The last month has produced more interesting physical media than most of the rest of the year combined. With that in mind and people doing last minute holiday shopping (or figuring out how to use gift cards), we're breaking out the December 2021 Home Entertainment Guide into three installments: New Releases, Special Editions, and The Criterion Collection. Enjoy all three.
Joe Carnahan's latest might be the best recent movie you probably haven't seen. Released without much fanfare in September, it's a tight, old-fashioned action movie that owes a debt to classic filmmakers like Howard Hawks and John Carpenter, only with that Carnahan flair. Almost the whole thing takes place in a police station in the middle of nowhere that becomes a battleground between a con artist (Frank Grillo) and a hitman (Gerard Butler). Alexis Louder is fantastic as the rookie police officer caught in the middle while Toby Huss almost steals the movie as a true sociopath who basically throws lighter fluid on the fire that's about to burn. Smart, funny, and well-paced, it's an old-fashioned action movie and I worry that those won't be made much longer, but I also suspect that the audience who would like "Copshop" will find it. Maybe that's you.
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Clint Eastwood had reportedly been working on an adaptation of N. Richard Nash's novel of the same name for years, and, as politely as I can put this, I think it would have been stronger a decade or maybe even two ago. Eastwood doesn't shy away from his 90 years of life, but the character is almost too fragile and Eastwood seems a little tired of doing this kind of role. However, his craft as a director remains strong as he helms the story of a rodeo star who is hired to retrieve a boy (Eduardo Minett) from Mexico and bring him home to his father (Dwight Yoakam). The film impresses the most in its midsection as Eastwood's leading man finds a different kind of happiness in an unexpected place. Some of the speechifying is overwritten and the action feels silly, but the human drama reminds one how strong Eastwood has always been in that department.
Back In The Saddle: The Making Of Cry Macho - Featurette
Macho and The Mustangs - Featurette
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Wes Anderson's latest features one of the biggest casts of his career, collecting almost everyone he's ever worked with plus a few new familiar faces to tell a triptych story inspired by the work of The New Yorker. In this case, Anderson centers the French bureau of a fictional newspaper called Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. Bill Murray plays the editor and three stories unfold: "The Concrete Masterpiece," "Revisions to a Manifesto," and "The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner." Every story has its strengths, particularly in Anderson's sharp art direction and editing. This is the MOST Wes Anderson movie yet, but I don't say that as a criticism. There should be more filmmakers with a voice that's this distinctive. Having said that, it's a little too sterile for this viewer, a movie that was working for me up until about midway through story two, when I realized I didn't care. However, there's more than enough to like here just in design terms to recommend taking a look (and I'm pro movies that embrace journalism). Note: It's incredibly unlikely that this is the final release of this film given it has no special features. It feels like a placeholder for an inevitable Criterion release.
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The better of the two 2021 Ridley Scott movies is this historical drama that's already been turned around from theatrical to VOD and DVD. Based on the book of the same name by Eric Jager, it's the story of Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), and Marguerite (Jodie Comer) and it's told in three chapters, from each of their perspectives. Marguerite, Jean's wife, accuses Jacques of raping her, and the events around the assault unfold in subtly different manners in each recounting. A complex, nuanced drama (with a script co-written by Damon, Ben Affleck, and Nicole Holofcener) this is precisely the kind of film that critics and filmmakers worry will not be made in the new era as it feels like theatrical releases demand familiar IPs. I expect audiences will catch up with "The Last Duel," one of Scott's more confident and accomplished late-career films, especially now that it's widely available. Do your part.
The Making of The Last Duel – With the documentary "The Making of The Last Duel," get unprecedented access to renowned director Ridley Scott as he collaborates with the cast and crew to make critical decisions about location, cinematography and performances.
