BatmanvSuperThe smartest thing about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition (Warner, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, Ultra HD Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, VOD) is its revisionist take on the destruction that concluded Man of Steel, Zach Snyder’s reboot of Superman as a harder, more troubled hero in a darker big screen superhero universe than previous incarnations. After an unnecessary (but at least relatively brief) recap of the origin of Batman laid under the opening credits, we are plunged back into the battle and this time Superman (Henry Cavill) is not the protagonist. This perspective comes from the ground. He’s simply an agent of destruction in the sky as Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck with a hint of stubble and gray in the temples) roars through the street in what is surely, at least under the hood, the civilian answer to the Batmobile. Man of Steel quite rightly was slammed for its insensitive portrait of epic destruction in an urban center without a thought for the victims below and Snyder, in all his heavyhanded Olympian grandeur, seemed just as oblivious as Superman. Both were so caught up in the personal fight with the demons of Krypton that neither could be bothered to notice civilians crushed like ants in a battle of the titans.

So while there is a feeling of Snyder’s oversight being retconned into legitimacy, Batman v Superman does something I’ve not seen before in the big screen comic book movie universe, at least not for more than a few seconds at a time. It offers the perspective of the mortal bystander to a battle between the modern gods and finds our hero at best distracted from and at worst oblivious to consequences of a clash of the titans over urban Metropolis. In contrast to the abstracted spectacle of Man of Steel, this destruction is more present, more weighted, more real, with the evocation of 9/11 imagery—respectful and suggestive, a matter of texture and perspective with a sense of helplessness on the ground seeing disaster above our heads—fueling the anxiety and giving it an immediacy beyond the superhero mythos. Batman / Bruce Wayne (let’s just call him BatWayne, as there is no distinction between the two apart from the growling delivery behind the cowl), ever the pragmatist, realizes that with great power comes great danger to the rest of us. And so he begins hatching his plan to take down the man from another planet.

That sounds like the beginning of a film I’d like to see. I wish it was the film that Snyder and his screenwriters, Chris Terrio (Argo) and superhero screenplay vet David S. Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins, Man of Steel), had made. Instead, we get BatWayne obsessively pursuing his Krypton bomb, SuperKent in righteous dudgeon over the vigilantism of Gotham City’s Batman, and Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), reconceived as a twitchy, hyperactive young genius driven by daddy issues and corporate arrogance, playing the two off one another as he plots their mutual destruction. The plotting is a little foggy and motivations dubious and the film almost laughably takes pains to assure us that, this time, the battles wind up in deserted waterfront ruins or an abandoned island off Metropolis (because it’s not as if prime real estate in the biggest city of the DCU has any value).

This is film that offers provocative contradictions—that same Superman who fails to pull General Zod from Metropolis ground zero for their new gods smackdown breaks the sound barrier to get to Brazil to rescue a single girl from a burning building and then watches stonefaced as the grateful poor peasants bow to him as if he were the second coming—and then fails to even acknowledge the God complex it reveals. Behind the earnest benevolence and stony, ever-serious expression, Superman is an arrogant, self-righteous creature who can’t even control his own temper when fighting the Bat. “You don’t understand,” Supes impotently protests, and then refuses to explain, content to simply pummel him into obedience.

There’s also romance with globehopping journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams), warrior queen Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) shoehorned in the margins of the story and the finale, a thoroughly forgettable Golem creature called forth from an interstellar genetic cocktail like a Kyptonian Frankenstein’s monster, and lo-fi teases of additional iconic DC comics heroes in anticipation of the upcoming team movie “Justice League.” Because what BvS really, really, really wants to be the DC comic book universe (or DCU) equivalent of Captain America: Civil War by way of Iron Man 2, the world-building film that starts to pull the individual superheroes of the sprawling fictional universe. Their desperation to catch up with Marvel’s year-in-the-making MCU is nakedly obvious as Snyder attempts to launch a DCU out of nowhere. Even his BatWayne is a reboot, with Affleck channeling the graying, embittered, battle-scarred Batman of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight” mini-series into a cinematic incarnation that apparently exists a decade or so on from Christopher Nolan’s trilogy.

