New on DVD and Blu-Ray

A jam-packed week, and all of it is at least interesting (and some of it way beyond that, like the 4K of Saul Bass’s killer-ants opus Phase IV). Criterion leads the way with Gus Van Sant’s To Die For, the template for every I, Tonya-a-like to follow and so good that you can forgive it that. It’s one of the very best Nicole Kidman performances, and yet I’m just as likely to think about Joaquin Phoenix or Alison Folland or Illeana Douglas, among many others, when looking back on it. The features on the Criterion are disappointingly sparse, but at least there’s a commentary where it’s revealed that Buck Henry (who wrote it and has a small part as “teacher who beats the shit out of Casey Affleck”) so hated Douglas’s performance that he made a cut on his own time that eliminated her entirely. All love to a comedy legend, but it’s upsetting to think anyone, let alone one of the key creative figures behind it, could have this reaction to her incredible work, and equally upsetting to consider a version of this movie without its final scene.

Criterion also has out recent Film on the Internet, Saint Omer, which covers so much thematic ground so quietly that one’s main takeaway is entirely up to them. Mine was that Claire Mathon is one of the very best DPs at making digital its own stunning, creamy aesthetic wholly separate of film, and once again she uses that gift in service of a story that provoked a lot of ambivalent thoughts about my relationship with my mother. There’s no such ambivalence in the daddy issues explored in Sean Durkin’s The Iron Claw, the true story of hard-ass paternal competitiveness (represented by Holt McCallany’s boulder) destroying tight brotherly bonds. It has easy-going Texas charm throughout its first half, then that gets snuffed out and becomes an increasingly distant memory over the next half of tragedy that beggars belief. It falls back on some biopiciness as it enters the home stretch, but few will care about that after the two late scenes that will reduce both High School Musical girlies and their dads to inconsolable weeping. Zac Efron will get an Oscar nomination sometime soon, it will be well-deserved, and it will be as much for this performance as for whatever finally pushes him through.

3 Godfathers (+ 1936 Three Godfathers) (Warner Archive Collection)
All Ladies Do It 4K (Cult Epics)
Amélie (Sony)
The Boob / Why Be Good? (Warner Archive Collection)
The Book of Clarence (Sony)
The Bounty Hunter Trilogy (Radiance)
Burial Ground 4K (Severin)
The Contender (Giant Interactive)
The Crow: Salvation (Shout Factory)
Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein (Severin)
Goin’ South 4K (Cinématographe)
Good Burger 2 (Paramount)
The Iron Claw (Lionsgate)
The Little Drummer Girl (Warner Archive Collection)
The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun + Le Franc: Two Films by Djibril Diop Mambety (Metrograph)
Money Talks (Warner Archive Collection)
Monk: The Complete Fifth Season (Kino)
North Dallas Forty 4K (Kino)
Paint Your Wagon 4K (Kino)
The Panther Women (Indicator)
Patrick 4K (Indicator)
Phase IV 4K (Vinegar Syndrome)
Primal Fear 4K (Paramount)
The Royal Hotel (Allied V)
Saint Omer (Criterion)
Santo vs. the Riders of Terror (Indicator)
Simon Killer (IFC)
Snapshot 4K (Indicator)
Stand and Deliver (Warner Archive Collection)
They Drive by Night (Warner Archive Collection)
To Die For 4K (Criterion)
Totally Wired: Three Films By Nathan Silver (Factory25)
Wednesday: The Complete First Season (Warner)