New Blu-ray Releases venom

(Welcome to Not Dead Yet, a feature dedicated to new Blu-ray releases and what special features you should be excited about. Because yes, some of us still like to own physical copies of our movies.)

Welcome to the last Blu-ray review round-up of 2018. We did it, everyone! Congratulations! As we close out this hell-year, some new Blu-ray releases await you – some good, some not so good, but all worth checking out in some capacity. This is an usually sci-fi heavy Blu-ray round-up – all but one film here fits into the science fiction genre. I didn’t plan it this way, folks. That’s just how it worked out. Below, you’ll find VenomThe Predator, and more. So take a gander, enjoy, and I’ll see you in 2019.

Here are the new Blu-ray releases and their special features you should check out this week.

Venom

Venom seemed like a terrible idea. A Spider-Man spin-off without Spider-Man? How could that work? And yet, the film cleaned up at the box office. Audiences flocked to see Tom Hardy bring Eddie Brock and his symbiote alter ego to life, even though critics trashed it. So is Venom a hidden gem? A good movie critics just didn’t understand? Absolutely not! Venom is a mess. The direction from Ruben Fleischer is rather pedestrian – I dare you to name one memorable or impressive shot from this film – and the script, by Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, and Kelly Marcel, is downright laughable. And yet…Venom is worth watching. I don’t mean in the “so bad it’s good” sense, either. No, Venom is worth seeing simply to behold whatever the hell it is Tom Hardy is doing here. Hardy plays pushy journalist Eddie Brock, who goes from the top of the world to the bottom of the garbage heap when asks serious questions of genius inventor/Elon Musk stand-in  Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Eddie’s probing costs him his job, and his fiance, played by Michelle Williams, who is here strictly to cash a paycheck. Eddie becomes a total loser, and then happens to be infected with an alien ooze known as a symbiote. This turns him into Venom, a giant gooey monster with a immense, slimy tongue. And then there’s a bunch of crap about Eddie and Venom trying to save the world – but really, that doesn’t matter. What matters is Hardy’s absolutely gonzo performance. The actor is all-in here, playing Eddie as a twitchy, jabbering maniac. There’s a scene where Hardy gets so hot he climbs into a lobster tank to cool down – and this entire scene was Hardy’s idea. I didn’t like Venom as a film, but I loved watching Hardy lose himself in his role.

Special Features to Note:

There are a few deleted and extended scenes included on this Blu, but the only one worth note is an extended version of the film’s post-credit scene, in which Woody Harrelson shows up wearing a Little Orphan Annie wig, playing Cletus Kasady. This character eventually becomes Carnage – something that’s underlined by Cletus saying, “When I get out of here…there’s going to be carnage!!” Did I mention the script is awful? In any case, this extended version has Eddie and Cletus talking a bit more, and gives Harrelson more to do. So if you were hoping for even more moments of that glorious wig, you’re in luck. 

From Symbiote to Screen tracks the character’s origins in the comic books. “It’s this super dark version of a superhero!” says Ruben Fleischer, calling the character a mixture of horror, action and comedy. Fleischer’s mention of how dark Venom is sets off a pattern – almost every featurette includes at least one person mentioning how dark Venom is. There’s an entire faturette about how Venom isn’t “all good”, but an anti-hero. “It’s an alchemy of two very different beings!” says Tom Hardy. There’s constant talk about how dark the character is. And Kevin Smith shows up to call Venom “The Wolverine of Spider-Man villains,” whatever that means. 

Designing Venom focuses on the look on Venom in the movie. Yet again, people call Venom “dark” and “bad ass” over and over. Fleischer says they wanted the design of the character to honor the comics, and I’d say they mostly did that. And of course, there’s lots of talk about Venom’s glorious tongue.

Special Features Include: 

  • Venom Mode: When selecting this mode the film will engage informative pop-ups throughout the film to provide insight on the movie’s relationship to the comics, and to reveal hidden references that even a seasoned Venom-fan may have missed!
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes: These deleted and extended scenes will give fans even more of the Venom action they loved in theaters!
    • Ride to Hospital – Eddie and Venom take a ride to the hospital.
    • Car Alarm – Let’s just say that Venom is not fond of car alarms.
    • San Quentin – Extended post-credits scene at San Quentin.
  • From Symbiote to Screen: A mini documentary about the history of Venom in comics and his journey to the big screen. Interviews with Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, Ruben Fleischer, Oliver Scholl, and Director and Comic Fanboy Kevin Smith.
  • The Lethal Protector in Action: Go behind the scenes with the production crew and learn the secrets behind the awesome Motorcycle stunts, wire stunts, and drones.
  • Venom Vision: A look at how Ruben Fleischer came to the project, gathered his team, and made Venom a reality. Utilizes interviews from cast, crew, and producers as well as Fleischer himself.
  • Designing Venom: Designing and creating Venom meant a huge challenge for VFX artists; follow the amazing journey.
  • Symbiote Secrets: Blink and you may have missed it! Enjoy the hidden references throughout the film.
  • 8 Select Scenes Pre-Vis sequences: See the progression of the visual effects, storyboards and fight chorography compared to the finished film.
  • “Venom” by Eminem – Music Video
  • “Sunflower” by Post Malone, Swae Lee (From Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Sneak Peek: Meanwhile in another universe…

