Upgrade

A brutal, bloody, funny sci-fi action flick, Upgrade is one of the year’s most entertaining films. Leigh Whannell, of Saw and Dead Silence fame, writes and directs the story of a man (Logan Marshall-Green) who is paralyzed after thugs attack him and kill his wife. Since Marshall-Green’s character just happens to live in the future, a weirdo tech innovator is able to surgically implant an AI chip that will enable Marshall-Green to walk again. He goes through with it, only to discover the AI – named STEM – can talk to him. It can also help him exact graphically violent revenge against his wife’s killers. This all sounds like it could’ve made for a gloomy, dreary, unpleasant film, but Whannell manages to bring a playfulness to the proceedings that make Upgrade truly special.

Special Features to Note:

There are zero special features on this Blu-ray, and I’m not happy about it. I’m also not happy about the fact that the digital copy does have a special feature – a commentary from Whannell. Why isn’t this commentary included on the Blu-ray? I know the answer, of course: studios want to phase out physical media and force viewers to stick to digital, beacuse it would be much cheaper. But I remain a die-hard phsyical media fan, and I’ll stick with it as long as I can.

That said, the commentary track is an absolute delight. Whannell is hilarious, and spends most of his commentary both pointing out great behind-the-scenes tidbits, and also mocking other, terrible commentary tracks from other filmmakers, pointing out how so many directors seem to just narrate the movie, or remain silent for long stretches.

There’s a ton of great detail here – the filmmaker talks all about how he made such an expensive-looking film for a very low budget, and offers up advice on camera techniques and special effects. It’s like a very funny film school lecture, and well worth your time.

Special Features Include:

Nothing! Except for the digital copy, which comes with commentary.

The Terror

If you missed The Terror on AMC, you missed one of the year’s best, and creepiest, shows. Thankfully, The Terror is now available on Blu-ray. Based on the novel by Dan Simmons, The Terror is inspired by the true story of Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition to find the Northwest Passage. Franklin, his men, and the two ships in the party – the Terror and the Erebus – really did vanish off the face of the earth. The Terror adds a supernatural element to the story, positing that the men were picked-off by a monster (and also each other, as things got truly dire). Blending a harsh wintery landscape, utter hopelessness, and monstrous attacks with the sense of exploration and honor and duty, The Terror is like John Carpenter’s The Thing meets Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Special Features to Note:

There are three special features here, all of them brief. One goes into the backstory of the main characters, but since this is an ensemble show and there are dozens and dozens of characters to focus on, most of them get short-changed. Another featurette delves into the story, with star Jared Harris commenting that there have been more successful voyages to the moon than through the Northwest Passage, which gives you a great idea of how dangerous (and perhaps foolish) such an endeavor is. The final feature involves executive producer Ridley Scott waxing about the series, and how it blends fact and fiction. All in all, these features aren’t stellar, but the series itself is such a masterpiece that The Terror is a must-have.

Special Features Include:

  • A Look at the Characters Featurette
  • A Look at the Series Featurette
  • Ridley Scott on The Terror Featurette

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