Dec 19, 2022
By Austin Trunick and Mark Redfern
Photography by Mark Redfern and Wendy Lynch Redfern
Here’s the second half of our 2022 Home Video Gift Guide! If you missed the first part, you can read it here. Or, please feel free to look through our other gift suggestions from our 2022 holiday gift guide, including recommendations for tech-heads, DC and Marvel superhero collectors, geeky books and collectibles, tabletop gamers, and video gamers,
In this second section we take a look at new release movies, animation, and TV shows on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD.
The Batman 4K/Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)
There have been many great Batman films over the years (including Tim Burton’s two films and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy), as well as a couple of truly terrible ones (sorry Joel Schumacher), so co-writer/director Matt Reeves had some big boots to fill. Luckily he pulled off a singular take on the Caped Crusader with The Batman. It is dark and grounded like Nolan’s films, but has an aesthetic all its own. It is the Batman movie perhaps most faithful to the comics, with Batman truly acting as a detective and the film really nailing his complicated relationship with Catwoman. Also Robert Pattinson spends the majority of the movie dressed as Batman, there’s no pretense to make Bruce Wayne a fun-loving billionaire playboy. Instead this is more of a goth Batman. The three-hour movie is fueled by Michael Giacchino’s stirring and memorable score and a slew of fantastic performances, including Colin Farrell’s transformative Penguin (you wouldn’t know it was Farrell if you didn’t know it was Farrell). The 4K and Blu-ray versions have over two hours of special features, including deleted scenes, a making of documentary, and a behind-the-scenes look at that fabulous car chase. Is The Batman the best superhero movie of 2022? Perhaps so. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On 4K (A24)
Everything’s been done before, there are no original films left. Right? Well, that’s not quite true. Enter Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, a truly delightful film about a little shell with one googly eye and shoes on. He lives in a human-sized house with his grandmother Nana Connie (also a shell and voiced by Isabella Rossellini). The house’s longtime Airbnb renter Dean (played by the film’s co-writer and director Dean Fleischer Camp) is a documentarian and starts making little films about Marcel, which go viral on YouTube and end up aiding Marcel in his quest to find the rest of his family (including his parents) who left the house suddenly when the couple that own the house split up. The film is based on actual viral YouTube shorts that Camp made with co-writer Jenny Slate (who does the voice of Marcel). A wonderful mix of stop-motion animation and live-action, Marcel The Shell With Shoes On is a technical marvel that took years to make and is probably a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film. But for a PG rated film that’s okay for kids to watch (my nine-year-old daughter loved it and then we later screened it for several of her friends), Marcel is surprisingly deep—a touching meditation on grief, anxiety, and the importance of family. Special features include a making of documentary displaying how much work it took to put together a film that feels so effortless, filmmaker commentary, and the original short films that inspired the movie. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Top Gun: Maverick 4K (Paramount)
I’ll be honest, I was never a huge fan of the original Top Gun. As a kid I always found Tom Cruise’s character Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell to be too cocky and testosterone-fueled and the film to be overly commercial. Since then, though, my appreciation of Cruise has greatly increased, in large part because of his tireless work on the Mission: Impossible franchise, which are some of the best action movies of this era. With the long-in-the-works sequel Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski have far surpassed the original (it’s already been nominated for multiple awards). Along the way it became the biggest film of 2022 so far, grossing over $718 million in America alone, with a further $770 million in the rest of the world, with a total of over $1.4 billion worldwide. Cruise is already known for doing his own stunts, but this time he outdid himself. In 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Cruise really hung onto the outside of a cargo plane as it took off, but in Top Gun: Maverick he actually flies the planes himself. This leads to some of the most thrilling flying sequences ever committed to film and a movie that appeals equally to the young and old and supporters of either major political party. The 4K release includes over 80 minutes of special features. Now bring on Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, due out next July. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent 4K/Blu-ray (Lionsgate)
Nicolas Cage plays Nick Cage, a fictionalized version of himself, in this amusing action comedy and that’s all you really need to know. Cage is longing to be taken seriously as an actor again but loses out on a big role with awards potential when his agent Richard Fink (Neil Patrick Harris) fields an offer from billionaire Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) to come to his birthday party on the Spanish island of Majorca for $1 million. But things go pear-shaped when it turns out Gutierrez might be a crime boss, the C.I.A. get involved, and Cage’s ex-wife and daughter are kidnapped. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent includes references to plenty of previous Cage films, some more overt (the golden guns from Face/Off are fired), some more subtle (one shot pays homage to a scene in Leaving Las Vegas, for which the real Cage won a Best Actor Oscar). By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
The Woman King 4K/Blu-ray (Sony Pictures)
Viola Davis leads this heart-pumping, historical war film inspired by true events. Davis plays Nanisca, a General of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey and a leader of the Agojie—a fierce, all-female military regiment who are called into battle against a powerful enemy.
