I, Tonya

I, Tonya is wildly over-the-top, but perhaps that’s warranted for a story like this. Director Craig Gillespie attempts to get the truth behind the tabloids, chronicling the life of infamous figure skater Tonya Harding. As the film unfolds, however, it becomes clear that fact is stranger than fiction. Harding’s life was such a garbage fire that it’s easy to sympathize with her. At the same time, the film’s version of Harding – much like the real person – has a very hard time admitting when she’s done something wrong, and sees persecutors everywhere.

There are flaws a’plenty here. There’s too much hack and slash going on; too much style over substance. And don’t even get me started on those needle drops. Yet at the same time, the film is entertaining, engrossing, and often surprisingly sympathetic. One of the final scenes, in which Tonya pleads her case in front of a judge, is heartbreaking. However, it’s worth nothing such a scene never happened in real life.

What makes I, Tonya work is the lead performance from Margot Robbie. Robbie is dynamite here, and without her, the film would suffer. The supporting cast is great too, especially recent Oscar-winner Allison Janney as Tonya’s nightmarish mother. But this is Robbie’s film. As I said in my theatrical review:

“Margot Robbie plays Tonya, and she’s damned good in the part. It’s a fine reminder of what a talented actress Robbie is, especially after her shaky performance in Suicide Squad. Robbie plays Tonya as rough around the edges; a self-proclaimed redneck who never fit in, and only really came alive when she was on the ice.”

Special Features To Note:

Special Features on the I, Tonya Blu-ray included some deleted scenes. These are mostly brief, amusing moments that don’t add a lot to the film. The funniest of the bunch is a scene at a buffet, where it’s revealed Tonya’s mother has dumped a bunch of chicken wings into her purse – much to the disgust of the buffet manager.

There’s also an extra scene with featuring Nancy Kerrigan. In this scene, narrator Tonya says her violent husband Jeff and Nancy might have planned the attack on Kerrigan themselves to ruin Tonya’s career. It’s a weird scene, and clearly intended to not be taken seriously – Kerrigan turns to the camera and calls bullshit on the whole thing.

Beyond these deleted scenes, there’s a making-of feature. Here, writer Steven Rogers says the film is a “cautionary tale” about the beginning of tabloid stories becoming mainstream. “Things aren’t just black and white; things are gray, and grays a lot more interesting.”

There’s also a featurette about how visual effects were used to combine Margot Robbie’s head on the body of a real figure skater to pull off all those fancy skating sequences.  

Special Features Include:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • All Sixes: The Perfect Performances of I, Tonya
  • Irony Free, Totally True: The Story Behind I, Tonya
  • Working with Director Craig Gillespie
  • The Visual Effects of I, Tonya
  • VFX: Anatomy of the Triple Axel
  • Feature Commentary with Director Craig Gillespie
  • Theatrical Trailers

 

The ’Burbs
(available March 20, 2018)

Shout Factory’s speciality line Shout Select brings Joe Dante’s bonkers dark comedy The ’Burbs to Blu-ray in all its glory. The ’Burbs is one of those syndication movies – the type that  used to play constantly on rainy Sunday afternoons on channels like TNT or TBS. As a result, it has a bit of a built-in following that’s granted the film more life than it had in theaters.

So does The ’Burbs hold up? Yes and no. There’s a lot to like here: the ensemble cast is a lot of fun, and some of Dante’s direction is superb. Here’s just one example: the opening shot, which starts off zooming into the Universal Pictures “globe” logo until it zeros in on neighborhood in middle America sets a memorable, ominous tone right from the get-go.

At the same time, The ’Burbs is so manic at times – this is a shouting film, where every character delivers their lines at full volume – that it can be exhausting. One of the most interesting takeaways of the film is the lead performance from Tom Hanks. This was right at the start of Hanks’ rise to fame, after Big had revealed him to be a movie star. As a result, Hanks’ role here – as a paranoid suburbanite – feels out-of-step with most of his filmography. Hanks’ character is kind of an asshole – something he hasn’t played often. Even his cold-blooded hitman in Road to Perdition seemed kind of likable when compared to the yelling, pouting jerk he plays here; the type of guy who ignores his wife (played wonderfully by Carrie Fisher) and kids so he can sneak off to spy on the neighbors – neighbors he suspects are murderers.

Had this been a typical Hollywood production, Hanks’ character perhaps would’ve learned a lesson at the end. A lesson about valuing his family. To the film’s twisted credit, there’s no such lesson here. We get the sense that despite all he’s been through, Hanks’ character will still be the same jerk he was at the start of the film.

Special Features To Note:

The Shout Select Blu-ray comes with multiple interviews with director Joe Dante and various cast and crew members (sorry, no Hanks interview). Dante reveals that Tom Hanks didn’t want his character have a kid because he didn’t want to play family men at this point in his career. The eventually convinced him otherwise, but you can tell how much disdain Hanks has at playing a father in the film.

The ’Burbs was shot during a writer’s strike. As a result, improv was encouraged, which explains why the film often feels so disjointed and shouty. Everyone is just going for broke instead of referring to a script.

Dante also reveals that he worked hard to have a lot of color coordinating in the film, with the intention of creating a “heightened reality” – in Dante’s mind, the film is something of a fantasy.

Here’s a fun piece of trivia that also gets brought up: the toy poodle that appears in the film is the same dog owned by serial killer Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. That dog was a star!

Special Features Include:

  • NEW 2017 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
  • NEW Interviews With Director Joe Dante, Editor Marshall Harvey, And Director Of Photography (Additional Scenes) John Hora
  • Audio Commentary With Writer Dana Olsen, Moderated By Author Calum Waddell
  • There Goes The Neighborhood: The Making Of The ‘Burbs – Includes Interviews With Director Joe Dante, Actors Corey Feldman, Courtney Gaines, And Wendy Schaal, Director Of Photography Robert M. Stevens, And Production Designer James H. Spencer
  • Alternate Ending
  • Original Workprint From Joe Dante’s Archive (Includes Deleted And Extended Scenes)
  • Behind-The-Scenes Still Gallery
  • Stills And Posters Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

 

Downsizing
(available March 20, 2018)

There’s a great movie buried somewhere in Alexander Payne’s Downsizing. Unfortunately, that great movie gets lost somewhere along the way. It starts out with a seemingly comedic premise – humanity finds a way to shrink itself down in order to consume less and end overpopulation. From here blossoms a story rife with social commentary; a tale of the haves and the have-nots struggling for their place in the world.

Great. In theory. But the script, by Payne and Jim Taylor, never finds the right approach. Matt Damon is a nice guy who gets shrunk down, thinking it will solve all his problems. Instead, he finds himself stuck in a rut and caught in a mini-rat race. Everything changes when he befriends a house cleaner, played by Hong Chau.

There are flashes of brilliance here – the miniature world that Payne and company create looks great, and Hong Chau’s performance is fantastic. But Downsizing is ultimately a frustrating film. It’s a frustrating film worth seeing, simply because it has a lot on its mind. But the end result is unfortunately disappointing.

Special Features To Note:

There are several behind-the-scenes featurettes included. Most of them are light and harmless, and the first one – where the cast and crew talk about working with Payne – is gushing to the point of being slightly embarrassing.

The best features of the bunch are “A Visual Journey” and “A Matter Of Perspective”, which go into the work done to create the downsized world of the film. One detail that serves as an ah-ha moment when you hear it: production designers worked hard to make the buildings in the downsized world look “less detailed”, which ends up creating a “toy like” effect.

Special Features Include:

  • working with Alexander
  • the cast
  • a visual journey
  • a matter of perspective
  • that smile
  • a global concern

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