General

My Favorite Movie Releases

Frodo: What’s in this?

Sam: Nothin…just a bit of seasoning. I thought maybe if we was having a roast chicken one night or something.

Frodo: Roast chicken?

Sam: You never know!

Frodo: Sam…my dear Sam.

Sam: It’s very special, that. It’s the best salt in all the Shire.

I have loved movies for just about as long as I can remember, but as I’ve gotten older I have become more and more interested in the physical aspect of owning my favorite movies. To me, there is something special about opening the case and physically putting the movie in to watch. There is something to be said for having a physical collection of something you are passionate about. It feels so much more special than simply clicking through Netflix looking for something to watch.

Most home media releases nowadays are pretty basic. No matter if you’re buying a DVD, Blu-ray, or 4K UHD, you’re probably going to get a plastic case with standard artwork and not much else. What I’m more interested, though, are the special releases…the STEELBOOKS, the Digibooks, the Digipaks, and the special edition slipboxes.

As far as brands go, The Criterion Collection is head and shoulders above everyone else in producing outstanding movie packages. While other studios may have a special release every now and then, every single Criterion release is sure to stand out from the crowd. Disney is pretty good as well, with a number of their recent releases getting collectible STEELBOOK releases. However, they are usually fairly limited so if you miss the release then you are most likely out of luck.

NOTE: Each gallery can be enlarged in order to see all the detail in each picture.

The Princess Bride

I just recently purchased the Criterion Collection edition of “The Princess Bride”. It is an absolutely stunning release for a classic film. The cover is cloth bound, and with a nearly 50 page booklet it truly feels like you are holding a book when you pick it up. The booklet itself has some incredible artwork depicting some of the more famous lines and scenes from the film. This release is a true masterpiece.

Moonrise Kingdom

Another entry from the Criterion Collection, this time from one of my favorite Wes Anderson movies, “Moonrise Kingdom”. The attention to detail with regard to the bonus materials in this release is unbelievable. For starters, there is a cast portrait, with each actor shown in character. Next, there is a map of New Penzance, the island where the majority of the movie takes place. Finally, what is probably my favorite item, the Indian Corn magazine. Inside is an abundance of information about the movie as well as content that is identical to what Scout Master Ward (Ed Norton) is shown reading during the film.

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures

And now for something a little different. Not a Criterion release this time, and not a single film. This release is a variation on a Digibook where the discs are inside the actual pages. The artwork is beautiful and encapsulates the style of the films perfectly. Each time I open it I feel like I’m Indy himself looking through some ancient tome for a clue that might easily be missed. Unfortunately, the day is soon coming when this release will no longer be the “Complete Adventures”.

The Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition Trilogy

This may be the most “normal” entry on this list, but it is still one of my favorites. The outer slipbox is sturdy and a beautiful metallic gold color with a magnetic front cover. The inside of the front cover has a map of Middle Earth which I have actually referenced this map while watching the movies before. While the Criterion releases have a large focus on bonus materials, this LOTR release is all about the on-disc extras. Each film in this release includes five discs, three of which are exclusively dedicated to bonus features. If you were to watch all three films and included bonus featured, it would literally take you over 37 hours. Simply put, this set is a behemoth.

Coco

Now, for the only STEELBOOK on this list. The artwork here tells the story of the film in such a beautiful way. On the front cover is Ernesto de la Cruz’s guitar surrounded by several flowers including the Mexican Marigold, the “flower of the dead”. The back cover is a zoomed in look at the guitar on the front, but it is necessary to see the ridiculous intricacies of the art. We can see Mama Imelda, Abuelita, the Ernesto de la Cruz memorial, and so much more. A movie as beautiful as “Coco” absolutely deserves beautiful artwork like this.

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Movies by Months

Movies in November

As warden, I can approve buying a copy of “A Dance With Dragons” for the prison library to go up on the “Game of Thrones” shelf. Now, the only problem is that “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring” have yet to be published so those aren’t available. Well, I can’t do anything about what I can’t control.

Warden Burns

Movies at the Theater

There were lots of Oscar contenders released in November, and I did my best to see all of them. “Widows” and “Green Book” both had Oscar-worthy acting performances, and if not for the perfection that is “Incredibles 2”, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” would be an almost certain lock to take home the award for Best Animated Feature (We will see what “Into the Spider-Verse” has to say about that next month).

Quick note, I have now seen Cynthia Erivo in “Bad Times at the El Royale” and “Widows”, and she completely steals each and every scene she appears in. Amazingly, those are the first films she has ever been in! She made the move from Broadway where she has already won the Tony for Best Leading Actress and the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album for “The Color Purple”. She is set to play Harriet Tubman in a film coming out next year, and I can’t wait to see how big of a star she becomes.

