Roger Ebert Home

Home Entertainment Guide: September 2023

10 NEW TO NETFLIX

"Anchorman"
"Arrival"
"The Dark Knight"
"The Deer Hunter"
"Fast Times at Ridgemont High"
"Jaws"
"Stand by Me"
"Superbad"
"Wind RIver"
"The Wolf of Wall Street"

9 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD

"Elemental"

Pixar's latest starts with such immense promise, maybe more than any film from the legendary animation house in a decade. There are so many ideas to be explored here, and the design, especially viewed on 4K Blu-ray, is stunning. So it's disappointing that this film's world contains relatively clunky, formulaic storytelling that simply recalls too many other Pixar and Disney greats. Maybe the company is a victim of their success that we still expect so much from them. Having said that, "Elemental" has some gorgeous visuals, solid voice work, and a lovely score, all of which is to say that it goes down smoothly enough at home. And the fact that it became a surprisingly robust box office performer is good for Pixar, a company I think we all believe can make a masterpiece again.

Buy it here 

Special Features
Short Film
Carl's Date – Written and directed by Academy Award® nominee and Emmy® Award winner Bob Peterson and produced by Kim Collins, this all-new short, "Carl's Date," finds Carl reluctantly agreeing to go on a date with a lady friend —but admittedly with no idea how dating works these days. Ever the helpful friend, Dug steps in to calm Carl's pre-date jitters and offer some tried-and-true tips for making friends — if you're a dog. "Carl's Date" opened in theaters in front of Disney and Pixar's "Elemental."
Featurettes
Ember and Wade – Take a deeper look at the development of main characters Ember and Wade, from early designs to final effects, and learn how the complex work of the technical and character teams brought these characters to life.
Next Stop: Element City – Explore how Element City is built to accommodate its different inhabitants. Director Peter Sohn and crew members share insights about the evolution of the designed world, as well as some of the research that inspired its unique look.
Paths to Pixar: The Immigrant Experience – Hear from first-generation filmmakers on the Elemental crew as they share their journeys to Pixar. Discover how Elemental's real-world themes of sacrifice and identity, amongst many others, reflect or diverge from their own lived experiences.
Deleted Scenes - Director Peter Sohn introduces five scenes that are storyboarded, set to music, timed, and voiced, but are not included in the final version of Elemental.
Intro Ember – An alternate opening in which our hero Ember helps a newly immigrated Fire family navigate through, and acclimate to, Element City. Scene introduced by director Peter Sohn.
Mom Rejects Wade – Ember's traditional parents learn that she's enamored with watery Wade…and it doesn't go well. Scene introduced by story supervisor Jason Katz.
Dante Challenge – In an attempt to keep Ember apart from Wade, Bernie tasks her with finding a place to live for newcomer Dante, who Wade finds himself rather enamored with. Scene introduced by story artist Nira Liu.
Brook Dinner – Ember joins Wade for dinner at his home, in this abandoned storyline in which Wade's mother, Brook, is revealed to be the villain diverting water into Firetown. Scene introduced by story artist Anna Benedict.
Beach Proposal – Sharing a tender moment on the beach, Ember and Wade propose marriage to each other. Scene introduced by story artists Yung-Han Chang and Le Tang.
Audio Commentary
Elemental Filmmaker Commentary – Join director Peter Sohn, supe tech Sanjay Bakshi, supervising animator Mike Venturini, and directing animator Gwendelyn Enderoglu as they provide insight into the making of this remarkable animated feature while you watch it.


"Horror Steelbooks"

We typically don't include Wal-Mart exclusive releases in this column, but these are too cool to ignore, especially this time of year. The truth is that horror fans are collectors, people more likely to shell out for new editions of things they already own. On the one hand, I don't want to encourage studios to double-dip into the wallets of their most loyal fan base. On the other hand, I increasingly think that things like steelbooks could help save physical media, turning them into collectibles more than mere affirmations of a film's existence. These five Wal-Mart horror steelbooks from Lionsgate include at least three gems. The best of the bunch is a double feature of Rob Zombie's "Halloween" movies, a set that contains both the original "The Blair Witch Project" and the frustrating reboot and, most of all, a single steelbook release with the first eight "Saw" movies, just in time for the release of "Saw X" in theaters, priced at only around $50. I think that's about a buck for every one of Jigsaw's traps.

Buy them here 


"La Bamba" (Criterion)

In 2017, the Library of Congress chose to include Luis Valdez's 1987 biopic of Ritchie Valens in the National Film Registry, a nice moment of affirmation for a film that I don't feel got quite the critical or cultural attention it deserved when it was released. As a child of the '80s, it felt like it was seen more like a vehicle to make the title song a hit again. But the truth is that this is an excellent little study of a life taken too soon, grounded by a star-making performance by Lou Diamond Phillips and sharp, empathetic filmmaking. Roger got it, saying at the time, "This is a good small movie, sweet and sentimental, about a kid who never really got a chance to show his stuff. The best things in it are the most unexpected things: the portraits of everyday life, of a loving mother, of a brother who loves and resents him, of a kid growing up and tasting fame and leaving everyone standing around at his funeral shocked that his life ended just as it seemed to be beginning." The Criterion edition includes audio commentaries with the major players, including Valdez, LDP, and Esai Morales. There's also an enlightening new conversation with the writer/director.

