Criterion March 2021 Slate Includes ‘Defending Your Life’

Criterion Collection’s March 2021 release slate includes Albert Brooks’ afterlife comedy Defending Your Life, Jacques Rivette’s long-unavailable Céline and Julie Go Boating, the Blu-ray debut of Mike Leigh’s Palme d’Or–winning Secrets & Lies, and Senegalese iconoclast Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki.

Arriving March 9 on Blu-ray Disc and DVD is 1973’s Touki Bouki, in which director Djibril Diop Mambéty paints a fractured portrait of the disenchantment of postindependence Senegal in the early 1970s. In this picaresque fantasy-drama, the disaffected young lovers Anta and Mory, fed up with Dakar, long to escape to the glamour and comforts they imagine France has to offer, but their plan is confounded by obstacles both practical and mystical. The Criterion edition includes a new 2K digital transfer, restored by the Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in association with The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and the family of Mambéty, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. The film is presented in Wolof with English subtitles. Extras include a 2013 introduction by The Film Foundation’s founder and chair, Martin Scorsese; a 2013 interview wwith filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako; an interview program from 2012 featuring musician Wasis Diop and filmmaker Mati Diop, Mambéty’s brother and niece, respectively; Contras’ City, a 1968 short film by Mambéty, in a new 4K restoration by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and the Cineteca di Bologna; plus an essay by film programmer and critic Ashley Clark.

March 16 sees the Blu-ray Disc and DVD release of 1974’s Céline and Julie Go Boating, the French New Wave film from director Jacques Rivette, in which Julie (Dominique Labourier), a daydreaming librarian, meets Céline (Juliet Berto), an enigmatic magician, and together they become the heroines of a time-warping adventure involving a haunted house, psychotropic candy and a murder-mystery melodrama. The two-disc Blu-ray and three-disc DVD special edition includes a new 2K digital restoration, a new English subtitle translation, and an uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an audio commentary from 2017 featuring critic Adrian Martin; Jacques Rivette: Le veilleur, a 1994 two-part feature documentary by Claire Denis, featuring an extensive interview with Rivette by film critic Serge Daney; new interviews with actor Bulle Ogier and producer and actor Barbet Schroeder; a new conversation between critic Pacôme Thiellement and Hélène Frappat, author of Jacques Rivette, secret compris; archival interviews with Rivette, Ogier, and actors Berto, Labourier and Marie-France Pisier; plus an essay by critic Beatrice Loayza and a 1974 piece by Berto.

Landing March 30 on Blu-ray and DVD is the 1991 romantic-comedy Defending Your Life. The film was written by, directed by and stars Albert Brooks as a hapless advertising executive who dies suddenly and finds himself in Judgment City, a gleaming way station where the newly deceased must prove they lived a life of sufficient courage to advance in their journey through the universe. As he struggles to make his case, he forms a budding relationship with an uninhibited woman (Meryl Streep) who offers him a chance to finally feel alive. The supporting cast includes Rip Torn, Lee Grant and Buck Henry. Criterion’s edition includes a new 4K digital restoration supervised by Brooks, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new conversation between Brooks and filmmaker Robert Weide; a new interview on the afterlife with theologian and critic Donna Bowman; a new program featuring excerpts from 1991 interviews with Brooks, Grant and Torn; the film’s trailer; plus an essay by filmmaker Ari Aster.

Also due March 30 on Blu-ray and DVD is 1996’s Secret’s & Lies from director Mike Leigh. When Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), a Black optometrist who was adopted as a child, begins the search for her birth mother, she doesn’t expect that it will lead her to Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn, winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s best actress award), a desperately lonely white factory worker whose tentative embrace of her long-lost daughter sends shock waves through the rest of her already fragile family. The special edition offers a new 2K digital restoration supervised by Leigh and director of photography Dick Pope, with a 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new conversation with Leigh and composer Gary Yershon; a new interview with Marianne Jean-Baptiste; an audio interview with Leigh from 1996 conducted by film critic Michel Ciment; and the film’s trailer.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Criterion in March also releases the previously announced Blu-ray boxed set World of Wong Kar Wai, which collects seven of the Hong Kong filmmaker’s most ravishing films in stunning new restorations.

