DVD Obscura: 'Personal Shopper,' 'Aquarius,' 'Dawson City: Frozen Time' and More Home Video Picks

DVD Obscura: 'Personal Shopper,' 'Aquarius,' 'Dawson City: Frozen Time' and More Home Video Picks

Nov 16, 2017

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

New Indie

Personal ShopperAs folks start prepping their “Best of 2017” lists, anyone who missed Personal Shopper (The Criterion Collection) in theaters earlier this year needs to get caught up. Re-teaming with her Clouds of Sils Maria director Olivier Assayas, Kristen Stewart gives another performance that proves that the former Twilight star has matured into one of this generation’s finest actresses. This isn’t your usual ghost story, although the characters are definitely haunted by the past and by people who are no longer around. (You’ll never look at texting the same way after seeing Stewart receive messages that might be coming from beyond.) Provocative and chilling, this one definitely ranks among the year’s finest.

Also available: An intense Asian mom becomes an even more ferocious grandma when her gay son and his American partner become dads in the charming comedy Baby Steps (Gravitas Ventures); the lives of several New Yorkers intertwine in the offbeat Person to Person (Magnolia Home Entertainment), with an ensemble that includes Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson, Philip Baker Hall and Michaela Watkins; Danny Glover and John C. McGinley co-star in The Good Catholic (Broad Green/Pigasus), about a devout priest who falls in love with a female parishioner.

Director David Lowery went from indies to Disney and back again with the low-budget, poignant A Ghost Story (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara; Bushwick (RLJ Entertainment) becomes a battleground as Dave Bautista and Brittany Snow fight for their lives in a new American civil war; some fundamentalist churches think that homosexuality can be “exorcised,” and the gay thriller A Closer Walk with Thee (Altered Innocence) takes this nutty notion to its logical conclusion.


New Foreign

Teaming up Brazil’s hottest young filmmaker (Kleber Mendonça Filho, Neighboring Sounds) with one of that country’s legendarily sexy film icons (Sonia Braga) is just part of what makes Aquarius (Kino Lorber) so extraordinary. As a woman fighting steadfastly to keep developers from tearing down her beachside apartment building – of which she is the sole tenant who has refused to vacate – Braga stands in for anyone who appreciates history and culture over the rapaciousness of capitalist “progress.” Intense and funny, this is a vital film that reflects our times and our world.

Also available: Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot star in The Midwife (Music Box Films) as two women who come together in very unusual circumstances; the gay YA romance Center of My World (Altered Innocence) examines what happens when the hot new kid in school throws everyone’s lives off track; a convicted murderer who hijacked a plane to Cuba – and got away with it – tells his side of the story in The Skyjacker’s Tale (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment); God of War (Well Go USA Entertainment) sees Vincent Zhao and Sammo Hung battling 16th century Chinese pirates.

Acclaimed director João Pedro Rodrigues (Two Drifters, O Fantasma) returns with The Ornithologist (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment); Florence Pugh gives one of the year’s best-reviewed performances in the twisty, not-based-on-Shakespeare thriller Lady Macbeth (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); Pilgrimage (RLJ Entertainment) stars Tom Holland and Jon Bernthal (Spidey Meets the Punisher!) as crusaders beset upon from all sides as they transport a holy relic to Rome.


New Documentary

Capturing what must rank among the great cinematic archaeological finds of all time, Dawson City: Frozen Time (Kino Lorber) assembles together footage from 500 films dating back to the 1910s and 1920s, discovered beneath a sub-arctic swimming pool in the Yukon Territory, some 350 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Preserved perfectly by the permafrost, these extraordinary films capture the life of this town as it existed under the First Nation inhabitants as well as the later settlers who arrived during the Gold Rush. This documentary is a testament to the fragility of film stock and the power that its images can convey, even after a century.

Also available: It’s a good month to be a film history buff: Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (Kino Lorber/Zeitgeist) looks at the lifelong romance of two artists whose behind-the-scenes work was integral to many of the movies you love; The Champion: A Story of America’s First Film Town (Milestone Video) takes us to Fort Lee, New Jersey, the Hollywood of the 1910s (and this two-disc set includes eight films made there); The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille (Random Media) follows one man’s quest to find the City of the Pharaoh set from DeMille’s 1923 The Ten Commandments.

A Baltimore dance team faces off against stiff competition in Sundance hit Step (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment); one of country music’s legends comes alive in When Patsy Cline Was…Crazy (UMe), narrated by Rosanne Cash and featuring rare performances and new interviews; in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (Paramount Home Media), Al Gore returns to let us know that things aren’t getting any better with the environment.

Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago (MVD Visual) traces the 50-year history of the soft-rock legends; one of today’s angriest comedians shows no signs of mellowing out in Lewis Black: Black to the Future (MVD Visual); if you eat Meat (MPI Media Group), you may be disturbed by what this doc has to say about the effect of carnivores on the economy and the environment.


New Grindhouse

We just lost influential writer-director George Romero, but he did stick around long enough to know how important his work was and how much his vision rewrote an entire genre of film and television. Shout Factory offers two new Collector’s Editions that pay testament to the ongoing impact of his vision: Land of the Dead, which saw late-era Romero able to attract an all-star cast for his post-apocalyptic tale of the undead gone amok, and 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, Zack Snyder’s affectionate and punchy remake of Romero’s classic sequel. Without Romero, there’s no The Walking Dead or The Girl with All the Gifts or countless other modern-day zombie sagas.

Also available: If the new Twin Peaks made you fall in love with Kyle MacLachlan all over again, check out one of his greatest non-Lynch movies, the alien-manhunt thriller The Hidden (Warner Archive Collection); Linda Blair stars in Wes Craven’s Summer of Fear (Doppelganger Releasing), one of the director’s acclaimed made-for-TV chillers; see a director take two stabs at the same material – in this case, a haunted-elevator saga – with new Blu-rays of the Dutch hit The Lift and its less-beloved English-language remake Down (aka The Shaft) (both Blue Underground); The Green Slime (Warner Archive Collection) is riding an asteroid to earth, and it’s up to some groovy astronauts to stop it in this silly but fun escapade.

Zombies invade Greece, and only Billy Zane can stop them in Evil in the Time of Heroes (Doppelganger Releasing); a pregnant woman must fight off The Shadow Man (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) in this creepy thriller; we’re once again surrounded by Stephen King adaptations, so it’s the perfect time for a new 2K restoration of Children of the Corn (Arrow Video); the Vestron Video Collector’s Series of great, grimy 80s horror continues with Slaughter High (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) and a five-year reunion of bloody vengeance.

Muay Thai champ Buakaw Banchamek doesn’t let a damaged weapon keep him from becoming the Broken Sword Hero (Well Go USA Entertainment); Jackals (Scream Factory/TAP Inc.) uncovers the bloodier side of cult deprogramming; Maria Bello and Frank Grillo investigate a horrifying murder of college students in Demonic (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), produced by James Wan; Herschell Gordon Lewis’ groundbreakingly gory Blood Feast (MVD Visual) goes hi-def in a reissue that includes pints and pints of extras.

A decade after its theatrical release, The Poughkeepsie Tapes (Scream Factory) finally makes it chilling debut on Blu-ray and DVD; Andy’s back in the all-new Cult of Chucky, available on its own or as part of Chucky: Complete 7-Movie Collection (both Universal Pictures Home Entertainment); first-wave giallo hit The Suspicious Death of a Minor (Arrow Video) returns with a new 2K restoration; based on a popular TV series, The Game Changer (Well Go USA Entertainment) sets two brothers against a powerful gangster in 1930s Shanghai.

The Survivalist (Shout Factory/IFC Midnight) does everything possible to keep a future dystopia away from his tiny piece of property; a sniper has six hours to take down six targets in the British thriller Age of Kill (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); telekinetics have their Mind Blown (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) when they realize a government program is using their powers for evil.


New Classic

Perhaps no artists in the history of cinema have been more passionately loved or roundly disliked than Moe, Larry and Curly (let alone Shemp or Curly Joe). But if you’re a fan of this legendary band of violent slapstick creators, The Three Stooges: Big Box of Nyuks (Mill Creek Entertainment) offers some fascinating deep cuts from the Stooges’ history. If you want the original classic shorts, you’ll need to look elsewhere, but this collection offers plenty of Stooge-iana, including six feature films, their animated series, a documentary, the biographical TV movie, and much more.

Also available: Bill Condon dug back into his footage to create Dreamgirls: Director’s Extended Edition (Paramount Home Media), offering even more delights for fans of this musical saga; two fugitives and an author attempt to escape the ship of The Sea Wolf (Warner Archive Collection) in this thriller starring Edward G. Robinson and Ida Lupino; Garry Marshall kicked off his directorial career with the loopy Young Doctors in Love (Kino Classics), which crosses Airplane! and medical soap operas; one of Jon Cryer’s more daring screen roles came in Penelope Spheeris’ underrated punk western Dudes (Shout Factory).

