Roger Ebert Home

Home Entertainment Guide: June 2023

10 NEW TO MAX

"Dog Day Afternoon
"Eastern Promises"
"Evil Dead Rise"
"The Hurt Locker"
"I, Tonya"
"Moneyball"
"Moonlight"
"Narc"
"Ready Player One"
"A Star is Born"

10 NEW TO NETFLIX

"The Breakfast Club"
"Dunkirk"
"Groundhog Day"
"The Imitation Game"
"Living"
"Mean Girls"
"The Mule"
"Stronger"
"To Leslie"
"Unbroken"

11 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD

"Avatar: The Way of Water"

Have the people complaining about the lack of the cultural footprint for "Avatar" been silenced yet? James Cameron's 2022 sequel has made over $2.3 billion worldwide and landed an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The moral of the story: Never doubt James Cameron. He is not-so-slowly turning the world of Pandora into his own "Star Wars" universe, one that will grow richer with multiple sequels, an upcoming video game, and the Disney World theme park, among other tie-ins. Do I wish that Cameron would leave Pandora to make something else before he retires? Sure. But I have come to terms with the fact that he's likely in this world for the rest of his career. And I've even come to terms with my initially-mixed feelings about the first film, also recently re-released in a 4K home release. And I'm on record as a fan of the sequel (review linked above). As for the home release, it is maybe the most stunning 4K video transfer I've ever seen. Even the digital version looks crisp and sharp in ways that movies haven't before. You need to own this. If just to make the footprint bigger.

Buy it here 

Special Features
Inside Pandora's Box (A series of featurettes on the challenges facing cast and crew as filmmakers devise new technologies to push the limits of cinema)
Building the World of Pandora – James Cameron and a team of talented artists combine years of research with their design skills to build the world of Pandora with new characters, creatures, indigenous clans, underwater environments and the take-no-prisoners hard-tech world of the RDA.
Capturing Pandora – James Cameron's approach to performance capture has the cast performing in a volume rigged with infrared cameras to capture their movement, and head rig cameras to capture emotion on their faces with only the boundaries of imagination to limit them.
The Undersea World of Pandora – Co-production designer Dylan Cole and his team conceive of the marine creatures required for Avatar: The Way of Water while James Cameron and his stunt team devise extraordinary means to bring those creatures to life in a performance capture tank.
The Challenges of Pandora's Waters – James Cameron tackles the "non-trivial challenge" of performance capture above and below the water's surface, utilizing a wave machine and current generator to reproduce ocean conditions, and underwater vehicles to replicate creature movement.
Pandora's Returning Characters – James Cameron reunites with his returning cast – Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang. Together they discuss the amazing evolution of their characters in Avatar: The Way of Water.
Pandora's Next Generation – Meet the talented young newcomers who have been cast as the next generation of Na'vi and follow them through the adventure of making Avatar: The Way of Water.
Spider's Web – James Cameron introduced the human character of Spider into the fabric of Pandora – thus creating a host of technological challenges on set…and an incredible journey for the young actor, Jack Champion.
Becoming Na'vi – The Avatar cast is immersed in the culture of the indigenous Na'vi, living off the land in the Hawaiian rainforest and training in a multitude of disciplines in preparation for their roles.
The Reef People of Pandora – In true James Cameron-style, the Metkayina reef clan has been developed with great attention to detail, bearing unique evolutionary traits and a culture – with new dwellings, new clothes and different way of life – all a result of living off the ocean.
Bringing Pandora to Life – Once James Cameron completes his virtual production process, every sequence is turned over to Wētā FX to bring Pandora to life – with unprecedented advancements in facial performance, environments and making CG water look real.
The RDA Returns to Pandora – Co-production designer Ben Procter and his team present an armada of new vehicles and human technologies that the RDA brings to Pandora – in concept design and with practical builds.
The New Characters of Pandora – Meet the important new characters of the Avatar saga played by Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco, Brendan Cowell and Jemaine Clement.
The Sounds of Pandora – Hear how James Cameron worked with composer Simon Franglen to create the distinctive music of The Way of Water while building on James Horner's brilliant score for Avatar, and learn how Chris Boyes created the immersive sounds of Pandora.
New Zealand – Pandora's Home – The production of the Avatar sequels is so thoroughly ensconced in New Zealand that James Cameron considers The Way of Water a "New Zealand film." Hear reflections from the cast and crew, including the remarkable New Zealand crew, on making the film.
More from Pandora's Box (Additional featurettes that highlight special teams within the production)
Casting – Discover the screen tests that won the talented young cast their roles in Avatar: The Way of Water.
Stunts – The Avatar stunt team isn't just creating breathtaking action, they're driving the story. From racing underwater on ilus, flying the skies on ikrans, to maneuvering RDA speed boats, the stunt team leaves you breathless and wanting more.
The Lab – Explore the Lightstorm Lab, the backbone of virtual production for the Avatar Comprised of specialized teams, the Lab builds & supports every aspect of the production – environments, motion edit, Kabuki, sequence, post-viz and software development.
The Troupe – Avatar's Troupe is the Swiss Army Knife of acting, while playing dozens of roles on set, in the performance capture volume and on live-action sets, they bring life to Na'vi clans and RDA Recoms. They also play Na'vi-scale puppets on the live-action sets.
Marketing Materials & Music Video (Marketing materials used to build audience awareness of the film)
Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength) Music Video – Multi-Grammy-winning, music superstar, The Weeknd, performs his emotionally packed end title song in the official music video for the smash hit "Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength)."
Theatrical Trailers 1 & 2 – Avatar: The Way of Water used two theatrical trailers to engage the audience. The first was a teaser trailer released 7 months before the film. The second was a standard trailer that premiered 5 weeks before the film's release.


