There may be no March Madness this year but there’s something truly insane related to college basketball this Tuesday.
You go to Toronto, and the world of streaming and Blu-ray releases doesn't stop. Therefore, we not only have a super-sized edition of the Home Entertainment Consumer Guide this week, but we'll be back next week with a dozen more Blu-ray releases itching for your allowance money. It's that time of year, when Spring and early Summer movies start landing on Blu-ray in anticipation of growing holiday shopping lists. And Netflix hasn't slouched at all in terms of adding interesting new films to their library as well. In fact, this may be the most diverse "10 New to Netflix" we've offered yet. Click through to our original reviews and "Watch It" buttons to add directly to your Netflix queue. Or check out one of three films recently reviewed that are in theaters now but also On Demand. We've got the previews below. Finally, pick one of nearly a dozen Blu-rays that have come out since we last brought you a HECG. The entertainment clock keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking...
10 New to Netflix
3 New to On Demand
New to Blu-Ray/DVD
Everyone may be talking about "Guardians of the Galaxy" as the film in which the Marvel Universe found its fun groove again, but I'd argue that "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is actually a superior, groovier work. (I like 'em both. Don't write me nasty emails, Quillheads.) "Winter Soldier" is one of the most entertaining films of the year, a masterfully well-executed bit of escapism that blends comic book nostalgia with the '70s government paranoia thriller, and does it all with some of the most visceral, non-CGI-heavy action sequences of the year. I love how much you can FEEL the action in the best scenes of "Cap 2," like the assault on Fury or the elevator battle. It gets a little overloaded, and they need to start making these movies under 2 hours, but those are minor complaints for a film that would be just about my favorite of all time were I still 13 years old.
On The Front Line: An Inside Look At Captain America's Battlegrounds
On Set With Anthony Mackie: Cut The Check!
Steve Roger's Notebook
Another movie that didn't get enough credit or critical attention in my eyes, but should find a surprisingly entertained audience on the home market. "Godzilla" is a class in forced perspective. The way that director Gareth Edwards plays with the size of its titular beast and how much he hides vs. how much he shows of the creature infuriated audiences who felt they had been sold a false bill of goods. "It's a Godzilla movie! Where the F--- is Godzilla?!?!" I get that criticism, but it's silly to ignore the craftsmanship of the work here because its not what the marketing team sold you. "Godzilla" is a remarkably well-made piece of action cinema, enhanced by WB's typically strong HD skills on the Blu-ray market. Give it a second chance.
Discover explosive new evidence not contained in the film that unravels the massive cover-up to keep Godzilla's existence a secret in...
"Operation: Lucky Dragon"
"Monarch: The M.U.T.O. File"
"The Godzilla Revelation"
plus, get the lowdown on this legendary monster in "Godzilla: Force Of Nature"
"Hannibal: Season Two"
Guys, Bryan Fuller does TWO commentary tracks on the season two finale of NBC's "Hannibal," "Mizumono." That's reason alone to buy this set. Here's another one: it's the best drama on network TV. That season finale, which Fuller offers brilliant insight into the creative process behind, is the best hour of television, cable or otherwise, this year. It's the only time as a TV critic I can tell you that my breath was honestly held. And it's the kind of season finale that forces a reappreciation of the season that preceded it. Visual motifs, thematic undercurrents: everything culminates in that final hour. Enough about that episode (I'll write more about it later in my Best TV of the Year piece, trust me), this is a fantastic set all around. Commentaries abound, most of them including great detail about the production of this show from one of the smartest men in TV, Mr. Fuller. Deleted scenes, webisodes, a gag reel, featurettes--it's a phenomenal TV on Blu-ray release for one of the medium's best shows.
This Is My Design Documentary
"The Style of a Killer" Featurette
"Bodies of Lies" Featurette
Hannibal Season 2: Killer Intentions
Commentaries with Cast and Crew
Post Mortem with Scott Thompson
After Criterion, I may have no more beloved Blu-ray studio than Scream Factory, the geniuses who have turned my generation's nostalgia for '80s horror films into an art form. Just look at the cover art! These people take movies that we were derided for taking seriously in high school and justify our love. The latest is "Pumpkinhead," Stan Winston's directorial debut about a vengeful demon brought to life after a horrible tragedy befalls an average man (Lance Henriksen). I'll be honest and admit that "Pumpkinhead" didn't hold up quite as well as I hoped it would. Winston's makeup/effects work is undeniable, but there are tonal and other directorial issues that hold this one back for me. However, I'm still ecstatic that Scream Factory gave it the treatment it deserves. My modest disappointment is another horror nut's '80s fave. Maybe even yours.
