DVD Obscura: 'Call Me By Your Name,' 'The Assistant,' 'Faces Places' and More

DVD Obscura: 'Call Me By Your Name,' 'The Assistant,' 'Faces Places' and More

Apr 12, 2018

Call Me By Your Name

What tempting new releases have arrived on home video recently? Let's take a look!


New Indie

Call Me By Your NameWith Oscar season thankfully in our rear-view mirror, we can, in the words of one online pundit, start treating movies like movies again, rather than as hills on which to die. And yes, Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) got a well-deserved Best Adapted Screenplay statuette, but it’s a triumph in every category. Writer James Ivory and director Luca Guadagnino have transformed André Aciman’s novel into a love story for the ages, a beautiful gay romance that touches on the universal hesitancy and awkwardness of a first infatuation. The intuitive and empathetic Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer have real chemistry, but the film’s secret weapon is Michael Stuhlbarg’s understanding father. It’s a film you’ll want to return to, and the Blu-ray includes featurettes, a music video for one of the gorgeous Sufjan Stevens songs, and commentary by Chalamet and Stuhlbarg.

Also available: Speaking of the Academy Awards, great (and eccentric) films like I, Tonya (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment), The Shape of Water (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) and The Disaster Artist (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) stand as indies that are far too interesting to be dismissed as Oscar bait; a writer finds himself torn between his personal and professional lives in When the Starlight Ends (Cinedigm), which co-stars David Arquette and Sean Patrick Flanery.


New Foreign

The legendary Nathalie Baye – whose career spans Godard to Dolan – gets a meaty lead role in The Assistant (Icarus Films), as a woman serving up a chilly dish of revenge. Nine years after her son was killed by a hit-and-run driver, she becomes the driver’s administrative aide (unbeknownst to him, of course), and so quickly proves herself invaluable that she inveigles herself thoroughly in the man’s life. What’s her long game? You’ll have to find out for yourself in this suspenseful tale from directors Christophe Ali and Nicolas Bonilauri.

Also available: Swiss women rally for the right to vote – in the 1970s – in the acclaimed true story The Divine Order (Kino Lorber/Zeitgeist); if your kids don’t mind subtitles (or can speak French), they’ll want to tag along with Nicholas on Holiday (Icarus Films), a delightful family romp; you know about Hollywood and Bollywood, but if you aren’t familiar with Nollywood – Nigeria’s thriving film industry – you might start with Pastor Paul (IndiePix Films), director Jules David Bartkowski’s comedy set in the world of African production.

The darkly comic Spanish animated import Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (Shout/GKIDS) follows several young characters who might be able to change their grim, post-apocalyptic world; the latest round of IndiePix Festival Favorites, Volume 4 (IndiePix Films) explores women’s issues around the world with films from Romania (So Bright Is the View), Austria (Soldate Jeannette), and Greece (A Blast).


New Documentary

My absolute favorite film of 2017 is Agnès Varda and JR’s breathtakingly humane documentary Faces Places (Cohen Media Group), which follows the artists around France as they ply their respective trades: JR creates huge photographic installations, and here he captures the people of farm and factory towns and puts their faces on the sides of barns and buildings and water towers. Varda captures it all in her digital camera, radiating warmth and understanding even as she grapples with the impending loss of her eyesight in her 80s. It’s a moving examination of the power of images and of connection, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Also available: The still-vital activism of Dolores Huerta gets its due in the moving portrait Dolores (PBS); Miss Kiet’s Children (Icarus Films) are a mix of Dutch students and newly-arrived refugees, all sharing a classroom and the resilience of childhood; meet the real Frank Serpico (IFC Films), whose legendary stint on the NYPD inspired the movie; years after the fact, we’re still trying to figure out Who Killed Tupac? (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).


New Grindhouse

Brilliant and bloody, Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer (Well Go USA Entertainment) ranks among the greatest gangster movies ever made, and now for the first time it’s available on Blu-ray in a stunning 4K restoration. Nao Ohmori and Tadanobu Asano star as yakuza on the hunt for a killer, and it’s a fascinating, horrifying and sometimes even hilarious ride. This new edition includes a commentary with Miike and Hideo Yamamoto, the creator of the original manga on which the film is based.

Also available: Cult favorite Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (Scream Factory) sees a serial killer inviting a documentary crew to follow him around, and this new Collector’s Edition comes loaded with extras; two delectably creepy and fun Hammer Films Double Features serve up old-school scares: Never Take Candy from a Stranger / Scream of Fear! and Maniac / Die! Die! My Darling! (both Mill Creek Entertainment); The Church (Scorpion Releasing) is an ancient cathedral hiding an ancient evil, in this chiller from Michele Soavi.

