New Blu-ray Releases Shazam

It’s that time again: time to highlight some physical media! Our latest Blu-ray round-up includes a recent superhero movie, a classic neo-noir, a Spike Lee masterpiece, a trashy but fun thriller, and an indie sci-fi flick celebrating its 10th anniversary with a new 4K release. These are the new Blu-ray releases you should check out this week.

Shazam!

Shazam! is basically Big, with a superhero – and you know what? The result is a lot of fun. Loner foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) finds himself picked by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) to become Shazam, an adult superhero and “Champion of Eternity.” This turns Billy into a very adult looking man (played by Zachary Levi), but of course, he’s still a kid inside. This enables Levi to shine, playing his character with a kid-like glee and energy that’s endlessly amusing. Everything involving Levi’s Shazam is a treat here, but the film never quite reaches greatness thanks to a rather sleight script. Mark Strong‘s villain character, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, is so boring that you’ll almost wish the movie had cut his character entirely, and just focused on Levi acting like a goofball. Still, director David F. Sandberg brings a unique warmth to the film and is able to get charming, strong performances from most of his cast.

 

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

The Warner Bros. DC films have had a rocky road. Thankfully, they’ve been slowly getting their act together. First with Wonder Woman, then with Aquaman, and now Shazam! Shazam! isn’t quite as good as those other two films, but it is another step in the right direction – and it’s important to send a message to Warner Bros. that this is the type of superhero movie they should be focusing on. In other words, vote with your wallet. On top of that, the film is worth owning for how entertaining – and thus rewatchable – it ultimately is. I would’ve liked a commentary from director David F. Sandberg, since he tends to be rather informative and entertaining when talking about his films (see below), but commentary tracks are becoming less and less standard these days. That said, there is a featurette called “Carnival Scene Study” in which Sandberg, and several others involved with the film, break down the movie’s big climactic battle scene, and it helps highlight just how complex it was to bring that moment to life.

Special Features Include: 

  • Shazam Exclusive Motion Comic
  • The Magical World of Shazam
  • Super Fun Zac
  • Carnival Scene Study
  • Shazamily Values
  • Who is Shazam?
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Gag Reel

 

Klute

Bathed in the often impenetrable darkness of the cinematography of Gordon WillisAlan J. Pakula‘s haunting, secretive Klute is one of the best films of the 1970s. On the surface, this is a neo-noir pulling from pulpy mystery tropes: private eye, femme fatale, a mystery that just gets deeper and deeper. But what Klute really is is a character study. And while the film is named after Donald Sutherland’s character, the person Klute is most interested in is Jane Fonda’s call girl Bree Daniels. Fonda won a Best Actress Oscar for her work here, and it’s easy to see why – she commands the scene, playing Bree as both commanding and terribly vulnerable. She is a complex, hard-to-pin-down character, and Fonda brings her fully to life. With her shag haircut, and tense body language, Fonda looks and behaves like no one else in the film, and like no one else in real life, and we can’t help but keep our eyes on her – even as she fades into all those shadows. The plot involves Sutherland’s detective Klute looking into the disappearance of a businessman who has a connection to Bree. Klute tails Bree, but falls for her in the process – and who can blame him? As the two grow closer, they discover that Klute isn’t the only one following Bree. The result is a full-blown masterpiece.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

The Criterion Collection has given Klute a must-have Blu-ray release that gives the film the respect it deserves. The 4K digital transfer looks marvelous, making all that dark cinematography look truly stunning. On top of that, there are several strong featurettes. One is devoted to director Alan J. Paklu, and highlights how he doesn’t get quite the same respect as his contemporaries primarily because he cared more about his films and less about his “brand” – for lack of a better term. There’s also an interview with Fonda where she talks about working on the film. She reveals she was hesitant to take the part at first, saying: “I was just beginning to understand feminism…it was becoming part of my thought process. And I remember thinking, ‘Well, if I’m a feminist, I can’t play a prostitute.'” Fonda called up a prominent feminist friend and expressed her fears that it wasn’t politically correct. So she sent her friend the script, and her friend advised her by saying: “This script allows you to go deep. And if you can go deep into any human being, that is feminism.” Really though, the real reason to own Klute is that it’s perfect.

Special Features Include: 

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by camera operator Michael Chapman, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with actor Jane Fonda, conducted by actor Illeana Douglas
  • New program about Klute and director Alan J. Pakula by filmmaker Matthew Miele, featuring interviews with film scholar Annette Insdorf, filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, and actor Charles Cioffi, along with archival interviews with Pakula
  • The Look of “Klute,” a new interview with writer Amy Fine Collins
  • Archival interviews with Pakula and Fonda
  • “Klute” in New York, a short documentary made during the shooting of the film
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Mark Harris and excerpts from a 1972 interview with Pakula

Do the Right Thing

Spike Lee has several bonafide classics to his name, but Do the Right Thing might be the best of the bunch. It’s certainly the film that still resonates the most today – as unfortunate as that may be. Lee’s 1989 film follows one sweltering hot summer day in a Brooklyn neighborhood, where racial tensions are on the verge of boiling up. Several characters interact, and collide, as the blistering heat continues to climb. You can practically feel the insufferable temperatures radiating off the screen – this film will make you sweat. It culminates in an act of police brutality that is all-too-familiar. Bursting with kinetic energy, Do the Right Thing personifies why Spike Lee is one of the best of the best.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

Another great transfer from Criterion. “It’s not dated; it hasn’t aged,” Lee said of his film. “I was just trying to capture some truths as I saw them at the time that are still relevant today.” That’s reason alone to pick up Do the Right Thing, but the Criterion Collection disc comes packed with special features  – the bulk of which are older, but are still essential, and collected together here. I would’ve liked some new material featuring Lee, but not having that doesn’t make this Do the Right Thing Blu-ray release any less essential.

