New Blu-ray Releases Rocketman

Calling all physical media phans! There are a whole lot of great new Blu-rays you must purchase. That’s right, I said must. Empty your bank account! Or don’t, whatever, I’m not your boss. But this week really does offer up some wonderful films, and I urge you to check them out. These are the new Blu-ray releases you should check out this week.

Rocketman

Biopics are a time-honored Hollywood tradition. And biopics about musicians are all the rage lately – just look at the popularity of the Oscar-nominated Bohemian RhapsodyThe problem is that most musician biopics are painfully formulaic, and in some cases, downright bad – again, just look at the Oscar-nominated Bohemian Rhapsody, an awful film that still managed to scoop up awards. If you’re burned out on bad biopics, you might be hesitant to check out Rocketman, which on the surface is a biopic of Elton John. But Rocketman rises above the standard biopic trappings to create something unique. Sure, it occasionally slips into cliche territory. But for the most part, Rocketman distinguishes itself by being a full-blown musical. There aren’t just scenes of Elton John performing at concerts – there are old school musical numbers, complete with dancers and fantastical elements galore. It makes for a more rewarding experience overall and makes you appreciate how bad other musician biopics are. Taron Egerton is excellent as Elton John – primarily because the actor actually creates a character here, rather than lean on a cheesy impression. A little trimming here and there and Rocketman could’ve been one of the best biopics in recent memory. Instead, we’ll just have to settle for a really good biopic instead.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

Rocketman is a long movie, but it could’ve been even longer, as this Blu-ray confirms. The release comes packed with not just deleted scenes – most of which are forgettable – but also extended musical numbers. So instead of the trimmed-down versions of the songs you see in the film, you’ll be treated to the fuller versions as well. There’s also a “sing-along” feature – something that’s become standard in most popular musicals. So if you want to go ahead and belt out some of these tunes while you’re home alone, feel free. I won’t tell anyone. Overall, Rocketman is an entertaining, fantasized journey through Elton John’s career, and is thus inherently watchable – and rewatchable.

Special Features Include: 

  • Extended Musical Numbers:
    • Introduction by Dexter Fletcher
    • The Bitch Is Back
    • Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)
    • Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache
    • Honky Cat
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes:
    • Introduction by Dexter Fletcher
    • I Love Rock And Roll
    • You’ve Got to Kill the Person You Were Born To Be
    • Arabella
    • Elton in the Gas Oven
    • Stylish Boots
    • You’re Not the First Closet Queer with a Mummy Complex
    • The Blood Test
    • The Heart Attack
    • The Launderette
    • Do You Want Anything?
  • It’s Going to Be a Wild Ride: Creative Vision
  • Becoming Elton John: Taron’s Transformation
  • Larger Than Life: Production Design & Costuming
  • Full Tilt: Staging the Musical Numbers
  • Music Reimagined: The Studio Sessions – Behind the scenes in the recording studio with Taron & Elton
  • ROCKETMAN Lyric Companion: Sing-Along with Select Songs (English only):
    • The Bitch Is Back
    • I Want Love
    • Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)
    • Your Song
    • Crocodile Rock
    • Tiny Dancer
    • Honky Cat
    • Rocket Man
    • Bennie and the Jets
    • Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
    • Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
    • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
    • I’m Still Standing

 

Apocalypse Now (Final Cut)

By now, the stories are infamous: how the production of Francis Ford Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now turned into a living nightmare. How the film went over budget, and over schedule. How co-star Marlon Brando showed up to shoot shockingly overweight, causing Coppola to shoot him mostly in shadow. How star Martin Sheen ended up having a heart attack. The list of problems plaguing the production is endless and legendary. All of that lends an extra unsettling aura to Coppola’s Vietnam War epic, inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Sheen’s Army Captain Benjamin Willard is sent on a secret mission to kill Colonel Kurtz (Brando), an  Army Special Forces officer who has gone insane and is now living in the jungle and being worshipped like a god. The journey is fraught and perilous, bringing Willard and the boat crew he’s with to one surreal scene after another until it all climaxes with the confrontation with Kurtz. A sensory overload – editor Walter Murch designed a cutting-edge technique for playing the film’s sound – Apocalypse Now remains a classic for a reason. It’s also a film that’s been revisited several times. Coppola himself previously cut together Apocalypse Now Redux, which added 50 minutes to an already long film. Now, Coppola has gone back to the well again with this new 4K release, titled Apocalypse Now: Final Cut. This is said to be Coppola’s preferred version of the film and trims about 20 minutes out of the Redux cut. Will this release seem new to you if you’ve already watched the movie in its various forms? Maybe not, but it feels more complete and more essential than ever.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

As Coppola himself says in a new intro, Final Cut is his preferred version of the film. That on its own might be enough to ensure people pick this up. But to sweeten the pot, the 4K Final Cut release is jam-packed with material, making it the only release worth owning at this point. Not only do you get the Final Cut, you also get the Redux cut as well. Also included: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, the documentary that recounts how insane the Apocalyse Now production was. In addition, you’ll find a wealth of behind-the-scenes featurettes – some of which were included in the previous releases of the film. But there are also new features devoted to the unique sound design of the film, as well as the restoration for the 4K release. The Q&A Coppola did with director Steven Soderbergh at the recent Tribeca Film Festival – where Final Cut premiered – is also included. If you’re a fan of Apocalypse Now, there’s no way in hell you should pass this release up.

