This week in home video releases features one of the most talked-about films of last year, a trilogy from one of America’s best directors, a documentary about the people who launched the careers of John Belushi and Bill Murray, the sequel to one of the best horror films ever made, and much, much more.
Let’s kick things off with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “The Revenant,” a survival drama about veteran trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who after being attacked by a bear, was left for dead by belligerent fellow trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who kills Glass’ Indian son (Forrest Goodluck) in the process. Iñárritu tracks Glass as he crawls his way out of a shallow grave, and fights his way back to the trapper’s camp in order to avenge the death of his son. The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won three: Best Director for Iñárritu, Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio, and Best Cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki, his third consecutive win. Though the film garnered mostly positive reviews, the film also gained prominence for its difficult production, which involved shooting in near-frigid temperatures during odd hours on account of Iñárritu’s use of natural light; DiCaprio slept inside animal carcasses and ate raw bison liver during the shoot as well. While “The Revenant” has its many detractors, it was certainly one of the most talked about films of last year.
The other major release this week comes from the Criterion Collection called A Whit Stillman Trilogy that collects the director’s ’90s triptych into one set: “Metropolitan,” “Barcelona,” and “The Last Days of Disco.” Across three films, Stillman captured the verbose language and the complex dynamics of privileged young Americans in New York and abroad, depicting their foibles and humanizing them in the process. “Metropolitan” follows the life of members of the urban haute bourgeoise, a pair of love-starved upper-class men dealing with anti-American sentiment in “Barcelona,” and in “The Last Days of Disco,” two young women juggling day jobs in publishing while dancing their nights away near the end of the nightclub era. These three films are essential portraits of romantic struggling with the realities of social change.
There are plenty of other films released this week. Magnolia Pictures has the documentary “Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon”; Shout! Factory has “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”; Olive Films has two releases: Samuel Fuller’s “Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street” and Costa-Gavras’ “Betrayed”; Universal Studios has two box sets: “Cary Grant: The Vault Collection,” which features 18 films released between 1932 and 1936, and “Doris Day and Rock Hudson Romantic Comedy Collection,” which includes “Pillow Talk,” “Lover Come Back,” and “Send Me No Flowers”; Warner Bros. Archive Collection has Frank Tashlin’s “Susan Slept Here”; Kino has three films this week: Ray Milland’s “Panic in Year Zero,” John Frankenheimer’s “The Holcroft Covenant,” and Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman’s documentary “Sembene!”; and finally Arrow Films has Larry Cohen’s “The Stuff.”
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
Criticwire Average: A-
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
“The Revenant” is an American foundation story, by turns soaring and overblown. Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“Birdman,” “Babel”), it features a battalion of very fine, hardworking actors, none more diligently committed than Mr. DiCaprio, and some of the most beautiful natural tableaus you’re likely to see in a movie this year. Partly shot in outwardly unspoiled tracts in Canada and Argentina, it has the brilliant, crystalline look that high-definition digital can provide, with natural vistas that seem to go on forever and suggest the seeming limitless bounty that once was. Here, green lichen carpets trees that look tall enough to pierce the heavens. It’s that kind of movie, with that kind of visual splendor — it spurs you to match its industrious poeticism. If you’re familiar with Mr. Iñárritu’s work, you know paradise is generally short-lived, and here arrows and bullets are soon flying, bodies are falling and the muddy banks of a riverside camp are a gory churn. Glass, part of a commercial fur expedition, escapes with others on a boat and sails into an adventure that takes him through a crucible of suffering — including a near-fatal grizzly attack — that evokes by turns classics of American literature and a “Perils of Pauline”-style silent-film serial. Left for dead by two companions, Glass crawls out of a shallow grave and toward the men who abandoned him. It’s a narrative turn that suggests he, like so many before him, is one of D. H. Lawrence’s essential American souls: “hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.” Read more.
“Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon”
Criticwire Average: B+
Mike D’Angelo, The A.V. Club
Earlier this year, a mediocre documentary called “Live From New York!” somehow told the history of “Saturday Night Live” without so much as mentioning “The National Lampoon Radio Hour,” from which the show poached much of its original cast and writing staff. The new documentary “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead” decisively corrects that error, serving as an oral history of the “National Lampoon” and identifying the magazine, and its various spin-offs, as the source for practically all modern comedy — not just “SNL,” but Spinal Tap, “The Simpsons,” John Hughes, and their ubiquitous descendants. The film goes a little too far in tracing the sensibility of all those institutions back to a single man, Doug Kenney, whose death in 1980 at the age of 33 made him something of a jester-martyr in the eyes of those who worked with him. (Had Kenney lived, and taken part in this film, the shape of the narrative would likely be very different.) But director Douglas Tirola and his many interview subjects make a strong case for the “Lampoon” itself as genuinely transformative. Read more.