Now that you’ve experienced the sequel, relive the chilling home invasion of the original The Strangers: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory); Black Eagle (MVD Rewind) offers up two VHS-era action icons – Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sho Kosugi – for the price of one; spaghetti Western enthusiasts get a double dose of excitement (and Ennio Morricone) with A Pistol for Ringo & The Return of Ringo: Two Films by Duccio Tessari (Arrow).


New Classic

In this era of streaming and archival home-video releases, we like to think that we have every movie ever made at our fingertips, but often even major titles will slip into some copyright limbo or other and be unavailable. Case in point: U.S audiences haven’t had easy access to Robert Altman’s 1972 thriller Images (Arrow Academy) for quite a while, so this new Blu-ray is exciting news for fans of the essential American auteur. Susannah York gives a wrenching performance as a housewife besieged by hallucinations – is she having an affair? Has she committed murder? If you like Altman at his most dreamlike (think 3 Women), this is one you may have missed and need to see.

Also available: Fifty years later, the historical sweep and the dark comedy of The Lion in Winter (Kino Lorber) retain their vitality, as do the powerful lead performances by Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole; Women in Love (The Criterion Collection) remains one of the high points of Ken Russell’s storied career, and this new Blu-ray celebrates its sweep and complexity; director Fritz Lang and actor Dana Andrews teamed up for two film noir classics, While the City Sleeps and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (both Warner Archive Collection).

Martin Scorsese and Edith Wharton team up for a one-of-a-kind New York story, the lush, aching period romance The Age of Innocence (The Criterion Collection); the first of several Joseph Wambaugh cop novels to make their way to the big screen, The New Centurions (Twilight Time) teams rookie policeman Stacy Keach with seen-it-all LAPD veteran George C. Scott; Mexican volcanoes unleash The Black Scorpion (Warner Archive Collection) on an unsuspecting populace in this campy monster epic.

Those movies you used to watch all the time on cable are back in fancy anniversary editions: The ’Burbs: Collector’s Edition (Shout Factory) offers a new digital restoration and interviews, The Dark Crystal (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) makes its 4K debut in a collectible book that also includes a new featurette, and The Sandlot: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) will kill you, Smalls.

Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dynamite (Kino Lorber) – aka Duck, You Sucker – teams James Coburn and Rod Steiger in one of the Italian auteur’s most grandiloquent action sagas; a legendary French filmmaker, playwright and actor is celebrated in the jam-packed collection Sacha Guitry: Four Films 1936-1938 (Arrow Academy); restored to 4K for its 30th anniversary, master filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Daughter of the Nile (Cohen Film Collection) mixes gangster epic and introspective drama as a brother and sister make their way through the edges of the Taipei underworld.


New TV

As collectible sets for TV shows go, The Wonder Years: The Complete Series (Time Life) takes display cases to the next level. A miniature metal locker houses 26 discs featuring one of the most beloved American dramedies; that’s 115 episodes plus some 23 hours of bonus features. But fret not: if you love Kevin and Winnie but just don’t have the shelf space for this ambitious presentation piece, you can instead pick up the slipcase edition, with a lean and mean 22 discs instead. Either way, you’ll relive the laughs and the heartaches of this 30-year-old classic, set to more than 300 period pop songs.

The Wonder Years

Also available: As the national debate about access to firearms continues, it’s a fitting time to check out Robert Altman Presents Gun (Mill Creek Entertainment), a fascinating anthology series (with an all-star cast) that follows the titular weapon from one owner to the next; they control the horizontal, they control the vertical on another classic anthology, The Outer Limits: Season One (Kino Lorber); it’s a seemingly perfect small town, but passions are roiling just beneath the surface on Peyton Place: Part Three (Shout Factory).

An Australian attorney juggles a busy home life and a full caseload in the dramedy Newton’s Law (Acorn TV); show off your new 4K system with Blue Planet II (BBC), a breathtakingly stunning dive beneath the oceans of our planet; Daniel Wu (Tomb Raider) gets to kick some ass in Into the Badlands: The Complete Second Season (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), which spotlights martial-arts mayhem and historical drama (with just a touch of Nick Frost, to boot).

Lily Tomlin burst out into the world on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Third Season (TimeLife); the Knights Templar set out to find the Holy Grail in Knightfall: Season One (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); Kim Dickens and company set to make sense of a world gone made with zombies in the compelling Fear the Walking Dead: The Complete Third Season (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).

Under its original subtitle (“The Wishing Tree”), When Calls the Heart: The Heart of Homecoming (Shout Factory) won the Hallmark Channel’s Merry Madness bracket of Christmas movies, so it’s got that going for it; your favorite Kiwi detectives return in The Brokenwood Mysteries, Series 4 (Acorn TV); Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart climbs her way back in the acclaimed spin-off The Good Fight: Season One (CBS/Paramount); Ashley Jensen captures the parade of life and death in the hilarious and moving Love, Lies & Records (Acorn TV).

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