Another seven days of movie watching, another week of Blu-ray releases to be dissected. As we move through the back-end of awards season, it’s going to be time for all of those hot Oscar hopefuls to make their play toward cashing in on all the buzz. The benefit to you is that you’ll get to see or own most of them very soon, and you don’t even have to leave your couch. This week brings us Animal Kingdom, the still under-the-radar crime thriller from down under. It also sees the streak of Criterion continue, with two more of their films ending up in my Buy section. I’m not pandering, I promise. They are just really good at releasing films on Blu-ray. It’s almost unfair to everyone else. Except for those of us who buy their stuff, of course. All this and more is just one click away in the latest entry of This Week in Blu-ray.
Even though Jackie Weaver was snubbed the other night for a Golden Globe, you can still see her this week on Blu-ray. She’s craft, diabolical and downright fabulous as the controlling head of household in Animal Kingdom, the best offering from Australia in a long, long time. It’s a gritty, atmospheric crime drama that will serve as the kick the groin you didn’t know you needed. If you haven’t seen it, I’d say buy it. If you have seen it, then you’re already buying it. The only hint of sadness here is that the Blu-ray isn’t packed with HD extras. Just the supplements it shares with the DVD. It’s almost enough to bump it down to a rent, but not quite.
In the opening moments of Samuel Fuller’s The Naked Kiss, we meet Constance Towers, playing a prostitute who has been taken to task by a sleezy manager. She gets the upper-hand though, waiting until he’s just drunk enough and pouncing on him. For the first few moments of the film, she beats the living daylights out of him. It’s a jaw-dropping scene, filmed beautifully and evidence of what is to come in Fuller’s highly provocative, intense story of a street-walker turned children’s nurse. She just wants to start a new life — but the new life she gets is far more insane than she bargained for. The film looks splendid in high definition, transferred cleanly and with little imperfection. The extras are plentiful as well, as if you’d expect anything different from the Criterion Collection. And how about that cover art? I’d buy it for the art alone.
A full-bore high definition trailer. An uncompressed mono soundtrack. Samuel Fuller’s commentary on race in the 60s told through a story of mind-bending dementia has never been so carefully handled. At a lesser distribution house, a movie like Shock Corridor would get a “special anniversary edition” with a grainy transfer and a trailer. In the hands of Criterion, it gets the white glove treatment. And it makes for a perfect one-two punch this week alongside The Naked Kiss. Plenty of supplements, a superb audio and video presentation and that cover art. Oh that cover art.
This week’s theme seems to be men in tight spaces. Movies that put the main character — or in this case characters, as its about a group of soldiers in a tank — and the audience inside of a tight space and test their will. Samuel Moaz’s tale of a tank unit driving through the most terrifying zones of the 1982 Lebanon war is a sensory overload, especially on Blu-ray. The sound design is incredible, engrossing and at times quite horrifying. I read a review that called this the Das Boot of tank movies, and that’s right on the money. At least in regard to the effect that it has on its audience. Don’t miss discovering this excellently-crafted tale. Just make sure you rent, as the Blu-ray release overall doesn’t bring any heavy artillery in the supplemental features department.
This always happens — really solid movies, which display a great deal of craftsmanship (I’m looking at you, director Rodrigo Cortez) and a very good performance (Ryan Reynolds, not shirtless), don’t get a solid Blu release and are relegated to the dreadful rent section. Buried is absolutely that movie. More than worth your time for a one-time watch, but not exactly worth laying down the full price of ownership. The supplements are scant — a lone featurette and some trailers. I won’t hesitate to stand by my assessment from Sundance and say that Buried was one of the more interesting films released all year, so color me disappointed on behalf of this claustrophobic, creatively delivered thriller.
“In a meandering sort of way, the directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman is a charming story.” My review of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s first directorial piece from last year’s Sundance Film Festival seems to be spot on, even upon a second viewing. It’s a simple four-piece comedy that burns slowly, but it has all of the intellect and charm you’d expect from Hoffman. The sad news is that the Blu-ray is a sinking ship, lacking in HD extras and sporting only a few short featurettes. If someone does connect with this film, there’s nowhere else to go with it. And it’s not the sort that lends to multiple viewings. In a sense, it’s the perfect rental.
The buzz from Stone — what little buzz that has escaped from the vacuum that has seemingly surrounded this film from moment one — is that it’s impressive. Impressive more because it’s a return to form for Robert De Niro, home to another versatile performance from Edward Norton and most impressively, a stunning performance from Mila Jovovich. You read that right, dear friends. Critics like our own Adam Charles have lauded Jovovich’s performance in this film. That alone makes it worth seeing. The lack of special features on this disc — a single “Making Of” featurette and a trailer are all there is — make it a rent, but it’s certainly worth a look.
Nothing to avoid this week — I was thinking that Takers might find a home here, but then I reread Robert Levin’s surprisingly positive review from its theatrical run. Having not seen it, I can’t blindly go against it. I will say this — the supplements listing isn’t terrible.
Also dropping into your world on Blu-ray this week, but not reviewed by yours truly…