A wild whirlwind of a mess, without any coherence, without even a guiding principle.
10 NEW TO NETFLIX
6 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
Alex Garland's "Annihilation" is undeniably one of the most "essential" films of 2018. What I mean by that is that it's a film that movie lovers need to see because it created enough conversation about the current landscape of the medium that it's key to understanding it. First, there was the controversial decision by Paramount to sell it off to Netflix in international markets. Then there was the relative box office failure despite rapturous critical praise. Before it even hit DVD, it felt like the film was a beloved cult item, with groups of fans going to see it in theaters before it left. Now it's on Blu-ray, where I have to admit it looks AMAZING. The fact is that it looks better on my 4K player than it did in the mediocre chain theater in which I saw it. And this is the perfect film to rewatch and appreciate in new ways. I have a feeling it's a movie we'll be writing about and considering for months to come.
Part 1 – SOUTHERN REACH
Refractions – See how director Alex Garland created the tone, textures and color palettes for the various film environments on set.
For Those That Follow – Listen to the cast's perspective on their roles and learn why they found the story so intriguing.
Part 2 – AREA X
Shimmer – See how filmmakers transformed real set locations to create the world of Annihilation.
Vanished into Havoc – Check out all the action as cast and crew walk you through the mind-blowing stunts and special effects.
Part 3 – TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
Unfathomable Mind – Learn why the visual effects are integral to achieving director Alex Garland's overall vision for Annihilation.
The Last Phase – Listen to the cast and crew share their fondest memories from filming Annihilation.
"Au Hasard Balthazar" (Criterion)
When I was asked a couple months ago to find reviews of films by Roger Ebert that reflected empathy, I considered it a treat to go through so many of his best pieces searching for that theme. In doing so, I came upon Roger's Great Movies review of Bresson's classic "Au Hasard Balthazar." If you have not yet done so, you owe it to yourself to read it. Roger writes, "They regard, and ask us to regard along with them, and to arrive at conclusions about their characters that are our own. This is the cinema of empathy." He then goes into detail about Bresson's approach to cinema, shooting takes dozens of times to drain it of artifice and focus on the action of the moment. Get the new Criterion Blu-ray upgrade, read Roger's review, and appreciate further how Bresson impacted cinema, and how Roger impacted the way we write about it.
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Interview from 2004 with film scholar Donald Richie
“Un metteur en ordre: Robert Bresson,” a 1966 French television program about the film, featuring director Robert Bresson, filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Louis Malle, and members of Au hasard Balthazar’s cast and crew
Plus: An essay by film scholar James Quandt
Cover by Sarah Habibi
"Gringo" meanders into subplots just when it needs to tighten up, but there's a remarkable ensemble in this mediore dark comedy, which includes fantastic performance from Charlize Theron as an ice queen of a corporation under siege. The problem with "Gringo" is that Theron is so good that she steals focus from David Oyelowo's genial dope, who is well-played but not well-written. Still, they don't make a lot of adult comedies like this any more, and a chance to spend a couple hours with Theron, Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Thandie Newton, and Sharlto Copley makes it worth a mild reccomendation for a rental.
The Making of Gringo - Featurette
Who is Harold? - Featurette
The Stunts of Gringo - Featurette
Filming Gringo in Mexico - Featurette
Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature
"Midnight Cowboy" (Criterion)
John Schlesinger's award-winning drama is such a memorable snapshot of an era that it has come to define it. Anyone over 40 can't see a man in a cowboy hat in New York City and not think of Jon Voight, or cross the street and nearly get hit by a car and quote Dustin Hoffman. It's one of those films that really tapped into something not just about the era in which it was made but where we were going as a culture. It's really a modern take on the country mouse in the city, but the city is now deadly dangerous and a place where people can get lost and forgotten forever. Few films have done as remarkable a job of being a bridge from one arguably-naive era to a more cynical look at the future to which we were all headed as this one. It's a movie that always makes me notably sad, despite such great work by Voight and Hoffman.
New 4K digital restoration, approved by cinematographer Adam Holender, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Alternate 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
Audio commentary from 1991 featuring director John Schlesinger and producer Jerome Hellman
New video essay with commentary by Holender
New photo gallery with commentary by photographer Michael Childers
The Crowd Around the Cowboy, a 1969 short film made on location for Midnight Cowboy
Waldo Salt: A Screenwriter’s Journey, an Academy Award–nominated documentary from 1990 by Eugene Corr and Robert Hillmann
Two short documentaries from 2004 on the making and release of Midnight Cowboy
Interview with actor Jon Voight on The David Frost Show from 1970
Voight’s original screen test
Interview from 2000 with Schlesinger for BAFTA Los Angeles
Excerpts from the 2002 BAFTA Los Angeles tribute to Schlesinger
PLUS: An essay by critic Mark Harris
Quality Movie You Probably Haven't Seen Alert! Focus kind of bobbled the release of this great little thriller, a movie that should have been a word-of-mouth hit but barely made a dent at all in theaters. If you like dark comedies like "Heathers," this is your jam, a razor-sharp, socially-smart thriller about two young ladies who conspire to kill someone. Olivia Cooke does her best work to date as Amanda, the more sociopathic of the two, and a woman who befirends Anya Taylor-Joy's Lily. They're both great, as is Anton Yelchin in one of his final performances, but this is really startling as a writing/directing debut by Cory Finley. Keep an eye on him.
The Look of Thoroughbreds - Featurette
Claire Foy's performance in Steven Soderbergh's thriller remains one of the best of the year, and will be so in another six months as well. It's a fearless turn, especially given the fact that he's not allowed many of the tricks and crutches used by actors due to the intimacy created by Soderbergh's iPhone camera. We are right there with Foy as she goes through the psychological and physical challenges of the story of a woman on the edge of sanity, unsure if she's being stalked or going crazy. This is one of many Soderbergh films that I expect time will catch up to, especially as his status as one of the best living American filmmakers continues to rise. Hopefully, at some point in the future, it gets a better Blu-ray treatment than this quickie job by Universal, almost entirely bereft of special features.
Unsanity - Featurette
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.