New Blu-ray Releases Happy Death Day 2U

This week, several titles get new, splendid-looking 4K releases. You’ll also have a chance to pick up a criminally underrated horror sequel from earlier this year, as well as a new creepy kid movie. In addition to that, we’re trying out something new with this column: rather than just break down the special features, you’ll find reasons why any of these films are worth owning physically (rather than relying on those newfangled digital copies). These are the new Blu-ray releases and their special features you should check out this week.

Happy Death Day 2U

Happy Death Day was a surprisingly fun slasher-comedy hybrid, borrowing the time-loop premise of Groundhog Day and adding a masked serial killer premise into the mix. It could’ve backfired, but the clever script, and the winning lead performance of Jessica Rothe, made it work. Now here’s Happy Death Day 2U, which takes what the first film did, and kicks it into overdrive. Embracing full-blown comedy and absurdity, Happy Death Day 2U is even better than its predecessor, expanding on the time-loop premise by introducing new characters and more complicated mythology. At the center of it all, though, remains Jessica Rothe, as Tree Gelbman, a college student stuck living and dying during the same day, over and over. I remain utterly perplexed as to why Rothe isn’t a bigger star – she’s phenomenal, and this sequel gives her even more to do. Not only does she have the comedy down, but she also excels during some surprisingly emotional moments. Rothe is aided by the consistently clever script from writer-director Christopher Landon, which embraces the silliness of the premise, and finds ways to make it all work exceedingly well.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

Happy Death Day 2U underperformed at the box office, and I’m not happy about that. To be clear: it didn’t bomb, since it was made for a relatively low budget. But the fact of the matter is it didn’t do as well as Blumhouse was hoping, effectively killing any more sequels. But the world needs more Happy Death Day movies. It would be cruel to deny us them. Perhaps if enough of us go out and buy the Blu-ray, Blumhouse will be inspired.

Beyond that, though, Happy Death Day 2U is worth owning on Blu-ray because it’s one of the year’s most enjoyable movies – and it only improves with rewatches. The film is practically designed to be rewatched, enabling viewers to pick up on things they missed the first time around. And it’s unlikely that this will end up on a streaming service anytime soon, making the best bet for multiple viewings Blu-ray.

Special Features Include: 

  • Gag Reel
  • Deleted Scene
  • The Never-ending Birthday – Filmmakers and cast discuss how the sequel came about, and the fun they had coming together again to create another chapter of Tree’s saga.
  • Web of Love: Tree’s Nightmare – As if Tree doesn’t have enough problems, she now finds herself in a dimension where her love, Carter, is dating her frenemy, Danielle. We take a closer look at this chaotic love triangle.
  • Multiverse 101 – What is a multiverse, anyway? In this piece, we examine how Tree got caught in another time loop, and how this one differs from her first experience.


Hannibal 4K

Hannibal gets a bad wrap, and that’s understandable: it’s a sequel to a perfect movie. That movie is Silence of the Lambs, and while Hannibal features some of the same characters, and one of the same actors, it’s nowhere near the level of its Oscar-winning predecessor. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just different. Rather than even attempt to copy what Silence director Jonathan Demme did, Hannibal filmmaker Ridley Scott concocted a ghoulish, gory, Grand Guignol-style freak show. Gothic, poetic, even romantic, Hannibal is a nasty but beautiful piece of work. Anthony Hopkins‘s Hannibal Lecter is in hiding in Rome, and Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore, stepping in for Jodie Foster) is on his trail. But she’s not alone. The vile Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), one of Lecter’s only surviving victims – who is also hideously scarred – wants revenge, and is trying to catch Lecter as well. Hopkins is clearly having fun, although I will admit Hannibal the character – at least the movie version – is better in small doses rather than as a lead. Moore’s take on Starling is different than Fosters, but she brings a fragile toughness to the part that works perfectly for the narrative.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

I’m guessing that if you’ve never seen Hannibal, there’s a chance you’ve heard it was “bad.” But that’s not true, folks. Is it as good as Silence of the Lambs? No, but it’s still a wonderful film. And if you did see it when it came out, and never revisited it since, this new Kino Lorber release is the perfect excuse. Kino Lorber has put the film out on 4K for the first time, and the transfer is gorgeous. The torrent of blood Ridley Scott is fond of using really pop, and the shadows in Rome that Hannibal is fond of hiding in are crisp and stark. The film has never looked better, and this will likely be your only chance to own it in 4K.

Special Features Include: 

  • Audio Commentary by Director Ridley Scott
  • Breaking the Silence: The Making of Hannibal – including rare footage and interviews
  • Anatomy of a Shoot-Out: A Five-Angle Breakdown of the “Fish Market” Action Scene
  • Ridleygrams: A Featurette on the Art of Storyboarding
  • An Exploration of the Film’s Opening Title Design (7 Minutes)
  • Over 33 Minutes of Deleted and Alternate Scenes with Optional Director Commentary
  • Alternate Ending with Optional Director Commentary (6 Minutes)
  • Teaser Trailer
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • 19 TV Spots


