Solo: A Star Wars Story
An engaging but unnecessary bit of backstory for one of blockbuster cinema's most beloved characters.
We're here with a focused, extensive Home Entertainment Consumer Guide that ignores VOD and streaming services like Netflix to focus on new Blu-ray and DVD releases. There are so many of them and the streaming services are dominated with shows like Netflix's "House of Cards" and Amazon's "Bosch." Want to see a new movie? You're gonna have to go Blu-ray, DVD, or rental cost on services like iTunes or Vudu. And there are some GOOD ones this week, including two major Oscar winners, a film that feels to me like an instant classic, a movie that really sparked the #OscarsSoWhite conversation, a couple of star-powered misfires, the Emmy winner for Best Drama, and a couple of Criterion releases. I usually say "pick your favorite," but you're going to have to pick more than one this week.
11 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
I'm one of those critics who considers it shameful that this film wasn't nominated for Best Picture or Best Director, and that it walked with a grand total of zero wins (it should have taken Costume Design, Score, and Supporting Actress at the least). With "Mad Max: Fury Road" and Christian Petzold's "Phoenix," I consider it on the top tier of 2015's films. As several people smarter than me have noted, perhaps the best thing that could have happened to "Carol" is its relative awards season snubbing. As depressingly predictable backlashes to "Spotlight" and "The Revenant" have proven, success breeds hatred. And, in the end, who really cares about awards, right? "Carol" is a dream for those of us who worship craft. Every look, every costume, every bit of production design, every one of Ed Lachman's stunning angles, every musical note—it all works in conjunction to create a mood, and a piece of art. "Carol" is a film that people will be watching long after they forgot what won Best Picture this year. I can guarantee you that.
Q&A with Cast and Filmmakers
Behind the Scenes Gallery
After being snubbed for what I consider an at-least-equal performance in "Short Term 12," Brie Larson took home the Oscar for this adaptation of Emma Donoghue's hit book. The story of a woman, known primarily as "Ma," and her son Jack (naturally fascinating future star Jacob Tremblay), who is trapped in the only room he's ever known, is a brilliant showcase of Larson's talent and range. This is especially true in the second half of the film, in which her recovery becomes a surprisingly internal journey and Larson never drops character. She's a wonderfully responsive actress, the kind of person who seems to be listening, thinking, and feeling something we only see in her eyes. I think she's better than the film overall and that Lenny Abrahamson misses a few beats in the second half, but this is still an excellent drama and the announcement that Larson is one of the best actresses of her generation.
Audio Commentary with Director Lenny Abrahamson & Crew
I've felt like a bit of a Scrooge this Oscar season for only "liking" Adam McKay's dramedy about the financial collapse that created rubble and debris we're still sorting through. While I admire the performances in "The Big Short," especially Steve Carell (who I would argue deserved the nomination over Christian Bale, if anyone did), and appreciate how McKay distilled a complex subject into something entertaining, there's a manic over-direction to "The Big Short" that irks me. A visual style that sometimes looks as shaky as a "Bourne" movie; at least one celebrity aside too many (I'm looking at you, Bourdain); too-obvious music choices like "Crazy" when dangerous realtors are being interviewedall of these don't make the subject easier to understand as much as they talk down to the audience. Again, I like "The Big Short." You should see it. It's totally entertaining. I just think history will prove it to have been a tick overrated. Although if a movie about a subject as important as this one gets too much praise, there are worse things that happen in Hollywood.
In the Tranches: Casting
The Big Leap: Adam McKay
Unlikely Heroes: The Characters of "The Big Short"
The House of Cards: The Rise of the Fall
Getting Real: Recreating an Era
Director Ryan Coogler is for real. With just two films, he's shaken up the film industry, winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for "Fruitvale Station" and astounding audiences and critics with this unexpectedly powerful update to the "Rocky" franchise. Oh, actor Michael B. Jordan is also for real, and it's no coincidence that he has been in both Coogler films. These two young men are talented, passionate, creative voices in Hollywood, and that's why their complete dismissal by the Academy this year hurt so much. It wasn't just that the Oscars ignored diversity, but that they had such striking options to change that trajectory with this film and "Straight Outta Compton." Again, and this column may feel like a broken record, history has a way of correcting these oversights. The next generation will be stunned that "Creed" only got one Oscar nomination and didn't win anything. "Creed" is for real.
Know the Past, Own the Future
"Game of Thrones: Season Five"
HBO continues to lead the way when it comes to TV on Blu-ray. In fact, I think it's helped their reputation as the leading force in Peak TV, as collectors have snatched up extras-laden packages for their best shows, diving into how they're made and deepening the experience. HBO is to TV Blu-ray as Criterion is to film. The HD quality is better than anyone else, and the special features are ridiculous. Look at that list below. Audio commentaries on every episodes. Pop-up guides to what's happening. Extensive special features. Fans will spend more time going through the special features of the season than they spent watching the show when it aired. That's remarkable, especially in an era when too many shows are released bare-bones if at all on Blu-ray (for example, "The Americans" is DVD-only and comes with two special features). Now, I happen to be one of those people who thinks "Game of Thrones" is increasingly overrated, but I'll save that for another column. This one is more about the Blu-ray release than the show or film anyway, and this is an amazing release.
The Dance Of Dragons
Histories & Lore
Anatomy Of An Episode: Mother's Mercy
The Real History Behind "Game Of Thrones"
A Day In The Life
New Characters/New Locations
Audio Commentaries - 12 Audio Commentaries with the cast and crew including David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Kit Harington, Maisie Williams, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Natalie Dormer, Gwendoline Christie and more.
