The Florida Project

I’m still in a state of shock that the Academy snubbed the delightful, heart-wrenching The Florida Project from a Best Picture nomination this year. But hey, that’s the way Hollywood is: stupid. Oh well. Sean Baker’s beautiful film may not take home Oscar gold, but I have no doubt it’s the type of film that people will still be talking about in years to come.

Baker crafts a story set in a run down motel just outside of Disney World. Here, young Moonee (the phenomenal Brooklynn Prince) and her friends run wild, much to the consternation of motel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe, giving perhaps the best performance of his acclaimed career).

The Florida Project may be light on plot, but it’s big on emotion, and as the film unfolds from one scenario to the next, it’s nearly impossible not to get wrapped up in the tale Baker is telling. The film concludes with one of the most effective and emotionally devastating scenes I’ve ever seen on screen. The Academy be damned – The Florida Project is the best film of 2017.

As I said in my theatrical review of the film, “The final moments of The Florida Project unfold breathlessly – tension is mounting, and there’s the queasy sense that something terrible is about to happen, like a destructive storm about to break. And then Baker does something magnificent – he follows Moonee…on one last adventure before the credits roll. Is it real or is it fantasy? It doesn’t matter. It’s magic. We can all do with a bit more magic in our kingdoms.”

Special Features to Note:

“Under the Rainbow: Making The Florida Project” is not so much a traditional making-of featurette as it is raw behind the scenes footage shot on set. Really, this is what you might call B-Roll, but it’s still fun to watch Baker and his cast and crew work together. It also provides some insight as to how Baker got such great performances from his mostly young, inexperienced cast.

Beyond this, there are interviews with the cast and crew. Director Sean Baker talks about how he wanted to make a film about children  and how he was inspired by The Little Rascals.

Willem Dafoe says what drew him to the film was how much he liked the character – he liked the many relationships he had with the characters. He, too, mentions The Little Rascals.

And yes, Brooklynn Prince’s interview is adorable. “She’s fun non-stop,” she says of her character. “She likes to get ice cream, eat waffles…besides the food, she likes to run around.” Prince also mentions The Little Rascals, which gives me the sense that everyone got together before their interviews and agreed they’d all mention The Little Rascals.

The best feature of the bunch is a charming blooper reel.

Special Features Include:

  • “Under the Rainbow: Making The Florida Project” Featurette
  • Bloopers and Outtakes
  • Cast and Crew Interviews

 

Silver Bullet
(Available March 1)

It had been years since I watched Silver Bullet, the Stephen King werewolf movie featuring Gary Busey as a constantly drunken uncle, and I didn’t have many fond memories of the film. So it was a pleasant surprise to pop in this new Blu-ray release from Umbrella Entertainment and discover the film really holds up.

Yes, some of the werewolf effects are a bit cheap. But beyond that, Silver Bullet is a surprisingly well-crafted ‘80s horror flick, filled with some enjoyable nasty moments, such as the opening scene where the werewolf literally slaps a man’s head off his neck.

The late Corey Haim stars as Marty, a young boy who uses a wheelchair. Marty is growing up in your typical small, quiet, Stephen King-esque town. But like all Stephen King towns, this one is in for a world of trouble when a werewolf begins tearing residents to shreds. The beast turns out to be the new Baptist minister, played wonderfully by Twin Peaks actor Everett McGill.

Soon, Marty is enlisting the help of his beloved, frequently-intoxicated Uncle Red (a very funny Gary Busey) to do battle against the lycanthrope.

Silver Bullet isn’t the best ‘80s werewolf film (that distinction would belong to American Werewolf in London and The Howling), but it’s a very entertaining, often genuinely creepy fright flick that has the added bonus of a script penned by King himself.  

Special Features to Note:

In addition to a commentary track from director Daniel Attias, Umbrella’s Silver Bullet Blu-ray comes packed with interviews. Producer Martha De Laurentiis is on hand to talk both about her career and the making of the film. Among the topics she touches on are working with Stephen King, and also revealing that the producers spent “a fortune” trying to get the werewolves in the film to look right.