  • Bohemian Rhapsody (*)
  • The Hate U Give (*)
  • Widows (*)
  • Instant Family (*)
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet (*)
  • Green Book (*)

(*) denotes any movie which I watched for the first time.

Movies at Home
  • Room (*)
  • V for Vendetta
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Fifth Element
  • Ex Machina
  • From Up on Poppy Hill (*)
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • The Princess Bride (yes…again)
  • In Bruges (*)
  • Incredibles 2
  • Logan Lucky
  • Pacific Rim

(*) denotes any movie which I watched for the first time.

Movies Added to My Collection

November was a great month for movies. Even before Black Friday, there were a couple of great sales during November. Barnes & Noble ran their semi-annual 50% off Criterion Collection sale and I picked up the most beautiful copy of “The Princess Bride” I’ve ever seen. Then, the week before Thanksgiving, Best Buy sent out a “Mystery Certificate” to every person with a “My Best Buy” account. It was a little tough to find a movie I wanted that wasn’t going to be even cheaper the following week, but I managed to round out my Christmas movie collection with “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

And, oh yeah, Black Friday!

I ended up picking up six movies on Black Friday. I ended up getting everything I wanted plus Black Panther. Both “Incredibles 2” and “Pacific Rim” are the 4K versions, and every movie I got had a slipcover except for “Game Night”. My strategy of waiting on certain new releases certainly paid off as several movies on my list (“Incredibles 2”, “Game Night”, and “Isle of Dogs”)  were significantly cheaper than if I had gotten them just a couple months ago.

  • The Princess Bride
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Incredibles 2
  • Pacific Rim
  • Isle of Dogs
  • Logan Lucy
  • Black Panther
  • Game Night
General

The Love of Butch and Sundance

Butch: You know, when I was a kid, I always thought I was gonna grow up to be a hero.
Sundance: Well, it’s too late now.
Butch: What’d you say something like that for? You didn’t have to say something like that.

William Goldman died on Friday. I didn’t precisely know who he was until I looked at his IMDB page after seeing the outpouring of love and respect across the internet. What I learned was that he was an amazingly accomplished writer. He wrote both the novel and screenplay of “The Princess Bride”. He won two Academy Awards for screenwriting, once for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on “All the President’s Men” and once for Best Original Screenplay for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. 

“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” has always been one of my favorite movies. It transcends the Western genre with its humor and lightheartedness. Yes, of course, there are crimes and deadly shootouts and outlaws on the run, but I think the thing that I like the most about the movie is the relationship between Butch and Sundance. It is a relationship built solely out of the brilliant writing of William Goldman.

The love that Butch and Sundance have for each other is evident throughout the film. They are like brothers to each other. They don’t always agree and they don’t always get along, but they always care. They know how to press each other’s buttons, with Butch teasing Sundance about being a lousy shot and Sundance badgering Butch about how he’s not a smart as he thinks he is. But, always, and without hesitation, they will go to the end for each other. Charlie Lindiar from the Huffington Post UK said it perfectly,

Whereas many Westerns feature ruthless strong-and-silent brutes…wise-cracking, sweet-talking trickster Butch and sensitive dead-eye marksman Sundance are two men confident in themselves and each other, accepting of each other’s weaknesses and steadfast in succeeding together, uncompetitively.

Huffington Post UK

It is not uncommon to root for the “bad guys” in cinema, but it is uncommon to see the “bad guys” presented as such wholesome and caring people. William Goldman was able to get audiences everywhere to root for Butch and Sundance because of how he portrayed them as individuals and the friendship between them. Authentic male friendships are hard to come by even these days in Hollywood. The fact that such a friendship was shown all the way back in the 1960s is a true testament to the person that William Goldman was.

Scene Spotlights

Scene Spotlight #3: “Tear Up the Fucking Dance Floor”

I told you, you’re wasting your time talking to her. However, you would not be wasting your time…if you were *dancing* with her.

Nathan

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“Ex Machina” is one of my favorite recent movies. It is firmly entrenched in one of my favorite sub-genres, what I like to call “near-reality science fiction”. These are things like “Her” and many “Black Mirror” episodes. It’s not the type of science fiction that’s set in a far off galaxy or some strange dystopian future. It is science fiction set primarily in our present, but with thematic elements of classic science fiction.

As opposed to the first two entries in Scene Spotlights, “Ex Machina” is definitely more of a indie/cult hit. With that in mind, let me quickly break the plot down for those of you who haven’t seen it. Our protagonist, Caleb, has won a contest to spend a week with his boss, Nathan, at Nathan’s vast estate. We learn that Nathan wants Caleb to perform a Turing Test on Ava, an AI that Nathan has been working on, before he deems her ready to be unveiled to the world. But of course…things aren’t exactly as they appear.

