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 21st, 2023! This week’s home video selection includes Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, Expendables 4, a pair of Burt Reynolds hicksploitation classics, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Oppenheimer [4K UHD]
What is it? The story of one man’s journey towards and past the creation of the atomic bomb.
Why see it? Christopher Nolan’s latest probably shouldn’t work as well as it does — a three hour drama about Oppenheimer and those around him in the years leading up to an beyond the war — but the damn thing just cooks. It never feels its length and instead moves with the propulsive energy of a, well, atomic reaction. Cillian Murphy is front and center throughout and gives a magnificent performance, and he’s joined by an incredible A-list ensemble giving strong turns as well. Robert Downey Jr. Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, Emily Blunt, and more bring dramatic weight and charisma to the screen and add to the film’s immense power. It’s a beauty of a movie both visually and aurally, and the 4K UHD only enhances both in notable ways.
The Fugitive [4K UHD]
What is it? “I don’t care.”
Why see it? Andrew Davis made a few fun action films with Chuck Norris’ Code of Silence being his second best. Top of the list, though, is this Harrison Ford vehicle that adapts an old but popular show into a stellar ride. Ford plays a doctor framed for the murder of his own wife, but he’s not taking that accusation sitting down. A fantastic Tommy Lee Jones plays the marshall on his ass, and the film delivers suspense, action, and fun character beats. That it holds up so well thirty years later is no small feat, and it’s served well by this 4K upgrade.
[Extras: Introduction, commentary, featurette, documentaries]
Long Arm of the Law & Long Arm of the Law 2 [88 Films]
What is it? A gang of crooks plan a heist, but trouble comes after, and ex-cop/cons go undercover only to find more.
Why see it? Johnny Mak’s sole directorial effort — he wrote and produced many more — is a fantastic exploration of honor among thieves and the high price of illicit ambition. The film never pretends these guys aren’t bad to the core, but we’re still made privy to the kinds of hopes and dreams held by those on the other side of the moral divide too. The characters and drama are top notch, and the action beats are as exhilarating as they are deadly culminating in a claustrophobic and suspenseful chase through Kowloon Walled City. The second film, a sequel in name and themes only, comes from Mak’s brother and is every bit as fantastic. We’re once again immersed into these characters’ lives and dilemmas, and that closeness brings drama as danger comes calling. Strong action beats including a terrific airport chase share the screen with grisly violence. There’s a beheading here that’s as grisly as you’ll likely want to see. 88 Films gives each film its own disc, the films look great, and the included commentaries and interviews shine a light on two films that deserve more eyeballs.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews]
Sax W [4K UHD]
What is it? The tenth Saw film, but it takes place between the first and second!
Why see it? John (Tobin Bell) heads to Mexico for an experimental cancer treatment, but when he discovers it’s a sham he turns to what he does best — building elaborate traps to punish people who act poorly. I’m admittedly not the biggest Saw fan outside of the first film as Jigsaw always struck me a dick with lots of money and time on his hands, but this latest entry is a banger. It helps that Jigsaw is the one getting boned making his targets truly worthy of his creative rage and morality lessons. The gore is practical and delightful, the performances and suspense are strong, and it all ends on a high.
[Extras: Commentary, documentary, featurettes, deleted scenes]
Stalag 17 [4K UHD, KL Studio Classics]
What is it? An American POW finds new purpose behind the barbed wire.
Why see it? Billy Wilder re-teamed with his Sunset Boulevard star, William Holden, for this World War II tale, and the results are spectacular. (And not just because it led directly to TV’s Hogan’s Heroes…) Holden plays a man who’s just riding things out, but when two other POWs are killed he realizes that a traitor sits among them. Part drama, part character piece, and part mystery, the film finds excitement and effectiveness in its characters and their journey. The black & white photography looks good with the new HDR/Dolby Vision finding detail and darkness to spare.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentaries, featurettes]
White Lightning [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A moonshiner fights for justice after his brother is killed.