Special Features Include: 

  • Disc One
    • NEW: Final Cut intro by Francis Ford Coppola
  • Disc Two
    • Audio Commentary by Director Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now Redux)
  • Disc Three
    • NEW: Final Cut intro by Francis Ford Coppola
  • Disc Four
    • Audio Commentary by Director Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now Redux)
  • Disc Five
    • An Interview with John Milius
    • A Conversation with Martin Sheen and Francis Ford Coppola
    • “Fred Roos: Casting Apocalypse” Featurette
    • The Mercury Theatre on the Air: Heart of Darkness – November 6, 1938
    • “The Hollow Men” Featurette
    • Monkey Sampan “Lost Scene”
    • Additional Scenes
    • “Destruction of the Kurtz Compound” End Credits (with Non-Optional Audio Commentary by Francis Ford Coppola)
    • “The Birth of 5.1 Sound” Featurette
    • “Ghost Helicopter Flyover” Sound Effects Demonstration
    • “The Synthesizer Soundtrack” Article by Bob Moog
    • “A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now” Featurette
    • “The Music of Apocalypse Now” Featurette
    • “Heard Any Good Movies Lately? The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now” Featurette
    • “The Final Mix” Featurette
    • “Apocalypse Then and Now” Featurette
    • “2001 Cannes Film Festival: Francis Ford Coppola” Featurette
    • “PBR Streetgang” Featurette
    • “The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now” Featurette
  • Disc Six
    • Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (with Optional Audio Commentary by Francis and Eleanor Coppola)
    • NEW: Tribeca Film Festival Q&A with Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Soderbergh
    • NEW: Super 8mm Behind-the-Scenes Footage
    • NEW: “Dutch Angle: Chas Gerresten & Apocalypse Now” Featurette
    • NEW: “Apocalypse Now: Remastering a Legend in Dolby Vision® and Dolby Atmost®
    • NEW: “Apocalypse Now: A Forty-Year Journey” Featurette
    • NEW: “Sensual Sound Technology from Meyer Sound” Featurette   
    • John Milius Script Excerpt with Francis Coppola Notes (Still Gallery)
    • Storyboard Collection
    • Photo Archive
      • Unit Photography
      • Mary Ellen Mark Photography
    • Marketing Archive
      • 1979 Teaser Trailer
      • 1979 Theatrical Trailer
      • 1979 Radio Spots
      • 1979 Theatrical Program
      • Lobby Card and Press Kit Photos
      • Poster Gallery

 

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Even by Godzilla sequel standards, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a bit undercooked. The script is messy to the point of incoherence – example: at one point the twin sister of another character shows up, but there’s zero indication that this is supposed to be a different character – and none of the humans are worth a damn, even though they’re played by strong actors like Vera Farmiga, Bradley Whitford and more. But it can’t be denied: when the monsters finally show up and start stomping all over each other, it’s a sight to behold. Sure, it somehow manages to rain every single time a monster attack happens. But the destructive enormity of these creatures is expertly handled. Pity about everything else, though.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

If you’re a Godzilla completist, you’re going to want to own this, despite its flaws. Perhaps the best reason for checking this out is the commentary by director Mike Flanagan. Director’s commentaries are becoming a dying breed, so I always appreciate when a filmmaker takes the time to sit down and talk about their work. Beyond that, there are featurettes about creating all the monsters, as well as the many locations the film jumps to. It’s a solid package overall, even if the film itself is a bit lacking.

Special Features Include: 

  • Commentary by Director
  • Godzilla: Nature’s Fearsome Guardian
  • Mothra: Queen of the Monsters
  • King Ghidorah: The Living Extinction Machine
  • Rodan: Airborne God of Fire
  • Godzilla 2.0
  • Making Morthra
  • Creating Ghidorah
  • Reimagining Rodan
  • The Yunnan Temple
  • Castle Bravo
  • The Antarctic Base
  • The Isla de Mara Volcano
  • The Undersea Lair
  • Millie Bobby Brown: Force of Nature
  • Monster Tech: Monarch Joins the Fight
  • Monsters Are Real
  • Welcome to the Monsterverse
  • Deleted Scenes

 

