The Criterion Collection this week memorializes a classic Western and a classic experimental filmmaker, bringing John Ford’s “Stagecoach” and the second volume of “By Brakhage: An Anthology” to DVD and Blu-Ray. Writing of the “Stagecoach” package, the Film.com‘s Maryanne Johanson says, “This isn’t just a lovely new presentation of the movie itself, though it is that; it’s also a small film-school education, through the copious supplementary materials, on how the film broke new ground, why it remains so important today, and just what a smarty-pants Ford was, anyway.” The film, a classic in the history of Westerns, stars John Wayne as an hero-outlaw. The set also includes a 1917 Ford silent film called “Bucking Broadway” and a 1968 British TV interview with the director, and lots of video that highlights the film’s historical importance.
As for the Brakhage collection of thirty films of varying lengths in “By Brakhage: Vol. 2” (and the Blu-Ray release of Volume One’s twenty-six films), Mike Restaino at DVD File says, “Sitting through his films can sometimes be an experiment in brain-scratching boredom, but what cannot be divorced from the Brakhage mythos is that the artist really blew open the doors of what cinema had the potential to be. Almost all of the films on this An Anthology: Volumes One and Two set are more inviting on paper than they are in actuality, but if anything, this Criterion Blu-ray set offers an opportunity for blossoming film buffs to not only read about Brakhage’s inimitably gonzo style, but actually see it in probably the most beautiful and accurate way possible.”
John Hillcoat’s adaptation of the apocalyptic Cormac McCarthy bestseller, “The Road” (criticWIRE rating: B) comes home to DVD and Blu-Ray this week. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee star as father and son surviving in a deteriorating world. In his A- rated review of the film, indieWIRE‘s Eric Kohn writes, “John Hillcoat’s tense, discomfiting big screen adaptation remains almost entirely faithful to the book’s distinctive pace and tone. The maintenance of this restrained progression is key to the movie’s chilly effect, but the subtle ingredients behind such morbidity—dreary-eyed performances, an enigmatic score, visual suggestions of death and decay in nearly every frame—turn Hillcoat’s version of “The Road” into a uniquely cinematic portrait of pessimism.”
Saturday night on HBO, the Tony Blair-Bill Clinton partnership is uncovered in the made-for-TV movie “The Special Relationship.” Michael Sheen returns with his spot-on Blair, and Dennis Quaid and Hope Davis step in as the Clinton’s. Speaking of the film and screenwriter Peter Morgan’s involvement, Anne Thompson says, “While this entry lacks the Shakespearean heft of either ‘The Queen’ or Morgan’s ‘Frost/Nixon,’ HBO does seem to have made a long-sighted move by strengthening its relationship with Morgan, who HBO Films president Len Amato in his opening remarks called ‘the most important dramatist working today.'”
Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio’s horror documentary, “Cropsey,” three days before its theatrical release at the IFC Center, will receive a VOD run starting June 1 through Gravitas Ventures. The film documents the uncovering of a real-life urban legend after the boogeyman behind the disappearance of five children is hunted down. Also on VOD, Jeffrey Ross’s U.S.O. tour in Iraq is documented in “Patriot Act,” available to view for free this Memorial Day weekend on Hulu.
Also on DVD this week, the complete 2nd season of HBO’s vampire hit “True Blood,” the latest Nicholas Sparks film, “Dear John,” “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” on Blu-Ray, the art docs “Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman” and “Alice Neel,” and Sundance/SxSW selection “All My Friends are Funeral Singers” (criticWIRE rating: B-).
Bryce Renninger, an indieWIRE contributor in the New York office, is also the shorts programmer for Newfest and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Media Studies at Rutgers University. He can be reached via Twitter.