 

2001: A Space Odyssey

Hey, you ever hear of this movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey? It’s supposed to be good! Stanley Kubrick‘s sci-fi classic is now available on 4K for the very first time, and that’s something to get excited about. In this classic, Kubrick stages a cerebral, brilliant adventure that no sci-fi film has topped since. Starting millions of years ago at the “dawn of man” and jumping into (what was then) the future, 2001 tracks an expedition to Jupiter that goes terribly, terribly wrong. On board the spacecraft Discovery One, the ship’s computer, HAL 9000, becomes self-aware – which spells danger for the astronauts on board. Many have called Kubrick’s film obtuse and confusing, but really, it’s all there. This is a film ultimately about contact with live both artificial and alien, and the repercussions of such actions. It’s really no hyperbole to call this one of the best movies ever made, and its legacy has endured for a reason. Kubrick stages gorgeous, sweeping moments that stun, amuse, and even terrify.

Special Features to Note: 

All the special features here are ported over from previous releases, so they’re not new. Really, though, the 4K transfer itself is the special feature. The film looks mind-blowing, and in its new 4K format, you’ll notice things you’ve never really noticed before. 2001 fanboy Christopher Nolan worked closely to oversee the 4K transfer, and he clearly took this task seriously.

2001 to me is the most cinematic film that has ever been made and it has been an honour and a privilege to be able to share the film with a new generation,” Nolan said. “4K UHD allows the closest recreation of viewing the original film print in your own home. Kubrick’s masterpiece was originally presented on large format film and the deeper colour palette and superior resolution comes closest to matching the original analogue presentation.”

This transfer is, without question, the best possible way to watch the film (save going to see it in an actual theater).

Special Features Include: 

  • 4K UHD Blu-ray™ with Commentary from Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood
  • Remastered Blu-ray™ with Commentary from Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood
  • The Making of a Myth
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001
  • Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey – A Look Behind the Future
  • What Is Out There?
  • 2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork
  • Look: Stanley Kubrick!
  • 11/27/66 Interview with Stanley Kubrick [Audio Only]
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Premium Booklet
  • Art Cards

 

The Predator

I first saw The Predator, Shane Black‘s reboot/sequel of the sci-fi franchise about everyone’s favorite dreadlock-wearing alien, at a Midnight Madness screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. While I wouldn’t say I loved the film, I did have fun, especially in that atmosphere. Now The Predator is on Blu-ray, and let me say, watching it at home instead of with a wild Midnight Madness crowd isn’t as enjoyable. To be clear: The Predator isn’t awful. But the plotting is a wonky, some of the jokes fall flat, and the film’s ending is a mess. But in between all that is a fun, funny sci-fi comedy. Yes, comedy is the key word here – Shane Black plays up the humor, big time. The film focuses on a team of military rejects going up against a Predator. As you might expect, the Predator kills lots of people. Boyd Holbrook is a bit dull as the lead character, but Olivia Munn is quite good as a scientist who gets roped in with the men. And Sterling K. Brown steals the entire movie as a government agent interested in capturing the Predator. If you’re a fan of Black’s work, you’ll likely get a kick out of The Predator. But I don’t think people will look back at this movie as fondly as the look back at the original.

Special Features to Note:

A Touch of Black goes behind the scenes with Shane Black, the man who has the distinction of appearing in the first Predator, only to go on to helm an eventualy sequel. Black talks a bit about how he ended up in the first Predator – he was brought on to write jokes, and they figured putting him in the movie would keep him on-set for screenplay touch-ups. But Black didn’t want to do that – he just wanted to act in the film. Which lead to his character being killed by the Predator first.

When it came time to make the new Predator, the producers “tested” Black’s involvement on Facebook with a mock-up poster, and the poster got a huge response. That’s certainly one way to lock down your director, I guess. 

