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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: The Little Mermaid, The Exorcist, The Princess Bride, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Succession and more

It’s rare when all the movies I get to review in one week are bona fide A-list titles, but this is one of those weeks! We’ve got a recent box office blockbuster, several beloved catalog titles, and a pair of huge TV-on DVD releases. Read on for the full breakdown!

The Little Mermaid

The Movie: Disney continues mining the depths of their animated catalog for live-action remakes with their latest blockbuster, The Little Mermaid. Starring Halle Bailey as Ariel, and with supporting roles played by the likes of Melissa McCarthy and Javier Bardem, the film made a – ahem – splash at the box office earlier this year. Now, I like the original The Little Mermaid just fine; I don’t love it, I don’t hate it. I’m a pretty big Disney fan in general, but I’m pretty sure the last time I watched The Little Mermaid was when it first came out on video. (To be fair, I don’t think adult males were ever the film’s primary demographic.) This new live-action version is directed by Rob Marshall, who has become sort of the go-to director for movie musicals (having also helmed ChicagoInto the Woods, and Mary Poppins Returns), and I have to say, he does quite a good job with the film. It’s not a masterpiece by any stretch, but it’s a relatively faithful (but still updated) adaptation of the original animated film that looks great, features some new songs, and will appeal to both kids and adults alike. Halle Bailey does a great job in the lead role, and the film overall is pretty enjoyable.
The Special Features: In addition to the regular version of the film, you also get a sing-along version of the film. Then there are four making-of featurettes, including now with Halle Bailey working with Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel. Finally, you get a blooper reel.

The Wrap-Up: Much like the original film was for me, I don’t see this being a movie I watch all that often; but again, I’m not the target demographic for it. I think younger audiences will enjoy it quite a bit, and I’m sure many adults who love the original film will also love it. While I don’t know that Disney needs to churn out quite so many live-action remakes, The Little Mermaid certainly stands up as a worthwhile film to watch.

The Exorcist (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: A lot of times, you’ll get random anniversary editions of movies that don’t really need special anniversary editions. (It’s the 23rd anniversary of Friday the 13th Part VII!) But once in a while, you really do have to celebrate a film. As part of Warner Bros.’ 100th Anniversary celebration, and as a celebration of the film itself’s 50th Anniversary, we are treated to the release of The Exorcist on 4K Ultra HD! That’s pretty exciting, even though Warner Bros. Did everything they could to make this release as unexciting as possible. (More on that later.) The Exorcist itself, though, is a horror classic, one of the great genre films of its era and still one of the highest grossing movies of all time when adjusted for inflation. I love the movie and I was excited to get it in 4K Ultra HD, and while the film itself looks great, I was disappointed with Warner’s treatment of it overall. Gone are the days, I guess, where a new special edition meant the best possible home video release for a movie. While this release does include both the Theatrical Cut of the film and the Extended Director’s Cut (released in the 2000s as The Version You’ve Never Seen), it’s nearly devoid of extra features and the cover art is absolutely atrocious. This isn’t how you treat a major milestone film for its 50th anniversary, Warner Bros.
The 4K Audio/Video: The previous home video editions of The Exorcist have taken a lot of heat in the home video realm due to some of the tinkering that was done in terms of color correction and digital noise removal, etc. This new 4K transfer looks quite good overall, with some excellent color saturation and some really impeccable detail levels, especially on close ups. The colors do, however, still appear to be amped up for the home video release, which at times can feel unnatural, or at the very least, inauthentic to the film’s original aesthetic. The Dolby Atmos surround soundtrack (there is also a 2.0 stereo track that represents the film’s original theatrical sound), is pretty spectacular. It utilizes the satellite channels well to bring the film to life, and the deep low end gives the action on screen some menace. Dialogue remains clean and clear, and the music is quite impactful as well. With the film being 50 years old, no A/V presentation will likely please everyone, but I’m pretty happy with it overall.
The Special Features: In addition to the two different cuts of the film mentioned above, you get three audio commentaries (two on the theatrical cut and one on the extended Director’s Edition), plus a short intro from director William Friedkin. Unfortunately, that’s all you get, which is a shame because Warner Bros. opted not to include a third disc which could have housed the multiple, multiple extra features created for this film on its last couple of home video releases. Now you have to keep both editions if you want to have the film in 4K plus the extra features made about the movie. This is an annoying trend, Warner Bros., and I wish you’d knock it off.
The Wrap-Up: Ultimately, the film looks great and the 4K version of it is definitely the one you’ll want to watch. I just wish that Warner Bros. had put more care into this release and given us the ultimate home video version of The Exorcist that we all deserve.

