Roger Ebert Home

Home Entertainment Guide: February 2021

10 NEW TO NETFLIX

"Alexander"
"The Bank Job"
"The Blair Witch Project"
"Cut Throat City"
"Eat Pray Love"
"Fatima"
"Inception"
"A Monster Calls"
"Ocean's Eleven"
"Shutter Island"

15 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD

"Ammonite"

Even in a pandemic year, there are films that do well critically at festivals that fail to catch on when they're actually released to a wider audience virtually. Most of the responses to this period piece romance starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan out of Venice and TIFF were positive (although it did have a few detractors), but it really disappeared when it was time for general audiences to see it. It's hard to say in a year like this that Neon failed to get this solid actor's showcase to an audience, but "Ammonite" definitely disappeared from public view before anyone really had much of a chance to see it. It dropped on Blu-ray and DVD in January, and was basically forgotten as other films take the lead during the longest awards season ever. Take a chance to catch up, especially if you're a fan of the two leads, both of whom are excellent here.

Buy it here 

Special Features
The Making of Ammonite


"Chop Shop/Man Push Cart" (Criterion)

What a gift it is that Ramin Bahrani is being inducted into the Criterion Collection, who are releasing two of his best films this month on Blu-ray and DVD. Bahrani is one of our most empathetic and deeply humanist filmmakers, which is what really drew Roger Ebert to his work. He embodies Roger's concept of film as an "empathy machine," and I go back and read Roger's writing on Ramin often. This 4-star Great Movies review of "Chop Shop" details time he spent with Bahrani himself, suggesting how his heritage influences his art. I'll also let Roger explain why every Criterion collector should own "Man Push Cart": "In a film like this, it is pointless to describe 'screenplay,' 'acting,' or 'direction.' The film is resolutely utilitarian. No effort is made to create a visual look; the camera simply, impassively, regards."

Buy it here 

"Chop Shop" Special Features
High-definition digital master, supervised and approved by director Ramin Bahrani, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 2006 featuring Bahrani, director of photography Michael Simmonds, and actor Alejandro Polanco
New program featuring a conversation among Bahrani, Polanco, actor Ahmad Razvi, and assistant director Nicholas Elliott about the making of the film
New conversation between Bahrani and writer and scholar Suketu Mehta on the immigrant experience in New York City and on film
Rehearsal footage from 2006 featuring Polanco and actors Isamar Gonzales and Carlos Zapata
Trailer
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: An essay by novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen

"Man Push Cart" Special Features
High-definition digital master, supervised and approved by director Ramin Bahrani, with uncompressed stereo soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 2005 featuring Bahrani, director of photography Michael Simmonds, assistant director Nicholas Elliott, and actor Ahmad Razvi
New conversation among Bahrani, Elliott, and Razvi on the making of the film
New conversation between Bahrani and scholar Hamid Dabashi on the origins of the film and Bahrani’s cinematic influences
Backgammon, a 1998 short film by Bahrani
Trailer
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: An essay by critic Bilge Ebiri


"Come Play"

Being a horror fan, it brings me no joy to negatively review a flick like "Come Play," a movie with a clever idea and some strong set pieces that never come together. However, I feel it's appropriate to include in this month's column not only because it definitely has diehard fans but because sometimes "good set pieces and premise" are enough for horror lovers. The concept of an isolated boy whose only friend is his iPad has added power in a time when more kids have been on screens than ever before, and writer/director Jacob Chase knows how to stage a few strong scares, particularly with some scenes in an isolated parking lot. "Come Play" feels like a film that was greatly impacted by the pandemic and could have been a word-of-mouth hit in theaters like "Lights Out" or "Don't Breathe" in another era. Maybe it will be now that it's available on the home market.