"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves"

I truly wish that I loved this movie as much as everyone else seems to have loved this movie. I'm happy for people who got caught up in the tongue-in-cheek tone of this action-adventure flick, and I wish there were more movies that made an effort to be entertaining in old-fashioned way like "Honor Among Thieves" attempts. There are rumors of a sequel still being considered, so if you're a fan you should pick up the pretty-solid Blu-ray release, one with deleted scenes, a gag reel, and featurettes about the making of the movie. The flick also plays better at home than it did in Austin, where its simple charms can be easier to take in on your couch than with the pressure of a world premiere. I still think this should have and could have been better with all of the talent involved, but I want to see them get the chance to fulfill on that promise in a part two. Let's make that happen.

Buy it here 

Special Features
From Dice to Dragons: Honoring the Lore— Go behind-the-scenes with Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, and the cast and crew to witness the thrilling journey of bringing the classic board game to life in the ultimate D&D experience.
Rogues’ Gallery: The Heroes of Dungeons & Dragons— Get an in-depth look at the heroes of the film as the cast delves into their characters and reveals the secrets behind bringing them to life on screen.
Fantastic Foes— Explore the dark side of D&D with a look at the film’s complex and fascinating villains.
The Bestiary— Check out the cutting-edge visual effects, prosthetics, and intricate costumes that went into the creation of the movie’s magical beings and fantastical beasts.
Forging the Forgotten Realms— Discover the secrets behind the exciting sets and breathtaking locations in faraway lands!
Broadswords, Battle-axes & Badass Brawls— Dive into epic fight sequences with a behind-the-scenes look at the mind-blowing stunts and powerful weaponry that went into this heart-pumping action adventure.
Gag Reel— Don’t miss the hilarious gag reel with bloopers and outtakes.
Deleted and Extended Scenes— Uncover even more of the action with deleted & extended scenes not seen in theaters!


"Evil Dead Rise"

What the Hell, Warner Brothers? One of the biggest hits of the year, this Lee Cronin sequel has made almost $150 million worldwide on a budget that's around 10% of that, and yet WB is treating its home release like it was a bomb. Sure, the video and audio on the 4K transfer are sharp - WB Is always one of the best when it comes to 4K new releases - but explain to me the choice to release one of the biggest films of 2023 with absolutely no special features. Now, any fan of the "Evil Dead" movies will tell you that they are arguably the most re-released franchise in history (I think I have four releases for "Army of Darkness" alone) so maybe WB is planning a special edition down the road, perhaps when the seemingly-inevitable next film in the franchise is released. Until then, just rent it digital maybe and wait for the real deal to rise from Blu-ray Hell.

Buy it here 

Special Features
-Nothing, which is flabbergasting


"Irreversible"

This just came in this week, and I haven't had a chance to watch it, but I wanted to include it in this month's column because I find it so intriguing. Gaspar Noe went back and re-edited his controversial breakthrough "Irreversible" into a chronological cut, reversing the film's backward chronology into a more traditional drama. Roger constructed most of his 3-star review around how the film's structure was essential to its success, suggesting that it would be "unwatchable" in a traditional form. And I'm tempted to agree that the reversal of the structure gives the "happy couple" scenes at the end a different impact than they will in this new form. Roger wrote, "The fact is, the reverse chronology makes "Irreversible" a film that structurally argues against rape and violence, while ordinary chronology would lead us down a seductive narrative path toward a shocking, exploitative payoff." I'm interested to see if this new cut proves Roger right.