Criterion Releasing ‘World of Wong Kar Wai’ Boxed Set

The Criterion Collection March 23, 2021, will release the boxed set World of Wong Kar Wai, a seven-disc Blu-ray Disc collection containing new 4K digital restorations of Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, Happy Together, In the Mood for Love and 2046, approved by Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, and new 4K digital restorations of As Tears Go By and Days of Being Wild, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks.

The set comes in deluxe packaging, including a French-fold book featuring lavish photography, an essay by critic John Powers, a director’s note and six collectible art prints.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Wong’s debut feature, 1988’s As Tears Go By, is presented in Cantonese with English subtitles. The crime thriller, set amid Hong Kong’s gangland underworld stars Andy Lau Tak Wah as a small-time mob enforcer who finds himself torn between a burgeoning romance with his ailing cousin (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk) and his loyalty to his loose-cannon partner in crime (Jacky Cheung Hok Yau), whose reckless attempts to make a name for himself unleash a spiral of violence.

In 1990’s Days of Being Wild, the initial entry in a loosely connected, ongoing cycle that includes In the Mood for Love and 2046, a disaffected playboy (Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing) searching for his birth mother, a lovelorn woman (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk) hopelessly enamored with him, and a policeman (Andy Lau Tak Wah) caught in the middle of their turbulent relationship pull together and push apart in a dance of frustrated desire set in the Hong Kong of the 1960s. the film is presented in Cantonese with English subtitles.

In 1994’s Chungking Express, presented In Cantonese with English subtitles, two heartsick Hong Kong cops (Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung Chiu Wai), both jilted by ex-lovers, cross paths at the Midnight Express take-out food stand, where the ethereal pixie waitress Faye (Faye Wong) works.

In 1995’s Fallen Angels, in Cantonese with English subtitles, lost souls reach out for human connection amid a glimmering Hong Kong in a film that charts the subtly interlacing fates of a handful of urban loners, including a coolly detached hit man (Leon Lai Ming) looking to go straight; his business partner (Michelle Reis), who secretly yearns for him; and a mute delinquent (Takeshi Kaneshiro) who wreaks mischief by night.

Happy Together, from 1997, stars Hong Kong superstars Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing as a couple traveling through Argentina and locked in a turbulent cycle of infatuation and destructive jealousy as they break up, make up, and fall apart again and again. The film is presented in Cantonese, Mandarin, and Spanish with English subtitles.

In 2000’s In the Mood for Love, set in Hong Kong in 1962, Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Su Li-Zhen (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk) move into neighboring apartments on the same day. Their encounters are formal and polite — until a discovery about their spouses creates an intimate bond between them. It is presented in Cantonese with English subtitles.

The loose sequel to In the Mood for Love, 2046, features Tony Leung Chiu Wai reprising his role as writer Chow Mo-Wan, whose numerous failed relationships with women who drift in and out of his life (and the one who goes in and out of room 2046, down the hall from his apartment) inspire the delirious futuristic love story he pens. The 2004 film is presented in Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese with English subtitles.

Follow us on Instagram!

The boxed set also includes:

  • A new program in which Wong answers questions submitted, at the invitation of the director, by authors André Aciman and Jonathan Lethem; filmmakers Sofia Coppola, Rian Johnson, Lisa Joy, and Chloé Zhao; cinematographers Philippe Le Sourd and Bradford Young; and filmmakers and founders/creative directors of Rodarte Kate and Laura Mulleavy;
  • Alternate version of Days of Being Wild featuring different edits of the film’s prologue and final scenes, on home video for the first time;
  • Hua yang de nian hua, a 2000 short film by Wong;
  • Extended version of The Hand, a 2004 short film by Wong, available in the U.S. for the first time;
  • Interview and “cinema lesson” with Wong from the 2001 Cannes Film Festival;
  • Three making-of documentaries, featuring interviews with Wong; actors Maggie Cheung Man Yuk, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Chang Chen, Faye Wong, and Ziyi Zhang; and others;
  • Episode of the television series “Moving Pictures” from 1996 featuring Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle;
  • Interviews from 2002 and 2005 with Doyle;
  • Excerpts from a 1994 British Film Institute audio interview with Cheung on her work in Days of Being Wild;
  • Program from 2012 on In the Mood for Love’s soundtrack;
  • Press conference for In the Mood for Love from the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival;
  • Deleted scenes, alternate endings, behind-the-scenes footage, a promo reel, music videos, and trailers.