I always saw Metropolis and Gotham City of the comic books as two sides of New York City: Metropolis the daylight version of the city of steel and glass and commerce and Gotham the nighttime urban jungle of crime and corruption in a crumbling city of old brick and industrial blight. Snyder’s Gotham is almost always seen at night, to be sure, while the steel gray and industrial blue of his Metropolis seems bled dry of its colorful energy, but he weirdly situates them across the bay from one another, essentially next door, like San Francisco and Oakland relocated to the East Coast. Which brings up a blindly obvious question in this newly-revealed geography: why has Superman never bothered to be a hero to a city mere seconds away flying at top speed? And how is it, 18 months after the events of Man of Steel, he’s just now realizing that there’s a vigilante in Gotham who is summoned by his own beacon? It’s just another lazy contrivance that shows the sloppy world building under the stewardship of Zach Snyder. Complain all you want about the overstuffed Avengers movies from Joss Whedon, those films have been thought through to provide not only a sturdy narrative framework but the very foundation of an entire ecosystem of heroes, villains, and government agencies, and the moral issues that go with the playing masked superhero.

Batman v Superman was neither an unqualified success nor a flop. Its high price tag (it cost over $250M) and enormous promotional budget means that it needed to pull in north of $1 billion (worldwide) to come close to the profits of the Marvel movies. It fell far short of that. Snyder’s humorless, self-serious approach, dark and dreary palette, and numbing spectacle bludgeoning viewers with ever bigger portraits of destruction seems out of step with the spry, fleet, witty, and often giddy heroics of the Marvel movies. There clearly is an appetite for this brand of comic book movie, but I’ve lost the taste for Snyder’s recipe.

The Blu-ray looks superb, as a digital production of this magnitude should, and presents the R-rated “Ultimate Edition” features 30 minutes of additional footage not included in the original theatrical version and the extra scenes fill in subplots and supporting characters cut from the two-and-a-half hour theatrical version. They add scope to the film, though additional scenes of Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) calling out Clark Kent for failing to meet his deadlines actually weaken any pretense of The Daily Planet as a professional organization. The theatrical version is included on a separate disc.

Blu-ray and DVD, with over two hours of featurettes stuffed with cast and crew interviews and some behind-the-scenes footage. “Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants” discusses the planning of the first onscreen pairing in the new DCU, the heroes get their own character spotlights in “Superman: Complexity & Truth,” “Batman: Austerity & Rage,” and “Wonder Woman: Grace & Power,” with a little extra on the history Wonder Woman (because she has a solo movie in the works) in “The Warrior, The Myth, The Wonder,” and villain gets his due in “The Empire of Luthor.” “Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile,” “Batcave: Legacy of the Lair,” and “The Might and the Power of a Punch” focus on specific aspects of production design and execution, and “Uniting the World’s Finest” looks forward to the “Justice League” movie, with interviews with actors barely even seen onscreen. Finally, “Save the Bats” forgets the mythology altogether to bring attention to an endangered species of bats. There is no commentary track, which is unusual for Zach Snyder.

The Blu-ray also features bonus DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD copies copy of the film (theatrical version only).
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [DVD]
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [Ultimate Edition Blu-ray + Theatrical Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack]
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [Ultimate Edition Blu-ray + Theatrical Blu-ray + 3D-Blu-Ray + UltraViolet Combo Pack]
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [4K Ultra HD]

BridgendBridgend (Kimstim, DVD, VOD) is a horror film, but not in the traditional sense. The horror is that the events of Bridgend, a rural county in South Wales where the mines have closed and unemployment and isolation has cast a pall upon the community, occurred in real life and continue to occur. Between January 2007 and February 2012, at least 79 suicides were reported in this small county, most of them teenagers, most of them by hanging. They left no suicide notes and, though the media have suggested some kind of suicide pact or death cult, to this day there is no explanation. Danish documentary filmmaker Jeppe Rønde spent years getting to know the kids of the area but instead of making a documentary, he crafted a fictional drama, an impressionistic, empathetic response to their lives.

