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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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Ballad of Narayama

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Home Entertainment Consumer Guide: March 1, 2018

6 NEW TO NETFLIX

"Born to Be Blue"
"The Breadwinner"
"Lincoln"
"A Perfect Day
"Veronica"
"Wind River"

8 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD

"An Actor's Revenge" (Criterion)

Kon Ichikawa's work isn't as widely recognized as a lot of legendary Japanese filmmakers but he worked for seven decades in film, getting his break with Toho in the '40s, where he met Natto Wada, who would become his wife and major screen collaborator. She worked with Ichikawa in the '50s and first half of the '60s, which would be his most artistically renowned period, and from which Criterion reaches into film history and pulls out 1963's "An Actor's Revenge." The story was so popular in Japan that it had already been made in 1935 (released in some countries as "The Revenge of Yukinojo") and has been produced since, including an opera version. It's easy to see why it's been so timeless. The narrative contains Shakespearan degrees of vengeance. Three men kill a boy's parents; the boy grows up to be an actor who becomes an onnagata, someone who plays female roles, allowing for a greater degree of disguise. His theatre troupe goes to the village where the murderers live, and, well, you see the title. I love it when Criterion moves outside of the comfort zone of known masters like Kurosawa to introduce a film to people who may think they're particularly familiar with the period, but have yet to experience the work of someone like Ichikawa. 

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Special Features
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Rare 1999 Directors Guild of Japan interview with director Kon Ichikawa, conducted by film critic Yuki Mori
New interview with critic, filmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Sragow and a 1955 article by Ichikawa on the beginnings of his work in an anamorphic widescreen format

"Coco"

There are less locks for Sunday's Oscars than most years but the winner for Best Animated Film is pretty secure (and probably Best Song too if "The Greatest Showman" doesn't pull off an upset). The truth is that "Coco" came along just as people were wondering what on Earth could possibly win this year, one that wasn't particularly kind to fans of animated cinema. Then came "Coco." Some have complained that the template for "Coco" is a little boilerplate and they're not totally wrong, but I'd like more movies that feel built on the template of Ghibli and less that are so clearly designed to sell marketing tie-ins and toys. "Coco" may be familiar, but it's also culturaly specific, heartfelt, and moving. And it's a gorgeous movie, full of the colors and vibrancy of the people it captures. Finally, it's notably more moving than any animated film in a long time. Try not to cry in the final act. And it's those well-earned tears that are likely to win it another Oscar for Pixar. Oh, finally, the Blu-ray is typical-for-Disney gorgeous with vibrant HD and loads of special features, including deleted scenes and a commentary. It's a must-have for Disney fans.

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Special Features
Deleted Scenes with Introductions
Filmmaker Commentary – Presented by Lee Unkrich (director), Adrian Molina (co-director) and Darla K. Anderson (producer)
The Music of “Coco” 
Paths to Pixar: “Coco” 
Welcome to the Fiesta 
How to Draw a Skeleton 
A Thousand Pictures a Day 
Mi Familia 
Land of Our Ancestors 
Fashion Through the Ages 
The Real Guitar 
Dante 
How to Make Papel Picado 
Un Poco “Coco” 
“Coco Trailers” 

"Darkest Hour"

My least favorite Best Picture nominee of 2017 comes home just in time for you to catch up before Gary Oldman's inevitable win on Sunday night. Honestly, I'm so baffled by my lack of connection to "Darkest Hour" that I've seen it three times in an effort to connect with it. I love Joe Wright's work and consider "Atonement" and "Hanna" woefully underrated. I love Gary Oldman and long-considered him the best actor without an Oscar. And I love historical dramas more than most. But I find the approach here distancing and artificial; stagey instead of genuine; overwrought instead of moving. I understand that I'm in the minority and so include it here for those who love it more than I do to know it's out and get a copy of their own. Maybe the fourth time will be the charm for me.

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Special Features
Into Darkest Hour
Gary Oldman: Becoming Churchill
Feature Commentary with Director Joe Wright

"The Florida Project"

Sean Baker's "The Florida Project" was robbed of a deserving Oscar nomination on Sunday for Best Picture, and arguably a few other categories too. Who knows? Maybe this is the best thing for the movie long-term as Oscar snubs sometimes find a way of growing in esteem more than the films the Academy recognizes. Less over-exposure and room for backlash, I suppose. Whatever the case, "The Florida Project" will stand the test of time as one of 2017's best films, a movie I've seen several times now and admired more with every viewing. It's such a delicate, perfect snapshot of life in a part of the country rarely captured in cinema. The performances, the design, the direction—it all works in perfect conjunction. And it contains perhaps my favorite line of the year when young Moonee fails to grasp that she's really describing herself as she says, "You know why this is my favorite tree? 'Cause it's tipped over, and it's still growing."

