I'm a sucker for King-inspired things, and this one hits that chord well enough to be worth a look over your Christmas break.
10 NEW TO NETFLIX
"The Midnight Meat Train
"Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"
10 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
"American Gods: Season One"
It's indicative of how overcrowded the medium has become in the age of Peak TV that Bryan Fuller's brilliant adaptation of Neil Gaiman's famous book fell relatively under the radar. Fuller seems destined to create fantastic television that not enough people watch. "Pushing Daisies" and "Hannibal" make every list of the most underrated and criminally-canceled shows of all time. His latest project "American Gods" is on Starz, so it could get more support than his shows have received on ad-driven TV, but you still need to do your part. This is a smart, creative, funny, brilliant TV show, and I'll be writing about it again in my Best of the Year piece. Until then, read this and get your own copy today.
The Road to "American Gods"
God Squad Video Commentary
American Gods Origins
What is American Gods?
Book vs. Show
Explore the Crocodile Barin 360 Degree with Commentary by Cast and Crew
Audio Commentaries with Cast and Crew
Speaking of the best of the year, the biggest hit of Edgar Wright's career has arrived on Blu-ray shortly after making notable waves on theaters. Wright has been a cult icon for years, a favorite among critics and Comic-Con goers, but "Baby Driver" broke through to another audience, making over $225 million worldwide and counting (it's his first film to break nine figures). Given that, you've probably seen it and are wondering if it holds up on repeat viewing and if the Blu-ray is worth picking up for the special features. YES and YES. It plays better at home than I expected (especially if you have the right sound system), and even allowed my minor criticisms to fade away. It's the kind of movie that people will love showing their friends who haven't had a chance to see it yet.
Over 20 Minutes of Extended and Deleted Scenes
Mozart in a Go-Kart: Ansel Drives
I Need A Killer Track: The Music
That's My Baby: Edgar Wright
Meet Your New Crew: Doc's Gang
Find Something Funky On There: The Choreography
Devil Behind The Wheel: The Car Chases
Ansel Elgort Audition
Annotated Coffee Run Rehearsal
Hair, Make Up & Costume Tests
Mint Royale - "Blue Song" Music Video
Complete Storyboard Gallery
Filmmaker Commentary (Edgar Wright and Director of Photography Bill Pope)
Broken record here, but this is also one of my favorite films of the year, a brilliant period piece tightly directed by the multi-talented Sofia Coppola. Remaking the Clint Eastwood drama, Coppola shifts focus from the Civil War soldier stuck at a home filled with women to the ladies themselves, directing her great ensemble to uniformly fantastic performances. Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Colin Farrell are phenomenal here, particularly the women in the way they define their characters' conflicting emotions of lust, fear, and jealousy. This is another 2017 movie that I don't feel like enough people saw but that viewers will catch up with on Blu-ray. I hope you love it as much as I do.
A Shift in Perspective
The breakout comedy hit of the year ($115 million domestically!) comes home in an extras-packed Blu-ray edition. I'm really happy for everyone involved in this production, including the eternally underrated Regina Hall and the breakout work of Tiffany Haddish. There's also something remarkable about how little credit Malcolm D. Lee has received for delivering reliably entertaining films for years, including "The Best Man" and "Undercover Brother." The guy's talented, and he never gets enough credit. Having said that, there's NO reason for this movie to be almost two hours long, as the trip gets exhausting before it's over. But it's well worth a rental, especially since you can divide it up into at least two chunks.
Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Director Malcolm D. Lee
Planning the Trip
The Essence of NOLA
Extended Performance "Because of You" by Ne-Yo
Feature Commentary with Director Malcolm D. Lee
"The Good Place: The Complete First Season"
NBC's comedy has built on its brilliant first season in its sophomore outing, improving to a point where it can safely be called the best show on network TV. Ted Danson and Kristen Bell star in a show that has an undeniably clever premise—Bell plays a woman who ends up in "The Good Place" (i.e., heaven or something similar) but it's really a case of mistaken identity and she doesn't belong there. The writers behind the show have taken that fun idea and run absolutely wild, completely deconstructing not just their own concept but episodic TV in general. You really NEED to be watching the second season, and you won't enjoy it as much if you haven't seen the first. Now you can, but only on DVD (boo ... all great things should be in HD.)
Live Table Read
A Look at Visual Effects
There was a funny kerfuffle on Film Twitter recently when Chance the Rapper went after film critics for the 19% Rotten Tomatoes score given to this this Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler comedy that the brilliant musician apparently loved. What followed was a few positive critical re-assessments of the film, including one by the esteemed Matt Singer. Could "The House" be one of those films that tanked in theaters but somehow finds an audience who loves it on Blu-ray and DVD? Probably not, but decide for yourself.
