Out this month are two films whose characters suddenly find themselves in circumstances that change their worlds, prompting them to form otherwise-unlikely bonds with each other:
First we have The King of New Orleans, Brian R. Friedman’s independent film that follows New Orleans cabbie Larry Shirt (David Jensen, Ocean’s Eleven, The Mist, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as he drives everyone from across the social spectrum around the Big Easy. One of his fares is possibly-expelled Harvard student Bobby Cohn (Richard Brien, Nashville), and the two form a friendship later tested by the epic challenges of Hurricane Katrina. The film won multiple awards at the Napa Valley Film Festival, the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, and the New Orleans Film Festival, and it is the feature-length debut of Allen Frederic (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, People), who co-directed the film with creative team Coodie & Chike (Benji, Good Morning). The King of New Orleans will be out on digital platforms (including Amazon and iTunes) on February 21st (timed to tie in with Mardis Gras on the 28th) but is already available on DVD on Amazon for $14.99. No special features on this one, which is sad because it seems like such a heart-centered project for the creators (and I’m sure they have some crazy behind-the-scenes stories they could tell since it was filmed on location in New Orleans). If you simply love independent film and/or New Orleans, though, this may be worth checking out.
Next is Arrival, the story of elite linguist and translator Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who, alongside physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), is called upon to form lines of communication with recently-landed aliens. The film has already won BAFTA, AFI, and Critics’ Choice Awards (among others) and has eight 2017 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. The film is now out on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD. The 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray formats also include over an hour of bonus features surrounding the themes of how we understand time and language, including: a 30-minute feature on xenolinguistics (the study of hypothetical alien language), a talk with Sylvain Bellemare, Michelle Child, and Dave Whitehead about the intricate sound design and the role it plays in the storytelling, Johann Johannson discussing the score, and two featurettes that examine how the filmmakers approached the human processes of linear thinking, time perception, memory, and language. On Amazon, the DVD is $14.99 (remember, no bonus features), the Blu-ray is $19.99, and the 4K Combo Pack is $24.99. Both iTunes and Amazon Video also offer the option to rent or purchase digitally (for $5.99 and $14.99 respectively). With this one I’d suggest (1) taking into account how important sound is to the film and how each format works with your home’s particular sound system, and (2) noting that the 80 minutes of extras (which are pretty cool) add up to a feature-film-length amount of bonus content, so if you’re choosing between the DVD and one of the other formats, that might be a deciding factor.