This is the time of year that seems to have the shortest window between the theatrical availability and DVD/Blu-Ray availability of new films. Many Oscar contenders and other awards hopefuls are held in theatres for months to continue their awards push up until the awards are done. Now that awards season is over, these films seem to get rushed to DVD at lightning speed. This is for the best, considering there is an embarrassing abundance of 2012 films that I still need to see.
Here are this week’s top 5 new releases:
Top 5 New Releases
5) Ministry of Fear (1944)
My only familiarity with the filmography of Fritz Lang is his early work, specifically Metropolis, M, and the Dr. Mabuse films. The Criterion Collection is giving me an opportunity to fix that hole in my Lang education by releasing one of Lang’s well-loved 1940s noir films on Blu-Ray and DVD. The story follows a recently released mental patient who stumbles across a small village in England with dark secrets and possible connections to the Nazi party. The Blu-Ray is surprisingly light on special features for a Criterion release, but it does include an interview with Lang scholar Joe McElhaney and an essay by film critic Glenn Kenny.
4) This Must Be the Place (2012)
This film came and went without much of a splash last year, which is surprising considering the talent involved. Sean Penn and Frances McDormand star in roles that looked like awards bait and the film is directed by up and coming Italian director Paolo Sorrentino. The film is about retired rock star named Cheyenne (Penn) who goes on a quest to find the ex-Nazi who persecuted his father. It received middling reviews when it played in theatres last year, but since Sorrentino is probably still a director to watch, this one sounds worth checking out.
3) Hitchcock (2012)
Another film that did not make much a splash during last year’s Awards cycle was this biography of one of Hollywood’s biggest behind-the-camera icons. The reason for its absence might be that the film was not very well received with a middling 55 on Metacritic and numerous pans from well-known critics. The film centers on the brief period of Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Reville’s life when the master of suspense was filming Psycho. It stars Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as the central couple along with a list of stars that includes Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, Danny Huston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jessica Biel, and many many more.
2) Life of Pi (2012)
Ang Lee’s adaptation of the Yann Martel novel won more Oscars than any other film this year including Best Director for Lee himself. It is also one of two 2013 Best Picture nominees that I have not seen, which now that it is widely available on DVD is inexcusable. The film has its fans (G Clark) and its detractors (Duncan), but I always like to judge for myself. I will admit to being slightly disappointed that I won’t see this film in 3-D because this is one of the few films that I have heard getting praised for its use of the technology.
1) This is Not a Film (2012)
The one film that I most regret missing in 2012 was Jafar Panahi’s pseudo-documentary This is Not a Film. However, it had a very brief theatrical release and I’m not even sure if it even played in Minneapolis. The genre-bending film from Iranian director Panahi was filmed in his own home while he was on house arrest using an iPhone and other low-budget devices. It was then smuggled out of the country on a flash drive and shown at film festivals around the world. It depicts a day in the life of Panahi who is forbidden from making films in his home country. In what sounds like a fascinating concept, Panahi exposes injustice and investigates truth by asking an important question: what is a movie?
Other New Releases
There is a movie from last year that stars Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fischer, Chris Pine, and Jude Law, or at least their voices, and it’s called Rise of the Guardians and tells the story of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and a bunch of other symbols of childhood fantasy fighting crime or something. The animation is supposed to be excellent, so it might be worth checking out. Additionally the hockey documentary The Last Gladiators from director Alex Gibney is available now. Up until a few months ago it looked like this documentary would be the most professional hockey we would get this year.
The independent film Smashed flew in under the radar last year, but earned some acclaim for its star Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It tells the story of her and her husband’s (Aaron Paul) struggle with alcohol addiction. The judgement is out on whether it does a better job than Flight at tackling the subject.
If it is classic movies that you seek, look no further than The Blob, the 1958 campy horror film that has been given a restored Blu-Ray release by the fine folks at The Criterion Collection. That release includes two audio commentaries (apparently there is THAT much to say about The Blob) and of course, an essay. Cecil B. Demille’s huge budget biblical epic Samson and Delilah from 1949 gets its first Blu-Ray release today in a newly restored transfer that made the rounds at a few repertory cinemas last year.
Streaming Pick of the Week
The Vengeance Trilogy from Chan-wook Park
With his first English language film, Stoker, expanding into more theatres this Friday, this week would be a great time to catch up with some of the director’s early work and some of his most celebrated. These three films allow their main characters to indulge in one of the basest of human instincts – revenge – with devastating consequences. The series begins with a deaf man who takes revenge on the boss who fired him in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, then continues to a wrongly imprisoned man seeking to kill his captors in Oldboy, and finally an ex-con who seeks to kill the real perpetrator of the murder that put her in jail in Lady Vengeance. There is lots of blood, some beautiful stylistic flourishes, and great performances in each installment. Most importantly it will give you the necessary background to appreciate the Park’s unique worldview before seeing his first American film.
What movies are you looking forward to watching this week?