For my final home video column of the year, I decided to round up the best 4K and Blu-ray titles of 2020 that I couldn't cover in previous columns. Perhaps "best" is the wrong word as it is impossible for any human being to keep up with a fraction of all new physical media releases. Let's just say these are personal favorites that have added many hours of variety during this challenging year.
blade Ten years before Iron Man sparked the current tsunami of Marvel movies, New Line released this delightfully idiosyncratic adaptation of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan's comic about a man who uses his supernatural gifts to hunt down and destroy vampires. Wesley Snipes channels numerous action heroes of the 70s in a film that is a mixture of martial arts, blaxploitation and comic book fantasy and delivers the satisfaction of all three at the highest possible level. Soaked in the style and blood of director Steven Norrington, production designer Kirk M. Petrucelli, and cinematographer Theo van de Sande, it's one of those unusual films that is both contemporary and timeless – the film couldn't be more ingrained in fashion and music of the late '90s, but it's aged beautifully and is considered one of the most entertaining of all comic book adaptations, largely thanks to an inventive script from future Dark Knight co-writer David S. Goyer. The new 4K edition of the film is a real head-turner with great making-of features and spirited audio commentary from Snipes, Goyer, Petrucelli, van de Sande and others.
Clueless Amy Heckerling's return to high school 13 years after Fast Times at Ridgemont High was one of the hottest and influential comedies of its time, the template for 10 things about you that I can't wait to see, she's everything and dozens of other teenagers -Movies designed to capitalize on their success. It remains not only the warmest and smartest of all these films, but also the most impeccable; Heckerling's subtle but expressive use of the steadicam, the perfect leadership of a gifted young ensemble, and the bold use of colors that would make Jacques Demy jealous make a modern trendsetter with classic delights. The references that date the film – rough computer graphics, the characters' trust in a Thomas Guide to get around LA – only add to its charm, especially since everything else is playing even better now than it was in 1995. As in Fast Times, Heckerling did such a thorough understanding of how teenagers behave and what is important to them that the movie transcends its cultural moment, especially when it comes to in a flawless presentation like that in Paramount's SteelBook Blu-ray edition for the movie's 25th anniversary see is.
crash The 1997 Criterion pressing of David Cronenberg's self-described "existential romance" was one of my all-time favorite laser discs. I was thrilled when the company announced Blu-ray and DVD releases earlier this year. The new release includes the making-of material and audio commentary of the Cronenberg Laserdisc, but also includes a number of new additions, including a press conference in Cannes and Q&A about the National Film Theater with Cronenberg and author J.G. Ballard. The amalgamation of Cronenberg and Ballard's sensitivity in the film itself is infinitely intriguing, as Cronenberg takes Ballard's story of car accident-obsessed sexual fetishists and translates it into another of his investigations into how changes in the body cause changes in the mind and vice versa. The film is both a recap of everything he's worked towards in The Brood, Videodrome, The Fly, and Dead Ringers, as well as a huge step forward in the director's development. The filmmaking is as cool and precise as the content is outrageous and confrontational, resulting in a film that demands and rewards multiple viewing.
Diary of a crazy housewife Frank and Eleanor Perry's simultaneously exciting and terrifying adaptation of Sue Kaufman's novel is one of the great American films of the early 1970s, a brutally stripped-down character study of a woman (Carrie Snodgress) who opposes the tyranny of her insane selfish husband (Richard Benjamin) and her even more narcissistic lover (Frank Langella). Diary of a Mad Housewife is a first-person visual storytelling masterclass (the film tirelessly adheres to the title character's point of view right through to the amazing final scene) and is the culmination of Frank and Eleanor Perry's collaboration as director and screenwriter. (It also marks the end of their partnership; the husband and wife film crew would divorce Housewife a year after it was released.) The Kino Lorber Blu-ray includes one of my favorite specials of the year, an audio commentary from screenwriter Larry Karaszewski and film historians Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell, who deliver one fascinating detail after another; These guys know their stuff really well and their discussion is free enough to cover everything from the second units Universal would send out to shoot additional footage for TV versions of the studio's films to the transition from old Hollywood to new Hollywood, the diary represents. However, the focus keeps coming back on the Perrys and why they were so well equipped to tell this story, with astute observations from all three participants over camera work, editing, performance, sound design, and screenwriting. An earlier film by Frank and Eleanor Perry, Ladybug Ladybug, is also new to Blu from the cinema and is well worth a look.
The Eiger sanction Director Clint Eastwood's Riff on James Bond from 1975 is both one of his most entertaining and unusual films – and easily one of his most underrated. It's both an effective Cold War thriller and a crafty parody of the genre. It's a film full of contrasts and contradictions that would make Eastwood's later works like Unforgiven and Mystic River so rich, but here the stylistic acrobatics and thematic complexity are portrayed as ingredients in a pulp thriller rather than a prestige picture. An explicit statement in favor of elitism that is also filled with plain humor and blunt violence, a macho adventure film that challenges and questions common assumptions about masculinity, race and sexual orientation, and a deeply cynical satire that of Interrupted by real feeling is one of Eastwood's most alluring bold works. It's also one of its most visually striking thanks to spectacular European location work and mountain photography, which makes the long-awaited arrival of the film on Blu-ray a celebration. Even better, the CD includes an audio commentary by ace critic Nick Pinkerton, who skillfully analyzes the meanings and implications of The Eiger Sanction and offers stimulating connections between it and other films in Eastwood's oeuvre.
