Another week, another set of potential additions to your physical media library. Some new and some old are being issued on Blu-ray (and in most cases available on Digital HD if that’s your home media preference), headlined by an Oscar winning drama, a surprise hit musical, and a movie that was infamous for its last-minute changes.
The masterful Paul Thomas Anderson once again delivers a masterwork that places him square above his fellow filmmakers with Phantom Thread. Supposedly the final film of Daniel Day-Lewis’ illustrious career, Phantom Thread has the three-time Oscar winner playing Reynolds Woodcock, a high-end fashion designer with a vicious streak. Reynolds Woodcock’s life and his cruel and demanding streak are tested when Alma (Vicky Krieps) enters his life, challenging his routine and the hierarchy of the House of Woodcock that has been carefully established with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville).
P.T. Anderson has no interest in providing viewers with simple answers, and that continues with the enigmatic relationship at the heart of Phantom Thread. This unusual love story is wryly comic with heartbreaking moments where the demanding Reynolds Woodcock unleashes his temper on Alma. Whether or not Phantom Thread is a celebration of a difficult genius is entirely up to the viewer (I don’t believe it is in the slightest), but it’s another work from P.T. Anderson where the nuances of the story come across on multiple viewings.
The Blu-ray for Phantom Thread features a handful of deleted scenes accompanied by the lush score by Jonny Greenwood. There are also camera tests with audio commentary by Paul Thomas Anderson which is really a sort of miniature film school as he explains the lenses and film stock employed to capture the film’s stunning visual style. Phantom Thread was one of the best films of 2017 and a must-own for cinephile devotees of Paul Thomas Anderson’s unique brand of cinema.
The Greatest Showman
Early last year, Hugh Jackman said goodbye to the role that made him a household name when he parted ways with Wolverine in Logan. Though Jackman shed his claws, he picked up a top hat and tapped his toes in the hit musical The Greatest Showman, about the life of circus icon P.T. Barnum. The Greatest Showman wasn’t a hit with critics, but audiences took to the musical and propelled it to being one of 2017’s surprise hits, one that is still playing in theaters as it lands on Blu-ray. Co-starring with Jackman in director Michael Gracey’s musical production are Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, and Rebecca Ferguson.
The Blu-ray special features include featurettes on the making of the film as well as information on its real life inspiration. But what people want from The Greatest Showman are the songs by the songwriting duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (who wrote the lyrics for the songs from La La Land). The Blu-ray has a sing-a-long version of the film, one which played briefly in theaters. There’s a demand for more musical cinema, and The Greatest Showman is just the latest hit to meet that growing demand.
Up in Smoke
The conversation about marijuana has constantly been changing over the past 40 years, as we’re slowly seeing legalization take place in various states in America. 40 years ago, the comedy duo of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong took their stoner humor from comedy LPs to the big screen with their feature film debut Up in Smoke. The cult stoner comedy now lands on Blu-ray with a 40th anniversary edition from Paramount Pictures.
This new edition of Up in Smoke features a new look at the legacy of Cheech & Chong’s first feature film as well as other featurettes examining the film and its two stoned stars. There is also an audio commentary track with Cheech Marin and director Lou Adler, as well as a deleted scene. There are also music videos, vintage trailers, and radio spots from the late ‘70s to promote the film.
One of the year’s best reviewed independent films, Ted Geoghegan’s Mohawk lands on Blu-ray from Dark Sky Films. While the Blu-ray may be a barebones edition with no special features, Geoghegan’s film has been widely acclaimed by a wide swath of critics, many of whom I often agree with. Mohawk is also available for purchase or rental from most digital retailers.
All the Money in the World
Ridley Scott just doesn’t stop working. The legendary director released two films last year, the divisive but awesome Alien: Covenant and the historical drama about the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson, All the Money in the World. But All the Money in the World didn’t make headlines for telling the true story of an infamous kidnapping, it made headlines because Ridley Scott reshot large chunks of the film in the wake of allegations against its star Kevin Spacey, replacing him with Christopher Plummer who would go on to score an Oscar nomination for his performance as the oil baron.
Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher) stars as J. Paul Getty III, who was kidnapped in Italy in the ‘70s. His wealthy and famous grandfather known for being an incredible miser refuses to pay the ransom. Gail (Michelle Williams), the mother of the kidnapped Getty, teams with former spy and Getty employee Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) in order to secure the young man’s freedom.
Special features on the Blu-ray of All the Money in the World include deleted scenes and featurettes on the making of the movie. However, what might be the most interesting of the special features is entitled “Recast, Reshot, Reclaimed” which looks at the unprecedented steps taken to replace Kevin Spacey, and how Ridley Scott pulled off the seemingly impossible feat in less than a month and making the film’s initial release date.
Aaron Sorkin is one of the most acclaimed screenwriters of his generation with his work on television on The West Wing or his Oscar winning screenplay on The Social Network. Now Sorkin takes the next step with Molly’s Game, his directorial debut and adaptation of the real life story of Molly Bloom, a woman who ran a high-stakes poker game and wound up entangled in an FBI investigation.
Molly’s Game is very much the work of Aaron Sorkin with its blistering, fast-paced dialogue. But the real standout in the film is the powerhouse performance by Jessica Chastain as the Olympic skier-turned-poker princess. Starring opposite Chastain in Molly’s Game is Idris Elba, Michael Cera, Chris O’Dowd, and Kevin Costner.
There aren’t too many special features on the Blu-ray for Molly’s Game, simply a featurette where Aaron Sorkin and Jessica Chastain discuss the real life inspiration for the movie.
The Incredible Hulk (4K)
Avengers: Infinity War is just around the corner, but before Disney bought Marvel Studios and turned the superhero films into a sprawling series that has dominated pop culture, The Incredible Hulk arrived as the second entry in the burgeoning interconnected universe. A lot has changed since then. Behind the scenes drama led to Edward Norton being replaced by Mark Ruffalo and despite the fact that the film was considered a disappointment when it was initially released, the Hulk has grown into one of the more beloved characters in the broader MCU, especially considering the new side of him recently shown in Thor: Ragnarok.
Louis Leterrier directs his only installment in the MCU with Edward Norton starring in his lone film as Bruce Banner. Opposite Norton in the comic book movie that brought the big green hero into the MCU is Liv Tyler, William Hurt, Tim Roth, and Tim Blake Nelson (who I’d like to see return as The Leader). The Incredible Hulk has just been reissued by Universal Home Entertainment as Infinity War nears with a brand new 4K transfer, an upgrade for those who have state of the art home entertainment system. There are no new special features on the 4K disc.