Buy it here 

Special Features
TWO-DISC SET
2K RESTORATIONS OF TWO CUTS OF THE FILM
The Irreversible Odyssey: A new 42 minute featurette re-visiting the film 20 years later and featuring interviews with Gaspar Noé, Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and others
Time Destroys All Things - A video essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
SFX Featurette: Go behind the scenes of Irreversible's special effects
Two Music Videos by Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter directed by Gaspar Noé
Original Teaser Trailers
Restoration Trailer
Other Trailers
English subtitles


"John Wick: Chapter 4"

As films like "Fast X" and "The Flash" flounder at the box office, trying to recoup budgets that are so massive that a film like the former can be considered a bomb if it makes a billion dollars worldwide, the best action movie of the year continues to draw in fans, now on Blu-ray and streaming services. Made for a fraction of the budget, "John Wick 4" features so much more robust filmmaking and creative storytelling than all of these CGI blockbusters combined. There's such a riveting grace to the fight choreography in these films, especially the latest entry in a saga that started with the death of a dog. (I went long in my theatrical review from the Austin premiere that you can read at the link above.) But I now feel like I might have even underrated it a bit, and it deserved a perfect score, especially after seeing the pale competition from Hollywood this year that tries to qualify as action.

Buy it here 

Special Features
Chad and Keanu: Through Wick and Thin: Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves have a partnership that stretches all the way back to the first Matrix In this retrospective piece, we trace their remarkable friendship and decades-long collaboration.
Train Like a Killer: Weapons Master Robert "Rock" Galotti and Keanu Reeves reveal the rigorous training that Keanu had to endure to make John Wick: Chapter 4 a reality – from gunplay, to jiu jitsu, to some hard-hitting stunt work.
Making A Killing: In John Wick, sets are not merely the backdrop for each scene – they are integral parts of the action, with Wick often using whatever is on hand to take the fight to his enemies. Here we explore the craft at play in designing the sets of John Wick: Chapter 4 and the ways set design and action choreography go hand in hand in this legendary series.
The Psychology of a Killer: Chad Stahelski explores the psychology of John Wick, a character who, despite four films, is still a mystery in many ways. We unpack the complicated code of ethics that Wick lives by, and the ironic bonds he shares with the men trying to kill him.
The Blind Leading the Fight: John Wick: Chapter 4 witnesses the arrival of Caine, a blind killer played by legendary actor and martial artist Donnie Yen. With a style not seen since The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, Caine shows that a killer's greatest instincts come not from his eyes, but from his mind. Here we uncover Yen's journey on this film, exploring his prep for the role, his insight into the character, and his intense training regimen to portray this unlikely killer.
Suit Up / Shoot Up: Costume Designer Paco Delgado uncovers the cooler-than-cool suits worn by the assassins of John Wick that feature bulletproof lining – just what every killer needs for a night out on the town. We also explore the more refined looks of the Marquis and the Old West-inspired garb of the Tracker.
Packing a Punch: Pulling off a kill takes a village. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the way Team Wick incorporates special effects into the practical stunts and locations of the film.
One Killer Shot: John Wick: Chapter 4 features one of the boldest single-take shots ever attempted in action filmmaking. Fight Choreographers Jeremy Marinas and Laurent Demianoff team up with Stunt Coordinator Scott Rogers to dive into the creative challenges that went into planning this one-shot sequence that sees John Wick take on Paris's deadliest killers.
Killing at the Speed of Traffic: Take a look at a nonstop action sequence featuring John Wick's car-fu at the Arc de Triomphe! The driving force of this piece will be a look at the effects achieved at the iconic location, and sets the stakes of every assassin in Paris descending on Wick.
A Shot in the Dark: The John Wick series takes audiences into a world that is both thematically and visually dark. For film crews, that meant enduring hundreds of night shoots, with crews switching to a virtually nocturnal mode of life for long stretches of production. Here we explore the tenacious work of cast and crew members who tough it out night after night in pursuit of Wick's dark, iconic aesthetic. Along the way, we explore some of the most iconic night scenes in the film, culminating with Wick's brutal staircase fight.
In Honor of the Dead: In creating John Wick: Chapter 4, Chad Stahelski drew on references from some of the greatest films ever made. Uncover the cinematic homages depicted in the film, from David Lean to John Woo, to the samurai epics of post-war Japan.
Theatrical Trailer 1
Theatrical Trailer 2


