New Blu-ray Releases spider's web

This week’s Blu-ray round-up features a reboot of a remake, a rumored Cloverfield sequel that became something else, a tragic drama about a painter, a slasher movie set around Valentine’s Day, and Sylvester Stallone cutting up pizza with a pair of scissors. These are the new Blu-ray releases and their special features you should check out this week and beyond.

The Girl In the Spider’s Web

David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake is severely underrated. It’s a nasty, brutal, oddly beautiful movie that I still can’t believe a major studio financed. And while it was a hit, it wasn’t the blockbuster Sony was hoping for. Fincher and star Rooney Mara both expressed interest in returning for more films, but time ticked on, and the sequels remained unmade. Cut to 2018: Fincher, Mara and Daniel Craig are gone. Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez is at the helm, and Claire Foy has stepped into the role of  Lisbeth Salander. This could have worked, but alas, it doesn’t. To be clear: Foy’s work here is good, and she’s doing the best she can with a tame script. The problem is – this is such a safe movie. It has none of the edge, and none of the bite, of the Fincher film. It doesn’t even feel connected to what Fincher was doing. Instead, this comes across as a Bourne movie. In The Girl in the Spider’s Web, hacker/ass-kicker Lizabeth Salander gets mixed up in a plot involving nuclear weapons (!), and her long lost sister (Sylvia Hoeks). There are a few kinky elements here – like the vac bed that was featured in all the trailers, and plays heavily into the climax of the movie –  but Spider’s Web is so listless when compared to Dragon Tattoo that you can’t help but feel cheated.

Special Features to Note:

The features here mostly focus on moving the story into a new era. Claire Foy talks about how Lisbeth has become an icon, and director Fede Alvarez says he wanted to cast someone who is “counterintuitive”, because it’s more surprising to the audience. Beyond that, we get a featurette devoted to all the stunt work in the film – there’s a lot of it, because this is primarily an action movie. One interesting tidbit here is the reveal that the filmmakers used a self-driving car for a big crash scene, which enabled them to have the car moving at incredible speeds and slam into some trees, without worrying about a stunt person. There’s also a featurette that kind of throws the Fincher film under the bus, which really bugs me. Producers involved basically say that Fincher’s film was “too dark”, and that they wanted to make a movie that didn’t alienate the audience. I call bullshit on this. Yes, the Fincher movie was dark, but I’d personally rather get that than something watered-down. But maybe I’m weird. 

Special Features Include:

  • Feature and Deleted Scenes Audio Commentaries with Director Fede Álvarez and Screenwriter Jay Basu
    • Four featurettes:
    • Claire Foy: Becoming Lisbeth
    • All About the Stunts
    • Secrets of the Salander Sisters
    • Creating the World: The Making Of
  • Eight Deleted Scenes

 

Overlord

Overlord is a lot of fun, but with just a tiny bit more effort, it could’ve been great. We’ll have to settle for good. This World War II horror flick finds a group of American paratroopers behind enemy lines, trying to blow up a German radio tower in a small town. Unfortunately, they stumble upon a secret lab in which the Nazis are conducting twisted experiments creating zombie soldiers. It’s like a riff on Re-Animator, right down to the glowing serum in a syringe. And for the most part, it works. Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt, feels like he’s channelling his father as a tough-as-nails Corporal and Jovan Adepo makes for a sympathetic lead. Still, I kept feeling as if something was missing here, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I think the problem is that the movie feels too small. Beyond an exciting opening scene aboard a plane, Overlord fails to convey the scope and scale of war. I get that the movie is trying to tell a smaller, more intimate story, but the lack of scope bothered me. Beyond that, though, Overlord is a violent, exciting studio-sanctioned B-movie that’s sure to entertain.

Special Features to Note:

Overlord has an almost hour-long making-of featurette, so hunker down! It’s nice to see a film get this much attention on Blu-ray, since more and more often, studios are skimping on special features. Most making-of featurettes run about 5 minutes these days, if we’re lucky. But Overlord goes the distance. In this featurette, producer J.J. Abrams says Billy Ray‘s original script reminded him of something Rod Serling might have written, and that excited him. It’s the start of a running theme: everyone thought Ray’s script was the bee’s knees. And yet, they also admit the script kept changing during filming. If the screenplay was really that great, why change it? I don’t know, folks. That’s showbiz. Abrams also points out that if they were making a “historically accurate” movie, all the characters would be white. But he realized that they could just have the film set in an “alternate universe”, since the film deals with the supernatural. In other words, if they’re already breaking the rules of reality, why worry about historical accuracy? I like this way of thinking, and wish more filmmakers would embrace it. 

