10 NEW TO NETFLIX
10 NEW TO HBO MAX
9 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
"After Life" (Criterion)
It's been such a joy to watch Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda go from a new talent to being recognized as a master around the world. Criterion is coming around to this incredible filmmaker again this month with their second release of his work (after "Still Walking"), 1998's "After Life," arguably the first masterpiece of his career. With a set-up similar to this month's excellent "Nine Days," this is the story of a way station between life and death. At this location, travelers are given a couple days to decide on what was their happiest memory, which will then be recreated for them, and they will live in that moment forever. A striking, deeply emotional piece of work, it really announced Kore-eda as a major talent, and that perception hasn't changed in the two decades since its release.
New 2K restoration, approved by writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New audio commentary featuring film scholar Linda C. Ehrlich
New interviews with Kore-eda and cinematographers Masayoshi Sukita and Yutaka Yamazaki
PLUS: An essay by novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen
"The Cat O' Nine Tails" (Arrow)
The first of two great Giallo releases from Arrow this month comes courtesy of the Italian King of the genre, Dario Argento. Arrow has long had a serious love affair with Argento, releasing his films in increasingly impressive special editions, and the recipient of such love and care this time is Argento's second film in his so-called "Animal Trilogy" (with "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" and "Four Flies on Grey Velvet"). Released in 1971, "The Cat O' Nine Tails" stars Karl Malden as a blind man who works with a journalist to solve a murder. It's not as beloved as some of Argento's best works, but this 4K edition makes an argument for it being underrated, including an incredible number of special features, gorgeous packaging, and a 4K restoration from the original film negative.
NEW 4K RESTORATION from the original negative by Arrow Films
4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
Restored original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks
English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
Audio commentary by critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman
Nine Lives, an interview with co-writer/director Dario Argento
The Writer O' Many Tales, an interview with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti
Child Star, an interview with actress Cinzia De Carolis
Giallo in Turin, an interview with production manager Angelo Iacono
Script pages for the lost original ending, translated into English for the first time
Original Italian, international and US theatrical trailers
Illustrated collector's booklet featuring an original essay on the film by Dario Argento, and writing by Barry Forshaw, Troy Howarth and Howard Hughes
Fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative
Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards
Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring originally and newly commissioned artwork by Obviously Creative
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"Gangs of London"
This is probably the best recent show that you haven't seen. Originally launching on AMC+ back in 2020 and then premiering weekly on AMC earlier this year, it hasn't gotten the attention it deserves (in part because people didn't know when and where to watch the damn thing). Just buy the entire season and thank me later. Produced for Sky Atlantic back in April 2020, the series was created by the brilliant Gareth Evans ("The Raid"), who brings his intense skill with action choreography to a story of a criminal power struggle in the city of London, anchoring it all in the story of a man caught in the middle, played incredibly by future star Sope Dirisu ("His House"). Brutally violent but also grounded in its characters, this is a must-watch.
An Inside Look at:
Anatomy of an Action Scene: Pub Fight & Elliot vs Len (featuring commentary from Gareth Evans)
Now streaming on:
They can't all be Criterion or Arrow releases. Sometimes you want to escape with something new. However, you can probably do better than this limp sequel to the surprisingly successful "The Hitman's Bodyguard" from 2017. So why is it on a list of highlights? Well, this column can also be purely informational at times and there is something fascinating about watching such an incredibly talented cast be wasted this thoroughly. Ryan Reynolds brings his charismatic best, but Samuel L. Jackson sleepwalks his way through this movie while Salma Hayek plays every line to the back row of the theater. I have to admit to finding it fun to see Antonio Banderas do work better than this film deserves and reunite with Hayek. They have an easygoing chemistry as performers the rest of the cast just lacks.
"Ryan, Sam, Salma: One F'd Up Family" Featurette
"Gone Soft: The New Michael Bryce" Featurette
"Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard: #stuntlife" Featurette
"On the Set of Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard" Featurette
Now streaming on:
"La Piscine" (Criterion)
The great Farran Smith Nehme wrote an excellent piece for us earlier this year about the restoration of Jacques Deray's 1969 scorcher, which is now available on Criterion blu-ray, accompanied by excellent bonus material, including a 2019 documentary about the film, a new interview, an English-language version of the film, archival footage, and an alternate ending. I'll let Nehme explain why this is an essential work that was ahead of its time: "But perhaps that disjointed fadeout is only right for “La Piscine”; as Marianne says, “I don’t like summer. Only the in-between seasons.” The miniskirts (via designer André Courrèges), the jazz-pop Michel Legrand score, and the legendary cast couldn’t be more late-‘60s if you conjured them via a seance. But the movie’s libertine atmosphere, the characters’ self-absorption, the sense of ideals abandoned if they ever existed at all—all show Deray and Carriere pointing directly ahead to the 1970s. In the world of “La Piscine,” it’s already the Me Decade."
