry and the use of “Everybody’s Talkin’” (a song by Fred Neil, but covered by Nilsson). There’s the use of different film stocks and somewhat disorientating editing. It’s a bold film you’d have to think would be hard to get made by a major studio today. This new Blu-ray edition includes a 4K digital restoration and various special features, most from previous releases, including a 1991 audio commentary from Schlesinger (who died in 2003), two documentaries from 2004, a 1970 interview with Voight on The David Frost Show, Voight’s original screen test, and more. “I’m walkin’ here! I’m walkin’ here!” (Buy it here.)

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women Blu-ray (Sony)

RRP: $26.99

The origin story for William Moulton Marston was more complex than that of his most famous creation, Wonder Woman. Marston was a psychologist and university professor, who became a comic book writer and created the most famous female superhero of all time. He also created the lie detector, which explains Wonder Woman’s Golden Lasso of Truth. It was his personal life that was unorthodox, especially for the 1940s. Marston and his wife Elizabeth welcomed into their marriage a polyamorous life partner, Olive Byrne. Once their neighbors find out, the family is shunned. Luke Evans plays William, with Rebecca Hall as Elizabeth and Bella Heathcote as Olive. Angela Robinson wrote and directed the film, which is a fascinating look at the sexual politics of the era, as well as both the creation of Wonder Woman and the lie detector test. Special features include deleted scenes, a motion comic about Marston, and two behind-the-scenes documentaries. (Buy it here.)

The Silence of the Lambs Blu-ray (The Criterion Collection)

RRP: $39.95

Pass the fava beans, pour us a glass of Chianti, Jonathan Demme’s masterful psychological thriller The Silence of the Lambs has come to The Criterion Collection. Ted Tally wrote the screenplay, which faithfully adapted Thomas Harris’ novel about FBI trainee (Jodie Foster) who must consult with jailed serial killer Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, in his most iconic performance) in order to catch another serial killer at large. The 1991 film deservedly swept the Academy Awards, winning for Best Picture, Best Director (Demme), Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Tally), making it only the third film in history to win all five awards. Alas no other big screen appearances of Lecter have come close to the quality of Silence of the Lambs, although the TV show Hannibal almost got there. Special features include 38 minutes of deleted scenes, four behind-the-scenes documentaries, 1994 audio commentary (featuring the late Demme, alongside Foster, Hopkins, Tally, and former FBI agent John Douglas), a 2005 interview with Demme and Foster, a book featuring an introduction from Foster, and more. True story: my brother is 11 years my senior, but isn’t so into horror films. I tried to show him Silence of the Lambs on video once, but its reputation preceded it and he couldn’t get past the opening scene, where Foster is simply running in the forest as part of her FBI training. My brother was convinced that she was going to be attacked or find a body, so we had to turn it off. Now that I have it on Blu-ray, I might try to show it to him again. (Buy it here.)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Blu-ray (Disney)

RRP: $39.99

The Last Jedi is the perhaps the most divisive Star Wars film since The Phantom Menace. Rian Johnson’s film was actually well-liked by critics, with a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and 85/100 on Metacritic, and was a huge hit, making $1.333 billion worldwide and becoming the most profitable film of 2017. Still, some fans simply hate it. The truth might lie somewhere in between, certainly the casino sequence was regrettable and there were some nonsensical plot points and character motivations. For example, if Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron was simply let in on the plan by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern, what was up with her blue hair), then perhaps he wouldn’t have staged a mutiny. On the other hand, there were some spectacular sequences, it was nice to see Mark Hamill back as Luke Skywalker, and since Fisher died soon after the film’s production, this was our last chance to see her as Leia. Bonus features include 14 deleted scenes, a full-length documentary in which Johnson takes you through the making of the film, audio commentary from Johnson, and two scenes of Andy Serkis giving a motion capture performance on the set, seen before he is digitally transformed into the villainous Supreme Leader Snoke. (Buy it here.)

Teen Wolf: Collector’s Edition Blu-ray (Shout Select/Shout! Factory)

RRP: $34.93

Two films were released in 1985 starring Michael J. Fox as a high school student and let’s be honest, Teen Wolf is the lesser of the two (the other is the all-time classic Back to the Future). But that doesn’t mean it’s without its retro charms. Teen Wolf was released a month and a half after Back to the Future and debuted at #2 at the box office, with Back to the Future still #1. Fox stars as Scott Howard, a 17-year-old high school basketball player (isn’t Fox a bit short to play basketball, oh well), who discovers he’s from a long line of werewolves. At first he’s freaked out, but in his werewolf form he becomes incredibly popular at school. The film is ridiculous, but gets by on Fox’s charisma. Teen Wolf spawned a 1987 sequel, Teen Wolf Too, starring Jason Bateman as Scott’s cousin. There was also the 1986 cartoon series (which didn’t feature Fox and ran for two seasons). Then there was the MTV Teen Wolf TV series, which aired for six seasons from 2011 to 2017 and was much more serious in nature. The main special feature on this Blu-ray is a new documentary, Never. Say. Die. The Story of Teen Wolf, which features interviews with various people involved with the film, although alas not Michael J. Fox. (Buy it here.)

