I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
As the demand for physical media continues to wane in the digital age, there are still home distribution companies that are sinking their teeth into collectors’ hearts by going the extra mile. This week’s disc releases are all big catches, so let’s reel them in.
Now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital HD.
What more can I add that hasn’t already been said about Steven Speilberg’s timeless classic Jaws? Not only did it scare me away from swimming in my pool alone (as a grown man), but inspired so many filmmakers to take their eyes off movie monsters to instead focus on the tension and characters. Would we care as much about the outcome of the narrative if it weren’t for the camaraderie among Roy Schieder, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss? I think not. There’s an admirable patience to Spielberg’s grand sea adventure that will see it scaring people out of the water for what seems like forever. It’s untouchable.
To celebrate it’s 45 years of fear and existence, Universal Picture Home Entertainment has assembled the ultimate collector’s edition. It comes back with hours of special features, a sharper-than-a-Great-White’s-teeth picture quality in 4K, and a lenticular packaging that includes a 44-page booklet, complete with introductions, rare photos, storyboards and more from the archives.
On the 4K video/audio: If you really want to know how great this new treatment looks, there’s an excellent bonus feature that details the restoration process. The filmmakers and restorers show you a side-by-side comparison between the restored version and the original camera look. Watching these artists go frame-by-frame and eliminate any film scratches and blown-out colors is something that should be shown in film classes to get students sucked further into movie magic.
Save for a more vintage color palette (which is very gray, with pops of bright colors like Alex Kintner’s yellow raft), the details are in abundance. The scenes underwater, especially, are simply gorgeous. You can see everything from the minerals to fish guts in unmatched clarity.
And you better believe the audio is a blast worth waking the neighbors up over. Whether it’s John Williams’ iconic theme or the screams of a victim, your fear will be amplified to a level that makes you feel as though you are in the water, counting your blessings before your demise.
Extras: The limited-edition Combo Pack doesn’t come with any new features that weren’t included in the previous 2012 Blu-ray release. But honestly, for how much is on the disc, featuring documentaries from 1995 and 2012 that dive into the film’s legacy and production experience, I don’t think there would be more to say about the film. If you haven’t seen any of these specials, then this is all the more reason to pick it up.
In addition to the making-of and retrospective documentaries, there are deleted scenes and outtakes, set photos and footage, storyboards, a marketing featurette, and an original theatrical trailer.
Now available on Blu-ray and DVD through the Criterion Collection.
Released in 2018, but entering the Criterion Collection with a new and beautiful 2K digital master, is Paul Dano’s profound directorial debut, Wildlife. It’s a small but intimate indie drama about family – commanded by top-tier performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan and The Visit’s Ed Oxenbould. The film dips into material that seems well-traveled on paper, but Dano thoroughly explores a fear that we may have all had as children.
Based on Richard Ford’s novel of the same name, Wildlife follows a teen boy (Oxenbould) who watches his parents’ relationship disintegrate before his eyes. His parents, played by Gyllenhaal and Mulligan (whose performances should have knocked at the Academy Awards’ door), are trying to find purpose in their mid-30s, just like their son is at age 15.
Wildlife goes to show that humans are always under construction, no matter how much it looks we have it figured out. The metaphorical meaning of the film and the symbolism of a wildfire (the family lives near the Canadian border, and Gyllenhaal’s character fights the seasonal blazes) brings a lot of food for thought to the table.
Dano, who has generated many sparks as an actor in works like There Will Be Blood and Escape From Delamora), steps into writing and directing like a seasoned pro. It feels more polished and better rendered than most actors who become directors. (This is also shown in how he talks about the film in Criterion’s special features.) It’s a human story about a child fighting to put the fires of his parents’ relationship out and to keep them together. It’s moving and tender.
Extras: The single-disc collector’s edition includes a striking cover design that is made to look like a classic family portrait (which feeds into the final moments of the film) and a booklet that features an essay by critic Mark Harris.
Supplemental material includes new interviews with Dano, screenwriter Zoe Kazan, actors Mulligan and Gyllenhaal, cinematographer Diego Garcia, production designer Akin McKenzie, and costume designer Amanda Ford. There’s also a conversation about the film’s post-production process with Dano, editor Matthew Hannam, and composer David Lang. Rounding it off is a talk between Dano and Ford about the source material.
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1992)
Now available on Blu-ray through Shout Select.
Not far off from the effects brought to you by screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Noah Hawley, there’s a particular sound to David Mamet’s vulgar-drenched verbal pyrotechnics that pulls you in without any intention of letting go. Even if his characters say the word “leads” more than Martin Scorsese writes f-bombs in his gangster pictures, his black comedy language stings.
The 1992 film, which has been repackaged as new by Shout Select in a snazzy collector’s edition, is based on Mamet’s 1984 play Glengarry Glen Ross. Mamet and director James Foley (At Close Range) gathered some of the business’s top talent (including Al Pacino, Ed Harris, and the late-and-great Jack Lemmon) to highlight the dark corners of real estate sales and the brokerage industry. The central salesmen hang out in restaurants, cars, bars and phone booths (the latter existed, kids), but mostly in the soulless office that has just been robbed. Somebody pocketed the new list of hot prospects, and the police are interrogating everyone there. Each person is motivated because their jobs are on the line, but who knows how desperate.
The pleasure of the film is watching these actors chew up the scenery like it’s bacon fresh out of the sizzler. There are countless sequences (featuring the actors sparring with language and pairing up like they’re doing a duet) that are – and should be – in cinema history books. Alec Baldwin’s “coffee’s for closers” speech is recited quite often, and for a good reason –– It’s ten minutes of people being blind-sided and stunned with the kind of insults that you’d find in a game of Cards Against Humanity.
One scene that deserves special mention for its sheer realness, and because it’s some of the best work that Lemmon had ever done, is when he visits a potential sale at their house. The person doesn’t want any part of it, and Lemmon’s character knows it. But he has a sick daughter in the hospital, and he can’t seem to stand down from the fight. It’s incredibly tragic to watch unfold, but you can’t look away – which carries until the film’s final moments.
Movie Grade: B+
Extras: Available Tuesday on Blu-ray through Shout Select (visit shoutfactory.com/shop), the single-disc collector’s edition includes a cardboard slipcover with a Catch Me If You Can-like illustration by Modern Dog. The 4K transfer (from the original camera negative) is easy on the eyes and loaded with features to keep you busy. A new conversation with Foley sticks out, most notably when he talks about the different acting processes between Lemmon and Pacino.
Joining the fun are two previously-recorded audio commentaries (one with Foley and the other with Lemmon); a new interview with actor Joe Mantegna (about working with Mamet in the stage play, for which he won a Tony for in 1984); and two featurettes (a tribute to Lemmon and a dedication to “Always Be Closing”).