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While promoting the home video version of his historical blockbuster “Oppenheimer,” director Christopher Nolan recently stressed that it’s really the only way to go when it comes to watching his movies at home. Not only does he finely calibrate his films for the best home video experience (leading to the 4K Ultra HD version of the movie to sell out everywhere) but he stressed buying the movie on physical media means you can “put it on a shelf so no evil streaming service can come steal it from you.”
And while, yes, he’s joking, he is right about one thing: the only way you can insure that the movies you love will be around is by owning them on physical media. Thankfully the home video labels have been stepping up their game, with deluxe packages overflowing with extras and feature films presented in their best possible format.
Here are the biggest and best releases for November 2023 – including “Oppenheimer.”
“Fargo”4K (out now)
One of the Coen Brothers’ very best films finally gets the 4K treatment it deserves. The wintery tale of a fake kidnapping gone wrong, it stars Frances McDormand as the pregnant police chief investigating the case and William H. Macy as the dim bulb husband who engineers his wife’s kidnapping for a little extra money. Of course, things soon spiral out of control. One of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s favorite movies, “Fargo” gets a new 4K restoration overseen by the movie’s cinematographer Roger Deakins. Plus there are a bunch of vintage special features, like a Deakins commentary track and interviews with the Coens and McDormand, plus a gallery of marketing materials. You can also get a limited edition set that includes a snow globe, which longtime physical media fans will remember you could buy the original VHS of the movie with. Time is a flat circle!
“The Last Picture Show” 4K (out now)
Yes, Criterion had already released “The Last Picture Show.” But 1) that was only a Blu-ray and 2) it was housed within the expansive (and expensive) “America Lost and Found: The BBS Story.” This new edition of Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 masterpiece, about a middle-of-nowhere Texas town and the teens who aim to transcend their lowly existence (led by Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms and Cybill Shepherd), comes in a beautiful new 4K restoration of Bogdanovich’s directors cut, along with audio commentaries, making-of documentaries, screen tests and a 1972 interview with Francois Truffaut where he talks about New Hollywood. But perhaps most intriguing of all is the inclusion of “Texasville,” the sequel to “The Last Picture Show” that was released almost 20 years later, featured all of the same cast, but was both a critical and commercial dud. Criterion presents the film in a black-and-white director’s cut (the original release was in color, a baffling decision) approved by the movie’s cinematographer Nicholas von Sternberg. And while this alternate version of the movie doesn’t somehow reveal a masterpiece, it is a much better movie than most remember and the black-and-white version is clearly more powerful, especially when coupled with “The Last Picture Show.” (This set also includes the original color version if you’re really curious.) Bogdanovich passed away last year at age 82. We took him for granted when he was around. We must celebrate him now that he’s gone.
“Blue Steel” (out now)
For years Kathryn Bigelow’s “Blue Steel” (1989) had been very hard to see, especially in decent quality. So this new Blu-ray disc, from the Vestron label of Lionsgate (usually reserved for cultish hard-to-find classics), is nothing short of a revelation and a must-buy, even if you haven’t seen it before. Jamie Lee Curtis plays a young NYPD recruit; on one of her first days she winds up killing a violent criminal (played by Tom Sizemore, of course), setting into motion an insane series of events. (Honestly, the less you know, the better.) This was Bigelow’s follow-up to “Near Dark” and is honestly just as good, fearlessly blending genres and presenting Curtis’ character as a boundary-pushing female hero. In the years since the movie was released, what was initially thought of as a disappointment, has taken on new dimension as something of a groundbreaking work of feminist cinema. And what’s lovely about this home video release, besides looking and sounding better than it has in years, is that there is real space given to the sociopolitical dimension of “Blue Steel.” There’s a commentary film historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and a mini-doc “Deconstructing Blue Steel” called “The Phallic Woman,” featuring an interview with Professor Jennifer Moorman that goes full gender studies. Even if you don’t think it is particularly noteworthy (it is), the movie is still a total rollercoaster ride and proof positive that Bigelow is one of our great filmmakers. Can she make another movie soon please?
