A wild whirlwind of a mess, without any coherence, without even a guiding principle.
10 NEW TO NETFLIX
10 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
Denis Villeneuve's fanbase grows more vocal with every film and they're going to love the chance to own his latest sci-fi blockbuster with WB's perfectly calibrated HD video and audio. Having said that, it feels like something of a placeholder before a more elaborate Special Edition comes along, as most of the featurettes on this edition are incredibly tiny, superficial EPK things. This is a movie that demands a deep dive, possibly with a commentary or two, and it's a bit surprising that it didn't get that its first time out on Blu-ray. Still, the movie holds up well at home and on repeat viewing, where you can further appreciate its impressive technical features, which netted the movie five Oscar nominations last month. This is a movie that a lot of people seem to LOVE, and its cult will now only continue to grow.
Designing the World of Blade Runner 2049
To Be Human: Casting Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner 101 Featurettes
2036: Nexus Dawn
2048: Nowhere to Run
2022: Black Out
Martin Campbell's latest works better as a Pierce Brosnan IRA procedural more than it does a Jackie Chan action movie, and I think that's what threw a lot of viewers and critics off in theaters. People went hoping that this vengeance tale would be Chan's version of "Taken" and were likely surprised to see that it's much talkier movie than they were expecting, and the action scenes don't have that typical Chan energy as he's too often leaning into the age of his character (although there are a couple of neat stunts). Mostly, this is an old-fashioned, '70s political thriller with solid direction by Campbell and good work from Brosnan. It's not overly memorable, but it's a more satisfactory rental than you may be expecting.
The Making of The Foreigner
This one also falls into the "gets the job done" for genre fans looking for something to rent. It's certainly better than the latest attempt to reboot the "Saw" franchise. The pitch is so simple that one wonders how no one thought of it before: "'Scream' meets 'Groundhog Day.'" A sorority girl ends a particularly rough day with her death and then wakes up that morning again and again and again, until she solves her own murder. Jessica Rothe's total commitment to the ridiculousness of the concept sells the film even if it loses its way tonally a few times. The Blu-ray is nicely loaded (horror films often get the best home treatment) with deleted scenes and even an alternate ending.
Cupcakes & Killers
You've Killed Me!
Tree's Final Walk of Shame
Worst Birthday Ever
Behind the Mask: The Suspects
The Many Deaths of Tree
"I, Daniel Blake" (Criterion)
Ken Loach makes dramas that are unapologetically blatant in their moral messaging. His latest is an angry call to fix a broken system, one that should provide a safety net for people who need it but so often lets them fall to the ground. Some critics considered it too manipulative, especially in its emotional final act, but I think it's one of Loach's best films, largely because of how well he directs his performers here, especially his leading man, Dave Johns. His face has haunted me since I've seen the film, that of a good man let down by a society that so often lets good men down. I'm happy to see this film in the Criterion collection, which will hopefully bring more people to it. God knows we could use a bit more compassion in 2018.
2K digital transfer, supervised by director Ken Loach, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 2016 featuring Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty
How to Make a Ken Loach Film, a 2016 documentary on the production of I, Daniel Blake
Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach, a 2016 documentary directed by Louise Osmond
PLUS: An essay by critic Girish Shambu
I didn't get a chance to catch up with this runaway train of an entertainment phenomenon until after it had already become a smash it and I thought it was ... OK? I'm still stunned that it made $700 million worldwide, and ranks as the highest-grossing horror film of all time. What happened? I think nostalgia has become a weaponized force in entertainment, and the generation that spends money on movies remembers the book and the TV original. Also, scary clowns strike an international chord. As for the movie, it misses something about truly being an outsider but it features a few solid young performances and some truly scary beats with Pennywise. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, but I'll NEVER figure out why they didn't get this thing out in time for the holiday season. It would have been under thousands of Christmas trees.
The Losers' Club
Author of Fear
While "It" made a fortune, Yorgos Lanthimos' latest just made people angry. I think the appearance of Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman in the ads made viewers expect something a bit more straightforward than this twisted thriller, a movie that works in a symbolic, exaggerated register more than a literal one. This story of a man who plays God being confronted by a kid who plays Devil reminds me of peak Roman Polanski, another filmmaker who loved paranoia and unexplainable fear. Farrell, Kidman, and Barry Keoghan are fantastic and it's a movie unlike any other that was released in 2017.
An Impossible Conundrum
Richard Linklater's latest didn't get the attention it deserved in theaters. It's a delicate sequel to "The Last Detail" that's really about being there for people when they need you. It's about compassion and understanding. And it features Linklater's gift for dialogue, coming out of the mouths of the great Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, and Laurence Fishburne. Yes, there are some beats in the film that are a bit too sitcomish, but this is a movie that will find an audience at home, recommended by friends and family members. You shouldn't miss it.
An Unexpected Journey: Making Last Flag FLying
"Professor Marston and the Wonder Women"
Did you know Wonder Woman had a kinky background? This loosely-historical drama centers on the man who created the timeless character and his, shall we say, unique private life. It's basically a story of polyamory as Dr. Marston (a charming Luke Evans) has a sexual and emotional relationship with both his wife (Rebecca Hall) and their girlfriend (Bella Heathcote). The film has taken some flack for playing loose with the facts, but it's a solid drama on its own terms, hampered a bit by a stupid flashback narrative structure, but featuring three totally charismatic and engaging performances at its center.
The Secret Identity of Charles Moulton Motion Comic
A Dynamic Trio: Birth of a Feminist Icon
A Crucial Point of View: Directing – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Who is Sappho?
"Thank You For Your Service"
If you see as many movies as I do, you start to tire of certain subgenres, and the story of the PTSD-addled soldier has been told so many times that I'm skeptical of what more can be cinematically added to it. Of course, treatment for PTSD in the real world is a subject we should be reminded of repeatedly, but that doesn't mean cinema can find a new way to tell it. And so I was surprised to be relatively impressed at the subtlety of Jason Hall's approach here in this quiet, character-driven film that eschews macho posturing for stories that feel true. This is not your typical patriotic, manipulative drama about soldiers, as Hall allows his characters to tell the story. It's not a great film, but it's certainly a good one, and proof that there are still PTSD stories to tell.
Staging a War
The Battle at Home
"Young Mr. Lincoln" (Criterion)
How and when Criterion chooses to release their films has always fascinated me and I have to wonder if launching this John Ford classic in the same month as Donald Trump's first SOTU wasn't coincidental. Here's a real leader, and here's a lesson about tolerance and understanding that we could all use to start 2018. The transfer of Ford's gentle, excellent film is perfect, coming from a new 4K restoration. The scene in which Henry Fonda's Lincoln talks down an angry mob is one of my favorites in the history of both the actor and director. And the Criterion release includes a hefty list of special features, including a new commentary and archival interviews. Someone should see if Trump is willing to watch it.
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New audio commentary featuring film scholar Joseph McBride (Searching for John Ford: A Life)
Omnibus: “John Ford,” part one: filmmaker Lindsay Anderson’s profile of the life and work of director John Ford before World War II
Talk show appearance by actor Henry Fonda from 1975
Audio interviews from the seventies with Ford and Fonda, conducted by the director’s grandson Dan Ford
Academy Award radio dramatization of the film
PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and an homage to Ford by filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein
The 2020 Oscar nominations.
A review of Netflix's Dracula, from the creators of Sherlock.
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.