Superman: The Movie – Extended Cut & Special Edition (Warner/DC) offers two alternate versions of the beloved Richard Donner saga that superhero fans will love; both Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke won Oscars for their powerful work in Arthur Penn’s The Miracle Worker (Olive Films); Stanley Kubrick’s stealth comedy Barry Lyndon (The Criterion Collection) gets more and more of the recognition it deserves with each passing year; never released in the United States, Federico Fellini’s final film Voice of the Moon (Arrow Academy) offers plenty for his admirers to admire.

If you want watch your first silent film (or show someone else their first one), you can’t go wrong by starting with F.W. Murnau’s heartbreaking, hilarious and innovative The Last Laugh (Kino Classics); sexual harassment is in the headlines again, but Loretta Young was fighting off exploitive employers back in 1933’s She Had to Say Yes (Warner Archive Collection); Arnold Schwarzenegger crossed over into legit acting in Bob Rafelson’s offbeat Stay Hungry (Olive Films) opposite Jeff Bridges and Sally Field; if you didn’t brush up on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (The Criterion Collection), then there’s no way you kept up with this summer’s series reboot.

Even after all this time, if E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: 35th Anniversary Limited Edition (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you’re dead inside; second banana extraordinaire Edward Everett Horton gets a rare leading role in the pre-code comedy Wide Open (Warner Archive Collection); Helen Mirren and the late Nigel Hawthorne shine in The Madness of King George (Olive Films), making Americans feel sympathy for the monarchs we overthrew back in the day; if you’re a fan of vintage Godard – and if you’re not, that makes me sad – you won’t want to miss crisp new Blu-rays of Le Gai Savoir and La Chinoise (Kino Classics)

It’s Miyazaki time, with GKids and Shout Factory offering brand new hi-def releases of such modern classics Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind; I know we’re all excited about Jamie Lee Curtis returning to Halloween, but my favorite movie of hers will probably always be A Fish Called Wanda (Arrow Video); if Santa is bringing you a new 4K home theater, get ready by stocking up on new 4K releases like Warrior and Kick-Ass (both Lionsgate Home Entertainment); Al Pacino and Gene Hackman make a rare on-screen team-up in the acclaimed 1970s drama Scarecrow (Warner Archive Collection); the manic energy and humor of Three O’Clock High (Shout Factory) has made it endure as a cult classic of the 80s.


New TV

Hey, the holidays are right around the corner, and nothing looks quite so great under the tree as a big, glossy box set. Delight the TV completists in your life with some great collections now available, including legendary sitcoms Green Acres: The Complete Series (Shout Factory) and Mama’s Family: The Complete Series (Time-Life); the work of brilliant TV innovators like The Best of the Carol Burnett Show (Time-Life) and the unique game-show stylings of Ernie Kovacs: Take a Good Look – The Definitive Collection (Shout Factory); or beloved animated series like Drawn Together: The Complete Collection (Comedy Central Home Entertainment) and Samurai Jack: The Complete Series (Adult Swim/Turner). Santa would approve.

Also available: When Calls the Heart: Year Four (The Television Movie Collection) (Shout Factory) proves that delicious Hallmark Channel schmaltz isn’t just for Christmas; the clones are still kicking ass on Orphan Black: Season Five (BBC); if you’ve moved on to hating Cult, maybe it’s time to give American Horror Story: Roanoke (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) another shot; Pierce Brosnan goes all There Will Be Blood on the acclaimed oil saga The Son: Season One (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).

The Doctor Who spin-off Class: Season One (BBC) offers some fun genre twists, while the visually extravagant American Gods: Season One (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) carves out a whole new territory of its very own; he’s undeniably a TV legend, and Richard Simmons: Sweatin’ to the Oldies: The Complete Collection – 30th Anniversary Edition (Time-Life) captures a highlight of the Golden Age of Aerobics; explore the complicated history of a nation built by immigrants in the docu-series America: Promised Land (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).

The weather outside is frightful, so what better time to cozy up with Acorn’s amazing line-up of international intrigue and science fiction? New highlights include Marcella, Season 1; Vera, Set 7; Midsomer Murders, Series 19, Part 2; Loch Ness, Series 1; and Humans 2.0.

Watch your back on Ripper Street: Season Five (BBC); catch up with one of network TV’s most talked-about sitcoms with The Good Place: The Complete First Season (Shout Factory); Lifetime continues their string of biopics you love to hate with Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); and House of Cards: Season Five (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) is a thing that exists, and what you do with that information is up to you at this point.

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