“Oppenheimer” 4K (out now)
This is one of the must-own discs of the year. Christopher Nolan’s historical epic, which charts the rise and fall of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), the father of the atomic bomb, is a stone cold masterpiece and the filmmaker’s very best film. Nolan has, painstakingly, optimized the movie for the 4K Ultra HD release, with flawless picture and sound (Nolan prefers 5.1 to Dolby Atmos, deal with it). But the release also includes some amazing special features, including a feature-length making-of documentary, a half-hour “Meet the Press” segment, a featurette on the 65 mm film process and another, newly produced documentary on Oppenheimer called “To End All War: Oppenheimer & The Atomic Bomb.” There’s also a collection of marketing materials but considering how long that trailer ran in theaters, if we never see that thing again, that’s okay. The 4K version of “Oppenheimer” has been selling out everywhere. Get yours wherever you can. It’s essential.
“The Fugitive” 4K (out now)
For its 30th anniversary, “The Fugitive” finally makes its way to 4K Ultra HD. The movie, based on the beloved television series, was a towering critical and commercial achievement, a blockbuster that was also nominated for every Oscar imaginable. Harrison Ford plays a prominent doctor framed for the murder of his wife (Sela Ward). He then goes on the run from a dogged U.S. Marshal (Tommy Lee Jones in an Oscar-winning performance) while also attempting to uncover the truth behind his wife’s death. It’s the best. And this new release features a brand-new transfer, overseen by director Andrew Davis, which he got to personally recalibrate, along with a new Dolby Atmos audio option. (The movie had a somewhat contentious history with its look.) And it has most of the special features from earlier releases (including a commentary with Davis and Jones), which is very much appreciated. The only thing missing is the failed TV pilot that followed the success of the movie (starring Tim Daly and Mykelti Williamson). Although “missing” might be the wrong word. You’re fine. This release is amazing. Buy it to remember a time when Hollywood was making movies that critics, audiences and guilds all loved. Those were the days.
“Mean Streets” 4K (out now)
We live in a blessed time. Just a few months after Criterion released Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours” on a glorious 4K disc, they are back with a new 4K release of his breakthrough feature, 1973’s “Mean Streets.” (Let us pray that Criterion and Apple work out a physical release for “Killers of the Flower Moon.”) An autobiographical crime drama, “Mean Streets” marked Scorsese’s first collaboration with Robert De Niro, who stars in the movie as a small-time thug in the Little Italy neighborhood of New York. Considering how prolific and powerful that collaboration continues to be, with De Niro poised for another Supporting Actor nomination for his work in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” it’s fascinating to see the early days. The release features a new 4K restoration overseen by Scorsese but one that is already drawing controversy (we think it looks great), along with a host of special features, including a conversation between Scorsese and Richard Linklater; a new video essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith; classic selected-scene commentary track recorded in 2004; and a vintage featurette from 1973 where Scorsese talks about New York. The Criterion Barnes & Noble sale is still going on! Get it now!
“Godland,” “The Eight Mountains” and “Tori and Lokita” (out now)
We love the Janus Contemporaries imprint of Criterion and there are three more exemplary features to add to your collection (at an affordable price, at that). The titles are taking a breather for a couple months but will be back in February. Until then you can watch these recent gems. Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch‘s affecting “The Eight Mountains,” adapted from the novel by Paolo Cognetti that follows a man named Pietro (Luca Marinelli) and his attempt to rebuild a ruined cabin following the death of his father. The disc features a new documentary about the making of the movie and interviews with the cast and crew. There’s also “Tori and Lokita” from master filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who have won the Palme d’Or at Cannes a whopping four times, centered around a pair of teenage immigrants as they attempt to navigate modern day Belgium. It is harrowing and heartfelt. (The disc has a new interview with the Dardennes.) And then there’s “Godland,” which is already popping up on Best of 2023 lists. Elliott Crosset Hove plays a Danish priest charting Iceland as he looks for a place to set up a church. Beautifully shot and deeply felt, the “Godland” disc features a new interview with director Hlynur Pálmason.
