5 NEW TO NETFLIX
7 NEW TO STREAMING/BLU-RAY
We're doing something a little different this week as we recognize there aren't really places selling or renting physical media, so we're also including some highlights that are new to rent on streaming services instead of just physical copies. You should still be able to click through on the Buy It Here button to rent or purchase these titles digitally, the best of what's been released in the last two weeks both physically and socially distanced.
"Army of Shadows" (Criterion)
Jean-Pierre Melville's long-buried masterpiece has already been avaialble on Criterion Blu-ray but the company has reissued it this month. The story of "Army of Shadows" is historically fascinating given that it was largely buried for decades because of the critical opinion of French critics who deemed the film as a glorification of Charles de Gaulle. The result was that no one programmed it for U.S. release for four decades, until it was finally reappraised and remastered, released stateside for the first time in 2006. At that time, the international reputation of the film had shifted so strong in the other direction that Roger Ebert named it one of his Great Movies. And Criterion's release is packed with excellent special features that enhance the historical appreciation of a film that just took longer than most to be recognized as a classic.
High-definition digital restoration, supervised by director of photography Pierre Lhomme, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Alternate 2.0 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 2006 featuring film scholar Ginette Vincendeau
Interviews from 2007 with Lhomme and editor Françoise Bonnot
On-set footage and excerpts from archival interviews with director Jean-Pierre Melville, cast members, author Joseph Kessel, and real-life Resistance fighters
Jean-Pierre Melville et “L’armée des ombres” (2005), a short program on the director and his film
Le journal de la Résistance (1944), a rare short documentary shot on the front lines during the final days of the German occupation of France
Restoration demonstration by Lhomme
PLUS: An essay by critic Amy Taubin, along with (for the Blu-ray) a piece by historian Robert O. Paxton and excerpts from Rui Nogueira’s Melville on Melville
"Birds of Prey"
Cathy Yan's DC Universe film was considered a disappointment earlier this year and then had its low box office damaged further by the pandemic. WB pushed up its home release, dropping it at a purchase price last month and a rental price last week. Ostensibly a sequel to "Suicide Squad," this movie beats that one like a drum, offering the great Margot Robbie a showcase for her fearless range. She's great here, matched by the candy-colored energy of Yan's filmmaking, which contains some of the most clever action choreography in any DC film. Yes, it's goofy and gory, but it's also joyful in its compositions and storytelling, which is what is so often missing from the too-dour DC brand. People will catch up to this move. It's kind of a blast.
This column generally consists of just highlights or recommendations, but I occasionally make exceptions for titles that I think readers may want to know about even if I don't specifically like the film. After seeing this drama at Toronto International Film Festival, I was sure it would be critically slammed as shallow and manipulative, but it turns out I was VERY much in the minority, and most critics like this true story of delayed justice. I'll admit to thinking there were elements that worked, including Michael B. Jordan and Rob Morgan's performances, and it's the kind of emotional experience that people may want more now that they're feeling like the human condition could use a story of hope. Again, Jordan and Morgan are strong, and maybe you'll have a higher tolerance for the shallowness of the entire project than I did up in Canada.
This Moment Deserves
The Equal Justice Initiative
Greta Gerwig's adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic was one of the best films of 2019, a movie that played well to every demographic. I'll never forget being in a movie theater (remember those?) around Christmas and seeing that every show of this was sold out. A period piece of a story that most people have seen on film before was selling out full theaters. There's something so universally likable about Gerwig's film, a movie that further proves her skill with performers and screenwriting. After "Lady Bird," people wondered if that success was the fluke or the beginning of a major directorial career. This movie answers conclusively that it was the latter.
A New Generation of Little Women: The superb cast recreated the beloved world of the March family with realism, humor and vulnerability
Making a Modern Classic: The film combines its modern elements—kinetic camerawork and overlapping dialogue—with the historically authentic bespoke costumes, sets and locations
Greta Gerwig: Women Making Art: Go behind the camera with Writer/Director Greta Gerwig, discover her process and how she applied her own style to the story
Hair & Make-Up Test Sequence: A lovely showcase featuring the outstanding costumes, hair and make-up crafted for the film
Little Women Behind the Scenes: Take a quick look behind the scenes on the set of LITTLE WOMEN
Orchard House, Home of Louisa May Alcott: Find out more about Louisa May Alcott and visit the real-life Orchard House in Concord, MA
"Police Squad: The Complete Series"
We could all use a laugh and you'll find dozens of them in the hysterical run of "Police Squad," a show that virtually no one watched when it aired but has become a comedy darling over the years, thanks in part to the massive success of "The Naked Gun" movies (and the world's sense of humor catching up with a show that was ahead of its time). Paramount has reissued the entire run of "Police Squad," the cop show spoof starring Leslie Nielsen. It's this simple—every episode will make you laugh out loud. You can't say that about every complete series release.
None. But the show is special enough.
I'm on the record as being one of the few fans of this hybrid of disaster and monster movies. It's as if someone looked at the disaster flicks of the '70s and said, "And what if we added giant underwater alien creatures?" It's also as if someone has been reading my dream journal. In all seriousness, this is exactly the kind of thing that I hope finds a bigger audience at home. No, it's not an instant classic in either the disaster or monster movie genres, but it takes some genuine risks in storytelling, contains some excellent sound design, and features memorable performances from everyone but T.J. Miller.
Alternate Ending with Optional Commentary*
Deleted Scene with Optional Commentary
Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary
Real Bunny Montage
Feature Audio Commentary by William Eubank, Jared Purrington and Phil Gawthorne
This is a VOD-only release but it's an excellent movie that we wanted to include here. Roberto Minervini captures in gorgeous black-and-white life in New Orleans in 2017 as a new Black Panther party is building itself in the wake of murders of young black men. It's a character-driven piece of documentary filmmaking, something that feels almost more like realistic fiction than traditional docs. You have to remind yourself you're not watching a fiction film given the lyricism in so many of Minervini's compositions and the breathtaking conversations he captures. It's about how people reflect the environment they're in, captured in the way the film intercuts adventures of two young black brothers with the meetings of the new Black Panther party and an unforgettable bar owner who is a vibrant part of her community. It's equally gorgeous, empowering, and tragic, like life in these communities in the 2010s.