Buy it here 

Special Features
None


"Elizabethtown"

Finally available on Blu-ray for the first time, Cameron Crowe's 2005 critical flop seems overdue for a re-appraisal. Perhaps thats because it's easier to watch now, away from so many movies like it with their man-saving manic pixie dream girls (Nathan Rabin actually coined that phrase to describe Kirsten Dunst's character in this film, a characterization that Crowe himself denies in the accompanying special features), but "Elizabethtown" is better than I remembered. Yes, it's undeniably a Greatest Hits of Cameron Crowe's directorial habits including its needle drops, life-saving relationships, and reliance on family, but it's a genuinely likable movie. It's biggest problem may be a miscast Orlando Bloom, but it's still weird to me that it took 15 years for a movie from a major filmmaker like Crowe to be available on Blu-ray. What took so long?

Buy it here 

Special Features
BRAND NEW 4K MASTER, supervised by writer/director Cameron Crowe
Filmmaker Focus: Cameron Crowe on Elizabethtown
Deleted and Extended Scenes + Introduction by Director Cameron Crowe
On The Road To Elizabethtown
The Music Of Elizabethtown
"Meet the Crew" Featurette
"Training Wheels" Featurette
Photo Gallery by Neal Preston
Trailers and TV Spots
AND MORE...


"Freaky"

I like Christopher Landon's approach to horror, subverting genre tropes like with his "Happy Death Day" movies and now this mostly clever body swap flick about an average teen girl (Kathryn Newton) who switches places with a serial killer (Vince Vaughn). If the film disappoints slightly it's only because Newton and Vaughn seem game for whatever and the movie unfolds a little predictably given its great premise. Still, it's an easy Saturday night rental, and I'm totally curious about what Landon has up his sleeve next. It will probably be clever.

Buy it here 

Special Features
Audio Commentary with Co-writer/Director Christopher Landon
Deleted Scenes
Split Personalities: Millie vs. The Butcher
Crafting the Kills 
Christopher Landon's Brand of Horror 
Final Girl Reframed 


"Greenland"

Most modern disasters err by valuing CGI over character. Not "Greenland," one of the more impressive major blockbusters of the year when there were almost no major blockbusters. This flick is notably better than it has any right to be—it's another story of the end of the world, but one that's grounded in believable characters and their fates, more interested in human survival than extinction. Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin star as parents who are chosen to go to a bunker when a comet breaks up in the atmosphere and heads on a collision course with humanity. Way more than its previews made it out to be, this is a tense, impressive piece of filmmaking. It's another flick this week that feels like it could play on something like TNT every other weekend for the next two decades. 

Buy it here 

Special Features
Audio Commentary with Director Ric Roman Waugh and Producer Basil Iwanyk
Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Director Ric Roman Waugh
Humanity – Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Director Ric Roman Waugh and VFX Supervisor Mark Massicotte take audiences behind the scenes of the exhilarating story


"Joint Security Area"

After a couple of films that no one saw and he generally disowned, Park Chan-wook really broke through with 2000's very smart and tense "Joint Security Area," a critically acclaimed thriller that became the highest-grossing film in Korean history when it was released. Watching it for the first time two decades later in a gorgeous Arrow presentation (their video quality gets better every year), it's striking to consider how far these people would go. Not just Park, who would go on to direct "Oldboy," "Thirst," "The Handmaiden," and more, but the stars of the film like the great Lee Byung-hun and Song Kang-ho. They play soldiers on either side of the JSA in Korea who get caught up in a mystery after a deadly shooting. Both sides have different stories and Park allows the truth to come out slowly, via flashback, anchored to a story that illustrates the commonality between North and South Korea more than the differences, while also criticizing a clearly broken system. Some of it is clunkier than Park's later work, but it's an impressive breakthrough, and a perfect choice for Arrow's special edition treatment.

