DVD Obscura: 'Professor Marston,' 'The Square,' 'Chavela' and More Home Video Picks

DVD Obscura: 'Professor Marston,' 'The Square,' 'Chavela' and More Home Video Picks

Feb 20, 2018

New Indie

Professor Marston and the Wonder WomenNow that everyone has seen the amazing big-screen adventures of the Amazon princess, take a fascinating look at the lives of her creators in the lush biopic Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment). Writer-director Angela Robinson may play a little fast and loose with the facts – and really, what biopic doesn’t? – but this portrait of the comics-creating academic (played by Luke Evans) and the two women in his life (Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote) is an all-too-rare celebration of sexual progressivism, wrapped up in a wonderfully tweedy period piece. Gorgeous and provocative, with three riveting lead performances, this one belongs on the shelf of any movie-lover or, especially, comics-lover.

Also available: Emma Stone and Steve Carell relive the face-off between tennis greats Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in the acclaimed Battle of the Sexes (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment); if Nicole Kidman’s curls in The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) are giving you an Eyes Wide Shut vibe, that’s just the beginning of the connections between these two darkly brilliant and perverse sexual thrillers; Lucky (Magnolia Home Entertainment) features the last lead performance from the late, great Harry Dean Stanton; “indie animation” is still a fairly underpopulated genre, but My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea (Shout Factory/GKIDS) stands as a fine and funny example of it.

If current events (and The Post) have whetted your appetite for Watergate stories, check out Liam Neeson as informant “Deep Throat” in Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); a young woman goes In Search of Fellini (Ambi/Samuel Goldwyn) in this comedy co-written by Nancy Cartwright of The Simpsons; it’s a kitchen battle-royale – featuring comedy stars like Melissa McCarthy and Wendi McClendon-Covey – in the mockumentary Cook Off! (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); in Bitch (MPI Home Video), a housewife pushed to the brink lets her inner dog out, and it’s a mean one.

Danny Pudi is an immigrant trying to make good in 1970s America in the comedy The Tiger Hunter (Shout Factory); Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) follows vets Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne as they set out to bury one of their sons, who has just died in the Gulf War; a young girl escapes into a vivid fantasy life in the drama I Believe in Unicorns (IndiePix).


New Foreign

Nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar, The Square (Magnolia Home Entertainment) sees director Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure) once again taking comedy to the very edge of dark drama with this look at a free-wheeling museum curator who has to start backing up his platitudes about humanity and mutual understanding when he finds himself in one embarrassingly awkward scrape after another. Disturbing and thought-provoking – but always funny – The Square is bold enough to raise big questions but smart enough to make them answer them ourselves.

Also available: Filipino auteur Lav Diaz returns with the extraordinary The Woman Who Left (Kino Lorber), an epic tale of revenge and redemption; dreams and reality intertwine in the acclaimed anime feature Napping Princess (Shout Factory/GKIDS), from director Kenji Kamiyama; in Senegal’s Oscar entry, nightclub singer Félicité (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment) must go to extremes to save her son’s life.

Detective Jean Reno pursues international thief Andy Lau in the action-adventure The Adventurers (Well Go USA Entertainment); if Murder on the Orient Express left you hungry for more all-star Agatha Christie adaptations, the whodunit Crooked House (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) stars Glenn Close, Christina Hendricks, Terence Stamp and Gillian Anderson; a taxi driver battles bureaucracy in Johnny Ma’s psychological thriller Old Stone (Zeitgeist/Kino Lorber); Goodbye Christopher Robin (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) suggests that Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne (played here by Domnhall Gleeson) might not have been the greatest dad ever.

In the Dominican Republic import Woodpeckers (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment), male and female prisoners communicate their love with sign language through the bars; superheroes don’t have to be American, as Finland’s dazzling Rendel: Dark Vengeance (Shout Factory) demonstrates; fantasy adventure Legend of the Naga Pearls (Well Go USA Entertainment) features a winged tribe racing against time to prevent their own destruction.


New Documentary

While Mexico is infamous for a culture that insists upon strict adherence to gender roles, the fascinating documentary Chavela (Music Box Films) tells the story of legendary singer Chavela Vargas, who became a national icon despite her butch presentation and refusal to follow the rules set out for female singers. The film takes us through her extraordinary life and times – Frida Kahlo was one of her many lovers – and what emerges is a portrait of a great artist who was also, in her own way, a revolutionary.

Also available: Based on the essential book by Siegfried Kracuaer, From Caligari to Hitler (Kino Lorber) traces the early, vital history of German cinema; young orchestra mavens grab the baton in Conduct! Every Move Counts (Film Movement); Nasser’s Republic: The Making of Modern Egypt (Icarus Films) offers a slice of 20th century Egyptian history set during the Middle East’s tumultuous post-WWII years.

Extending from World War II to the modern day, Aida’s Secrets (Music Box Films) tear a family apart before bringing them back together decades later; a gay filmmaker tracks down all the guys he’s slept with, and in so doing tracks the modern LGBT civil rights movement, in 100 Men (MPI Home Video).

Italian legend Roberto Rossellini melds documentary and neorealism in Viva L’Italia (Arrow Academy), a portrait of Giuseppe Garibaldi commissioned for Italy’s centenary; in Red Trees (Cohen Media Group), director Marina Willer traces her father’s journey as one of only 12 Jewish families to survive the Nazi occupation of Prague; artist Richard H Hambleton, a.k.a. Shadowman (Film Movement), is the subject of this examination of 1980s street art.


