New Blu-ray Releases police story

This week, two of Jackie Chan’s best movies come to home video courtesy of the Criterion Collection. In addition to that, one of last year’s most underrated pics hits Blu-ray; a sci-fi masterpiece comes to 4K; and one truly strange movie about fishing brings Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway together again. These are the new Blu-ray releases and their special features you should check out this week and beyond.

Police Story & Police Story 2

Jackie Chan is a legend. He’s the Buster Keaton of action movies; an unparalleled performer who risks life and limb for our entertainment. Everyone knows who Jackie Chan is – even if they don’t know all of his films. If your knowledge of Chan is based primarily on his appearances in, say, the Rush Hour franchise, you owe it to yourself to check out the new Criterion Collection release of Police Story and Police Story 2. Chan directs and stars in both films, and he and his team of stunt performers crash, bash and flip through scenes, blowing minds in the process. When an action scene calls for Chan’s character Chan Ka-Kui to hang from a speeding bus, Jackie Chan really hangs from a speeding bus. When Ka-Kui has to slide down an electric cord and crash through several panes of glass, Chan really does it. It’s stunning. The Police Story films aren’t what I’d call plot driven – but that doesn’t take away from the quality. Plot is secondary here. It’s Chan who is the real draw. Both films follow Chan’s affable, goofy, death-defying cop dealing with crooks who mean him harm. Needless to say, he kicks their asses – albeit in amusing ways. Chan was never a tough guy like his American action movie counterparts. He plays his role as a bit of a doofus. He’s not dumb; he’s just kind of naive. That doesn’t stop him from whopping butt, though.

Special Features to Note:

The Criterion release comes with both films, and it’s well worth owning. Besides looking amazing in new 4K digital restorations, the set contains some special features that serve as a kind of crash-course into Jackie Chan and his career. Filmmaker Edgar Wright is on hand to tell us just what makes Jackie Chan and his stuntwork so special, and unique. This comes with a podcast conversation between Wright and Chan that’s pretty delightful. It’s clear Wright is fanboying out during the conversation, and who can blame him? Another great extra features writer and New York Asian Film Festival cofounder Grady Hendrix giving a breakdown of Chan’s career. It’s incredibly insightful, and essential – especially for someone like me, who only had a bare bones understand of Chan’s work.

Special Features Include: 

  • New 4K digital restorations of Police Story and Police Story 2
  • Alternate 5.1 surround soundtracks
  • Alternate English-dubbed soundtracks
  • Alternate version of Police Story 2, presented in a 2K digital transfer for the first time from a subtitled 35 mm Hong Kong–release print
  • New interview with filmmaker Edgar Wright and a 2017 podcast conversation between Wright and actor-director Jackie Chan
  • New programs on Chan’s screen persona and action-filmmaking techniques featuring author and New York Asian Film Festival cofounder Grady Hendrix
  • Episode of Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show from 1989 featuring interviews with Chan and actor Maggie Cheung
  • Archival interviews with Chan and actor and stuntman Benny Lai
  • Excerpts from Jackie Chan: My Stunts, a 1999 documentary codirected by and starring Chan
  • Excerpt from a 2017 television program reuniting Chan with the original members of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team
  • Television program from 1964 detailing the rigors of Beijing-opera training, akin to the education that Chan received as a child
  • Chan stunt reel
  • Trailers
  • New English subtitle translations
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Nick Pinkerton

 

 

Destroyer 

It eats me up that Destroyer didn’t receive enough respect last year. A brutal, engrossing crime drama/character study from directory Karyn KusamaDestroyer punches you in the gut over, and over, and over again, and doesn’t let up. It’s tense as hell, and emotionally devastating. Nicole Kidman, nearly unrecognizable under make-up, is Detective Erin Bell. She’s hard-nosed, hard-drinking, and completely broken inside. She’s also sure that an old case from her past has come back to haunt her. Kidman commands the screen, limping and barging through scenes with a raw ferocity unlike anything she’s done before. Her performance alone is worth the price. But when coupled with Kusama’s in-your-face direction, the end result is remarkable.