 

The Irishman

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 11/24/20;
Criterion;
Drama;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive language and strong violence.
Stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Jesse Plemons, Stephen Graham, Harvey Keitel.

Lest anyone accuse Martin Scorsese of glamorizing gangsters, he presents The Irishman, a screed against the criminal lifestyle.

The film is based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses, a recounting of the life of mafia hitman Frank Sheeran, the man who claims to have killed Jimmy Hoffa, the union boss whose disappearance in 1975 became one of the 20th century’s great mysteries.

The subject matter is fodder for Scorsese, who assembles a cast of mob-movie all-stars to deliver another highly entertaining trip into the inner workings of the criminal underworld. This includes usual Scorsese collaborators such as Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (who was coaxed out of retirement to appear). It is somehow also the first teaming of Al Pacino with Scorsese despite both being famously associated with the mafia movie genres.

The film, which earned a slew of Oscar nominations after debuting on Netflix in 2019, is lengthy at three-and-a-half hours, but is briskly paced enough to hold one’s attention. Of course, the nature of home video also allows viewers to pause the movie whenever they want, giving Scorsese plenty of leeway to indulge himself.

Follow us on Instagram

De Niro stars as Sheeran, the ‘Irishman’ of the title, a truck driver who gets drawn into the mafia as an enforcer. He eventually becomes a trusted ally of Teamster president Hoffa (Al Pacino), a friendship that comes to a head when Hoffa’s actions run afoul of the mafia’s leadership.

The extended running time not only allows the audience time to get to know the characters, but it also allows Scorsese to hone in on an aspect of criminal life that wasn’t central to his earlier works in the genre: What happens to the violent gangsters who manage not to get killed and end up growing old? Was their life of crime still worth it once they realize what they had to leave behind to achieve it?

As if to carry the point home, Scorsese makes a point to pause the introductions of several minor characters to display an on-screen graphic describing their fates, which usually involves a horrific, violent death.

On the subject of aging, the film famously made extensive use of de-aging visual effects software in order to allow the elderly stars to play the younger versions of their characters since the film spans several decades. Scorsese in the Blu-ray’s bonus materials says the technology was vital to his deciding to direct the film, as he didn’t want to have to cast younger actors for the earlier scenes and only work with De Niro for half the movie. The results are subtle if not always perfect, but they don’t hamper the effectiveness of the film at all.

Because of the film’s length, Criterion has made the Blu-ray of The Irishman a two-disc set, with the entirety of the movie presented as the only content on the first disc. All the bonus materials are on the second disc and they do a good job of taking viewers behind the scenes of the film. Both discs come in a handsome fold-out slipcover with some beautiful painted artwork of De Niro and Pacino, plus a booklet with an essay about the film.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

In addition to the film’s trailers, the extras include a 36-minute “Making The Irishman” featurette that covers all the aspects of the production.

Film history fans will get a kick out of the 19-minute “Table for Four” featurette, a roundtable conversation between Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino and Pesci as they discuss their careers and how they came together for this movie.

Also interesting is the 21-and-a-half-minute “Gangsters’ Requiem,” a video essay about the evolution of Scorsese’s career and how his previous works are reflected in The Irishman.

A five-minute “Anatomy of a Scene” video features Scorsese providing commentary on the Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night scene.

The film’s visual effects techniques are expanded upon in the 13-minute “The Evolution of Digital De-Aging as Seen in The Irishman” featurette, which was originally a Netflix promotional piece.

Finally, there are a couple of archival videos that the filmmakers used in re-creating historic events: a six-minute interview with an elderly Sheeran, and a 17-and-a-half minute news profile of Hoffa by David Brinkley in 1963.

