Kevin Jones: June looks to be a good month with intriguing releases in both theaters and on Blu-ray. The first film up this month is Jim Jarmusch‘s The Dead Don’t Die. A zombie comedy film starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, and more, the film recently debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. Though it received a somewhat mixed reception, I am still quite curious to see how Jarmusch’s style translates to a zombie film. He, of course, worked with vampires before in Only Lovers Left Alive but, based on the trailer, the tone is far different than I would expect from him.
Matt Schlee: Jarmusch has shown a willingness to branch out into the strangest corners of genre film to display his unique arthouse style, from the vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive to the meditative and comedic modern samurai film Ghost Dog. His choices to work in atypical genres for an independent filmmaker keeps his movies refreshing and interesting, and I’ll be expecting the same from The Dead Don’t Die.
Next I’d like to bring up The Last Black Man in San Francisco. This is the debut feature from director Joe Talbot and took home the prize for Best Director at Sundance. It stars Jimmie Fails, Talbot’s childhood friend who co-wrote the screenplay and on whose life much of the story is based, alongside Jonathan Majors and Danny Glover. As Talbot is a new voice, it’s hard to speculate on exactly what this film may be, but based on its early reception it seems to be an exciting debut.
Kevin: Agreed. It’s tough to know exactly what to expect, but I am intrigued to see what Talbot delivers. I am sure that The Last Black Man in San Francisco will draw comparisons to other recent films that explored race – especially Blindspotting, considering both are set in nearly the same area and deal with a city’s changing landscape – so it will be interesting to see how it approaches the subject.
The final new release I’d like to mention is Danny Boyle‘s Yesterday. It has an intriguing premise, focusing on a young man who, after a global power outage, discovers nobody remembers The Beatles. Thus, he uses their songs to kickstart his own singing career. The film stars Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran, and Ana de Armas. With a script from Richard Curtis, anyone familiar with his work will likely know what to expect from Yesterday. How that will blend with Boyle’s directorial style should be interesting to see.
Matt: The Curtis/Boyle collaboration is peculiar to say the least. I am excited to see what type of tone comes through with two talented, but dramatically different artists crafting the same project. Hopefully their voices will complement each other well. This is one of those films that could win over viewers on the premise alone, but I’ll be fascinated to see whether it can deliver on the execution.
With that I will move on to the first Blu-ray release I would like to discuss, and that is Criterion’s new release of Sergei Bondarchuk‘s adaptation of War and Peace. The epic seven hour film covers most of Tolstoy‘s novel and brings the great author’s voice- as well as much of Russian culture and history- to life. I had the pleasure of seeing this film in a theater and I am delighted to say it does not drag, even with its daunting run time. The effects and camerawork are impressive, especially for its time, and the work is really an accomplishment worth celebrating over and over again.
In addition to a stunning new 2K restoration, the Criterion release includes two documentaries on the making of the film, a television program featuring Bondarchuk, two new interviews, a new discussion with Denise J. Youngblood who contextualizes the film in Russian culture, and an essay by Ella Taylor. I have no doubt this will end up being one of my most treasured Criterion releases of the year.
Kevin: I really cannot wait to check out this release. Based on the screenshots some review sites have posted, the new restoration looks incredible. Absolutely night and day from previous releases. The extras promise to make this into a really well-rounded package, though I’m especially excited to see the film. Having never watched it before, the run time may be daunting but it has garnered so much hype since the new restoration started its theatrical tour that I’m eager to find see it for myself.
Also coming on Blu-ray this month is Scum, which Indicator is releasing. Directed by Alan Clarke, Scum is set in a British borstal (a now discontinued type of youth prison) and stars Ray Winstone. The Indicator release includes a brand new 2K restoration as well as a wealth of extras, including interviews with the cast and crew as well as a look at British cinema in the late 1970s. An 80-page book will also be included, ensuring that Scum is another of Indicator’s more extensive releases.
I was recently able to see Scum and it really left an impact. It is not an easy watch and, for many viewers, it will likely be a “once is enough” type of film with how graphic and intense it can become. Nonetheless, its important message and powerful performances make it essential viewing. I am excited to revisit it, especially with such a loaded release.
Matt: I have not had the chance to see Scum yet and look forward to digging into the Indicator release. This seems like one of those controversial cult films that is begging for a serious Blu-ray release and Indicator is giving it the premier treatment. I’m not surprised by your comments on the movie. From everything I’ve heard it sounds like Scum is a difficult watch.