Released to wide acclaim earlier this year, the just-released 4K/Blu-ray/Digital combo set includes more than an hour’s worth of bonus features, from interviews and behind-the-scenes footage to a look at the rigorous training that cast members underwent to portray the Agojie warriors. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons 4K/Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)
While Marvel has asserted dominance on the big screen in live action, chief rival DC is unmatched when it comes to direct-to-DVD animated movies. They’ve been making them almost as long as the MCU has been around and for many years there was a very cohesive and interconnected DC animated cinematic universe (which a few years ago was rebooted). Not every film is a winner, the quality is quite consistent and the movies are often based directly on specific comic book story arcs or graphic novels. One of 2022’s offerings is Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons. As noted above, there have been many Batman films over the years (and quite a few Superman ones as well), but this is definitely a fresh take, focusing instead on Batman’s son Damian Wayne (aka Robin) and Superman’s son Jonathan Kent (aka Superboy). The two don’t get along at first, but must team up when their dads and the entire Justice League are taken over by the mind-controlling alien Starro. Jonathan is just coming into his powers and is voiced by a big screen DC actor, Jack Dylan Grazer (who plays Freddy Freeman in the Shazam! films). The gorgeous animation of Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons looks particularly great in 4K (such vibrant colors). The animators mixed modern computer animation with hand-drawn flourishes, giving the film a unique look. All of which is explained in the making of documentary on the Blu-ray. Even though it’s rated PG-13 for violence and a bit of bad language, Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons could be a good entry way to DC for older elementary and middle school kids. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Coraline and Paranorman 4K Steelbooks (GKIDS/Shout! Factory)
RRP: $34.98 each
For the last fifteen years, Studio LAIKA has been pushing forward the art of stop-motion animation with their development of new techniques and technology. Not just masterful feats of puppeteering, their films have a distinctive mood and feel—they are children’s stories that don’t talk down to their audiences, take place in creative settings, and present young heroes who don’t fit the standard mold.
Coraline, with its story by Neil Gaiman, follows a young girl who tries to escape from her boring, everyday life, only to discover a mirror world through a crawlspace—one that’s suspiciously perfect, and keeps trying to pull her back in. Paranorman follows a horror-obsessed kid with a Sixth Sense-like ability to see ghosts; no one believes him until he becomes the only person able to save their spooky New England town from a centuries-old curse. Both of these films have frightening moments, but many children identify with the heroes and invest themselves in their dangerous adventures.
The 4K UHD steelbooks of both films are packed with fascinating bonus features that show behind-the-scenes of how LAIKA’s impressively emotive puppets are built and animated, and will keep animation fans occupied for a long time after the movies have ended. The next two of Studio LAIKA’s movies—The Boxtrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings—will receive similar 4K steelbook treatments coming up in February, just in case you’d like to think ahead! By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
DC League of Super-Pets 4K/Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)
Dwayne Johnson may have played the titular anti-hero in the fairly violent PG-13 Black Adam movie this year, but he also headlined another DC big screen film in 2022, the much more family friendly DC League of Super-Pets. The animated film centers on Krypto (played by Johnson), Superman’s dog. The Man of Steel’s origin is tweaked so that Krypto jumps in the rocket that transported a baby Superman from Krypton as it’s destroyed. Hence in this version of the DC universe, Krypto has always fought side-by-side with Superman. When Superman and the rest of the Justice League are kidnapped by Lulu (Kate McKinnon), an evil hairless guinea pig who looks up to Lex Luthor (Marc Maron), it’s up to Krypto and some newly super-powered pets from a shelter, including Ace the Bathound (Kevin Hart), to save the day. My nine-year-old daughter and I saw it twice in the theater and enjoyed it immensely, as did all her friends. But accompanying parents laughed just as hard, especially at some of the jokes meant mainly for adults. Keanu Reeves’ Batman is a particular highlight. Special features include a how to draw Krypto tutorial, deleted scenes, and a guide to all the film’s amusing Easter eggs. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Mad God Steelbook Blu-ray (Shudder/RLJE)
Phil Tippett is one of the living legends of visual effects, having broken onto the scene having animated the 3D chess board for the original Star Wars in 1977. (“Always let the Wookie win.”) From there he was approached for a wide array of films, with some of his most famous creations being on full display in the AT-AT battle on Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back, the ED-209 robot of RoboCop, the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and the alien bug monsters from Starship Troopers.
While working on RoboCop 2 all the way back in 1990, Tippett started working independently on a project that would become Mad God. With the rise of computer-generated creature effects, Tippett became discouraged by what looked like the end of stop-motion animation. Twenty years later he returned to the scrapped project, raising fan funding and dedicating the next decade of his life to the grueling, time-consuming technique. Roughly thirty years after it was first begun, Mad God finally screened for audiences and critics, who hailed it as one of the great artistic achievements of the medium.