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James Wan, you crazy. The man behind "The Conjuring" used his cultural power to make one of the looniest horror films in years, a project that is already developing a VERY loyal cult following. I can't quite go with the people who claim this variation on "Basket Case" is a modern horror masterpiece but also think those who write it off are ignoring some pretty impressive visual acumen and ambitious storytelling. Annabelle Wallis plays a woman who starts having visions of murder only to realize ... well, I couldn't possibly explain it. I kind of wish the truly bonkers final act of "Malignant" started earlier (more at half of the film than just the last quarter) as it takes a bit too long to get there, but you really owe it to yourself to see where this movie lands.
Malignant: James Wan's Visions – Groundbreaking filmmaker James Wan takes us behind the scenes for a look at his latest film, Malignant, a genre-bending thriller
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"The Mitchells vs. the Machines"
I'm a big supporter of physical releases for Netflix films and shows, saying as much about their Criterion partnership and the pattern they have of releasing Mike Flanagan's shows on DVD and Blu-ray. And so I was very happy to hear Sony was pulling out all the stops for this special edition of what is arguably their most popular 2021 film. While it may be tempting to dismiss this release and merely queue up this clever family flick on Netflix, check out the special features below. This edition includes not only deleted scenes but an extended version of the film with 40 minutes of chopped material reinserted into the cut. It's a little late for the holidays, but this could be a great last-minute stocking stuffer.
Filmmakers' commentary (Blu-ray exclusive)
Dog Cop 7: The Final Chapter: Katie Mitchell is back and creating the most hilarious film of her young career – check out an all-new mini-movie, Dog Cop 7: The Final Chapter. In a world where the holidays are being haunted by the Candy Cane Kidnapper, there is only one Dog with the skills to solve the case. (Blu-ray exclusive)
Katie's Extended Cinematic Bonanza Cut! Prepare to witness Katie's director's cut, an extended version of the original film with over 40 minutes of deleted scenes. (Blu-ray exclusive)
Eight Bonus Scenes: Get more Mitchells with over 20 minutes of Deleted & Extended Scenes. (Blu-ray exclusive)
Katie's Cabinet of Forgotten Wonders: Take a rare look inside Katie Mitchell's filmmaking process as she gives you an exclusive look into how the movie was made.
Dumb Robots Trailer
The Original "Mitchells" Story Pitch
The Furby Scene - How? Why?
The Mitchells Vs. The Machines: Or How a Group of Passionate Weirdos Made a Big Animated Movie: Go inside the story of The Mitchells vs the Machines and meet a group of first-time filmmakers & talented cast who banded together to take a collective risk on making a unique, original, and totally off-the-wall film about an everyday, epic, world-saving family!
How To Make Sock Puppets: Katie Mitchell opens the door to her film school. Learn how to make sock puppets who could be extras in your next short film!
How To Make Katie Face Cupcakes: Enjoy making cupcakes only a mother could love.
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Delayed for what felt like forever by COVID-19, the final film in Daniel Craig's run as 007 was finally released, and most fans seem to dig it. Despite my love for "Casino Royale" and "Skyfall," I was pretty disappointed by what feels to this viewer like too forgettable a final chapter for the man who really helped resurrect James Bond. However, the Blu-ray is a nice one, with strong video/audio and some interesting special features. Again, it might be a little late for Christmas, but this could be a solid last-minute gift idea.
ANATOMY OF A SCENE: MATERA – In true Bond fashion, there is an incredible pre-credit sequence featured in No Time To Die. A breathless chase shot in Matera that starts on foot, then motorcycle, then car. Not just any car either – the iconic Aston Martin DB5! Through interviews with Daniel Craig and director Cary Joji Fukunaga, plus on-set interviews with key members of the crew, we discover how the filmmakers shot this breathtaking sequence.
KEEPING IT REAL: THE ACTION OF NO TIME TO DIE – In a world full of CGI-heavy action films, the Bond franchise proudly stands out from the crowd for always shooting practical stunts, without the use of special effects. In this piece we see how No Time To Die continues with this tradition with its amazing action sequences.
