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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Home Entertainment Consumer Guide: February 21, 2019

4 NEW TO NETFLIX

"The 40-Year-Old Virgin"
"Little Women"
"We the Animals"
"Zodiac"

8 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD

"Audition"

There's a moment in Takashi Miike's masterful "Audition" that is forever burned in my mind. I remember it so vividly for two reasons. One, what it reveals is so stunningly terrifying that it's a jump scare that honestly earns its jump. Two, it's a beautiful example of Miike's visual ability, framing Asami in the center and what will then steal our focus in the background. "Audition" is one of Miike's best films, a movie that almost seems ahead of its time now in its dissection of the way in which a widower underestimates a young woman that he meets. Arrow, who have two in this week's column, opening and closing it, have restored Miike's great film and included a new commentary by Miike biographer Tom Mes, and a brand-new interview with film's hardest-working director. 

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Special Features
Brand new 2K restoration of original vault elements
Original 5.1 Dolby Surround Audio
Optional English subtitles
Audio commentary with director Takashi Miike and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan
Brand new commentary by Miike biographer Tom Mes examining the film and its source novel
Introduction by Miike
Ties that Bind – A brand new interview with Takashi Miike
Interviews with stars Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Renji Ishibashi and Ren Osugi
Damaged Romance: An appreciation by Japanese cinema historian Tony Rayns
Trailers
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

"Berlin Alexanderplatz" (Criterion)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder made more films than he had years on this Earth. One can only imagine what he would have produced if he hadn't died so young, especially when one considers the breadth of genres and cinematic styles in the films he did produce. Fassbinder is an interesting filmmaker in that he's still relatively unknown to a lot of young movie lovers, especially in comparison to other German New Wave masters like Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders, but he's absolutely beloved by those who do know his work. His monumental achievement, the 15-hour mini-series based on the world-famous 1929 novel of the same name, has now been given the Criterion Blu-ray treatment. It may not get the same attention as their Ingmar Bergman set, but this is an essential release, the most ambitious work by one of film's most ambitious filmmakers.

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Special Features
High-definition digital restoration by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation and Bavaria Media, supervised and approved by director of photography Xaver Schwarzenberger, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
Two documentaries by Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation president Juliane Lorenz: one from 2007 featuring interviews with the cast and crew, the other from 2006 on the restoration
Hans-Dieter Hartl’s 1980 documentary Notes on the Making of “Berlin Alexanderplatz”
Phil Jutzi’s 1931 feature-length film of Alfred Döblin’s novel, from a screenplay cowritten by Döblin himself
Interview from 2007 with Peter Jelavich, author of “Berlin Alexanderplatz”: Radio, Film, and the Death of Weimar Culture
PLUS: A book featuring an essay by filmmaker Tom Tykwer, reflections on the novel by Fassbinder and author Thomas Steinfeld, and an interview with Schwarzenberger

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"Bohemian Rhapsody"

What more is there to say about the massively successful and critically controversial film that was kind of directed by Bryan Singer and will almost certainly win Rami Malek an Oscar on Sunday? The divide between critics and audiences on this one has been fascinating to watch. Most critics agree this is superficial, paint-by-numbers filmmaking. Most fans of Queen don't seem to care. For them, their love of the music transcends any sort of filmmaking flaws. It's fascinating to consider how this movie works that way. It can revise history and superficially consider Freddie Mercury, but it gets at what people like about Queen: The Music. My concern is that the massive success of "Bohemian Rhapsody" will almost certainly lead to more music movies like it: films that know that as long as they present an artist's greatest hits, then viewers won't care if they don't learn a single thing about the actual artist. 

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Special Features
The Complete Live Aid Movie Performance Not Seen in Theaters
Rami Malek: Becoming Freddie
The Look and Sound of Queen
Recreating Live Aid

"Death in Venice" (Criterion)

Luchino Visconti's most personal film is the fourth of the Italian filmmaker's inducted into the Criterion collection (after "Senso," "Le notti bianche," and "The Leopard"). When classic films are released by Criterion, it can be interesting to go back and look at a young Roger Ebert's writing about the film being released. In 1971, Ebert, then in his late twenties, was disappointed in "Death in Venice," and I have to say my response to the film now on Criterion is somewhat similar. Ebert's disappointment comes from how he felt Visconti altered the source material, a Thomas Mann novel that Ebert clearly loved. He argued that Visconti lost the "philosophical content" of the film, buried in "heavy-handed flashbacks." Interestingly, he still admires Visconti's work enough to give it 2.5 stars. 

