Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Everything that a fan could want from a Star Wars movie and then some.
5 NEW TO NETFLIX
6 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
HBO's 4-part documentary series is a gift for music fans of, well, any genre. While it might at first seem like it's aimed more exclusively at fans of hip-hop or rap given its focus on Dr. Dre, the film spends just as much time on the legendary Jimmy Iovine, and makes the case that both men influenced ALL music and even pop culture, not just the specific genres in which they worked. While this piece often approaches hagiography (it too quickly speeds past some of Dre's dark side and puts both men on Mt. Rushmore of music history) and really becomes a disappointing commercial for Beats Headphones for about half an hour, there is SO much material here that it's impossible not to submit to its charms. It's one of the most star-packed pieces of documentary filmmaking I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot. To be extra blunt, if you have a music lover in your family, this is a great holiday season gift.
Can we finally put aside any nonsene that the stars of "Twilight" should still be judged based on that arguably silly teen property? I cannot believe how many people still look at me funny when I speak highly of the acting ability of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. What is it going to take, people?!?! Stewart should have demolished all preconceptions of her range with "Certain Women," "Clouds of Sils Maria," and "Personal Shopper." And look at Pattinson's 2017, which includes the highly-acclaimed "The Lost City of Z" and this gem, a propulsive bit of Lumet-esque energy from the Safdie brothers. Not only are they two of the best of their generation, but this film specifically contains Pattinson's best work, something that reminded me of Robert De Niro in "Mean Streets" and Al Pacino in "Dog Day Afternoon." Yep, he's THAT good. Don't miss it.
The Pure and the Damned: Good Time
Audio Commentary with Directors Josh and Benny Safdie, Producer Sebastian Bear-McClard, Actress Taliah Lennice Webster, and Actor Buddy Duress
When you're a young man coming off the joy of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "Monty Python's Meaning of Life," and even "Time Bandits," going back to Terry Gilliam's debut film can be radically underwhelming. As you get older and realize the place that "Jabberwocky" fits in both the history of Gilliam and Python, it's much easier to see its value. It may not be as laugh-out-loud funny as the greatest hits of Python or as accessible as Gilliam's most beloved films, but it's still a fascinating example of the emergence of a true artist. You can see the man who would make "Brazil" and "The Fisher King" in this film's exploration of mythology and humanity. Of course, the Criterion version is gorgeous, allowing fans, young and old, to see the film in a brand new light.
New 4K digital restoration by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation, approved by director Terry Gilliam, with 5.1 surround soundtrack mix supervised by Gilliam
Audio commentary from 2001 featuring Gilliam and actor Michael Palin
New documentary on the making of the film, featuring Gilliam, Palin, producer Sandy Lieberson, and actor Annette Badland
New interview with Valerie Charlton, designer of the film’s creature, the Jabberwock, featuring her collection of rare behind-the-scenes photographs
Audio interview with cinematographer Terry Bedford from 1998
Selection of Gilliam’s storyboards and sketches
Original UK opening sequence
PLUS: An essay by critic Scott Tobias
Steven Soderbergh came out of his self-imposed retirement with this clever heist film, a riff on what he did so well in the "Ocean's" movies with a star-studded cast. While I felt in theaters like I could see just a bit of rust on Soderbergh's sense of timing, it's a movie that has stuck with me in that it isn't really like any other released in this crowded cinematic year. That's what's so great about Soderbergh's work so often. It doesn't feel like he's reinventing the wheel in that so many of his films work from classic templates like the heist movie but his work is so confidently made that it is also distinctly his own. He's one of the best American filmmakers working today, and I'm just so happy he's back.
Fun Deleted Scenes!
Speaking of auteurs, no one else could have made this CGI sci-fi orgy other than Luc Besson. Not only would no one else have made it exactly the same way, but few other directors could have gotten this expensive insanity financed. Besson is a fascinating cultural force, much bigger in the rest of the world than he is in the States. Relatively panned, this flick made only just over $40 million here but added over $180 in foreign gross. Amazingly, the movie cost close to $200 million, so barely made a profit, if at all. What about the movie's quality? It's not very good. And I'm typically all-in for auteur insanity. Fans of this column will point to my love for "A Cure for Wellness" and "Alien: Covenant," for example. The worst sin of this film is that it's dull. It has a plot you can't care enough to follow and leads that are so shockingly uncharismatic that you can almost see through them. I included it in the column because I still find Besson fascinating and it DOES look great on Blu-ray. If all you're looking for are pretty pictures, you could do worse.
Citizens of Imagination: Creating the Universe of Valerian
Art of Valerian Photo Gallery
Overcooked action movies often do well on Blu-ray and DVD because viewers can be distracted during the dialogue scenes and pop to life as the movie does so as well. You're not pinned to your seat with boredom, as you would be during some of the plot-driven passages of this Korean flick. But when this movie pops to life? Man, does it pop. There are a few action sequences here that are among of the best of the year from any country, especially the scenes that open and close the film. The POV chaos prologue and the bus chase finale are worth the cost of a rental alone. Just play a few games on your phone during some of the plot-driven passages in between.
Making The Villainess
A look at the work of John Williams outside of his greatest hits.
The RogerEbert.com picks for the ten best films of 2017.
The lists of best films of 2017.
Stop watching movies made by assholes. It'll be OK.