A GLOBAL JOURNEY – Exotic locations are synonymous with all Bond movies and No Time To Die is no different. As well as returning to Bond's spiritual home, Jamaica, for Daniel Craig's final outing, we also go on a global journey taking in Italy, Norway and Scotland. We'll hear from Daniel Craig, Cary Fukunaga, other key cast and filmmakers, on what it was like filming at these spectacular locations.
DESIGNING BOND – Production designer Mark Tildesley and costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb, along with cast and other filmmakers, discuss the inspiration, challenges and trials of concepting and making such remarkable sets and costumes for the iconic Bond franchise.
BEING JAMES BOND* – In this special 45-minute retrospective, Daniel Craig candidly reflects on his 15-year adventure as James Bond. Including never-before-seen archival footage from Casino Royale to the 25th film No Time To Die, Craig shares his personal memories in conversation with 007 producers, Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, in the lead up to his final performance as James Bond.
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It's downright bizarre how much this movie has in common with the vastly superior "The Mitchells vs. the Machines." Both films are about reliance on technology, but the better one addresses the creativity that can be brought forth through tech whereas this one has much simpler messages about loneliness and connection. There are some funny beats (mostly thanks to voice work) but it's a missed opportunity to do something with how tech divides us and puts us in determined boxes. For hardcore modern animation fans only. Everyone else should just watch "Mitchells" again.
A Boy and His B*Bot: When Jack Met Zach – Zach Galifianakis and Jack Dylan Grazer, the voices behind Ron and Barney, sit down to chat about a fun assortment of topics. From social media to skateboarding, the two actors from two very different generations tell us all about when Jack met Zach.
Making Ron Right – Join cast and crew behind the scenes as they reveal the skill, dedication and friendship it took to bring this film to life. From writing the script to the voice-over booth, Locksmith's artisans detail how they made Ron right.
"Sunshine" Music Video – Song from the motion picture Ron's Gone Wrong, performed by Liam Payne.
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"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings"
After being sidelined for so long, the Marvel Cinematic Universe released four films in the second half of 2021. Everyone suspected that "Spider-Man: No Way Home" would be the box office king, but fewer predicted that this less familiar character would beat both "Black Widow" and "The Eternals" at the box office. It's more than just servicing an under-served demographic (although this film definitely does that), but how joyous this movie can be when it's working. Sadly, to this viewer, it stumbles hard in the second hour. After a promising set-up, it gets weighed down with talk of legacy and reliance on CGI. But the cast is delightful, particularly Tony Leung, who makes literally everything better. And I appreciate how Disney/Marvel are still taking physical releases seriously, turning them into feature-packed expansions of a film instead of just a port of the movie itself. They know MCU fans are loyal and they're staying loyal to their needs too.
Gag Reel – Take a look at some of the fun mishaps on set with the cast and crew of Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings.
They're Waiting – Shang-Chi and Katy connect with Xialing over a call.
Take a Shot – Katy has a moment of resolve during a battle.
Apology – Years after his sudden absence, Shang-Chi tries to apologize to Xialing.
I'm Here – Shang-Chi and Katy have a conversation in the alley. Katy reassures Shang-Chi that she will always be his support system.
Pep Talk – In order to turn the tide, Razor Fist encourages Katy during the middle of a battle.
Greatness – Trevor and Katy bond over passions in their getaway car.
Escape Tunnel – The gang slips out through Trevor's escape tunnel in order to secure a getaway vehicle.
Two Sons – Xu Wenwu compares Shang-Chi and Razor Fist during a tense dinner.
Postcard – Shang-Chi and Xu Wenwu reunite as father and son. Shang-Chi makes it clear he disagrees with Xu Wenwu's philosophy.
Just Friends – Katy and Xialing get to know each other. Xialing asks Katy some personal questions.
Do It Yourself – Xu Wenwu returns to his empire after the Iron Gang boss is captured.
Building a Legacy – Go behind the scenes and explore Shang-Chi's explosive debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Family Ties – A deep dive into the rich but complicated legacy of Shang-Chi and Xu Wenwu.
Audio Commentary – View the film with Audio Commentary by Destin Daniel Cretton and Dave Callaham.
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