New Blu-ray Releases Into the Spider-Verse

In our latest Blu-ray round-up, we have two of the best superhero movies from last year, a well-intentioned but slightly forgettable Disney musical sequel, and Crispin Glover chilling out and freaking out with his some rats. These are the new Blu-ray releases and their special features you should check out this week and beyond.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

“Anyone can wear the mask. You can wear the mask. If you didn’t know that before, I hope you do now.” With that bit of dialogue, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse cements itself as one of the best, and most important, superhero movies ever made. When this project was announced, I immediately thought, “God, do we need another new Spider-Man movie?”, because I’m a cynic. The answer to my question is a resounding yes, because Into the Spider-Verse is an eye-popping, heart-warming adventure about finding your place in the world, specifically a world that has long told you you don’t belong. Animated with a constantly changing style, Spider-Verse finds teen Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) gaining radioactive spider-powers, but he’s not alone. There’s a Spider-Man in his universe, but there are more spider-people from other universes as well, including Spider-Gwen/Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), the cartoon pig Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), and the sad-sack Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), a more pathetic, chubby version of the Peter Parker we’re used to. These characters, and more, must come together on a rousing, rewarding journey. If more superhero movies were as wonderful and inventive as this, our universe would be a better place.

Special Features to Note: 

The Blu-ray release features an “Alternate Universe Mode”, which is a kind of extended, and different, version of the film we saw in theaters. Rather than include deleted scenes as separate extras, the Blu-ray release cuts them back into the movie – usually in rough, unfinished form. It’s a neat way of giving viewers something new to watch. 

In addition to that, we get several featurettes, including a Spider-Ham short done in Loony Toons style, and several making-of features. These include “We Are Spider-Man”, which has the filmmakers talking about the importance of giving attention  to new faces and new voices, and explains how the film is a new take on Spider-Man. “A New Dimension” is all about the unique visual style of the film, revealing the motto for the look of the movie was literally “go too far”, with the intention of making every frame of the film a work of art.

Then there’s a featurette devoted to pointing out some of the Easter Eggs in the film. For example: not only is the late Stan Lee featured as a comic book store owner, his animated visage has several other cameos all over the film – we can spot him in a crowd, on a train, and more. This video only scratches the surface, revealing that there are so many Easter Eggs in the movie that the filmmakers actually lost count of them. 

Special Features Include:

  • We Are Spider-Man: Exploring and celebrating one of the key themes of the film, We Are Spider-Man takes a deep dive into the diversity of the characters and aspirational core that any person from any gender or cultural background can wear the mask.
  • Spider-Verse: A New DimensionWith a stunning visual style and state of the art animation designed to take the viewer into the pages of a comic, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is not only a love letter to comic books but a groundbreaking take on the super hero genre. Hear from the artists and filmmakers who pushed the boundaries of the artform as they discuss their journey.
  • The Ultimate Comics Cast: Enjoy this showcase of all of the fan favorite characters featured in the Spider-Verse and the spectacular cast who were chosen to bring them to life.
  • A Tribute to Stan Lee & Steve Ditko: Celebrate the amazing legacy and powerful spirit of the creators of Spider-Man.
  • The Spider-Verse Super-Fan Easter Egg Challenge: The Spider-Verse is loaded with Easter Eggs, from cameos to comics references. Fans are challenged to find them all!
  • Designing Cinematic Comics Characters: A breakdown of all aspects of the character design including costume, movement in animation, and distinct powers for each character.
    • Heroes & Hams: Meet the amazing Spider-people of the Spider-Verse. 
    • Scorpions and Scoundrels: Explore the classic villains who wreak havoc on the Spider-Verse.
  • Alternate Universe Mode: In this all-new viewing experience, discover alternate scenes, plotlines, characters, and more with the filmmakers as your guide.
  • 2 Lyric Videos
    • “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee
    • “Familia”  by Nicki Minaj & Anuel AA (feat. Bantu)
  • All-New Original Short “Spider-Ham: Caught In a Ham” It’s another normal day for Peter Porker, a.k.a. the Spectacular Spider-Ham, fighting bad guys and loving hot dogs, until a mysterious portal starts messing with the very fabric of his cartoon reality.

