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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Nope, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, Universal Classic Monsters, Trick or Treat Scooby Doo, Beast, Abbott Elementary, Titans and more

Well, it’s no big surprise that on the last release day of the month before Halloween, it’s horror and Halloween-themed releases that are the most prevalent. And there’s also… an Easter movie??? Read on to get the scoop!

Nope

I know Jordan Peele gets a lot of love as a director, but I kind of wish he’d stop making films. Get Out was great, but I pretty much hated Us and I have to rank Nope as one of the stupidest movies I’ve seen in years. How he continues to get people praising his movies so consistently is honestly beyond me. I’m not trying to be mean here, but I thought the ending of Us was one of the stupidest things I’d ever seen, and then comes along Nope to show me that he can carry that level of stupid through an entire movie. It’s hard to talk about the film’s plot without giving away spoilers since the trailer was fairly cryptic. Suffice it to say that Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer play a brother and sister who run an ailing horse ranch and who are plagued by a mysterious… something. There’s a subplot involving a murderous monkey and Glenn from The Walking Dead that feels tacked on, and the film fails its own internal logic during the climax when it goes against the parameters it’s set up. And really, as I was watching it, I mostly kept thinking, “This movie is really pretty dumb.” I mean, the whole film is, but the climax especially so. The characters aren’t interesting enough to get invested in, save for Keke Palmer’s, and it’s hard to really root for anyone in the film. I know there are a lot of people who like this film and will disagree with me, but I feel like Jordan Peele’s films just keep getting worse and worse, and he’s only three films in (three and a half if you count the lackluster Candyman reboot, which he co-wrote and produced.) Nope comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) and if I can say anything positive about the movie, it’s that the premium 4K format treats it well, serving up a spectacular picture and sound quality, plus a nice collection of extra features. If you’re a fan, it’s a nice package, but I really just didn’t enjoy this movie at all.


E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: 40th Anniversary Edition

Obviously, this isn’t the first time that E.T. has been released on home video, as it gets a re-release every few years or so. This new 40th Anniversary Edition mostly recycles previous content, but it is released in the 4K Ultra HD format and includes a few new extra features, including a new 40th Anniversary Retrospective Documentary and a new conversation with Steven Spielberg, who reflects on the making of the film and its enduring legacy. There are also a ton of archival extra features included. This is the first time I’ve gotten to look at E.T. on 4K; the previous 35th Anniversary Edition was released on 4K but I only received the Blu-ray to review at the time. For a film that’s 40 years old, I have to say it looks and sounds terrific. Sure, at 40 years old it doesn’t look brand new, but image clarity is super sharp, colors pop nicely, and shadow delineation is strong. The surround soundtrack won’t blow you away, but it does give you some nice ambient surround effects when the action in the film picks up. As for the movie itself, I mean, what do I really need to say about it? It’s a true classic, a great family film, and one of Spielberg’s best works, even after four decades. This is a terrific edition if you don’t already own the film.


Universal Classic Monsters: Icons of Horror Collection (2022 Set)

So, at this point, getting a new Universal Classic Monsters Collection on home video has become sort of an annual event. In the last decade, we’ve had two different collections on DVD, two different collections on Blu-ray, and two Ultra HD collections. This is the second offering in Universal’s more streamlined four-film sets, featuring four of the most popular and well-loved of Universal’s classic monster films: The Mummy, The Bride of Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Each film has been remastered in 4K, and they’ve all been packaged together in a gorgeous box set with a wealth of extra features. It’s an 8-disc set that includes each movie both on a 4K disc as well as a Blu-ray Disc, and you also get digital copies of each movie. The 4K Upgrade definitely makes a difference in the visual presentation of each film. While the films are in black and white so you don’t get the extra pop of colors, the grey tones are more subtle, the blacks are deeper, the shadow delineation is much stronger, and the overall image clarity is sharper than previous home video editions. The soundtracks are working with limited fidelity due to the age of the films, but I certainly don’t hear anything to complain about. If you’re a fan of the classic Universal monster series and don’t already own the Blu-ray collections (or want to have the films in your digital library), this set is a must-have!


Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons

This latest DC Animated Universe movie is one of the most enjoyable ones in a while. DC puts out three to four animated movies every year, and while I largely enjoy them, in recent years I’ve found a few of them to be a bit stale. This new film focuses on two of DC’s popular newer characters: Robin (aka Damian Wayne), the son of Batman, and Jon Kent, the young Superman who is the son of Clark and Lois. Damian has been in a few movies already, but this marks Jon’s first Hollywood outing. The film sees the pair team up when the Justice League is taken by over by Starro aliens, which at first I though was an odd choice for these two particular heroes. But the story works really well, the two characters play off each other smartly, and the action scenes in particular are utterly fantastic. I really enjoyed watching this one. Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray and DVD), and it looks and sounds outstanding in the ultra high-def format. Colors are incredibly vivid, black animation outlines (and blacks in general) are deep and rich, and the film as a whole looks terrific. The surround soundtrack has a lot to play with, filling your speakers with a variety of sounds and offering up some nice discrete directional effects. A great effort on both the A/V and entertainment fronts.


Titans: The Complete Third Season

DC’s Titans is not a show I loved at first, but over the course of three seasons, I’ve come to really enjoy it. Available originally only through the DC Universe app, Titans’ has now moved over to HBO Max, and of course, this week the third season is released on home video (just in time for the upcoming fourth season to start.) What I like about this show is that it draws a lot of inspiration from the comic books upon which it’s based, without feeling like it’s restricted to copying stories out of the comics. Titans definitely goes in its own direction, while still feeling like the Titans we know and love. The cast (which includes Brenton Thwaites, Ian Glenn, Minka Kelly, and Alan Ritchson) does a nice job of bringing the characters to life, and the show’s aesthetic – while occasionally veering slightly into cheesy territory – feels appropriately comic-booky. This Season Three collection sees the team in Gotham City and introduces the Red Hood to the proceedings, giving us all 13 episodes and a nice collection of extra features. It’s a nice pick-up for fans of the show or the comics.


Abbott Elementary: The Complete First Season

Apparently Abbot Elementary has been a big hit for ABC, but I have to be honest, it’s just not quite my thing. It’s a workplace office in the vein of The Office (which, admittedly, I am not a fan of either), and really it feels like the showrunners just copied the formula of The Office verbatim and simply set it in an elementary school instead. It’s not like the show is terrible or anything, I just don’t find it that funny. Yeah, I chuckled a couple of times in some of the episodes, but most of the time I just kind of sit there waiting for things to get funnier. The cast is fine, made up of a mix of semi-recognizable faces and newcomers, and I can see how people can enjoy the show, it just doesn’t tickle my funny bone. The new Abbott Elementary: The Complete First Season DVD set collects all 18 episodes from the first season on two discs and comes with a handful of extra features to boot.


Beast

Idris Elba stars in this terrific new thriller that sees him on a safari in Africa going up against a killer lion. In the film, Elba’s Dr. Nate Samuels returns to the village his late wife is from with his two teenage/preteen daughters, Norah and Mere. Exploring the landscape with Nate’s old friend Martin (a terrific Sharlto Copley), they are beset upon by a lion who’s been driven mad by poacher’s bullets that didn’t finish the job. From there, the movie becomes a battle for survival as the family are trapped in their crashed jeep with a man-eater stalking them. The film is really good, with no small amount of suspense and tension, made all the better by some incredible CGI that makes you feel like the actors are really face-to-face with a giant male lion. There are a few other obstacles the family faces in the film as well, and the end result is a really terrific man vs. beast survival thriller with excellent performances and great action scenes. Definitely track this one down!


