DVD Obscura: 'Certain Women,' 'Baby Bump,' 'The Vietnam War,' '47 Meters Down' and More

DVD Obscura: 'Certain Women,' 'Baby Bump,' 'The Vietnam War,' '47 Meters Down' and More

Oct 06, 2017

Certain Women

What's new in the wonderful world of physical media? Here's a roundup of recent titles. 

New Indie

She’s been killing it in everything from Big Little Lies to the revived Twin Peaks, but your tour through Laura Dern’s amazing recent work isn’t complete without Certain Women (The Criterion Collection), which places her in a powerhouse ensemble of actresses that includes Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams and Lily Gladstone. (You say you’ve never heard of Lily Gladstone? After seeing her work here, you’ll never forget her.)

Writer-director Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy) doesn’t hammer home her ideas, or even connect obvious dots between several disparate storylines, but this drama is nonetheless quietly powerful and affecting, and well deserving of the Criterion treatment, as always among the industry’s best for people who still care about supplements and interviews to go with top-flight audio and video presentation.

Also available: 2017’s indie powerhouse The Big Sick (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) stars Kumail Nanjiani in an autobiographical love story that balances comedy and tragedy; no Priscilla here, but this Queen of the Desert (Shout Factory) from director Werner Herzog stars Nicole Kidman, James Franco and Robert Pattinson in a stirring true story of feminist empowerment; and speaking of strong women, working-class masseuse Salma Hayek takes on a tableful of oblivious one-percenters in the satirical comedy Beatriz at Dinner (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).

Zoe Lister-Jones and Adam Pally play an unhappy couple who puts their marital arguments to music in the hilarious Band Aid (Shout Factory); acclaimed indie horror It Comes at Night (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) pits two families against a post-apocalyptic world; country singer Lauren Alaina takes The Road Less Traveled (Shout Factory) in this family drama.

Sean Penn directs Charlize Theron in The Last Face (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), a drama that has Theron and Javier Bardem falling in love as surgeons in an African war zone; brother and sister awkwardly fall for the same fella in the festival favorite I Love You Both (Magnolia Home Entertainment); Sam Elliott plays an aging Sam-Elliott-only-less-successful–type actor in the drama The Hero (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).


New Foreign

Now that Twin Peaks is over, is there a void in your life that can only be filled by the surreal, the bizarre, the squishy? Look no further than the outrageous Polish import Baby Bump (Altered Innocence). Young Mickey has a body whose out-of-control changes are leaving him flummoxed. Babied by his mother, he starts a business at school selling his untainted urine to classmates for drug tests. Funny, strange, gorgeous and incomparable, this one’s like no coming-of-tale you’ve ever seen.

Also available: Thailand’s entry for this year’s Academy Awards, By the Time It Gets Dark (KimStim) sees a filmmaker attempting to interpret the country’s history by making a movie about it; two Italian psychiatric patients bust out of a facility and take off in the road comedy Like Crazy (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment); in the Israeli farce The Wedding Plan (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), Michal gets dumped by her fiancé one month before the wedding but decides to find a replacement without changing the date of the ceremony; the sexy Spanish short film Doors Cut Down (Altered Innocence) follows the very busy comings-and-goings at a mall men’s room.

Toni Servillo (The Great Beauty) plays a man called to fill in for his missing twin brother – who happens to be a politician – in the comedy Viva La Liberta (Icarus Films); in a Mexican remake of an Indian comedy, 3 Idiotas (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) sees two college chums trying to fix the love life of an old pal they haven’t seen in years; Nise: The Heart of Madness (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment) stars Gloria Pires as the real-life psychiatrist who created art therapy as an alternative to electroshock.


New Documentary

Ken Burns has established himself as a master of the long-form documentary, and he’s been acclaimed yet again for the powerful The Vietnam War (PBS), which aired in September. He and Lynn Novick spent ten years on the film, which includes testimony from nearly 100 witnesses (on both sides) as well as digitally remastered archive footage from around the world. This ten-disc set includes 100 minutes of extra bonus footage, so even if you were glued to your set, there’s still more to see.

