This week’s roundup features the 4K release of the latest entertaining “Downton Abbey” saga, along with several new in-theater/streaming releases, including the excellent documentaries “Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel” and “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song.”
4K/UHD Releases of the Week
Downton Abbey—A New Era (Universal)
The second big-screen drama from the popular PBS series plays like the earlier film, as a two-hour episode of the show, but creator-writer Julian Fellowes adds enough wrinkles and variations to make it more enjoyable: there’s a trek to the south of France, where Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) might discover a surprise about his paternity; and the family has allowed a film crew to shoot a silent feature at Downton (it’s 1928) to help fund needed mansion upkeep. The large cast is perfect, as always, with a sardonic Maggie Smith, in her swan song as matriarch Dowager Countess, leading the way. The mansion and its grounds look spectacular in ultra hi-def; extras include on-set featurettes and interviews, along with director Richard Curtis’ chatty commentary.
Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Bros)
I doubt I’m the first to label Doug Liman’s 2014 Tom Cruise vehicle as a sci-fi “Groundhog Day”: Cruise is part of a conscripted army slated to fight an extraterrestrial invasion force that’s annihilating Earth’s human population, and he must replay the training for the battle with the toughest soldier (played by Emily Blunt). It’s flashily done, and quite exciting at times, but there’s a sense that, even at a lean 110 minutes, it spins its wheels at about the hour mark; Liman, Cruise and Blunt keep pushing until it finally reaches the finish line. There’s an excellent 4K transfer; the accompanying Blu-ray includes the original extras from the initial release: featurettes, interviews and deleted scenes.
Streaming/In-Theater Releases of the Week
Dreaming Walls—Inside the Chelsea Hotel (Magnolia)
Using an elliptical, visually eccentric style that mirrors the many famous and infamous inhabitants (from Dylan Thomas to Bob Dylan) of the hallowed Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street in Manhattan, directors Maya Duverdier and Amélie van Elmbt have created an impressionistic, dream-like documentary about an indelible part of 20th century arts and pop culture. We also hear from several current residents, who are dealing with the hotel renovations going on through amusing interactions with some of the workers. It all adds up to a lovely if melancholic journey through ghosts of the past and present.
Fair Game (Dark Star Pictures)
This 1986 action flick harkens back to the exploitative B movies of the ‘70s like “Jackson County Jail” and “Gator Bait,” as a young woman must handle a trio of brutish male attackers, showing her wiles (and curves) as she does. Director Mario Andreacchio, in his feature debut, has made a sleazy, silly adventure that displays the charms of leading lady Cassandra Delaney, who does the usual risible genre things but manages to fend off the men, who are even dumber than she. That Quentin Tarantino loves this movie tells you all you need to know about his taste.
Hallelujah—Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song (Sony Classics)
Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” has become a sort of all-purpose hymn, sung at memorials for everyone from celebrities and politicians to mass shooting victims—but, as directors Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine demonstrate in this intriguing biography, the song is just one part of Cohen’s long artistic journey. By following Cohen’s life and career, “Hallelujah” becomes a lot more than just an exploration of a single song, and that is the filmmakers’ finest achievement, using archival interviews with Cohen over decades as well as with friends, colleagues and to present a full-bodied portrait.
Monsieur Hire (Cohen Film Collection)
Another elegant, tense character study by French director Patrice Leconte, this 1989 chamber drama, based on a story by the great Belgian writer Georges Simenon, follows a loner who spies on his attractive female neighbor later finding himself a suspect in the murder of another young woman. With Leconte’s stylish direction and sublime acting by Michel Blanc and Sandrine Bonnaire, you nearly forget that this minutely detailed film is just a 79-minute shaggy-dog story that hinges on an implausible plot point. Hree’s hoping that we also get re-releases of Leconte’s dazzling followup features, “The Hairdresser’s Husband” and “The Perfume of Yvonne.”
Rubikon (IFC Midnight)
It’s the year 2056, and the earth has suddenly become largely uninhabitable due to a toxic fog, and those onboard an orbiting space station must decide whether to return and search for survivors or stay onboard and safe. Director Magdalena Lauritsch and her cowriter Jessica Lind set up their ambitious but derivative sci-fi adventure nicely, but although the characters populating the movie are interestingly differentiated (and well-acted by the cast), there’s soon nowhere to go—literally and figuratively.
Blu-ray Release of the Week
Monstrous (Screen Media)
In Chris Sivertson’s tantalizing but ultimately frustrating horror flick, Christina Ricci beautifully gives it her all as a woman who, escaping an abusive husband, takes her young son to try and start a new life—but the monster her son sees, and her own unsettling visions, make her question whether she can. Siverton and writer Carol Chrest have made an unusually intimate thriller that measures a woman’s instability in the face of grief but too often takes half-measures that are only intermittently powerful—and the ending is easily guessed by anyone who’s seen similar movies. The film looks superb on Blu.
DVD Release of the Week
Summers with Picasso (Icarus Films)
This disc pairs documentaries about Pablo Picasso in the south of France, where he spent summers with famous and not so famous friends, fellow artists and his muses: Francois Levy-Kuentz’s “On the French Riviera with Man Ray and Picasso” recounts a 1937 trip to Mougins, and Christian Tran’s “Picasso and Sima, Antibes, 1946” is set in another resort town nine years later. Both films give rare glimpses of Picasso that are unusually intimate, a mixture of artistry and frivolity, with sympathetic portraits of mistresses Dora Maar (in 1937) and Francoise Gilot (who is interviewed for the Antibes film). There’s a plethora of stunning vintage photos, home movies and—most importantly—glimpses of colorful art. The lone extra is “Guernica,” Alain Resnais and Robert Hessens’ 1949 short about Picasso’s incendiary painting, also available on an Icarus Blu-ray with other Resnais shorts.