10 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
What's the biggest franchise in the world, Non-George Lucas Division? If you told me after the first "The Fast and the Furious" that it would lead to a market-dominating behemoth that would still be printing money for its investors SEVEN films later, I would have told you that you were crazy. But these movies tap into so many things that audiences like, particularly their incredibly broad demographic appeal. Men like them. Women like them. Kids like them. Old people like them. Personally, I kinda loved the last three, but was let down a bit by the latest entry, as you'll see in my full review above. I still can't figure out how anybody hires Charlize Theron for an action movie and then doesn't let Furiosa drive. That's as much of a cinematic sin as you'll see all year. The Blu-ray is typically strong for new Universal theatrical releases, particularly in its video and audio portions, which is where this movie really works. In other words, turn it up and turn off your brain.
All About The Stunts
Extended Fight Scenes
Feature Commentary With Director F. Gary Gray
The Cuban Spirit
In The Family
Talk about going out on top. Criterion has remastered Robert Bresson's final film, one of his several masterpieces, and a movie that won him the Director's Prize at Cannes and the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director. Adapting a Tolstoy novella to modern Paris, Bresson brings his remarkable formalism to a vision of a cruel, vicious world driven by money and violence. It is an unsparing, brutal film that tracks a counterfeit bill through several people that handle it, culminating with a young truck driver. The Criterion release includes several interesting extras, including an interview with Bresson and a new video essay on the film by James Quandt. It's the sixth Bresson film in the Criterion collection and essential for fans of the director. Few filmmakers ever make a film this good, much less go out with such a fantastic work.
New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Press conference from the 1983 Cannes Film Festival
“L’argent,” A to Z, a new video essay by film scholar James Quandt
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: An essay by critic Adrian Martin and a newly expanded 1983 interview with director Robert Bresson by critic Michel Ciment
"The Lodger" (Criterion)
While there are arguably more Alfred Hitchcock films in the public consciousness than any other filmmaker, most people don't realize the breadth of his output. The man directed films for 50 years, from the silent film era of the mid-'20s to the revolution in the medium of the mid-'70s. Honestly, you could take his entire career and really see a lot of how film developed over the 20th century. You would get to this recently-restored mystery relatively early as it marked his third film and one of the best of the early portion of his career. Based loosely on a play about Jack the Ripper, it includes several themes and visual flourishes to which Hitch would return in his more notable films later in his career. It's like hearing a great musician's early demos. The talent is undeniably there, even if it's a little rough around the edges. This release also includes a new mix of the film that would follow, "Downhill," released the same year, and also including a new score by composer Neail Brand. Yes, two movies for the price of one.
2K digital restoration, with a new score by composer Neil Brand, performed by the Orchestra of Saint Paul’s and presented in uncompressed stereo on the Blu-ray
"Downhill," another 1927 feature directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Ivor Novello, in a 2K digital restoration and with a new piano score by Brand
New interview with film scholar William Rothman on Hitchcock’s visual signatures
New video essay by art historian Steven Jacobs about Hitchcock’s use of architecture
Excerpts from audio interviews with Hitchcock by filmmakers François Truffaut (1962) and Peter Bogdanovich (1963 and 1972)
Radio adaptation of "The Lodger" from 1940, directed by Hitchcock
New interview with Brand on composing for silent film
PLUS: Essays on "The Lodger" and "Downhill" by critic Philip Kemp
James Gray is one of our most essential American filmmakers, making movies that feel like passionate expressions of artistic purpose more than cash grabs. "Two Lovers" and "The Immigrant" are films that I like more with each passing year. On that note, I'd like to see "The Lost City of Z" again as my first viewing left me thinking that it was undeniably accomplished and interesting but a little more flawed than I expected, particularly in the performance department. I've defended Charlie Hunnam before (most notably in "Crimson Peak") but his work here feels particularly hollow. However, there is still something breathtaking about Gray's mimicking of his protagonist's obsession in the way the director defies traditional filmmaking tropes of demographic appeal. This movie is somehow both thematically challenging and crowd-pleasing at the same time, which is something of a minor miracle. I look forward to watching it again.
"The Pink Panther Collection"
Do kids still watch "The Pink Panther"? I hope so. When I was young, the first two films in this series -- "The Pink Panther" and "A Shot in the Dark" -- were two of my favorites, blending mystery and intrigue with Peter Sellers' simply perfect comic timing. This excellent box set from Shout Factory includes the core of the franchise, the six films made during Sellers' lifetime, the two already mentioned, "The Return of the Pink Panther," "The Pink Panther Strikes Again," "Revenge of the Pink Panther" and "Trail of the Pink Panther." So you'll have to go elsewhere for the Ted Wass, Roberto Benigni, and Steve Martin variations. Although why would you want to do that?
Audio Commentary By Writer/Director Blake Edwards
"The Pink Panther Story" Documentary
"Behind the Feline: The Cartoon Phenomenon"
"Robert Wagner: The Coolest Cat in Cortina"
"Diamonds: Beyond the Sparkle"
"The Tip-Toe Life of a Cat Burglar"
A Conversation with Former Jewel Thief Bill Mason
"Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy" (Criterion)
Criterion continues their habit of upgrading a previous DVD release to Blu-ray in conjunction with their new HD and standard releases. This month it's not just one DVD, it's technically three, as Robert Rossellini's trio of films made in the rubble of World War II all get the new HD digital restoration treatment. 1945's "Rome Open City," 1946's "Paisan," and 1948's "Germany Year Zero" are all lovingly restored here, and accompanied by HOURS of special features. These movies are haunting, some of the best ever made about the aftermath of WWII. And the special features are appropriately extensive and detailed, including interviews, commentaries, video essays, documentaries, and more.
