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Blu-ray Review: Malignant

December 7, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

After switching gears and directing the comic book movie Aquaman, Warner Bros. has allowed James Wan to return to his low-budget horror movie roots with Malignant, an absolutely gnarly little film that I’m honestly impressed the studio even agreed to put out.

Wan, who has kickstarted no less than three wildly successful horror franchises (Saw, Insidious and Warner’s The Conjuring), clearly holds a lot of sway at WB and New Line Cinema, because Malignant is the sort of thing that could only get made by a filmmaker who has major clout with the studio.

It’s one of the wildest big studio horror films in recent memory, taking us on a batshit crazy B-movie ride that is simultaneously really fun and really messed up. The film opens in the 1990s, with a creepy prologue at a medical facility showing some sort of experiment gone horribly wrong. From here we cut to present day and start following Madison Lake (Annabelle Wallis), a pregnant Seattle woman in an abusive relationship who starts seeing visions of grisly murders as they are taking place, with her literally becoming paralyzed as the room dissolves around her.

With support from her sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson), and a tag team pair of detectives (George Young and Michole Briana White), Madison must work to stop this shadowy killer before the crimes consume her. And that’s all I’m going to say about the plot, because what’s fun about Malignant is the way that it twists and turns, as Wan blends elements of horror movie, family melodrama, police procedural and serial killer thriller.

The screenplay, which was written by Akela Cooper with the original story credited to Cooper, Wan and Wan’s partner Ingrid Bisu (who also has a small role in the film as an overeager forensic investigator), unfolds like a mystery and does a good job of teasing out pieces of information, building to a shocking (and gross) reveal that really sets the film apart.

In many ways, Malignant harkens back to the sordid slasher flicks of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s (complete with a backstory that is revealed through old VHS tapes), but it’s a throwback that feels fresh. The film blends the aesthetic of B-movie schlock with elements of tongue-in-cheek camp, but it’s all crafted with considerable skill. This includes the moody cinematography by Michael Burgess, which also allows for some showy camera moves. In one sequence, the camera takes us through Madison’s house from above, floating between rooms as if we are looking into a diorama with the roof taken off.

The film later outdoes itself with a thrilling chase through the Seattle Underground, and a climactic action sequence that is staged with the camera literally spinning around like in a first-person shooter game. It’s topped off with solid production design, some good uses of makeup and practical effects, and an unnerving score by Joseph Bishara that cleverly incorporates elements of the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind.” And, at the centre of it all, is Wallis, who fully commits herself to the demands of the lead role.

This is Wan simply flexing his genre muscles and showing off his considerable skills at keeping audiences surprised, excited and disgusted in equal measure. You could certainly become focused on plot holes or implausibility, but it’s more fun to just enjoy the fully deranged ride that is Malignant, as Wan plays us like a fiddle with jump scares, action set-pieces, insane twists and creative kills that are presented with lots of gore and squishy, bone-crunching sound effects.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray includes one bonus featurette. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which comes with a slipcover.

Malignant: James Wan’s Visions (14 minutes, 11 seconds): A solid look at various behind the scenes aspects of the film, from the writing and story to the very good practical effects. We also get a glimpse at what it took to pull off that spinning set-piece, with the camera placed on a pre-programmed robotic arm and the stunt doubles needing to hit their marks precisely so as not to get hit.

Malignant is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 111 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: November 30th, 2021

Blu-ray Review: Heaven Can Wait (1978)

December 6, 2021

By John Corrado

In 1978, Warren Beatty co-directed, co-wrote, produced and starred in the comedy fantasy Heaven Can Wait, which went on to be nominated for nine Oscars including Best Picture (which it lost to The Deer Hunter). Now Paramount has released the film for the first time on Blu-ray, fully restored and remastered from the original negative under Beatty’s supervision.

Beatty stars in the film as Joe Pendleton, a backup quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams who is involved in a motorcycle accident and gets taken too soon to the afterlife by his heavenly escort (Buck Henry).

Desperately trying to get back to his body before the Super Bowl, Joe strikes a deal and ends up in the body of Leo Farnsworth, a rich, immoral industrialist whose wife (Dyan Cannon) and assistant (Charles Grodin) are trying to murder. Joe decides to use his newfound position to change the course of Farnsworth’s company, and he starts falling for Betty Logan (Julie Christie), a British activist protesting his development of her town.