New Grindhouse

Fans of Dario Argento can delight in two new Blu-rays of works by the Italian horror maestro: 1987’s Opera (Scorpion Releasing) tells the horrifying tale of a young singer forced by a crazed fan to witness the murder of her friends while 1971’s often-underrated The Cat O’Nine Tails (Arrow) – in a 4K restoration – features American stars Karl Malden and James Franciscus, as well as a memorably jarring score by the great Ennio Morricone.

Also available: OK, so The Cloverfield Paradox didn’t rock anyone’s world, but beautiful new 4K formats will remind you how great Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane (both Paramount Home Media) still are; drive-in classic Macon County Line (Shout Factory) gets a Blu-ray release that keeps all the sleazy thrills intact and sharper then ever; Andy Lau battles bomb-planting terrorists in the Hong Kong hit Shock Wave (Cinedigm/Crimson Forest).

Bad Day for the Cut (Well Go USA Entertainment) sees a farmer turned violent vigilante when he seeks revenge for the murder of his mom; oh look, Jigsaw (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) is back, and he’s got new traps to set; Linda Blair fights to survive a deadly sorority initiation in the cult classic Hell Night (Scream Factory), now in a Blu-ray Collector’s Edition, featuring almost four hours of new bonus content.

The Italian horror anthology The Witches (Arrow Academy) features contributions from a bevy of acclaimed filmmakers, including Vittorio de Sica (whose segment stars Clint Eastwood), Luchino Visconti and Pier Paolo Pasolini; never ignore the No Solicitors (Cinedigm) sign, especially when it’s on the house owned by a brain surgeon played by Eric Roberts; 68 Kill (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory) pays tribute to gut-bucket grindhouse epics of yore with a mix of laughs and bloody thrills.


New Classic

For those of us who saw the film as teenagers in its original release, it’s a little disconcerting to realize that The Breakfast Club (The Criterion Collection) has been around long enough to rate "classic" status. And while some of John Hughes’ comedies have achieved "problematic fave" status, this 1985 drama still hits home with its parade of high school archetypes (the jock, the brain, the princess, the basket case, the criminal) brought to life sensitively and intuitively by, respectively, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson. Often imitated and occasionally satirized, this chamber piece retains its power through its understanding of universal adolescent angst.

Also available: Ingrid Bergman made her U.S. debut in Intermezzo (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), a 1939 remake of a Swedish film she’d starred in three years earlier, opposite Leslie Howard in a tale of two musicians in a torrid affair; after you see the early classics from the late, great Jerry Lewis, check out some of his later-period directorial efforts with the triple-feature DVD of Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the Water, Hook, Line & Sinker and 3 on a Couch (Mill Creek Entertainment); the beloved opening credits to a Blake Edwards comedy led a series of popular shorts, collected in The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) (Kino Lorber Animation); re-mastered and available in widescreen for the first time on home video, Rankin/Bass’ The Flight of Dragons (Warner Archive Collection) is an animated children’s epic ripe for rediscovery.

Director Paul Mazursky made his breakthrough with the swinger comedy Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (Twilight Time), which is both very much a product of its time and a universal examination of marital restlessness; Charley Chase: At Hal Roach – The Talkies, Volume One (1930-31) (Sprocket Vault) celebrates a comedy genius from cinema’s early days who rarely gets his due; speaking of under-recognized film greats, Claude Autant-Lara: Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied France (Criterion/Eclipse) celebrates a director whose style was rejected by the post-WWII New Wave, but films like Douce still pack a punch; Ken Russell’s gloriously baroque Gothic (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) imagines the laudanum-fueled holiday at Lord Byron’s that inspired Mary Shelley (played here by Natasha Richardson) to write Frankenstein.

Cheesy movie thrills compete with the real-life terror of the Cuban Missile Crisis in Joe Dante’s charming nostalgia piece Matinee (Shout Factory), starring John Goodman as a William Castle–esque huckster; GKIDS releases three more great Studio Ghibli animated classics: the moving Whisper of the Heart, charming adventure The Cat Returns and Isao Takahata’s beautifully illustrated My Neighbors the Yamadas; an all-star cast (including Oscar-winner Maximilian Schell) dramatizes the Nazi war-crimes trials in Judgment at Nuremberg (Kino Lorber Studio Classics); Richard Linklater once again captures disaffected youth with understanding and pungent wit in subUrbia (Warner Archive Collection).


New TV

It’s easy to get fed up with all the reboots and revamps and revivals going on in television these days, but it’s also worth nothing that one of the best shows on the air right now is a prequel to a recent hit. But even if you never watched Breaking Bad, you can still enjoy the pungent wit and darkly moving drama of Better Call Saul: Season Three (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment). Anchored by an extraordinary ensemble of actors – including Bob Odenkirk, Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn and Jonathan Banks – this is a superb character piece wrapped up in a first-rate comedy ensconced in a thrilling crime drama. If you aren’t already hooked, get your binge on.

Also available: Kids and adults alike are hooked on the open-hearted adventures of Steven Universe: The Complete First Season (Cartoon Network/Warner Bros.); best known for its theme song – and the movie version and revived TV show in its wake – S.W.A.T.: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment) is vintage 1970s cop action at its finest; another ’70s fave lives again with the hilarious Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Second Season (Time Life).

And if you prefer your TV in accented English, check out The Flame Trees of Thika (Hen’s Tooth Video), an acclaimed miniseries starring Hayley Mills; the Australian cop thriller East West 101, Series 1 (Acorn TV); and The Commander: The Complete Collection (Acorn TV), from Prime Suspect creator Lydia LaPlante.

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