Black Hawk Down 4K

Somehow – perhaps by fate – we’ve ended up with different Ridley Scott movies remastered in 4K in this week’s column. So it goes. Inspired by actual events, and the book by Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down is essentially a never-ending action scene. After some minor set-up, Scott dives into a ground and air skirmish, and almost never lets up. It’s 1993, and the U.S. Government is attempting to use Delta Force and the 75th Rangers to destabilize the Somali government in order to depose Mohamed Farrah Aidid. A big raid is planned to kidnap one of Aidid’s militia leaders in Mogadishu, but things go wrong almost immediately, and that’s when the shooting starts. And never stops. Scott is clearly not interested in the politics at play here – they’re secondary to the violence and spectacle. That may rub some viewers the wrong way, and the film’s unblinking, uncommenting look at militarism seems particularly dated today. But from a technical standpoint, Scott is at the top of his game here, staging on brutal scene after another. To make the film, he assembled a cast of established and soon-to-be-established stars, many of whom are indistinguishable from each other since they all have the same damn haircut. Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Hugh Dancy, Jason Isaacs, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and more all pop-up as the mayhem unfolds.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

I hadn’t seen Black Hawk Down since theaters, so I’d forgotten how unrelenting and exhausting it is. That’s not a complaint – by almost never letting up, Scott is effectively capturing the hellishness of war (although he stops short of making any sort of real commentary). This new 4K release, which features both the theatrical and longer directors cut, showcases the technical merits of Scott’s work here. The grimy, blood-streaked cinematography looks both stylized and fully real. The sound design in particular is impeccable on this release, with the constant barrage of bullets and explosions cranked up to pulse-pounding levels. If you’re a war movie aficionado, this is the release to purchase.

Special Features Include: 

  • Theatrical Version of the Film
  • Audio Commentary by Director / Producer Ridley Scott & Producer Jerry Bruckheimer
  • Audio Commentary by Author Mark Bowden & Screenwriter Ken Nolan
  • Audio Commentary by Task Force Ranger Veterans
  • “The Essence of Combat: Making Black Hawk Down” Documentary
  • The History Channel® Presents: “The True Story of Black Hawk Down”
  • PBS Presents: “Frontline: Ambush in Mogadishu”
  • 8 Deleted & Alternate Scenes with Optional Commentary
  • “Designing Mogadishu” Featurette
  • Production Design Archive
  • Storyboards with Optional Commentary
  • Ridleygrams with Optional Commentary
  • Target Building Insertion: Multi-Angle Sequence with Optional Commentary
  • Q&A Forums: BAFTA. Motion Picture Editor’s Guild & American Cinematheque
  • Jerry Bruckheimer’s BHD Photo Album
  • Title Design Explorations with Optional Commentary
  • “Gortoz A Ran – J’Attends” Music Video performed by Denez Prigent & Lisa Gerrard
  • Photo Galleries
  • Theatrical Poster Concepts
  • Trailer & TV Spots


Godzilla 4K

Yes, that’s right. The 1998 American Godzilla has its own 4K Blu-ray release now. Independence Day director Roland Emmerich helmed this big, loud monster mash, and lots of people weren’t happy. It’s safe to say the reputation of this film is in the gutter, with Godzilla fans treating it as something of a joke. But is it really as bad as people say it is? Well, it’s not exactly good, I can say that much. Matthew Broderick makes for a bland leading man, and Maria Pitillo is downright abysmal as Broderick’s love interest. And yet…I have a soft spot for this movie. Perhaps it’s because I’m only a casual fan of Godzilla as a character and franchise, and thus had no real expectations. Is this film dumb? Oh yeah, but there’s something oddly enjoyable about this movie. Perhaps it’s because it was made a time when American films were still using physical props, and not just CGI. Sure, there’s plenty of computer trickery in this film – but there’s also a lot of practical stuff: puppets, models, matte paintings – all of which give the film a comforting, retro feel today.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

Did Godzilla need a 4K release? That’s up for debate! But it can’t be denied this new release looks great, and gives you a real appreciation for the ridiculous amount of work they put into this film that most people hate now. And as I said above, Godzilla 1998 really isn’t as bad as its reputation suggests. Perhaps now, with expectations at an all-time low, would be the perfect time to revisit this, complete with its visually pleasing new transfer. If you’re a Godzilla completist, you should probably have this on your shelf anyway, with the 5000 other Godzilla movies.

Special Features Include: 

  • Visual Effects Commentary
  • Behind the Scenes of Godzilla with Charles Caiman
  • All-Time Best-of Godzilla Fight Scenes
  • “Heroes” Music Video by The Wallflowers


The Prodigy

As far as creepy kid movies go, The Prodigy is fairly effective. It’s also surprisingly nasty for a mainstream horror flick, going to some considerably dark, grisly places. Mom Taylor Schilling is convinced her son Miles (Jackson Robert Scott) is astoundingly gifted, but then starts to suspect a more sinister reason for Miles’s behavior. What if he’s not gifted at all, but rather possessed by the soul of an adult serial killer? Sure, this makes no sense, and The Prodigy does only minimal work to try to explain it. But once you get past that, you get a creepy, well-made horror show complete with twists, turns and even a little gore. It doesn’t all pan out in the end, but for the most part, you’ll enjoy the journey.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

Do you like creepy kids? Do you like loud, scary sounds? Do you like Taylor Schilling? This movie has all of that! And more!

Special Features Include: 

  • Commentary by Director Nicholas McCarthy
  • Promotional Featurettes
  • Gallery


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