New tribute to Stan Winston featuring actors Lance Henriksen and Brian Bremer, special effects artists Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr., Shannon Shea and more
New interviews with producer Richard Weinman and actor John Di'Aquino
Audio commentary by co-screenwriter Gary Gerani and creature & FX creators Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis
Six featuettes - "Evolution of a Demon, The Cursed and the Damned, The Tortured Soul of Ed Harley, Constructing Vengeance, Razorback, Demonic Toys
"They Came Together"
Parody is a tough genre to debate. It either works for you or it doesn't. This parody of the rom-com by David Wain of "Wet Hot American Summer" and "The State" fame fell flat for our critic, Christy Lemire (and others). Not for me. I think Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler are hysterical here, and that the film overall is one of the more consistent laugh generators of 2014. Again, I get why it didn't click for some people. But maybe it will for you. What do I know anyway? I love "Wet Hot American Summer" too (a film Roger notoriously hated).
Buy it here.
Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer David Wain and Producer/Co-Writer Michael Showalter
"They All Came Together" Featurette
San Francisco Sketchfest Table Read
Bobcat Goldthwait takes an unexpected detour into found footage horror and the trip isn't nearly as disastrous as many thought it would be. "Willow Creek" also belongs to another overdone subgenre: the slow burn. Nothing much happens in this Bigfoot tale until the final ten minutes, but when it does go down? Whoa. Every young horror director should be forced to watch the final scenes of "Willow Creek" to see how to pull off simple-but-effective sound design and forced perspective. Goldthwait doesn't screw around with jump cuts or oppressive music. He just puts you in a relatably terrifying dynamic: in a tent in the middle of the night as something goes bump in the woods.
"Arrow: The Complete Second Season"
"Grimm: The Complete Third Season"
"The Originals: The Complete First Season"
"Supernatural: The Complete Ninth Season"
"The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fifth Season"
This is a time of year when most networks and studios release waves of Blu-ray and DVD releases timed to the return of their hit shows. The thinking is that you'll either want to catch up with a show like "The Vampire Diaries" before it starts its new season or just the reemergence of the program on your weekly radar will convince you to buy last year's outing. I've long been impressed with WB and Universal's grasp of their fan base, never cutting corners in their season set releases. There are still companies (I'm looking at you Fox & Sony) who don't even release their current programs on Blu-ray at all, which should be a crime. You should be able to own a show in the same HD quality in which it was originally broadcast. These five titles ("Grimm" is Universal; the other four are WB) are perfect examples of how consistently TV fans are treated by the networks/studios who know how to do it right. "Supernatural" is in its NINTH season for God's sake, and they're still doing commentaries and providing new featurettes. Even if you don't love or even like all five of these shows, one has to admire the dedication.
"Arrow: S2" Special Features
Bonus Recap Episode Year One: Relive the thrilling highlights of Season One, both in Starling City and on the island of Lian Yu.
From Vigilante To Hero: Justice is the end game, but at the fork in the road, can Oliver become the hero?
How Did They Do That? The Visual Effects Of Arrow: The spectacular opening of Season Two is explored as the VFX team continues to raise the bar, allowing anything the writers dream up to be brought to life.
Wirework: The Impossible Moves Of Arrow: Explore the wirework of "Arrow" and how it not only protects the talent, but also gives "Arrow" a heightened sense of comic-book style action.
Arrow 2013 Comic-Con Panel
"Grimm: S3" Special Features
"Grimm" Guide: Explore the creatures of "Grimm" with this interactive guide.
"Meltdown" Digital Series
"Love Is in the Air: Elegant Endeavors" Digital Series
And 2 Featurettes!
"The Originals: S1" Special Features
Pilot Commentary with Creator Julie Plec and Director Chris Grismer
5 New Featurettes: 2013 Comic-Con Panel, "The Originals: Origins, The Original Vampires: A Bite-Sized Backstory, The Originals: Re-mixing History" and "The Originals" Panel at PaleyFest 2014
"Supernatural: S9" Special Features
3 Episode Commentaries
"The Men of Letters Interactive Set Experience": Tour various rooms inside the bunker as 9 spellbinding featurettes reveal Men of Letters lore and other TV conjuring secrets
"Behind the Scenes of Supernatural: A Fan's Perspective": One lucky fan gets a revealing look at what really happened on set
"2013 Comic-Con Panel": Cast and producers preview Season9's storylines and character arcs
"The Vampire Diaries: S5" Special Features
4 All-New Featurettes:
2013 Comic-Con Panel
I Know What You Did...In the Last 100 Episodes
The Vampire Diaries: To the Other Side and Back & A Day in the Afterlife with Kat Graham
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
While the pandemic will pass, our awareness of each other should not.
An essay on the art of choosing a favorite film.
A tribute to the late director, Stuart Gordon.