10 NEW TO NETFLIX
4 NEW TO VOD
A number of studios have released movies early to VOD because of COVID-19. We already ran a piece highlighting our reviews of most of them, but wanted to make sure you knew about the most recent additions to the VOD sections of sites like iTunes and Vudu – click through for full reviews and watch for more in these columns when they’re available for rental.
7 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD
Sam Mendes‘ WWI movie became an unexpected darling during awards season, which now feels about 100 years ago but was really back in February, when “1917” won three Oscars, including Best Cinematography. If you’re wondering, no, it doesn’t quite play the same at home, even with a massive screen and good sound system, but it probably plays better than you expect. If anything, a second viewing at home allows you to experience the film in a new way given how much of a visceral experience it is the first time. And Universal has mastered the film well, especially on 4K. I’m still conflicted on the overall experience that feels a bit too much like a video game for me, but the technical quality of the movie can’t be denied, and now you can see it for yourself.
The Weight of the World: Sam Mendes – Academy Award® winner Sam Mendes discusses his personal connection to World War 1.
Allied Forces: Making 1917 – Learn how the one shot, 360-degree format was executed and the pivotal role Academy Award® winner Roger Deakins served in bringing Sam Mendes’ vision to life.
The Music of 1917 – Composer Thomas Newman and filmmakers discuss the important role of the Academy Award®-nominated score.
In The Trenches – Go behind the scenes with the cast of 1917.
Recreating History – Filmmakers offer a detailed look at the production design challenges of recreating the First World War.
Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Sam Mendes
Feature Commentary with Director of Photography Roger Deakins.
Didn’t everyone think that the Asian Horror remake trend was over? Apparently no one told Nicolas Pesce, who followed up his arthouse darlings “Eyes of My Mother” and “Piercing” with an unexpectedly high-brow take on the legendary Japanese “Ju-On,” already remade successfully enough to get an American sequel. Pesce’s strongest asset here is his cast, which includes great actors Andrea Riseborough, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, and Demian Bichir. I wish he had gone with a different visual palette – all of this looks vaguely washed in urine – but he definitely taps into something more primal than the jump-scare-reliant remakes of Asian horror films typically do. It may not be a complete success, but it’s way more interesting than I expected it to be, even if it will probably be a strange outlier more than a restart to the subgenre of Asian horror remakes.
“The Cast of the Cursed” featurette: Take an inside look at the evil that lurks behind the doors at 44 Reyburn Dr., as key creatives and cast members explore The Grudge characters and discuss their experience working with Writer/Director Nicolas Pesce.
“Designing Death” featurette: From a slightly paler version of themselves to being completely mangled and rotted, to the incredible death scenes; like Faith Matheson’s (Lin Shaye) epic leap off of the staircase, explore the character make-up design process and the film’s visual look involved in creating the myriad of ghosts caught in the grips of the Grudge!
“Easter Egg Haunt” featurette: Join Writer/Director Nicolas Pesce as he brings to light the plethora of hidden Easter Eggs throughout the film which are homages to the previous works in the Ju-On franchise.
Extended Scenes & Alternative Ending Experience the scenes too disturbing for theaters, like Peter Spencer’s terrifying encounter in the attic of 44 Reyburn Dr., or the uncovering of the gruesome truth behind the Landers’ family deaths.
“Leave Her to Heaven” (Criterion)
It’s not every day you get to see a legitimate masterpiece. Somehow, I had missed this movie until this week, finally catching up with the Oscar winner 75 years after its release on a new Criterion edition. It’s a simply stunning film that somehow merges elements of the women’s picture with noir femme fatale concepts to create something absolutely riveting and terrifying. Gene Tierney gives a phenomenal performance as a woman who is so possessive that she’s become a sociopath, eliminating anything that gets in the way of her having her new husband all to herself. With gorgeous cinematography and incredibly refined direction and writing, this is a perfect movie front to back. The next time there’s a Criterion sale, just buy it. Trust me on this one.
New 2K digital restoration by Twentieth Century Fox, the Academy Film Archive, and The Film Foundation, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New interview with critic Imogen Sara Smith
PLUS: An essay by novelist Megan Abbott
“The Prince of Tides” (Criterion)
Criterion took a little flack from the interweb when they announced the inclusion of this Barbra Streisand melodrama. It’s a well-liked, acclaimed film, but not exactly what we’ve come to expect from Criterion. Two things. One, Criterion desperately needs more female directors, and this is one of the more acclaimed works of its era from a female director. After all, it was nominated for seven Oscars, and I remember the controversial exclusion of Streisand from Best Director when her film was nominated for Best Picture. Two, it’s a better movie than you remember. It contains perhaps Nick Nolte’s best performance, an emotional, raw turn from the underrated actor.
