New Blu-ray Releases Parasite

Brace yourselves, my friends – this week’s Blu-ray column is packed. There are so many movies here that you probably want to block out your entire day just to read this. Go ahead, clear your calendar. Call in sick from work. Lock all your doors, draw the blinds, and feast your eyes. These are the new Blu-ray releases you should check out this week.

Parasite

Fresh off its triumphant run at the Oscars, Parasite is now available on Blu-ray, and it’s just as special as you’ve heard it is. If you’ve managed to avoid Bong Joon-ho‘s latest so far, and want to know what the hell all the hubbub is about, here’s your chance. This twisty, brilliant look at class and capitalism follows two sets of families: One obscenely wealthy, the other destitute. Through a serious of events, the have-nots manage to take up residence with the haves. And that’s when things start to get really weird.

It might sound like a cop-out to say, but the less you know about Parasite, the better. And while the film is obviously popular right now, there are still many who have yet to catch it. So I won’t spoil it here. I will say this: What makes this film so unique is the way it never limits itself. Bong is a filmmaker who loves to blend genres, and Parasite is one of the best examples of this – it’s a comedy, it’s a drama, it’s a thriller, it’s a mystery. It’s all these things, and more – hell, it’s almost unclassifiable. It’s the exact opposite of a Hollywood movie, in all the best ways.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray:

There’s a reason everyone can’t stop talking about Parasite and it’s big Oscar win: It’s the movie of the moment. It feels like something of a sea change that something this dark, this weird, this unconventional ended up scoring Best Picture. With all that in mind, you’d be a goof to pass this one up. While it would’ve been nice to bless this flick with a 4K release, we’re not there yet. Will there be a double-dip? Perhaps. For now, though, this is the best it gets, and you shouldn’t pass it up.

Special Features Include: 

  • Q&A with Director Bong Joon Ho

Roma

Who would’ve thought the day would come when a Netflix movie would join the Criterion Collection? That day is today, because RomaAlfonso Cuarón‘s gorgeous, deeply personal film from 2018, is now part of the collection. Drawing on memories of his own childhood, Roma follows housekeeper Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio, phenomenal, and deserving of many more roles) as she lives and works in early-1970s Mexico City.

Roma doesn’t have a traditional plot, and some may find that a bit off-putting – I distinctly remember several people complaining that “nothing happens” in the movie. But Cuarón’s approach allows the movie to unfold organically, and intimately. That’s coupled with breathtaking black and white cinematography (also by Cuarón) that often hangs back in extreme wide shots where nearly every inch of the frame is occupied with something. “Every frame needs to have information in every single inch of it, meaning I want it to go into deep blacks but still have some detail, and I will go into highlights but still have detail,” the filmmaker said. The end results are nothing short of stunning.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray:

“Why would I buy a movie on Blu-ray that’s already on Netflix?” you might ask. And sure, I can see the side of that argument. But there’s something special about knowing this film is not just on Blu-ray, but part of the Criterion Collection as well. Criterion are top-tier when it comes to physical releases, and the simple fact is that no streaming content will ever look quite as good as physical. It can come close – very close, in fact. But there’s always a tiny bit of quality loss. And with a film as visually alluring as Roma, the prospect of a Blu-ray is well worthwhile. You’ll also be blessed with special features – something you can’t get on Netflix.

Special Features Include: 

  • 4K digital master, supervised by director Alfonso Cuarón, with Dolby Atmos soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Road to “Roma,” a new documentary about the making of the film, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and an interview with Cuarón
  • Snapshots from the Set, a new documentary featuring actors Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira, producers Gabriela Rodríguez and Nicolás Celis, production designer Eugenio Caballero, casting director Luis Rosales, executive producer David Linde, and others
  • New documentaries about the film’s sound and postproduction processes, featuring Cuarón; Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay, and Craig Henighan from the postproduction sound team; editor Adam Gough; postproduction supervisor Carlos Morales; and finishing artist Steven J. Scott
  • New documentary about the film’s ambitious theatrical campaign and social impact in Mexico, featuring Celis and Rodríguez
  • Trailers
  • Alternate French subtitles and Spanish SDH
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by novelist Valeria Luiselli, historian Enrique Krauze, and (with the Blu-ray) writing by author Aurelio Asiain, along with production-design images with notes by Caballero