“Expendables 4” (out now)
This is the fourth “Expendables” movie (the title was stylized, at least initially, as “Expend4bles”) and by now you should pretty much know what you’re getting into – some over-the-hill action stars (led by Sylvester Stallone and including Jason Statham, Randy Couture and Dolph Lundgren), along with some younger performers (including Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais from “The Raid”). Things explode. People get beheaded (much was made of the franchise’s return to R-rated territory). And everybody has a good time. The fourth entry doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it does smartly progress it, thanks to some snappy direction from Scott Waugh and the introduction of Megan Fox to the franchise. And the home video release is exemplary, especially if you pick up the 4K Ultra HD version, with pristine audio and video and a nice collection of special features, including a commentary with Waugh and mini documentaries on the new cast and the making of the movie’s many action sequences. Get it for the old school action lover on your Christmas list.
“WandaVision” 4K (out now)
We are very thankful that Disney+ has decided to release some of its exclusive content on physical media, beginning with the first season of “Loki” and continuing, now, with “WandaVision.” (The first two seasons of “The Mandalorian” are also on the way.) And the show, which sees Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) creating a rich fantasy world in which she can still live with her fallen love Vision (Paul Bettany) in the style of various old sitcoms, has never looked or sounded better than it does on these 4K discs. This is especially true as the show toggles through sitcom styles, with both the HD visuals and the Dolby Atmos mix really impressing. And there are a handful of special features, including the hour-long “Assembled” documentary on the making of the show (another former Disney+ exclusive). Can we have “She Hulk: Attorney at Law” next? Please?
“Blackhat” 4K (out now)
One of the most anticipated home video releases of 2023, which had suffered delays and setbacks, is finally here. Michael Mann’s “Blackhat” was released back in 2015 and was an undeniable flop, making less than $20 million worldwide on a budget of $70 million. Back then it was only defended by the staunchest Manniacs (myself included). But in the years since, the tide has turned on “Blackhat,” thanks largely to a completely re-edited version of the movie that was aired exclusively on FX and is, mercifully, included here on the bonus Blu-ray. The 4K disc features both the theatrical cut of the movie, which stars Chris Hemsworth as the handsomest hacker to ever live, and an international version of the movie that is slightly longer. But the director’s cut is where the movie really shines and where the inherent specialness of “Blackhat” is more outwardly apparent. There are also newly produced special features devoted to the cinematography and editing, with a new commentary track featuring a pair of film critics. If you’ve never seen “Blackhat,” this is a perfect place to start, and if you’re one of the longtime devotees, these discs were worth the wait.
“Death Wish” 4K (out now)
Listen, is Eli Roth’s 2018 remake of the Charles Bronson revenge thriller a classic? No. But it’s way better than it has any right to be, with Bruce Willis standing in for Bronson and Roth staging some truly staggering set pieces that let him lean on his horror roots. (This movie is violent as hell.) There are also some terrific supporting performances from Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, Mike Epps and a young Camila Morrone as Willis’ daughter. It’s also one of the last really engaged performances from Willis before he was lost to a series of endless direct-to-home-video action cheapies. (There have been allegations that the producers of these movies, knowing about Willis’ dementia, unfairly took advantage of him.) “Death Wish” uses Willis’ physicality and his effortless tough guy cool to fine effect. And this disc features a brand new 4K Dolby Vision presentation, along with a bunch of vintage special features that includes a commentary with Roth and producer Roger Birnbaum, deleted scenes, and a grindhouse-style trailer. Justice for the “Death Wish” remake.
The post The Best New Movies and TV on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Released in November 2023 appeared first on TheWrap.