‘Essential Fellini’ Blu-ray Set Arrives Nov. 24 from Criterion

The Criterion Collection Nov. 24 will release Essential Fellini, a 15-disc Blu-ray collection of 14 works from celebrated Italian director Federico Fellini (1920-1993) 100 years after his birth.

The set will include the films Variety Lights (1950), The White Sheik (1952), I Vitelloni (1953), La Strada (1954), Il Bidone (1955), Nights of Cabiria (1957), La Dolce Vita (1960), (1963), Juliet of the Spirits (1965), Fellini Satyricon (1969), Roma (1972), Amarcord (1973), And the Ship Sails On (1983) and Intervista (1987), plus a new digital restoration of the short film Toby Dammit (1968).

The set includes new 4K restorations of 11 of the theatrical features, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks for all films.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Extras include:

  • The newly restored television film Fellini: A Director’s Notebook (1969), and the feature documentaries Fellini: I’m a Born Liar (2002) and Marcello Mastroianni: I Remember (1997), the latter presented in its 193-minute version;
  • A two-hour, four-part 1960 interview with Fellini by filmmaker André Delvaux for Belgian television;
  • Four behind-the-scenes documentaries: “Reporter’s Diary: Zoom on Fellini” (1965), “Ciao, Federico!” (1969), “The Secret Diary of Amarcord” (1974), and “Fellini racconta: On the Set of And the Ship Sails On” (1983);
  • Fellini racconta: Passegiatte nella memoria, a 2000 documentary featuring interviews with a late-in-life Fellini;
  • Giulietta Masina: The Power of a Smile, a 2004 documentary about Fellini’s wife and frequent collaborator;
  • “Once Upon a Time: La dolce vita,” a French television documentary about the film;
  • Audio commentaries on six of the films;
  • A program from 2003 on Fellini’s 1980s television advertising work;
  • Archival interviews with Fellini stars and collaborators, including Marcello Mastroianni, Sandra Milo, Anouk Aimée, and Magali Noël;
  • Archival audio interviews by film critic Gideon Bachmann with Fellini, Mastroianni, and Fellini’s friends and family;
  • Video essays;
  • Trailers.

 

Follow us on Instagram

Listed for $249.95, the set will come in deluxe packaging that includes two lavishly illustrated books with hundreds of pages of content: notes on the films by scholar David Forgacs; essays by filmmakers Michael Almereyda, Kogonada, and Carol Morley, film critics Bilge Ebiri and Stephanie Zacharek, and novelist Colm Tóibín; and dozens of images spotlighting Don Young’s renowned collection of Fellini memorabilia.

 

‘Moonstruck,’ Girlfriends’ ‘Ghost Dog’ Getting Criterion Re-releases in November

The Criterion Collection in November will release new Blu-ray and DVD editions of catalog titles Moonstruck, Girlfriends and Ghost Dog.

Arriving Nov. 10 on Blu-ray and DVD is the 1978 comedy Girlfriends from director Claudia Weill. Melanie Mayron stars as a struggling artist who considers a fling with a married, older rabbi (Eli Wallach).

The film comes with a new, restored 4K digital transfer supervised by Weill and director of photography Fred Murphy, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include new interviews with Weill, Mayron, actors Christopher Guest and Bob Balaban, screenwriter Vicki Polon; Joyce at 34, a 1972 short film by Weill and Joyce Chopra; Commuters, a 1973 short film by Weill; the film’s trailer; and essays by critic Molly Haskell and scholar Carol Gilligan.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The new Moonstruck Blu-ray and DVD editions arrive Nov. 17 with a new 4K digital restoration, and a 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

The film stars Cher in an Oscar-winning role as Loretta, an unlucky-in-love bookkeeper whose feelings about her engagement to the staid Johnny (Danny Aiello) are thrown into question after she meets his hot-blooded brother, Ronny (Nicolas Cage). The film also won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress for Olympia Dukakis), and Best Original Screenplay for playwright John Patrick Shanley.

