Spider-Man Homecoming Blu-ray

(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.)

It’s time for another round-up of the best Blu-ray releases you can find this week. While some of you may have made the full switch to digital, I’ll be riding the Blu-ray train until this baby derails! There’s just something warmer about Blu-ray compared to digital; something more inviting. Or that could all be in my head.

This week’s Blu-ray column includes one of Marvel’s most enjoyable films, a Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, a fantastic film noir, one of the best directed films of 2017, a long-lost horror film, a not-so-classic recent horror film, and a bonafide Frank Capra classic. Here are the new Blu-ray releases you should check out this week.

Spider-Man: Homecoming 

“Oh great, another Spider-Man movie.” This was the thought that went through my head before I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming. In my humble opinion, the last thing we needed as filmgoers was yet another new take on Spider-Man, a character who has had approximately 500 reboots (okay, not really, but it’s been a lot). But you know what? Spider-Man: Homecoming is an absolute blast! It’s highly entertaining and one of the most enjoyable films Marvel has made to date. A deal with Sony enabled Spidey to enter the ever-growing MCU with Captain: America: Civil War. There, as played by Tom Holland, the character stood out. This was primarily due to Holland’s charming, funny performance. In Homecoming, Holland gets to take center stage, and proves he’s the best Spider-Man yet.

The plot of Spider-Man: Homecoming is a little wonky, and it does succumb to an ending involving a doomsday device of sorts as all tired superhero movies apparently think they must. But overall, the film succeeds by being so damn likable. And funny! This is basically a high school comedy that just happens to be about Spider-Man. And not only is Holland great, but the rest of the cast is charming as hell as well. Even Michael Keaton‘s bad guy is relatable in a way, although some of that is due to Keaton’s quirky performance. The best of the supporting bunch is Zendaya, playing Peter’s incredibly low-key classmate Michelle. With an incredibly dry wit and a perpetually ambivalent look, Zendaya’s Michelle is pretty much the best character in the MCU at this point. More of her in the sequel, please. As an added bonus, Robert Downey Jr., who has been on autopilot in the last few Marvel films, wakes up and remembers to turn on the charm that made him a superstar to begin with. All in all, Spider-Man: Homecoming is one of the most pleasant surprises of 2017.

Special Features to Note: This Blu-ray release has over an hour’s worth of materials. There’s a plethora of deleted and/or extended scenes, and I’ll just come out and say it: none of them are that great and very few add anything more to the film as it is now. The only thing that makes some of these extended scenes worth watching is the fact that the special effects work isn’t finished, so there are several moments where a clip art still image of Spider-Man will be floating across the screen when it’s supposed to be the real Spidey. In addition to these deleted scenes, there’s also stuff like the “Spidey Study Guide,” which plays like a pop-up video of trivia that connects events from the movie to the comics.

“A Tangled Web” talks about bringing Spidey into the MCU from Sony and attempting to tell the MCU story from the outside of the main MCU adventures. This feature is fine, but also has a moment that will completely kill any silly dream you might have about films still being art and not a cold business: at one point, Robert Downey Jr. cheerfully says, “Just the fact that two massive studios can get along and share IP is great!” “Finding Spider-Man” examines how compared to the other MCU characters, Spider-Man is just a normal kid. It also talks about how essential Tom Holland was for the part. Producers looked at over 7000 audition tapes, then met about 200 actors before settling on Holland, both for his acting chops and also the fact that he has a dance background which enables him to do a lot of his own stunts. The best feature of the bunch is “Rappin’ With Cap”, which is a collection of the hilarious Captain America Public Service Announcements.

