The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Black, more than anyone else, should have been the one to wind up The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Too bad he doesn't…
10 NEW TO NETFLIX
13 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
"The Age of Innocence" (Criterion)
When people, especially those on Film Twitter, go over the best films in the career of Martin Scorsese, they tend to cite his more violent works like "GoodFellas" or "Taxi Driver," but there's always someone who pipes up for this lovely adaptation of the Edith Wharton classic. It's a fantastic film, deserving of placement on any list of Scorsese's best works, and any list of Daniel Day-Lewis' best performances. It actually isn't that different from Scorsese's more popular works in that it features a coiled intensity that defines a lot of his most memorable characters. This is no tea-and-crumpets period piece. It's a great movie, and the Criterion restored transfer is a beauty. It's a little light on special features, but just in how much it allows for further appreciation of the film, this is one of the best Criterion releases of the year so far.
New, restored 4k digital transfer, approved by director Martin Scorsese, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
New interviews with Scorsese, coscreenwriter Jay Cocks, production designer Dante Ferretti, and costume designer Gabriella Pescucci
Innocence and Experience, a 1993 documentary on the making of the film
PLUS: An essay by film critic Geoffrey O’Brien
GKids is doing great work on the fringe of studio animation, offering releases that don't fit the traditional multiplex molds. Sometimes they're more for adults than kids, and that's the case with arguably their two best 2017 films, the Spanish "Birdboy" and "The Breadwinner," the latest from a notable Irish company called Cartoon Saloon, who did "The Secret of Kells" and "Song of the Sea." "The Breadwinner" even landed an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film. These are movies that take their art and audiences seriously, never talking down to them or diminishing their intelligence. "Birdboy" is an often-scary adventure film whereas as "Breadwinner" tackles gender roles and the art of storytelling. Years from now, literally no one will remember "The Boss Baby" even happened, but people will still be sharing these movies, the way they share Studio Ghibli classics today.
"Birdboy" Special Features
Interview With The Filmmakers
Birdboy Original Short Film
Decorado Short Film By Alberto Vázquez
Optional English and French subtitles
Criterion is amply recognized as the leader in Blu-ray restorations, and Shout Factory and Twilight Time get some well-deserved accolades in Blu-ray columns as well, but it feels like Arrow Video has yet to get the love they deserve. Take for example two phenomenal recent releases for films by George A. Romero and Richard Kelly. Romero's 1973 flick "The Crazies" was largely ignored on its initial release but has developed a cult following over the years as we've all come around to the cult of Romero. It's arguably his best non-Dead film, a terrifying examination of mass hysteria that really illustrates his gift with low-budget filmmaking and horror pacing. The Blu-ray from Arrow includes the best transfer yet for the film and neat special features. Kelly's "Donnie Darko" seems like it's released on Blu-ray every year or two, but this is a good one to pick up if you have yet to own it. It's LOADED with special features. You could spend a day with Donnie. Let us know if you survive. One more note: Arrow's art rules. And as Blu-ray becomes more of a collector's market, it's great to see a company take something like that seriously. Watch for more Arrow coverage in this column moving forward.
"The Crazies" Special Features
Brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original Mono Uncompressed PCM Audio
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford
Romero Was Here: Locating The Crazies – Romero historian Lawrence DeVincentz takes us on a guided tour of Evans City, PA and the locations used in The Crazies
Crazy for Lynn Lowry – cult star Lynn Lowry discusses her early career including her role in The Crazies
Q&A with Lynn Lowry filmed at the 2016 Abertoir Film Festival
Audio interview with producer Lee Hessel
Behind-the-scenes footage with optional commentary by Lawrence DeVincentz
Alternate Opening Titles
Trailers & TV Spots
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
"Donnie Darko" Special Features
Brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release, supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster
Original 5.1 audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary by writer-director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal
Audio commentary by Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick and actors Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross and James Duval
Brand-new interviews with Richard Kelly and others
The Goodbye Place, Kelly’s 1996 short film, which anticipates some of the themes and ideas of his feature films
Twenty deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Kelly
Oh hi, James. After winning a Golden Globe for his work in this film about the production of "The Room," many people thought that James Franco would be a frontrunner to take home the Oscar as well. Then a sexual assault scandal derailed that hope, as well as something of a backlash against the film, which people started to view as overrated. While I admire Franco's work here, I was a little stunned at how many people considered this among the best of the films of the year. Performance, sure. Film, no way. It's too poorly made, even if you consider that aspect a meta-nod to Wiseau's own (lack of) style. I think "The Disaster Artist" will now settle into the place it deserves in history as a funny comedy with a great performance. It's a solid rental, but don't let the hype set your expectations too high.
Audio Commentary with James Franco, Dave Franco, Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestero, and More
Featurette: Oh, Hi Mark!: Making a Disaster
Featurette: Directing a Disaster
Featurette: Just a Guy Leaning on a Wall: Getting to Know Tommy
A surprise nominee for the Oscar for Best Animated Film, this is a sweet, tender movie about a pacifist bull, voiced by John Cena, who is now totally leaning into his "big softie" persona in a way that works. Ferdinand refuses to fight his fellow bulls or matadors, even when his life may depend on it. A warning to parents that this film may require a few conversations about the brutality of bullfighting and the actuality of meat-eating, but it's mostly driven by physical comedy. It's WAY too long (almost two hours) but it's an easy piece to put your kids down in front of for a spring break distraction (once you've explained where their cheeseburger came from, of course).