Special Features Include:

  • The Horrors of War
    • Creation
    • Death Above
    • Death on the Ground
    • Death Below
    • Death No More
    • Brothers in Arms

 

At Eternity’s Gate

I slept on At Eternity’s Gate last year, and I regret it. Thankfully, the film is on Blu-ray, allowing me to see what I missed. This lovely yet tragic film follows the final years of Vincent van Gogh’s life. The artist is played by Willem Dafoe in a bravura performance. Dafoe carries the entire film on his shoulders, and we’re swept up in his plight. As the film shows, van Gogh’s art wasn’t embraced in his lifetime. On top of that, he was constantly lonely, and clearly suffering from mental issues. But all he wanted to do was paint – that was when he felt closest to God. At Eternity’s Gate features a few recognizable faces – both Oscar Isaac and Mads Mikkelsen show up – but this is Dafoe’s film, and he knocks it out of the park. I’m sure he won’t win the Oscar this year, but it would be wonderful if he did. He certainly deserves it.

Special Features to Note:

In behind-the-scenes looks at the movie, director Julian Schnabel, who is a painter himself, says the movie allowed him to say things about painting through van Gogh. There’s a lot of focus here on how the movie is “a film about a painter from a painter”, and how Schnabel strove to bring van Gogh’s art to life. There are a considerable amount of POV shots in the movie, to better put us in van Gogh’s headspace. To highlight the alleged glaucoma that van Gogh suffered from, director of photography Benoît Delhomme blurred the bottom half of the frame for these POV shots. Schnabel reveals this was inspired by a pair of bifocals he picked up. Neat little touches like this can go a long way toward making a movie special. 

Special Features Include:

  • Made by a Painter Featurette
  • Channeling Van Gogh Featurette
  • Vision of Van Gogh Featurette
  • Audio Commentary with Director Julian Schnabel and Cowriter and Coeditor Louise Kugelberg

 

Valentine

Remember Valentine? The 2001 slasher movie that came just arrived just as the slasher craze rekindled by Scream was starting to die down? I sure do! And the movie is finally hitting Blu-ray, courtesy of Scream Factory. I’m not going to say Valentine is some forgotten classic. Even by slasher movie standards, it’s not great. But it is highly watchable, and it features some surprisingly gory kills. As horror progressed into the 21st century, producers started to get cold feet about R-ratings, and started pumping-out PG-13 fright flicks. And that’s fine – there are many PG-13 horror films that are wonderful. But every now and then, I need to watch some over-the-top (and fake) violence. Here, a group of young women find themselves stalked by a masked killer who may or may not be a nerd they all made fun of back in high school. It’s simple, it’s silly, it works. This Valentine’s Day, cuddle up with the one you love, and watch this enjoyable trash!

Special Features to Note:

The Scream Factory Blu-ray features an interview with star Denise Richards, who says what she liked about the film was the female-driven cast and the humor in the script. She also talks a lot about how the movie focuses on female empowerment, and while female empowerment in films is definitely important, I don’t know if I’d agree that Valentine makes such a point. But if you’re able to read into that while watching this movie, more power to you. 

Screenwriters Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts, who were brought in to rewrite a script from Donna Powers and Wayne Powers, discuss how Scream revitalized the genre, and how its blend of comedy and horror helped inspire their work on this script (the duo were originally a comedy writing team). Berg and Harberts admit that they thought the script was great as-is, and didn’t want to re-write much of it. They eventually did, of course, fleshing out the characters a bit, and adding a subplot about the female characters looking for love in the big city. 

