Welcome back to my Home Movies! This week, we have the Christopher Nolan masterpiece Oppenheimer hitting shelves. There’s also Saw X coming home as well, offering up two impressive but very different options. In addition, today brings no less than five new Criterion Collection releases, including Martin Scorsese‘s Mean Streets! Read on for more…
Exceeding almost all expectations, Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer is truly something special. Cillian Murphy in the title role, Emily Blunt and Robert Downey Jr. in plum supporting roles, everything comes together for arguably Nolan’s most complete work to date. I ranked his films here, so you can see where this one lands, but it’s surely about to be his most honored movie, awards-wise, that’s for sure. My rave four star review here began like so:
When you think of Christopher Nolan, you don’t think of activism or character studies. With Oppenheimer, he’s putting forth an epic version of both. In crafting a biopic of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the nuclear bomb, Nolan has opted to make this a tale of not just one of the 20th century’s most important men, but a missive that nuclear warfare will eventually doom us all, much like the weapon’s development ultimately doomed the man himself. It’s as much a thriller as a drama, albeit with the filmmaker’s typical flair. If he was ever going to do his JFK, this is it. It’s also a riveting experience and one of the best things I’ve seen all year.
Oppenheimer is an epic character study as well as a dire warning. This engrossing experience builds to an endgame that places no less than the fate of humanity almost at death’s door. It’s heady stuff for summer cinema, but in Nolan’s hands, the urgency is never ignored, but the riveting nature of it makes for one of is most unique works to date. Frankly, given the choice between more work like this and more explorations of the action genre, I’ll take ten more Oppenheimer types before he goes back to Tenet. We’ve seen him master action. Now, he’s mastered the biopic and character study.
Boy was I delighted to see Tobin Bell back as John Kramer / Jigsaw. Saw X is a prequel, but it’s also very much a modern Saw outing, in the best ways. Characters are given time to develop, the traps are creative, and the film makes sure to invest the audience in what’s going on. If there’s more movies on the horizon, count me in. My review here included the following:
The Saw franchise has shown incredible life over the years. What was just a small independent horror film has now become one of the biggest properties in the genre. After going nonstop for over half a decade, there were pauses, but it always comes back to Saw. While both Jigsaw and Spiral: From the Book of Saw weren’t quite able to relaunch it back to its horror heights (though the latter is one of the best films they’ve done), Saw X has a great chance to do it. By going back to its roots, namely with the return of Tobin Bell, this is what many have been asking for. The results are deeply satisfying, provided that this is your sort of thing.
Saw X is both old and new, which very much works in its favor. Taking place in the early days of the series, when the central character was still alive (remember, there have now been seven follow ups to the third installment, where he died), this one is able to fill in blanks, while also telling a different kind of a story. Here, you’re with Bell’s character throughout, which is a notable difference. Not only is his presence a real boon to the work, it almost makes for a bit of nostalgia. Overall, this is an upper echelon Saw film.
The Expanse: The Complete Series (TV)
Farscape: The Complete Series (TV)
Love Actually (4K)
Resident Evil: The Complete Collection (4K)
From The Criterion Collection: “Claude Chabrol’s forty-ninth feature stands as the crowning achievement of his prolific career—a coolly riveting study of class dynamics, the psychology of crime, and the sordid secrets lurking beneath the veneer of everyday life. A fascinatingly enigmatic, César Award–winning Isabelle Huppert is the chaotic yin to Sandrine Bonnaire’s tightly coiled yang. They are, respectively, a small-town postal worker and a maid to a wealthy family, a pair of outsiders who form a mysterious alliance that gradually, almost imperceptibly, goes haywire. With a master’s control of sound, editing, and suspense, Chabrol constructs a tour de force of sustained tension that delivers each brilliant shock with ice-pick precision.”
The Eight Mountains
From The Criterion Collection: “An epic journey of friendship and self-discovery set in the Italian Alps, The Eight Mountains is a cinematic experience as intimate as it is monumental. Adapting an award-winning novel by Paolo Cognetti, Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch portray, through observant detail and stunning landscape photography, the profound relationship between Pietro (Luca Marinelli) and Bruno (Alessandro Borghi), who first meet as children in an Alpine village. Years later, the estranged friends reunite, after the passing of Pietro’s father (Filippo Timi), in order to realize his dream of rebuilding a ruined cabin on a mountain slope. This emotional project, and their subsequent explorations of the mountains, create a strong bond between the two—yet individual dreams, and the demands of society, ultimately drive them to pursue irrevocably divergent paths.”
From The Criterion Collection: “The struggle between the strictures of religion and humankind’s brute animal nature plays out amid the beautifully forbidding landscapes of remote Iceland in this stunning psychological epic from director Hlynur Pálmason. In the late nineteenth century, Danish priest Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) makes the perilous trek to Iceland’s southeastern coast with the intention of establishing a church. There, the arrogant man of God finds his resolve tested as he confronts the harsh terrain, temptations of the flesh, and the reality of being an intruder in an unforgiving land. What unfolds is a transfixing journey into the heart of colonial darkness—one that’s attuned to both the majesty and the terrifying power of the natural world.”
From The Criterion Collection: “Martin Scorsese emerged as a generation-defining filmmaker with this gritty portrait of 1970s New York City, one of the most influential works of American independent cinema. Set in the insular Little Italy neighborhood of Scorsese’s youth, Mean Streets follows guilt-ridden small-time ringleader Charlie (Harvey Keitel) as he deals with the debts owed by his dangerously volatile best pal, Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), and pressure from his headstrong girlfriend, Teresa (Amy Robinson). As their intertwined lives spiral out of control, Scorsese showcases his precocious mastery of film style—evident in everything from his propulsive editing rhythms to the lovingly curated soundtrack—to create an electrifying vision of sin and redemption.”
Tori and Lokita
From The Criterion Collection: “From two-time Palme d’Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne comes the story of seventeen-year-old Lokita and twelve-year-old Tori, two immigrants to Belgium—from Cameroon and Benin, respectively—whose siblinglike bond is the only resource they can depend on in their struggle for survival on the margins of European society. The pair work as performers in a cheap trattoria, dealing drugs on the side, while balancing the demands of an indifferent bureaucracy. When Lokita is held captive in a marijuana grow house, events spiral out of control. Winner of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, the latest humanist drama from the Dardenne brothers is a heart-stopping thriller that casts an unflinching eye on the trials of the young and dispossessed.”