New blu-ray releases black panther, annihilation, and more gas pains or contractions

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe can often feel as if it’s spinning its wheels, telling the same story over, and over, and over again. And then every now and then, they’ll release something like Ryan Coogler ’s Black Panther , and what a treat it is. Coogler has crafted one of the best films of the MCU – a funny, tragic, emotional journey full of characters that stand out from the rest of the usual Marvel players. Chadwick Boseman makes for a compelling, sympathetic and best of all, earnest hero as Black Panther. But the real draw here are the supporting players. Like Letitia Wrigh t, playing Black Panther’s brainy, funny sister. And Danai Gurira , as Okoye, the general of the Dora Milaje – the all-female guard that protects the secret country of Wakanda. And of course, Michael B. Jordan , as the first legitimately great Marvel villain, Killmonger.

Is Black Panther Marvel’s best movie? I really don’t know. But I do think it’s one of their most important – a film that shows that the superhero genre can rise above itself and create something spectacular and game-changing. And that’s what matters most.

Blooper Reel: The Marvel blooper reels are almost all kind of pointless, and sadly Black Panther isn’t much of an exception. Rather than genuine bloopers, this is mostly just footage of the actors dancing or making silly faces in between takes. The only genuinely amusing moment here is when, while shooting one of the film’s big waterfall battles, Angela Bassett leans over to Letitia Wright and says, “Some exciting shit happening up in here.”

Deleted Scenes : There are four deleted scenes total. The first comes near the end of the film, where Black Panther/T’Challa goes to the UN to reveal the truth about Wakanda. There, he runs into CIA agent Ross (Martin Freeman), who advises T’Challa against going through with this. T’Challa says he will no longer rule in fear. The scene is fine, and there are a few funny moments between Boseman and Freeman, but cutting it was no huge loss. You can read about (and watch) the other deleted scenes here and here .

From Page to Screen: This lengthy featurette involves a conversation with writers of the Black Panther comics throughout the years, and Ryan Coogler. It focuses primarily on the history of the character in the Marvel comics, and while a bit dry at times, it’s an excellent crash-course in the history of Black Panther as a character.

Commentary: In addition to all the features, there’s also a commentary track with Coogler and production designer Hannah Beachler . Both are very insightful, with Coogler in particular going through nearly every aspect of the production. Over the course of the commentary, it’s revealed that the amusing scene where Shuri mock-challenges T’Challa at the waterfall was an idea courtesy of Donald and Stephen Glover . Coogler also reveals his wife came up with Killmonger’s emotional line at the end of the film where he talks about being afraid of being locked up.

Time will be kind to Alex Garland ’s Annihilation . Already, the film has garnered something of a cult following, with many ( myself included ) beating the drum and calling the film an unheralded masterpiece. At the same time, I know Garland’s twisty, depressing, often terrifying sci-fi film isn’t for everyone. And that’s fine. But those who are in tune to this film’s strange wavelength are going to be rewarded with a challenging, haunting experience. A film rife with symbolism and allegory. A story about grief; about life; about sickness; about madness. It’s almost impossible to truly pin this movie down, and that’s what makes it such a minor miracle. Natalie Portman leads a female-centric cast in a story about a journey into a mysterious, time-and-space altering landscape where almost anything can happen. And when it does happen, it’s tailor-made to give you nightmares. As I said in my theatrical review, this film “lingers, burned into your thoughts, branded on the brain. It is nothing short of a masterpiece, and the fact that it exists at all is something worth celebrating.”

Special Features to Note: I’m thrilled to report that the extensive featurettes including on the Annihilation Blu-ray really do the film justice. I had worried that the poor box office performance would doom the film to a bare bones release. Happily, that’s not the case. Several different featurettes tackle the production from all angles – from adapting the film from Jeff VanderMeer’s book, to casting, to shooting, to special effects.

Alex Garland reveals he was sent the book by a producer, and confesses that while he really enjoyed reading it, he didn’t know how to adapt it. According to Garland, it’s not an obvious book-to-film movie. Ironically, Jeff VanderMeer is also on hand here, and he says he wrote the book in a cinematic style. Go figure.

Garland didn’t want to do a straight adaption – he instead wanted to adapt his subjective experience of reading the book; the feeling of the book, in other words. That makes sense, since beyond the plot, Annihilation the film is drastically different from Annihilation the book.

This leads into the best featurette on the disc – one focused on how the crew set about creating the nightmarish mutant bear in the film. Garland tells us that the goal of that was to make audiences feel different than a typical kind of monster attack scene – the monster is in a state of despair and pain; it’s an existential monster in an existential space. Of course, the other goal was to make it scary.

Beyond this, we get to see an animatronic bear head on set, as well as a stuntman wearing a sort of half-formed bear costume. Almost every angle of the scene is covered here, from the stunt work to the staging. Fun fact: it took Garland and company 5 days to shoot just this one scene. Overall, this featurette reminds me of old school videos of people like Tom Savini and Stan Winston showing horror fans how they created their classic movie monsters. It’s a must-see.