February treats cinephiles and collectors to a stellar month of acclaimed Oscar-winning and nominated films that have been newly restored in 4K. There's an electrifying Antoine Fuqua crime thriller starring Denzel Washington in his Oscar-winning role for Best Actor, and there's one of the most celebrated British period films of the '90s starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson celebrating its 30th Anniversary.
There are two multi-film sets on the table this month as one of American cinema’s most iconic and inspiring heroes is back for another round in the ring, looking bigger, bolder and better than ever, and a famed trilogy of psychological dramas from Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski which tackles the universal themes of the human experience. Finally, animation fans are getting a stop-motion animated gem from LAIKA Studios, nominated for Best Animated Feature.
Grab your popcorn and get ready to experience these classics like never before!
From Krzysztof Kieślowski, this defining art-house trilogy of love and loss, named after the three colors of the French flag which represent the tenets of the French Revolution – liberty, equality and fraternity, have been carefully restored by The Criterion Collection. Known for their rich storytelling, Blue (1993), White (1994) and the Oscar-nominated Red (1994) feature stunning cinematography and unforgettable performances. The films have secured their standing in the minds of cinephiles across the globe as a trilogy that demands to be seen.
Blue, starring Juliette Binoche, kicks off the trilogy by taking audiences on a deep examination of grief, while White stars Julie Delpy and transitions into a more twisted, comedic tone as the film delves into the realms of jealousy and revenge highlighting the socio-economic divisions between Eastern and Western Europe. Finally, Red stars Irène Jacob and offers an intimate study of fate and chance, rounding off this exquisite trilogy with a beautifully poignant final statement. Red received three Oscar nominations (Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Original Screenplay).
Criterion’s release features new 4K restorations of all three films presented with both HDR and Dolby Vision, and each film is accompanied with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The set is backed up with a generous volume of supplemental features including Three Cinema Lessons with Director Kieślowski, production team interviews, scene commentaries featuring Binoche, video essays, three short films by Kieślowski – The Tram (1966), Seven Women of Different Ages (1978), and Talking Heads (1980), and more.
Get it: Feb. 7 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
The Remains of the Day
Oscar-winning filmmaker James Ivory (Howard’s End, A Room with a View) dazzled audiences with this 1993 drama which went on to receive eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. The Remains of the Day was celebrated for its storytelling, nuanced performances, and stunning production values. Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson reunite with the acclaimed Merchant Ivory Productions team for this moving story of unrequited love, duty and blind devotion.
Set in the years leading up to World War II, Hopkins stars as James Stevens, an English butler who, in sacrificing his own life to be in service to his master Lord Darlington (James Fox), finds his carefully maintained decorum challenged with the arrival of strong-minded housekeeper Miss Kenton (Thompson). As the two develop feelings for one another, suspicion looms of his master’s possible cultivation and ties with the Nazi regime.
For its 30th Anniversary, this 4K restoration of The Remains of the Day comes courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Featuring a stunning new Dolby Vision and HDR color grade approved by Ivory, the film also has a new Dolby Atmos audio track, but purists can also enjoy the film’s original stereo audio track which is also available on the release. Bonus materials include an audio commentary with Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant, and Emma Thompson, seven deleted scenes, and the featurettes "Love and Loyalty: The Making of The Remains of the Day," "Blind Loyalty, Hollow Honor: England’s Fatal Flaw," and "The Remains of the Day: The Filmmaker's Journey."
Get it: Feb. 21 on digital and 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Setting a new industry staple for stop-motion animation, the acclaimed Kubo and the Two Strings is joining LAIKA Studios' Coraline and ParaNorman with its 4K release. Directed by Travis Knight, the film tells the story of a young boy named Kubo who embarks on the ultimate quest to regain his family’s honor. With a beetle and snow monkey by his side, Kubo must face and defeat his mother’s evil sisters and locate his late father’s impenetrable Samurai suit of armor. Knight and his LAIKA team crafted a breathtaking adventure featuring some of the most dazzling stop-motion animation to ever grace the silver screen. The film is led by an incredible voice cast, including Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey, along with Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes and Art Parkinson in the title role.