Extras include a new interview with Shanley; a new interview with scholar Stefano Albertini about the use of opera in the film; an introduction from 2013 featuring Cher; interviews from 1987 with director Norman Jewison and actors Cher, Nicolas Cage, Vincent Gardenia and Olympia Dukakis; an interview from 2002 with actor Danny Aiello; an audio interview from 1989 with Shanley about screenwriting and the development of Moonstruck; “At the Heart of an Italian Family,” a 2006 program about the making of the film; “The Music of Moonstruck,” a 2006 program featuring interviews with Jewison and composer Dick Hyman; audio commentary from 1998 with Cher, Jewison and Shanley; the film’s trailer; and an essay by critic Emily VanDerWerff.

Follow us on Instagram

Also due Nov. 17 on Blu-ray and DVD, 1999’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, directed by Jim Jarmusch, stars Forest Whitaker as a Zen contract killer working for a bumbling mob outfit, a modern man who adheres steadfastly to the ideals of the Japanese warrior code even as chaos and violence spiral around him.

The film comes with a restored 4K digital transfer supervised and approved by Jarmusch, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray, as well as an alternate isolated stereo music track. Extras include a new Q&A with Jarmusch, in which he responds to questions sent in by fans; new conversation between actors Forest Whitaker and Isaach De Bankolé, moderated by film scholar Michael B. Gillespie; a new interview with casting director Ellen Lewis; a new interview with Shifu Shi Yan Ming, founder of the USA Shaolin Temple; a new video essay on RZA’s original score for the film; deleted scenes and outtakes; archival itnerviews; “The Odyssey: A Journey into the Life of a Samurai,” a 2000 program on the making of the film; the film’s trailer; and an essay by critic Greg Tate and quotations from Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai, by the early-18th century monk Yamamoto Tsunetomo.

Criterion Releasing Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 24

The Criterion Collection Nov. 24 will release Blu-ray Disc and DVD editions of director Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed mobster epic The Irishman.

The three-and-a-half-hour movie, which earned 10 Oscar nominations but didn’t win any, stars Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran, a former hitman and union truck driver who reflects on his life in organized crime in the mid-20th century, from his involvement with Philadelphia mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) to his association with Teamsters union head Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), and the rift that forced him to choose between the two.

The movie arrives on disc a year after its debut on Netflix, sporting a new 4K digital master approved by Scorsese, with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

Follow us on Instagram

Extras include a newly edited roundtable conversation among Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino and Pesci originally recorded in 2019; a new documentary about the making of the film; a new video essay written and narrated by film critic Farran Smith Nehme about The Irishman’s synthesis of Scorsese’s singular formal style; “The Evolution of Digital De-aging,” a 2019 program on the visual effects created for the film; archival interview excerpts with Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and International Brotherhood of Teamsters trade union leader Jimmy Hoffa; the film’s trailer and teaser; plus an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien.

Criterion previously released disc versions of Netflix originals Roma and Marriage Story.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

‘Trolls World Tour’ Leads Disc Sales for Second Week

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s Trolls World Tour led the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended July 18. It was the second consecutive week in the top spot for the DreamWorks Animation sequel.

Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog, which has hovered near the top of the charts since its May 19 disc release due to a dearth of major new releases in the pipeline, climbed back to No. 2 on the overall disc sales chart and maintained the No. 3 spot on the Blu-ray Disc chart.

The No. 2 Blu-ray Disc seller was the Criterion Collection’s new Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits boxed set, a compilation of five of the martial arts superstar’s most notable movies: The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, The Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon and Game of Death. The set, which was released only on Blu-ray, ranked No. 13 overall.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Rounding out the top five on the overall chart were a number of older titles: Warner’s 2018 Clint Eastwood crime drama The Mule at No. 3, Paramount’s Top Gun at No. 4, and Universal’s Jaws at No. 5.

The Blu-ray disc chart had Sony Pictures’ Bloodshot at No. 4 (No. 15 overall) and Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker at No. 5 (No. 22 overall).

The semi-annual Barnes & Noble Criterion sale helped push many of the boutique distributor’s Blu-rays into the Top 25 Blu-ray Disc rankings. In addition to the Bruce Lee set, Criterion’s Blu-ray of the 1985 Russian war drama Come and See landed at No. 11 on the Blu-ray chart, followed at No. 12 by Criterion’s new Blu-ray of the 1953 sci-fi classic The War of the Worlds. The recent Criterion version of 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel hit No. 22, while last year’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire was No. 24, and the recent special edition of 1963’s The Great Escape was No. 25.