Throughout it’s entire run, “Ex Machina” has a pervasive sense of uneasiness. The audience is (by design) left in the dark through the majority of the film. We move through the plot mostly along-side Caleb, learning bits and pieces of information at the same time he does. Most of the movie is brooding and ominous, with Nathan presented as a vaguely menacing presence and Ava as naive and trust-worthy.

And now we arrive at this Scene Spotlight. We have just seen Nathan on video, tearing up Ava’s artwork. Caleb, in his anger, wants to confront Nathan and figure out what is going on. He finds Kyoko, another (albeit less advanced) AI and tried to find out where Nathan is. Enter Nathan and enter “Tear Up the Fucking Dance Floor”…

This scene comes completely out of left field. It is jarring and confusing. It is bright and vivid and joyous. It directly contrasts the tone of the rest of the movie. And it’s all very much intentional. It’s not comic relief, exactly, but it does serve a purpose to break up the tone of the movie. Writer and director Alex Garland put it best when he said,

“It’s…like someone slamming their foot down on the clutch and jamming the gear and whacking down the accelerator.”

BuzzFeed

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I love this shot of Caleb. He is utterly baffled. And his utter confusion matches the audience. Why the hell is Nathan dancing with Kyoko? We don’t care about dancing with Kyoko. We are still concerned about Ava and are growing more and more suspicious of Nathan.  This dance is obviously a distraction, but to what end?

For me, there is only one answer to that question. I don’t want to spoil too much, but we eventually see how far Nathan is willing to go in order to maintain control over everyone and everything at his estate. We see Nathan “testing” Caleb in various other scenes and I have to believe this is just another one of his “tests”. In my opinion the dance scene is nothing more than a stunt Nathan pulls to see how Caleb will react.

With that being said, I think the brilliance of this scene is more than how it relates and affects the characters in the film. I’ve seen “Ex Machina” four times now and each time I watch it this scene draws me in and entrances me. Through it’s utter ridiculousness it manages to heighten the intensity of the rest of the movie. That all of that is accomplished with a literal dance break is incredible….and it’s why “Tear Up the Fucking Dance Floor” is one of my favorite scenes of all-time.

P.S. “Ex Machina” is currently (as of November 2018) streaming on Netflix. I HIGHLY encourage you to give it a watch.

Movies by Months

Movies in October

Ed: What’s the plan then?

Shaun: Right…take car…go to Mum’s…kill Phil…grab Liz….go to the Winchester…have a nice cold pint…and wait for all of this to blow over. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?

Ed: Yeah, boyyyeee!

Movies at the Theater

I went nearly a month without having a movie subscription service, but once I finally got AMC’s A-List towards the end of the month I saw movies at a staggering pace. Finally having a service that allowed me to see any movie I wanted with no hoops to jump through kept me going back for more movies.

I liked every movie I saw this month, but I loved “First Man” and “Bad Times at the El Royale”. Both films may end up on my “favorite movies of the year” list when it’s all said and done. Even though the movies themselves were remarkably different in terms of tone and theme, both were incredibly well written, incredibly well acted, and incredibly well directed. If there is any righteousness left in the world they will both make a splash come award season.

  • First Man (*)
  • The Old Man and the Gun (*)
  • Bad Times at the El Royale (*)
  • The Sisters Brothers (*)
  • A Star is Born (*)

(*) denotes any movie which I watched for the first time.

Movies at Home
  • Unforgiven
  • Coco
  • Hell or High Water (*)
  • Fargo (*)
  • Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (*)
  • North by Northwest
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • Mulholland Drive (*)
  • Practical Magic (*)
  • Game Night
  • John Wick

(*) denotes any movie which I watched for the first time.

Movies Added to My Collection

November (and Black Friday) here we come! My wish list is getting longer and longer and it won’t be too long before the Black Friday ads are released and I’ll get to see everything that will be on sale.

As for October, however, it was a pretty sad month. I added just one movie to My Collection. “Hell or High Water” was a “blind buy”, (meaning I purchased it before ever having seen the movie) which is relatively rare for me. By my count, only 25 films in my collection of nearly 200 have been a blind buy.

I have been eagerly awaiting the 4K UHD release of “2001: A Space Odyssey” ever since I saw it in theaters back in August. It was originally scheduled to be released on October 30th, but late in the month, Warner Brothers announced it was being pushed back to a November 20th release date with virtually no explanation. Hopefully, next month’s update post will include “2001: A Space Odyssey” along with several Black Friday purchases.

  • Hell or High Water

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What about you? What movies did you see and buy this month?