new blu-ray releases

(Welcome to Not Dead Yet, a feature dedicated to what’s new on Blu-ray and what special features you should be excited about. Because yes, some of us still like to own physical copies of our movies.)

Welcome back, physical media fiends. As we close out January 2018, here’s a round-up of some new Blu-ray releases you’re going to want to check out. First and foremost is one of the most underrated films of 2017, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Beyond that, there’s Sam Raimi’s return to over-the-top horror following the Spider-Man series; a glorious B-movie about killer robots who are also school teachers; a surreal dramatization about the writing of Frankenstein; Gerard Butler fighting the weather; a reboot of the Saw franchise; and an Ethan Hawke action movie.

Here are the new Blu-ray releases you should check out this week.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Did you see Professor Marston and the Wonder Women during its brief theatrical run? Don’t lie, I know you probably didn’t, since the film bombed at the box office. Which is a shame, because Angela Robinson’s funny, sexy, unconventional biopic tracks the origin story of Wonder Woman through her creator: Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans). Marston and his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall, who is incredible here) take on a new research assistant Olive Byrne, played by Bella Heathcote, and soon the three of them have entered into a loving, polyamorous relationship. But society doesn’t take kindly to this sort of thing, especially in the era the story is set in.

Wonder Woman had a huge year in 2017, but sadly all the hype surrounding her big screen debut wasn’t enough to transfer over to Professor Marston. Thankfully, you can rectify that by picking the film up on Blu-ray – it’s well worth your time. What could’ve easily been a traditional Hollywood biopic ends up being a charming, amusing, romantic and sexy-as-hell story of three people madly in love with each other. As I said in my theatrical review, “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is so good natured in its portrayal of the relationship between William, Elizabeth and Olive that it becomes an ultimately sweet, charming film. Here, the superheroes aren’t comic book characters, but flesh and blood humans who dared to embrace a healthy love that society saw as corrupt and indecent. That’s the type of bravery that makes heroes.”

Special Features to Note:

“A Dynamic Trio: Birth of a Feminist Icon” is a quick (about 7 minutes) look into the true story of the characters. “Wonder Woman wasn’t created just to be a regular super hero, she was created for psychological propaganda,” says director Angela Robinson. Robinson goes on to say that she originally had intended to make a biopic about Marston, and she originally thought that he simply had a wife and a mistress on the side. When Robinson began to research the story further, she learned that rather than have a mistress, Marston, his wife and Olive Byrne had a relationship with each other. The cast also appears, talking about their characters.

“A Crucial Point of View: Directing – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” goes into the production of the film. “For me, [the story] was about presenting how they fell in love, and for the audience to really be invested in their relationship” says Robinson

Robinson says in writing the script, she strove to show that Marston wasn’t a perfect person. “Was he trying to justify his kinks, or was he really a feminist?” she wonders. During the course of this segment, Robinson reveals she has been working on bringing the film to screen for 8 years, proving this really was a passion project for her.

Beyond these features there are three deleted scenes, none of them that mind-blowing:

In “Love Leaders”, Marston talks to his class about “captivation motion”, and about how women should be in charge but men won’t give up their power without a fight. At the end of this scene, it’s implied a classmate of Olive’s ratted her relationship with the Marstons out to her boring boyfriend.

“Coughing Blood”is just what the title says – Marston, afflicted with cancer, goes into a bathroom and coughs up blood. Then smokes a cigarette.

“Who is Sappho” has Marston talking about Wonder Woman’s catchphrase “suffering Sappho”; Connie Britton, playing a character questioning Marston about the moral standards of his comic, asks if Wonder Woman is a lesbian;  Marston says no, but then says passion and emotion between women is perfectly natural.

Overall, I would’ve loved a few more in-depth features here, and a commentary from Robinson. But beyond that, Professor Marston is one of 2017’s most unjustly overlooked movies, and is worthy of a purchase.

Special Features Include:

  • Blu-ray & Digital Exclusive Bonus Materials Include:
  • The Secret Identity of Charles Moulton Motion Comic
  • A Dynamic Trio: Birth of a Feminist Icon
  • A Crucial Point of View: Directing – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
  • Deleted Scenes:

Drag Me To Hell

After a foray into blockbuster superhero filmmaking with the Spider-Man series, Evil Dead director Sam Raimi returned to his horror roots with the goofy-as-heck Drag Me To Hell. Raimi was never known for his subtlety, but he perhaps goes too far over-the-top here, crafting a shrieking, in-your-face horror show filled with gross-out humor and talking goats.

Alison Lohman is a pleasant bank clerk who realizes that if she ever wants to get ahead in her profession, she needs to start being ruthless. As bad luck would have it, the first person she’s (somewhat) mean to ends up being an old gypsy woman who then puts a curse on her. What follows is a film that puts Lohman through the wringer, featuring multiple scenes where demonic characters vomit goo, bugs and bile right into her shrieking mouth.