Special Features to Note:

A featurette focuses on the making of the film. “I grew up watching these movies in the 70s, but with men,” Nicole Kidman says in an interview, perfectly summing up Destroyer‘s focus. It’s just like the gritty cop dramas of the past, but with a female protagonist. As Karyn Kusama says here, she likes to take familiar stories, and add some sort of emotional twist. There’s also talk about Kidman’s visual transformation. Kusama talks about how she wanted Kidman’s character to look like someone who spent years working in the harsh California sun, and did nothing to protect herself from it. Beyond that, we get a great commentary track from Kusama, in which she provides both behind-the-scenes trivia, and also her directorial choices from one scene to the next. It’s a great window into her process as a filmmaker.

Special Features Include:

  • Commentary with Director Karyn Kusama
  • Commentary with Writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi
  • Breakdown of an Anti-Hero: The Making of Destroyer
  • Gallery

Alien 4K

Hey, you ever hear of this movie called Alien? Supposed to be good! I jest, of course – Alien is a classic, and rightfully so. Even 40 years after Ridley Scott‘s sci-fi-horror film opened, it still has the power to terrify. I’ve seen this movie more times than I can count, and yet the infamous air duct scene gets me every time. That’s good filmmaking, folks. Scott’s film follows a crew of space-salvagers who run afoul of a big, mean, slimy monster that wants to turn them into food. One by one, our hapless crew is picked off, leaving only the no-nonsense Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) to save the day. It’s grim, it’s gritty, it’s scary as hell. And it all feels real. The ship our characters are on is lived-in –rusty, dirty, like a warehouse in space. It feels unlike any other sci-fi film before it. Time may tick on, but Alien will always be a masterpiece.

Special Features to Note:

First, the bad news: there are no new special features on the new 4K release of Alien. If you’ve own previous special editions of the film, you own all the features here. So why bother to double-dip if you already have a version? The answer is simple: it looks amazing. As I said above, I’ve seen Alien countless times, but this new 4K transfer is the best it’s ever looked. There’s a lot of darkness in this movie, and the look of darkness often proves to be a problem for some home video transfers. But in this new 4K release, the stark shadows pop in crisp, clean, clear ways. It hasn’t been brightened – it’s still dark as hell. But there’s a quality to the darkness that looks breathtaking. Almost as if you could reach your hand into the TV, and have it swallowed up by the shadows. The visual appeal of this new release makes it a must-own.

Special Features Include:

  • 1979 Theatrical Version
  • 2003 Director’s Cut
  • 2003 Audio Commentary by Ridley Scott and the Cast & Crew
  • 1999 Audio Commentary by Ridley Scott (1979 Theatrical Version Only)
  • Final Theatrical Isolated Score – Dolby Digital 5.1 (1979 Theatrical Version Only)
  • Composer’s Original Isolated Score – Dolby Digital 5.1 (1979 Theatrical Version Only)
  • Deleted Scenes

Serenity 

Serenity got bumped around the release date schedule for a while, which is never a good sign. But how could this movie be bad? It was directed by Steven Knight, who helmed the excellent Locke. And it boasted a strong cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, and Jeremy Strong. Sure, the trailers made it look like a low-grade thriller, but it didn’t look terrible. What was going on here? Why was there such hesitation to release this  movie? The answer came when the movie hit theaters this January: it’s out of its damn mind. I don’t want to give you the impression that Serenity is some sort of so-bad-it’s-good classic in the making. For one thing, it’s often very boring. And yet, it goes to some extremely weird places. I’m just going to go ahead and spoil things, because this is one of those rare cases where I think spoilers help the movie. The spoilers will make you want to see this. But consider this your spoiler warning.

The Serenity set-up is ripped-off of about a dozen noir films. Matthew McConaughey is a hard-on-his-luck guy, and one day, an old flame (Anne Hathaway) comes sauntering back into his life, and asks him to bump off her cruel husband (Jason Clarke). Sounds simple, right? Here’s the catch: none of the characters are actually real. Instead, they all exist in a fishing video game being created by a young boy suffering abuse at the hands of his stepfather. It’s wacko, folks. I wish I could say this strange twist makes the entire movie worth it, but there are so many stretches of Serenity where you just want the movie to hurry the hell up. But hey, at the very least, this is a movie in which Matthew McConaughey has an argument with video game rules made flesh, in the form of a nerdy salesman played by Jeremy Strong. How many other movies can boast that? Zero.

Special Features to Note:

Zlich. This is a bare-bones release.

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