Movie lovers can kick off 2023 with a bang with the latest crop of newly restored 4K UHD format releases, including the first two stop-motion animated features from LAIKA Studios, both of which were nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
The magic continues this month with an Oscar-nominated fantasy epic from the imagination of Terry Gilliam, looking more lavish than ever before, along with a pair of comedies — a '60s British crime caper starring Michael Caine, and a heartwarming '90s classic from writer-director Harold Ramis celebrating its 30th anniversary.
The Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick's 2009 stop-motion animated fantasy Coraline reintroduced audiences to this unique cinematic artform with a delightfully rich and nightmarish fairy tale into another world loaded with quirky characters and incredible visuals. Based on Neil Gaiman’s novella of the same name, the film tells the story of 11-year-old Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning). Feeling lonely in her new home and often ignored by her parents, Coraline discovers a portal to the "other" world that is just like her real one but so much better. Or is it? Meeting her Other Mother (Teri Hatcher), Coraline is treated to delicious cooking and wondrous experiences, but it soon becomes clear that there’s a sinister secret afoot leading Coraline on a quest to not only get home but save her real parents from the Other Mother.
Coraline had the distinction of being nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar and marks the debut film from Laika Studios which never ceases to dazzle audiences with its bold storytelling and unique visual style, continuing to uphold and advance stop-motion animation.
Released by Shout Factory, this new 4K restoration comes from the film’s original camera negative and was supervised by VFX Supervisor Steve Emerson, and Travis Knight, LAIKA’s President and CEO. No SDR to HDR automation was used for the remastering of the film; instead, special time was taken to add fresh creative touches and details that are only possible with HDR. Dolby Vision offers viewers an added depth, contrast and color to the picture, and it’s capped off with a new Dolby Atmos audio track. The release is also bundled with extras, including Inside LAIKA – Revisiting the Puppets, The Making of Coraline, Deleted Scenes, Character Art and Concept Galleries and an audio commentary with director Selick and composer Bruno Coulais. For collectors, this release is also offered in a special limited edition Steelbook.
Available: Now on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Following on from the success of the darkly sinister tale of Coraline, LAIKA switched it up with their family horror-comedy ParaNorman. Released in 2012 and directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell, the film tells the story of a socially isolated boy named Norman, who is endowed with supernatural abilities which allow him to see and speak with the dead. With his Massachusetts hometown, Blithe Hollow, under threat from an evil curse, Norman must embark on a quest to save the township. But with ghosts, zombies, and jaded grown-ups as adversaries, Norman and his unlikely group of heroes – his new best friend, mean-girl older sister, a hot jock, and the school bully – will have to uncover the origins of the curse, one that harkens back to a past cruel injustice carried out by the community. Featuring an impressive voice cast, including Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck and Leslie Mann, director Butler describes ParaNorman as a John Hughes movie meeting a John Carpenter movie, "the cast of The Breakfast Club falling into The Fog," and that analogy truly is quite fitting.
ParaNorman proved to be another hit for LAIKA and broke new ground on several fronts, the first being within the craft of stop-motion animation. By using a rapid prototype 3D-printer, it produced color faces for the character puppets which have a softer, more real looking skin tone while the puppets themselves moved more freely, pushing this artform forward. The film’s social significance also surprised audiences upon its release in 2012 by featuring the first openly gay character in a mainstream animated film. ParaNorman deservedly had the distinction of being nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
Like Coraline, this release comes courtesy of Shout Factory with a new 4K UHD transfer and HDR color grade supervised by LAIKA’s President and CEO, Knight, who also served as lead animator on both films. ParaNorman is presented with added Dolby Vision for compatible players and monitors, creating an added nuance to this beautifully crafted film, and a new Dolby Atmos audio mix which packs a punch on the sound front. Supplements include Inside LAIKA – Discovering the Characters and Effects of ParaNorman, Test Footage, Concept Art and an audio commentary with directors .Butler and Fell. Shout’s release also comes available in a limited edition Steelbook.
Available: Now on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Nominated for four Oscars, 12 Monkeys and The Fisher King director Terry Gilliam’s bold fantasy adventure, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, has been restored and updated to 4K UHD by The Criterion Collection. Originally released in 1988, the film offers a fictional account of eighteenth-century nobleman Baron Munchausen (John Neville), his henchmen, and a little girl as they embark on an adventurous quest to faraway lands, where they reach as far as the moon, confront the Grim Reaper, and even journey into the belly of a sea monster. With its tongue firmly placed in its cheek, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a wonderous and imaginative adventure, dazzling its audience with colorful characters and incredible special effects.
Receiving an upgrade from The Criterion Collection, this new 4K restoration of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen has been approved by Gilliam, and has both HDR and Dolby Vision presentations available. The film is backed by a 5.1 Surround DTS Audio Track and, as Criterion does so well, the release is filled with supplemental features, including a new documentary on the making of the film, a video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns, behind-the-scenes footage of the film’s special effects, deleted scenes, storyboards, original marketing materials and Miracle of Flight, a 1974 animated short film by Gilliam.
Available: Jan. 3 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Celebrating its 30th Anniversary is writer-director Harold Ramis' comedy Groundhog Day. Considered as one of the best films of 1993, the film stars Bill Murray as Phil Connors, a cynical weatherman who finds himself trapped in a time loop in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Unable to break free of the loop, he wakes up day after day on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2. Phil is forced to relive the same exact day, which features the same exact events for the people of the town.
Soon he gets to know when and where things are going to happen, and he uses his knowledge to make the day better each day. Groundhog Day was praised for Murray’s performance along with Ramis' screenplay, one which successfully melds together comedy, romance, and a philosophical message.
Groundhog Day had a huge impact on popular culture following its release, with the film's title becoming widely used to define a monotonous or repetitive situation. In 2006, the Library of Congress selected Groundhog Day for preservation in the National Film Registry for being culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.
Presented in a Limited Edition Steelbook, this new 4K UHD release of Groundhog Day comes courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Previously released in 2017, this edition adds a new Dolby Vision presentation of the film along with a Dolby Atmos Audio Track. Supplements include deleted scenes, A Different Day: An Interview with Harold Ramis, the documentary The Weight of Time, and audio commentary by Ramis.
Available: Jan. 10 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray (also available on digital).
The Italian Job
Widely praised as one of the best British films of the '60s, 1969’s The Italian Job hit the mark as a caper comedy. The film also put its lead Michael Caine on the map across the globe as Cockney criminal Charlie Croker. Recently paroled, Croker assembles a gang for the heist job of stealing a cache of gold bullion being transported through the city of Turin, Italy. Directed by Peter Collinson, the film is celebrated for the performances of its cast – one that includes Benny Hill, Tony Beckley, Raf Vallone and Noël Coward – an unforgettable climactic car chase, and a soundtrack composed by Quincy Jones.
The film's 2003 remake, set in Los Angeles, starred Mark Wahlberg in the role of Charlie Croker. A sequel series has been announced and is currently in development.
This beautiful new 4K UHD transfer was derived from the original camera negative by Paramount Pictures with Kino Lorber responsible for this release, which includes both Dolby Vision and HDR presentations of the film along with a 5.1 Surround audio mix. For purists, a Lossless Restored 2.0 Mono Audio mix is also available. Kino Lorber’s release is loaded with documentary extras, deleted scenes, and trailers. There is also an audio commentary by producer Michael Deeley and Matthew Field, the author of Michael Caine: You’re a Big Man.
Available: Jan. 31 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
By Adam J. Yeend