Special Features Include:

  • The Spidey Study Guide
  • 10 Deleted Scenes
  • Gag Reel
  • Seven Featurettes
    • “A Tangled Web”
    • “Searching For Spider-Man”
    • “Spidey Stunts”
    • “Aftermath”
    • “The Vulture Takes Flight”
    • “Jon Watts: Head of the Class”
    • “Pros And Cons of Spider-Man”
  • Rappin’ with Cap: Captain America PSAs
  • Photo Gallery

Barry Lyndon

What’s the best Stanley Kubrick movie? I’m sure everyone has a different answer, although The Shining probably ends up with the most votes. But for my money, the best Kubrick is his 1975 masterpiece Barry Lyndon. A mythological period piece about a poor Irishman who basically fails upward through society until he becomes a nobleman, Barry Lyndon moves at its own deliberate pace, but gosh almighty does it do so gorgeously. Kubrick has seemingly brought an entire portrait gallery to life.

With scenes lit by candlelight set against lush, ornate backdrops, Barry Lyndon is one of the most gorgeous films ever made. Honestly, I can’t even think of another movie as beautiful as this. The painterly images are contrasted with a darkly funny tale of a complete jerk who finds his way into high society and proceeds to blow it at every turn. The proceedings unfold via an omnipotent narrator with a wicked sense of humor. The narrator tends to warn the audience when something unfortunate is going to happen, but rather than spoil the moment, this warning only enhances it, putting us all on edge as we wait for the terrible thing to happen. The Criterion Collection has brought this stunning film to Blu-ray with a jaw-dropping 4K digital restoration, and it’s worth every penny.

Special Features to Note: “Working with Stanley Kubrick was long, intense and thoroughly enjoyable,” says Douglas Milsome, the focus puller on Barry Lyndon. There are a handful of features on the Blu-ray, and almost all of them delve into what a genius Kubrick was and just why Barry Lyndon is so wonderful. Some of these features may strike some as stuffy, and they likely won’t appeal to a wide audience but rather cinephiles. Still, they’re enjoyable to watch and feature anecdotes about the making of the film. For instance: since most scenes were lit by candlelight, the candles would inadvertently suck the oxygen out of the rooms as they burned down. The rooms would then need to be aired out between each take. Another tidbit of info: while the film is filled with long, deliberate zooms that slowly reveal more and more of a scene, Kubrick never referred to them as zooms but rather described the process as “varying the focal length.”

A feature devoted to production designer Ken Adams also reveals something interesting. Adams worked as the production designer on several James Bond films. After he had finished Barry Lyndon, he was working on the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. When Adams had trouble lighting a scene he actually called up Kubrick for help, and Kubrick came to Pinewood Studios to lend a hand. The most fascinating feature of the bunch has art curator Adam Eaker examining the various period paintings that Kubrick drew inspiration from.

Special Features Include:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray
  • New documentary featuring cast and crew interviews as well as audio excerpts from a 1976 interview with director Stanley Kubrick
  • New program about the film’s groundbreaking visuals, featuring focus puller Douglas Milsome and gaffer Lou Bogue as well as excerpts from a 1980 interview with cinematographer John Alcott
  • New program featuring historian Christopher Frayling on Academy Award–winning production designer Ken Adam
  • New interview with editor Tony Lawson
  • French television interview from 1976 with Ulla-Britt Söderlund, who codesigned the film’s Oscar-winning costumes
  • New interview with critic Michel Ciment
  • New interview with actor Leon Vitali about the 5.1 surround soundtrack, which he cosupervised
  • New piece analyzing the fine-art-inspired aesthetics of the film with curator Adam Eaker
  • Trailers
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and two pieces about the look of the film from the March 1976 issue of American Cinematographer

Baby Driver

Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is one of the best-directed films of the year, but I’m still not 100% sure that makes it one of the best films of the year. To be sure, Wright directs the hell out of this movie, staging one incredible set piece after another, creating an exciting, entertaining thrill ride. Yet the script has issues, particularly when it comes to main love interest Debora (Lily James), who is little more than an object and not much of a character.

Wright turns what could be a simple heist movie into something akin to a car chase musical. Ansel Elgort is Baby, a super-fast, super-skilled driver who drowns out a hum in his ear with a constant supply of music. That music makes up the soundtrack of the film, and most of it is fantastic. Baby is a getaway driver, transporting bank robbers from one location to the next until he’s paid of his debt to ringleader Doc (Kevin Spacey). But all Baby wants to be is free, driving off into the sunset with Debora.