Also available: Legendary percussionist (and Police-man) Stewart Copeland collaborates with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in Dare to Drum (Kino Lorber); get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the worst movies ever made -- The Creeping Terror, which is also an extra on this Blu-ray – with this hilariously revealing The Creep Behind the Camera (Synapse Films); in Stray Dog (Bullfrog Films), director Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) focuses on a Vietnam veteran seeking his slice of the American Dream; Big Pacific (PBS), narrated by Daniel Kae Kim, takes a literal deep dive into one of the planet’s biggest bodies of water and the many species that live therein.

Cannes award-winner Cinema Novo (Icarus Films) pays tribute to the filmmakers behind Brazil’s New Wave; somehow, 20 years have passed since Hype! (Shout Factory) first explored Nirvana, Pearl Jam and other vital artists in the Pacific Northwest’s grunge scene; Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark (PBS) lets us follow National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore as he pays tribute to global biodiversity; Canadian filmmaker Richard Brouillete asks hard questions about world economics and political philosophy in a pair of documentaries, Encirclement and Oncle Bernard (both from IndiePix Films).


New Grindhouse

47 Meters Down (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) was originally destined to go directly to DVD, but its theatrical detour made it one of the sleeper hits of 2017. The kind of lean-and-mean feature that used to prop up our nation’s drive-ins, this chilling underwater tale stars Mandy Moore and Claire Holt as sisters whose Mexican shark-diving expedition takes a deadly turn when their cage gets stuck in the ocean. Suspenseful and thrilling, this is a solid B-movie for an era that barely knows how to make them anymore.

Also available: In Phenomena (Synapse Films) (aka Creepers), Dario Argento pits young Jennifer Connelly (as a girl who can communicate psychically with insects) against a serial killer; a young woman juggles personal growth and survival as she flees zombies in It Stains the Sands Red (Dark Sky Films); shine your spikey balls for Phantasm: 5-Movie DVD Collection (Well Go USA Entertainment), the perfect accompaniment for your Halloween horror all-nighter; cult fave Ben Wheatley executive-produces the British psychological thriller The Ghoul (Arrow).

2:22 (Magnolia Home Entertainment) is the time for terror in this thriller starring Teresa Palmer and Game of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman; even by Lucio Fulci’s own standards, Don’t Torture a Duckling (Arrow) is one of the most unsettling of his giallo epics; a South Korean ex-cop finds himself joining a crime empire after he’s thrown into The Prison (Well Go USA Entertainment); the acclaimed A Dark Song (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory) follows a desperate mother’s turn to black magic in the hopes of contacting her dead son.

Dan O’Bannon’s Lovecraft adaptation The Resurrected (Scream Factory) makes its Blu-ray debut in a new 2K transfer; Danny Trejo returns as the devil’s servant in the supernatural Western Dead Again in Tombstone (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment); in The Devil’s Candy (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory), a metal-head and his family find out too late why they got such a great deal on a deserted house; Song Yue (who also wrote and directed) is the Iron Protector (Well Go USA Entertainment) in this action saga that mixes Kung Fu and superheroics.


New Classic

Showing no signs of slowing down on the eve of her 80th birthday, Jane Fonda has created a unique legacy as an actress and producer. Dismissed early on as a beauty who happened to be “Henry’s daughter,” Fonda made her critics sit up and take notice with Sydney Pollack’s powerful They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), a look at the horrors of Depression-era America through the eyes of the desperate contestants of a dance marathon. The film is one big gut-punch, but it’s Fonda’s ferocity that really puts it across. Now available in Blu-ray, this is a film that isn’t discussed nearly as much as it should, and it’s must viewing for those who’ve missed it.

Also available: Hollywood’s 1950s obsession with 3D lasted less than a year, but that was time enough for A-list directors like Raoul Walsh to give us a Western like Gun Fury 3D (Twilight Time), starring Rock Hudson; Steve Martin is The Man with Two Brains (Warner Archive Collection) in one of the best of his early, anarchic screen appearances; Love with the Proper Stranger (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) is the goal of both Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen in this romantic favorite; before Michael Keaton was Batman he was Mr. Mom (Shout Factory), now available in a Collector’s Edition.