New high-definition digital restorations, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks
Introductions by director Roberto Rossellini from 1963
Interviews from 2009 with scholar Adriano Aprà, critic and Rossellini friend Father Virgilio Fantuzzi, and filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
Audio commentary on Rome Open City by scholar Peter Bondanella
"Once Upon a Time...Rome Open City," a 2006 documentary on the making of the historic film
Rossellini and the City, a 2009 video essay by film scholar Mark Shiel on Rossellini’s use of the urban landscape in The War Trilogy
Excerpts from discussions Rossellini had in 1970 with faculty and students at Rice University about his craft
Into the Future, a 2009 video essay about The War Trilogy by scholar Tag Gallagher
Roberto Rossellini, a 2001 documentary by Carlo Lizzani, assistant director on Germany Year Zero, tracing Rossellini’s career through archival footage and interviews with family members and collaborators, with tributes by filmmakers François Truffaut and Martin Scorsese
Letters from the Front: Carlo Lizzani on “Germany Year Zero,” a discussion with Lizzani from the 1987 Tutto Rossellini conference
Italian credits and prologue for Germany Year Zero
Roberto and Roswitha, a 2009 illustrated essay by scholar Thomas Meder on Rossellini’s relationship with Roswitha Schmidt
PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by James Quandt, Irene Bignardi, Colin MacCabe, and Jonathan Rosenbaum
Only this column could jump from Roberto Rossellini to "Species," but here we are. What's funny is that both of these releases are designed for collectors, and the Venn Diagram of people interested in both "Germany Year Zero" and a movie about a sex alien could have much more crossover than you presume. The other truth is that Scream Factory competes with Criterion when it comes to lovingly remastering films and loading their collectible releases with special features. This one has two audio commentaries, an alternate ending, and hours of featurettes about the making of this cult classic.
4K scan of the film's inter-positive
Audio Commentary with Natasha Henstridge, Michael Madsen and director Roger Donaldson
Audio Commentary with director Roger Donaldson, make-up effects creator Steve Johnson, visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund and producer Frank Mancuso Jr.
Afterbirth: The Evolution of SPECIES featuring interviews with director Roger Donaldson, cinematographer Andzej Bartkowiak, production designer John Muto, composer Christopher Young, creature designer Steve Johnson, chrysalis supervisor Billy Bryan and Sil creature supervisor Norman Cabreta
From Sil To Eve - an interview with actress Natasha Henstridge
HR Giger At Work
The Making Of Species: The Origin, The Concept, The Discovery
Designing a Hybrid
"Straw Dogs" (Criterion)
While I think the overall film can be a bit overrated in certain circles (although I have read more dissenting opinions on its quality as of late), there is still a lot to like about Sam Peckinpah's dissection of male aggression, now in the Criterion Collection. In particular, this remains one of Dustin Hoffman's best performances, completely committed to every emotional and physical beat of the film. This 1971 film isn't really that long after "The Graduate" but represents a completely different aspect of the American male. The Criterion release includes a documentary about the making of the film and a separate doc about its controversial filmmakers, along with new and archival interviews.
New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
Audio commentary from 2003 by Stephen Prince, author of Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies
Mantrap: “Straw Dogs”—The Final Cut, a 2003 documentary about the making of the film
Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron, a 1993 documentary
New conversation between critic Michael Sragow and filmmaker Roger Spottiswoode, one of the editors on the film
New interview with film scholar Linda Williams about the film’s controversies
Archival interviews with actor Susan George, producer Daniel Melnick, and Peckinpah biographer Garner Simmons
TV spots and trailers
PLUS: An essay by scholar and critic Joshua Clover and a 1974 interview with Peckinpah
Danny Boyle's return to his most famous characters is a rollercoaster of quality. At turns, it feels both overly nostalgic and an insightful commentary on middle-age and where we are today. In one moment, it feels overly hyperactive in that Brand Boyle way. In the next, you're reminded how underrated Boyle can be when it comes to his work with actors. He draws great ones out of his entire cast here, not just McGregor. In the end, "T2" is far from a bad movie but it too often makes you wish you were watching the great one that preceded it. Of course, that's not fair. It couldn't possibly catch lightning in a bottle like "Trainspotting" did, but I'm still not convinced we needed it. It's not a film that lessens the legacy of the first like truly awful sequels can sometimes but it doesn't do much to build on it either.
20 Years in the Making: A Conversation with Danny Boyle and The Cast
Commentary with Director Danny Boyle and Writer John Hodge
Lone Scherfig's solid period drama falls into that category of films that so many members of my parents' demographic bemoan they don't really make any more. It's the story of a female screenwriter in England in 1940 as the country was falling apart morally and physically at the start of World War II, and desperately needed the United States to join the cause. Gemma Arterton is typically delightful as the lead; Sam Claflin is typically bland; Bill Nighy is typically movie-stealing. This is the kind of solid rental that's hard not to at least like, and I wouldn't be surprised if a great deal of people end up liking it and spreading its charms through word of mouth over the next few months. It's a charmer, hampered a bit by Claflin and the sense that the matinee idol is stealing a film that should be more of a feminist statement. But the overall movie is imminently likable, which is a lot harder to pull off than you may think.
Flickers of Hope: The Making of Their Finest
Audio Commentary with Director Lone Scherfig