"Ferdinand's Guide to Healthy Living" with John Cena
"A Goat's Guide to Life"
"Ferdinand's Team Supreme"
"Spain Through Ferdinand's Eyes"
"Confessions of a Bull-loving Horse"
"Creating the Land of Ferdinand"
"Anatomy of a Scene: The Bull Run"
"Learn to Dance with Ferdinand"
"Ferdinand's Do-It-Yourself Flower Garden"
"Creating a Remarka-Bull Song"
"Home" Music Video
Driven by Margot Robbie's fearless performance and Allison Janney's inevitable Oscar winner, "I, Tonya" was the biggest surprise of TIFF 2017. I'll never forget that world premiere, which landed like Tonya Harding doing a triple axel. The audience LOVED it, and a bidding war started instantly, as did the Oscar talk for Robbie and Janney. It's been a fun film to watch enter the culture, as people have found and, mostly, fallen for its crazy version of the truth. It's a great rental or even a purchase to pass along to your friends, and a movie that plays well a second time. I still think some of the beats are a bit too broad, but what works here, especially every choice made by Robbie, really works.
Audio Commentary with Director Craig Gillespie
Behind the Scenes Featurette
A step down creatively from "Wonder Woman" and even "Batman vs. Superman," the latest mash-up movie suffers from a serious overload of CGI and a clearly troubled production process. It's about eight movies in one, and it's just not balanced like Whedon's "The Avengers," the movie it so clearly wants to be for the DC Universe. Gal Gadot steals it, although Ezra Miller tries at times, but these iterations of Superman and Batman have reached their cultural breaking point. It's time to move on from Cavill and Affleck and reboot these icons once again, which should happen any day now. Having said all of that, there are some beats that work, and it looks great in HD.
Road to Justice
Heart of Justice
Technology of the Justice League
Justice League: The New Heroes
The Return of Superman
Steppenwolf the Conqueror
Scene Studies: Revisiting the Amazons
Scene Studies: Wonder Woman's Rescue
Scene Studies: Heroes Park
Scene Studies: The Tunnel Battle
Suit Up: The Look of the League
The RogerEbert.com pick for the #1 film of 2017 is already available on Blu-ray and DVD. So much has been written about "Lady Bird" on this site and others that I'm not sure what I could possibly add to it at this point other than to alert you that it's now available for rent or purchase. I'll say this: I can't wait to see what Greta Gerwig does next. Just as I feel about Jordan Peele, I don't think either of the 2017 rookie phenoms has made their last Best Picture nominee. This is such a smartly constructed and directed film that its more of a pronouncement of a career to come than a single feature. Bring it on, Greta.
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Greta Gerwig and Cinematographer Sam Levy
Realizing Lady Bird - Featurette
Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles for the main feature
"The Passion of Joan of Arc" (Criterion)
Roger Ebert said about Carl Th. Dreyer's 1928 masterpiece, "You cannot know the history of silent film unless you know the face of Renee Maria Falconetti." And you can add to that in that if you don't know the history of silent film, you don't know the history of film. Words like masterpiece and essential are thrown with reckless abandon lately, but this is a film that is undeniably key to the history of its form. It is a groundbreaker, a movie that actually pushed the boundaries of what was possible, and holds up as great art almost a century later. It was released by Criterion years ago but now get the Blu-ray upgrade after a 2K restoration was done, and the company includes several new special features.
New 2K digital restoration of the film by Gaumont, presented at 24 frames per second
Alternate presentation of the film at 20 frames per second with original Danish intertitles
Three scores: Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light; one by Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory and Portishead’s Adrian Utley; and one by composer and pianist Mie Yanashita
Audio commentary from 1999 by film scholar Casper Tybjerg
New interview with Einhorn
New conversation between Gregory and Utley
New video essay by Tybjerg exploring the debate over the film’s frame rate
Interview from 1995 with actor Renée Falconetti’s daughter and biographer, Hélène Falconetti
Production design archive
New English subtitle translations
PLUS: An essay by critic Mark Le Fanu, a 1929 director’s statement by Carl Theodor Dreyer, and the full libretto for Voices of Light
The Oscar winner for Best Picture is already available for rent or purchase. Go for the latter. While the backlash that greets any major Oscar winner is in full effect right now, those voices will quiet and this romantic fantasy will take its rightful place as a great film of the '10s. I hope people can step back on repeat viewing and appreciate the political subtext of Guillermo Del Toro's vision. Think about what the film is literally about: a group of "others" (cleaners, artists, disabled, dissidents, scientists) trying to save an "other" from the grip of a corrupt, violent, capitalism-embracing government official. All of Guillermo Del Toro's films work on multiple levels, and this one is as complex and rewarding as nearly any he's ever made. It's also simply gorgeous, especially in HD.
A Fairy Tale for Troubled Times
Anatomy of a Scene: Prologue
Anatomy of a Scene: The Dance
Shaping the Waves: A Conversation with James Jean
Guillermo del Toro's Master Class
Taika Waititi got a hold of a Marvel property and didn't allow his unique brand of humor to get derailed in the process. Marvel so commonly sands out any rough edges or sharp corners from their films that it's refreshing to see a movie that feels like it actually has personality. For at least an hour. The first half of this may be the best Marvel movie of 2017. The second succumbs to a few problems with CGI overload and a feeling that the villain (Cate Blanchett) has been wasted. Still, it's the best "Thor" movie by some stretch, allowing Hemsworth to be playful and proving yet again that Tessa Thompson should be in everything. And Disney/Marvel weigh the Blu-ray release down with special features, making it a solid purchase as your superhero-loving kids get ready for Spring Break.
Exclusive Short/Team Darryl
Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years – The Evolution of Heroes
Getting in Touch with Your Inner Thor
Unstoppable Women: Hela & Valkyrie
Sakaar: On the Edge of the Known and Unknown
Journey into Mystery
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