Follow us on Instagram!

The Media Play News rental chart for the week ended July 19 also saw Trolls World Tour in the top spot for a second week. Redbox’s Becky moved up a spot to No. 2.

Rounding out the top five rentals were Universal’s The Invisible Man remake at No. 3, Lionsgate’s Force of Nature at No. 4, and Paramount’s Body Cam, new to disc, debuting at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 7-18-20
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 7-19-20
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 7-18-20
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 7-18-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 7-18-20
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 7-20-20

The War of the Worlds (1953)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Criterion;
Sci-Fi;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne, Bob Carnthwaite, Lewis Martin.

Producer George Pal’s 1953 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds is such a seminal film in the history of science-fiction that it’s practically a requirement for any self-respecting fan of the genre to include in their collection.

Surprisingly, however, the film hadn’t been released on Blu-ray until this gorgeous new edition from the Criterion Collection, sourced from a 2018 restoration of the film prepared by Paramount for digital release. The project included a massive clean-up of the original film elements plus the creation of a new 5.1 audio track by legendary sound engineer Ben Burtt.

The film itself took quite a long time to make it to the big screen — nearly 30 years — as the project kept passing from one noted director to the next. By the time it ended up with George Pal, one of the most notable British producers of the day, and director Byron Haskin, the story had been tweaked from an invasion of Victorian England as in Wells’ original text to a contemporary (for the time) setting and an initial landing near Los Angeles (Orson Welles’ 1938 radio version had similarly updated the story for the times, with the landing taking place in New Jersey). The 1950s setting aligned the film with the paranoia of nuclear war and the burgeoning Cold War.

As a result, the film became a major hit for Paramount and one of the most influential sci-fi movies ever made, achieving a scope for the day that dared other movies to top it.

Surprisingly, the film’s run time is only 85 minutes, a brisk pace that encompasses a recap of both world wars, a quick tour of the planets of the solar system and why the Martians would choose Earth, the crash landing of the Martian craft and call to the top human scientists to study it, deployment of the military in response to the alien ships emerging and attacking everything they see, a sojourn into a local farmhouse that the aliens explore, a feckless nuclear strike against the aliens, a full-scale attack on the world’s cities by the alien ships, and the aliens suddenly dying due to their lack of immunity to Earth bacteria, the key plot twist taken straight from Wells’ book (and apologies for the spoilers to anyone so far behind on the times they didn’t already know that).

The film’s Oscar-winning visual effects are so iconic in their depiction of the attacks that the template was preserved almost precisely for later remakes such as 1996’s Independence Day, which upped the scope of the landmarks it was able to take out, but continued the tradition of updating the setting to modern times, as did Steven Spielberg’s 2005 version.

One key advantage of the restoration was the return of the original three-strip Technicolor process to render the final image. Over the years, Paramount began replicating the film using inferior but more cost-effective Eastman color prints, resulting in color degradation and making it much easier to see the piano wires holding up the floating alien ships (plainly visible in the 2005 DVD edition of the film). The new restoration restores the proper color balance that obscures the wires, if not hide them completely. Using computer effects to erase the wires altogether was ruled out by the restoration team, according to the bonus materials, because they wanted to stay true to depicting the filmmaking techniques of the time.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The effects, which might seem quaint now, were revolutionary for the time, using a mix of miniature sets and early bluescreen mattes. The model work allows for some impressive shots of alien fleets floating through the streets of Los Angeles. The bluescreen work is a bit less effective, leaving the ships looking somewhat transparent and standing out against the backdrops. Many of these process shots have at least been cleaned up by the HD transfer.

Almost as big an improvement is the 5.1 audio mix, which just provides a booming sound showcasing all of the film’s iconic sound effects. It’s a much fuller audio experience than the original monaural track, which also is included.

In terms of extras, the Criterion edition offers a healthy mix of new and old, but doesn’t quite offer everything that was previously released.

