New Blu-ray Releases

(Welcome to Not Dead Yet, a feature dedicated to what’s new on Blu-ray 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 time for another round-up of physical media. Are you like me – living in the past and unable to give up material possessions? If so, you prefer good old fashioned physical media like Blu-rays to just going digital. There’s something more special (at least in my broken brain) about displaying your Blu-ray collection on a shelf than just purchasing something digitally and then forgetting all about it. With the actual physical disc, it’s always there, in front of you. Or maybe I’m crazy!

This week’s Blu-ray roundup features one of the coolest action movies of the year, a somber, snowy drama, a five-film box set, and a documentary about cats. What more do you need, folks? Here are the new Blu-ray releases you should check out this week.

Atomic Blonde

There’s a part of me fully aware that Atomic Blonde doesn’t really work. Its script is wonky, it goes for style over substance at every turn, and it pumps out more ’80s tunes your worn-out “Now That’s What I Call the ’80s!” CD. But gosh darn it, this film is so entertaining. Whatever you think of Atomic Blonde as a work of art, it’s hard to deny the sheer enjoyment it delivers by putting Charlize Theron on the screen and letting her beat the shit out of everyone.

Anytime Atomic Blonde seems like it might grow stale or tired, it throws another show-stopping action sequence at us, giving Theron a chance to pummel hordes of henchmen who get in her way. The tale is set at the peak of the Cold War, on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Theron is an icy MI-6 agent in Berlin, wrapped-up in a convoluted scheme involving a list of spy names. It’s more or less the same plot as the first Mission: Impossible film. But none of that really matters. Plot is secondary here. What Atomic Blonde is is a showcase for Theron’s particular set of skills. She struts through this film in cool clothes, punching and kicking her way out of any situation as tunes from the 1980s blast out from the soundtrack.

Theron is the main draw here, but the rest of the cast performs admirably as well, particularly James McAvoy as Theron’s main contact in Berlin who may or may not be dirty. Sofia Boutella makes an impact as a photographer who falls into a romantic relationship with Theron, John Goodman growls his way through a brief appearance, and Pennywise the Clown himself, Bill Skarsgård, shows up to provide local color.

Director David Leitch (John Wick) presents it all in the most stylish way possible, with each scene bathed in cold blues and neon pinks. It might be too much for some people, and anyone expecting anything below the surface-level coolness is going to be disappointed. Beyond that, it’s hard to deny how much fun it is to watch Theron battle her way through the film.

Special Features to Note:

Since Atomic Blonde is a very action-heavy film, most of the features included with the new Blu-ray release are devoted to fight choreography. We get to see a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of Theron training for the multiple fight scenes in the film. The best feature is “Anatomy of a Fight Scene,” in which director Leitch walks us through the jaw-dropping stairwell fight that comes near the end of the film and seems to go on forever.

During this feature, we not only see the fight as it appears in the film, we also get a picture-in-picture look of rehearsals and training to create the sequence, which shows how much work went into making it all look seamless. There’s also some neat reveals about how the walls and stairs may look as if they’re made of wood and stone, but are in fact foam padding painted to resemble harder material. Movie magic!

Special Features Include:

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • Welcome to Berlin – The ultimate setting for a Cold War spy thriller, Berlin becomes a character of its own. Go behind the wall for this making-off.
  • Blondes Have More Gun – Lorraine Broughton has one impressive set of skills. See what it took for Charlize Theron to fully transform herself into this tenacious character.
  • Spymaster – David Leitch spins the spy genre on its head through exemplary action sequences and complex characters. Hear from cast and crew what it was like to work with this cutting edge director.
  • Anatomy of a Fight Scene – Director David Leitch breaks down the incredibly detailed long-take stairwell shot in this anatomy of a fight scene.
  • Story in Motion: Agent Broughton – See Agent Broughton as you never have before in these motion storyboards.
  • Story in Motion: The Chase – Gascoigne is on the run. Find out who’s after him in this motion storyboard.
  • Feature Commentary with Director David Leitch and Editor Elisabet Ronaldsdottir

Wind River

Hey, are you in the mood for misery? If so, look no further than the new film from Hell or High Water’s Taylor Sheridan – the bleak, snowy drama Wind River. This film is wall-to-wall grief, and while I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, you might want to prepare yourself before going in. This is not a fun time at the movies, folks. And that’s fine!

What Wind River is is a sorrowful drama about loss, and exploitation, and regret. Fellow Avengers Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen are reunited for this murder mystery set in Wyoming. Renner is a  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who finds the dead body of an 18-year-old girl at the Wind River Indian Reservation. Enter FBI Agent Elizabeth Olsen, who teams with Renner and the local police to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Here’s the thing: Wind River isn’t really interested in the mystery itself. In fact, it spends almost no time going into clues or details, and gives us a lengthy flashback sequence that shows us exactly what happened. Instead, the film is more of a meditation on grief. Renner’s character is a bit of a cypher: a quiet loner always with his gun at the ready. The thing is, while the film is set on an Indian Reservation, it doesn’t focus enough on its Native characters. In fact, the film would’ve been improved greatly if Renner’s character had been changed to a Native American (and played by a Native American actor, of course), Still, there’s something about Wind River that works its way into your mind. Perhaps it’s the haunting score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Or perhaps it’s just that cold, wintry landscape, burning itself into your eyes.

Special Features to Note:

Wind River seems destined to get an Award Season push, but the Blu-ray release is surprisingly scant when it comes to special features. There are three distinct segments devoted to Renner, Olsen and Sheridan, where each talks about how they approached the film. There are also deleted scenes which are quick and forgettable.

The reason for the unceremonious Blu-ray release might have to do with the fact that Wind River was originally a Weinstein Company film, and the sexual abuse scandals associated with Harvey Weinstein have put the film in a sort of precarious place. Weinstein’s name has been stripped from the film entirely, and in a recent interview with Deadline, Sheridan revealed how he worked to wrestle control of the film from Weinstein’s hands. “I called TWC president David Glasser and said, ‘I’m going to demand something of you and you are going to get absolutely nothing in return,’ ” Sheridan said in the interview. ” ‘And you’re going to do it, because it’s the right thing to do. To David’s credits, he agreed…[Weinstein] did terrible things, and they affected a lot of people, and they affected our film. And now, the profits he would have made are going to benefit people that endured exactly the abuse that he doled out.”

Special Features Include:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Video Gallery
  • Deleted Scenes

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