New Blu-ray Releases suspiria

As the first month of the new year draws to a close, it’s time to break out the latest Blu-rays you should check out. What better way to pass these cold days than staying inside and watching Blu-rays? This week, we have a look at the Suspiria remake, the ambitious Bad Times at the El Royale, Guillermo del Toro’s new cult classic Crimson Peak, Alfred Hitchcock’s fantastic thriller Notorious, and the great ’90s flick Judgment Night. These are the new Blu-ray releases and their special features you should check out this week and beyond.

Suspiria
(Now On Digital; Blu-ray Release January 29)

Luca Guadagnino‘s weird, lengthy remake of Dario Argento’s horror classic is not for everyone. It’s overly gory, unapologetically cerebral, and not at all afraid to lose its mind. But those in tune with what the Call Me By Your Name director is doing here are in for a bloody treat. The set-up is basically the same as Argento’s film: an American ends up an European dance academy that is home to a coven of witches. But Guadagnino is going for something completely different than Argento. He’s telling a horror story driven by femininity; one willing to explore women from many different angles. Tilda Swinton is predictably great playing not one, not two, but three performances, and Dakota Johnson is hypnotic as Susie, the American girl at the center of it all. Having seen this twice now – once in theaters, once at home – I can confirm Suspiria is the type of movie that gets better the more you watch it.

Special Features to Note:

I know Suspiria wasn’t a blockbuster, but it would’ve been nice for Amazon to shell out a little extra for the bonus features. Hell, a 4K release would be nice. Instead, we have some quick, rather paltry special features. I’m talking a “making of” that barely runs over three minutes. Suspiria is a complex, layered film – it would’ve been nice to hear more of Guadagnino’s thoughts, perhaps via commentary. Alas, it’s not to be. On the features present, Guadagnino says Suspiria is a movie about outcasts, and how the female is the ultimate outcast. He also talks about how he wanted to be respectful to Argento while also going in a different direction. Beyond that there’s a featurette on the extensive dancing present in the movie, and a nifty look at how the mostly practical make-up effects were created. 

Special Features Include:

  • “The Making of Suspiria” Featurette
  • “The Secret Language of Dance” Featurette
  • “The Transformations of Suspiria” Featurette

 

Bad Times at the El Royale

Drew Goddard‘s Bad Times at the El Royale doesn’t entirely work, but gosh darn it, it sure is ambitious. And I love seeing a big, wild ambitious studio movie like this. It’s risky, and the world of movies could always use some more risk. Here, Goddard crafts an overstuffed Tarantino-esque thriller with multiple, interlocking narratives and a boatload of colorful characters played by talented actors. All the characters are gathered at the El Royale hotel in 1969 – a place with just as many secrets as the individuals currently inhabiting it. There’s a lot going on here – stolen loot, secret passageways, undercover FBI agents, kidnappings, and a Manson Family-like cult for good measure. These multiple stories work for the most part, but I do wish Goddard had trimmed them down a bit. El Royale runs 141 minutes and feels a full-hour too long. But there’s a lot to love here, particularly the performances of Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo. Bridges is a priest who is not exactly who he seems, and Erivo is a talented soul singer. The two become unlikely allies, and watching Bridges and Erivo act together is a delight. The two have a unique chemistry, so much so that I’d love to see them team up for future films.

Special Features to Note:

In the featurettes included, Drew Goddard calls El Royale a passion project – and adds that he wanted to work his dream cast. Jeff Bridges, part of that dream cast, goes on to say the script “popped” for him, and felt like something he hadn’t seen before. The bulk of the features here are devoted to production design, which makes sense, since this movie is overloaded with it. Goddard and company found out rather quickly that there was no existing location that could service the script’s needs, so they ended up having to build everything from scratch. The result was a full hotel, with all its rooms and hidden passages, located on a 60,000 square foot soundstage. I would’ve liked more detail about the story included in the one featurette here, but set design takes up the bulk of the time. 