Easter Sunday

Comedian Jo Koy gets his first starring feature in this family comedy film — in that it’s about a Filipino family, not that it’s for family audiences. I’ll talk about the film in a minute, but I really don’t understand the marketing behind this movie. It was released in theaters in August, and now it comes to home video in October. Ummm… whaaat? The film tanked at the box office, and maybe I’m a simple-minded guy, but wouldn’t it have made more sense to release the film… I dunno, AROUND EASTER??? Sure, ultimately the film is more about Koy and his family and some wacky conflicts he gets wrapped up in, but with the film being set around Easter and literally called Easter Sunday, I can not understand the timing of its release in any way, shape, or form. The film itself, meanwhile, is enjoyable enough. Koy – whose standup I do enjoy – is at his best when he’s riffing on things in a way that’s reminiscent of his stand-up. The rest of the time, the film’s script isn’t funny enough to make the film a true success. It’s worth a watch for some chuckles and for Jo Koy fans, but at the end of the day it’s a little forgettable.


Trick or Treat Scooby Doo

This newest Scooby-Doo animated direct-to-video movie is a nice change of pace from Warner’s more recent offerings that have relied on stunt guest casting like WWE wrestling superstars and the rock group KISS. This time around, Scooby and the gang end up facing a new challenge: no more cases! When they arrest Coco Diablo, the leading creator of bad guy costumes in the world, the spooky villains dry up, leading to the Mystery Inc. gang settling into a routine filled with ennui and boredom. Finally, a new case comes along, and what follows is the usual hijinks that plague the Scooby gang. There are some funny in-jokes and occasional fourth-wall-breaking, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and I found the movie to be pretty enjoyable. I didn’t love the animation, which occasionally ventured into over-the-top silly territory, looking more like something you’d see on Cartoon Network than classic Scooby-Doo, but that minor complaint aside, it’s a lot of fun. Oh yeah, I guess I should mention that this is the movie where Velma falls for another woman, which made some minor news headlines in recent days. All I can say is that if you’re gonna get bent out of shape about a cartoon character being attracted to someone of the same sex, you should probably skip this one. If you’re a rational, caring human being, though, you’ll enjoy this film just fine.