Among the new extras are a 21-minute featurette about the restoration process, as well as a 30-minute featurette about the history of the film’s visual and audio effects, which even includes a demonstration of re-creating the sound effects to complete a visual effects outtake from the original film.

Another section of the extras includes the original audio broadcast of the Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio drama, plus a fascinating 24-minute 1940 audio interview between Welles and H.G. Wells, in which they plus Citizen Kane and discuss the potential for America to enter World War II.

Another bit of archival audio contains excerpts of a George Pal Q&A at the American Film Institute in 1970.

Carried over from the old DVD includes a commentary with filmmaker Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns and writer Bill Warren. There’s also the 2005 documentary “The Sky is Falling,” a 30-minute retrospective about the making of the film.

Not included from the 2005 DVD are a commentary with stars Gene Berry and Ann Robinson, and a featurette about H.G. Wells’ influence on science-fiction. So collectors might want to hold onto their old DVDs if they still want those extras.

Criterion Sets ‘Marriage Story,’ ‘War of the Worlds’ For Blu-ray in July

The Criterion Collection Blu-ray slate for July 2020 will include the 1953 sci-fi classic The War of the Worlds, 2019 Oscar winner Marriage Story, Preston Sturges’ 1941 screwball classic The Lady Eve, and 1997 Palme d’Or winner Taste of Cherry.

The War of the Worlds, adapted from the H.G. Wells alien invasion novel by producer George Pal and director Byron Haskin, arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD July 7 with a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, and a new alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack created by sound designer Ben Burtt and presented in DTS-HD master audio on the Blu-ray.

The film stars Gene Barry as a nuclear physicist and Ann Robinson as a librarian who attempt to help the military fight off a devastating Martian attack on Earth’s cities. The Technicolor film received an Oscar for its special effects. The story was continued in a 1980s TV series with Robinson returning as her character.

Extras on the Criterion edition of The War of the Worlds include an audio commentary from 2005 featuring filmmaker Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns and author Bill Warren; “Movie Archaeologists,” a new program on the visual and sound effects in the film featuring Burtt and film historian Craig Barron; “From the Archive,” a new program about the film’s restoration featuring Barron, Burtt and Paramount Pictures archivist Andrea Kalas; an audio interview with producer George Pal from 1970; “The Sky Is Falling,” a 2005 documentary about the making of the film; The Mercury Theatre on the Air radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds from 1938, directed and narrated by Orson Welles; a radio program from 1940 featuring a discussion between Welles and H.G. Wells; the film’s trailer; and an essay by film critic J. Hoberman.

The War of the Worlds

Due July 14 on Blu-ray Disc and DVD is The Lady Eve, written and directed by Preston Sturges, and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. The Criterion version includes a new 4K digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

Aboard a cruise liner sailing up the coast of South America, Stanwyck’s conniving card sharp sets her sights on Fonda’s nerdy snake researcher, who happens to be the heir to a brewery fortune. But when the con artist falls for her mark, her grift becomes a game of hearts-and she is determined to win it all.

Lady Eve extras include audio commentary from 2001 featuring film professor Marian Keane; an Introduction from 2001 by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich; an Interview from 2020 with Sturges biographer and son Tom Sturges and friends; a new video essay by film critic David Cairns; costume designs by Edith Head; a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1942 featuring Stanwyck and Ray Milland; an audio recording of “Up the Amazon,” a song from an unproduced stage musical based on the film; and an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and a 1946 profile of Sturges from Life magazine.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Marriage Story, Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern, arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD July 21. The Netflix original movie from writer-director Noah Baumbach stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in Oscar-nominated performances as a couple whose marriage falls part, with Dern playing a divorce lawyer. The cast also includes Alan Alda, Julie Hagerty and Ray Liotta. The film earned six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.

The Marriage Story Criterion edition includes a new 4K digital transfer supervised by Baumbach, with a 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new interview with Baumbach; “The Players,” a new program featuring interviews Johansson, Driver, Dern, Alda, Hagerty and Liotta; “The Filmmakers,” a new program about the production of the film, featuring interviews with Baumbach, editor Jennifer Lame, production designer Jade Healy, costume designer Mark Bridges and producer David Heyman; “The Making of Marriage Story, a new program featuring behind-the-scenes footage; new interviews with composer Randy Newman and Baumbach about the film’s score; a new program featuring Baumbach walking the viewer through a key location from the film; trailers; and notes on the film by novelist Linn Ullmann.