Special Features Include:

  • Making Bad Times at the El Royale
  • Gallery

 

Crimson Peak

How I love this beautiful film. Crimson Peak underperformed at the box office, but of course, Guillermo del Toro had the last laugh: he came back to make an Academy Award winning film, and Crimson has since gone on to achieve a warranted cult following. And now it has this incredible new Blu-ray release from Arrow Video. This spooky, romantic, gorgeous-looking gothic romance is about love and horror, and you can’t beat that. Mia Wasikowska plays an aspiring novelist in the early 1900s who falls for pale-as-fuck baronet Tom Hiddleston. He sweeps her off her feet and ends up taking her back to his huge, crumbling, clearly haunted mansion in England. Also there: his menacing sister, played with pitch-perfect over-the-top glee by Jessica Chastain. As Wasikowska comes face to face with the ghosts roaming the house, she also uncovers a far more sinister plot. Del Toro directs it all with his usual attention to detail, making Crimson Peak a feast for the eyes.

Special Features to Note:

First, a disclaimer: if you already own the original Crimson Peak Blu-ray, you’ve already seen almost all the special features here. There’s almost nothing new, save two featurettes: Kim Newman on Crimson Peak and the Tradition of Gothic Romance, and Violence and Beauty in Guillermo Del Toro’s Gothic Fairy Tale Films, a video essay by Kat Ellinger. Are these two featurettes enough to double-dip? Some may not think so, but any fan of this film is going to want to get their hands on this release. The release itself is the special feature, as the Blu-ray comes in a gorgeous new package by Crimson Peak concept artist Guy Davis. Made up to resemble an old tome of terror, the packaging is a work of art that pays tribute to the beautiful look of the movie itself.

As for the older special features, they’re remarkable. Most Blu-ray releases these days skimp on the extra content (see this week’s Suspiria entry), but Crimson Peak comes loaded with enough behind-the-scenes detail to satiate fans of the film. Most of the featurettes here are on the production design, and rightfully so – it’s practically a character itself. Del Toro and the cast break down all the hidden meanings of practically every room in the house. Del Toro wanted each room to represent a particular character, or theme, and took great steps to pull this off.

On top of all this, there’s a must-hear commentary track from del Toro. Many filmmakers simply don’t know how to handle commentary tracks, if they bother to do them at all. More often than not, directors tend to just narrate what’s happening on the screen, or go completely silent for long stretches. Del Toro loves to talk, and he loves to talk film-craft, so listening to one of his commentary tracks is like a mini-film school. He’s our guide through the world of this movie, and the result is delightful.

Special Features Include:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original 5.1 and 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and optional English 2.0 DTS Headphone:X Audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Optional Descriptive Video Service® (DVS®) for the visually impaired
  • Audio commentary by co-writer and director Guillermo Del Toro
  • The House is Alive: Constructing Crimson Peak, a newly edited, feature-length documentary with cast and crew interviews and extensive behind the scenes footage
  • Previously unseen Spanish language interview with Guillermo Del Toro
  • The Gothic Corridor, The Scullery, The Red Clay Mines, The Limbo Fog Set; four featurettes exploring different aspects of Allerdale Hall
  • A Primer on Gothic Romance, the director and stars talk about the key traits of Gothic romance
  • The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak, the cast and crew talk about the film’s use of colour
  • Hand Tailored Gothic, a featurette on the film’s striking costumes
  • A Living Thing, a look at the design, modelling and construction of the Allerdale Hall sets.
  • Beware of Crimson Peak, a walking tour around Allerdale Hall with Tom Hiddleston
  • Crimson Phantoms, a featurette on the film’s amazing ghosts
  • Kim Newman on Crimson Peak and the Tradition of Gothic Romance, a newly filmed interview with author and critic
  • Violence and Beauty in Guillermo Del Toro’s Gothic Fairy Tale Films, a new video essay by the writer Kat Ellinger
  • Deleted scenes
  • Original trailers and TV spots\n• Double-sided, fold-out poster
  • Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions
  • Limited edition 80-page, hard-bound book featuring new writing by David Jenkins and Simon Abrams, an archival interview with Guillermo del Toro, and original conceptual design illustrations by artists Guy Davis and Oscar Chichoni
  • Limited edition packaging newly designed by Crimson Peak concept artist Guy Davis