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Special Features
Featurette: Under the Rainbow: Making The Florida Project
Bloopers and Outtakes
Cast and Crew Interviews

"The Hero" (Criterion)

Roger Ebert introduced me to Satyajit Ray with his loud adoration of the "The Apu Trilogy," three films that helped redefine modern cinema in the late '50s. In school and just by osmosis, I learned a great deal about people like Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, but it feels like Ray's work is still underappreciated, likely because of the part of the world from which he hailed. Even his films outside of "The Apu Trilogy" are rarely discussed, and so praise to Criterion for continuing to expose people to his work by remastering a film he made a decade later, the fascinating "The Hero," also known as "Nayak." The story of a man on a 24-hour train to receive a national award retains Ray's humanism and attention to setting and detail via flashbacks. It won a Special Jury Award at Berlin.

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Special Features
New, restored 2K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New program featuring an interview from 2008 with actor Sharmila Tagore
New program featuring film scholar Meheli Sen
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by author Pico Iyer and a 1980 tribute to actor Uttam Kumar by director Satyajit Ray

"Murder on the Orient Express"

An entirely different kind of train trip unfolds in Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of the Agatha Christie classic that's been told so many times before that most mystery fans know its ins and outs by heart. Here's where I have to admit a few things: I adore a great mystery and Christie wrote some of the best. I also have a weird soft-spot for the kind of star-studded ensemble pics they used to make more in the '70s (think Irwin Allen works like "The Towering Inferno" and "The Poseidon Adventure") and this flick has a dozen recognizable faces in it, all of whom appear to be having a blast. No, it's not a perfect Christie flick (Branagh seems almost too in love with his own Poirot) but it looks great and retains much of the Christie energy that has made this such a timeless tale.

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Special Features
Agatha Christie: An Intimate Portrait
Let's Talk About Hercule Poirot
Unusual Suspects (Part One, Two and Three)
The Art of Murder
All Aboard: Filming Murder on the Orient Express
Music of Murder
Deleted Scenes (with and without Commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Michael Green)
Director commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Michael Green
Theatrical Trailers
Gallery

"Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri"

And here we come to the most controversial and divisive Oscar nominee of 2017. People have asked me what I thought of the backlash since my 4-star review posted at TIFF almost six months ago and I've encouraged them to listen to alternate takes as well as mine. I wrote my review and I stand by it. I think this is a film that doesn't present the redemption arc that some people think it does (and I think that's the main difference between the pro and con takes), and that it's purposefully messy and unresolved in a way that really works. I also adore the performances, particularly from McDormand and Rockwell, both of whom probably have Oscar speeches ready for Sunday. However, I'm also eager to hear the other side and there has been some GREAT writing about this movie's failings. What I really don't understand is the need for us all to agree, negatively or positively, about a movie like this one, or any one really. Who would really want that? So while I still like "Three Billboards," and happen to think that a lot of people will come around on it in the future, I'm also happy to see that the movie has sparked discussion and some really great writing on both sides of the debate. Honestly, I wish more movies got people this fired up.

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Special Features
Crucify 'Em: The Making of Three Billboards
Six Shooter (Short Film)

"Tom Jones" (Criterion)

It almost feels like a bit of a joke to release "Tom Jones" so close to the Oscars given its reputation as one of the, shall we say, lesser films to win the big prize for Best Picture. Until "A Beautiful Mind" won, my answer was typically this movie (or "Gigi") when people asked me the worst movie to win Best Picture. (Yes, I hate the Ron Howard movie. "The King's Speech" too, as long as we're talking bad Best Pictures.) But "Tom Jones" was no mere flash on Oscar night. It also won Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, with Tony Richardson beating Otto Preminger and Federico Fellini and the film beating "Cleopatra," "Lilies of the Field," and "How the West Was Won." Heck, the masterful "Hud" wasn't even nominated. Back to "Tom Jones," a movie that's better than I remembered but still not my favorite, but not everything in the Criterion vault can be everyone's favorite and this is a lavish release for those who love it, complete with a 4K restoration, new interviews, and archival material. Maybe "Three Billboards" will get a Criterion treatment like this in 50 years. Or "A Beautiful Mind."

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Special Features
New 4K digital restorations of the original theatrical version of the film and the 1989 director’s cut, both supervised by director of photography Walter Lassally, with uncompressed monaural and stereo soundtracks on the Blu-ray
New program on the film’s cinematography featuring Lassally
New interview with film scholar Duncan Petrie on the movie’s impact on British cinema
Excerpt from a 1982 episode of The Dick Cavett Show featuring actor Albert Finney
New interview with actor Vanessa Redgrave on her former husband, director Tony Richardson
Illustrated archival audio interview with composer John Addison on his Oscar-winning score for the film
New interview with the editor of the director’s cut, Robert Lambert
PLUS: An essay by film scholar Neil Sinyard

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