6 NEW TO NETFLIX
5 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
"The Comfort of Strangers" (Criterion)
Paul Schrader's 1990 drama/thriller always felt to me like one of the director's slight missteps. Sure, there are elements of it that work, especially Dante Spinotti's gorgeous cinematography and Schrader's use of space, but the script never lingered with me. It's funny now to read Roger express basically the same thing when he wrote, "Yet the movie is ultimately not quite successful; when it was over I felt there was some additional payoff or explanation still due. Perhaps the arbitrary, unfinished nature of the story is part of its purpose. But I felt that characters this interesting should not be allowed to remain complete ciphers. Still, in individual moments, 'The Comfort of Strangers' has an eerie, atmospheric charm." Yep, what he said.
New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by cinematographer Dante Spinotti, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New interviews with Spinotti, director Paul Schrader, actor Christopher Walken, and editor Bill Pankow
Interviews from 1981 and 2001 with novelist Ian McEwan and actor Natasha Richardson
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: An essay by critic Maitland McDonagh
Quickly turned around after last month's drive-in and VOD release, Rod Lurie's action film is the kind of thing that would have been hard to keep on the shelf in the days I managed a video store. Action has always been one of the most popular genres on the home market, and this movie has major word of mouth potential. Sadly, it's the kind of thing that I also wish I could have seen in theaters to really appreciate its technical prowess. I stand by what I wrote just a few weeks ago: "What elevates Lurie’s film is the balance, never allowing his film to turn into blind jingoism, or a castigation of a broken system that sacrifices young men. He keeps his eye where it belongs, on the real people caught in the middle of it all, stuck in the valley of war."
Inside COP Keating: Behind the Scenes, Behind the Lines
Audio Commentary with Director Rod Lurie
The collaborative run between Zhang Yimou and Gong Li in the '80s and '90s was incredible in a way that still feels deeply underrated. The centerpiece film, "Raise the Red Lantern," seems to get the most attention, but there were other works in this run, including the great "Ju Dou" and "To Live." The final work in the stretch was 1996's "Shanghai Triad," considered by may to be one of the weaker films in the Yimou filmography. Roger was brutal in his assessment of it, saying it "is never involving and often pointless and repetitive." While I can concede some of these points, I still consider minor Yimou worth seeing. His sense of lyrical composition remains even if the storytelling here can be frustrating. Something remarkable about this is that this HD restoration is the first time that the film has ever been available on Blu-ray.
"Trouble in Shanghai" Video Essay by Author Grady Hendrix
Booklet with New Essay by Film Critic and Lecturer John Berra
Hylnur Palmason's slow burn drama has stuck with me over the months since I saw it, and it would be nice if more people caught up with it now that it's more accessible on DVD and On Demand (no Blu-ray release for this yet but it feels like something that could inevitably get a special edition from a company like Criterion). One of the reasons for its staying power is the nuanced turn by Ingvar Sigurdsson as a man who becomes obsessed with the secrets that his late wife took to the grave. There's a reason that Sigurdsson won a Cannes Critic Award for this work. He's great.
Bonus Short Film - "Seven Boats"
Essentially pitchable as "'Fright Night' but with a witch," this IFC Midnight flick is about a boy who becomes convinced his neighbor is not what she seems. There are some solid performances, visuals, and ideas in this movie that depressingly don't all quite come together, especially in relation to the film's bland climax (that follows a pretty nifty twist that I must admit that I didn't see coming). Still, I think the Pierce Brothers have some talent and I am eager to see what they do next. Note: this is another IFC film that's also already on Hulu.
Audio Commentary with The Pierce Brothers, Commentary with Composer Devin Burrows