With so many movies hitting VOD, streaming services, Blu-ray, and DVD, it’s hard to know what to watch next. New On Home Video offers a bi-weekly guide to what’s worth seeking out, with an emphasis on what’s really worth watching, from recent theatrical releases to classics and long-lost gems.
Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro (Criterion)
A lot of filmmakers attempt to adopt a one-for-them, one-for-me strategy to making movies, alternating films for studios and more personal projects. With Guillermo del Toro it’s never entirely clear which is which. Del Toro’s passion is as evident in films like the masterful Blade II, assignments a lot of directors would have only accepted grudgingly, and the Hellboy franchise as last year’s overlooked passion project Crimson Peak. That said, it’s also clear that Del Toto sometimes indulges his populist instincts more than his artful impulses and vice versa.
The essential (and beautifully packaged) box set collects three films at the heart of del Toro’s filmography: His 1993 feature debut Cronos, the 2001 ghost story The Devil’s Backbone, and the dark 2006 fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth. All showcase del Toro’s comfort with erasing the line between the mundane world and the otherworldly realm just beyond it. It’s easy to see the director’s obsessions already on full display in Cronos, a vampire story, of sorts, about the consequences of searching for immortality. The latter two entries make particular sense together. Set, respectively, during and in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, both use the supernatural to illustrate the ways children get trapped in the machinations of history.
The extras offer a feast for del Toro fans, from commentaries to looks at the effort behind Pan’s Labyrinth‘s remarkable creatures to a tour of Bleak House, the hoarding-inclined director’s art-and-memorabilia-filled second home, a place overrun with everything from ancient books to the tattered paperbacks of del Toro’s youth. It’s a place where del Toro seems able to wander around the contents of his own brain to his heart’s content. The rest of us just have his movies.
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Criterion)
Speaking of directors who used success to make whatever they wanted, Robert Altman took the clout he earned turning M*A*S*H into a blockbuster to make this beautiful, mournful anti-Western set in a frontier town where a gambler named McCabe (Warren Beatty) meets a madam named Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie), arriving just before the forces of civilization and capitalist enterprise show up to shut down the plans they launch together. Altman’s career is littered with masterpieces, but this might be chief among them, capturing everything the director did best, from the overlapping dialogue to the drifting camerawork to a tone that freely mixes romanticism with fatalism. Few saw it in 1971, but its reputation has grown with each year, a reputation this lovely Blu-ray edition only confirms.