Special Features Include:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • A Touch of Black
  • Predator Evolution
  • The Takedown Team
  • Predator Catch-Up
  • Gallery

 

Starman

John Carpenter movies aren’t primarily known for being good-natured and romantic, but in 1984, he went against the grain to make Starman. Unlike any other Carpenter film, Starman is ultimately a love story. It’s also proof that Carpenter doesn’t get nearly as much credit as he deserves for being able to direct films outside of the horror genre. In Starman, an alien comes to earth and takes the form of a dead man, played by Jeff Bridges. This is understandably alarming to the dead man’s widow, played by Karen Allen. The two end up on a road trip, with Allen’s character resistant at first, but slowly coming around to appreciate, and even love, the weird, out-of-this-world Bridges. Bridges, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role, is fantastic here. We literally watch as his character learns and grows as the film progresses, and it’s fascinating.

Special Features to Note:

There’s a fun making-of feature on the disc, which features new interviews with Carpenter, Bridges and co-star Charles Martin Smith. Like many Shout/Scream Factory features, the editing is a bit lackluster, resulting in some awkward pacing. But it’s neat to listen to Carpenter and company talk about the film. Here, Carpenter says was excited to make Starman because he had never made a movie like this, and he jumped at the chance to direct it. Jeff Bridges (who has a mic that keeps crackling for some reason) notes that he pitched Carpenter on the idea of playing his character as someone mimicking a human. And Charles Martin Smith goes on to say Carpenter was an incredible actor’s director. As Smith puts it, he had always thought Carpenter as more of a “camera stylist”, but realized Carpenter was great with actors as well. My only real complaint with this feature (besides the technical issues) is that I would’ve loved to hear Karen Allen’s recollections as well. 

Special Features Include: 

  • NEW They Came from Hollywood: Re-visiting STARMAN – Featuring Director John Carpenter, Actors Jeff Bridges And Charles Martin Smith, And Script Supervisor Sandy King-Carpenter
  • Audio Commentary With Director John Carpenter And Jeff Bridges
  • Vintage Featurette
  • Teaser Trailer
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots

 

True Stories

Talking Heads frontman David Byrne directed only one movie in his career: the quirky, unique 1986 comedy True Stories. The film is a series of vignettes that follow Byrne around the fictional town of Virgil, Texas. There, he introduces us to all sorts of oddballs, most notably a clean room technician looking for love, played by a young John Goodman. Even though this is Byrne’s only directorial effort, you can see how ahead of his time he was here. In True Stories, you can see the roots of the films of Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, and more. Blending offbeat scenes with strange musical numbers, True Stories is an absolute delight. I only wish Byrne had made a few more films like this, but the fact that this is his one and only movie makes it extra special.

Special Features to Note: 

A lengthy (just over an hour long) making-of featurette takes you through nearly ever step of the film, from conception to execution. Byrne reveals that he loved directing, because he got to build a world – which is more than he gets to do when writing a song. He goes on to note that he didn’t start True Stories off with an actual story. Instead, he created several drawings – essentially storyboards – and tacked them up to a wall. Then he would invite cinematographers over to look at the drawings, and ask their opinions on them. Byrne didn’t want to tie his different narratives together – he wanted them to mostly stand on their own. To get this just right, he reached out to Joan Tewkesbury, writer of Robert Altman’s Nashville, which also features several different storylines. Twekesbury didn’t want to write a script for him, but she did give him some advice. Specifically, she told Byrne that he didn’t need a narrative connection for his stories – he needed an emotional connection. Byrne took it from there, co-writing the script with Stephen Tobolowsky and Beth Henley.

Special Features Include:

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director David Byrne and cinematogra­pher Ed Lachman, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, supervised by Byrne, on the Blu-ray
  • New documentary about the film’s production, featuring Byrne, Lachman, screenwriter Stephen Tobolowsky, executive producer Edward Pressman, coproducer Karen Murphy, fashion-show costume designer Adelle Lutz, casting director Victoria Thomas, consultant Christina Patoski, actor Jo Harvey Allen, and artist and songwriter Terry Allen
  • CD containing the film’s complete soundtrack, compiled here for the first time (Blu-ray only)
  • Real Life (1986), a short documentary by Pamela Yates and Newton Thomas Sigel made on the set of the film
  • No Time to Look Back, a new homage to Virgil, Texas, the fictional town where True Stories is set
  • New documentary about designer Tibor Kalman and his influence on Byrne and work on the film, featuring Byrne and artist Maira Kalman, Tibor’s widow
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: Essays by critic Rebecca Bengal and journalist and author Joe Nick Patoski, along with, for the Blu-ray edition, an essay by Byrne; a 1986 piece by actor Spalding Gray on the film’s production; and a selection of production photography, along with Byrne’s tabloid clippings and writing about the film’s visual motifs
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