American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
There's no Netflix update this week but you should know that "Zootopia" is on there, ushering in the previously-reported deal with the company and Disney that should see waves of the titles hitting the service between now and the holidays. Don't tell your kids till they're done with their homework. Why no Netflix update? Well, it's a little quiet on the most popular streaming service, and there are TONS of Blu-rays and DVDs to get to. Because of TIFF, we were off last week, leading to a glut of quality titles worth your purchasing or rental consideration. This is one of our most jam-packed guides to date. And given the impossible task of trying to prioritize titles as different as the offerings in this week's guide, I'm not going to bother. In alphabetical order ...
18 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
"American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson"
HBO may have won the final two awards of the Emmys on Sunday night but the biggest story to come out of the broadcast was the virtual sweep by FX's "American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson." The remarkable mini-series beat what most people consider to be the strongest crop of mini-series and movies that the medium has seen in years, perhaps ever. In most years, productions like HBO's "All the Way" and FX's "Fargo" would have swept the categories instead, but "ACS" proved unstoppable, taking home awards for stars Courtney B. Vance, Sterling K. Brown and Sarah Paulson. Clearly, you need to see what all the buzz is about with Ryan Murphy's pitch-perfect examination of the OJ Simpson trial in all its complexity. Paired with HBO's "OJ: Made in America," this makes for a fascinating look at how celebrity, sports and murder mixed in the Crime of the Century. "ACS" will continue (Murphy is examining Hurricane Katrina next), but it's hard to believe it will ever top this inaugural edition.
Past Imperfection: The Trial of The Century
Facts of the Case: An Interactive Timeline
"Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition"
Disney opens the vault again for a holiday season edition of a true classic, a film that looks current despite its 25th anniversary. Having seen "Beauty and the Beast" multiple times—it's long been one of my personal Disney faves—I was startled at the picture quality of this version. The line detail and bright colors make the film look fresher than ever. That's really the main draw of this release as the previous versions have been available in the past, although I wish they would have included the Workprint version from the '90s release in this one. All in all, this is about the movie, not the special features, and this essential chapter in the Disney saga is a must-own for families.
3 Versions of the Film
Menken and Friends: 25 Years Of Musical Inspiration
The Recording Sessions - Vocal Magic With The cast
Always Belle: With Disney Legend Paige O'Hara, The Voice Of Belle
#1074: Walt, Fairy Tales & Beauty And The Beast
25 Fun Facts About Beauty and The Beast.
Luca Guadagnino's sexy drama thrives due to the incredible talent of its cast, including the most likable and fascinating performance by the great Ralph Fiennes in a long time. The man who played Voldemort plays the old flame of a world-famous singer, played by the always-fantastic Tilda Swinton. After she's forced to go on vacation because of stress on her voice, he drops in with his daughter (Dakota Johnson, doing her career-best work), and makes waves with the new beau (Matthias Schoenaerts) of his old flame. The first two acts of Guadagnino's film are playful and sexy, but it takes a turn I certainly didn't see coming and I'm not sure the movie quite justifies in the final act. Still, it's a fun film, and that rare thing that we all bemoan Hollywood not making more of: an adult drama.
"Blood Simple" (Criterion)
Any list of the best film debuts of all time simply has to include the Coen brothers' "Blood Simple," now available on a beautiful Criterion Blu-ray with a remastered 4K transfer (the same that played in a few theaters this past season.) The film itself has only improved with age, especially when one considers its impact on the rest of their career (and it's really interesting to watch this work with the only other Coen Criteiron release, "Inside Llewyn Davis" in that light). The special features are fantastic, especially a conversation between the Coens and author Dave Eggers, and what is basically a commentary track with the Coens and cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, only they have a telestrator to circle visual flourishes and problems they have with the film. For example, in one scene you see a lamp in one part of the room but Frances McDormand's face is lit from the other side. In another, Sonnenfeld literally says, "Is this where I fell asleep while operating?" It's incredibly fun to hear how they would have done it differently were they making the film today, and also how this work was influenced by "The Evil Dead," "The American Friend" and "Mean Streets." It's a must-watch and one of the best special features of the year.