Buy it here 

Special Features
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original lossless Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks
Optional English subtitles
New audio commentary by writer and critic Simon Ward
Isolated music and effects track
Newly recorded video interview with Asian cinema expert Jasper Sharp
The JSA Story and Making the Film, two archival featurettes on the film's production
About JSA, a series of archival introductions to the film by members of the cast
Behind the scenes montage
Opening ceremony footage
Two music videos: Letter from a Private and Take the Power Back
Theatrical trailer
TV spot
Image gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch
First pressing only: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing by Kieran Fisher


"Let Him Go"

Diane Lane and Kevin Costner star in this modern Western, an adaptation of the book of the same name by Larry Watson. Giving two of the best performances of their careers, they play grandparents to a child who is taken away by her birth mother after the death of his father. Seeking to reunite with their grandson and ensure his safety, they find themselves caught up in the web of a crime family, led by an unforgettable Lesley Manville. Dark and moving, this is a solid, old-fashioned drama that should find viewers on the home market. It feels like one of those movies that could play on basic cable every other week for a generation. 

Buy it here 

Special Features
The Blackledges: Kevin Costner & Diane Lane 
The Making of LET HIM GO 
Lighting the Way: Thomas Bezucha 


"The Little Prince"

Most people view Mark Osborne's telling of the classic Antoine de Saint-Exupery novella as a Netflix original because that's where it has called home for the last six years, but it's actually leaving the streaming service and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. This first full-length adaptation of the classic 1943 story has a rocking voice cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, Benicio del Toro, James Franco, Ricky Gervais, Paul Giamatti, and Albert Brooks, but it's the design of the film that makes it memorable, feeling like it understands the source in a way that allows it to play to a new generation. 

Buy it here 

Special Features
None


"The Parallax View" (Criterion)

You have to love Criterion's timing. It's not a coincidence that they have chosen to drop one of the '70s most beloved conspiracy theory thrillers into the current environment, one that's dominated by such talk more than people have been in years. Alan J. Pakula directed this adaptation of Loren Singer's novel of the same name and it's often included in a makeshift trilogy of his that includes "Klute" and "All the President's Men." Less acclaimed than those two films, it hasn't had quite the same reputation but history is coming around to value this dark, intense thriller that takes no prisoners in its representation of systemic evil. Warren Beatty is perfect as a reporter who unravels something called the Parallax Corporation, which is behind major assassinations around the world. Smart and intense, this movie must have been incredibly timely for audiences still reeling from the murders of the '60s. Alex Cox digs into a little of that in an interview on this release but it's a little slight on special features for Criterion. Still, the movie itself is worth picking up. 

Buy it here 

Special Features
New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New introduction by filmmaker Alex Cox
Interviews with director Alan J. Pakula from 1974 and 1995
New program on cinematographer Gordon Willis featuring an interview with Willis from 2004
New interview with Jon Boorstin, assistant to Pakula on The Parallax View
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: An essay by critic Nathan Heller and a 1974 interview with Pakula


"Rolling Thunder Revue" (Criterion)

The partnership between Netflix and Criterion that produced bonus-packed editions of "Marriage Story," "Roma," and "The Irishman" has reached one of their most eclectic projects, a documentary by Martin Scorsese on the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue concert tour of Bob Dylan. Playing with form and history in a way that honors Dylan's similar exploration of image, this is a great blend of non-fiction and fiction storytelling techniques that merges the viewpoints of two artistic masters. The Criterion release allows fans of Dylan and Scorsese to go deeper than the Netflix edition by providing interviews and restored footage of never-before-seen performances from the tour. 

Buy it here 

Special Features
New 4K digital master, approved by director Martin Scorsese, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New interviews with Scorsese, editor David Tedeschi, and writer Larry “Ratso” Sloman
Restored footage of never-before-seen Rolling Thunder Revue performances of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” and “Romance in Durango,” and of a new, extended cut of “Tangled Up in Blue”
Restoration demonstration
Trailer
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
English descriptive audio
PLUS: A new essay by novelist Dana Spiotta and writing from the Rolling Thunder Revue tour by author Sam Shepard and poets Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman


"Smooth Talk" (Criterion)