Special Features Include:

  • NEW 2K Scan Of The Original Film Elements Supervised And Approved By Director Jamie Blanks And Director Of Photography Rick Bota
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Director Jamie Blanks And Filmmaker Don Coscarelli, Moderated By Author Peter Bracke
  • NEW Thrill Of The Drill – An Interview With Actress Denise Richards
  • NEW The Final Girl – An Interview With Actress Marley Shelton
  • NEW Shot Through The Heart – An Interview With Actress Jessica Cauffiel
  • NEW Writing Valentine – An Interview With Co-writers Gretchen J. Berg And Aaron Harberts
  • NEW Editing Valentine– An Interview With Editor Steve Mirkovich
  • NEW Scoring Valentine – An Interview With Composer Don Davis
  • NEW Almost 2 Hours Of Never-Before-Seen Behind-The-Scenes Footage From Director Jamie Blanks’ Personal Archive
  • Audio Commentary With Director Jamie Blanks
  • Vintage “Making Of” Featurette Featuring Cast And Crew
  • Extended Interviews And Behind-The-Scenes Footage From The Electronic Press Kit
  • Deleted Scenes Including Extended Death Scenes
  • Music Video
  • Teaser Trailer
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery
  • Hidden Easter Egg

 

Cobra

Oh hell yeah, CobraGarbage cinema at its finest. Believe it or not, Sylvester Stallone was originally supposed to star in Beverly Hills Cop. Stallone, being Stallone, then took it upon himself to completely rewrite the script, cutting out almost all of the comedy and ramping up the action. Needless to say, that’s not what producers wanted. Stallone eventually left the project, and Eddie Murphy stepped in and turned the movie into a comedy classic. Not to be deterred, Stallone then took all the ideas he came up with for Beverly Hills Cop and reworked them into Cobra, a sleazy, violent, unintentionally hilarious trip through hell. The actor plays Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, a cop who works the “zombie squad.” He does the dirty work other cops don’t want to do, and boy oh boy does he hate the legal system. If Cobra had his way, every crook, no matter how petty their crime, would be violently gunned down instead of ending up in court. Along the way, Cobra gets tasked with protecting a model (Brigitte Nielsen) from a gang of serial killers, lead by a creepy Brian Thompson. This movie is covered in grime, has no redeeming qualities, and I love it. There’s a scene midway through the movie where the camera focuses on a plate of greasy french fries being smothered in ketchup. It’s the perfect image to sum up Cobra – unhealthy fast food you can’t say no to.

Special Features to Note:

This release is a must-have just to finally have Cobra on Blu-ray. That said, the featurettes here are a bit lacking. They primarily consist of interviews with the supporting cast of the film, including actors who only appear in one or two scenes. I mean no disrespect to these performers, who are all hard working pros, but they don’t exactly have the most exciting stories to tell. The best of the bunch is Andrew Robinson, who you might remember from the first Hellraiser film. Robinson plays a detective in Cobra who really doesn’t like Cobra’s bad ass ways. He spends the whole movie getting on Cobra’s case, and at the end of the film, when Cobra gets results, damn it, he offers a tepid apology. But since Cobra is such a lunatic, he doesn’t accept the apology. Instead, he punches Robinson’s character in the face then rides away on a motorcycle. In his interview for the Blu-ray, Robinson reveals that the script originally had a last-minute twist in which it revealed his character was the real leader of the serial killer cult. There was going to be a moment where his shirt gets ripped open, revealing a huge pentagram scar carved into his chest. At that point, Cobra would kill him. This idea remained in the script right up until the day they were supposed to shoot it, at which point Robinson suggested they change it, just because so many characters had already been killed in the movie. Stallone agreed, and instead of Robinson’s character turning out to be an evil cultist, he simply remained a stuffy jerk who gets punched out. Movie magic!

Special Features Include:

  • NEW 2K Scan Of The Original Film Elements
  • NEW Stalking And Slashing – An Interview With Actor Brian Thompson
  • NEW Meet The Disease – An Interview With Actor Marco Rodriguez
  • NEW Feel The Heat – An Interview With Actor Andrew Robinson
  • NEW Double Crossed – An Interview With Actress Lee Garlington
  • NEW A Work Of Art – An Interview With Actor Art LaFleur
  • Audio Commentary With Director George P. Cosmatos
  • Vintage Featurette
  • Teaser Trailer
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Galleries – Stills, Movie Posters, And Lobby Cards
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