Buy it here 

Special Features
New 4K digital restoration, approved by director Luis Valdez, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
Audio commentaries featuring Valdez, actors Lou Diamond Phillips and Esai Morales, and producers Stuart Benjamin, Taylor Hackford, and Daniel Valdez
New interview with Luis Valdez
Conversation between Valdez and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez from El Rey Network’s The Director’s Chair
Making-of program featuring cast and crew
Audition footage
Trailer
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles
PLUS: An essay by critic Yolanda Machado


"The Little Mermaid"

This long-running feature is designed to inform readers of highlights on the physical media market, so it usually only includes films I recommend. That is NOT the case with this hollow venture, a film I can't wrap my brain around regarding why it exists other than as a soulless profit generator. Still, I recognize that families may want to know about Rob Marshall's 1989 Disney animated classic remake. Halle Bailey is good here but surrounded by some of the ugliest filmmaking of the year. The CGI here is atrocious, placing poor Bailey against a green screen and then making the bare minimum of effort in terms of visual composition. Most young people and hardcore Disney adults won't care, and they'll be happy to see another dense Disney release with a sing-along version and featurettes about the making of the film. 

Buy it here 

Special Features
DOLBY ATMOS TRACK (with DTS-HD Master Auidio 7.1 on the Blu-ray)
HDR PRESENTATION OF THE FILM
Sing Along Version – Sing along with your favorite songs while watching the movie with on-screen lyrics.
Hotter Under The Water – Discover how director Rob Marshall and his team brought the story of The Little Mermaid to life with this documentary in five chapters:
A Tale Of The Bottomless Blue – Join Rob Marshall on the set of one of the most ambitious and challenging films he's ever directed.
I Know Something's Starting Right Now – Join cast members Halle Bailey, Melissa McCarthy, Jonah Hauer-King and more and learn how they were cast in the film and what it was like to bring director Rob Marshall's vision to life.
Down Where It's Wetter – Dip your toes into the virtual ocean and learn about how the breathtaking underwater world was created with visual effects, imagination and a lot of talented artists.
Explore That Shore Up Above – From Prince Eric's castle to the beach, explore the above-the-sea locations and the elaborate production design behind them.
Do What The Music Say – Discover how legendary composer Alan Menken teamed up with Lin- Manuel Miranda to write new songs to accompany the original classics
Song Breakdowns
Wild Unchartered Waters – Prince Eric, played by Jonah Hauer-King, gets his own song, written by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Go behind the song, from the writing to the recording, to the filming on a practical ship.
Under the Sea – Get a first-hand look at how professional dancers helped bring director Rob Marshall's vision to life as they stood in for the various animated sea creatures that sing and dance in this showstopping number.
Kiss The Girl – Float along and get a frog's-eye view of the beautiful set built to film the live-action version of this classic song.
Poor Unfortunate Souls – Join Melissa McCarthy (Ursula) as she takes us on the journey of making her character's signature song.
Featurettes
The Scuttlebutt On Sidekicks – Dive in and meet Sebastian, Flounder and Scuttle, who not only have their own song, "The Scuttlebutt," but also fresh looks as they work hard to make sure Ariel and Eric kiss before Ursula's deadline..
Passing The Dinglehopper – Ariel met Ariel when Halle Bailey worked with Jodi Benson — the voice of Ariel in the original animated movie — who appears in a clever cameo in the live-action film..
Bloopers – Laugh along with the cast as they have the time of their lives making The Little Mermaid.


"Moonage Daydream" (Criterion)

The deal between Neon and Criterion has led to some of their best releases of the last few years, including this 4K stunner for the latest gem from the great Brett Morgen. My love for "Moonage Daydream" is pretty well-documented, and this is the release that should affirm the accomplishments of this film for anyone still on the fence. Morgen himself provides a commentary and joins Mark Romanek and Mike Garson for a Q&A from the Chinese theatre. There's a stellar unreleased performance from Bowie, too. All of the supplemental material is great, but the real draw of this release is the 4K digital master and stunner of an audio track. Find the biggest TV you can and turn it up as loud as possible.

Buy it here 

Special Features
4K digital master, supervised by writer-director-editor-producer Brett Morgen, with Dolby Atmos and stereo soundtracks
One 4K UHD disc of the film and one Blu-ray with the film and special features
Audio commentary featuring Morgen
Q&A with Morgen, filmmaker Mark Romanek, and musician Mike Garson at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood
Interview with rerecording mixers David Giammarco and Paul Massey
Previously unreleased 1974 live performance by David Bowie of “Rock ’n’ Roll with Me”
Trailer
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: An essay by film critic Jonathan Romney and a collectible poster insert


"Past Lives

This stunning romantic drama is arguably the best film of 2023. Written and directed by Celine Song, "Past Lives" is both a character study and a commentary on how much we leave behind when we start entirely new lives. Greta Lee is phenomenal as Nora, who used to be Na Young when she lived in Seoul and had a first crush on a boy named Hae Sung. Years later, Nora is happily married to a kind man named Arthur (John Magaro) when Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) returns, revealing how their connection may have been geographically severed but remains intact. Song's film is delicate and beautiful, a gift that understands human interaction and loss in ways that modern movies seem to with increasingly less frequency. "Past Lives" cares about people, and its power is in its truth and Song's understated artistry. This film, which I originally saw at Sundance, is wildly underrated still in terms of Song's pacing and composition, two things that feel way ahead of their time for a debut feature. She joins Lee and Yoo for a commentary on this release, containing deleted scenes and featurettes. Expect to read much more about this one in best-of-the-year lists and throughout awards season.