Beatty co-directed Heaven Can Wait with Buck Henry and co-wrote it with Elaine May, and the witty screenplay is one of its key elements. The film is based on Harry Segall’s play of the same name, which was previously adapted into the 1941 film Here Comes Mr. Jordan, with the main character’s profession changed from boxer to football player for the remake. Beatty’s version very much feels like a throwback to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s and there is an almost Frank Capra feel to it, with a boardroom scene that brings to mind Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

The story and concept do feel a touch underdeveloped at times, and the basic premise has been done better in other films (including Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death and, more recently, Pixar’s Soul, which incidentally also had a protagonist named Joe). The Cannon and Grodin characters also come off as somewhat overly comedic stereotypes, though Beatty gives himself a nicely developed dramatic arc as both Joe and Leo.

The film does seem a bit slight in hindsight for something that received nine Oscar nominations, but Heaven Can Wait mostly holds up as an enjoyable movie that works at what it sets out to do, which is to deliver an old school screwball comedy. The script is mostly successful at blending elements of sports movie, character drama and romance, and Beatty’s film still offers as a nice mix of fantasy, humour and sentimentality, all wrapped up in a solidly made feel-good package.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray includes no bonus features. A code for a digital copy is included in the package, which comes with a standard slipcover.

Heaven Can Wait is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 101 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: November 30th, 2021

Review: The Souvenir Part II

December 3, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Joanna Hogg’s 2019 film The Souvenir was a low-key, semi-autobiographical drama about a film student, Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), in the 1980s entering into an unexpectedly complicated relationship with a slightly older man, Anthony (Tom Burke). The film ended on a sombre note, followed by a title card announcing that a Part II would be coming soon.

Well, now we have The Souvenir Part II, and it is every bit the worthy followup to the first one, while maybe also enriching it by offering what is in some ways an even deeper, more meta experience. While the first film did stand on its own, this is the sort of sequel that builds upon the story, offering a series of touching and deeply satisfying emotional payoffs for its main character.

Instead of merely trying to copy the first film, this is a sequel that is metatextual in its very construction, following Julie as she finds catharsis through producing her graduation film, which just so happens to be about her relationship to Anthony. This allows Hogg to recontextualize and recreate moments from the first film, while exploring them through the lens of Julie looking back on her relationship with the hindsight of where it was headed.

It’s a powerful, not to mention gutsy, storytelling choice, which is why it’s such a testament to Hogg that she is able to pull it off. Both films work to compliment each other quite nicely, and the two very much feel like a nearly four hour movie when viewed together. Where as The Souvenir was a stripped down and minimalistic look at navigating a difficult relationship, Part II is about sorting through and dealing with the fallout from it, as Julie finds herself picking up the pieces from her life with Anthony. As much as it is a story about the filmmaking process, it is also about the grieving process.

Swinton Byrne delivers another nicely understated performance as Julie, doing a very believable job of portraying her character’s arc of learning to grow in the face of a great loss while also finding her own voice as a filmmaker. Tilda Swinton, her real life mother, returns to the role of Julie’s mother, and they share several poignant scenes together. Richard Ayoade also reprises his role from the first one and has several memorable scenes as pompous film student Patrick, who is realizing his dreams of making his grad film, an ambitious musical, but growing frustrated in the process.

The scenes showing the filmmaking process, including disagreements between co-workers and arguments over how to stage certain shots, feel very real and are sure to resonate with those who have worked on or tried to pull together a small production. The last act segues into artful abstraction, before Hogg brings it all home in the final scene, building to one of the best closing shots of the year. As an arthouse drama about a filmmaker finding healing through the filmmaking process, The Souvenir Part II is quite well done, and reveals itself to be something quite lovely as well.

The Souvenir Part II is now playing in limited release, including at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. It’s being distributed in Canada by levelFILM.

Blu-ray Review: Candyman

November 30, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Nia DaCosta, and produced by Jordan Peele under his Monkeypaw banner, Candyman is a legacy sequel that directly follows the 1992 horror film of the same name (which already received a pair of followups in 1995 and 1999).

The original Candyman was Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd), a Black man who was murdered in the 1800s and became a folkloric, hook-handed figure haunting Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing projects who could be summoned by saying his name five times in front of a mirror.

