Streaming might be the future, but physical media is still the present. It’s also awesome, depending on the title, the label, and the release, so each week we take a look at the new Blu-rays and DVDs making their way into the world. Welcome to this week in Home Video for November 7th, 2023! This week’s home video selection includes a new restoration of A Bullet for Sandoval, and new 4K UHDs of Scrooged, American Graffiti, more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
A Bullet for Sandoval
What is it? A Civil War deserter seeks vengeance.
Why see it? Julio Buchs isn’t necessarily a big name in the “Spaghetti” western genre, but this Spanish entry suggests he could have been. George Hilton plays a deserter who rushes home to be with his pregnant wife only to find tragedy. He blames her father — a great and terrifying Ernest Borgnine — and as time passes laced with violence he grows more focused on seeing revenge. A mean, energetic, and occasionally attractive (in a sweaty way) western, A Bullet for Sandoval stands tall as a dusty tale of regret, vengeance, and extremely poor choices. This new restoration sees the colors and cruelty pop.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, Spanish language version]
American Graffiti [4K UHD]
What is it? One night cruisin’ in 1962.
Why see it? George Lucas’ second feature after his college sci-fi debut is a throwback to a simpler time. Less about plot than character, time, and place, the film is a casual, ultimately affecting delight. That it works even for those of us too young to recall these experiences ourselves is a testament to Lucas and his cast of future stars. Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, and more familiar faces bring the night to life as friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike cross paths cruising up and down the streets of a small California town. At times funny, thrilling, and sad, it remains a classic fifty years on.
[Extras: Featurette, commentary with George Lucas]
Black Hawk Down [4K UHD, steelbook]
What is it? American soldiers head into Somalia on a deadly rescue mission.
Why see it? This steelbook re-release is identical to the 2019 4K UHD, so I’m repeating my thoughts here. Still worth a buy if you don’t already own it. Ridley Scott’s action-filled look at the very real 1993 incident in Somalia is a thrilling tale of American heroism and cockiness, and the events unfold through a sharply crafted fog of war. Issues stem from above as the brass succumbs to D.C. pressures, but the chaos, confusion, and bloodshed leave soldiers in harm’s way. It’s a thrilling watch with a crazy great cast — there are over twenty recognizable faces among the military units — and Scott’s direction is spot on. Big chunks of the film and action unfold at night, and this new 4K upgrade does wonders with the contrast and sharpness of it all.
[Extras: Commentaries, documentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, Q&A, music video]
What is it? A video game adaptation that’s better than expected.
Why see it? When it comes to directors who’ve long ago lost the goodwill of their debut feature, Neill Blomkamp certainly sits towards the top of the list. District 9 left everyone dazzled, audiences and critics alike, but since then? Meh. Gran Turismo was expected to continue that trend, but the damn thing works to deliver racing thrills and a satisfying emotional journey. David Harbour makes for a great mentor character, and Blomkamp’s obsession with the merging of human and machine finds a real-world application here. It’s a tad too long, but a big, muscular racing film isn’t something we get enough of, so fans of the genre will absolutely find satisfaction here.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
The Guns of Navarone [4K UHD, steelbook]
What is it? An impossible World War II mission.
Why see it? This steelbook re-release is identical to the 2019 4K UHD, so I’m repeating my thoughts here. Still worth a buy if you don’t already own it. J. Lee Thompson’s World War II classic gets a UHD facelift with this new release, and while it’s not necessarily a showstopper of an upgrade fans should be pleased with the results. Gregory Peck heads up the challenging mission alongside David Niven and Anthony Quinn, and it’s the kind of big, epic wartime tale that’s rarely made these days — you can even watch the film with an intermission — and it delivers rich characters, suspense pieces, and thrills. There’s a classiness to its roster and production too, and it’s great having the film in the best possible format.
[Extras: Commentaries, documentaries, featurettes]
Jackie Chan: Emergence of a Superstar [Criterion]
What is it? Six films from Jackie Chan’s early years.
Why see it? Five of these films have recent, high quality Blu-ray releases from labels like 88 Films, Eureka, and Shout Factory, with the outlier title being the underwhelming Fearless Hyena II. A double dip is probably a no unless you’re looking to save shelf space, but if you don’t already own those other releases this collection is a solid pickup for Chan fans and completists alike. The films are spread across three Blu-rays — the ones that are paired up don’t appear to be suffering any compression issues as the disc extras are fairly light overall and far from overloaded. As for the films themselves, The Young Master, The Fearless Hyena, and My Lucky Stars are good times for action/Chan fans, and while Half a Loaf of Kung Fu, Spiritual Kung Fu, and Fearless Hyena II are lesser efforts it’s good having them on hand all the same.
[Extras: New 2K restorations, commentaries, interviews]
Scrooged [4K UHD]
What is it? A more comical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic.
Why see it? I’m going to admit this right up front — I don’t love this one as much as the rest of you, and it’s for a single reason. This adaptation, with Bill Murray and Richard Donner as the creative forces, should not have gone with the same ending. Neither talent sells the change of heart, and the film could have easily trusted its tone and execution to make a different ending work. Frank Cross can remain an asshole while others learn about change and empathy, and that would still work! Anyway, crappy ending aside, this is a wild and fun take on a Christmas classic with some entertaining turns from Murray, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, and more. Extras are all ports from earlier releases, but the 4K is solid and worth the pick-up.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes]
Violent Night [4K UHD]
What is it? Santa Claus has to bust some moves (and bones) to help a family a need.
Why see it? An action movie with Santa Claus at its center is something we’ve deserved since Scrooged (above) teased Lee Majors in The Night the Reindeer Died, and now we finally have it. David Harbour — make it a double feature with Gran Turismo! — stars as Santa, a man with a past, who finds himself in a sticky situation. He could leave a family in trouble or save the day by slaughtering a ton of baddies, and thankfully he chooses the latter option. It’s a fun, action forward movie with stunts and fights by 87eleven Action Design ensuring that the thrills keep coming.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, commentary]
Witness [4K UHD, Arrow Video]
What is it? A city cop finds shelter with the Amish he’s trying to protect.
Why see it? Peter Weir remains one of the finest filmmakers who’s rarely mentioned in conversations on the best directors. Witness is still a banger, an emotional thriller about violence, respect, and the courage of convictions. It’s also arguably home to Harrison Ford’s best performance. He’s serious, fun, casually witty through expressions, and utterly believable in his emotional journey here. The setup is so simple, as a cop tries to protect an Amish boy who witnessed a murder and winds up in their care as a result, and while the thrills takeover the third act, getting there is a story of character, drama, and love. It’s a beautiful film, both in its themes and visuals, and Arrow’s new 4K UHD does good work highlighting those latter strengths. Odds are you haven’t seen the film in some time, so take the plunge here and give it a revisit. You won’t be disappointed.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews, documentary, featurettes, deleted scene]
What is it? A soldier behind enemy lines must survive, escape, and protect an innocent.
Why see it? The military action genre has been heavy in recent months with tales of soldier caught behind enemy lines with stars like Jake Gyllenhaal and Gerard Butler bringing the action and drama to life. Johnny Strong is the face here, and while he’s competent enough, it’s the film around him that stumbles. The biggest issue is the low budget execution — you can make cheap action films, but this one reeks of cheap with the result being that it constantly pushes you out of the drama. Anyway, Owen Wilson and director John Moore did this better with Behind Enemy Lines.
Also out this week:
Fargo [4K UHD], Homicide Hills: The Complete Series, It Lives Inside, The Office: Complete Christmas Collection, Scrapper, Trading Places [4K UHD]
Related Topics: Home Video