Follow us on Instagram

The first Iranian film to win the Palme d’Or (shared with The Eel), director Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry arrives on Blu-ray July 21 with a new 4K digital restoration, a new English subtitle translation and uncompressed monaural soundtrack. The drama follows the middle-aged Mr. Badii (Homayoun Ershadi) as he drives around the hilly outskirts of Tehran looking for someone who will agree to dispose of his body after he commits suicide, a taboo under Islam. Extended conversations with three passengers (a soldier, a seminarian, and a taxidermist) elicit different views of mortality and individual choice.

Extras include Project, Kiarostami’s 39-minute 1997 sketch film for Taste of Cherry, made with the director’s son Bahman; a new interview with Iranian film scholar Hamid Naficy; a rare 1997 interview with Kiarostami, conducted by Iranian film scholar Jamsheed Akrami; the film’s trailer; and an essay by critic A. S. Hamrah.

Criterion previously announced the July 14 release of the Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits Blu-ray boxed set collecting five kung-fu classics starring the international martial-arts legend.

Criterion Releasing Bruce Lee ‘Greatest Hits’ Boxed Set    

The Criterion Collection July 14 will release a seven-disc Blu-ray boxed set containing five of kung-fu action star Bruce Lee’s greatest films.

Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits brings together five films that define the Lee legend: furiously exciting fist-fliers propelled by his innovative choreography, unique martial-arts philosophy and whirlwind fighting style. Though Lee completed only a handful of films while at the peak of his stardom before his untimely death in 1973 at age 32, he left behind a monumental legacy as both a consummate entertainer and a supremely disciplined artist who made Hong Kong action cinema a sensation the world over.

Follow us on Instagram

Game of Death

The set will include 4K digital restorations of The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Game of Death and The Way of the Dragon, with uncompressed original monaural soundtracks. The set will also include two versions of Enter the Dragon digitally restored in 2K: the 99-minute 1973 theatrical version with uncompressed original monaural soundtrack, and the 102-minute special edition version.

The Blu-rays will include audio soundtracks for the films, including original English-dubbed tracks and a 5.1 surround soundtrack for the special-edition version of Enter the Dragon.

The set will include six audio commentaries. The Big Boss comes with a voiceover by Bruce Lee expert Brandon Bentley; producer Paul Heller provides one for the extended cut of Enter the Dragon; and Hong Kong-film expert Mike Leeder offers his thoughts on The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Game of Death and The Way of the Dragon.

Game of Death will include “Game of Death Redux,” a new presentation of Lee’s original Game of Death footage produced by Alan Canvan, and a high-definition presentation of the 1981 sequel Game of Death II.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Other extras include:

  • New interviews on all five films with Lee biographer Matthew Polly;
  • A new interview with producer Andre Morgan about Golden Harvest, the company behind Hong Kong’s top martial-arts stars, including Lee;
  • A new program about English-language dubbing with voice performers Michael Kaye (the English-speaking voice of Lee’s Chen Zhen in Fist of Fury) and Vaughan Savidge;
  • A new interview with author Grady Hendrix about the “Bruceploitation” subgenre that followed Lee’s death, and a selection of Bruceploitation trailers;
  • Blood and Steel, a 2004 documentary about the making of Enter the Dragon;
  • Multiple programs and documentaries about Lee’s life and philosophies, including Bruce Lee: The Man and the Legend (1973) and Bruce Lee: In His Own Words (1998);
  • Interviews with Linda Lee Cadwell, Lee’s widow, and many of Lee’s collaborators and admirers, including actors Jon T. Benn, Riki Hashimoto, Nora Miao, Robert Wall, Yuen Wah and Simon Yam, and directors Clarence Fok, Sammo Hung and Wong Jing;
  • Promotional materials;
  • New English subtitle translations and subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing;
  • An essay by critic Jeff Chang.