Hannah Murray, known to American viewers as Gilly on Game of Thrones but familiar to British audiences as a vulnerable high school girl in Skins, is the daughter of a cop sent to help investigate the suicide. She’s the new girl in town and soon falls into the pack of kids who gather in the woods and party in the pubs. When they pay tribute to a dead friend, they howl into the night in a manner both mournful and defiant. The sense of community draws her in but it also sinks her into the sense of hopelessness among the teens and the oppressive emotional toll of the suicides on the survivors. Their insularity and anger and suspicion, and their vow of silence to outsiders, tends to romanticize the deaths of friends. They’re angry and destructive and insular, like kids all over, but the suicides seem to make them even more disconnected from everyone not part of their gang.

Rønde shot the film on location “in the Valleys” of rural Wales and the atmosphere takes over. It’s gloomy and isolated and swallowed up in fog, beautiful but lonely and cut off from the rest of the world. When they walk down the railroad tracks it feels like crossing into some kind of underworld. It’s almost haunted but completely real. And Rønde offers no answers or explanations, which is unsettling. You can’t walk away from this with any kind of closure. It’s a powerful film, and a beautifully made one, but one you might not want to watch in isolation. You’ll want the comfort of company afterwards.

No supplements.

Also new and notable:MilesAhead

Miles Ahead (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD) – Don Cheadle directs, co-writes, and stars in the impressionistic (and at times completely fictionalized, or at least freely reimagined) biopic as jazz legend Miles Davis during his lost years in the late 1970s. Features filmmaker commentary , a featurette, and a Q&A from the Sundance screening.

Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey are Elvis & Nixon (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD) in this comic reimagining of the real-life meeting between the two men. With commentary and a featurette.

TouchZenA Touch of Zen (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD), King Hu’s romantic chivalry adventure is a masterpiece of Hong Kong cinema, a magnificent epic with grand battles fought with the grace of a ballet with swords, and one of the films that inspired Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It’s been newly restored and released on Blu-ray and DVD in a new special edition. Review to come.

The Daughter of Dawn (Milestone, Blu-ray, DVD) – Produced in 1920 in Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma Wildlife Refuge, this is a fictional drama of tribal life with a cast made up entirely of Native American Indians, mostly Kiowa and Comanche. It was thought lost for almost a hundred years before a print was unearthed and restored. Milestone gives the film its home video debut in a special edition. Review to come.

Criterion presents two from Alain Resnais, the most narratively experimental of the early French nouvelle vague filmmakers: his award-winning short documentary Night and Fog (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) and Muriel, or The Time of Return (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD), his 1963 drama of memory and regret starring the great Delphine Seyrig.

Classics and Cult:daughterofdawn

The Return of the Living Dead (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray)
Crimes of Passion (Arrow, Blu-ray+DVD)
Bad Moon (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray)
Cuba (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
Where’s Poppa? (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
Hoodlum (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Gang Related (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Outsider (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Gun the Man Down (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)

TV on disc:MagiciansS1

The Magicians: Season One (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD)
O.J.: Made in America (ESPN, Blu-ray+DVD)
Person of Interest: The Fifth and Final Season (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
Orphan Black: Season Four (BBC, Blu-ray, DVD)
The 100: The Complete Third Season (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
Royal Pains: Season Eight (Universal, DVD)
Bitten: The Final Season (eOne, DVD)

More new releases:ElvisNixon

Demolition (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
A Perfect Day (MPI, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Perfect Match (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
Kill Zone 2 (Well Go, Blu-ray, DVD)
My Best Friend (Lionsgate, DVD)
Underdogs (Anchor Bay, DVD)