DaCosta and Peele’s film builds upon the mythology of this Black horror icon, by exploring the character through a modern lens and leaning heavily into social commentary about gentrification, cyclical racism and police violence. The result is a more high-minded genre film that is often well crafted on a technical level and has some effective moments, but also feels rushed and can’t quite sustain itself at the end.

The main character is Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a visual artist who has just moved into a gentrified neighbourhood in Chicago’s Northside with his art gallery director girlfriend Bri (Teyonah Parris), built where the infamous Cabrini-Green used to be. Unable to find inspiration for his next piece, with art dealer Clive Privler (Brian King) breathing down his neck, Anthony starts poking around the history of Cabrini-Green, and uncovers the old stories about Candyman. His biggest source of knowledge is the owner of a local laundromat, William Burke (Colman Domingo), a character introduced in the film’s prologue, who encountered a version of Candyman as a child.

As Anthony does a series of increasingly abstract paintings inspired by Candyman and other Black man who have been killed, he starts to lose his grip on reality. From here, Candyman essentially becomes an allegory for intergenerational trauma and racist violence (the title of Anthony’s exhibit, “Say My Name,” is meant to recall the current racial justice rallying cry), that feels especially charged post-2020 (it was actually shot in 2019, and had its release date pushed back several times due to the pandemic).

This is only DaCosta’s second film, and she does show promise as a visual stylist. The film features some solid stylistic flourishes, including moody flashbacks done using shadow puppets. In general, Candyman is a sleek and handsome production, with cinematographer John Guleserian staging some interesting shot compositions, including a few effective uses of mirrors. But the film feels short at 91 minutes (only 86 to credits), and the screenplay (which is credited to Peele, DaCosta and Win Rosenfeld) ultimately tries to pack too much mythology into such a brief running time, not to mention a good deal of social commentary as well.

A sequence involving a white teen girl summoning Candyman in her high school bathroom is fairly well staged, but her storyline is underdeveloped and feels somewhat plopped in the middle. The last act also feels rushed and somewhat heavy-handed, becoming an almost frustratingly literal and unambiguous exploration of the story’s themes. What we are left with is a horror film that has some good moments and a few interesting ideas, but it somewhat collapses under its own weight by the end.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray comes with a variety of bonus features, roughly an hour’s worth in total. A regular DVD and code for a digital copy are also included in the package, which comes with an embossed slipcover.

Alternate Ending (2 minutes, 38 seconds)

Deleted and Extended Scenes (5 minutes, 52 seconds) A selection of three extended scenes, adding more dialogue to moments that are still in the movie.

Who Do You Think Makes the Hood? (2 minutes, 56 seconds)

Wanna See Me Fly? (1 minute, 44 seconds)

Fooked Oop (1 minute, 9 seconds)

Say My Name (6 minutes, 45 seconds): This featurette focuses on the themes of gentrification and police brutality running through the film, and how the filmmakers approached exploring them in a more modern context compared to the original.

Body Horror (6 minutes, 22 seconds): A look at the makeup and practical effects in the film, with DaCosta citing David Cronenberg’s The Fly as an inspiration.

The Filmmaker’s Eye: Nia DaCosta (4 minutes, 48 seconds): Explores DaCosta’s visual aesthetic and approach to continuing the story of the original, as well as the importance of having a Black perspective.

Painting Chaos (7 minutes, 17 seconds): Looks at the use of art within the story, and the artists who were commissioned to do Anthony’s paintings seen in the film.

The Art of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (4 minutes, 54 seconds): A fascinating glimpse into the recording process of composer Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, and how he used Philip Glass’ score in the original as an inspiration. He talks about how he incorporated vocal elements, ambient sounds recorded in the rundown row houses of Cabrini-Green, and contributions from cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir into his soundtrack for the 2021 film.

Terror in the Shadows (4 minutes, 9 seconds): A deeper dive into the meaning behind the film’s shadow puppet flashbacks (Peele’s idea), and how they were brought to life by the company Manual Cinema.

Candyman: The Impact of Black Horror (20 minutes, 24 seconds): A fairly interesting discussion of the film hosted by Colman Domingo. The guests (Tananarive Due, Dr. Wendy Ashley, Yolo Akili Robinson and Lorenzo Lewis) watch and react to clips from the film, unpacking the story’s themes, and discussing the healing power of horror.