Special Features Include: 

  • New 4K digital restoration, approved by cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 1995 featuring director Spike Lee, Dickerson, production designer Wynn Thomas, and actor Joie Lee
  • Introductions by Lee
  • Making “Do the Right Thing,” a documentary from 1989 by St. Clair Bourne, in a new 2K digital transfer
  • New interviews with costume designer Ruth E. Carter, New York City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., writer Nelson George, and filmmaker Darnell Martin
  • Three programs from 2000 and 2009, featuring Lee and cast and crew members Barry Alexander Brown, Chuck D, Dickerson, Richard Edson, Frankie Faison, Jon Kilik, Kevin Ladson, Steve Park, Rosie Perez, Luis Ramos, Monty Ross, John Savage, Roger Guenveur Smith, and John Turturro
  • Music video for Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” directed by Lee, with remarks from rapper Chuck D
  • Cannes Film Festival press conference from 1989 featuring Lee along with actors Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Edson, and Joie Lee
  • Behind-the-scenes footage
  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • Original storyboards, trailer, and TV spots
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Vinson Cunningham and (on the Blu-ray) extensive excerpts from the journal Lee kept during the preparation for and production of the film

 

The Intruder

The Intruder is trash cinema – and that’s fine! In fact, it’s one of the better-made recent trashy movies in memory. It’s a call-back to ’90s thrillers like The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and Unlawful Entry – domestic thrillers in which a young couple is terrorized by a creepy weirdo. Couple Scott (Michael Ealy ) and Annie (Meagan Good) buy a big, gorgeous house from smiley dweeb Charlie (Dennis Quaid). Unlike most people who sell their homes, though, Charlie has a habit of coming back, over and over again. Scott immediately, and understandably, thinks this is odd. But Annie thinks Charlie is kind of sweet. Of course, he’s not sweet. He’s crazy, and he wants his house back. A smarter movie might have done a bit more with the fact that Scott and Annie are black, and Charlie is white – play up some sort of racial tension, perhaps. But none of that comes up. Instead, The Intruder follows a rather standard thriller formula. But director Deon Taylor does a great job of making it surprisingly stylish, and fun. And best of all, Quaid gets to go completely over-the-top as Charlie.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

Studios are making less and less of these mid-budget thrillers, and that’s a damn shame. The mid-budget movie is worth celebrating – not everything has to be a big blockbuster or some sort of prestige picture. Sometimes it’s okay to celebrate junk food – and that’s what this is: junk food cinema. The Intruder is the perfect sort of trashy thriller to throw on with a couple of beers and high-calorie food. Will it end up being one of your favorite films? Absolutely not. But I’m pretty sure you’re going to be entertained.

Special Features Include: 

  • Making a Modern Thriller Featurette: Discover how the cast and crew brought Charlie Peck and the world of Foxglove to life with looks into the scripting process, cast, location scouting and more!
  • Alternate Ending
  • 6 Deleted Scenes
  • Gag Reel: Being a homeowner is no laughing matter – but check out the cast of The Intruder having more than a few laughs during the making of the film!
  • Feature Commentary with Director Deon Taylor, writer David Loughery, Producer Roxanne Avent, Meagan Good, and Michael Ealy.

Moon 4K

I distinctly remember how vague the marketing for Moon was. All the trailers sold was that it was about Sam Rockwell in space. With that in mind, I went into the film expecting your standard indie sci-fi film. Instead, this feature from Duncan Jones turned out to give me something of an existential crisis. During the course of the story, astronaut Sam Bell (Rockwell) discovers he’s not alone on his lunar base. There’s someone else there. And that someone else is…himself. Because Sam is actually a clone, and whenever a three-year shift ends, a clone dies, only to be replaced by another – with no memory of the whole “cloning” thing. This gives way to a meditation on both life, and death, and watching Rockwell grapple with his own imminent demise is haunting. Rockwell nails his double role here, and part of the fun of Moon is watching the actor work with himself.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray: 

First of all, the 4K transfer makes Moon appear sharper and fresher, than ever. I saw the film in theaters when it opened, and I don’t remember it looking as good there as it does here. There’s also newly remixed Dolby Atmos audio. If that’s not enough for you (wow, tough crowd), this release includes never-before-seen deleted scenes and a retrospective conversation with Duncan Jones. We’ve reached the 10th anniversary of this film, and it’s nice to see it getting the special treatment it deserves.

Special Features Include: 

  • All-New Retrospective Conversation with Duncan Jones and Journalist Joe Utichi
  • Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes
  • Fan Art Poster Gallery
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Duncan Jones and Producer Stuart Fenegan
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Duncan Jones, Director of Photography Gary Shaw, Concept Designer Gavin Rothery, and Production Designer Tony Noble
  • Whistle Short Film by Duncan Jones
  • The Making of Moon
  • Creating the Visual Effects
  • Science Center Q&A with Director Duncan Jones
  • Filmmaker’s Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival
  • Theatrical Trailer
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