Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Everything that a fan could want from a Star Wars movie and then some.
I love synergy. I love that Arrow restored "Bride of Re-Animator" at the same time that Shout Factory was working on a features-heavy version of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2." I love that Universal pulled out 18 films from the early days of Cary Grant's career that you can use to accompany Criterion's release of his masterful "Only Angels Have Wings." This time of year, in which the new releases are a bit, well, underwhelming (sorry, "Fifty Shades of Black"), it takes digging a little deeper to find something worth reporting on in the HECG, and we found a few pairs. Dig with us, won't you?
Note: Perhaps because they knew so many people would be watching "Daredevil" and "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," Netflix has been bone-dry in terms of interesting new releases on the service, more so than I can ever remember. So, we're skipping that section this week.
7 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
"Only Angels Have Wings" (Criterion)
"It's like being in love with a buzzsaw."
"Not much future in it."
Howard Hawks' mesmerizing "Only Angels Have Wings" gets not just a fantastic 4K restoration from Criterion but comes with a great special feature, in which critic David Thomson discusses how the film fits in Hawks' legacy. He notes how much Hawks is playing with genre here, moving from comedy to drama to action even to musical. He also reminds us that Hawks and star Cary Grant were coming off a bomb in "Bringing Up Baby" (mind-blowing now given how beloved that movie is) and needed a hit in this film. Boy, did they get it. It's just such a delicate, perfect movie. It's fascinating in terms of film history because of the aerial stunts and the rising star nature of Rita Hayworth and Grant, but it's also just a great character piece about men who refuse to stay grounded and a woman who finds herself in a unique corner of the world. It's worth buying just for Jean Arthur's piano playing. I'm not really kidding. It's joyous and perfect.
New 4K digital restoration
Audio excerpts from a 1972 conversation between filmmakers Howard Hawks and Peter Bogdanovich
New interview with film critic David Thomson
Howard Hawks and His Aviation Movies, a new program featuring film scholars Craig Barron and Ben Burtt
Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1939, starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth, Richard Barthelmess, and Thomas Mitchell, and hosted by filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille
Plus: An essay by critic Michael Sragow
"Cary Grant: The Vault Collection"
Speaking of movie history, if you want to see how Cary Grant got from the early days of his career to "Only Angels Have Wings," check out this new DVD-only box set from Universal with 18 of his early films, all of which come from 1932-36. Yes, he made 18 films in those years. Hollywood worked differently back then. It's a majority of what he made in that time period, including his debut "This is the Night" in 1932, and five films not previously available on DVD. Yes, they're still releasing movies from the vault that had not been previously available. Hard to believe in 2016. Grant's star power and stunning degree of charisma was there from the beginning. Some of these early film may be a bit rough, but if you have a Cary Grant fan in your family, maybe for Mother's Day upcoming, you could do a lot worse than this set.
None, but here are the five films included that have never been available before on DVD, which is quite special in 2016: "The Woman Accused," "Ladies Should Listen," "Madame Butterfly," "Enter Madame!" and "Gambling Ship."
Now is the time where I defend "The Revenant." Careful Blu-ray buyers will notice that I'm quoted on the inside case for the movie, so my opinion on it is pretty well-known. There's not much point in recounting it, although I do stand by every word of my review. I can say that and still agree that the "Boy, was it cold out there" aspect of the awards season campaign was remarkably annoying, but that's all it was: a campaign. Years after Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro González Iñárritu took the stage to accept their Oscars, people won't be watching "The Revenant" with the PR campaign in mind, and we should be able to separate that from the art itself. And, yes, I consider "The Revenant" art. It is visceral, engaging drama that doesn't always work—the more mystical, Malick-esque stuff in the middle falters even more on repeat viewing—but is ambitious and entertaining enough to connect for this viewer, and millions of other ones. All of whom deserve a better Blu-ray. It's odd how many major releases lately are coming nearly bare-bones to Blu-ray. This is another for which the movie has to basically speak for itself. No commentary or deleted scenes, and only one behind-the-scenes featurette.
A World Unseen Documentary
"Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2"
I still kind of can't believe that "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" exists. It is so extremely nutty. It is so strange tonally. It is part black comedy, part gorey horror, and part of the reason we have to put up with Rob Zombie (his blend of humor and horror so clearly traces back to this film it's ridiculous). Tobe Hooper didn't direct smash hit "Poltergeist" that long before this, Dennis Hopper was a star, and the original was a cult hit. And THIS is what audiences saw in 1986—total eff'n insanity. I'm not willing to go as far as some colleagues and proclaim it a horror masterpiece, but I do have to admit to liking it more every time I see it. I admire its go-for-broke lunacy and Shout Factory's gorgeous 2K HD scan certainly helps with that appreciation. As they always do, Shout Factory brings the goodies, not just in the perfect HD transfer but in copious special features. None of which quite adequately answers the key question about the movie: How the f--k did this get made?
