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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Tenebrae, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Gangnam Zombie and more


This week isn’t huge, but there is one HUGE movie release that will likely get all the attention. There are some other cool titles to be found if you dig a bit, though. Read on for the full scoop!

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

The Movie: Okay, I know that I’m going to be in the minority here, but I didn’t love Across the Spider-Verse. Now, before you click away because you assume I’m an idiot, let me say that I did like the film. I’d say I even liked it quite a bit. I just didn’t LOVE it. I saw many people proclaiming it an absolute masterpiece and that’s great, I’m glad they enjoyed it that much. But for me, it wasn’t quite at that level. I did love the Spider-Man 2099 character played by Oscar Isaac, and the animation remains a thing of beauty. But I found the film kind of exhausting. There’s so much going on in every single scene, and the dialogue is so rapidly non-stop, that it all starts to blur together after a while. Like, I needed a moment for my brain to catch up to what was happening on-screen with 600 different Spider-Men and multiple universes and everything else, and the film just never gave me that moment to breathe. Also, I don’t know that the villain, The Spot – who I did enjoy – was compelling enough to carry the story over into the upcoming third film, resulting in a cliffhanger ending in this one. I feel like this story could have easily fit into one movie. That all said, I liked the various characters, the action is great, and there is some good dialogue, I just wish the film occasionally relaxed a bit.
The Special Features: There are over 90 minutes of bonus features on the Blu-ray. There are over a half dozen making-of features, an audio commentary, a deleted scene, a music video, and hidden easter eggs. Pretty cool.

The Wrap-UpSpider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse was a massive hit at the box office, just like the first movie was, and like the next movie likely will be. I enjoyed the film despite its flaws, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in the saga.

Gangnam Zombie

The Movie: After the masterpiece that is Train to Busan, I will pretty much give any Korean zombie movie a watch. But if I was hoping to get a return to greatness in the genre with Gangnam Zombie, well, I’ll just say my hopes were very quickly dashed. The plot is pretty standard zombie fare, with two criminals getting infected by a zombie and in turn infecting a number of people in a mall-like building. Then, we have a small team of still-human protagonists trying to survive against overwhelming zombie odds. I mean, so far so good. But the film is poorly made; the action isn’t exciting, the zombie footage feels recycled, and even with a running time of well under an hour and a half, the movie feels like it drags. I was hoping for a Train to Busan 2 that was better than the actual Train to Busan 2 (because that sequel was sorely disappointing) and instead, I got a watered-down Day of the Dead that doesn’t elicit a tenth of the thrills or charm of that classic. File under “disappointment.”
The Special Features: Sadly there are no extra features.
The Wrap-Up: If you’re starved for a good zombie movie, I guess you could throw on Gangnam Zombie and maybe get a little entertainment out of it, but I found it to be a pretty big letdown. I would only recommend checking it out if you’re a zombie completist.

Tenebrae (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: One of famed Italian director Dario Argento’s most infamous and famous movies is Tenebrae, which now makes its 4K Ultra HD debut courtesy of Synapse Films and Arrow Video. The film is ostensibly a murder mystery, but with Argento at the helm, you know you’re also in for a good amount of blood and guts, which the film doesn’t shy away from (which is part of why it’s so infamous.) With a more coherent plot than the few other Argento films I’ve seen, the movie follows American novelist Peter Neal on a trip to Italy, where a killer starts using the author’s books as inspiration for his killings, linking Neal to the case more than he’d like. It’s a fairly straightforward plot, but Argento never met a story he couldn’t inject his own flash of red – blood red, that is – into. Having never seen the film before, I found that I enjoyed it overall, even if it is a little bit unnecessarily bloody at times. It does get some bonus points for me because John Saxon (Enter the DragonA Nightmare on Elm Street) co-stars in it, and I love me some John Saxon. Apparently, the film was re-edited and released in the US under the title of Unsane – which I didn’t watch for this review – but word on the street is that it’s nearly unwatchable. The main version on this release is the original cut (in English or Italian), though, so I can attest that it is indeed watchable, though sometimes through your fingers if you’re squeamish. The Unsane cut is also included for people who may have watched that version and liked it.
The 4K Audio/Video: Since the film was released in 1982, I honestly wasn’t expecting all that much from the 4K audiovisual upgrade. However, I’m happy to report that the video transfer is excellent. Aside from a few very minor scratches in the print here and there, the film looks clean, clear, and unblemished. Colors pop way more than I expected, and the film is nice and sharp. It’s definitely a great-looking transfer. The soundtrack is presented in 2.0 so it’s not a full surround experience, but the dialogue is clear and the music drives the action, so it works well enough.
The Special Features: This two-disc set is loaded with extra features, including a 58-page full color essay booklet, which I love. You also get three different audio commentary tracks, plus a feature-length documentary on the Italian giallo (horror) genre. Then there are multiple interview featurettes with cast and crew, an introduction, trailers, alternate credit sequences, and more. It’s jam-packed with hours of extra features!
The Wrap-UpTenebrae won’t be for everyone; heck, I’m not entirely sure it was for me. But if you want an entry into the giallo genre and one of its most famous directors, this awesome new 4K release is definitely the way to do it.

Director Spotlight: Kevin McDonald (Black Sea & State of Play)

The Movies: Best known for his Oscar-nominated film, The Last King of Scotland, director Kevin MacDonald has been quietly putting out dramatic thrillers for the last twenty years or so. One of my favorites is his film How I Live Now, which wasn’t a big hit but is an intense dystopic future gem. This week we get a Blu-ray double feature of two of his more well-known films, Black Sea and State of PlayBlack Sea sees Jude Law as a submarine captain who takes his sub on a search for sunken treasure. It’s a slow-burning thriller with some really intense moments. State of Play, meanwhile, is an ensemble political/journalism drama starring Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, and Ben Affleck. It’s based on a 2003 BBC miniseries, and while it’s also a bit of a slow burn, it’s a solid story with excellent performances. Neither of my films matches MacDonald’s best efforts, but they’re both good movies that I’m sure have their fans.
The Special Features: On Black Sea there is a making-of featurette and an audio commentary with MacDonald. On State of Play, there is a nice making-of feature with MacDonald, Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, and Ben Affleck, plus a collection of Deleted Scenes.
The Wrap-Up: While neither of the films included here represents MacDonald’s best works in my opinion, they are two solid films that you can watch for the price of film. Your opinion on these two entries in his filmography may vary, so if you’re a bigger fan of them than I am, this is a steal at a low price.

The Merger

The Movie: This 2018 sports comedy from Australia is just now making its way to the U.S. and other territories thanks to a Blu-ray release from IndiePix Films. The film was written by and stars Damian Callinan, an Australian comedian who adapted his one-man play into the film. It sees a washed-up Australian Football League player who has been ostracized for his political views get back into the sport as a coach when the local team finds itself on the brink of collapse. However, he makes it a requirement that the team accept immigrant players, which of course fires up the local fans who aren’t so open-minded. It’s not hard to see the political allegory here, and Callinan doesn’t really try to hide it; it’s part of the film’s charm and also part of its flaws, as the political commentary occasionally feels a bit heavy handed. But the film is also funny and charming in many ways, so ultimately the good outweighs the bad here.
The Special Features: Not much, but at least you do get a making-of featurette and a trailer.
The Wrap-UpThe Merger may lose some viewers because of its political messaging, I would wager that it will also gain some viewers because of it. Either way, it’s a solid sports comedy that I think a lot of people can enjoy.

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