(KUTV) This week sees the release of Alex Garland’s fantastic sci-fi horror “Annihilation” and fantastic new Blu-ray releases for the classic films “Midnight Cowboy” and “The Two of Us.”
I have to tip my cap to Paramount Pictures. We are living in an age where cinemas are filled with sequels and reboots, but Paramount has bucked that trend by releasing a series of original films like “Mother,” “A Quiet Place” and my favorite film of 2018. “Annihilation.” Based on Jeff VanderMeer‘s novel, “Annihilation” was directed and adapted by Alex Garland (“Ex Machina“) and stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson and Oscar Isaac. The narrative focuses on a group of military scientists as then enter an area known as “The Shimmer.” What follows is a mix of science fiction and top-shelf horror as Garland leads us through a landscape that is often beautiful, but equally horrific. Best Buy has an exclusive on the 4K release, which is absolutely the best way to see this film outside of a movie theater.
Prior to “Detectorists: Series 3” arriving at my doorstep it never occurred to me that there would be a subculture of people obsessed with metal detecting. Taking that one step further, I never would have guessed there was a TV series about people obsessed with metal detecting starring Toby Jones. Well, much to my surprise, that’s exactly what the “Detectorists” is. Actually, that’s selling the show a bit short, seeing as it is as much a character study of the British working class as it is about friends with a metal detection hobby. It’s incredibly smart, often funny and, sadly, this is apparently the final season. Highly recommended.
There are many generic crime dramas that populate the television landscape with the only difference between them being the members of the cast. They entertain, I suppose, but rarely serve any other purpose. “East West 101,” an Australian series, bucks that trend as it offers a thrilling journey that scraps the belly of Sydney’s underworld while also being brave enough to touch on race relations in a post-9/11 world. If you thought fearmongering ended at the U.S. border, “East West 101” proves otherwise.
“I’m Dying Up Here” takes its audience back to the 1970s and follows a group of young stand-up comedians as they try to make their way onto Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.” The series is based on “journalist William Knoedelseder’s book about the stand-up scene in Los Angeles. I have to admit that I’m more interested in the idea of “I’m Dying Up Here” than I am in the show itself. Maybe I shouldn’t think that a series about comedians should actually be funny?
“Midnight Cowboy” is infamous for being the only X-rated film to ever win an Academy Award. Sure, that makes for a rather sensational headline, but the film itself isn’t as salacious as you might think. At heart, the film is a character study about Joe Buck (Jon Voight), a young man from Texas, who travels to New York City where he plans to make a healthy living as a prostitute serving the wealthy women of the city. New York doesn’t prove to be as inviting as Joe would like and hard times eventually lead to him living with a hustler known as “Ratso” (Dustin Hoffman). “Midnight Cowboy” is about disillusionment and heartache, don’t let the MPAA or anyone else tell you otherwise.
I’ve yet to have the opportunity to see the Criterion Collection’s new 4K transfer that was used for this release, but all reports have been overwhelmingly positive. The only thing missing from this release is the 2011 commentary, but they’ve resurrected the track director John Schlesinger and producer Jerome Hellman recorded in 1991 for Criterion’s laserdisc release.
“Midnight Cowboy” isn’t the only classic catalog release of the week as Criterion also brings “Au hasard Balthazar,” Robert Bresson’s celebrated parable about an ill-treated donkey, to Blu-ray and re-issues John Wayne’s “Red River.”
Released in 1982, “Smash Palace” is a New Zealand film about a former race car driver that kidnaps his own daughter. Director Roger Donaldson would go on to direct numerous mainstream films, including 1984’s “The Bounty” with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson, the underrated “Cadillac Man” and 2005’s “The World’s Fastest Indian” also with Hopkins.
Elsewhere the Cohen Film Collection adds “The Two of Us,” a tale about a young Jewish boy who is sent to live with his parent’s Catholic friends during the Nazi occupation of France. Released in 1967, “The Two of Us” is based on director Claude Berri’s own experiences as a child. This new transfer improves upon the strong Criterion DVD release. The bonus features leave much to be desired, but Criterion’s release wasn’t brimming over with extra content either.
This week’s digital releases include the “Love Simon,” a genuine conversation-starter film that explores what it is like to be a gay closeted teen, the better-than-expected reboot of “Tomb Raider” with Alicia Vikander, Steven Soderbergh’s psychological horror “Unsane” starring Claire Foy and Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”