2K HD scan from the interpositive film element
Audio commentary with Director of Photography Richard Kooris, Production - Designer Cary White, Script Supervisor Laura Kooris and Property Master Michael Sullivan
Audio commentary with Director Tobe Hooper
Audio commentary with Actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and Special Effects - Makeup Creator Tim Savini
Original HD master supervised by Director of Photography Richard Kooris
House of Pain: An interview with Makeup Effects Artists Bart Mixon, Gabe - Bartalos and Gino Crognale
Yuppie Meat: An interview with Actors Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon
Cutting Moments: An interview with Editor Alain Jakubowicz
Behind The Mask: An interview with Stunt Man and Leatherface performer Bob Elmore
Horror's Hallowed Grounds: Revisiting the locations of the film
It Runs In The Family: 85-minute documentary
Alternate Opening Credit Sequence
"Bride of Re-Animator"
Speaking of movies that are ridiculously gorey, welcome to Brian Yuzna's follow-up to the masterful "Re-Animator," although this one doesn't have quite the cult following of "TCM 2." It doesn't quite deserve it either. I love "Re-Animator," but I had forgotten how choppy (pun only slightly intended) the sequel was. It drags in the first act and then feels kinda desperate in the last act. Having said that, Arrow's restoration of it looks great and the three-disc special edition comes with TONS of special features. Arrow is one of the best houses for this kind of thing, if this is your bag.
Brand new 2K restorations of the Unrated and R-Rated versions of the film, approved by director Brian Yuzna
Digipak packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by festival programmer Michael Blyth
Re-Animator: Dawn of the Re-Animator – the official comic book prequel to the original Re-Animator
Brand new audio commentary with director Brian Yuzna
Audio commentary with Brian Yuzna, star Jeffrey Combs, special effects co-ordinator Thomas Rainone and the effects team including John Buechler, Mike Deak, Robert Kurtzman, Howard Berger and Screaming Mad George
Audio commentary with stars Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott
Brian Yuzna Remembers Bride of Re-Animator – brand new featurette in which the director looks back at the making of the first Re-Animator sequel
Splatter Masters: The Special Effects Artists of Bride of Re-Animator – brand new FX featurette with a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Robert Kurtzman of KNB, Screaming Mad George, Tony Doublin and John Buechler
Getting Ahead in Horror – archive making-of featurette
Meg is Re-Animated – deleted scene with behind-the-scenes footage
Carnival Sequence – the cast and crew discuss this excised sequence
"Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead"
Douglas Tirola's documentary about the history of the National Lampoon made waves on the festival circuit but Magnolia never quite got it to a big enough audience given its star power and place in comedy history. People still laugh at a NL movie every single day, especially classics like "Vacation" and "Caddyshack." Tirola's film goes much further back, of course, to the formative days of the magazine that once tapped into a counter culture vein and would inevitably make stars of many of the comedians of the '80s. The doc is mostly good for anecdotes about how comedy like this gets made, especially something as almost spontaneous as "Animal House." It's a hilarious documentary. I wish it didn't end so abruptly and answered more questions about why Lampoon turned into a straight-to-video factory in the '90s, but it focuses more on the success of the brand, so it's forgivable.
Over one hour of bonus interviews/scenes including: John Goodman reads Doug Kenney
Thoughts on Animal House
Drugs in the office
Jaws: 3 People: 0
Working in NYC
Thoughts on SNL
Reading John Hughes: Beverly D'Angelo, Kevin Bacon, Stephen Furst, Anthony Michael Hall & Chevy Chase
Favorite National Lampoon Pieces
Artists of National Lampoon
Chevy Chase "Seeds" Story
File this under two-actors-who-should-be-bigger-stars. I'm always impressed by the versatility of Rebecca Hall (who can jump from period pieces to horror movies to rom-coms with ease) and I think Jason Sudeikis should be a bigger star (do yourself a favor and check out what he's doing now on FOX's "Last Man on Earth," it's brilliant). This heartfelt indie barely made a dent when it was released in theaters, but could do some nice word-of-mouth business on Blu-ray, VOD and DVD. It's totally worth a look for those in need of a nice romantic dramedy with actors who rise above relatively simple material. Sudeikis plays a writer who helps Hall's widow with a book about her folk singer husband, and, well, you guessed it. I'm long past exhausted with films that teach us that love will get us over things like depression, but Hall and Sudeikis bring nuance and delicacy to the piece.
The Making of "Tumbledown"
The Music Behind "Tumbledown"
3 NEW TO VOD
Stop watching movies made by assholes. It'll be OK.
A look at the work of John Williams outside of his greatest hits.
The RogerEbert.com picks for the ten best films of 2017.
The lists of best films of 2017.