Drag Me To Hell is fun, but it doesn’t entirely work. Part of the fault, unfortunately, lies with Lohman. Raimi originally cast Ellen Page in the part, but Page dropped out to make Whip It. I can’t help but think the film would’ve worked out much better with Page in the lead, simply because she would have approached this material differently. Lohman mostly just reacts to things, and the brunt of her performance comes from how loud she can scream while supernatural forces are flying at her face. Still, fans of Raimi’s Army of Darkness will likely get a kick out of all of this, and Scream Factory’s collector’s edition is a must-have for horror fans.

Special Features to Note:

Both the theatrical cut and the unrated cut are here. Obviously, you should go unrated – but don’t expect anything too crazy. The unrated cut simply adds a little more blood here and there; nothing extreme.

Beyond that, there are vintage interviews with Raimi and the cast, and then there are vintage production diaries. As for new features, we get three new interviews courtesy of Scream Factory: Alison Lohman, Lorna Raver and composer Christopher Young. Lohman reveals that Raimi was very flexible in regards to what he let this actors do. For instance, Lohman reveals she wanted to change her character’s name on the first day of filming, and Raimi instantly agreed without an argument. Raver, who played the evil old woman in the film, is, of course, nothing at all like her character – she’s pleasant and jokey, and has fond memories of working on the film. It’s slightly jarring to contrast her antagonistic, make-up-covered character in the film with her real persona.

The features here aren’t exactly mind-blowing, but for fans of the film and Raimi’s work in general, this is another great release from Scream Factory.

Special Features Include:

Disc One:

  • NEW HD Master Of The Theatrical Cut Taken From The 2K Digital Intermediate
  • Production Diaries –  With Behind-the-scenes Footage And Interviews With Co-writer/director Sam Raimi, Actors Allison Lohman, Justin Long, David Paymer, Dileep Rao, Lorna Raver, Special Effects Guru Greg Nicotero, Director Of Photography Peter Deming, And More (35 Minutes)
  • Vintage Interviews With Director Sam Raimi And Actors Alison Lohman And Justin Long (33 Minutes)
  • TV Spots
  • Theatrical Trailer

Disc Two:

  • NEW HD Master Of The Unrated Cut Taken From The 2K Digital Intermediate
  • NEW To Hell And Back – An Interview With Actress Alison Lohman (12 Minutes)
  • NEW Curses! – An Interview With Actress Lorna Raver (16 Minutes)
  • NEW Hitting All The Right Notes – An Interview With Composer Christopher Young (17 Minutes)
  • Still Gallery

Gothic

1816 was known as the Year Without a Summer. The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 created a long volcanic winter, which resulted in gloomy weather all around. As a result of this, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and Dr. John Polidori, sequestered together one weekend with Mary Shelley’s stepsister Claire Clairmont at Byron’s Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, engaged in a round of ghost stories. This was the impetus of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the events of that weekend are highly dramatized by director Ken Russell’s Gothic.

Like most Russell films, Gothic is unhinged, bloated with surrealism and lunacy. The end-result is a mad, wild film that doesn’t quite come together, but remains fascinating. The late Natasha Richardson makes a compelling, sympathetic Mary Shelley (or rather, Mary Godwin, since she’s not married to Percy Shelley yet), while Gabriel Byrne steals the show as the sneering, demonic Lord Byron. Julian Sands plays Percy Shelley as a weak, whimpering soul and Timothy Spall is a delight as the fey Polidori. The weak link in the cast is Myriam Cyr, who plays Claire Clairmont as a babbling, screaming individual who just can’t sit still.

If you’re looking for an accurate reflection of the creation of Frankenstein, look elsewhere. But if you’re in the mood for something altogether strange and original, Gothic will satisfy you.

Special Features to Note:

There are multiple interviews here. Co-star Julian Sands talks about working on the film, and says that “Ken [Russell] interpreted the events with his own tuning fork,” which is a nice way of saying Russell took historical events and ran wild with them.

Screenwriter Stephen Volk talks about how Gothic began with a love of Hammer horror films, and a book called A Heritage of Horror. The book had a chapter devoted to the origins of Frankenstein, and inspired Volk to write a spec script based on the true story.

Volk says that Russell wanted to work fast and didn’t mess around on the script too much.Volk says he never saw Gothic as a stuffy costume drama, but rather a story about the influence of the horror genre. Volk also says that the original script was more focused on Mary Shelley, but Russell expanded it to focus on the other characters more as well.

Special Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary with Lisi Russell and Film Historian Matthew Melia
  • Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Thomas Dolby
  • “The Soul of Shelley” Featurette with Actor Julian Sands
  • “Fear Itself” Featurette with Screenwriter Stephen Volk
  • “One Rainy Night” Featurette with Director of Photography Mike Southon
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Still Gallery

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