I know we’re heading into the summer blockbuster season, but in between that lull of you watching Avengers: Endgame for the fourth time and hitting the cinema this summer, why not check out some great entertainment at home? From documentaries and mockumentaries to top-notch animated features, we’ve got you covered. Here’s some Blu-rays you should consider picking up:
Ok, so technically this one was released last month, but it was so close to May it fell off my radar. No worries, I can shine a spotlight on this gem right up front! I’m a huge fan of two things that make this pick perfectly suited for me: documentaries and Studio Ghibli. Fortunately the new release Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki scratches both my itches. Focusing on Japanese national treasure Hayao Miyazaki, the man behind such animated classics as My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and more, this understated documentary is not like anything I’ve seen before. Slower pacing, intimate access, and beautiful artwork all showcase a passionate auteur not content to just watch the snow fall. A fascinating look behind the scenes of a creative process, be prepared to have your glossy image of the creator of such heart-filled and sweet animated features lose a little of its shine. Do not miss!
If your only exposure to the genius of Taika Waititi is Thor: Ragnarok, then you need to back that truck up. The unconventional New Zealander has several incredible films under his belt (Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople), but What We Do in the Shadows is my favorite. A mockumentary about a house full of vampire roommates in modern times is absolutely hilarious. From Stu the IT Guy (who was actually just an IT guy and not an actor when they cast him in the short film this movie is based on) to the deadpan Jemaine Clement struggling with adapting ancient vampire ways to modern times is so satisfyingly funny. Its easy to see why this was made into the FX television series (which was just picked up for a second season). If you haven’t yet seen it, change that ASAP! Regardless, this is one worth owning.
While not quite as funny as the original, the second LEGO movie is still…[chef’s kiss]. There’s more of them these days, but it’s still a treat to find a movie for kids that is just as much fun for the adults. Commentary by Director Mike Mitchell, Writers/Producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and Animation Director Trisha Gum are a great addition to the special features which include outtakes and deleted scenes and an “Everything is Awesome” sing-a-long. Plus…Chris Pratt. Need I say more?
With Mars rovers, Space X, and revelations of black holes, we’re living in an exciting time for space exploration. True, but there will never be another time like the original space race of the Apollo program and the race to the moon. Newly-discovered archive footage shot on 70MM makes for a unique experience of making something that happened 50 years ago seem like today. A true film approach (no narration) using news and archival footage, Apollo 11 is a true masterpiece and a must-own for space buffs documenting mankind’s greatest achievement.
I’ve already mentioned what a nut for Studio Ghibli films I am, so it’s no surprise that I’d be stunned by this special collector’s edition re-release of Princess Mononoke. While it is nearly identical to the most recent Blu-ray release of the film, this new edition adds a beautiful booklet, but most importantly adds the previously unreleased soundtrack featuring Joe Hishashi’s score. If you already own a previous release, you may be OK holding off unless you’re a super-fan, but if you’ve never owned or (GASP!) seen this classic piece of animation, this is a fantastic option to pick up.
I’ll be honest, I begrudgingly took my kids to see the first How to Train Your Dragon movie and was pleasantly surprised. Then, when the second one came out, enough time had passed that I was like, “Did they really need to make another one?” But when I saw that movie, I was again totally surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Going in The Hidden World, I did not need an extra push. I’m totally on board with Hiccup, Toothless, and Light Fury, and love how this series has matured with its audience but remains accessible for new fans. If you want all three you can pick up then entire trilogy instead.
I don’t need to go into much detail on why you should pick up the original Toy Story trilogy. Simply put, it’s a masterpiece. I’m somewhat hesitant of what the soon-to-be-released 4th movie will do to the franchise, but I haven’t been let down yet. That said, if you want to brush up before the new movie comes out, or add a stunning 4K Ultra HD release to your collection, now’s your chance. Filmmaker reflections, deleted scenes, and bonus footage make this new release worth your while.
Disclaimer: I received copies of Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki and Princess Mononoke for review purposes. All opinions remain my own.