Speaking of Dunkirk, I think I promised you a review. I saw it in IMAX 70 mm on Sunday morning and I really loved it. I think it’s Nolan’s best film, unusual among his body of work for its relative narrative simplicity, and it’s a thrilling and visceral experience, both epic and intimate at the same time. The film is not meant to be a historical documentary, so the actual events of Dunkirk have been simplified a bit (or rather many facets of the real events aren’t covered) for audiences who many not be familiar with the real history. Dunkirk tells three stories, including the experience of the soldiers waiting on the beach for rescue, the experience of those on the civilian boats coming to their aid, and the experience of RAF Spitfire pilots working to provide air cover for the rescue. Each story is exemplified by one or two characters and there’s a little bit of time dilation involved. The experience on the beach, for example, took well over a week in real life, while the boats took a day to launch from Britain to affect the rescue, and the Spitfire pilots spent an hour or so in flight to reach Dunkirk. So those three narratives are time compressed into one 106-minute film, woven together in such a way that they all converge at the end. The large format cinematography is extraordinary – you definitely want to see this film in the largest format possible (IMAX 70 mm, 70 mm, etc). The experience of watching Spitfire vs Messerschmitt aerial combat in 70 mm is really something, I can tell you. This is also not a gory film in any sense; rather it’s just a gripping tension builder that puts you right in the middle of the action. I have a feeling Dunkirk is going to be an Oscar favorite in several categories come awards season. Do see it if you can. I give it a flat-out A and I can’t wait to see it again.
I also saw Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Now... I really liked the film a lot. But it’s not for everyone and it’s not without its (significant) flaws. The film is wildly imaginative: Think Besson’s The Fifth Element on steroids. You will see and experience things you’ve never seen on film before, including a wild heist set piece that takes place in two dimensions at the same time. Besson didn’t just throw his hat over the wall here, he threw it over the Moon. And he almost catches it. Unfortunately, the actors cast in the lead roles – playing Valerian and Laureline – don’t manage to expand their characters much beyond a single note each. Valerian is Han Solo-sarcastic at all times, while Laureline frequently rolls her eyes at Valerian before going all bad-ass. As such, the pair can’t carry the plot with much energy through a few narrative lulls. But what saves this film is the sheer inventiveness of its plot, set pieces, and environments, which are seldom less than extraordinary. This film I’d give a B-, but I also can’t wait to see it again. Unfortunately, I don’t think American audiences are going to connect with it. But for my own money, I’d rather see a film like this – for its sheer artistry and imaginativeness – than yet another superhero film, of which there’s a glut in theaters these days. I certainly hope Valerian does well enough internationally to warrant a sequel. Give it a try if you dare and be open-minded, you might be surprised. One thing’s for sure: Both Dunkirk and Valerian are going to be stunners when they arrive on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD later this year.
All right... now on to the announcement and release news. First up, the Comic-Con news...
The Breaking News from Shout! Factory and Scream Factory panel on Friday night was a lot of fun to moderate. Jeremy Whitham, Brian Ward, and Jeff Nelson had lots of interesting titles and projects to reveal. Among them: Shout! is partnering with Twitch to run a marathon of the 80s TBS arcade show Starcade and has plans for a modern revival. Shout! is working on new Collector’s Editions of Into the Night (1995), Matinee (1993), The Plague Dogs (1982), and Mac and Me (1988). They’re also distributing interesting new indie/art films including the anime In This Corner of the World (2017) and the comedies The Tiger Hunter (2016) and The Trip to Spain (2017), they’re producing more original content including Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom (2017) and Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues (2016), and they’re distributing animated titles too like Digimon Adventures Tri: Determination, more Super Sentai, and Halo: The Complete Video Collection. Not to be outdone, Scream Factory is celebrating its 5th anniversary by releasing Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Eye of the Cat (1969), Darkman II: The Return of Durant (1995), Darkman III: Die Darkman Die (1995), American Gothic (1988), Cyborg (1989), The Strangers (2008), Drag Me to Hell (2009), Misery (1990), and Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984). Shout! and Scream are also exploring the possibility of releasing catalog titles in 4K Ultra HD in 2018. I’d really like to thank everyone at Shout! and Scream for inviting me to moderate their panel, including Jeremy, Jeff, and Brian, and especially Sarah J. De Bruin. We had a lot of fun and I look forward to the next one!
Unfortunately, while I was scheduled to appear on the Everyone’s a Critic: Becoming and Being a Journalist in the Online Age panel at Comic-Con on Saturday afternoon, my wife has been fighting a stomach flu over the past week and I had to run home on Friday night to take care of her. Priorities! My apologies to the other panelists, but I’m sure they knocked it out of the park without me.
So, a couple of other bits of breaking Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K news that came out of Comic-Con...
Creator Matt Groening and executive producer Al Jean revealed that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is finally going back to releasing full seasons of The Simpsons on DVD after the recent hiatus, following widespread demand from fans who were upset that the releases were discontinued in the first place. The Simpsons: The Eighteenth Season will arrive on DVD on 12/5 as a 4-disc set with all 22 episodes plus audio commentary on every episode, deleted scenes with commentary, a bonus episode, a multi-angle animation showcase, a special language feature, A Conversation with Fat Tony, and more. You can see the cover artwork above-left and below. The cast and crew have already recorded audio commentaries for a future DVD release of The Nineteenth Season and a re-release of The Twentieth Season (which came out as a barebones set only in 2010), hopefully next year. The key is, if you want them, make sure you buy The Simpsons: The Eighteenth Season when it’s available.
Meanwhile, Warner Archive announced at Comic-Con that they’re working on The Hidden (1987), Innocent Blood (1992), and The Green Slime (1968) for Blu-ray release in the months ahead. Other titles coming soon to Blu-ray and/or DVD from Warner Archive include Henry Levin’s Where the Boys Are (1960 – streets tomorrow, 7/25), The Originals: The Complete Fourth Season (street date TBA), Lucifer: The Complete Second Season (streets 8/22), Riverdale: The Complete First Season (streets 8/15), Carl Reiner’s The Man with Two Brains (1983 – streets 8/29), Herbert Ross’ My Blue Heaven (1990 – streets 8/22), Arthur Penn’s Night Moves (1975 – streets 8/15), and Richard Rush’s Freebie and the Bean (1974 – streets 8/8).
Also, Kino Lorber has announced that they’re working on a new Blu-ray and DVD release of Ted Post’s Nightkill (1980) for their Studio Classics line. Street date is TBA. Walter Hill’s The Long Riders (1980) will street on 9/26 on both formats with a new 4K restoration. The company also has J. Lee Thompson’s The Ambassador (1984) following on both formats on 10/3. And Peter Chelson’s Funny Bones will street on Blu-ray on 9/19.
Finally, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has revealed that they’re going to be releasing the Steve Martin film Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) on Blu-ray on 9/5.
All right, there’s still more news to catch up on but I’d say that’s enough for one day. Check back tomorrow for lots more Blu-ray and 4K announcements. Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with a look at some new cover artwork for a few of the titles we’ve mentioned above and more, with Amazon.com pre-order links if they’re available...
- Bill Hunt