Star Everett McGill is also featured, giving a laid-back, extremely polite and professional interview about the film. McGill reveals he agreed to do the part only if he didn’t have to wear the werewolf costume, which producers agreed to. But after some convincing, MgGill relented and slipped into the werewolf costume when needed. McGill also reveals he went method for the part, deliberately alienating himself from the cast and crew to better exploit the threatening outsider nature of his character.

The best interviews of the bunch belong to special effects artists Michael McCracken, Jr. and Matthew Mungle, who are instantly hilarious and lively, recounting the shoot with great enthusiasm. They talk about how producer Dino De Laurentiis was not happy with the design of the werewolf, calling it a “were-bear”. The duo also recount times effects work went wrong, such as a scene where a fake body they designed to fall down simply would not fall over.  The experience of making the film is summed up nicely with this statement: “It wasn’t one of those films where you were like, ‘God I gotta get off this fucking thing’; it was fun!”

Special Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Daniel Attias
  • The Wolf Within – An Interview with Actor Everett McGillFull Moon Fever – Interviews with Special Effects Artists Michael McCracken, Jr. and Matthew Mungle
  • Dino’s Angel Takes on Lycanthropy: Martha De Laurentis Remembers SILVER BULLET (25 minutes)
  • Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Jay Chattaway
  • Theatrical trailer (HD)
  • TV Spot
  • Radio Spot
  • Still Gallery

 

The Strangers
(Available March 6)

The Strangers is one of the better early 2000’s horror films, filled with one shocking moment after the next and some genuinely unnerving sequences. Director Bryan Bertino understands how to create tension and use silence to make things extra scary, and some of The Strangers’ best scenes involve perfectly silent scenes instead of your standard horror movie jump-scare.

Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman are a couple going through an extremely rough patch. The pair end up at a family cabin, and their troubles only increase when a trio of masked killers attempt to invade the home and end their lives.

On the surface, this is an extremely simple film: a couple is terrorized in their home. That’s it. But The Strangers has a surprisingly efficient script. Early scenes, establishing the relationship woes between Tyler and Speedman’s characters, makes them seem extra real and not like your usual disposable horror movie leads. As a result, when the killers start attacking, we genuinely care about what happens.

The end result is a fantastic, low-frills but high-thrills horror movie. And hey, the sequel is coming out soon, too!

Special Features to Note:

Most of the features on this must-have new Blu-ray from Scream Factory are ported over from an earlier DVD release, but there are also new interviews – two with two of the actors who played the masked killers, and one with director Bryan Bertino.

Bertino reveals the film actually sat on a shelf for almost a year after it was done – not exactly a sign of confidence (even though it all turned out well in the end). Bertino also talks about how the film’s premise was inspired by an actual event in his childhood. Someone knocked on the door of his family home very late one night, and asked to speak to someone who didn’t even live there. Bertino turned the stranger away, only to learn the next day that several houses in the neighborhood had been robbed. Spooky.

The filmmaker also confesses that he was fired from the project at one point after turning the script in, and other directors – including Justin Lin and Mark Romanek – were considered before Bertino returned to take over director duties.

Special Features Include:

Disc One:

  • NEW HD Master Of The Theatrical Cut Taken From The 2K Digital Intermediate
  • The Element Of Terror – Interviews With The Cast And Crew
  • Strangers At The Door – Interviews With Writer/Director Bryan Bertino And The Cast
  • Deleted Scenes
  • TV Spots
  • Theatrical Trailer

Disc Two:

  • NEW HD Master Of The Unrated Cut Taken From The 2K Digital Intermediate
  • NEW Defining Moments – An Interview With Writer/Director Bryan Bertino
  • NEW All The Right Moves – An Interview With Actor Kip Weeks (Man In The Mask)
  • NEW Brains And Brawn – An Interview With Actress Laura Margolis (Pin Up Girl)
  • NEW Deep Cuts – An Interview With Editor Kevin Greutert
  • Still Gallery

 

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