Doctor Sleep

Mike Flanagan was faced with a bit of an obstacle when it came time to make Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. He could either stay completely faithful to King’s novel, and be forced to ignore Stanley Kubrick’s loose adaptation of The Shining, he could ignore King completely and piggyback off of what Kubrick did, or he could find a middle-ground. Flanagan went with the third option, and it mostly works. In many ways, he pays tribute to Kubrick – almost too much tribute, in fact, with the third act of the film descending into something that feels like cosplay. But he also stays true to King’s words, and finds just the right note to blend what Kubrick did with King’s text.

Grown-up Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) has his shining under control, but for a while he was on a downward spiral, drinking himself to death. He’s sober now, but he can never escape the paranormal forces that seem to surround him. Dan ends up forming a bond with Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a young girl who also has the shining. Abra is being targeted by a roving gang of psychic vampires, led by the wicked Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson, who steals the show). If you guessed that all of this would eventually lead back to the Overlook Hotel, you’re correct.

Flanagan’s film is big, and messy. There’s a Director’s Cut included here that stretches the proceedings to three-hours. Some may scoff at that, but others might enjoy how lived-in the film feels. This is large-scale movie-making, the likes of which you don’t often see in modern-day horror films. The fact that Doctor Sleep underperformed at the box office is a bummer, but perhaps not unexpected – the movie is too personal for a wide audience. Time will likely be kind to Flanagan’s vision. We deserve more big swings like this.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray:

The physical release comes with both the film on 4K, and the Director’s Cut. A quibble: the Director’s Cut is not in 4K, only the theatrical cut. It would’ve been nice to have both, but so it goes. Beyond that, though, it’s worth owning both versions of the film, because they both offer something important for fans of the story. The theatrical cut is a bit more streamlined while the Director’s Cut feels more like the novel.

Special Features Include: 

  • Director’s Cut
  • Return to the Overlook
  • The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision
  • From Shining to Sleep

Shutter Island

Over the years, Martin Scorsese‘s Shutter Island has developed something of a ho-hum reputation. It was one of the filmmaker’s biggest box office hits, but these days, folks seem to be very mixed on the film – primarily due to its twist ending. But I still maintain this is one of Scorsese’s best works. It’s the filmmaker dabbling in a genre he doesn’t often use – horror. And a Scorsese horror movie is not like other horror movies. It’s big, and bold, and gorgeous. Robert Richardson’s cinematography creates painterly frames full of vivid colors and surreal visuals. And now those images are rendered to their fullest with this new 4K release, which makes the movie look more beautiful than ever.

The story: Leonardo DiCaprio is constantly weary U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, who is called to an island-bound insane asylum to investigate a patient who disappeared. But the more Teddy searches, the more he – and we – learn that he has a personal connection to the case. On top of that, things on the island aren’t what they seem. Scorsese unfolds this story with constant dream-like flashbacks, as Teddy is haunted by the ghost of his dead wife, Michelle Williams, as well as his time in the war. It’s haunting and unique, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray:

As mentioned above, this 4K looks amazing. There are no new features here – the special features are ported over from previous releases – but this is the definitive version of the movie to own. I saw Shutter Island in theaters, and I can honestly say this 4K cut looks better than the theatrical version. If you’re a fan of this film, this is the version to grab.

Special Features Include: 

  • Behind the Shutters
  • Into the Lighthouse

The House that Jack Built

The House that Jack Built came loaded with controversy when it received a single-day theatrical release in November of 2018. Lars von Trier‘s ultra-violent, self-indulgent serial killer movie premiered at Cannes, where it was swiftly condemned. To be fair: This movie is brutal, and unpleasant. But that’s the point. This is von Trier basically mocking himself, and his own audience in a way – saying, “Look at all the horrible shit I can get away in the name of art.”

