Grab your popcorn and turn off the lights as September delivers more cinematic gems beautifully restored in 4K, each with fantastical stories, unforgettable characters, and imaginative visuals.
There's a heartwarming adventure fantasy from Rob Reiner courtesy of The Criterion Collection, a charming Roald Dahl adaptation from Danny DeVito, and a masterfully written animated thriller that just happens to be one of the Dark Knight's most esteemed adventures on the big screen.
Grim and macabre, terrifying and controversial, the late William Friedkin's Oscar-winning supernatural horror tale of demonic possession celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year and comes restored in 4K. Meanwhile, a small village in 1799 takes on the headless horseman in Tim Burton's gothic romantic horror film.
And speaking of Burton, first up, some of the filmmaker's earliest artwork and characters come to life in the groundbreaking stop-motion musical from director Henry Selick.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
A cinematic milestone, the holiday-themed musical fantasy, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas was the first feature length stop-motion animated film produced by a major studio. Released in 1993 and directed by Henry Selick (Coraline), the film is based on Tim Burton's original poem and drawings, and tells the story of Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town. Searching for something new, Jack stumbles through a magical doorway into the world of Christmas Town and becomes obsessed with the colors and the warmth of the Christmas season. Enlisting the ghoulish citizens of Halloween Town to take over the Yuletide holiday, Jack assumes the role of "Sandy Claws," resulting in a delightfully hilarious and completely original holiday classic.
Filmed over a three-year period with painstaking frame by frame precision, The Nightmare Before Christmas was released to critical acclaim and went on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects. Over the years, the film has become a staple of the Halloween season. Its dazzling visuals are incomparable to this day thanks to director Selick and his animators' craftsmanship melding with Burton's unique style, while the original score from composer Danny Elfman — who even provided the singing voice of Jack Skellington — has remained a fan favorite.
Arriving for its 30th Anniversary, this new release of The Nightmare Before Christmas from Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents the film with a new 4K scan sourced from the film's original 35mm camera negative with HDR10 adding a new layer of depth and fine detail to the film's hand-crafted sets and puppets. Fans will also appreciate the DTS HD-MA 7.1 audio track. And the release is loaded with supplements, including an audio commentary with Selick, Burton and Elfman, deleted scenes, a making of featurette, Burton's original short film Frankenweenie, and more. Also available in a limited edition SteelBook.
Get it: Now available on 4K UHD Blu-Ray – also available on digital.
The Princess Bride
A perfect blending of romance, adventure, and farce, 1987's The Princess Bride from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Rob Reiner (A Few Good Men) has become a fairy-tale cult classic. As a sick kid (Fred Savage) reluctantly agrees to have his grandfather (Peter Falk) read him the story of The Princess Bride. We then meet Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright), betrothed to marry the detestable Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon) even though her heart belongs to another man, Westley (Cary Elwes). But the wedding plans are thwarted by a charming masked pirate, a friendly giant, and Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), a Spanish fencer out for revenge. Let the adventure begin!
The Princess Bride was written by William Goldman, based on his 1973 novel, and is well known for its humor and quotable lines, delivered by its splendid cast, which also includes Wallace Shawn, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane, and André the Giant. The Princess Bride, considered to be one of Reiner's best films within his varied filmography, received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song for Willy Deville's "Storybook Love." In 2016, The Princess Bride was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.
This new release of The Princess Bride comes courtesy of The Criterion Collection and features a new 4K restoration of the film complete with HDR and Dolby Vision. The film's audio has a DTS-HD MA 5.1 encode, and Criterion offers an extensive array of supplements, including filmmaker, writer, and cast commentaries, interviews, featurettes on Goldman's original novel and screenplay, Elwes' on-set video diary, trailers, behind-the-scenes footage, and more.
Get it: Sept. 5 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
During the 1999 holiday season, the tagline "Heads Will Roll," was bannered on billboards and buses across the globe as Batman and Edward Scissorhands director Tim Burton brought Washington Irving's American fairy tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to the big screen. Adapted by Se7en screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, the film stars Johnny Depp as Constable Ichabod Crane, sent from New York to the farming community of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of decapitations believed to have been carried out by a ghostly headless horseman. A disbeliever in the supernatural, Crane takes a scientific approach to his investigation, which unravels a community steeped in mysticism, revenge, and corruption.
Taking inspiration from the British Hammer Horror films of the 1950s, Burton's lush and textured production makes Sleepy Hollow a sumptuous and bloody film experience. Burton's frequent composer, Danny Elfman, delivers a romantic score, and Depp is in fine company thanks to a stellar cast that includes Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Michael Gough, and Christopher Lee. Sleepy Hollow was nominated for three Oscars: Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, which it went on to win.
