Here’s a sneak peek at two psychological thrillers now available on ultra-high definition disc format.
alley of nightmares (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainmentto note, 2.39:1 aspect ratio148 mins, $49.98) – The latest Oscar-nominated film from cinematic craftsman Guillermo Del Toro adapts William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel and delivers simmering melodrama colored by its trademark macabre.
In this noir-infused psychological thriller set in the early 1940s, wanderlust and ambitious Stan Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) finds work when he can while living an oppressive existence, but ends up landing a job in a traveling circus. He takes full advantage of the opportunity.
Carlisle finds kinship and conflict with an assortment of broken carny people, including electric girl Molly Cahill (Rooney Mara)strongman Bruno (Ron Perlman), world’s smallest man Major Mosquito (Mark Povinelli), and a freak show geek who has been brutally taken advantage of by circus boss Clem Hoatley (Willem Dafoe).
Carlisle eventually learns the secrets of the clairvoyant Madame Zeena Krumbein (Toni Collette) and the tricks of mind-reading from her alcoholic husband Peter (David Strathairn). He coaxes the new love of his life Molly into becoming his sidekick and heading to the big city to seek riches by performing a psychic act.
With the help of Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), a cunning psychiatrist for the rich, the act goes too far, taking advantage of the grieving elite and raising the stakes that Mr. Carlisle’s the fraud could be revealed to have contacted the dead in the afterlife.
The stellar cast led by Mr. Cooper puts viewers through a good share of twists and turns with a denouement steeped in irony.
However, the real star of the film is the meticulous visual presentation of Mr. Del Toro and cinematographer Dan Laustsen, imbuing the spirit of painter Edward Hopper as they bring the period room rich in vintage art deco to life. .
UHD presentation, derived from the main 4K format, delivers visually stunning images throughout, enhancing an almost antique color draped, glazed in gold or bronze, over big city locations (especially Dr. Ritter’s wood-paneled office) while providing clarity to shady, stuffy outdoor circus venues.
Best extras: On the included Blu-ray of the film, viewers receive three featurettes approximately 25 minutes in total that cover a preview of the film; the casting; a slightly deeper dive into production design (even using real 1930s carnival props); art deco places; and period costumes (242 costume changes at the carnival alone).
Last Night in Soho (Universal Studios Home Entertainmentto note, 2.39:1 aspect ratio116 minutes, $44.98) – Director Edgar Wright took viewers on a nostalgic 1960s trip to one of London’s hippest spots in a supernatural thriller now available on 4K disc format.
The tale, co-written by Mr. Wright, found a modern country girl, aspiring fashion designer and lover of all things 1960s retro, Eloise Turner (Thomasin McKenzie), getting her chance to shine after having been accepted into the London College of Fashion.
After a bad experience with her college roommate, she moves into an off-campus apartment and mysteriously taps into the life of another woman, almost her doppelganger, named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), who takes her back to her favorite decade. .
However, the character of his new vision ranges from an up-and-coming singer to a prostitute under the control of Jack (Matt Smith). Now caught in Sandie’s world as an observer during the night, Eloise loses her grip on reality and begins to interact in both worlds.
The intriguing premise shines through a fantastic soundtrack and exquisite fashion and production design, but turns into a slightly predictable horror flick with its frenetic ending.
The UHD visual presentation never disappoints, thanks to Mr. Wright and cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung’s obsession with not only capturing a detailed look at landmarks such as the Café de Paris, but also a persistent use of neon palettes offering saturated reds, purples, pinks and green hues across the screen.
And, the soundtrack shines with the hottest songs, including “Heat Wave” by The Who, “Got My Mind Set on You” by James Ray, “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” by Sandie Shaw , “Land of Land of The Walker Brothers”. 1000 Dances” and “Happy House” from Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Best extras: Viewers get a pair of optional commentary tracks that pretty much cover a deconstruction of the production. Both are helmed by Mr. Wright, with the director getting help from co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns on one track and editor Paul Machliss and composer Steve Price on the other.
The track with the two writers was most entertaining as they talked casually as if they were at lunch, covering their personal experiences in London and Soho, which helped create the story, while keeping it nostalgic.
The trio track is more technical in nature with a heavy focus on the music – I rarely hear a composer in an optional commentary – and also delves into various production details and filming. Definitely worth watching the movie a third time.
However, that’s not all. The disc also includes approximately 50 minutes of featurettes covering a breakdown of Eloise and Sandie; the cinematography as well as the visual effects used to create the ghostly creatures; an explanation of some mirror effects; the dance sequence; recreate a 1960s Soho; and the director’s obsession with returning to the 1960s.
Also added are, for those fascinated by the deeper specifics of the filmmaking process, the raw animated storyboards for a quartet of scenes; and technical segments such as hair and makeup tests and the magic behind a dance sequence seen during Steadicam camera rehearsals.