Matt Dillon is fantastic as Jack, a prolific serial killer who likes to think of his violent deeds as high art. Is he being serious? Is he full of shit? You decide. But beneath all of The House that Jack Built‘s brutality is a wickedly funny film. The blood and gore won’t be for everyone, nor will the hefty runtime. But those willing to follow von Trier on his journey to hell might end up catching on to the sneaky game he’s playing here.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray:

The Blu-ray release from Scream Factory comes with both the theatrical cut and the unrated cut, which is a huge plus. The unrated cut isn’t that different, but it does restore a few frames of gore that are tailor-made to make the audience furious. And in case you didn’t catch onto that, von Trier has his characters talk about how deliberately incendiary the scene in question is – this is not a subtle movie. Jack has only been available on digital in the U.S. until now, so if you’ve been waiting for a physical copy, here it is.

Special Features Include: 

  • Includes Both The Theatrical Cut And Director’s Cut Of The Film
  • Sonning Prize: An Interview With Director Lars Von Trier
  • Teaser Trailer
  • Theatrical Trailer

Summer of Sam

Overlong and super-messy, Spike Lee‘s Summer of Sam is still a must-see. While Lee’s pic focuses on the Son of Sam killings, this isn’t really a serial killer film. Instead, Lee uses the mania of the murders, along with the general attitude of the summer of 1977 in New York City, to craft a big, loud, sexy, strange saga. Lee zeros in on several neighborhood characters, primarily Vinny (John Leguizamo), who is in danger of destroying his marriage to Dionna (Mira Sorvino) due to his constant infidelity. Then there’s Vinny’s childhood pal Ritchie (Adrien Brody), who has suddenly become a punk, much to the chagrin of everyone else in the neighborhood.

At a whopping 142 minutes, Summer of Sam is about a full half-hour too long. But the excess also plays into the sweaty paranoia that Lee is building up here, culminating in total hysteria. For all its flaws, I’d rather have a movie landscape full of bold films like Summer of Sam than the same old safe cookie-cutter crap that blankets most years now.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray:

Kino Lorber put out a whole slew of Spike Lee’s films on Blu-ray this month (more below), and if you’ve been longing to score this, and others, this is your time. Of all the Lee releases this month, I chose to highlight two specific films – this, and the one below – as I feel they’re the most worthwhile. But honestly, you can’t go wrong picking up most of Lee’s filmography.

Special Features Include: 

  • FEAR CITY – New Interview with John Leguizamo
  • Audio Commentary by Director Spike Lee and Actor John Leguizamo
  • Optional English Subtitles
  • 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Lossless Stereo
  • Dual-Layered BD50 Disc
  • Theatrical Trailer

Clockers

Clockers is superior to Summer of Sam. It’s a raw portrait of a young man stuck in a terrible situation. That young man is Strike (Mekhi Phifer), who works as a drug dealer for Rodney (Delroy Lindo). Rodney says he loves Strike like a son, but that doesn’t stop him from ordering the kid to kill someone. Strike acts tough, and up to the challenge – but is he?

The murder takes place, and in come the cops – specifically Detective Rocco Klein (Harvey Keitel), who is jaded and even callous, but has some sympathy deep down inside. From here, Clockers could’ve turned into a typical crime film, but Spike Lee instead takes Richard Price’s source material and remolds it into something more personal, and more tragic. Lee sets the tone for the film immediately, opening with a credit montage over shots of young black men murdered on the streets. Right from the jump he’s bringing us into the harshness of this world, and we’re unable to look away. Like Lee’s 25th Hour, this is the story of a guy who made all the wrong choices, but might still find a way to get away…maybe. “Dont you want to go some place you’ve never been before?” a character asks Strike at one point. “I mean, you love trains, but you’ve only ridden the subway.” There’s a whole world out there. If you can get there.

Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray:

This release maintains the unique cinematography from Malik Hassan Sayeed. As explained by Jason Bailey at Flavorwire, Sayeed shot Clockers on Kodak 5239, “a high-speed Ektachrome color-reversal stock that’d primarily been used for TV news in the pre-videotape days.” The result is a film that looks grainy and real, and that transfers perfectly here.

Special Features Include: 

  • NEW Audio Commentary by Film Critic Kameron Austin Collins
  • Optional English Subtitles
  • 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Lossless Stereo
  • Dual-Layered BD50 Disc
  • Theatrical Trailer
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