Candyman is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 91 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: November 16th, 2021

Review: C’mon C’mon

November 26, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

C’mon C’mon, the latest film from writer-director Mike Mills (Beginners, 20th Century Women), opens with documentary-style interviews with kids talking about the future. The film’s protagonist, Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix), is a radio journalist in New York, and he is working on a project compiling comments from children about their hopes and fears in a changing world.

These interviews, and the themes that are brought up, provide a through line for the film, which blossoms into a wonderful road movie between Johnny and his 9-year-old nephew Jesse (Woody Norman). And it’s a magical experience, with Mills crafting a film that is filled with many warm, moving and gently funny moments as it explores their unique uncle-nephew relationship.

Jesse lives in Los Angeles with his mother Viv (Gaby Hoffman), and when she suddenly has to go away to help his bipolar father Paul (Scoot McNairy) get settled in Oakland, Johnny agrees to travel across the country to stay with the boy. Jesse is an eccentric kid who rarely stops talking (he sometimes likes to pretend he is an orphan and have others play along), and he is testy and impatient at times, while also revealing moments of beyond-his-years wisdom. When Johnny has to return to New York for work, and Viv needs to stay in Oakland to help with Paul’s mental health issues, he decides to bring Jesse along with him.

From here, C’mon C’mon simply follows the two of them through the ups, downs and little moments as they learn to understand each other, with Mills capturing the bond that forms between them in a really organic way. Their dynamic is an interesting one, as the unmarried, childless Johnny is suddenly thrust into a parenting role. He struggles to find answers to tough questions that Jesse asks about his father’s mental illness, or why Johnny and Viv don’t talk as much as they used to. While he has flashes of insight, Jesse is still very much a child, with moments of acting out and testing boundaries, and figuring out how to care for him and meet his needs helps Johnny emotionally open up.

The two are learning from each other and helping the other one grow, and it’s a relationship that works thanks to the performances at the heart of the film. What’s remarkable about Phoenix’s performance here is how natural he feels. It’s in an entirely different register than his chilling, Oscar-winning turn in Joker, reminding us how good he can be at playing regular guys as well. While Johnny is maybe a bit closed off, he is still very much just an average man trying to navigate caring for a child, and Phoenix brings him to life in a way that feels completely believable.

Norman gives one of the finest performances by a child actor in recent memory, never hitting a false note in his portrayal of Jesse. He is inquisitive and playful in a way that seems totally natural, and the character’s precociousness doesn’t feel exaggerated for the screen. Hoffman also delivers emotionally impactful work as Viv, crafting both an authentic portrayal of a struggling mother and establishing a compelling adult sibling relationship with Phoenix’s Johnny, despite most of their scenes together happening over the phone.

The story might sound slight, and the film does meander, but it’s richly textured and filled with feeling in a way that manages to avoid being twee. The black and white cinematography by Robbie Ryan adds both artistic grace and a sense of intimacy, at times making the film feel like a memory, which really hits home in the deeply poignant final scenes. The emotions of the film are heightened by the musical contributions of Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, who provide a memorable score that incorporates classical elements as well.

Through its literary interludes and poetic uses of voiceover, Mills’ beautifully written screenplay comes to explore themes about remembering and expressing our emotions in healthy ways. The filmmaker also seamlessly weaves in some flashbacks showing how Johnny and Viv started to grow apart following the death of their mother, which helps to flesh out the story and makes the improving relationship between their two characters that much more resonant to watch.

I don’t have kids, but I imagine C’mon C’mon to be a very accurate depiction of trying to parent one, while having no clue what you are doing and yet somehow still succeeding. This is just a really lovely, tender and touching film, with wonderful performances by Phoenix and Norman, who not only make the bond between their characters feel real but also make us deeply care about them by the end. The result is a small, intimate drama that builds to a finale that might just make you cry. I was enraptured from start to finish.

C’mon C’mon is now playing in limited release in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa, and will be expanding to additional markets on December 3rd. It’s being distributed in Canada by VVS Films.

Disney+ Review: Hawkeye (First Two Episodes)

November 24, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Hawkeye, the first two episodes of which premiered today on Disney+, is Marvel’s fourth television series this year, and it’s somewhat of a departure for the studio in terms of how grounded it feels. Following on the heels of WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki, in some ways this feels like the most conventional show of the bunch, but this isn’t a bad thing.