Sometimes it just makes sense to let Roger Ebert himself explain why a movie is worth revisiting after 35 years. Here he is on the excellent "Smooth Talk," recently restored and added to the Criterion collection: "The movie is also uncanny in what it does with its last three shots. I watched them, and could not believe so much could be implied so simply. Leave the movie before it's over, and you miss almost everything, because what Connie does at the very end of the film is necessary. It makes 'Smooth Talk' the story of the process of life, instead of just a sad episode." Far more than just a "sad episode," this is a smart movie about youth that feels ahead of its time, and it's wonderful that Criterion has devoted so much to its release, including three short films by its creator and new interviews with her and the production designer. The accompanying booklet even includes the Joyce Carol Oates short story on which the film is based. It's a stellar release for a film that deserves it. 

Buy it here 

Special Features
New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director Joyce Chopra, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Conversation among Chopra, author Joyce Carol Oates, and actor Laura Dern from the 2020 New York Film Festival, moderated by TCM host Alicia Malone
New interview with Chopra
New interview with production designer David Wasco
KPFK Pacifica Radio interview with Chopra from 1985
Joyce at 34 (1972), Girls at 12 (1975), and Clorae and Albie (1976), three short films by Chopra
Audio reading of the 1966 Life magazine article “The Pied Piper of Tucson,” which inspired the short story by Oates
Trailers
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: An essay by poet and memoirist Honor Moore, a 1986 New York Times article by Oates about the adaptation, and Oates’s 1966 short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
New interviews with actors Mary Kay Place and Treat Williams


"Southland Tales"

What could possibly be written about "Southland Tales," a film that was abhorred and then adored and now seems to be cycling back to hatred again? There's something so perfect about the waves of reappreciation and revilement that seem to find this film every year or two, wherein someone writes an appraisal of it and is assaulted with opinions on both sides of the debate. Perhaps that's why I kind of love this movie: it provokes responses, even 15 years after its release. It's imperfect, but fascinatingly so, and I love that Arrow deemed it worthy of this kind of special edition, one that includes the notorious Cannes cut of the film, running 15 minutes longer. "Southland Tales" is a fever dream of insane, reckless filmmaking. Not all of it works, but it's never less than fascinating. And the cult who loves this film will adore this edition that also includes a new documentary about the arc of the movie and an animated short set in this universe. Kelly has been making noise about revisiting this world lately. Why does it feel like the story of "Southland Tales" is far from over?

Buy it here 

Special Features
NEW 2K RESTORATION by Arrow Films, approved by director Richard Kelly and director of photography Steven Poster
High Definition presentations of both versions of the film: the 145-minute theatrical cut and the 160-minute "Cannes cut", which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006
Original lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary on the theatrical cut by Richard Kelly
It's a Madcap World: The Making of an Unfinished Film, a new in-depth retrospective documentary on the film, featuring contributions by Richard Kelly and members of the original crew
USIDent TV: Surveilling the Southland, an archival featurette on the making of the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew
This is the Way the World Ends, an archival animated short set in the Southland Tales universe
Theatrical trailer
Image gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacey
Limited edition collector's booklet featuring new writing by Peter Tonguette and Simon Ward


"Wander Darkly"

While some independent films seemed to gain a slight boost by the lack of competition in 2020, other critically acclaimed festival hits almost disappeared more quickly than ever, buried by not being able to really build word of mouth through reviews or arthouse screenings. Take Tara Miele's "Wander Darkly," a smart, poetic exploration of love and death with phenomenal performances from Sienna Miller and Diego Luna. The pair play partners who get into a car accident that sends them spiraling through visions of their past. It's a moving, unusual film with a excellent acting and unexpected storytelling. And Sheila O'Malley's review of the movie, linked above, is one of the best pieces of film writing in 2020.

Buy it here 

Special Features
Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Tara Miele
"Narrative Therapy: Remembering Wander Darkly" Featurette

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

Latest blog posts

Latest reviews

The Water Man
The Columnist
State Funeral
Monster
The Boy from Medellín
Silo

Comments

comments powered by Disqus