A wild whirlwind of a mess, without any coherence, without even a guiding principle.
10 NEW TO NETFLIX
7 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
"The Bird with the Crystal Plumage"
Even being a rather big fan of Dario Argento's work, I hadn't seen his breakthrough 1970 film in decades, and was warned that it was more of a "minor" work. This is true only if you consider the incredible heights to which he would rise, because this is a fantastic film. His eye for composition was already there, especially in the opening murder sequence, but also throughout in more casual, "average" scenes that he somehow finds a way to frame like an artist. Critics who consider this minor probably focus too much on how it's more plot-heavy than Argento's best films, but I would argue it's more "major" than you remember. And Arrow's box for it is typically phenomenal for this incredible company, from the gorgeous cover art to the booklet to the copious special features, many of them brand new. This is one of the better Blu-ray releases of the season.
Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
The Power of Perception, a new visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Devil s Advocates: Suspiria and-Revenge Films: A Critical Study
New analysis of the film by critic Kat Ellinger
New interview with writer/director Dario Argento
New interview with actor Gildo Di Marco (Garullo the pimp)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp
Limited edition 60-page booklet illustrated by Matthew Griffin, featuring an appreciation of the film by Michael Mackenzie, and new writing by Howard Hughes and Jack Seabrook
"John Wick: Chapter 2"
2014's "John Wick" was a true sleeper hit, a film that did well with critics and brought in almost $90 million worldwide on a $20 million budget. Its fanbase grew even fuller on DVD and Blu-ray, with fans almost demanding a sequel, delivered earlier this year in a way that almost exactly doubled the worldwide gross of the first film. John Wick is a rare action movie franchise loved by both viewers and critics (as we read so often lately, there's often a divide). Why is that? There's a beautiful simplicity to these films captured in their long action sequences of handheld combat and "gun fu," often shot in a way that you can actually tell what's going on. These films also fully embrace the mystical maverick persona of their leading man, Keanu Reeves. As for this movie specifically, it gets a little too talky in the first half regarding the mythology of this hitman universe, but when it's pumping the adrenaline it really works. I eagerly await Chapter 3.
RetroWick: Exploring the Unexpected Success of John Wick
Training John Wick
Friends, Confidantes: The Keanu/Chad Parternership
As Above, So Below: The Underworld of John Wick
Cap Fu Ride-Along
Chamber Check: Evolution of a Fight Scene
Wick's Tool Box
Dog Wick Short
Audio Commentary by Keanu Reeves and Director Chad Stahelski
"The Lawnmower Man"
It's funny to me how much nostalgia can elevate mediocrity. Scream Factory has turned this into an art, releasing lavish Blu-ray sets for films that were virtually laughed off the screen when they were first released. It creates a unique sense of false equivalency when films like "Poltergeist III" get the same treatment as "The Thing." "The Lawnmower Man" is an undeniably awful film. It's poorly written, acted, and directed, and yet you'd never know it from this release, one designed primarily for people who were young enough when it first came out to remember it through the rose-colored lenses of history. The transfer is great, the special features are great, the whole release is great—well, except for the movie itself.
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Brett Leonard and Writer/Producer Gimel Everett
Vintage Interviews with The Cast
Edited Animated Sequences
New "Cybergod: Creating the Lawmower Man" - Featuring Interviews with Brett Leonard, Actor Fahey, Editor Alan Baumgarten and More...
Audio Commentary with Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett
Behind-the-Scenes and Production Stills
"The LEGO Batman Movie"
As much as Marvel and Disney have come to dominate the entertainment landscape, trust me when I tell you that "The LEGO Movie" was just the beginning. They're gonna pump these out for years, including two in 2017 alone. "The LEGO Ninjago Movie" comes out later this year, and February's "The LEGO Batman Movie" is on Blu-ray for the rainy days this summer when your kids can't get outside. I think some of this high-energy entertainment gets a little too manic for its own good, but it's a mostly smart script delivered by a great cast of voice actors. Heck, I think it's the best Batman movie since "The Dark Knight," probably, although take that for what you will. Most of all, I love how much this film embraces the entirety of the mythology of its character, even paying homage to the Adam West and Tim Burton versions that paved the way for the Nolan and Snyder reboots. It's Batman's world. We just live in it.