The Flintstones: The Complete Series and Mission Impossible: The Original TV Series Two legendary TV shows are getting spectacular digital upgrades to these Blu-ray box sets, beautiful packages that show how aesthetic both series were. Mission: Impossible, which ran on CBS from 1966 to 1973, is one of the most cinematic action series of its time, with consistently elaborate set pieces and premises and an astonishingly dynamic use of light and color (established by the experienced cameraman John Alton in the Pilot) . And if, like me, you grew up with standard-def reruns of The Flintstones on syndicated television, you'll be amazed by the vibrant palette and inventive sound design that the flawless Blu-ray presentation features in many episodes. It's safe to say that none of these programs has ever looked or sounded anywhere near this good before these exquisite deluxe editions.
Vacation matter Just in time for the holidays, one of the greatest Christmas films ever made arrives on Blu-ray, courtesy of the ever-trusted Warner Archive label. Janet Leigh is a war widow who raises a young son while trying to decide what to do with the friendly, reliable attorney (Wendell Corey) who keeps making suggestions. Robert Mitchum is a free spirited department store salesman who turns the widow's life upside down by falling in love with her at first sight. Hollywood brought out this kind of love triangle in which the protagonist has to choose by the hundreds in the era of Holiday Affair's publication (it came out in 1949) by the hundreds between a steady but slightly boring partner and a lively but unpredictable partner, the execution of the Screenwriter Isobel Lennart and director Don Hartman is neither stale nor known. The film is rich in closely observed details of character and context, shows complex relationships, and a clear awareness of how romantic feelings can be influenced by factors unrelated to traditional literary ideas of love – particularly economic factors. While film delivers many of the conventional pleasures of its genre, it does so without ever resorting to undeserved feelings or clichés; It's a smart, fun, and poignant gem. It is one of several recent Warner Archive editions of holiday classics. They have also released new pressings of It Happened on 5th Avenue and Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner, both of which, like Holiday Affair, meet the label's usual high standards. I keep my fingers crossed that the recent corporate chaos at Warner Brothers has had no bearing on this boutique division, which is unique among studios in its ongoing awe of film history and science.
Irishman Martin Scorsese's 2019 Testament film receives Criterion treatment for Blu-ray and DVD editions, which are indispensable resources for anyone who cares about the director and his approach. At 209 minutes, The Irishman is Scorsese's longest non-documentary film, but there is no wasted frame. The breadth of his and screenwriter Steven Zaillian's ambition to examine interfaces between capitalism, crime, mortality, and regret at both the macro level of 20th century American history and the micro level of a man's intellectual corruption justifies and demands the long duration, the Scorsese makes the most of his reduced, expressive images of all time. The Criterion edition is a feast for Scorsese students, with great documentaries on various aspects of film production and a visual essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme who analyzes with insight and passion the importance and place of the Irish in Scorsese's oeuvre.
Rio Grande The final film in John Ford's cavalry trilogy, and the richest in irreconcilable tension, gets the home video treatment it deserves in an extravagant "Signature Edition" from Olive Films. The story of a Colonel (John Wayne) and his estranged wife (Maureen O & # 39; Hara) reunited on a military base when their son is assigned to the Colonel's orders is a typically rigorous, demanding test of difficult moral choices: between Family and duty, the individual and the group, and diplomacy and violence. The characters' priorities are constantly questioned by themselves and their director in a drama that is as poetic and moving as it is kinetic and stirring. Ford reconciles contemplation and action with far greater certainty than its characters are able to reconcile their warring obligations. Although Rio Grande has been released several times on Blu-ray and DVD, it has never been produced with such care or such a generous range of special features. There are hours here of great commentary, interviews, and visual essays that give Ford's Tour de Force the analysis it warrants. (It's been a good year for Ford on Blu-ray – in addition to Rio Grande, I recommend Kino Lorber's recent pressings of Ford Silents Hell Bent and Straight Shooting, both of which feature outstanding historical commentary tracks by Ford expert Joseph McBride.)
Total Recall Lionsgate's new 4K / Blu-ray combo package of Paul Verhoeven's 1990 science fiction extravaganza contains the sharpest, most detailed broadcast of the film I've seen to date, and leaves no room for error when it comes to that Plenty of special of the movie goes effect shots. The good news is that engineering wizardry stands the test; 30 years after its release, Total Recall can easily be considered one of the last great advances in analog optical effects, miniature work, and special effects makeup (courtesy of The Bottling and The Thing Maestro Rob Bottin). It's also a reminder of how subversive and explosive (literally) Verhoeven's sensitivity was when he began smuggling the ideas and images of his Dutch masterpieces into Hollywood genre films, and the creative freedom and resources that the independent studio Carolco had directors such as Verhoeven, Walter Hill, Alan Parker and James Cameron at the time. Total Recall is one of several major auteur films to be treated with 4K in the past few months. I would also recommend the new 4K releases of Peter Jackson's trilogies "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit", "Michael Mann's Securities" and "George Miller's Mad Max", all of which have flawless broadcasts and come with useful extras.
Jim Hemphill is the writer and director of the award-winning film The Trouble with the Truth, which is currently streamed on Amazon Prime and Tubi. His website is www.jimhemphillfilms.com.