With its atmospheric visuals, this sublime 4K transfer of Sleepy Hollow from Paramount Home Media also features an HDR10 and Dolby Vision color grade which beautifully contrasts the darker sets with the pops of color throughout the film. The film's audio is elevated by 5.1 DTS-HD audio track, with bonus supplements including a commentary by Burton, Sleepy Hollow – Behind the Legend, Reflections on Sleepy Hollow, and trailers. The release is also available in a limited edition SteelBook which also contains Irving's original short story.
Get it: Get it Sept. 5 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray – also available on digital.
Beloved children's author Roald Dahl delivered another instant classic with his 1988 modern fairy tale, Matilda. And like quite a few of his other books, Matilda also found its way to the big screen. Directed by Danny DeVito, this 1996 fantasy comedy stars Mara Wilson as the titular character, a genius six-year-old girl with psychokinetic abilities. Painfully misunderstood by her family and evil school principal, she enlists the help of her classmate and friend, Lavender, and an inspiring schoolteacher, Miss Honey, to prove to the world just how extraordinary she truly is.
DeVito's direction endows the film with a uniquely heightened comedic tone while Batman Returns and Ed Wood cinematographer Stefan Czapsky's vibrant visual style creates a lively viewing experience. A moderate box office success, Matilda found its audience on the home video market in the years after its release, becoming a modern family favorite.
This new limited edition Steelbook release of Matilda from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment features a new 4K scan derived from the film's original camera negative with both HDR and Dolby Vision. Sony has also created a new Dolby Atmos audio mix. Supplements include a newly recorded audio commentary with DeVito, and several featurettes, Afternoon Tea: A Very Magical Matilda Reunion, Matilda's Movie Magic!, My Movie About Making 'Matilda' by Mara Wilson, and more.
Get it: Sept. 5 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray (Limited Edition)
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Based on the hit Warner Bros. TV series, Batman: The Animated Series, 1993's Batman: Mask of the Phantasm brought the beloved elements from the series to the big screen. Directed by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm, the film tells a superbly crafted story, with Gotham City's gangsters being systematically murdered by a shadowy Phantasm figure and all the blame falling on the Caped Crusader. Flashbacks depicting the early days of Bruce Wayne's foray into crime-fighting as Batman are woven into the film as the narrative explores themes of grief, unrequited love, and revenge, culminating in a grueling battle as Batman confronts his past, and fights to clear his name and expose the Phantasm's identity.
Mask of the Phantasm is considered a landmark Batman film and a favorite among fans of the iconic character. Praised for its stylized animation, compelling story, Shirley Walker's operatic score, and an excellent voice cast that includes Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Mark Hamill as a manically fiendish Joker. Like the series from which it originated, the film's animation style is unique in that the drawings were painted onto black paper rather than white, a fundamental element of the film's distinctive "Dark Deco" noir visuals.
Celebrating its 30th Anniversary, the film arrives courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, which is presenting Mask of the Phantasm in its original 1.85 aspect ratio for the first time since its theatrical release. This new 4K remaster with HDR was sourced from the original 1993 camera negative. Digital techniques were applied to remove dirt, scratches, and imperfections. Particular care was taken, however, to retain the original film grain and hand drawn artwork. The film's 2.0 and 5.1 audio tracks have also been remastered. A supplemental piece entitled Kevin Conroy: I Am the Knight celebrates the late actor's thirty-year vocal contribution to the Batman character, spanning over one hundred hours of television, several feature films, and video games.
Get it: Sept. 12 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray – also available on digital.
Based on the novel by William Peter Blatty, who also wrote the script for the film, The Exorcist was brilliantly directed by the late William Friedkin, who was coming off a Best Director Oscar win for The French Connection. A classic within the horror genre and a cultural moment when it arrived in theaters in 1973, The Exorcist tells the chilling story of Chris (Ellen Burstyn), a mother who enlists the help of two priests to save her daughter Regan (Linda Blair) who appears to be possessed by a demonic entity. Fueled by unsettling visuals and solid lead performances, The Exorcist remains a chilling and visceral viewing experience.
When adjusted for inflation, The Exorcist remains the highest grossing Warner Bros. film of all time. Known for its notoriously tough shoot and bizarre happenings behind the scenes, the film went on to receive ten Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress in a Leading Role for Burstyn, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Blair, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Jason Miller, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Best Sound. The film went on to win two Oscars, one for its writing and another for its sound. The Exorcist also has the distinction of becoming the very first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture.
This 50th Anniversary release of The Exorcist from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment sees both the film's Original Theatrical Cut and the Director's Cut presented with new 4K transfers, each featuring HDR. Fans can expect to get a boost on the surround audio front as well with a new Dolby Atmos track. Supplements include an introduction to the film by Friedkin, along with two audio commentaries by the filmmaker, plus an additional commentary with screenwriter and producer Blatty. The release is also available in a limited edition SteelBook.
Get it: Sept. 19 on 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray – also available on digital.
By Adam J. Yeend