"Medicine for Melancholy" (Criterion)

Barry Jenkins, the director of "Moonlight" and "The Underground Railroad," made his directorial debut with this tender and moving character study that premiered at South by Southwest way back in 2008. It's fascinating to watch this new entry into the Criterion closet in the context of what is now such a notable career. One can see a bit of Jenkins' youth, but there's also so much empathy and grace in this film, elements that he would expand on over the next 15 years and counting. And Criterion was smart to get the always-engaging Jenkins to do a new audio commentary to pair with one he did back in 2008. One can contrast and compare the filmmaker who was just getting started with the director Jenkins is today through two different audio unpackings of the film. It's a simple tale, a romance between characters played by Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins, but its simplicity laid the foundation for a very complex artistic career to come.

Buy it here 

Special Features
New high-definition digital master, approved by director Barry Jenkins and director of photography James Laxton, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
New audio commentary featuring Jenkins
Audio commentary from 2008 featuring Jenkins, producers Justin Barber and Cherie Saulter, and editor Nat Sanders
New program about the making of the film, featuring Sanders and actor Wyatt Cenac
Camera test footage and blooper reel
Trailer
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: An essay by critic Danielle Amir Jackson


"Pasolini 101"

One of the most essential European filmmakers of his generation is getting the lavish box set treatment from Criterion this week, expanding the collection with a massive, feature-loaded box that includes nine feature films, shorts, documentaries, a new program, audio commentaries, documentaries, and a 100-page book with essays about Pier Paolo Pasolini. The filmmaker was a poet, editor, and teacher before becoming a filmmaker and his literary acumen and intelligence is apparent in all of his filmmaking. I'll admit to still needing to see several films in this set, one of those works that functions more like a film class than a traditional release. You can learn so much about Pasolini that Criterion has accurately called it "Pasolini 101". Note: His "Trilogy of Life" and "Salo" are also very solid Criterion releases already available. Films in this set include "Accattone," "Mamma Roma," "Love Meetings," "The Gospel According to Matthew," "The Hawks and the Sparrows," "Oedipus Rex," "Teorema," "Porcile" and "Medea."

Buy it here 

Special Features
New 4K digital restorations of seven films and 2K digital restorations of Teorema and Medea, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks
Two shorts made by director Pier Paolo Pasolini for anthology films: La ricotta (1963) and The Sequence of the Paper Flower (1969)
Two documentaries made by Pasolini during his travels
New program on Pasolini’s visual style as told through his personal writing, narrated by actor Tilda Swinton and writer Rachel Kushner
Audio commentaries on Accattone and Teorema
Documentaries on Pasolini’s life and career featuring archival interviews with the director and his close collaborators
Episode from 1966 of the French television program Cinéastes de notre temps
Interviews with filmmakers and scholars
Trailers
New English subtitle translations
PLUS: Deluxe packaging, including a one-hundred-page book featuring an essay and notes on the films by critic James Quandt, and writings and drawings by Pasolini


"The Pope's Exorcist"

What a weird movie this is. I have to admit that I presumed it would be awful from its horrible TV ads, but it's fascinating how much Russell Crowe gives to this role. At first, it feels like the kind of paycheck part that an actor would sleep through, but the Oscar winner brings it, committing in every scene. He's oddly funny, charming, and just fun to watch as an Italian priest who gets involved with an exorcism that might actually be a real encounter with the devil himself. The writing and filmmaking are clunky, but it's almost worth a recommendation to see Crowe giving his all, even when the movie isn't giving anything back. 

Buy it here 

Special Features
Introducing Father Amorth
What Possessed You?


"The Rules of the Game" (Criterion)

Since they joined the 4K revolution, Criterion has alternated new releases in the HD format with upgrading some of their best films. This month, they've gotten around to one of the most acclaimed films of all time, Jean Renoir's unpacking of societal structures in his 1939 dramedy that regularly makes lists of the best films ever made. No one does 4K like Criterion, a company that always seems careful not to over-polish films that are almost a century old. Some other 4K restorations look a little too plastic, but Criterion knows how to balance shadows and light and retain a bit of grain to keep it from looking "wrong." "The Rules of the Game" has always been one of their best releases, accompanied by an excellent audio commentary and rare material like interviews with people who made the film and a documentary about Renoir by David Thompson. It's a must-own for any cinephile.