 

 

Notorious

Alfred Hitchcock‘s movies are often criticized as being too cold. “Sure, they’re technical marvels,” people say. “But there’s no heart.” Notorious is the movie that proves them wrong. There’s passion burning off the screen here, but despite the presence of very attractive people Cary Grant and Ingrid BergmanNotorious isn’t a love story – not really. Sure, Grant and Bergman’s characters fall for each other, and share a crazy-sexy kissing scene. But they’re both damaged, neurotic people. Bergman is a drinker, and Grant is kind of dead inside. And he’s also using Bergman – she’s the daughter of a dead Nazi spy, and secret agent Grant wants to use her to get close to one of her father’s old friends. That friend (Claude Rains) has always harbored feelings for Bergman, and Grant wants her to seduce him in order to learn his secrets. It’s a complicated, dangerous game, and no one seems to be enjoying it. But they play all the same. The result is one of Hitchcock’s best films.

Special Features to Note:

Another must-own from Criterion. The features included here are devoted to the craft on display in the film, and the way Hitchcock brought the film to life. Film scholar David Bordwell breaks down the final scene of the film, calling it “one of Hitchcock’s greatest accomplishments.” In his words, it’s both tense and passionate, and it weaves together narrative and thematic threads from the movie. Cinematographer John Bailey talks about the look of the movie – calling it emblematic of Hitchcock’s style, with energy, tension and intrigue. And Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto talks about how Hitchcock didn’t want to glamorize spycraft, as he believed that governments were rarely working for the good of their people – and people in 1946 didn’t expect this type of attitude about the American government. It’s all rather fascinating insight into Hitchcock’s process. 

Special Features Include:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentaries from 1990 and 2001 featuring film historian Rudy Behlmer and Alfred Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane
  • New interview with Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto
  • New program about the film’s visual style with cinematographer John Bailey
  • New scene analysis by film scholar David Bordwell
  • Once Upon a Time . . . “Notorious,” a 2009 documentary about the film featuring actor Isabella Rossellini; filmmakers Peter Bogdanovich, Claude Chabrol, and Stephen Frears; and others
  • New program about Hitchcock’s storyboarding and previsualization process by filmmaker Daniel Raim
  • Newsreel footage from 1948 of actor Ingrid Bergman and Hitchcock
  • Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of Notorious from 1948, starring Bergman and Joseph Cotten
  • Trailers and teasers
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Angelica Jade Bastién

 

Judgment Night

Judgment Night is one of those films that used to play constantly on HBO in the 1990s, and now, it’s on Blu-ray for the very first time. It’s about damn time. Every time a new Purge movie comes out, I immediately think of Judgment Night. I think about how the Purge franchise will never come close to the style of this flick, and how I wish we could still get a movie or two like this from time to time. To be blunt: the script to Judgment Night is rather simple – a bunch of suburbanites get stuck in the big, bad city late at night, and have to run from a gang. There’s no much there. But director Stephen Hopkins takes this material and works it into art. Hopkins pulls out all the stops, filling the film up with inventive camera techniques, incredibly tense moments, and enough split diopter shots to make Brian De Palma blush. Emilio Estevez makes for a likable average-guy as the main character, just trying to get home to his wife and baby. And Denis Leary, in the midst of his ’90s movie showcase, is memorable as the lead villain. This is the type of mid-budget movie that Hollywood has no interest in, and it’s a shame. It’s proof that in the right hands, even the simplest of scripts can be molded into something special.

Special Features to Note: Zilch! There are no special features here, not even a lousy trailer. That’s unfortunate. At the same time, it’s great to finally have this movie on Blu-ray, and it’s doubtful there will ever be a super-duper fancy edition with all new features. Which means if you love this movie, and have longed for its Blu-ray release, you need to scoop this bad boy up.

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