There’s so much to like here, particularly the supporting cast, which includes Jon Hamm with a really cool haircut and Jamie Foxx bringing a level of menace that we haven’t really seen from him before. And then there are those car chase scenes, staged with real cars. They’re an absolute blast to watch. Still, I keep coming back to that script, and to the way that Debora has almost no agency. To her credit, Lily James does her absolute best to give the character a third dimension, and she’s a very charming actress. But there’s just not enough material for her to work with. I’m also not really sold on Elgort’s performance, which seems to often mistaken “wooden” for “cool.” Still, it’s hard to deny how much damn fun Baby Driver is.

Special Features to Note: The Baby Driver Blu-ray is practically overflowing with extras. There’s almost 20 minutes of deleted scenes on here, although the bulk of them are just quick snippets that add a few minutes onto scenes that already exist. For instance, in the opening scene, where Baby is rocking out to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, he tries on another pair of his endless supply of sunglasses before switching back. The real meat and potatoes of the features are the behind the scenes videos. Choreographer Ryan Heffington talks a lot about how he worked with all the actors to keep them all in sync with the music – one of the film’s most memorable features is how almost everything, from counting money to walking down the street, will line-up with the tempo or beat of the song playing during the scene. Off camera, Heffington can be seen counting out steps for the actors so they stay in time. There’s also a feature about how Elgort learned to stunt-drive for the film, and even if you’re not really into the concept of cars or racing (as I’m not), this segment will probably make you jealous and wish you could do something like that for a day.

Special Features Include:

  • Extended/Deleted Scenes – 20 minutes of extended scenes and a few moments that were dropped from the final cut.
  • Mozart In A Go-Kart: Ansel Drives – Ride shotgun with star Ansel Elgort as he works with the talented stunt drivers to become the ultimate getaway driver.                                   
  • I Need A Killer Track: The Music – Explore how the film’s phenomenal soundtrack dictated both the writing process and all aspects of production on Baby Driver.                
  • That’s My Baby: Edgar Wright – Follow Edgar Wright’s vision of Baby Driver from its inception two decades ago, to its ultimate realization on the big screen.                         
  • Meet Your New Crew: Doc’s Gang – Led by powerhouse Kevin Spacey, the cast assembled to form Doc’s gang is perfectly constructed with stars like Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm as well as up and coming talent like Eiza González and Jon Bernthal. Go behind the scenes to see this talented group at work as they bring these characters to life.   
  • Find Something Funky On There: The Choreography – With every frame of Baby Driver set to a specific beat it took precise choreography by the cast, crew and editors to create a cinematic dance like nothing that’s been done before.  Hear from the choreographer and filmmakers on this groundbreaking process.                                             
  • Devil Behind The Wheel: The Car Chases – From closing down Atlanta’s interstates to creating eyepopping maneuvers for a variety of vehicles, witness the amazing craftsmanship and sheer determination that made the film’s incredible car chases possible.
  • Animatics – Check out over 35 minutes of the numerous pre-vis animatics developed by Edgar Wright as part of his meticulous preparation.
  • Ansel Elgort Audition – See firsthand the audition that proved without a doubt that Ansel Elgort was the perfect choice for Baby.
  • Annotated Coffee Run Rehearsal – Day one of production involved one of the film’s most elaborately choreographed sequences where every movement is carefully crafted.  Check out the preliminary rehearsal and see the behind the scenes movement in concert with Ansel Elgort’s on camera choreography.                                                
  • Hair, Make Up & Costume Tests – In this stylized montage, witness the transformation of the actors through costume, hair and make-up tests.
  • Mint Royale – “Blue Song” Music Video – This music video directed by Edgar years ago for the band Mint Royale showcases some early inspiration for Baby Driver.
  • Complete Storyboard Gallery – See the elaborate storyboards developed for the film in this gallery featuring storyboards for the entire film.           
  • Director Commentary
  • Filmmaker Commentary (Edgar Wright and Director of Photography Bill Pope)

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