Kubo and the Two Strings was nominated for two Oscars: Best Animated Feature and Best Visual Effects. Coming courtesy of Shout! Factory, this breathtaking new 4K release of the film featuring a new HDR color grade along with Dolby Vision, was personally supervised by Knight and Visual Effects Supervisor Steve Emerson. This release also includes a stellar Dolby Atmos audio track. For those interested in going behind the scenes, supplements include an Audio Commentary with Knight in addition to featurettes, "Inside LAIKA: Revisiting the Puppets with LAIKA’s Animation Team," "Inside LAIKA: Confronting the Epic Challenges of Kubo and the Two Strings," and more. The release is also available in a limited edition Steelbook and coincides with Shout! Factory’s 4K debut of LAIKA’s 2014 feature, The Boxtrolls.
Get it: Feb. 28 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Rocky: The Knockout Collection
From its inspirational story of an "everyman" triumphing against the odds, to its lead actor and its iconic Bill Conti score, the Rocky films and its titular character need no introduction. But we'll take a moment to talk about them just the same. Sylvester Stallone stars as Rocky Balboa, a down-on-his-luck Philadelphia boxer who is making ends meet working as a debt collector. His stalled life changes when he’s offered the chance to enter the fighting ring with the World Heavyweight Champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Driven by love, passion, and the resilience to never quit, Rocky takes his one shot to make it big, hitting hard, taking Creed's punches and still standing, and proving to audiences all around the world that anything is possible.
The original Rocky, directed by John G. Avildsen, was released in 1976. The film went on to receive 10 Oscar nominations, including four in acting categories, and winning Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing. The screenplay, penned by Stallone himself in a reportedly frenzied three and a half days, was also nominated. Produced on a shoestring budget for less than a million dollars, the film, much like its lead character, beat the odds and triumphed with audiences; Rocky grossed over $200 million at the global box office. Since its release, Rocky has since spawned five sequels and three Creed spinoffs. Creed III will be released in theaters on March 3.
This extensive release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in association with MGM lives up to its title and is a knockout collection featuring the first four films in the series. Each film has been meticulously restored with new HDR and Dolby Vision color grades which bring an incredible depth and richness of color not seen with previous releases. A bold DTS HD-MA audio track accompanies the films with supplements, including behind-the-scenes featurettes and the documentary The Making of Rocky vs. Drago: Keep Punching. Also of note, Rocky IV features both the original theatrical cut of the film along with Stallone’s new cut, Rocky vs. Drago: The Ultimate Director’s Cut. All of the first four Rocky films will also be available individually in March.
Get it: Feb. 28 on digital and 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Following on from the critical and commercial success of his debut feature, The Replacement Killers, director Antoine Fuqua’s 2001 crime thriller Training Day took audiences to the streets of Los Angeles as a rookie LAPD police officer, Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) is appointed veteran narcotics officer Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) for his first day on the job in the gang-ridden neighborhoods of South-Central Los Angeles. Over the course of the 24-hour period, Hoyt’s sense of morality is put into question as the actions of his mentor skew toward police corruption; methods that are justified by Harris as the only means to get the job done.
The screenplay by David Ayer carefully manages to exist in the gray areas as the viewer is presented with two polarizing perspectives when it comes to fighting urban crime. Mauro Fiore, who went on to win an Oscar years later for shooting 2009's Avatar, beautifully captures the sun-soaked streets of Los Angeles and dimly lit interiors in this gritty neo-noir.
Training Day was universally acclaimed for the powerful performances delivered by its two leads; Washington won the Best Actor Oscar for this role and Hawke was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. And Fuqua’s work was noted for his taut direction.
This beautiful restoration of Training Day from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment was supervised by Fuqua and is aided by a new HDR color grade. Rounding off the film’s presentation is an aggressive Dolby Atmos audio track. Supplemental features include an Audio Commentary with Fuqua, and the featurette "Training Day: Crossing the Line." Additional Scenes and an Alternate Ending are also included, along with the film’s original theatrical trailer, and the music videos "#1" by Nelly and "Got You" by Pharoahe Monch.
Get it: Feb. 28 on digital and 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
By Adam J. Yeend