(Welcome to Not Dead Yet, a feature dedicated to new Blu-ray releases and what special features you should be excited about. Because yes, some of us still like to own physical copies of our movies.)
Yeah, streaming is cool, but have you ever heard of Blu-ray? It’s a magical disc that you insert in a box, and it plays movies! More than that, it also plays special features about those movies! Pretty neat, if you ask me. Here, let me tell you about the latest Blu-ray releases, including a sequel to Unfriended, a sequel to Sicario, a psychedelic nightmare, and a fun horror anthology.
Here are the new Blu-ray releases and their special features you should check out this week and beyond.
Unfriended: Dark Web
Hide your laptops – Unfriended is back! This sequel to 2014’s surprisingly effective computer-screen-based horror film removes anything supernatural and instead gets down to cold, hard thriller territory. As a result, it’s a sequel in name only. And that’s fine – many horror movies take this approach, and I’d much rather focus on a new story instead of having the last film’s computer ghost attack more people.
In Unfriended: Dark Web, young lovestruck man Matias thinks he’s hit the jackpot when he finds a laptop at his work’s lost and found. After no one claims it for weeks, Matias takes it home and begins playing around with it. He’s in the midst of building an app in order to better communicate with his deaf girlfriend Amaya. But this is no normal laptop. Instead, it appears to have been the property of someone who trafficks in extremely illegal stuff on the infamous dark web.
Soon, Matias and all his pals are video chatting, and fighting for their lives as an underground network of dark web users threatens their lives. The plotting in Dark Web can grow a bit needlessly complicated, and some of the things the villains are able to do here are logically impossible. But you get so swept up in the narrative that you’re willing to forgive the flaws. It’s not as scary as the first Unfriended, but it’s incredibly intense, and the computer screen presentation does a marvelous job sucking you into the narrative. I’m all for more of these movies using the same storytelling method, but telling different creepy stories.
Special Features to Note:
The only special features here are a set of three alternate endings. Warning: SPOILERS follow.
Still here? Ok, that means you’re fine with spoilers. In the theatrical cut of Dark Web, everyone dies – Matias, his buddies, and, presumably, Amaya. It’s dark and bleak. Here, we get one alternate ending where Matias & Amaya both live while the others die. Like the theatrical cut, the dark web users set up a poll to decide who lives and dies, and after a touching video of Matias talking about his love for Amaya plays, the folks of the dark web decide to take mercy and spare their lives. It’s a much less depressing ending than the one in theaters, but probably wouldn’t fit with the nature of the film itself.
Beyond this we have two other alternate endings: one where Matias fails to save Amaya, and contemplates killing himself, with the dark web users voting if he’ll go through with the suicide or not. In the final alternate ending, Matias gets buried alive in a grave, and while Amaya eventually shows up to the spot where he’s buried, she can’t hear him pounding under the earth due to deafness. Of all the alternate endings, this might have worked best, because it spares Amaya – who has been oblivious to everything going on the entire movie.
Special Features Include:
- Alternate Endings: Who Deserves to Live?
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
The first Sicario was like a horror movie in everything but name. Denis Villeneuve’s almost unbearably tense thriller played out like a loose Silence of the Lambs remake: Emily Blunt’s wide-eyed FBI agent was like Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling; Josh Brolin’s rough-n-tumble CIA Agent was the equivalent of Foster’s boss, played by Scott Glenn; and that made Benicio del Toro Hannibal Lecter – the dangerous man being consulted to help stop another dangerous man. On paper, the story was somewhat simple, but in Villeneuve’s hands, Sicario became one of 2015’s best movies.
That doesn’t mean it needed a sequel though. But here we are, with Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Blunt’s character is gone, and that’s a huge mistake. Instead, Day of the Soldado focuses on Brolin and del Toro, and while both are dynamite actors, Blunt’s absence is felt. Here, Brolin recruits del Toro to kidnap the daughter of a kingpin with hopes of starting a drug war. Needless to say, things don’t exactly go according to plan.
Day of the Soldado is brutal and bleak, and del Toro does incredible work as the quiet, morally ambiguous Alejandro. Isabela Moner is also a highlight playing the kidnapped girl, who forms an uneasy bond with Alejandro. But Day of the Soldado is missing that spark that made Sicario so memorable. Stefano Sollima’s director pales in comparison to Villeneuve’s, and the cinematography, by Dariusz Wolski, is murky, muddy and drab, and can’t hold a candle to Roger Deakins’ jaw-dropping work in the first film. At most, watching Day of the Soldado is going to make you want to go back and rewatch the first Sicario instead.
Special Features to Note:
“Continuing The Story” serves as an explainer as to why a sequel is happening. This starts off with footage from the first film, and boy oh boy, is that a mistake. Seeing the Sicario footage hammers home how much better it is than this follow-up. The big takeaway here is that one of the driving forces of the sequel was Benicio del Toro: he was curious to see what happened to his character following the end of the first movie.
“Making The Movie” is a crash-course into the production, with producers going so far as to call Day of the Soldado “Sicario on steroids!” While the original movie had action, I wouldn’t call it an “action movie.” Day of the Soldado, however, leans into the action, and that’s talked about here – the producers wanted to “raise the bar” and increase the action. Over and over again, the folks interviewed here stress that the idea with the follow-up was to tell a similar story, but on a much larger canvas. And since Villeneuve brought his own team to the first movie, almost an entirely new crew was needed for this follow-up.
“The Cast & Characters” delves into Brolin and del Toro’s characters, and the actor’s approaches to playing them. It’s underlined that in the first movie, Brolin and del Toro’s characters remained pretty much the same at the end of the movie as they were at the start, while Emily Blunt changed. Here, the opposite happens: Blunt is gone, and now, by the end of the movie, but Brolin and del Toro have changed considerably.
Special Features Include:
- “From Film to Franchise: Continuing the Story”
- “An Act of War: Making Sicario: Day of the Soldado”
- “The Assassin and the Soldier: The Cast & Characters”
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