New Conversation between Sonnenfield and the Coens About the Film's Look, featuring Telestrator Video Illustrations
New Converstion Between Author Dave Eggers and The Coens About The Films Production, From Inception to Release
New Interviews with Composer Carter Burwell, Sound Mixer Skip Lievsay, and Actors Frances McDonald and M. Emmet Walsh
Plus: A Essay By Novelist and Critic Nathaniel Rich
To my taste, Anthony and Joe Russo are doing the best superhero film direction in the current market (now that Nolan is done). Their films are visually robust without losing their grounding. In "Captain America: Winter Soldier" and this movie, punches connect and you feel the thump when a body falls. Sadly, they fall somewhat victim to the cluttering problem in the market as this one gets less interesting as it gets more crowded with superheroes. However, there's always something to keep it humming, whether it's Chris Evans' increasingly-confident work, the great casting of Tom Holland as Spider-Man, or just a directorial touch that seems a tad more personal than what we've been getting from the CGI blockbuster as of late. I hope these films don't continue their "more is more" trajectory, but this one is more fun than most of the recent entries in this field, including the latest "Avengers."
United We Stand, Divided We Fall — The Making Of Captain America: CIVIL WAR -- PART 1 & PART 2 -- From skinny volunteer to backbone of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, chart Captain America's journey through every decisive moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in this complete behind-the-scenes look at a landmark in the Marvel saga
Captain America: The Road To CIVIL WAR — Explore the First Avenger's fascinating evolution from loyal soldier to seasoned, conflicted hero who questions authority
Iron Man: The Road To Civil War — Tony Stark's path has been no less epic or transformative than that of his friend and ally, Steve Rogers
Open Your Mind: Marvel's Doctor Strange — Exclusive sneak peek — Go behind and beyond the scenes as Doctor Strange makes his journey to the big Screen
Audio Commentary With Directors Anthony and Joe Russo and the screenwriters
Deleted And Extended Scenes
"Cat People" (Criterion)
Jacques Tourneur's "Cat People" helped define the concept in horror films of that being unseen is scarier than what is shown. While the Universal monster movie was taking off, producer Val Lewton took his incredibly small budget and worked with Tourneur to emphasize mood, shadows and terror more than straight horror. The result is a film that feels far more influential today than many of its peers. The best thing about the new Criterion edition is the feature-length documentary "Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows," directed by Kent Jones and narrated by Martin Scorsese. The love and admiration for Lewton is palpable, and Scorsese makes the case that his name should be included among the most influential filmmakers of his era. As for the film itself, the 2K restoration enhances Tourneur's use of shadows, especially in that eternally-killer pool scene.
Audio Commentary From 2005 featuring Film Historian Gregory Mank, with Excerpts From and Audio Interview with Actor Simone Simon
Val Lewton: The Man In The Shadows, a 2008 Feature-length Documentary That Explores The Life and Career Of The Legendary Hollywood Producer
New Interview with Director Jacques Tourneur From 1979
New Interview with Cinematographer John Bailey About the Look of the Film
Plus: An Essay By Critic Geoffrey O'Brien
The Warrens are here just in time for your Halloween movie marathon planning. James Wan's follow-up to his smash hit may have fallen just short of its predecessor, but this is a confident, accomplished piece of horror filmmaking, so finely directed by Wan that people take it for granted. Now that you can watch it at home and the element of surprise is gone with repeat viewing, look at Wan's camerawork, how he uses the frame to enhance fear. He forces perspective constantly, pulling in on something as action happens outside the frame or pulling back to reveal something horrific. He uses his camera like a funhouse ride. You're strapped in and you can't see what's around the next corner until it's on top of you. "The Conjuring 2" won't be as influential or adored as the first film, but it's nearly as well-made.
Buy it here
The Enfield Poltergeist: Living The Horror
The Conjuring 2: Hollywood's Haunted Stage
Crafting the Conjuring
Sounds of Scary
"Love and Friendship"
There's something so perfect about a filmmaker who has been fascinated with human interaction and witty dialogue tackling Jane Austen as Whit Stillman does in this clever flick, one that boasts a remarkable 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Now, I imagine that a lot of those Fresh ratings are, like mine, in the B/B+ range, indicating how RT ratings can be misleading, but the point is still well-made that this is a difficult film to flat-out dislike. Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny star in a comedy of relationships, manners and class that zips by in a light, airy and fun 93 minutes. "Love and Friendship" isn't going to be anyone's favorite movie of 2016, but not everything has to break new ground. Sometimes it's refreshing to just see old ground this well-explored.
Behind the Scenes Featurette
People were awfully hard on Jodie Foster's thriller when it was released this May. Seeing it for the first time on Blu-ray, I think many home viewers will come around to it. It's well-paced and feels urgent, angry at a corrupt system while never betraying its main purpose as a piece of entertainment. My biggest problem actually comes in casting, as George Clooney doesn't have the sleaze factor needed to play a cable financial news showman and Julia Roberts isn't believable as his producer. Recast those two roles and I think this film might have clicked with audiences who may have been hesitant to watch incredibly wealthy celebrities in a story essentially about our rigged system. However, even the miscasting issues fade away once this story gets going and Foster's underrated directorial skill keeps it moving in a way that makes it a solid rental.