Why see it? Burt Reynolds headlines this hard-hitting slice of Southern action and drama as a moonshiner who seeks revenge against the people who killed his brother. Those people include a corrupt sheriff (a terrifically vile Ned Beatty) so it ain’t gonna be easy! Hal Needham handles the car action here guaranteeing some visceral thrills and chases, and director Joseph Sargent ensures the rest is equally as compelling. There’s some humor here, but unlike the sequel (Gator, below) it never forgets this is a matter of life and death. Reynolds is damn good here too.
[Extras: Commentary, featurette]
Babes in Toyland [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A classic tale, told with a special guest appearance by Pat Morita.
Why see it? Toyland is in trouble thanks to Barnaby and his monsters, and only Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves can save it. This willfully goofy riff on the tale is fine as is, and kids not jaded by modern entertainment might find some enjoyment. For me, though, it’s a pale take on a story Laurel & Hardy already nailed with their own Babes in Toyland — a fun, creepy, wild romp that’s still a great time leading up to Christmas.
What is it? Not worth your time.
Why see it? A plane crash in the Bermuda Triangle leaves survivors on an island populated by deadly crocodiles. So far so good, but the actual movie can’t deliver anything remotely resembling thrills or fun. From the poorly performed opening that gives us a giant — like the size of a ship — CG crocodile to later sightings and attacks that underwhelm at every turn, this is a bad time at the movies. Animal attack films have long passed their heyday of the 70s and 80s, and CG animals can still thrill (Crawl, The Shallows), but this ain’t it.
Expendables 4 [4K UHD]
What is it? Another go-round for action stars past and never.
Why see it? The saving grace here is really the presence — underused as they are — of Iko Uwais and Tony Jaa. Sure, Jason Statham and Michael Jai White were legit (movie) fighters in the past, but neither stretches all that much here. Instead, it’s Uwais and Jaa who leave you wishing the movie was simply one of their starring vehicles. Add in some woefully bad digital backdrops, and you have a film that’s rarely thrilling, never funny, and often ugly. The attempts at comedy and friendship between the gang rings mostly false as well. Watch for the cast, I guess.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes]
The Expendables 1-4 [4K UHD, steelbook]
What is it? All four films in the Expendables franchise.
Why see it? On paper, at least, the Expendables films should be a no-brainer. Bringing together action stars from the past for a big ensemble adventure suggests something amazing, and while none of the films reach that high there are moments of fun to be found when you gather Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Gary Daniels, Mickey Rourke, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scott Adkins, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, and many more under one franchise umbrella. (If nothing else, they’re great movies for the “three degrees” game.) The shame is that there aren’t a ton of great moments here as instead too much of the action feels underwhelming in its execution and effects. That said, this is a slick steelbook featuring all four films on 4K UHD/Blu-ray/digital and numerous extras, so if they’re your jam this is a great pick-up.
[Extras: Commentaries, featurettes]
Gator [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? The return of Gator McKlusky.
Why see it? Burt Reynolds takes the directorial reins on this sequel to White Lightning, and that means one thing is guaranteed — it’s gonna be a silly mess. Is that a knock? Not necessarily as Reynolds is a fun-loving guy, and that charismatic energy transfers to the screen for a silly romp that you’ll easily identify as from the guy in Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit. We still get some minor car action, but this is a silly comedy through and through. My own tastes run to preferring White Lightning‘s more hicksploitation vibe.
[Extras: Commentary, featurette]
The Police Academy Collection [Shout Select]
What is it? All seven films in the franchise!
Why see it? We won’t pretend that later entries in the Police Academy film series are any good, but the first few find varying degrees of laughs with their broad comedy and ridiculous situations. Is some of it dated? Sure, but it’s always been dumb, juvenile humor that either works for you or doesn’t. Shout Factory brings together the whole shebang here, complete with new scans and featurettes, and the package is a good one for fans. I’d be curious to see what people watching for the first time think, but I suspect these are movies that won’t be impressing new audiences all that much.
[Extras: New 2K scans, featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes]
Also out this week:
La Ceremonie [Criterion], The Criminal Acts of Tod Slaughter, The Expanse – The Complete Series, Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle, Godland, The Jester, Love Actually [4K UHD], Mean Streets [4K UHD, Criterion], Mister Organ, Mutt, Tori and Lokita, Unknown Country