Many great DVD and Blu-Ray ideas to watch while lounging about this holiday week (in America anyway…)
The top releases this week:
Warner Home Video Signature Collections
Warner Home Video is releasing no fewer than three boxed sets this week: The Jimmy Stewart Signature Collection, The Tracy/Hepburn Signature Collection, and The Katharine Hepburn Collection. This is heaven for me, since James Stewart and Katharine Hepburn are two of my very favorite actors, and The Hepburn/Spencer Tracy team is one of the screen’s great cinematic duos. These are budget DVDs (under $50, no Blu-Rays), but in total you get approximately one buttload of superb cinema.
The Katharine Hepburn Collection includes Morning Glory (1933), for which she won her first of four Academy Awards, Without Love (1945), Dragon Seed (1944), Undercurrent (1946), Sylvia Scarlett (1936) and the little-seen The Corn is Green (1979).
The Jimmy Stewart Collection includes Billy Wilder’s The Spirit of St Louis (1957), Mervyn LeRoy’s underappreciated The FBI Story (1959), Anthony Mann’s masterpiece The Naked Spur (1953), the Oscar-winning The Stratton Story (1949), and minor efforts Firecreek (1968) and The Cheyenne Social Club (1970) paired on the same disc.
The Hepburn/Tracy Collection provides three absolutely fantastic movies: Adam’s Rib (1949), Pat and Mike (1952), and Woman of the Year (1942).
Fifteen films you should see. So get to it.
Heaven’s Gate: The Criterion Collection
Criterion works their magical powers on the film that single-handedly killed Hollywood’s auteur-centered era. So is Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate the shameful, embarrassing, reeking turd its reputation suggests? Or is it Cimino’s towering, complex, brilliant, misunderstood chef-d’œuvre? Well, just shell out $49.95, slip the disc in your player, and 216 minutes later, you’ll have your answer!
Eclipse Series 37: When Horror Came to Shochiku
The Criterion release I’m most excited about this week is the latest from their Eclipse Series of ultra-obscure treasures. In 1967, the film studio responsible for releasing powerful dramas from Mizoguchi and Ozu decided to try to wrestle monster-movie domination from the Godzilla franchise. The result? Four mind-bogglingly insane features that must be seen to be believed. If you’ve not seen The X from Outer Space, Goke: Body Snatcher from Hell, The Living Skeleton, or Genocide/War of the Insects, you haven’t really lived yet, have you? Why wouldn’t you want to see a movie with a gigantic chicken-lizard? That last question should be rhetorical.
The Grave of the Fireflies: Complete Collection
One of the greatest war films of all time finally comes to Blu-Ray. Isao Takahata’s devastating tale of two children orphaned by war and destruction takes the heart of anyone who watches it and rips it to shreds. It is the prefect film to show people who say they don’t like animated cinema, or think that animation is just for children. Warning: do not show this film to young children! On Justin’s ranked list of Studio Ghibli’s output, he placed Grave of the Fireflies at Number One, surpassing even all of Miyazaki; his sensitive review of the film is well worth reading.
Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol 1, Kill Bill Vol 2, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds, and… True Romance? It’s not even a technicality—True Romance is not a Tarantino film. Sure, he wrote the screenplay, but if that’s the qualification for inclusion in this set, where is From Dusk Till Dawn, Natural Born Killers, that one episode of CSI? Oh, well. There is no better way to get Tarantino’s directorial output in one handy-dandy box than to buy this Blu-Ray set, which as of this writing is 42% off at Amazon. It includes two extra Blu-Rays of bonus content, and a bunch of Django trailers to satisfy you until Christmas Day.
Horror films reaching shelves this week include the region one debut of the amusing, Japanese-language grindcore flick Big Tits Zombie (which, just so you’re aware, features a fire-breathing demon vagina), a British slasher film unironically (?) titled Backslasher, Texas-set Backroad (with better photography than you might expect—no, really), sports-themed double feature Psycho Kickboxer (Death Wish meets Pulp Fiction!) backed with Canvas of Blood, and the found-footage semi-softcore flick Slaughter Creek, which the box tells me was completely unscripted. Is there anything better for a no-budget horror film than to lack any kind of screenplay or story outline?
For music fans, there’s a slew of releases, including footage from Coldplay, Aerosmith, Nirvana, Wilson Philips, Chris Isaak, Willie Nelson, Lou Reed, Ricky Nelson, and ZOMG JUSTIN BIEBER YOU GUYZ!
Oh, yeah, The Expendables 2 is out, but I’m wondering why, if these guys are so expendable, they made a second film with them? Irony.
Streaming Pick of the Week:
City of Life and Death
A historical incident that isn’t widely discussed enough, director Chuan Lu provides a powerful retelling of the Rape of Nanking. With stark black and white photography, Lu holds a mirror up to a society capable of the worst atrocities imaginable. Wrenching and powerful, but also filled with uplift. Released in the United States last year, City of Life and Death is now streaming on Netflix Instant.