Stand By Me 4K

Sure, Stephen King is known for his tales of terror. But he’s also responsible for some authentically earnest, emotional dramas. The best example is arguably his story The Body, featured in his collection Different Seasons. Rob Reiner adapted King’s story into the film Stand By Me, creating a superb coming-of-age drama that actually improves on King’s story. Four young friends – played by Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell – set off one summer to find the dead body of a missing boy. Yes, I know – that sounds ghoulish. But there’s an unapologetic sweetness here, brought to life through the honest performances of the young leads. Funny, charming, and even a little gross, Stand By Me is a gem.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

Stand By Me has been released in a visually stunning new 4K release. The quality of the restored footage here is so sharp that you could easily believe this is a film shot in the previous year, not nearly 30 years ago. Make no mistake: this is the version of Stand By Me to own. Beyond the restoration, there are also several deleted and alternate scenes, some of which have never been released before. Don’t get too excited, though – we’re not talking a ton of new footage; they total only six minutes. Still, the 4K restoration alone makes this a must-own.

Special Features Include: 

  • All-New Special Feature on 4K Ultra HD
  • Never-Before-Seen Deleted & Alternate Scenes
  • Picture-in-Picture Video Commentary with Director Rob Reiner and Actors Wil Wheaton & Corey Feldman
  • “Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me
  • Audio Commentary with Director Rob Reiner

 

Cruising

William Friedkin’s ultra-sleazy slasher pic Cruising has been meticulously restored by Arrow Video. This Blu-ray release takes viewers back to a filthy, dangerous New York City of the 1980s, where a serial killer is targeting gay men from leather bars. To catch the killer, the police send in cop Steve Burns (Al Pacino) to go undercover in the gay community, serving as bait for the killer. Friedkin’s film was highly maligned before it even came out. The gay community was concerned that the film was going to be critical of their lifestyle, and proceeded to disrupt the production to the point where most of the audio had to be dubbed in later. Over the years, though, Cruising has achieved a kind of cult status. To be clear: the movie is a bit of mess. As great an actor as Pacino is, his character Steve Burns is a blank bore, and Pacino can only do so much with him. Still, Friedkin’s stylish direction mixed with the grindhouse aesthetic ends up turning Cruising into the type of movie that burns itself into your brain.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

This Arrow Video release is the only version of Cruising you should own. If you don’t believe me, take it from the director himself.

The 4K restoration preserves the harsh grain and heavy textures of James A. Contner’s cinematography, resulting in a viewing experience that has the ability to transport you back to an entirely different era.

Special Features Include: 

  • Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, supervised and approved by writer-director William Friedkin
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Newly remastered 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio supervised by William Friedkin
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Archival audio commentary by William Friedkin
  • The History of Cruising – archival featurette looking at the film’s origins and production
  • Exorcising Cruising – archival featurette looking at the controversy surrounding the film and its enduring legacy
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

 

Brightburn

What if Superman was a full-blown sociopath? That’s the premise of Brightburn, a gory, inventive anti-superhero movie that takes the Superman mythos and turns it upside down. A childless couple (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) from Kansas get a big surprise when something crashes on their farm. The unidentified crashing object contains a baby, and the couple decides to raise the infant as their own. Jump to 12 years later: that baby, named Brandon, has grown into a seemingly normal boy (played by Jackson A. Dunn). But Brandon soon discovers he has superpowers. If Brandon was a well-adjusted individual, he must use his newfound powers for good. But Brandon is an angry, violent creep, and he starts using his amazing abilities to commit brutal acts of vengeance against his perceived enemies. Brightburn is unapologetically nasty, loaded with gore and brimming with possibilities.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

Above I praised Godzilla: King of the Monsters for featuring a commentary track. Which means I have to extend that same praise to Brightburn, which features a commentary track with director David Yarovesky, cinematographer Michael Dallatorre, and costume designer Autumn Steed. I’m surprised producer James Gunn didn’t sit in, since his name was slapped all over the marketing, but this will do. Brightburn was mostly ignored in theaters, and that’s kind of a bummer – because this is a fun, gory horror movie that is just waiting to find its audience. I think it eventually will – if people bother to check it out on Blu-ray.

Special Features Include: 

  • 3 “Quick Burns” Vignettes hosted by Actor Elizabeth Banks, Producer James Gunn & Director David Yarovesky
  • “Hero-Horror!” featurette: It’s not often filmmakers successfully and seamlessly combine both Horror and Superhero into a genre-bending “Hero-Horror” category. Hear from Producer James Gunn and Screenwriters Brian and Mark Gunn as we will learn the methods of their filmmaking style and their dotting of the “i”’s and slashing of the “t”’s storytelling process.
  • “Nature vs. Nurture” featurette: Hear from Actor Jackson A. Dunn, Producer James Gunn, Screenwriters Brian and Mark Gunn and understand the creative process involved in flipping the script of the traditional “Superhero” and diving into what motivates and moves our new Anti-hero, Brandon Breyer.
  • Filmmaker Commentary with Director David Yarovesky, DP Michael Dallatorre, and Costume Designer Autumn Steed
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