The House: Playing with a Loaded Deck
If You Build The House They Will Come
We don't often cover catalog releases getting yet another Blu-ray edition but I'll make an exception for one of my favorite movies of the '90s, Curtis Hanson's masterful "L.A. Confidential," a film that should have won the Oscar for Best Picture and shows ZERO signs of its 20-year age other than the youthful faces of its stars. "L.A. Confidential" is the kind of great movie that could come out in 1977 or 2017 and make the same waves it made in 1997. It's a classic tale of mystery and corruption with one of the best ensemble performances of its day that completely gets its James Ellroy source material and how to use its L.A. setting. It's one of those movies I find myself returning to every year or two, and I'm surprised every time at its timeless perfection. Oh and this cheaply-priced release includes all of the previously-available, excellent special features.
Audio Commentary by Critic/Historian Andrew Sarris, James Ellroy, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Ruth Myers, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, Brian Helgeland, Jeannine Oppewall, Dante Spinotti and Danny DeVito
Whatever You Desire: Making L.A. Confidential
Sunlight and Shadow: The Visual Style of L.A. Confidential
A True Ensemble: The Cast of L.A. Confidential
L.A. Confidential: From Book to Screen
L.A. Confidential TV Series Pilot
Off the Record: Vintage Cast/Creator Interviews
Director Curtis Hanson's Photo Pitch
The L.A. of L.A. Confidential Interactive Map Tour
Music-Only Track (5.1) Showcasing Jerry Goldsmith's Score
Trailers and T.V. Spots
"The Lure" (Criterion)
The Criterion Collection has received some flack this week for announcing that "The Breakfast Club" is being inducted into the exclusive club in January 2018. While I understand the frustration over the decision, it's also the kind of thing that brings in a different kind of Blu-ray buyer to the club and not only helps fund their many restoration and box set projects, it might serve as a cinematic gateway drug. As I said on Twitter, "Today Hughes, Tomorrow Ozu." Before Hughes, most of the questionable Criterion releases have been recent arthouse releases, primarily the ones a part of their professional relationship with IFC. So a few eyebrows were raised at the inclusion of Agnieszka Smoczyńska's "The Lure," a modern fairy tale that played major film festivals and was barely released otherwise. Personally, while I don't like this movie as much as some people, I do love when Criterion digs deep, finding releases that perhaps didn't get enough attention, whether they're from 1956 or 2016. Who knows? Perhaps this will end up being the second-favorite Criterion release for one of those "Breakfast Club" buyers.
High-definition digital master, supervised by director of photography Kuba Kijowski, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New program about the making of the film, featuring interviews with director Agnieszka Smoczyńska, actors Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszańska, screenwriter Robert Bolesto, Kijowski, composers Barbara and Zuzanna Wrońskie, sound designer Marcin Lenarczyk, and choreographer Kaya Kołodziejczyk
Aria Diva (2007) and Viva Maria! (2010), two short films by Smoczyńska
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: An essay by novelist, playwright, and storyteller Angela Lovell
Criterion has been actively expanding their catalog of Orson Welles films over the last few years, featuring must-own editions of "F for Fake" and "Chimes at Midnight." The catalog continues to grow with this release of one of his most controversial films, a passion project that the filmmaker made on a shoestring budget because he was so committed to doing so. It's rarely a film that people point to first as a sign of Welles' mastery, but it's no less essential to understanding his place in cinema history, and Criterion continues to prove their commitment to his filmography by LOADING this release with the kind of special features that make it desirable to cinephiles. Not only have two versions of the film been remastered in 4K digital but the Blu-ray contains "Filming Othello," considered Welles' last completed film, as well as new interviews with experts on the director.
New, restored 4K digital transfers of two versions of the film, the 1952 European one and the 1955 U.S. and UK one, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 1995 featuring filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles scholar Myron Meisel
Filming “Othello,” Welles’s last completed film, a 1979 essay-documentary
Return to Glennascaul, a 1953 short film made by actors Micheál MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards during a hiatus from shooting Othello
New interview with Welles biographer Simon Callow
Souvenirs d’“Othello,” a 1995 documentary about actor Suzanne Cloutier by François Girard
New interview with Welles scholar François Thomas on the two versions
New interview with Ayanna Thompson, author of Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America
Interview from 2014 with scholar Joseph McBride
PLUS: An essay by film critic Geoffrey O’Brien
I walked out of "Step" this summer thinking that I had seen the inevitable Oscar winner for Best Documentary. It's not that this heartwarming film would be my personal choice but that it's the kind of inspirational flick that the Academy seems to embrace lately. The film surprisingly kind of came and went without much fanfare, but I could see it rallying during awards season and fulfilling my prediction. It's an undeniably moving tale of empowerment and survival for a group of young ladies who have to struggle to overcome the cards dealt them by society. It features some of the most memorable documentary subjects of the year, and if you're not moved by their powerful performances, you're just pretty immovable overall.
Director Commentary by Amanda Lipitz
Lethal Ladies Music Video - Step is Life
The Lethal Ladies of BLSYW
Inside the Rehearsal Room
The staff choices for the best films of 2018.
A review of Fallout 76.
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