Also Available This Week on Home Video:
  • Three Wishes for Cinderella – This new take on Cinderella comes from Norway, and it presents Cinderella as anything but a damsel in distress; this Cinderella is scrappy and spirited, which is a welcome take on a character we’ve seen in countless adaptations before. The film stars Astrid S as Cinderella; Astrid S is apparently an international pop star who has wracked up billions of views on YouTube for her song videos, and while that can sometimes be disastrous for a feature film, she represents well here. The film’s tone is a little uneven, occasionally veering into silly territory, but it is a family film, after all. (In fact, it won the equivalent of Norway’s Oscars for Best Children’s Movie.) The one downside for younger viewers is that it is in Norwegian with subtitles, but there is an English dub for the kiddies. Ultimately, it’s not a masterpiece, but it is an enjoyable enough new spin on a classic legend.
  • Quiet Days in Clichy – There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of this 1970 film based on a novel by acclaimed playwright Henry Miller. It’s no surprise, really; when the film was released, the US Government apparently seized all copies of it for being obscene (the source novel itself has apparently been banned many times, as well.) The film has now been released on 4K Ultra HD by Blue Underground in an elaborate package that really rewards viewers; maybe even more so than the film itself does. The movie’s plot is loose; it’s about two roommates in Paris who are frequently unable to pay for food but manage to have lots of sex with women. And, I mean, that’s mostly it. It’s not exactly a plot-heavy film, but it does feature graphic sex and nudity. If that’s all you’re watching it for, you’ll be rewarded. If you want a fulfilling movie-watching experience, though, you might be let down. This new 4K Ultra HD release includes the film in 4K as well as Blu-ray, and the picture and sound quality is quite impressive for a film that’s 50 years old. In addition, the film comes in beautiful packaging and includes a nice selection of extra features, including three new interview featurettes, deleted scenes, photo galleries, and more. Worth a look for its unusual history and for some titillation, but not the most satisfying movie experience ever.
  • Ghoster – What do you do when you want to make a Casper movie but you can’t get the rights to the Casper franchise? You create Ghoster, a [heavy sarcasm font alert!] nothing-at-all-like-Casper movie in which a young girl and her single father move into a mansion and encounter the world’s friendliest ghost. Honestly, while the  plot does have some differences, there’s just no denying that this family-friendly ghost tale is a low-budget knock off of Casper. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s just hard to ignore the similarities. Sophie Proctor is solid in the lead role and the Ghoster character is cute enough for younger viewers, and I’ve definitely seen worse direct-to-video family offerings. As it is, it’s a totally average (and quite derivative) family film that might be fun to bust out for younger family members at Halloween time.
  • The Kindred – Synapse Films continues to bring us excellent home video editions of the cultiest of cult classics, this time giving us a new Blu-ray of The Kindred, a 1980s horror offering starring Rod Steiger, Amanda Pays, and Kim Hunter (of Planet of the Apes fame.) This one falls squarely into the 1980s trope of scientists and a human-hybrid-baby-creature thing killing the people involved. It’s not a horror masterpiece, but it is an enjoyable slice of B-movie cheese, with good practical creature effects and a cast that isn’t quite A-list but is definitely better than B-list. This new Blu-ray edition sees the movie remastered and newly remixed, and also includes a nice collection of extra features, including an audio commentary, an hour-long documentary, an additional featurette, and a few other goodies. If you love ‘80s horror B-movies, this is a great new release of a film that might be new to you or is possibly already a favorite.
  • Satan’s Little Helper – Yes, you read that right, it’s not a typo: SATAN’S Little Helper is another new Collector’s Edition from Synapse Films. This new Blu-ray is a slasher film from 2004 starring a much younger (but still excellent) Kathryn Winnick (VikingsThe Marksman), as well as character actor Amanda Plummer. The film follows young boy Dougie, who is playing a video game called Satan’s Little Helper, who then encounters a real life masked boogeyman on Halloween that he assumes is like the character in the video game. Dougie helps this Satan Man unwittingly, causing chaos and murder everywhere they go, until things start to come home. It’s an offbeat low-budget horror film, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel kind of fresh and fun, despite the fact that it came out almost 20 years ago. Now, I’ve never seen the film before this, but it is branded as being the uncut version (and there’s plenty of gore to substantiate that claim) and this new Blu-ray also contains an audio commentary, a making-of featurette, and a few other extra features, making it a nice release for fans.
  • Moonchild – Sometimes you can’t summarize a film any better than the official synopsis does, so ladies and gentlemen, I give you Moonchild: “In a dystopian future, political prisoner Jacob Stryker is transformed into a werewolf super soldier by government scientists. He escapes captivity and searches for his son, who may be the messiah, and joins an army of karate kicking rebellion fighters poised to overthrow the U.S.A. Jacob is hunted by a group of cyborg and mutant bounty hunters as he tries to forget the bomb implanted in his stomach that’s set to explode in 72 hours.” I mean, really, what else could I possibly have to say? This B-movie from 1994 is as over-the-top crazy as it sounds. It’s low-budget but strives to include every genre trope under the sun, leading to a movie that is – not surprisingly – so bad it’s good. Now the film has been released on Blu-ray as a nice Collector’s Edition courtesy of Visual Vengeance, and this is the real deal package for fans… if there are any. You get remastered picture quality, two new audio commentaries, a documentary, deleted scenes, a booklet, stickers, a mini-poster, and even an audio CD of the film’s soundtrack. It’s an impressive package for a movie most people have never heard of. If you’re looking for some fun with fellow B-movie-loving friends on a bored Saturday night, this one will definitely give you some bang for your buck!

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