Sunday, July 14, 2024

New Physical Media Releases: 1/26/2021

By Casey Lee Clark 

This week in the world of physical media, there is quite a variety of releases from various boutique labels, representing genres from cult films and kaiju to musical comedies.


Arrow Video boasts the most buzzed-about title this week with their special edition release of “Southland Tales.” From 2006, this whacky cult film was Richard Kelly’s follow-up to “Donnie Darko” and stars Dwayne’ The Rock’ Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, Justin Timberlake, and many more. An ambitious bomb at its original release, the indescribable film is still talked about and pondered many years later. Arrow’s release includes two versions of the film (both 2K remasters): the 145-minute theatrical cut and the 160 minute Cannes cut from the film’s festival premiere in 2006. In addition to these remastered cuts, this release also includes a new three-part documentary retrospective on the film, an audio commentary track with Kelly, an archival making-of featurette, an animated short set in the world of the film, plus a booklet. It all comes together with a mystical cover art design featuring the various members of the ensemble. 

​In addition to “Southland Tales,” Arrow is also putting out two boxsets for the famous Japanese kaiju films featuring the title monster “Gamera.” One set is advertised as “The Showa Era,” containing eight films from 1965 to 1980. The other contains that of “The Heisei Era” with four films from 1995 to 2006.

​For 2020 films coming to Blu-ray, we have the release of “Fatman,” the holiday thriller directed by Eshom and Ian Nelms and starring Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Shaun Benson, and Chance Hurstfield. The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary track with Gibson, the Nelms brothers, and more, as well as deleted and extended scenes and a storyboard to film comparison with a director’s commentary.

The recently popular Paramount Presents label from the famous studio is putting out a new special edition Blu-ray of “The Court Jester.” This 1956 musical-comedy is co-directed by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama and stars Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury, Cecil Parker, and Mildred Natwick. This release is most notable for the film’s visual presentation, which sees the original VistaVision negative remastered at 6K resolution. The release only includes one supplemental feature outside of the trailer with a discussion on the film from critic Leonard Maltin. However, it does feature Paramount Presents elaborate packaging.

From the Criterion Collection this week, we have the release of the 1977 Soviet film “The Ascent,” the final film from director Larisa Shepitko before her untimely death in 1979. The film was previously released by Criterion on DVD for their Eclipse series in a set devoted to Shepitko’s work. Containing a new 4K restoration and a new English translation, the release also includes special features with Shepitko’s husband, filmmaker Elem Klimov, and their son, Anton Klimov, including an introduction, interviews, and short films. The release also includes one of Shepitko’s previous short films and two documentaries on her life and work. 

​Warner Archive is releasing several films on Blu-ray this week. Most notably, we have “After the Thin Man,” the first of many sequels to 1934’s “The Thin Man.” The 1936 comedy stars William Powell and Myrna Loy, along with an early performance from James Stewart. The release includes a new 4K restoration and era-specific extras, such as shorts and radio programs. They are also releasing “The Pajama Game,” the 1957 musical based on the same name’s Broadway show. The film was co-directed by George Abbott and Stanley Donan and was a Doris Day vehicle featuring Bob Fosse’s choreography.


This week, I wanted to recommend a unique but fun release. I’ve gone on before about my love for Shout Factory’s Shout Select label and their eclectic catalog. Still, a release that I love and appreciate is the Legally Blonde Collection, which includes both the original 2001 film and the sequel “Legally Blonde: Red, White & Blonde.” I’m a big fan of “Legally Blonde”; it is one of my favorite studio comedies of the 2000s and Reese Witherspoon gives an iconic performance as Elle Woods. I also have a soft spot for the sequel, which is nowhere near as good but has charming moments and new characters played by great actors, including Sally Field and Regina King. 

The Blu-ray includes discs for both films as well as a variety of special features on each, including commentaries, interviews, and featurettes. For “Legally Blonde,” the restoration looks surprisingly great. As someone who previously had only ever seen the film on VHS, rental DVD, or cable, it was quite refreshing to see the film in nice Blu-ray quality. That attention to detail might not have been there for the disc on the sequel, but it looks fine nonetheless. I genuinely appreciate films like this that are typically considered throwaway chick flicks actually given the time and care to be released on a significant boutique label. I’m sure there are standard Blu-rays for each of these films, but I prefer shelling out more for these more high end or special edition releases and this one looks great on both a technical level and with the packaging, on top of a plethora of special features. Plus, while I may defend the sequel, I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to purchase a single Blu-ray of that film, but having it included with the first in such a lovely set is perhaps the best way to own. And a great way to prepare for the third film currently in development!

​Will you be picking up any of these releases? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.

You can follow Casey and hear more of her thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @CaseyLeeClark

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