A monthly guide to what’s essential in the world of streaming, Blu-ray, and DVD with an emphasis on vintage favorites getting a second life.
Le Samourai (Criterion)
Looking for one of the secret sources of cinematic cool? Look no further than this 1967 film from Jean-Pierre Melville, the first of several memorable collaborations with star Alain Delon. Delon plays a Parisian assassin who keeps a low profile and lives his life with few attachments. But he finds his approach to life challenged, and his own life endangered, when he begins a relationship with a witness to one of his crimes. Melville shoots the film with a chilly distance and reserved style that suits the material, and which has influenced everyone from John Woo to Walter Hill to Michael Mann. But just as important, and as influential, are the moments that suggest the emotions roiling beneath the surface of Delon’s character. It’s a perfect thriller that doubles as a depiction of an existential crisis. This new Blu-ray edition ports over the fine features from Criterion’s previous DVD release and sports a spiffy new transfer.
Misery (Shout! Factory)
Rob Reiner’s latest, LBJ, debuted to polite reviews a few weeks ago without really attracting that much attention. Reiner’s had his ups and downs as a director and lately it’s been mostly downs. But it’s worth recalling that he began his career with a terrific run of movies and each one looked nothing like the one before. This Is Spinal Tap led to The Sure Thing which led to Stand By Me which led to The Princess Bride which led to When Harry Met Sally… There’s no apparent logic there, and little beyond Reiner’s an affection for actors and a love for telling stories unites the movies. His next movie, Misery, released in 1990, was a bit of a return, reuniting him with the work of Stephen King. But it’s a much nastier movie than Stand By Me, exploring the dark places the relationships between artists and audiences can go via a bestselling author (James Caan) who finds himself imprisoned by his deranged “number one fan” (Kathy Bates, in the role that made her a household name). It’s tensely staged and skillfully acted and rightfully shows up near the top of any worthwhile list of the best King adaptations. Reiner shows up for an interview on this new Blu-ray edition, which also ports over some vintage features from previous home video releases, including an audio commentary.
Terry Gilliam’s first film as a solo director sometimes gets confused and conflated with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and not without reason. Released in 1977, Jabberwocky is set in the Middle Ages and stars Michael Palin and inevitably bears more than a trace of the Python sensibility. (That it was marketed in some quarters as a Monty Python film didn’t help matters.) But where Jabberwocky once looked like a side project between Python ventures, it now can be seen as the moment when Gilliam started to forge his own distinctive path. The film hasn’t been all that well served by past home video releases, but this Criterion edition corrects that, joining a new restored print with an old audio commentary, a new making-of doc, and an essay from critic (and occasional Uproxx contributor) Scott Tobias.
George Romero: Between Night And Dawn (Arrow)
George Romero changed horror films forever with Night of the Living Dead in 1968, then changed it again in the late-’70s with the sequel Dawn of the Dead and the quietly influential maybe-vampire movie Martin. But he wasn’t resting between those movies. George Romero: Between Night And Dawn collects the three films he made in the early ’70s: the romantic drama There’s Always Vanilla and two horror films: The Crazies and Season of the Witch. Romero himself didn’t always have nice things to say about the movies, each made on a shoestring budget with actors of wildly varying abilities. But almost-zombie movie The Crazies and Season of the Witch deserve a second look, the former pushing harder to find a metaphor for the madness of the ’60s and the latter exploring feminist issues via a housewife who dabbles in the occult. All are time capsules that find a director struggling to come up with a second act, and while they may not rank with Romero’s best, it’s nice to have them collected in a box set that treats them respectfully.
Your Name (Funimation)
The time-bending, body-switching romance Your Name was a huge hit in Asia and an arthouse hit in the U.S., where it mostly played brief runs to appreciative audiences. That audience should expand now that it’s available to watch at home. The visually stunning and emotionally rich film confirms Makoto Shinkai as a creator to watch.
The Philadelphia Story (Criterion)
Starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart, George Cukor’s 1940 film is the movie all romantic comedies dream of being.
Desert Hearts (Criterion)
Donna Deitch’s romantic drama earned mixed reviews in 1986, but it’s since been canonized as one of the pioneering lesbian films. Criterion essentially confirms that canonization with this nicely packaged new Blu-ray.