4 New Original Animated Shorts
4 Deleted Scenes
"The Marseille Trilogy" (Criterion)
The first of three recent Criterion releases in this week's column is the most lavish, a three-disc Blu-ray set of the recent restorations by Janus Films of Marcel Pagnol's breakthrough films. Jumping from the stage to the screen in 1931, Pagnol adapted his hit play "Marius," and then used that as a jumping off point for two more films, 1932's "Fanny" and 1936's "Cesar." The recent 4K restorations of all three films are included here, along with an introduction that emphasizes their importance by the master Bertrand Tavernier, the subject of this weekend's "My Journey Through French Cinema." As with many of their multi-film box sets, Criterion pulls out all the stops when it comes to bonus material, mixing a large amount of archival material, including a 1935 documentary about the city of Marseille and its harbor, with new special features. It's a great box set for fans of French cinema.
New 4K digital restorations of all three films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays
New introduction by filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier
New interview with Nicolas Pagnol, grandson of writer-director Marcel Pagnol
Segments from Marcel Pagnol: Morceaux choisis, a 1973 documentary series on Pagnol’s life and work
Marseille, a short 1935 documentary about the Marseille harbor produced by Pagnol
Archival interviews with actors Orane Demazis, Pierre Fresnay, and Robert Vattier
Pagnol’s Poetic Realism, a new video essay by scholar Brett Bowles
French television clip from 2015 about the restoration of the trilogy
Theatrical rerelease trailer
New English subtitle translations
PLUS: PLUS: An essay by film critic Michael Atkinson and excerpts from Pagnol’s introductions to his plays and screenplays
"They Live by Night" (Criterion)
Nicholas Ray's "In a Lonely Place" has become a widely-discussed classic in recent years. It's one of those films that keeps popping up on lists of the best films of all time, and was given the Criterion treatment already. This year, they opened the vault and restored Ray's first film, a movie I like even more, the lyrical and somber "They Live by Night." Made in 1948 from the book Thieves Like Us, Ray's film has all the elements of noir, particularly in the way it captures a criminal underworld desperate for attention in post-WWII America, but it doesn't fall into many of the stylistic trappings of the genre. There's a grit to it and a naturalism that became essential to Ray's work. Some of it gets a little overly sentimental, but there's a truth to this film, a sense that this was a movie about outsiders made BY an outsider, that you don't always see in the noir genre. It's a great movie.
New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary featuring film historian Eddie Muller and actor Farley Granger
New video interview with film critic Imogen Sara Smith
Short piece from 2007 with film critic Molly Haskell, filmmakers Christopher Coppola and Oliver Stone, and film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini
Illustrated audio interview excerpts from 1956 with producer John Houseman
PLUS: A new essay by film scholar Bernard Eisenschitz
Finally, there's "Ugetsu," which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 1953, at a point at which its director, Kenji Mizoguchi, was already very well-respected in the industry, particularly by peers such as Akira Kurosawa. It would be one of the filmmaker's last works, and is now regarded as an essential movie in the history of Japanese cinema. Not that long after the end of World War II, here was a notable Japanese filmmaker addressing the ethics of war through the lens of tales by Akinari Ueda about two men who leave their families to fight. How much must we give up in war? And how much do we lose when we fight? With his signature long takes, "Ugetsu" helped bring Japanese cinema to the rest of the world, and his essential film has been treated as such by Criterion, giving it a fantastic restoration and solid collection of special features. They first released the film on DVD years ago, but this is its first time on Criterion Blu-ray.
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary by critic, ﬁlmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns
Kenji Mizoguchi: The Life of a Film Director, a 1975 documentary by Kaneto Shindo
Two Worlds Intertwined, a 2005 appreciation of Ugetsu by Masahiro Shinoda
Process and Production, a 2005 interview with Tokuzo Tanaka, ﬁrst assistant director on Ugetsu
Interview from 1992 with cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa
An essay by film critic Phillip Lopate (Blu-ray and DVD) and three short stories that influenced Mizoguchi in making the film (Blu-ray only)
The 2020 Oscar nominations.
A collection of the reviews given our highest possible grade in 2019.
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.