New Blu-ray Releases the post

(Welcome to Not Dead Yet, a feature dedicated to new Blu-ray releases and what special features you should be excited about. Because yes, some of us still like to own physical copies of our movies.)

It’s that time again: time to round-up the best Blu-rays available right now. This column is for you, physical media fiends. Don’t give up the good fight. This week, we have a great, timely offering from Steven Spielberg; a highly entertaining Heat knock-off; a charming sequel; Liam Neeson on a train; Helen Mirren in a haunted house; and a brutal revisionist Western.

Here are the new Blu-ray releases and their special features you should check out this week.

The Post

I’ve seen more than one person say that The Post is “Spielberg on Autopilot.” To which I say: bullshit. The Post may not be Steven Spielberg’s flashiest film, but it is a film full of life and energy. If this is Spielberg on autopilot, he’s even more talented than I thought he was.

Here, Spielberg offers up a masterclass in blocking. Sure, The Post may be a movie about people standing around talking, but a lot of work goes into staging the sequences, and placing the packed cast at just the right spot. Beyond the technical prowess of the film, The Post is also an important celebration of a free press. Can it get preachy at times? Perhaps, but have you seen who occupies the White House right now? Maybe preachy is exactly what we need.

If all that wasn’t enough to sell you on this thing, there’s also that dynamite cast. Spielberg has loaded The Post with a killer line-up of talented people. At the forefront of it all is Meryl Streep. Everyone knows Streep is one of the best actresses of all time, but there are occasions where she’ll deliver a performance that doesn’t quite resonate. That’s not the case here. In fact, I’d say this may be one of Streep’s best performances in years. There’s a scene where Spielberg pushes in on Streep’s face as she weighs a tough decision, and the way the actress uses her eyes to convey the millions of thoughts galloping through her head is quite a sight to behold.

Special Features To Note:

If your a Spielberg fan, as I am, The Post Blu-ray is loaded with some great behind-the-scenes stuff that will make you nerd-out. Almost all the features present here feature Spielberg talking about his approach to the film, and we also get the added bonus of seeing him on set (sporting those dynamite Spielberg fashions).

“Filming the Post” in particular goes into the entire production. Here, Spielberg talks about how he had no plans to make another film while making Ready Player One, but he came across Liz Hannah’s script and felt it was too good to pass up. The cast and crew reveal they began prep for the film in March, then were shooting in May – one hell of a turnaround time. On top of all that, there were no rehearsals. Spielberg shot everything in camera, encouraged improv, and even came up with stuff on the spot. It’s kind of amazing a film that’s so tight had such a freewheeling kind of production.

Everyone involved with the film, meanwhile, talks about how surreal it was to be working with Steven Spielberg and Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Spielberg goes on to say the film had the best ensemble he’s ever worked with. There’s a lot of emphasis here on how important the story is, and how important a free press is. In addition to that, we also get some features on the huge cast. Casting director Ellen Lewis talks about looking to television for parts, and adds that when she’s casting real figures she’s not looking for look-a-likes, but rather people who can embody the spirit of the individual they’re playing. Overall, this is a great look at a great film. 

Special Features Include:

  • Layout: Katharine Graham, Ben Bradlee & The Washington Post
  • Editorial: The Cast and Characters of The Post
  • The Style Section: Re-Creating an Era
  • Stop the Presses: Filming The Post
  • Arts and Entertainment: Music for The Post

 

Den of Thieves

Have you ever seen Heat? What a coincidence! So has Den of Thieves writer-director Christian Gudegast! Den of Thieves is the bloated, hungover offspring of a can of Monster Energy Drink, Heat and The Usual Suspects. It’s also surprisingly entertaining. Gudegast may not be the most original filmmaker (he steals so much from Heat here that he should honestly be kicking some of the film’s profits back to Michael Mann), but he’s undeniably talented. He’s a filmmaker that has a grasp on creating really good trash, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. It’s hard to make trash this good (I’m serious!).

B-movie god Gerard Butler drunkenly swaggers through this film as a gruff cop who isn’t averse to picking up a dropped donut at a murder scene and taking a bite. Butler and his team of rough and ready cops are trying to take down a crew of thieves lead by Pablo Schreiber (who is, unfortunately, miscast here; he’s too bland for such a looney film). You’ve seen this type of story before, and you’ve seen it done better, but it’s hard not to get wrapped-up in Den of Thieves’ trashy narrative. Bring on that damn sequel, I say.

Special Features To Note:

The special features here are quick and to the point, most of them lasting less than 3 minutes. That’s fine. The selling-point for Den of Thieves is the entertainment factor, not the artistry that went into creating it. Still, what we have here are brief looks at the cast, broken into two parts: the cops and the crooks. There’s also a featuette about the film’s action scenes, particular the big final shootout. Nothing to write home about, but if you end up enjoying Den of Thieves for what it is, you might get a kick out of all this. There’s also an alternate ending which is quite different, and not nearly as enjoyable, as the version that ended up in the theatrical cut. 

Special Features Include

  • Alternate Ending
  • Alpha Males – The cast describes how the tough characters in the film blur the lines between the good guys and the bad guys.
  • Into the Den – Director Christian Gudegast and the cast describe the two brotherhoods within the film, the renegades and the outlaws, and their unique sets of skills.
  • Alameda Corridor – The cast and director discuss filming the intense scene that take place on the streets of L.A. and the extensive weapons training it took to film it.
  • Outtakes and Deleted Scenes
  • Commentary with Director Christian Gudegast and Producer Tucker Tooley
  • Den of Thieves Theatrical Cut

 

Paddington 2

We really do not deserve movies this good and this kind. If you thought the first Paddington was good (and it was), you’ll be even more charmed by Paddington 2. Paddington is once again in a dangerous situation, but the bear’s inherent goodness is infectious, spreading to all the other characters. Director Paul King taps into silent movie slapstick to create a funny, charming, highly entertaining film. The real world is a cesspool of pain and misery – escaping it by watching a film like Paddington 2 can help keep you sane.

Paddington 2 improves on the original formula by adding even more memorable characters into the mix. There’s Brendan Gleeson as the marmalade-loving prison chef ‘Knuckles’ McGinty, and then there’s Hugh Grant, who steals the whole film as master-of-disguise Phoenix Buchanan. We as a species have done nothing to warrant such a kind, funny, charming movie like Paddington 2, but I’ll gladly take it. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll develop a craving for marmalade.

Special Features To Note:

Like Paddington 2 itself, all the special features on the Blu-ray release are very nice and very kind. “The Bear Truth”, for instance, is just all about how goddamn nice Paddington is and how warm the world of the film is like. It’s like a being wrapped in a warm blanket, it’s so darn comforting. If you’re feeling blue, turn on Paddington 2 and then watch all these special features – you’ll feel better, I promise. Hell, there’s even a feature entirely devoted to how to make a marmalade sandwich (yes, it’s charming, just like everything else about the movie). The best feature, though, is the musical number that concludes the film, sung by Hugh Grant. It’s an absolutely delight. 

Special Features Include:

  • Paddington: The Bear Truth
  • How to Make A Marmalade Sandwich
  • Music Video with Phoenix Buchanan
  • The Magical Mystery of Paddington’s Pop-Up Book
  • The Browns and Paddington: The Special Bond
  • Knuckles: A Fistful of Marmalade
  • The (Once) Famous Faces of Phoenix Buchanan
  • Audio Commentary by Director/Co-Writer Paul King

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