4 Deleted Scenes
I'm annoyed by the episodic, nostalgic nature of "The Peanuts Movie," but I have to confess something: I have three kids under seven and this is the only recent movie that grabs all three of them. It does have an easygoing likability. It flies by, not talking down to kids like so much modern entertainment. I think my first response to it was negative because I grew up on the TV specials, which felt deeper and more emotionally resonant. The movie is a product, but there are a lot worse ones in this genre that hit shelves on a regular basis. It's not great, but you could do a lot worse than introduce your kids to the world of Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy, Woodstock, and the rest of the gang.
6 Snoopy Snippets
"Better When I'm Dancin'" Meghan Trainor Music and Lyric Videos
You Never Grow Up Charlie Brown
Snoopy's Sibling Salute
Learn to Draw Snoopy, Woodstock, and Charlie Brown
Get Down with Snoopy and Woodstock Music Video
Behind the Scenes of "Better When I'm Dancin'"
This is one of those comedies that works reasonably well as a weeknight diversion until you really stop and think who's involved. With talents as bright as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler out front (and great "SNL" vets like Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon and Bobby Moynihan in the background), this should really be a lot funnier. Like, a LOT funnier. "Sisters" has its moments, but not more than really any 22-minute episode of "Parks and Recreation" or "30 Rock," and that's a shame. Neither of these stars has really found the film vehicle that has allowed them to show the range and intelligence they did on television. That says something about the roles for women on TV vs. in film comedy. And it's not good.
How to Throw a Party
Grown-Up Parties Suck
The Alex Chronicles
The Kate and Pazuzu Chronicles
A Teen Movie ... For Adults
The Original Sister
Pool Collapse Visual Effects
Feature Commentary with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Director Jason Moore and Writer Paula Pell
At first, I was kind of impressed with Ron Howard's seafaring tale of the whaling adventure that supposedly inspired the writing of "Moby Dick." It looks really good with a strong attention to detail, nice framing, and talented ensemble, Chris Hemsworth's stupid accent notwithstanding. And then it just kind of flatlines. Sequences that Howard needed to be adrenaline-pumping just don't work. I was actually more intrigued by Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson's storytelling framework than the meat of the story. And this movie is done no favors by Peter Weir's "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" existing and still being awesome. Go rent that instead.
Ron Howard: Captain's Log - Follow the Director's Filmmaking Voyage Via Exclusive Production Photos and His Personal Twitter Feed
Chris Hemsworth and Benjamin Walker Dive into Their Characters' Combative Rivalry
Uncover the True Stories of Courage and Obsession That Inspired the Classic Novel "Moby Dick"
Deleted and Extended Scenes and More!
Speaking of missed opportunities, they don't get much more missed than Justin Kerzel's numbing adaptation of the William Shakespeare play. How do you get two of the most charismatic actors alive in an adaptation of one of history's most vital plays and fail to connect? Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are both good here but Kurzel's gritty, bloody style reeks of pretenstion and self-importance more than it gets to the heart of one of the most important plays of all time. Let me put it this way, and I'm in no way bragging: I was an English and theatre major who read every single play that Shakespeare wrote, most of them more than once, and I ADORE Fassbender and Cotillard, and I still couldn't connect to this version of "Macbeth." I should be leading the choir to which it is preaching.
Making "Macbeth" Featurette
Q&A with Michael Fassbender
"The Manchurian Candidate" (Criterion)
The more popular of the two Criterion releases this week is the perfect one for a tumultuous political year, and there's no way the timing on this one is a coincidence. Kudos to the executive at Criterion who thought to release John Frankenheimer's masterful thriller in an election year. What better film to watch during the debates than a movie about paranoia, corruption and conspiracy? And the Criterion release has a great 4K transfer, a new interview with the timeless Angela Lansbury (and if you only know her from "Murder, She Wrote," you really need to see what she does here), and a great new feature with the magnificent Errol Morris that will allow you a new appreciation for the film.
New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
Audio commentary from 1997 featuring director John Frankenheimer
New interview with actor Angela Lansbury
New piece featuring filmmaker Errol Morris discussing his appreciation for "The Manchurian Candidate"
Conversation between Frankenheimer, screenwriter George Axelrod, and actor Frank Sinatra from 1987
New interview with historian Susan Carruthers about the Cold War brainwashing scare
"Paris Belongs to Us" (Criterion)
Jacques Rivette's first film is often credited as the first of the French New Wave, even though it wasn't released until later and wasn't appreciated until MUCH later, after Rivette had become a force in cinema. It certainly feels a part of the scene that would be defined by Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Demy, Claude Chabrol and others. Criterion has made no effort to disguise its adoration of the French New Wave, issuing multiple releases and even a few box sets from its major players, and while "Paris Belongs to Us" isn't the most famous film of the movement, it feels like an essential one in that it's almost a foundation for what Rivette and others would be fascinated with in films to come. It's the kind of work that can be better appreciated as an important chapter in history than pure entertainment, but French New Wave fans owe it to themselves to pick it up.
New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
New interview with Richard Neupert, author of A History of the French New Wave Cinema
Jacques Rivette's 1956 short film Le coup du berger, featuring cameos by fellow French New Wave directors Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, and Francois Truffaut
New English subtitle translation
Plus: An essay by critic Luc Sante
In Two Weeks: "A Better Summer Day," "Freaks and Geeks," "The Hateful Eight," "Concussion" and more!
A tribute to the late Margot Kidder.