Buy it here 

Special Features
New 4K restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
One 4K UHD disc of the film and one Blu-ray with the film and special features
Introduction to the film by director Jean Renoir
Audio commentary written by film scholar Alexander Sesonske and read by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich
Comparison of the film’s two endings
Selected-scene analysis by Renoir historian Chris Faulkner
Excerpts from a 1966 French television program by filmmaker Jacques Rivette
Part one of Jean Renoir, a two-part 1993 documentary by film critic David Thompson
Video essay about the film’s production, release, and 1959 reconstruction
Interview with film critic Olivier Curchod
Interview from a 1965 episode of the French television series Les écrans de la ville with Jean Gaborit and Jacques Durand
Interviews with set designer Max Douy; Renoir’s son, Alain; and actor Mila Parély
PLUS: An essay by Sesonske; writings by Jean Renoir, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bertrand Tavernier, and François Truffaut; and tributes to the film by J. Hoberman, Kent Jones, Paul Schrader, Wim Wenders, Robert Altman, and others


"Time Bandits" (Criterion)

Terry Gilliam has become a prominent part of the Criterion Collection, with excellent releases for "The Fisher King," "Brazil," "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen," and this 1981 fantasy film that has now been upgraded to the 4K format. In fact, the restoration for the film was overseen by Gilliam himself, which is the only real new feature on this upgrade, although all of the other material from the initial Criterion edition has been imported, including a raucous commentary with the filmmaker, Michael Palin, John Cleese, and more. Gilliam hasn't made a film in years, and his historical record has been tarnished as of late, but there's still joy to be found in his '80s and '90s work, including this fantasy-adventure that would become a cult hit on VHS as the filmmaker's career exploded.

Buy it here

Special Features
New 4K restoration, supervised by director Terry Gilliam, with uncompressed stereo soundtrack
One 4K UHD disc of the film presented in Dolby Vision HDR and one Blu-ray of the film with special features
Audio commentary featuring Gilliam, cowriter-actor Michael Palin, and actors John Cleese, David Warner, and Craig Warnock
Program on the creation of the film’s various historical periods and fantasy worlds, narrated by film writer David Morgan and featuring production designer Milly Burns and costume designer James Acheson
Conversation between Gilliam and film scholar Peter von Bagh, recorded at the 1998 Midnight Sun Film Festival
Appearance by actor Shelley Duvall on Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow show from 1981
Gallery of rare photographs from the set
Trailer
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: An essay by critic David Sterritt


"Transformers"

Before the release of "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts," Paramount dropped a limited edition steelbook six-movie set that you should know about. Like many critics, I have a somewhat contentious relationship with the films of Mr. Bay, but this is a box set designed and built for collectors. And I always appreciate it when a studio goes the extra mile for hardcore fans, even if I think most of the movies in a set are legit bad. I'll say that I think the first movie works on its own terms, and the "Bumblebee" spin-off is pretty solid. Some of the movies in between gave me a headache. Having said that, this is a cool box set with great design, art, and 4K versions of all of the films. If you're going to watch a "Transformers" movie, you really should do it in 4K.

Buy it here 

Special Features
TRANSFORMERS
Commentary by director Michael Bay
Our World
Their War
More Than Meets The Eye
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
Commentary by Michael Bay, Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
The Human Factor: Exacting Revenge of the Fallen
A Day with Bay: Tokyo
25 Years of TRANSFORMERS
NEST: TRANSFORMER Data Hub
Deconstructing Visual Bayhem
Deleted/Alternate Scenes
The AllSpark Experiment
Giant Effing Movie
Linkin Park – New Divide
The Matrix of Marketing
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON
Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon
Uncharted Territory: NASA’s Future Then and Now
Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences
The Art of Cybertron
The Dark of the Moon Archive
The Matrix of Marketing
TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
Bay on Action
Evolution Within Extinction—The Making of TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
Just Another Giant Effin’ Movie
A Spark of Design
T.J. Miller: Farm Hippie
Trailers
TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT
Merging Mythologies
Climbing the Ranks
The Royal Treatment: TRANSFORMERS in the UK
Motors and Magic
Alien Landscape: Cybertron
One More Giant Effin’ Movie
BUMBLEBEE
Sector 7 Archive
Deleted and Extended Scenes
Outtakes
Bee Vision: The TRANSFORMERS Robots of Cybertron
Bringing BUMBLEBEE to the Big Screen

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing 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 GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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