It's a slower than normal week for releases, but when the schedule includes films by James Mangold, Alfonso Cuarón, Martin Scorsese and Takashi Miilke you know its a good and varied selection.
Christian Bale and Matt Damon star in James Mangold's underappreciated "Ford v Ferrari." Based on a true story, the film explores famed driver Carroll Shelby's (Damon) attempt to make Ford a major competitor to Ferrari at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Bale co-stars as Ken Miles, a phenomenal driver with an explosive temperament. The film's final act features some of the most exhilarating action to ever be shown in cinemas.
2019 should have been the year "Roma" became the first foreign-language movie to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Sadly, we had to wait until 2020 for that honor to be bestowed on "Parasite." Nonetheless, "Roma" will always be one of my favorite films as director Alfonso Cuarón explores his childhood memories of living in the Roma district of Mexico City. The movie focuses on Cleo, one of the Cuarón family's domestic workers, and her awakening in a time rife with poverty and anger. It is a gorgeous, heartfelt film that captures the magic realism of childhood without losing its connection to the real world.
Ten years ago director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio teamed for "Shutter Island," a surreal thriller about a U.S. Marshal who visits an island to investigate the disappearance of a patient at a psychiatric facility. Based on Dennis Lehane's novel, the movie is a visually complex nightmare and this new 4K release shows improvement over the previous Blu-ray release (the film was shot in part on film and digital).
For a moment, DC appeared to have big plans for the retooled and rebooted series "Swamp Thing." Instead, the horror-leaning franchise was cut short after one season. Reviews were spectacular. I haven't had the chance to see it, but the story of a disgraced scientist who discovers something nefarious is happening in the swamps of Marais, Louisiana.
Moving slightly off the well-taken path we have "First Love," Takashi Miike's well-received crime comedy that finds a boxer and a call girl trying to last the night with the Tokyo underworld on their trial. "The Freakmaker (AKA "The Mutations)" a 1974 horror film that finds a scientist kidnapping students to use in his experiments to crossbreed humans with plants. It sounds like typical B-movie fodder, but the cast includes Donald Pleasence ("Halloween"), Tom Baker ("Doctor Who") and genre regular Brad Harris and was directed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Jack Cardiff ("Black Narcissus"). That's an impressive pedigree. "Hell on the Border" tells the story of Bass Reeves, the first black deputy marshal west of Mississippi. Lastly, we have Arrow Film's Blu-ray release of Paul Verhoeven's director's cut of his 1987 classic "Robocop."
It's hard to believe, we're near the end of CBS/Parmounts DVD releases of the classic "Gunsmoke" television series as the Eighteenth and Nineteenth seasons (48 episodes that aired between September 1972 and April of 1974) are released this week. That leaves only the Twentieth season (and the five made-for-TV films that were released between 1987-1994).
This week also sees the Blu-ray release of "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert Collection" (which includes "The 25th Anniversary Concerts," " Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert," and "Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert Encore") featuring performances from the likes of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Paul Simon, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Green Day, U2, N.W.A., Sting, Yes and Public Enemy.
This week's top-line digital release is "Frozen II," a film that sees Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven embark on an adventure to right the wrongs of their ancestors and establish peace in their kingdom once again.