 

Aquaman
(on Blu-ray March 26)

Aquaman is big, silly nonsense – but it’s the kind of big, silly nonsense worth celebrating. Say what you want about the script for this movie (it’s not very good), it’s hard to deny how enjoyable it is to watch. Director James Wan and company have built a visually stunning world – a world full of grand spectacle. Marvel movies may have tighter plots, but their filmmaking can’t compete with the stunning flair being used here. Wan is telling a big, grand, epic story – something like Lord of the Rings meets H.P. Lovecraft. Jason Momoa‘s super-bro Aquaman has to battle his evil half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) in order to save the world. Along the way, there are big battles, horrifying sea monsters, Nicole Kidman eating goldfish, Amber Heard eating flowers, and an octopus playing the drums. How can you not like a movie with all of that?

Special Features to Note: 

“Becoming Aquaman” is a journey through Jason Momoa’s exceedingly long journey to becoming the character – he was cast in the role years before his own solo movie, and even then, he had to keep the news secret. So secret, in fact, that when rumors began to surface, he would flat-out lie to interviewers and deny he was playing the part. 

“Going Deep into the World of Aquaman” is a making-of featurette where James Wan starts off by saying his goal with making this film was to take the character of Aquaman away from the jokes that had swirled around him for so long. This featurette goes inside the production office 100 days before shooting, showing off concept art, models and designs. As we’re told by Wan and company, it was impractical to shoot underwater, so they shot everything on blue screen, which meant the filmmakers had to make up how fight scenes might look underwater. Actors were attached to a device called the “tuning fork” which moved them around as if they were submerged. As a result, the actors had to learn how to handle themselves on these devices, and practice their movements to give them the right fluid motion. 

Scene study breakdowns feature behind-the-scenes looks at The Trench attack, the big chase scene in Sicily chase, and the submarine scene at the start of the movie. During the Trench breakdown, Wan says he thinks the Trench should have their own movie – and sure enough, that’s happening now. It’s like he was trying to tell us something!

Special Features Include: 

  • Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman
  • Becoming Aquaman
  • James Wan: World Builder
  • Aqua Tech
  • Atlantis Warfare
  • The Dark Depths of Black Manta
  • Heroines of Atlantis
  • Villainous Training
  • Kingdoms of the Seven Seas
  • Creating Undersea Creatures
  • A Match Made in Atlantis
  • Scene Study Breakdowns
  • Exclusive Sneak Peek of Shazam!

 

Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins Returns is what I’d call a nice movie. Its heart is in the right place, the cast is all doing their best, and there’s nothing here to offend. But despite the lavish production designs, and attempts at old school Hollywood escapism, the movie is oddly flat. This is a musical, but not a single song is memorable. This is also a family movie, but none of the emotional beats really land. What makes this worth watching is Emily Blunt, who turns is a weird performance as the famous magical nanny. Blunt is doing an utterly strange voice here, and it’s delightful. She’s joined by eternal showman Lin-Manuel Miranda, who adopts a cockney accent clearly meant to pay tribute to Dick Van Dyke‘s from first film. Speaking of Van Dyke, he shows up for a cameo and dances his ass off, even though he’s 93-years-old. The plot is more or less the same as the original film – Mary Poppins pops in to save the Banks family. And as I said, it’s all very nice. But it would’ve been supercalifragilisticexpialidocious if it had been something more.

Special Features to Note: 

There’s a Making-of Featurette that runs for almost a half hour, walking us through the production. Director Rob Marshall says Mary Poppins was the very first movie he saw as a kid, which is fairly interesting, I suppose. He also felt like this was a “whole new movie”, and wasn’t too concerned with making it look so much like the original, instead turning to the books.

There are a few featurettes that take us inside some of the biggest musical numbers in the film, like “Trip A Little Light Fantastic”, the largest number in the movie, which took about a week and a half to shoot. It’s cool to see how much work went into all these big scenes…now if only the songs were good. Speaking of which, there’s a deleted song included – “The Anthropomorphic Zoo.” It’s about as forgettable as the songs that made it into the movie. 

