James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Clay // Film Critic
This Blu-ray column has gone through a few iterations to find its way, from making it about special features exclusively to deep dives into the disc and straight-up reviews. This is now a more casual look at what’s new to home media. With people being stuck at home, studios and distributors have opened the flood gates.
There will be a ton of content coming to home videos, and hopefully, we can try to keep up. This week is the calm before the storm with a re-release of V FOR VENDETTA and a beautiful documentary, titled RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: CODA.
RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: CODA
RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: CODA works as a documentary about the romance of creative music and the portrait of a man approaching perhaps the twilight of his life and career. CODA, directed by Stephen Nomura Schible, made the rounds at film festivals the past couple of years. The film received loads of acclaim, rightfully so, and now it’s available in physical form from MUBI.
The documentary profiles Japanese composer Sakamoto as he’s going on a self-imposed hiatus following a cancer diagnosis. This stopped all of his personal and film scoring work, and it was no clear if or when he’d return. We see his process of coming back to life as his creative bulbs begin to brighten again when famed director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu approached the reserved maestro to compose the music for THE REVENANT.
Schible puts you in the orbit of a genius as he subtly recounts his career in a way that doesn’t come off as hagiography or back-patting. It’s more of a reflection of how we got here. Cross-cutting with Sakamoto’s passion for environmental causes in his home country of Japan, Schible cross-cuts Sakamoto’s 40-plus-year career with how Earth has changed due to technology and pollution. It’s sad and ironic that for an artist as cutting edge as Sakamoto. This technology made his work revolution is also being used to destroy what makes the world beautiful.
Gently directed by Schible, RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: CODA is a serene look at an individual who’s reflected on his existence, and the results couldn’t be more enlightening.
Rent or Buy? The movie is available on The Criterion Channel and MUBI with a subscription, but I’m all for owning a physical copy of something that creates such a mood. CODA has the power to be a great equalizer against stress. Having a rough week? Pop in that CODA Blu-ray. It’s excellent and totally worth buying.
Special Features: ASYNC- a full concert directed by Stephen Nomura Schible. This is a live recording of Sakamoto’s latest work at the time the film was made.
RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: CODA is now available through MUBI, KINO LORBER, and all major online retailers.
V FOR VENDETTA
Back when V FOR VENDETTA was released in 2006, it was cutting edge, especially for blockbuster filmmaking. Produced by the Wachowskis at the height of their powers at Warner Bros., it was a hot button political thriller based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd and starred Natalie Portman with a shaved head. (Apparently, this was super shocking back in these days, kind of like when Demi Moore shaved her dome for G.I. JANE.)
Anyways, the movie holds up reasonably well, and while it’s lost some of its edge. The James McTeigue-directed film is still supremely entertaining. With a catchy tagline, “Remember, remember the 5th of November,” and a supremely “memeable” Guy Fawkes mask that now represents cringeworthy sectors of the internet, the film was a hit and achieved cult status on DVD. Wisely, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is releasing this on 4K in time for the election.
Natalie Portman plays Evey, a large media company employee who gets converted into following V (Hugo Weaving), an English terrorist who wants to overthrow the Orwellian government controlling the people.
Overall, V FOR VENDETTA is known for Weaving’s buttery voice-over work and imagery to make it cinematic iconography. It’s a strange time to be on planet Earth, and V FOR VENDETTA helps just a little to make sense of the chaos and anger humanity is feeling.
Rent or Buy? If you’ve been a fan of The Wachowskis work, it’s a no brainer to purchase this release. Warner Home Video always has done a fantastic job with their 4K releases regarding the transfers and overall uniformed look on the spines. The artwork is super sharp for collectors and has a sleek black look that goes well with others on the shelf. There’s a pretty sweet steelbook release of the film at Best Buy if you want to splurge. So yes, it’s worth buying.
New Special Features on 4K UHD Disc:
- V FOR VENDETTA Unmasked
- Natalie Portman’s Audition: Explore the depth of Evey’s character with Natalie Portman’s never-before-seen audition
- James McTeigue & Lana Wachowski in Conversation
Previously released Special Features on Blu-ray Disc:
- Freedom! Forever!: Making V FOR VENDETTA – The cast and crew of V for Vendetta reveal the intense filmmaking process
- Designing the Near Future – A look at the artistic process of creating the frightening future world of V
- Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot – The history behind the story of Guy Fawkes
- England Prevails: V for Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics – The origins of the original V story is illuminated
- Cat Power Montage – Cat Power song played under images of the film
- Theatrical Trailer
- Easter Egg: Hidden Bonus: Saturday Night Live Digital Short
V FOR VENDETTA is now available through Warner Brothers Home Entertainment and online retailers everywhere.