After its three-decades-long percolation, animation fans and SFX devotees can finally get their hands on Mad God on home video. This handsome steelbook edition houses the movie on both Blu-ray and DVD, with many excellent extra features that dive into the movie’s unusually long history. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)
Night Gallery Seasons One – Three Blu-rays (Kino Lorber)
RRP: $49.95 – $99.95
Half a decade after wrapping his influential speculative fiction series The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling launched Night Gallery—an anthology much that very much feels like a follow-up to his earlier show. This time around, though, the stories were in color, and often sported a psychedelic aesthetic which was synonymous with the hippie counter-culture of the time; on top of that, the segments were much more consistently horror-oriented than those of its predecessor.
Three seasons aired on NBC between 1969 and 1973, and all are now available on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber Studio Classics. If you’re only familiar with the show from broadcast re-runs, then you might be surprised to hear you haven’t been watching Night Gallery in its proper format: being short of the 100 episodes required to syndicate the series, Universal cut down some longer segments from the hour-length episodes to fit into a half-hour time block, while padding out others that ran short as well as shoehorning in segments from an entirely unrelated series. (It’s no wonder that so many people dismissed the series in the following decades, given the hack job it underwent.) Kino have thankfully collected the episodes here in their original format, how they were meant to be seen—and included a three-part featurette that compares the differences between the original and syndication versions of the episodes. The discs are also packed with audio commentaries by a wide range of critics, historians, and genre experts. These sets provide definitive presentations of Night Gallery’s full run, and are must-haves for Twilight Zone and Rod Serling fans. By Austin Trunick (Buy them here.)
Star Trek: Discovery Season Four Blu-ray (Paramount)
In the third season of Star Trek: Discovery the crew of the titular ship was sent 900 years into the future, where the United Federation of Planets is in a state of near-collapse. Season four finds Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) finally promoted to captain and the crew firmly settled into the 32nd century. It’s refreshing that the writers of Discovery didn’t take the obvious route and have the season be about trying to return to their own time. Instead the characters have fully accepted their future setting (although you have to wonder if any of them have family members or friends they are missing back in the 23rd century, beyond Burnham’s half-brother Spock). Moving the show to the far future also untangles any continuity issues (the first two seasons were set about 10 years prior to the original Star Trek series, even though the tech on the Discovery is much more advanced than the original Enterprise) and it also allows to reference things that happened in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. In season four a mysterious entity is destroying planets and two fractions within the Federation are split on how to handle it. Captain Burnham is committed to a diplomatic approach, whereas her boyfriend, Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala, who joined in season three) is convinced that they simply need to destroy it, in part fueled by vengeance as his home planet was one that was destroyed. The cast already includes Tig Notaro and legendary director David Cronenberg, but a cameo in the season finale takes the cake when the real life politician (and big Star Trek fan) Stacey Abrams appears as the President of United Earth. This was probably the most exciting and solid season of Discovery, which is also the most inclusive of Star Trek shows in terms of casting. The behind-the-scenes special features show how challenging it was to make season four in the middle of the pandemic and how it was especially hard for Martin-Green as her parents died within a day of each other during filming. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 Blu-ray (Paramount)
Star Trek: Lower Decks is the silliest and funniest of all Star Trek shows, by design. Set in the world of The Next Generation and related shows, as its title suggests, it’s not centered on heroic Starfleet captains but instead focuses on the lowly ensigns who keep a starship running by doing some of the menial tasks in the lower decks. Mike McMahan, who was a writer and producer on Rick and Morty, created Lower Decks, so the animated show flirts with adult humor, although all the bad language is bleeped out and the rare bit of nudity is blurred out (it’s still Star Trek after all). There are a few minor sex jokes that will go over most kid’s heads. What I’m getting at is that my nine-year-old daughter says it’s her favorite Star Trek show (I’ve only had to fast-forward a couple of scenes). At the end of season one, Brad Boimler (voiced by Jack Quaid) was promoted to the USS Titan, under the command of Captain William Riker (still played by Jonathan Frakes). Season two wastes little time finding a way to get Boimler back on the USS Cerritos with his friends and fellow ensigns Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells), and Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero). But of course Boimler gets humiliated along the way via a transporter accident. Tom Paris from Star Trek: Voyager visits the Cerritos in an episode fittingly titled “We’ll Always Have Tom Paris,” where he is once again played by Robert Duncan McNeill. Boimler is such a Voyager fanboy that he traverses the Cerritos with a Tom Paris commemorative plate, attempting to get it signed, which doesn’t exactly go as planned. Another episode features a visiting Doopler alien who duplicates whenever he feels embarrassed. Soon enough the entire ship is filled with Doopler duplicates. Lower Decks may play things for laughs, but it still fits the Star Trek ethos. After all, each episode is filled with Easter Eggs, callbacks to previous Trek shows. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)