 

Special Features Include: 

  • Deleted Song—“The Anthropomorphic Zoo” – In this early song sequence, Mary Poppins and the children visit a very special zoo where the humans and animals trade places.
  • The Practically Perfect Making of “Mary Poppins Returns” – Join filmmakers and cast on an amazing journey to embrace the legacy of the original film while making a fresh modern sequel.
    • Introduction – Filmmakers and cast remember the first Mary Poppins movie and share the thrill of working on “Mary Poppins Returns.”
    • “(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky” – Discover how the team mined PL Travers’ books for a fresh perspective on a much-loved character. Plus, meet the Banks children!
    • “Can You Imagine That?” – Be on location for Mary’s iconic entrance from the sky, and explore the movie’s original songs, inspired by the Sherman Brothers.
    • “Nowhere to Go but Up” – Experience being on set with the legendary Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury, and celebrate the joy of choosing the right balloon!
  • Seeing Things From a Different Point of View”: The Musical Numbers of “Mary Poppins Returns”– Go behind the scenes and experience the film’s production numbers from a new angle.
    • “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” – Led by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the cast performs the film’s biggest production number, with dancing lamplighters, bicyclists and more!
    • “The Royal Doulton Music Hall” / “A Cover Is Not the Book” – Find out what it takes to create two musical extravaganzas inside an animated world, highlighted by dancing animated penguins!
    • “Turning Turtle” – Mary’s eccentric cousin, Topsy Turvy, played by Meryl Streep, has an unusual house that turns this musical number upside-down.
    • “Can You Imagine That?” – Dive under the bubbles with the cast and crew to see how this exuberant number was created.
  • Back to Cherry Tree Lane: Dick Van Dyke Returns – Dick Van Dyke, who played Bert and Mr. Dawes Sr. in the first film, returns after 54 years to Cherry Tree Lane as Mr. Dawes Jr.
  • Practically Perfect Bloopers – There’s nowhere to go but up with the cast and crew in this lighthearted collection of flubs, goofs and prop fails!
  • Deleted Scenes
    • Leaving Topsy’s – After their visit to Cousin Topsy, Mary, Jack and the children pause to take a look back.
    • “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” – The leeries light up the screen in this extended clip from the movie’s biggest musical production.
  • Play Movie in Sing-Along Mode – Sing along with all your favorite songs as you watch the movie.

 

Willard

Willard was not a hit when it came out, but it’s since become a bit of a cult classic – and rightfully so. Whatever this film’s flaws, it’s a must-see simply for the off-the-wall performance of Crispin Glover. Glover has always been known for his eccentricities, and he’s spent most of his career delegated to supporting roles. In Willard, he takes the lead, and he doesn’t waste it. He literally throws himself into things here, playing the sad, lonely, deranged Willard Stiles, a man who trains an army of rats to be his friends. Anytime the film starts to lull, Glover is there to go fucking nuts, shrieking and sweating his way from scene to scene. He’s an absolute delight to watch, and I’m so glad Scream! Factory gave this film the Blu-ray treatment.

Special Features to Note: 

We get a feature-length interview with director Glen Morgan, in which he walks us through his entire career. It’s informative, but Morgan tends to trail off in the middle of sentences, which can make for a frustrating experience. Still, he’s had quite a career, working on The X-Files, the Final Destination films, and more, and he’s not afraid to spill the beans on any of these subjects. 

My favorite feature on the disc is behind-the-scenes footage of the many real rats on the set of the film, and how their handlers got them to perform from scene to scene. It’s cute! (If you like rats, that is.)

Special Features Include: 

  • NEW 2K Scan Of The Original Film Elements
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Glen Morgan And Director Of Photography Robert McLachlan
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Animal Trainers Mark Harden And David Allsberry Of Animals For Hollywood
  • NEW The Road To Willard – An Interview With Writer/Director Glen Morgan
  • NEW Destination Willard – An Interview With Director Of Photography Robert McLachlan
  • NEW The Rat Trainer’s Notebook – Behind-The-Scenes Footage From Animals For Hollywood
  • Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Glen Morgan, Producer James Wong, Actors Crispin Glover And R. Lee Ermey
  • The Year Of The Rat – A Documentary On The Making Of Willard
  • Rat People: Friends Or Foes? – A Real Rat Documentary
  • Deleted/Alternate Scenes With Optional Commentary
  • Music Video Ben By Crispin Hellion Glover With Optional Commentary
  • Behind-The-Scenes Footage And Interviews From The Electronic Press Kit
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
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