This week’s Blu-ray round-up has a variety of titles from various genres, including an Oscar-nominated drama from a master director, an absurd action flick led by Liam Neeson, a couple of Criterion masterworks, and the return of beloved cult show.
Steven Spielberg has a movie in theaters now with the blockbuster craziness of Ready Player One, but just a few months ago the master director released a smart drama for adults with The Post. The true story of the Washington Post’s behind-the-scenes struggle to publish the infamous Pentagon Papers and the potential fallout from a vindictive president earned Spielberg’s film two Oscar nominations, one for Best Picture and the other for Meryl Streep’s performance as Kay Graham. Tom Hanks stars as the iconic newspaperman Ben Bradlee, and the impressive cast is rounded out by Alison Brie, Bruce Greenwood, Tracey Letts, Jesse Plemons, Sarah Paulson, Bradley Whitford, and even a Mr. Show reunion with Bob Odenkirk and David Cross.
The Post is the third recent film that sees Spielberg using past events to comment on the present and examine the American soul, joining Lincoln and Bridge of Spies. The Blu-ray for The Post has a number of featurettes that look at both the history behind the film as well as the artistry required to recreate the past, completely with smoke-filled newsrooms clattering with reporters pounding on typewriters.
Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra unite for their fourth collaboration together with The Commuter, joining Unknown, Non-Stop, and Run All Night as their fruitful working relationship continues. In the film, Neeson plays a hard on his luck former cop who is sucked into a murderous conspiracy in a Hitchcock-ian whodunit reminiscent in parts of Strangers on a Train. But this is a modern action flick with Liam Neeson so it’s only expected that the shades of Hitchcock will be shed in favor of some good ol’ fashioned ass kicking.
Joining Neeson on the train of suspicious characters are Vera Farmiga, Jonathan Banks, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill, and Florence Pugh. The Blu-ray for The Commuter features only two featurettes with train puns in their titles. You don’t have to be an over-excited valet to embrace the action absurdity of the latest flick starring Liam Neesons, and The Commuter delivers just what you’d expect.
The not too distant future is now. We’ve got movie sign! It seemed improbable. It seemed impossible, but it actually happened. After a Kickstarter campaign, one of the most successful in the crowdfunding site’s history, Mystery Science Theater 3000 returned after nearly two decades off the air, and then Netflix picked up the episodes that saw Jonah Ray, Baron Vaughn, and Hampton Yount taking over the Satellite of Love and riffing on some of incredibly bad movies at the behest of their overlords played by Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt.
Now you’re probably asking, “If it’s on Netflix, why are these new episodes landing on Blu-ray?” The answer is simple: Because MSTies are a dedicated fanbase that embraces physical media and don’t want any gaps in their extensive MST3K collections, especially the sets from Shout! Factory, who are also releasing this latest season. What’s most amazing about this revival is how they were able to do something with its own unique personality while remaining true to the heart of the original series, and there are some incredibly hilarious moments along the way. The Blu-ray for Mystery Science Theater 3000’s eleventh season is a documentary about reviving the beloved cult series.
The Awful Truth
The Criterion Collection releases The Awful Truth, Leo McCarey’s 1937 comedy starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, which took home the first of Oscars for McCarey in his illustrious career. This farce about a married couple’s suspicions about one another which leads towards divorce proceedings before they begin to undermine their separate quests for new love was rather risqué for its era.
This new edition of The Awful Truth features a brand new 4K restoration of the black and white comedy. There are also a couple of new interviews about the film and director Leo McCarey, featuring critics David Cairns and Gary Giddins. There’s also an archival audio interview with Irene Dunne conducted in 1978 as well as a 1939 Lux Radio Theater adaptation of the film featuring the vocal talents of Claudette Colbert and Cary Grant. The booklet in this new edition contains an essay by famed critic Molly Haskell.
Bob Crane was a television superstar thanks to his role Hogan’s Heroes, but the actor had a dark side he kept hidden from the public eye until his murder in 1978 brought that darkness into the light. Paul Schrader, best known as the screenwriter of Taxi Driver, directed the story of Bob Crane’s unbelievable descent into sex addiction before his murder in the film Auto Focus, starring Greg Kinear as the slain television star.
Schrader assembled one hell of a cast for this twisted biopic examining the life of a fallen star, with Willem Dafoe, Maria Bello, and Rita Wilson costarring alongside Kinear. Auto Focus was divisive when it came out, as most Paul Schrader films are (though I’ve heard his upcoming First Reformed is astounding). Auto Focus lands on Blu-ray with a limited edition of 3,000 from Twilight Time, so if you want this disc on Blu-ray you better scoop up a copy now.