A wild whirlwind of a mess, without any coherence, without even a guiding principle.
10 NEW TO NETFLIX
8 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
Every year, there are a few well-mannered costume dramas that kind of slide under the radar and should get more attention than they deserve. It's getting increasingly difficult to get eyes on this kind of film with the competition with streaming services like Netflix and the onslaught of CGI-heavy blockbusters in theaters. No, Wash Westmoreland's film is not going to change your life, but it's the definition of a solid character drama, elevated by strong performances by Dominic West and Keira Knightley. The all-or-nothing culture of the '10s seems to be hurting the "good, three-star" movies most of all, and this is one that pretty much everyone agrees is on that tier. Check it out.
The Story Behind Colette - Featurette
Notes on a Scene - Featurette
Costume Design Photo Gallery
There are a few movies every year that I like more than my fellow critics in a way that surprises me. "Elizabeth Harvest" is NOT one of those. I can totally understand the arguments that this thriller starring Carla Gugino and Ciaran Hinds is more style than substance, but I found the style captivating. It's a movie that echoes '70s filmmakers I adore like Roman Polanski and Brian De Palma, two directors from which it openly cribs. It's a creepy, sexy, weird retelling of the classic "Bluebeard" fable that's unlike anything else I saw this year. And when you see 250 movies a year, being unique matters.
The Making of Elizabeth Harvest - Featurette
"Forty Guns" (Criterion)
I love when a Criterion Blu-ray shows up for a film absent from my personal viewing experience. Of course, like most film critics, I've seen a lot of Samuel Fuller movies, but this Western had somehow slipped under my radar. It's great. Originally called "Woman with a Whip," it's a wonderful platform for Barbara Stanwyck as a tough rancher who commands 40 hired guns to run her county. Fuller's no-nonsense style allows Stanwyck what would be something of a swan song, and some of the set pieces here are breathtaking, including a great opening shot and a tornado sequence that's an incredible feat of early effects. The special features are excellent, particularly an interview with the very intelligent Imogen Sara Smith about the film and a wonderful piece with Fuller's widow and daughter.
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New interview with director Samuel Fuller’s widow, Christa Lang Fuller, and daughter, Samantha Fuller
A Fuller Life (2013), a feature-length documentary by Samantha Fuller about her father, featuring filmmakers Wim Wenders, William Friedkin, and Monte Hellman; actors Mark Hamill, James Franco, Jennifer Beals, Bill Duke, and Constance Towers; and others
Audio interview with Samuel Fuller at London’s National Film Theatre from 1969
New interview with critic Imogen Sara Smith, author of In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City
PLUS: An essay by film scholar Lisa Dombrowski and a chapter from Fuller’s posthumously published 2002 autobiography, A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting, and Filmmaking
This SXSW drama never quite found traction when it was released, but is getting a pretty lavish 4K transfer on the home market. It's a brutal, dark drama from the creator of "True Detective," but it's worth seeking out for the work of Ben Foster and Elle Fanning, two of the best actors of their generation. It's also curious to me to see what does and what does not get 4K releases. While some shingles aren't even releasing their art houses movies on Blu-ray at all, others are embracing the new technology. Of course, I'm always going to encourage the latter - everything should be available in the highest possible quality - but it will be interesting to see how this develops.
The Making of Galveston - Featurette
"The Magnificent Ambersons" (Criterion)
You have to love Criterion timing their release of Orson Welles' second film with the Netflix launch of his "The Other Side of the Wind," 40 years after he started making it. If you're unfamiliar, "The Magnificent Ambersons" was the start of a career full of production nightmares that would include several unfinished films. While he was off making one of those unfinished films, the studio took the editing of "Ambersons" away from him, cutting almost an hour out of it and changing the ending. The fact that what remains is still a masterpiece is mind-blowing, but it undeniably is, never more so than in this gorgeous 4K restoration. It's so interesting to see places where studio interference seems obvious (the party scene, for example) and yet there's still such a mastery of visual language that it doesn't matter. It's amazing to think that this could have been BETTER. And to consider that there could be new fans who stumble upon "Wind" on Netflix and then find their way here. They're in for a treat, and the special features make this one of the best Blu-rays you could buy this holiday season.
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Two audio commentaries, featuring scholars Robert L. Carringer and James Naremore and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum
New interviews with film historians Simon Callow and Joseph McBride
New video essay on the film’s cinematographers by scholar François Thomas
New video essays by scholars François Thomas and Christopher Husted
Director Orson Welles on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970
Segment from a 1925 silent adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons
Audio from a 1978 AFI symposium on Welles, and audio interviews with Welles conducted by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich
Two Mercury Theatre radio plays: Seventeen (1938), an adaptation of another Booth Tarkington novel by Welles, and The Magnificent Ambersons (1939)
PLUS: An essay by critic Molly Haskell and (Blu-ray only) essays by authors and critics Luc Sante, Geoffrey O’Brien, Farran Smith Nehme, and Jonathan Lethem, and excerpts from an unfinished 1982 memoir by Welles
This is my pick for the best action movie of 2018, barely edging out "Black Panther." This is how you do action. It's got a breathtaking pace, wonderful stunt design, strong visual language, and a great ensemble, including the best work Henry Cavill has done to date (don't lose the 'stache, bro). I love everything about this movie, as I made clear in my review linked above. I don't have much more to say other than action always holds up well on repeat viewing. This is the kind of thing people will be watching EVERY time it's on cable. So why not own it and dictate when you want to watch it yourself?
Behind the Fallout
Light the Fuse
Top of the World
The Big Swing: Deleted Scene Breakdown
Rendezvous in Paris
The Hunt is On
Deleted Scenes Montage with Optional Commentary by director Christopher McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton
Foot Chase Musical Breakdown
The Ultimate Mission
Commentary by director Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise
Commentary by director Christopher McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton
Commentary by composer Lorne Balfe
Isolated Score Track
It's been wonderful to see the attention that Andrew Bujalski's SXSW premiere has been getting at the end of the year, including awards for the lead performance by Regina Hall. I walked out of that Austin screening and my response to a publicist looking for an opinion was: "Regina Hall is everything." She's so phenomenal here, perfectly capturing an average woman in an extraordinary way. You forget she's acting. You simply invest in the character she's created. She's so perfectly in the moment and believable. A lot of people have compared Bujalski's work here to Jonathan Demme, someone else who found beautiful humanity in the everyday life, and one has to wonder how much Demme could have done with an actress like Hall.
None ... boo
"Westworld: Season Two"
Fewer and fewer shows are even getting Blu-ray releases as streaming takes over the market and the networks go with DVD-only sets for their hits. So it's nice to see HBO and Warner Bros. realizing that the fans of "Westworld" are the kind of diehards who want to own their favorite show, and they want to own it in the highest quality possible. "Westworld" on 4K looks even better than it did for me on initial broadcast. And I'm the TV critic here to argue that season two was excellent. There were great performances throughout and top-notch storytelling. Take that "sophomore slump" debate elsewhere. I wish the 4K release had more new special features. Most of them were available online already, and there are no audio commentaries at all. Maybe next season.
Paved with the Best Intentions: The Evolution of the DELOS Corp.
Violent Delights Have Violent Ends
Bring Yourself Back Online
The Buzz: On the Red Carpet
Return To Westworld
Creating Westworld's Reality
The 2020 Oscar nominations.
A review of the new Netflix crime docuseries about former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez.
A collection of the reviews given our highest possible grade in 2019.
A review of Netflix's Dracula, from the creators of Sherlock.