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Special Features
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Luchino Visconti: Life as in a Novel, a 2008 documentary about the director, featur­ing Visconti; actors Burt Lancaster, Silvana Mangano, and Marcello Mastroianni; filmmakers Francesco Rosi and Franco Zeffirelli; and others
Alla ricerca di Tadzio, a 1970 short film by Visconti about his efforts to cast the role of Tadzio
New program featuring literature and cinema scholar Stefano Albertini
Interview from 2006 with costume designer Piero Tosi
Excerpt from a 1990 program about the music in Visconti’s films, featuring Bogarde and actor Marisa Berenson
Interview with Visconti from 1971
Visconti’s Venice, a short 1970 behind-the-scenes documentary featuring Visconti and Bogarde
Trailer
PLUS: An essay by critic Dennis Lim

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"La Verite" (Criterion)

I absolutely adore Henri-Georges Clouzot's "Diabolique" and "The Wages of Fear," and so I was eager to watch a courtroom thriller from the masterful filmmaker for the first time. And starring Brigitte Bardot? Sign me up. The truth is that "La Verite" is minor for both Clouzot and Bardot, a sometimes-fascinating but often dramatically flat story of a woman named Dominique who has basically been misunderstood by everyone around her. Dominique is gorgeous, and Clouzot certainly knew how to use Bardot's sexuality, but most people in her life refuse to look below the beauty and judge her morally for just being herself. Despite my issues with some of the pacing of the film, it's undeniably well-constructed and an interesting chapter in Bardot's career, especially with the controversy surrounding its release when Bardot attempted suicide. 

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Special Features
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Le scandale Clouzot, a sixty-minute documentary from 2017 on director Henri-Georges Clouzot
Interview from 1960 with Clouzot
Interview with actor Brigitte Bardot from the 1982 documentary Brigitte Bardot telle qu’elle
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: An essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau

"Overlord"

Gritty and gory, "Overlord" may be the most video game-esque movie of 2018, a title that reminded this gamer of the "Resident Evil" and "Wolfenstein" franchises. So why isn't it more fun? I moderately enjoyed "Overlord" enough to include it in this week's column, especially if you need a break from Oscar bait and Criterion titles, but I'd be lying if I didn't wish it was a little more goofy. I wanted more early Peter Jackson or Sam Raimi, filmmakers who leaned into the ridiculousness of their concepts and elevated their films with ingenuity and wit. Those elements are lacking in "Overlord," a film that takes itself too seriously for a movie about Nazi zombies. Having said that, the best thing about "Overlord" may be how much I expect and hope that Wyatt Russell and Jovan Adepo are going to be stars. I also have to say that the sound mix on this Blu-ray is INSANE. All of the effects are turned up to 11, leading to the first movie in recent memory that my wife had to ask me to turn down. Of course, movies about Nazi zombies should be loud. 

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Special Features
The Horrors of War - Featurettes
Creation
Death Above
Death on the Ground
Death Below
Death No More
Brothers in Arms

"A Star is Born"

Remember when it looked like "A Star is Born" was going to race through awards season like a wildfire? It didn't quite happen although one has to wonder if that's not a good thing for the movie's legacy. Bradley Cooper's very entertaining directorial debut still has legions of loyal fans who don't care if it ever won any awards. To be as cheesy as this movie can be, it won their hearts. The most disappointing thing is actually that this is such a lackluster Blu-ray in terms of special features, including some extended musical numbers and music videos, but not much else. Maybe there will be a special edition after it wins Best Picture. Yes, it's still possible. 

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Special Features
Jam Sessions and Rarities
"Baby What You Want Me To Do"
"Midnight Special"
"Is That Alright"
The Road to Stardom: Making A Star is Born
Music Videos
"Shallow"
"Always Remember Us This Way"
"Look What I Found"
"I'll Never Love Again"
Optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles for the main feature

"Waterworld"

God bless Arrow. God bless any company willing to devote so much time and effort to really provide something special to their customers, which is exactly what Arrow does with special editions like this insane, 3-disc package for a movie that time has generally forgotten. I'm old enough to remember when "Waterworld" was going to be the next big thing, the new franchise to end all franchises. It cost a fortune, starred an Oscar-winning household name, and featured a brave new vision. And then it came out. But this isn't about the actual movie "Waterworld" as much as this phenomenal release, which includes the theatrical cut, a 40-minute longer cut that aired on TV, and then an even-longer "Ulysses" cut which basically blends the first two so you get the longer version without the TV edits. And all of them look incredible, remastered in HD that makes the blue water pop. Not enough? There's also a feature-length documentary about the movie. God bless Arrow.

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Special Features
Three cuts of the film newly restored from original film elements by Arrow Films
Original 5.1 DTSHD Master Audio and 2.0 stereo audio options
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Six collector’s postcards
Double-sided fold-out poster
Limited edition 60-page perfect bound book featuring new writing on the film by David J. Moore and Daniel Griffith, and archival articles
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper
Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld, an all-new, feature-length making-of documentary including extensive cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes footage
Dances With Waves, an original archival featurette capturing the film’s production
Global Warnings, film critic Glenn Kenny explores the subgenre of ecologically themed end-of-the-world films
Production and promotional stills gallery
Visual effects stills gallery
Original trailers and TV spots

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