Thor: Ragnarok Blu-ray (Disney)

RRP: $21.99

Thor: Ragnarok was surprisingly funny and perhaps the best of the three Thor movies. This is very much down to director Taika Waititi-the New Zealander is previously known for his comedy work, such as the hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, which he co-starred, co-wrote, and co-directed with Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords). In Thor: Ragnarok, Waititi voices the deadpan motion capture character Korg, who is a gladiator made of rock. In the film, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) gets stranded on the garbage planet Sakaar and is forced to fight in the arena by the planet’s rule, Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum being his Jeff Goldblumiest). Meanwhile, Hela (a fierce Cate Blanchett), who is the older sister Thor never knew he had, has returned and taken over his home realm of Asgard. Thor must team up with The Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who is also stranded on Sakaar, and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson, in a star making performance) to stop her. The impressive cast also features Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Zachary Levi, and Benedict Cumberbatch (as Doctor Strange); as well as cameos from Sam Neill, Luke Hemsworth, Matt Damon, and of course the late Stan Lee (who is hilarious as an alien hairdresser tasked with cutting Thor’s precious locks). Special features include deleted scenes, a gag reel, various making-of documentaries, director’s commentary, and a very funny exclusive short film, Team Darryl, the third in a series of Thor mockumentaries directed by Waititi. In this short, Grandmaster moves to Earth to become roommates with Darryl Jacobson, an Australian office worker who was formerly Thor’s roommate. (Buy it here.)

12 Monkeys Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

RRP: $35.95

12 Monkeys is last film directed by Terry Gilliam that could be considered a mainstream box office success, grossing $168.8 million worldwide on a $29.5 million budget. Gilliam’s films since then have been more niche in their appeal. The dark science fiction film was inspired by Chris Marker’s 1962 short film, La Jetée. It starred Bruce Willis as James Cole, who is sent back in time from a dystopian future in order to obtain a sample of the virus that wiped out most of humanity, so that they can develop a cure. The film co-starred Madeleine Stowe as Dr. Kathryn Railly, a psychiatrist who helps James, and Brad Pitt as the mental hospital patient Jeffrey Goines. Pitt was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role, and won the equivalent Golden Globe award. The film also spawned the Syfy Channel TV adaptation, which lasted for four seasons and ran from 2015 to 2018. This Blu-ray features a new restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative, as approved by Gilliam. For special features, there’s a feature-length documentary on the making of the movie, a 1996 interview with Gilliam recorded at the London Film Festival, and more. (Buy it here.)

Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection Blu-ray (Universal)

RRP: $149.98

Universal’s classic horror films may seem tame by today’s grizzly standards, but they were truly creepy at the time. This wonderful box set collects all 30 of the classic Universal horror films on Blu-ray, with release dates ranging from 1931-1956. There are eight Frankenstein films, including 1931’s Frankenstein, 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein, and 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, with many of the films starring Boris Karloff as the monster. There are six Dracula movies, with Bela Lugosi starring in 1931’s Dracula. There are also six films in The Invisible Man series, six in The Mummy series, seven in The Wolf Man series, three in the Creature From the Black Lagoon series (I remember being shown the original in a film appreciation after school club in middle school), and 1943’s Phantom of the Opera, which, unlike most of the rest of the films collected here, is in color. There’s also a 48-page book featuring movie trivia, the original movie posters, and info on some of the films and actors. It’s amazing what they could do with makeup and practical special effects back in the 1930s and 1940s; the creatures all still look terrifying today. (Buy it here.)

The Virgin Suicides Blu-ray (The Criterion Collection)

RRP: $39.95

It’s somewhat easy to forget about Sofia Coppola’s 1999 feature length film directing debut, The Virgin Suicides. In Coppola’s filmography, it was a bit overshadowed by the success of her next movie, 2003’s Lost In Translation starring Bill Murray. The Virgin Suicides was based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Jeffrey Eugenides and takes place in the suburbs of Detroit in the 1970s. It centers on the five Lisbon sisters who live in a strict Catholic household. The family is thrown into turmoil when the youngest sister, Cecilia (Hanna R. Hall), attempts suicide and their strict parents (played by James Woods and Kathleen Turner) put the girls on lockdown. The film is actually told from the perspective of some boys in the neighborhood who are fascinated by the girls, reflecting on the time as adults. The film also notably stars Kirsten Dunst as one of the sisters (she was 16 when she was cast) and Josh Hartnett as one of the neighborhood boys, Trip Fontaine.

One of the most notable aspects of the devastatingly sad film is the score by French duo Air, who were following up their beloved debut album, Moon Safari. The lone Air song on the score with vocals, “Playground Love,” features the guest vocals of Thomas Mars of fellow French band Phoenix. This was how Coppola and Mars met and they eventually got married and had two daughters. The Criterion Collection’s new Blu-ray features a new 4K digital restoration overseen by cinematographer Ed Lachman and approved by Coppola. For special features a highlight is new interviews with Coppola, Lachman, Dunst, Hartnett, Eugenides, and writer Tavi Gevinson. Then there is a documentary on the making of the film, made at the same time as the film, Coppola’s first short film (1998’s Lick the Star), the music video for “Playground Love,” and more. (Buy it here.)

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