New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
The Swimming Pool: “First Love Never Dies,” the English-language version of the film
Fifty Years Later, a 2019 documentary by Agnès Vincent-Deray featuring actors Alain Delon and Jane Birkin, screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, and novelist Jean-Emmanuel Conil
New interview with scholar Nick Rees-Roberts on the film’s cinematic and aesthetic legacy
Archival footage featuring Delon, Birkin, actors Romy Schneider and Maurice Ronet, and director Jacques Deray
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: An essay by film critic Jessica Kiang
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The story of Pixar's "Luca" has been a bit odd in that it feels like Disney is content to shuffle their Pixar films off to Disney+ with less fanfare than their other potential blockbusters. (Why are films like "Cruella" and "Raya and the Last Dragon" elevated to a "premiere" tier with an extra cost but not "Luca" and "Soul"?) The result seems a little like Disney was trying to bury "Luca," but audiences have found it. Recent reports revealed that more people have streamed "Luca" than the Oscar-winning "Soul," and it feels like a film for which the fan base will grow over the years. Why not show your support for the film by picking up a physical copy of it, which also allows for further exploration of the craft behind this piece of work than mere streaming.
Our Italian Inspiration – Experience the joy of discovery as Pixar artists travel to Cinque Terre, Italy, to absorb the beauty and culture of the coastal region which inspired the characters and the quintessential Italian backdrop of "Luca."
Secretly A Sea Monster – Explore the artistry and technical innovation of Luca's transformation from sea monster to human, and how the theme of transformation is central to the emotional journey of the main characters.
Best Friends – Best friends can challenge us, inspire us, annoy us, and encourage us. The cast and crew of "Luca" share their own stories about how besties influenced their lives, and how those experiences informed the creation of screen pals Luca, Alberto and Giulia.
Now streaming on:
"Original Cast Album: Company" (Criterion)
As a young musical theatre performer who actually appeared in a production of "Company," D.A. Pennebaker's chronicle of the recording of the cast album of the Broadway production was kind of formative. The film itself is a fascinating and joyful capturing of the various personalities and structures that come together in a theatrical cast, but the Blu-ray from Criterion is breathtaking in its special features. Not only does it include two audio commentaries but they include a new one with Stephen Sondheim himself and one from 2001 with Pennebaker, Elaine Stritch, and Harold Prince! If that's not enough, there are rare audio excerpts, and new interviews, along with the amazing episode of "Documentary Now!" that parodied this film, "Original Cast Album: Co-Op," starring John Mulaney, Richard Kind, Paula Pell, and many more.
New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by Chris Hegedus and Nate Pennebaker, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New audio commentary by composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim
Audio commentary from 2001 featuring director D. A. Pennebaker, actor Elaine Stritch, and Broadway producer and director Harold Prince
New conversation among Sondheim, orchestrator Jonathan Tunick, and critic and television producer Frank Rich
New interview with Tunick on the art of orchestrating, conducted by author Ted Chapin
Never-before-heard audio excerpts from interviews with Stritch and Prince, conducted by D. A. Pennebaker and Hegedus in 2001
“Original Cast Album: ‘Co-Op,’” a 2019 episode of the TV series Documentary Now! that parodies the film
Reunion of the cast and crew of “Original Cast Album: ‘Co-Op’” recorded in 2020, featuring director Alexander Buono; writer-actor John Mulaney; actors Rénee Elise Goldsberry, Richard Kind, Alex Brightman, and Paula Pell; and composer Eli Bolin
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: An essay by author Mark Harris
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"A Quiet Place, Part II"
There's an alternate universe wherein John Krasinski's blockbuster sequel premiered at the March 2020 South by Southwest Film Festival to an audience that ate up every single scene of it (especially the tense ones). Sadly, that wasn't meant to be, leading to a delay of over a year and a release that includes the film already streaming on Paramount+. Still, the film performed reasonably well, especially for pandemic times, making almost $300 million worldwide (as of today). The good news? That means we're almost certain to get a part three, which is good because I felt like this one just missed its potential. The opening sequence? Spectacular. One of the best of the year. But the rest of the film keeps approaching interesting ideas before retreating. However, I would gladly watch part three tomorrow. Let's hope that one doesn't get delayed a year too.
Director's Diary: Filming with John Krasinski
Pulling Back the Curtain
Surviving the Marina
Detectable Disturbance: Visual Effects and Sound Design
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"The Sergio Martino Collection" (Arrow)
His name doesn't resonate like Dario Argento or Mario Bava, but Arrow has given Sergio Martino a lavish treatment too, releasing three of his best films in a box set this month, all recently restored from a camera negative. Not only have they never looked this good, each release includes specific special features and excellent new artwork. Martino made tight thrillers, not quite as lurid as other Giallo filmmakers, but remarkably tautly constructed. The three film in this set are 1971's "The Case of the Scorpion's Tail," 1972's "Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key," and 1975's "The Suspicious Death of a Minor." This is a must-own set for Giallo fans, those unfamiliar with Sergio Martino and those who know his work by heart.
Three films from Sergio Martino: The Case of the Scorpion's Tail, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, and The Suspicious Death of a Minor, restored in 2K from the original camera negative
Original uncompressed mono Italian and English audio tracks
Optional English subtitles for Italian audio and English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for English audio
Newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
Plus Special Features on Each of the Three Films