Set in New York City at Christmas, which comes to be one of the show’s best and most enjoyable features, with Christmas music incorporated into the soundtrack, Hawkeye follows Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) as he teams up with a young archer named Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld).

Clint is in New York with his kids for the opening of Rogers: The Musical, a cheesy Broadway show about the Avengers saving the city that brings back painful memories, and he just wants to get home to his wife (Linda Cardellini) in time for the holidays.

When Kate ends up getting ahold of Ronin’s old suit, she inadvertently draws out much of the city’s underworld, and attracts the attention of Clint, who happens to be her hero. Clint feels an obligation to protect her, and from here they became an unlikely duo (along with an adorable dog). While Hawkeye sets up a murder mystery and an organized crime ring for the two to get tangled up in, the series has more of a low-stakes feel to it so far compared to most Marvel movies and the studio’s other shows.

This show instead aspires to be something more akin to a Shane Black buddy comedy (right down to the Christmas setting), and the first two episodes work well on these terms thanks to the strong chemistry between Renner and Steinfeld. The two actors do a good job of playing off each other, bantering back and forth as a weary Clint reluctantly takes on the role of mentor to the impulsive Kate.

Clint is shown to be understandably worn down this time around. He’s still working through the trauma of what transpired with Thanos, and ready to take a break. Meanwhile, Kate is presented as a wide-eyed young adult who looks up to him and wants to learn everything she can, a dynamic that allows for both entertainment value and character development. While the story still sort of feels like it is getting started by the end of the second episode, the show has a breezy, enjoyable feel to it so far that has me looking forward to the remaining four episodes.

The first two episodes of Hawkeye are now available to stream on Disney+, and new episodes will be released every Wednesday until December 21st.

Review: Encanto

November 24, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Encanto is Disney’s 60th animated feature, and it’s a bright and colourful film that feels like somewhat of a return to the studio’s musical roots, while also pushing things forward in terms of cultural representation by setting its story in Colombia.

While this is technically not Disney’s first film to be set in South America (those honours actually go to the studio’s 1942 and 1945 anthology films Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros), the animated Colombia where Encanto unfolds feels authentically and respectfully realized onscreen, with the animators paying tribute to the country’s people and culture.

The Colombian jungle also provides a vibrant backdrop for the story itself, which actually plays out as a somewhat pared back family drama centred around Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), the one member of the magical Madrigal family who hasn’t been blessed with any special powers.

Mirabel’s oldest sister Isabela (Diane Guerrero) is considered the “perfect” one who can literally make flowers bloom, middle sibling Luisa (Jessica Darrow) has super strength that allows her to literally carry the family’s burdens on her shoulders, and their mother Julieta (Angie Cepeda) can heal any ailment with her food. You get the idea. They all live together in an enchanted casita that has its own magical powers, with floorboards and shutters that come alive and move independently. Everyone in the family has been given a gift, provided to them by a magic candle, with their own special door in the house that opens up into a magical room.

Everyone accept for Mirabel. The story unfolds around a ceremony to bestow her young cousin Antonio (Ravi-Cabot Conyers) with his gift and door, bringing back painful memories of her own ceremony when the door wouldn’t open. When Mirablel notices the magic in the house starting to fade, and no one in the family wants to listen, she becomes the only one who can save it. This includes enlisting the help of the film’s best and most interesting character, Uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo), who has been shunned by the family due to his disturbing visions of the future.

It’s an interesting twist on the outsider, black-sheep-of-the-family trope that directors Byron Howard and Jared Bush (who previously collaborated on Zootopia) use to tell an almost surprisingly small-scale story. Most of the action in Encanto is contained within the various passageways and magic rooms of the house. There is no real villain in the movie, and a lot of it feels like buildup for the characters going on a much bigger journey that never really happens.