George Clooney: The Money Man
Inside the Presure Cooker
Analysis of a Scene: The Showdown
Dan the Automator (feat. Del the Funky Homosapien)
"What Makes the World Go Round (Money)" Music Video
One could argue that this sequel is a lot more of the same with a gender twist, and almost all of the gross-out humor here falls completely flat. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to laughing more than expected, particularly at the supporting cast of this raunchy comedy, including the always-great Rose Byrne. She returns with Seth Rogen as a sorority moves in next door to the house they're trying to sell. Worried that they're going to lose the buyers, the couple enlists the help of their former frat boy enemy, played with great comic timing by Zac Efron, and try to take the ladies down. The "girls can do it too" aspect of the film too often feels like window-dressing (look at the cover—it's still the guys out front) but the fact is this cast can make a bad joke work. They're likable and so is this movie.
Making Of The Sequel
The Prodigal Bros Return
The Ultimate Tailgate
Feature Commentary With Co-Writer/Director Nicholas Stoller and Producer James Weaver
"Night Train to Munich" (Criterion)
I can't get enough of Carol Reed's post-war films, including the remarkable trifecta of "Odd Man Out," "The Fallen Idol" and "The Third Man" (which he made from '47-'49 and could arguably be the best three-films-in-a-row of any director). Having never seen this pre-war, 1940 thriller, I was excited to see earlier Reed. I was not disappointed, for the most part. The urgency he would bring to films after the war is lacking a bit here, but it's still a finely tuned piece of work that reminds one of "The Lady Vanishes" (and not by accident). Reed is skilled at placing human stories in context of international politics and one can see the themes he would explore in those later films being founded in "Night Train to Munich." Special features are kind of light for a Criterion release.
Conversation from 2010 between film scholars Peter Evans and Bruce Babington about director Carol Reed, screenwriters Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, and the social and political climate in which Night Train to Munich was made
An essay by film critic Philip Kemp
Like most of you, I didn't see the Lonely Island movie in theaters, but I know I'm going to see it again on Blu-ray. You probably will too. This hilarious movie has cult classic written all over it. I would bet good money that long after the disappointing blockbusters of Summer 2016 have gathered dust in the public consciousness, people will be watching and laughing at "Popstar." Consistently hilarious, "Popstar" has echoes of "This is Spinal Tap" in the way it pulls apart the modern music star, but it never feels like an extended "SNL" sketch. Samberg and his buddies were careful to actually give their lead character an arc of which to bounce the cameos and one-scene jokes on that just keep hitting and hitting and hitting. Reviewing comedies is difficult because humor is so subjective. All I'll say is that I haven't laughed out loud at a Hollywood comedy this much in years. Maybe you will too.
How To Donkey Roll
Big Boy Freestyle
"Turn up The Beat' Backstory
Fun At CMZ
Feature Commentary with Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone
"Tale of Tales"
Ambition only gets Matteo Garrone's triptych of fables so far, but that ambition is notable enough to include it in this week's column. How often do you get to see John C. Reilly battle a sea monster, Salma Hayek eat a heart and Toby Jones play with a magical flea? Garrone's "fairy tales for adults" never quite comes together, and it all lacks urgency. However, I'm always partial to films that swing for the fences and miss over works that never take the bat off their shoulder. Is "Tale of Tales" a good movie? Sadly, not really. But it's never bad in a boring, lazy, familiar way, and that matters.
Twilight Time Releases
"Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia"
"The Glory Guys"
"La Moglie Piu' Bella"
"Theatre of Blood"
"Tony Rome"/"Lady in Cement"
The latest batch of releases sent over from the wonderful people at Twilight Time includes two flat-out great films - Sam Peckinpah's "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" and Douglas Hickox's "Theatre of Blood." The story goes that Vincent Price thought "Theatre of Blood" to be his best film. That alone should make it of interest to horror fans looking for something to include with "The Conjuring 2" and "The Shallows" this holiday. Overall, Twilight Time continues to pull a nice mix of classic and unexpected titles from the catalog, allowing those aware of their releases a more diverse array of film experiences than many other companies provide.
In Two Weeks: "Hunt For the Wilderpeople," "The Neon Demon," "The Shallows," and more!
At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.