New 4K digital restoration, supervised by actor, producer, and director Barbra Streisand, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary featuring Streisand, recorded in 1991 and updated in 2019
Excerpt from a 2018 interview with Streisand, conducted by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez on El Rey Network’s The Director’s Chair
Audition and rehearsal footage
Deleted scenes and alternate takes
Costume and makeup tests
Alternate end credits with a vocal performance by Streisand
Production-stills gallery and other archival materials
Interview with author Pat Conroy from a 1992 episode of Cinema Showcase with Jim Whaley
Interview with Streisand from a 1992 episode of the British television show Aspel & Company with Michael Aspel
Notes from Conroy to Streisand
PLUS: An essay by film historian Bruce Eder
“Show Boat” (Criterion)
There are not a lot of musicals in the Criterion collection and so it should garner some attention when one is chosen to be included like this James Whale adaptation of the classic Edna Ferber novel with lyrics and music by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. “Show Boat” has never been one of my favorite musicals, but it’s an important film that includes show business legends like Irene Dunne and, of course, Paul Robeson, who performed “Old Man River” in a way that would make it the template for every performance of the song to follow. Most notably, the special features here are extensive and detailed, including performances from a 1929 version of “Show Boat, two radio adaptations, and an Academy Award-winning doc short about Robeson.
New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 1989 featuring American-musical historian Miles Kreuger
New interview with James Whale biographer James Curtis
Recognizing Race in “Show Boat,” a new interview program featuring professor and author Shana L. Redmond
Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist (1979), an Academy Award–winning short documentary by Saul J. Turell, newly restored
Four performances from the sound prologue of the 1929 film version of Show Boat, including songs from original Broadway cast members Helen Morgan, Jules Bledsoe, and Tess Gardella, plus twenty minutes of silent excerpts from the film, with audio commentary by Kreuger
Two radio adaptations of Show Boat, featuring stage and screen cast members Morgan, Allan Jones, and Charles Winninger; producer Orson Welles; and novelist Edna Ferber
PLUS: An essay by critic Gary Giddins
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”
Maybe you’ve heard of it? The controversial final chapter to the Skywalker Saga may feel like a lifetime ago in the wake of COVID-19, but it’s actually just now coming out on Blu-ray and DVD. The truth is that it plays better at home, away from all the secrecy about the production and the uncertainty as to how much J.J. Abrams would react to criticism of “The Last Jedi.” The funny/sad thing is that the final film seemed to satisfy neither fans of Rian Johnson’s movie or its haters. So where is the consensus now on “Rise of Skywalker”? It’s honestly a situation in which it feels almost forgotten. At least people talked about “Last Jedi” for months. Maybe the Blu-ray release will spark the conversation again – it’s a strong looking and sounding release, and includes interesting special features. It should satisfy fans of the series but is unlikely to win over new ones – kind of like the movie itself.
The Skywalker Legacy – The story lives forever in this feature-length documentary that charts the making of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Pasaana Pursuit: Creating the Speeder Chase – Dive into the making of the movie’s epic landspeeder chase and discover how this spectacular sequence was brought to the screen.
Aliens in the Desert – See what it took to create the Pasaana desert scenes, from the sheer scale and complexity of the shoot to its colorful details.
D-O: Key to the Past – Explore the ship that connects Rey to the mystery of her missing parents and get to know the galaxy’s newest, irresistible droid.
Warwick & Son – Warwick Davis, who played Wicket in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, dons the Ewok costume once more; this time joined by his son Harrison.
Cast of Creatures – The team behind the film’s memorable creatures reveal the puppetry, makeup, prosthetics and digital magic that bring them to life!
A truly great ensemble of aging character actors elevates this John Carpenter-esque story of a VFW hall beset upon by junkie mutants. Stephen Lang (“Don’t Breathe”) has always been a deeply underrated actor and he’s great as the center of a group of war vets that includes characters played by William Sadler, Fred Williamson, Martin Kove, David Patrick Kelly, and George Wendt. Hanging out one night at the hall, as they often do, they’re attacked by a group of vicious maniacs, who underestimate how much of their time in the military these guys remember. It’s not perfect – the pacing in the first act is way off – but when it gets going, it mostly works. And Lang rules. As usual.
Two Filmmaker Audio Commentaries
The Making of VFW – Featurette
Meet the Cast of VFW – Featurette
The Special Make-Up Effects of VFW – Featurette