Yes, that is baby Joaquin Phoenix blasting off with Lea Thompson and Kate Capshaw in the ’80s fave SpaceCamp (Kino Lorber Studio Classics); would you believe Steve Martin in My Blue Heaven (Warner Archive Collection) is playing the same guy as Ray Liotta in GoodFellas? It’s true; Alfred Hitchcock made a grand Hollywood entrance with the wonderfully chilling and romantic Rebecca (The Criterion Collection); The Moderns: Collector’s Edition (Shout Factory) celebrates Alan Rudolph’s gorgeous homage to the literary and artistic men and women who made Paris the place to be between the world wars.

With the sequel in theaters, there’s no better time to revisit Blade Runner: The Final Cut (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment), now available in stunning 4K; German silent stars Emil Jannings and Lya De Putti topline the deliciously lurid (and very pre-Code) circus drama Varieté (Kino Classics); often praised for its haunting film-noir cinematography, Robert Aldrich’s The Big Knife (Arrow Academy) finally gets a Blu-ray release, complete with a commentary from experts Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton; you really have to see Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Shout Factory) to believe that anyone thought it was a good idea to have Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees make their way through the Beatles catalog in this unhinged cult classic.

Even as a ghost, Cary Grant’s got all the charms and all the funny lines in Topper (VCI Entertainment), now available in hi-def; one of Arthur Penn’s finest films, Night Moves (Warner Archive Collection) stars Gene Hackman as a detective searching for a young runaway played by Melanie Griffith; Woody Allen goes dramatic in September (Twilight Time), a film he completely reshot with many cast changes after being unsatisfied with his original version; Big Business Girl (Warner Archive Collection) Loretta Young climbs the corporate ladder, where she isn’t afraid to show a little leg.

Today’s tattooed hipsters have got nothing on Rod Steiger as The Illustrated Man (Warner Archive Collection) in this anthology film based on stories by Ray Bradbury; when Michael Haneke directs Isabelle Huppert, you know things are going to get dark, and they do in the acclaimed The Piano Teacher (The Criterion Collection); Mario Bava goes full swashbuckler in the Viking epic Erik the Conqueror (Arrow).


New TV

The bright satire of Evelyn Waugh has provided fodder for plenty of great film and TV (or both, in the case of Brideshead Revisited) – now it’s given us the three-part BBC series Decline and Fall (Acorn TV), about a would-be priest (comedian Jack Whitehall), who’s reduced to taking a teaching position at a cruddy boarding school run by David Suchet. Hope appears in the attractive form of Eva Longoria, as the mother of an American student, who might turn our hero’s luck around. Witty and charming, and rich in period detail, this one’s going to tickle anyone with a Brittanic taste in TV.

Also available: If you love Debra Messing on the newly-resuscitated Will & Grace and Wendie Malick as the world’s worst mother – equine or human – on Bojack Horseman, then you won’t want to miss their respective breakouts in Ned and Stacey: The Complete Series (Shout Factory) and Just Shoot Me: The Complete Series (Shout Factory); find out why fans came to the rescue of Timeless: Season One (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and where Liam Neeson’s character developed that particular set of skills in the prequel series Taken: Season 1 (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).

We live in an era of entirely too much TV, but a good binge or two will bring you up to speed on the new fall season: check out The Flash: The Complete Third Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment), Narcos: Season Two (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), The Goldbergs: Season 3 and The Goldbergs: Season 4 (both Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and Lethal Weapon: The Complete First Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment), and you’ll be caught up on weekly episodes in no time.

If your tastes are more archival, there’s some classic comedy from yesteryear to be found in The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series, Volumes 1-6 and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends: The Complete Collection (Time Life), as well as Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete First Season (Time Life). You bet your bippy.

For British and Australian favorites, Acorn TV has you covered with popular shows like The Heart Guy, Series 1; Rake, Series 3; Janet King, Series 3: Playing Advantage; and Line of Duty, Series 4. And finally, for the young’uns, Shout Kids offers the outrageous animated adventures Kuu Kuu Harajuku: Super Kawaii and P. King Duckling: Seize the Day.

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