While the choice to keep the action confined to almost a single location is somewhat interesting from a narrative perspective, the film actually feels a bit too contained at times, especially since the story still follows several predictable beats, and it’s buoyed along by a slightly generic message about accepting differences within a family. But Encanto still largely works as a simple but mostly effective story about navigating conflicts between relatives that is told with a good deal of energy, including a number of new songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The musical numbers mainly serve to introduce the various family members, starting with the energetic and somewhat ear-wormy opening number “Family Madrigal” that allows Mirabel to rattle off all their gifts through Miranda’s wordplay. The songs are decent, if not the most memorable in a Disney film, and the musical numbers themselves are all presented in their own styles which makes them feel fresh and fun to watch.

For example, the song “Waiting On a Miracle” (an “I Want” song if there ever was one) is inventively staged with Mirabel moving through the frame as her family is frozen in time, while Luisa’s big number “What Else Can I Do?” embraces a more surrealistic style that recalls something out of the studio’s 1990s films like Aladdin or Hercules. But the film’s best and most impactful tune is “Dos Oruguitas,” the first full song that Miranda has written in Spanish, which plays over a dramatic flashback sequence in the last act that is the best thing in the movie.

The choice to present the song in Spanish without translation or subtitles is also an interesting one. The film is somewhat of an immigrant story at its heart, which is set up in the prologue involving Mirabel’s grandmother Abuela Alma Madrigal (María Cecilia Botero), and the emotional payoff really comes over this sequence in the finale. It’s a touching end to a film that, despite a few minor shortcomings, manages to tell a culturally specific yet universal story about reconciliation and family, carried by a big heart and animation that is simply bursting with colour.

Encanto is now playing in theatres. Before the film is director Natalie Nourigat’s adorable new 2D short film Far From the Tree, a wordless story about a parent and baby raccoon. It’s lovely, and wonderful to see Disney going back to traditional animation, even if just for a short.

Blu-ray Review: Planes, Trains and Automobiles: SteelBook Edition

November 23, 2021

By John Corrado

Arriving just in time for American Thanksgiving, Paramount is releasing a new SteelBook Edition of Planes, Trains and Automobiles on Blu-ray this week. The John Hughes classic follows family man Neal Page (Steve Martin) as he tries to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving, only to end up stuck on the road with shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy), and it’s long been a favourite of mine.

The Blu-ray itself is identical in terms of content to the editions that were put out in 2012 and 2017 for the film’s 25th and 30th anniversaries. The big draw of this release is the limited edition packaging. The SteelBook features an image of Martin and Candy waiting at the airport on the cover, under an arrivals board spelling out the title, with a burning plane ticket on the back.

I do like the cover art, and inside the case we get a full image of Martin and Candy in the burned out car spread across the front and back panels. While casual customers likely won’t feel the need to double dip if they already own the film on Blu-ray (the same disc was also included as part of the John Hughes 5-Movie Collection earlier this year), the SteelBook serves as a very nice new edition for fans of the film and physical media collectors like myself.

This release also matches the attractive SteelBook Editions of fellow Hughes classics Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful that were put out over the summer, and looks great on the shelf beside them.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

There are a number of archival bonus features included on the Blu-ray disc. A regular DVD and a code for a digital copy are also included in the package.

• Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles (16 minutes, 38 seconds)

• John Hughes: The Voice of a Generation (27 minutes, 39 seconds)

• Heartbreak and Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes (25 minutes, 52 seconds)

• John Hughes for Adults (4 minutes, 2 seconds)

• A Tribute to John Candy (3 minutes, 1 second)

• Deleted Scene – “Airplane Food” (3 minutes, 24 seconds)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 92 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: November 23rd, 2021

Blu-ray Review: It’s a Wonderful Life: 75th Anniversary Edition

November 23, 2021

By John Corrado

Frank Capra’s beloved 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and Paramount is honouring the occasion with a new Blu-ray edition. The film, of course, tells the story of George Bailey (James Stewart) who is visited by an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) on Christmas Eve to remind him not to throw his life away, and it’s a personal favourite of mine.

This release follows in the footsteps of the 4K Steelbook that was put out last year. The new packaging is the main selling point of this two-disc set, which includes both black-and-white and colourized versions of the film on separate Blu-rays, along with a selection of ten exclusive recipe cards from the Insight Editions book It’s a Wonderful Life: The Official Bailey Family Cookbook tucked into the case.