Buy it here 

Special Features
Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Celine Song and Actors Greta Lee and Teo Yoo
"Bound by Fate: Exploring Past Lives" Featurette
Deleted Scenes
Boy on the Playground
Drunk Walk
Grad School
Subway Ride Home
Toronto Family Home


"The Princess Bride" (Criterion)

The Criterion machine has been upgrading some of its best releases to its new 4K format since it was adopted and has arrived at one of the most beloved films in its entire collection. I'm old enough to remember when "The Princess Bride" was released in 1987, a film that did pretty well and got solid reviews, but I don't think anyone could have predicted how much its acclaim and love would grow with every generation. It regularly makes lists of the funniest films of all time (best love stories, too), and it's one of the most consistently quoted films of its generation. William Goldman's script is an all-timer, but Reiner deserves a lot of credit for a light, playful touch that allows the film space to connect with viewers. The standard Blu-ray for this Criterion release was a gem, and all of those special features have been ported, now accompanied by a 4K restoration with a 5.1 DTS-HD track. I also love the case, which feels more like a book than a plastic Blu-ray enclosure.

Buy it here 

Special Features
4K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
One 4K UHD disc of the film presented in Dolby Vision HDR and one Blu-ray with the film and special features
Audio commentary featuring director Rob Reiner, screenwriter William Goldman, producer Andrew Scheinman, and actors Billy Crystal and Peter Falk
Edited audiobook reading of Goldman’s novel The Princess Bride by Reiner
Program about Goldman’s screenplay
Program about Goldman’s tapestry based on his novel
Interviews with Reiner, Goldman, and actors Crystal, Cary Elwes, Christopher Guest, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Fred Savage, and Robin Wright
Interview with art director Richard Holland
Programs about makeup, fencing, and fairy tales
On-set video diary filmed and narrated by Elwes
Five behind-the-scenes videos with commentaries by Reiner, Scheinman, and Crystal
Trailer
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: An essay by author Sloane Crosley and Goldman’s introduction to his Princess Bride script from his collection Four Screenplays, in a lavishly illustrated, clothbound book


"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse"

They did it again. After the massive critical and commercial success of "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," the team behind this now-trilogy expanded on their characters and ideas in a manner that earned comparisons to "The Empire Strikes Back" and "The Dark Knight." Still one of the best films of 2023, "Across the Spider-Verse" comes home with a strong Blu-ray release, particularly the video and audio transfers, but fans will also be attracted to detailed looks at the production, a deleted scene and a bit on Easter eggs that even the many people who saw this film multiple times might have missed. I adore this film, but what gets me most excited is its potential to influence other young artists out there, a generation who won't see Hollywood animation in the relatively strict box it was in for the last two decades. They are the ones who will pick up this release, love it, learn from it, and realize they have a vision that can be expressed, too.

Buy it here 

Special Features
Filmmaker Commentary
Obscure Spiders and Easter Eggs
Deleted Scene: Miguel Calling
"I'mma Do My Own Thing" Interdimensional Destiny
Across the Worlds: Designing New Dimensions
Designing Spiders and Spots
Scratches, Score and The Music of the Multiverse
Escape from Spider-Society
Across the Comics-Verse
Lyric Videos
Creating the Ultimate Spider-Man Movie
Raising a Hero
Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Cast


"The Trial" (Criterion)

Conversations around Orson Welles often center on "Citizen Kane," "The Magnificent Ambersons," or "Chimes at Midnight" (there's a loyal "F for Fake" crew, too), but you don't hear enough about his 1962 adaptation of the Franz Kafka novel, "The Trial." Now given a 4K restoration by Criterion, this release for a film that Roger Ebert considered a personal masterpiece for Welles (read his excellent piece on it for the occasion of the 2000 restoration) also includes a new audio commentary track with Joseph McBride, accompanied by great archival material with Welles, Jeanne Moreau, and Edmond Richard. It's a bit of a slight release for Criterion, but the film itself makes it worth a pick-up, especially for Welles fans. 

Buy it here 

Special Features
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
One 4K UHD disc of the film and one Blu-ray with the film and special features
New audio commentary featuring film historian Joseph McBride
Filming “The Trial,” a 1981 documentary about the film’s production
Archival interviews with Welles, actor Jeanne Moreau, and director of photography Edmond Richard
Trailer
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: An essay by author Jonathan Lethem

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing 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 GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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