By Robin E. Simmons
In the absence of new theatrical features opening this week, consider these freshly minted older and recent titles all mastered in striking hi-def. Movie buffs are grateful for the excellent work by home video distributors like Criterion, Twilight Time Movies, Arrow and a handful of others in finding, licensing and transferring beloved films no longer available anywhere.
At long last on hi-def Blu-ray Gena Rowlands and writer-director spouse John Cassavetes’ wonderful gritty action tale that upends traditional streetwise mob movies is available in a great looking limited edition.
This memorable story about a gangster’s moll forced to go on the run with a young boy who may or may not have info the mob deems vital always hold interest. I loved the way the initial antagonism turns to grudging affection and how Gloria discovers a reserve of inner strength to complement her tough gal persona. Terrific orchestral/jazz score by Bill Conti (available on an isolated track) is almost worth the price of the movie itself.
THE TREE OF LIFE
Terrence Malick’s rapturous story of childhood, wonder, and grief to the outer limits of time and space and creation itself sets a story of boyhood memories on a universal scale, charting the coming of age of an awestruck child in Texas in the 1950s, as he learns to negotiate the extremes of nature and grace represented by his bitter, often bullying father (Brad Pitt) and his beautiful, nurturing mother (Jessica Chastain).
Master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and long-time production designer Jack Fisk, helped make this intimately personal, cosmically ambitious culmination of Malick’s singular approach to filmmaking a Palme d’Or winner.
New 4K digital restoration, featuring an additional fifty minutes of footage, was supervised and approved by director Malick and cinematographer Lubezki. Malick has spent a big chunk of the last decade reediting his beautiful film and this new expanded edition has generated much anticipation among film fans.
Exploring “The Tree of Life,” is a fascinating 2011 documentary featuring collaborators and admirers of Malick’s, including filmmakers David Fincher and Christopher Nolan.
Also: New interviews with actor Jessica Chastain and senior visual-effects supervisor Dan Glass. There’s an informative new video essay by critic Benjamin B about the film’s cinematography and style, featuring audio interviews with Lubezki, production designer Jack Fisk, and other crew members. I enjoyed the interview with critic Alex Ross about Malick’s use of classical music. PLUS: An essay by critic Kent Jones and (Blu-ray only) a 2011 piece on the film by critic Roger Ebert.
RAPID FIRE (1992)
Brandon Lee’s inventive fight scenes along with an intelligent screenplay make this handsome production that launched the career Bruce Lee’s charismatic son a fan favorite. Lee plays an LA art student who unwittingly gets involved with a deadly Mafia drug dealer (Nick Mancuso) and then gets recruited by a cop (Powers Booth) and his attractive assistant (Kate Hodge) to nab the bad guys. Director Dwight Little packs his movie with great martial arts sequences choreographed by Lee. The disc also features a spectacular Christopher Young score available on an isolated track on this limited edition from Twilight Time Movies.
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM
This nice looking new iteration of the evolution on Isla Nublar features the return of Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) in an attempt to rescue the dinos from the impending doom of an exploding volcano. But is there a danger in tampering with nature/evolution and the building blocks of life itself?
This Frankenstein story includes the requisite cautionary dialogue about our fragile environmental matrix.
Production values make this the best looking of all the Jurassic movies and that goes for the splendidly life-like array of extinct prehistoric beasts on display. There’s a surprising amount of emotion embedded in all the silly fun. The 3D edition is sharp and crisp, but I enjoyed the look of the 4K UHD even more. The generous making-of extras will hold your attention. Universal. Blu-Ray, 4K UHD and 3D. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
Also new and worth a look: Bart Layton’s AMERICAN ANIMALS, the unbelievable true tory about four young men, college friends, who attempt one of thee most audacioius art heists in U.S. history.