The Blu-rays themselves are held in DigiBook-type case, with a plastic tray for the discs glued on one side and a pocket for the recipe cards on the other, and an image from the film that is visible when the discs are removed. The “DigiBook” tucks in the side of a cardboard outer box, with the same artwork on the front and back of both. There is tasteful “75th Anniversary” branding above the title on the cover, and the inscription by Clarence on the back, which I do think is a very nice touch. The artwork also notably retains the grey, blue and silver colour scheme of previous editions.

I don’t think this is really enough of an upgrade to warrant a double dip for most buyers, unless you want the new packaging and recipe cards (which feature recipes “inspired by” the film and are truthfully a bit of an interesting tie-in, since Capra’s film isn’t exactly remembered as a big “food movie”). But it’s a fine release for collectors or completists, while doubling as a nice gift set for those looking to own a copy of the film on Blu-ray who might not have one yet.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The disc includes three very good archival featurettes, ported over from the 4K Ultra HD release. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package.

• Restoring a Beloved Classic (13 minutes, 3 seconds)

• Secrets from the Vault (22 minutes, 11 seconds)

• It’s a Wonderful Wrap Party (8 minutes, 4 seconds)

It’s a Wonderful Life: 75th Anniversary Edition is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 130 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: November 16th, 2021

4K Ultra HD Review: The Addams Family (With More Mamushka!)

November 22, 2021

By John Corrado

Barry Sonnenfeld, who got his start in the industry as a cinematographer, made his directorial debut in 1991 with The Addams Family, a big screen adaptation of the classic 1960s TV show (which was itself based on a comic strip by Charles Addams).

Despite a troubled production (with the film going over-budget and over-schedule, causing Orion Pictures to sell it to Paramount partway through production), Sonnenfeld’s film proved to be a hit. Released in theatres on November 22nd, 1991, The Addams Family not only made bank at the box office, but was also successful enough with audiences to get a sequel (Addams Family Values) two years later.

Now Paramount is celebrating the film’s 30th anniversary with a newly remastered 4K Ultra HD edition, that includes both the theatrical cut and an extended version “with more Mamushka,” restoring the full dance sequence that was shortened in the final cut.

The story involves the creepy and kooky Addams family – parents Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston), and their two kids Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) – as they deal with the return of a man claiming to be their long-lost Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd), who has been missing for years in the Bermuda Triangle. The casting is spot-on, and the film’s production design, makeup and costumes (which received an Oscar nomination) are all a feast for the eyes.

This is the first time that The Addams Family has been released in 4K, having been restored under the supervision of Sonnenfeld, and the 2160p presentation on the UHD disc is quite impressive. It offers a pleasing visual experience that allows us to really enjoy the gothic sets and other details within the frame (such as the family cuckoo clock seen near the beginning and the cobwebs surrounding it).

While I think the 1993 sequel Addams Family Values actually somewhat surpasses it (both films were released in a Blu-ray combo pack two years ago, which I reviewed here), The Addams Family remains an enjoyable film in its own right. It’s an entertaining family movie that is very faithful to the TV show that inspired it, playing out with a delightfully dark comic streak.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K disc includes two featurettes (one new and one old), as well as a brief intro by Sonnenfeld on the extended cut. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which comes with a slipcover.

Introduction to More Mamushka Version By Director Barry Sonnenfeld (32 seconds): The filmmaker briefly talks about finding an original negative and restoring the full dance between Gomez and Fester, offering some good context on the extended cut.

Filmmaker Focus: Barry Sonnenfeld on The Addams Family (16 minutes, 32 seconds): The director reflects on making the film thirty years on. Sonnenfeld talks about growing up as a fan of the comic and this being his first movie as a director, after being a cinematographer for the Coen Brothers and Rob Reiner, with producer Scott Rudin asking him to direct due to his visual style. He discusses casting, working with cinematographer Owen Roizman (The Exorcist) and shooting on slow stock to allow deeper saturation, bringing Thing to screen with in-camera effects using actor Christopher Hart’s hand and erasing him from the frame, as well as the challenging shoot. We also learn how young Ricci helped change the ending from the original script after the first table read, and the director shares his one regret of getting a class full of pre-schoolers to cry for the camera.

Archival Featurette (7 minutes, 29 seconds): An archival featurette that features the actors discussing their characters in the film and also touches on the production.

The Addams Family is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. The theatrical version is 99 minutes and the extended cut is 101 minutes. Both are rated PG.

Street Date: November 9th, 2021

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