Home Entertainment Guide: December 26, 2019

4 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD

"Abominable"

If your kids have seen "Frozen II" and "Jumanji: The Next Level" twice already, you may be looking for another (cheaper) option over the holiday break. The latest variation on teaching kids not to judge books by their covers is this iteration of the Yeti legend, in which a group of young people end up having to bring a massive-but-cuddly creature back to its home. It's incredibly shallow in terms of storytelling and character, but it does have one thing lacking from a lot of mediocre family entertainment: gorgeous visuals. There are waves of flowers and incredible vistas in this film that can allow you and the little ones to turn off your brains and just appreciate it on a visual level. At least until the holiday break is over. 

Buy it here

Special Features
Meet the cast
Marooned
Your Yeti care Guide
Courage to Dream
Making a Myth (movie)
Animating Abominable
Deleted Scenes with Introductions

"Ad Astra"

One of the most underrated films of the year is James Gray's sci-fi epic, a movie that plays brilliantly at home too. I think it's because of the way that Gray merges the grandeur of space with the intimacy of his human story about a son trying to find his father. It's also easy to appreciate the intense detail of this film at home, especially in 4K. Critics and audiences who actually saw "Ad Astra" seemed to like it, but it fell through the cracks, meaning most of you probably haven't taken the trip. Correct that at home. 20 years from now, this is a film that everyone will be surprised didn't make a bigger impact when it was released. 

Buy it here 

Special Features
Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary by James Gray
"The Void"
"Epilogue"
To the Stars
A Man Named Roy
The Crew of the Cepheus
The Art of Ad Astra
Reach for the Stars
Audio Commentary by Director James Gray
Space Age: The VFX

"Judy"

Renee Zellweger is still in the lead for most Oscar pundits when they consider likely winners for Best Actress at the Oscars (unless you think Charlize Theron can turn back bad reviews for "Bombshell"). Why? It's got it all. A comeback for a beloved actress, playing an even more beloved actress. The Academy loves acting as impression, and Zellweger's as Judy Garland is a really good impression. Sadly, I don't see as much below that as others do, and the film around her is even more shallow. Maybe I've just reached my lifetime quota of earnest biopics, a genre that has become an exhausting part of every single awards season. If you haven't, and you want to know what all the Oscar buzz is about, rent or buy this one with that gift certificate you got for the holidays.

Buy it here 

Special Features
From the Heart: The Making of Judy"
Judy Image Gallery
Theatrical Trailer

"Long Day's Journey Into Night"

It's not the Eugene O'Neill play, but a fascinating journey into memory and dreams from the Chinese director Bi Gan that just hit Blu-ray in both 2D and 3D form. Luo Hongwu (Huang Jue) has just returned to Kaili, his hometown, and the arrival brings up memories of family, friends, and lost loves, culminating in an amazing hour-long single take, which was shot in 3D. While I have a lot of electronics at my disposal because of my profession, I do not have a 3D Blu-ray player, so I've only seen Bi Gan's film in 2D, and I STILL found that shot stunning. Just see this movie however you can see it. It's a mesmerizing experience that recalls Andrei Tarkovsky and a personal favorite, Wong Kar-Wai.

Buy it here

Special Features
Interview with director Bi Gan
Interview with star Huang Jue
Making-of documentary
Booklet interview with Bi Gan by writer Aaron Stewart-Ahn
Theatrical trailer

2 NEW TO VOD ONLY

We are reluctantly going to be adding a new section to the HEG—a section of films that have not been made available on physical media. Sadly, this is clearly a direction we've been heading for some time, and when a new film starring Natalie Portman and a concert film from a great director are only being given digital releases, it feels like something we should highlight.

"Lucy in the Sky"

The reason that Noah Hawley's feature film debut isn't getting a DVD or Blu-ray release is simple—it's being buried after its standing as one of the biggest bombs of the decade. "Lucy in the Sky" notoriously opened with a dismal $54k and clawed its way to just over $319k TOTAL. It's a film that people actively avoided after horrible reviews out of TIFF. Hawley is an undeniable talent but he didn't quite crack this story, playing with aspect ratio and sound design to disguise the fact that the pacing is just off. It's a classic example of someone who knows how to tell a story over multiple episodes but hasn't yet figured out how to do so in a film. Having said that, I think I was set up for such a horrendous experience by my colleagues, that I didn't hate it. There are some ideas, performances, and moments that work—they're just not tied together into a successful product overall.

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"Spirits in the Forest"

Concert films not being released in theaters or physical media is more common, but most concert films aren't as ambitious Depeche Mode's "Spirit in the Forest," and they aren't directed by acclaimed filmmakers like Anton Corbijn. The director of "The American" and "A Most Wanted Man" has a long history with DM, helming a lot of their iconic videos, and his history with the band adds resonance to the film, but it's the approach he takes to it from the beginning that really sets it apart. Corbijn intercuts interviews with six huge DM fans from around the world, charting how the band has really changed and influenced their lives. And the way he flows from those conversations into live footage of the band—who are still killer live—becomes downright inspirational. I'm a big Depeche Mode fan, but this is the kind of "power of music" thing that I think could work even if you're not. It will also introduce you to DMK, a family cover band that is simply one of the coolest things I've seen all year. 

Buy it here 

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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