The Princess Bride (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: While there have been approximately 272 previous versions of The Princess Bride on home video, the fact that it is now officially part of the Criterion Collection is a nice badge of honor. It was first released via Criterion back in 2018, and now it’s been chosen to receive the 4K Ultra HD treatment that Criterion has been giving some of its most popular and well-loved titles. Now, I don’t think I have to say too much about The Princess Bride; it’s one of the most beloved movies of the last 35 years. It’s certainly one of my personal favorites, and the quotes that I regularly spout from the film even to this day are endless. Much like the previous release, this new 4K Ultra HD version is presented in a nice hardcover book package and it features the usual sound and picture quality we’ve come the expect from Criterion, as well as a ton of extra features, making it a terrific package all around.
The 4K Audio/Video: I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much of an upgrade in the A/V department for a couple of reasons. One, the film is over 30 years old at this point. And two, the previous Criterion Blu-ray already looked pretty darn amazing. Yet somehow, this new 4K transfer exceeded all my expectations. Colors take on new definition while image clarity is so sharp it boggles the mind. Blacks are deep and rich and there’s a lifelike, natural feel to everything. Meanwhile, the surround soundtrack is a solid affair, if not as exciting as the picture quality. There are some surround effects, but it’s not a constant barrage of directional effects. Music and dialogue both sound good though, so there’s not too much to complain about.
The Special Features: The extra features are the same as the previous release, which is still a very nice collection. You get an audio commentary with Rob Reiner, William Goldman, Billy Crystal, Peter Falk, and others. Then there’s an edited audiobook reading of Goldman’s novel by Reiner, interviews with almost the entire cast and crew, several making-of featurettes, an on-set diary filmed and narrated by Cary Elwes, five additional behond-the-scenes videos with commentaries, and more! There’s also the aforementioned hardcover book packaging, which does include a full-color booklet packed with photos and info.
The Wrap-UpThe Princess Bride is one of the true classics of the late 20th century, and I will never get tired of watching it. This is, at the moment, easily the definitive edition of the movie on home video, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves great movies.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: Quick, what’s the best Batman movie? If you said Batman Begins, I’ll allow that. Other than that, though, thee’s only one right answer, and that’s Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Yes, I said it’s the best (or at least second best, after the underrated Batman Begins.) As much as I enjoy the Christian Bale movies and Tim Burton’s 1989 original (with mixed opinions on the rest of the films), for my money Batman has never been more perfect than in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the movie that was spawned from the mega-popular Batman: The Animated Series. Mixing in a personal back story for Bruce Wayne that humanizes him, an excellent new villain, and Mark Hamill as the Joker, Mask of the Phantasm is quite simply the perfect Batman story. While it was released on Blu-ray through the print-on-demand Warner Archive service a few years ago, Warner has now finally released it on 4K Ultra HD for everyone to enjoy.
The 4K Audio/Video: This is a visual tour de force. Between the beautiful animation and the gorgeous transfer, Mask of the Phantasm has never looked better. Colors pop in a way that gives the film new life, blacks are deep and solid, and imagery is crystal clear throughout. The surround soundtrack offers up some very nice directional effects and atmosphere, while the low end bass channel give everything a nice punchiness. This is the way this movie needs to be watched!
The Special Features: While there’s not much in the way of extra features, there is a terrific 26-minute documentary about the late Kevin Conroy, who voiced Batman in the film (and the animated series) and is a legend among Batfans.
The Wrap-Up: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm may not be your favorite Batman film, but there’s no denying that it’s a masterpiece. This is by far the best version of the movie on home video, making it a must-have for any true Batman fans!

Succession: The Complete Series

The Show: Now that it’s over, there’s no denying that over the course of its four seasons, Succession became a pop culture juggernaut. I’ve seen it referenced in other TV shows and movies, heard it mentioned on podcasts, seen memes from it on social media… it’s really taken on a life of its own. HBO rarely makes out-and-out bad television, so it’s not really a surprise that it became so popular, I just wish that I had liked the show – or at least the kind of show it was – more than I did. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very well-made show, with great acting and strong writing. The series follows a Rupert Murdoch-like corporate magnate and his children who are in varying degrees of jockeying for his power when he passes away. While the cast is terrific (featuring Brian Cox, Sanaa Lathan, Alan Ruck, Kieran Culkin, and Sarah Snook) it’s hard for me to really find much common ground with characters who are so rich they can’t even count their money. And frankly, they’re largely terrible and unlikable people, which is one of my biggest pet peeves in any show or movie; I do not like any film or series that features almost exclusively unlikable characters. That said, I’m clearly in the minority here, and that spelled success for Succession.
The Special Features: There are multiple Inside the Episode making-of featurettes, cast and crew interviews, character recaps, and more, totaling about two hours of bonus materials.
The Wrap-UpSuccession is like an HBO version of Dynasty, which there clearly is an audience for, I’m just not it. While I’m not the biggest Succession fan in the world, those of you who are fans of the show will be happy to be able to have the entire series in one convenient box set so you can revisit the Roy family whenever you want to. The biggest surprise/disappointment is that the show is only offered on DVD and not on Blu-ray, which seems like a major oversight.

Rick & Morty: The Complete Seasons 1-6

The Show: Well, here we go again. The only TV show ever to be responsible for both a McDonald’s special sauce and then an angry fan reaction to said McDonald’s special sauce is back on home video. Unfortunately, even after six seasons, Rick & Morty remains just not my thing. I know people love it, and the show has a very strong fan following, but I just don’t dig it. Every time a new season comes out, I give it a try, and every time, I’m just completely unmoved by it. Sure, there are one or two funny jokes in each episode, but I find the characters unlikable and the humor largely ridiculous — and not in a good way. Maybe I’m just getting old; who knows? But none of that matters, because people love this show and it’s as popular as ever, regardless of what I think about it. Which leads us to this his new Blu-ray collection that features all six seasons so far in one nicely-packaged box set that includes every episode plus bonus features across five discs. It’s a nice release for fans, even if I can’t count myself among them. This newest series collection gives you all 61 episodes on six discs.
The Special Features: This set is loaded with extra features, including numerous audio commentaries, as well as deleted scenes, animatics, multiple making-of featurettes, animatic sketches that were never used, short Inside The Episode making-of features, and more!
The Wrap-Up: I’ve heard Rick & Morty compared to everything from Back to the Future to Doctor Who to Futurama to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and in reality, it is kind of a mash-up of all of those things, just in animated form and with a seriously R-rated sense of humor. Unfortunately, it’s also just not my thing. I know people really love Rick & Morty and the show’s fan base is fanatical, but I have never been able to tap into whatever it is that people enjoy about it. For some reason this time around there is no digital copy included, which most of the previous sets did have. I’m not sure why the studio chose to go that route, but I suspect fans will not be overly thrilled about it.

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