Fresh on Blu-ray: ‘TENET’ glistens on 4K, while ‘THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW’ proves to be the sleeper hit of the year

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James Clay//Film Critic

On this week’s Fresh On Blu-ray column, we’ll discuss the 4K releases of TENET, COLLATERAL, and a lesser-known title, THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW. We have a titan of cinema’s whose latest was destined to save movie theaters but ended up being fairly controversial. At the same time, an old-school auteur that constantly reinvents himself finally releases one of the low-key best action films of the early 21st century. Finally, an up-and-coming filmmaker turned a snowy and sleepy thriller into one of the best films of the year.

Each of these films offers up different cinematic pleasures, some mind-numbing, and others gut-busting, but one thing is for sure if you see Tom Cruise on screen, you better believe he’ll be in a dead spring before the end credits. 

TENET

Rated PG-13, 150 minutes
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debecki, Kenneth Branagh

This is not going to be a comprehensive and exhaustive review of Christopher Nolan’s time-altering backward/forwards action espionage thriller movie thing, TENET. The task is just far too great. Instead, we’ll briefly discuss the film itself, the visual quality, and that pesky audio that many have troubled so many moviegoers.

I don’t think it’s too bad, and with a movie as complex as this, you’re going to want subtitles anyway. 

TENET follows The Protagonist (John David Washington), who’s only armed with one word (which I just mentioned). He’s on a mission to prevent the world from literally imploding. There are billionaires, crazy action set pieces that you’ll no doubt rewind, and a head-scratching conclusion that will frustrate some and ignite others. Mileage will vary for viewers who may or may not be willing to parse through the mechanics of barreling through different dimensions, but here there’s a lot of heart and some aspects that are painfully relevant. I found this to be one of the most visionary films of 2020 as Nolan hyperbolizes that the world around us could crumble under the weight of a billionaire’s ego, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

The cast is dynamic and consists of Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debecki, and Kenneth Branagh as a perfectly devilish villain. The action set pieces each to have small moments of magnetism that will have you pressing the rewind button over and over. 

The video quality is perfectly smooth and has a sleek aesthetic that looks gorgeous projected back in a decent home theater set-up, and while the audio has been criticized greatly, it creates a whole new way (for better or worse) to mix films of this scale. Like I said earlier, it didn’t bother me in the least. 

RENT OR BUY: You got to buy TENET, it’s just worth the experience to see this film in the comfort of your own home. While Nolan will most likely balk at you pausing his movie while you get another glass of wine, it’s worth letting this film breathe. In short, you just have to buy TENET. 

SPECIAL FEATURES: 

Looking At The World In A Whole New Way: The Making of Tenet: An hour-long documentary about you guessed it…how they made TENET

Grade: A 

TENET is available now through all major retailers in-store and online.

COLLATERAL

Rated R, 119 minutes
Directed by: Michael Mann
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Tom Cruise, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo

Michael Mann is a sleek filmmaker with an eye for cityscapes and innovative images that take away the grittiness of crime and replaces it with a cinematic realism that’s unparalleled. The filmmaker reached the pinnacle of this technique with 2004’s COLLATERAL (Don’t @ me. HEAT is still his best). The film features a pre-Oscar Jamie Foxx teaming up with a silver fox Tom Cruise playing against type in a hellish all-night trip through Los Angeles. Filled with a little murder, slight romance, and a little bit of modern noir, COLLATERAL is a wildly entertaining film that’s much better than anything you’d fall asleep watching on Sunday afternoon cable. While that may not seem like much, COLLATERAL is masterful in many ways by blending ultra-modern (for the time) aesthetic while having flashes of classic cinema in the performances (namely Foxx). Mann is at the height of his directing powers; he even convinced Tom Cruise to go gray for this role. 

Essentially the movie is fairly simple. A Los Angeles cabbie named Max (Foxx) picks up a passenger named Vincent (Cruise). They hit it off, and to make some extra money for his burgeoning limo driving business Max decides to run off into the night with a charming yet evil man. As each stop on Vincent’s cab straight to hell gets progressively worse, Max begins to change and become much savvier than expected. 

With Michael Mann’s films, he takes a shot on video look and revs it up to become a full cinematic experience. The look is distinct and kind of jarring, and while I’m not fully qualified to delve into the specifics, it certainly is worth looking into from a credible source. The transition for COLLATERAL to 4K could have been dicey, but it serves up some quality images that look like they were filmed just a few years ago. 

RENT OR BUY: Well, with 4K restorations, the only way to get the full experience is to give it a buy, but if you haven’t seen COLLATERAL, it’s a stellar film with a subversive take on a modern thriller. 

SPECIAL FEATURES: 

  • Commentary by Michael Mann
  • City of Night: The Making of Collateral 
  • Special Delivery: Deleted Scene with Commentary
  • Shooting on Location: Annie’s Office
  • Tom Cruise & Jamie Foxx’s rehearsals 

Grade: B+

COLLATERAL is available now through all major retailers in-store and online. 


THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW

Rated R, 85 minutes
Directed by: Jim Cummings
Starring: Jim Cummings, Robert Forster, Riki Lindhome

THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW: Part werewolf film, part addiction drama, with a little bit of Coen Bros. style of comedy Jim Cumming’s THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW was the most pleasantly surprising film of the year for me personally.

Cummings created a horror-comedy that tonally doesn’t match up with anything that’s come out in recent memory. It’s a delightful throwback that captures the paranoia that can rip through a small town and somehow does it with a slight grin on its face. Cummings is known in online circles as a DIY filmmaker who makes his projects happen by sheer will, and we are thankful for artists like him who gave us the late great actor Robert Forster’s last role before he died late last year. 

THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW is the battle of fact and fiction, truth, or lies, and starting to grapple that the truth is stranger than fiction. Cummings plays Officer Marshall, the son of the soon to be retired sheriff (Forster) whose legendary career has shaped the safe mentality of their small mountain town. Officer Marshall has been battling with his demons including an authority complex that manifests itself through alcoholism. When a mysterious beast is laying waste to animals and people around Snow Hollow, Marshall starts to lose his mind to figure out what’s plaguing his town. 

RENT OR BUY: Cumming’s second feature is worth the blind buy for any collector, and the price isn’t too high. However, if you’re a more casual viewer and want to take a swerve from your typical cold-weather movies, you won’t be disappointed in giving this a rent. Plus, it’s only 85 minutes and uses every minute of that to innovate a well-trodden genre picture. 

SPECIAL FEATURES: 

  • The Impetus working with Jim Cummings
  • The Story and The Genre
  • The Design of the Werewolf 

Grade: B+

THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW is available now through all major retailers in-store and online.