DVD Obscura: 'The Florida Project,' 'Blade of the Immortal,' 'Night of the Living Dead' and More

DVD Obscura: 'The Florida Project,' 'Blade of the Immortal,' 'Night of the Living Dead' and More

Mar 15, 2018

New Indie

The Florida ProjectFor a straight white guy, writer-director Sean Baker tells some of the most compassionate and empathetic stories about marginalized communities. The man behind Tangerine and Starlet returns with The Florida Project (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), a powerful tale of a young girl (played indelibly by Brooklynn Prince) and her barely-getting-by mother (Bria Vinaite) as they eke out a day-to-day existence in a Crayola-colored motel in the shadow of Walt Disney World. Willem Dafoe received richly deserved Oscar and Independent Spirit nominations for his turn as the hotel’s compassionate manager. Not always an easy watch – and I love the ending, even though it’s been divisive – this is a powerful and heartfelt story of people just trying to make it in the world.

Also available: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) stirred up controversy but also won Oscars for Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, so check it out for yourself; Matt Bomer stars as a father whose hunting trip with his son goes terrifyingly awry in the tense Walking Out (Shout Factory); Bryan Cranston and Tom Wilkinson recently took a stab at playing our 36th president, but Rob Reiner’s LBJ (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) gives Woody Harrelson his moment in the Oval Office during a cataclysmic moment in the nation’s history.


New Foreign

Outside of hardcore cineastes, most Americans have never heard of Japanese filmmaking legend Takashi Miike, but let us salute this master director on his 100th – that’s one-zero-zero – feature, Blade of the Immortal (Magnolia Home Entertainment). The man behind 13 Assassins certainly knows his way around a samurai picture, and this one stars Takuya Kimura (2046) as a swordsman cursed with immortality and forced to fight evil in the hopes of regaining his soul. If you’ve never experienced the thrill of Miike’s work, this is a great place to start.

Also available: The acclaimed biopic Tom of Finland (Kino Lorber), about the legendary artist who redefined homoeroticism, goes great with the documentary on his life, the newly-reissued Daddy and the Muscle Academy (Zeitgeist/Kino Lorber); a talented young footballer wants to be Just Charlie (Wolfe) but their emerging trans identity throws Charlie’s sports ambitions and family life into upheaval; The Girl Without Hands (Shout/GKIDS), the hand-drawn feature debut of animator Sébastien Laudenbach, has won awards all over Europe.

Set in Communist-dominated 1980s Czechoslovakia, the dark comedy The Teacher (Film Movement) satirizes life in a totalitarian society; three teen boys get into summertime trouble in the haunting, award-winning Canadian import Sleeping Giant (Altered Innocence).

Traditional Mexican machismo gets a skewering in the gay comedy Hazlo Como Hombre (Do It Like an Hombre) (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); a riotous Foam Party! (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment) sees 14 characters of all sexual stripes finding love among the suds; Sebastian (Wolfe) is an Argentine who visits Toronto and falls in love – with his cousin’s boyfriend.


New Documentary

We have come to romanticize the struggling filmmaker and his or her tales of squeaking by on maxed-out credit cards, favors from friends, and craft services provided by mom. But sometimes there’s a story to be told about the pitfalls of having too many resources. Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno (Arrow Academy) examines a legendary, never-finished film by a director at the top of his game; after Diabolique and The Wages of Fear, Clouzot could pretty much write his own ticket, and he wound up having so much time and money to make his next film that he never completed the dang thing. This riveting documentary takes a compelling peek behind the curtain, and it should be required viewing for every Sundance sensation who gets handed the keys to a big studio movie.

Also available: Quest (First Run Features) spends eight years with a black family in North Philadelphia, and through them we get a fascinating look at race and class in America; the legendary drag dance troupe Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo are ready for their closeup in the charming Rebels on Pointe (Icarus Films); the world of contemporary art is still trying to figure out the impact of the internet, and #artoffline (IndiePix Films) attempts to answer some of those questions.

Add I Am Somebody: Three Films by Madeline Anderson (Icarus Films) to your #52FilmsbyWomen list and enjoy a trio of powerful documentaries (featuring Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz) from this essential filmmaker; governments around the world are spying on their citizens with the use of the internet, according to the acclaimed and provocative Black Code (Music Box Films); The Sunshine Makers (FilmRise) introduces us to the men who tried to save the world with LSD back in the 1960s; they’re Polluting Paradise (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment) and putting up a parking lot (actually, a garbage dump) in this passionate environmental doc from director Fatih Akin (In the Fade).

And the IndiePix Festival Favorites collection has more terrific compilation discs: Volume 2 offers three docs that look at jazz culture around the world: Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense, Echotone and Roaring Abyss, while Volume 3 examines black issues in contemporary culture with The Nine Lives of Marion Berry, The Vanishing Black Male and In His Own Home.


New Grindhouse

Because of legal technicalities, George A. Romero’s influential classic Night of the Living Dead (The Criterion Collection) has been a public domain title for decades; as such, there have been any number of cruddy, muddy transfers released by video companies out to make a quick buck. What a delight, then, that The Criterion Collection has given this important American film the platform it so deserves: the 4K restoration was carried out by the Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation (under Romero’s supervision), and this Blu-ray includes a never-before-seen work-print edit of the film (titled Night of Anubis); testimonials from Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro and Robert Rodriguez; and all the bells and whistles any zombie fan could ever want.

Also available: Bugs and nightmares and cults in Michele Soavi’s giallo fave The Sect (Scorpion Releasing), produced by Dario Argento; Scalpel (Arrow) gave legendary cinematographer Ed Lachman one of his earliest gigs with this creepy plastic-surgery chiller; serial killer Victor Crowley (Dark Sky Films) comes back to life in the fourth entry in the Hatchet franchise; retire your VHS copy, Gate II (Scream Factory) is now available in a definitive new Blu-ray edition.

Pinhead is back, and Heather Langenkamp’s got him in Hellraiser: Judgment (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); Danielle Harris battles the supernatural in a hospital of horrors in Inoperable (Cinedigm); House of Demons (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) is a terrible place to hold a destination wedding, as Amber Benson learns far too late to get her deposit back.

Armed goons come after a high-schooler in Kill Order (RLJ Entertainment), but he’s not giving up without a fight; Sam Raimi gives the PG-13 horror flick a good name with the deliriously terrifying Drag Me to Hell (Scream Factory); Basket Case (Arrow) gets a lavish Blu-ray release, complete with new director-star commentary and stunning 4K restoration; the director of Infernal Affairs returns with a new breathless crime saga, Extraordinary Mission (Cinedigm/Crimson Forest)

A family hostage situation streams live on the web, and horrified onlookers around the world Keep Watching (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); Herschell Gordon Lewis’ dark comedy The Gruesome Twosome (Arrow) lives up to its titular adjective; and we begin and end with Romero, as Day of the Dead: Bloodline (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) reimagines the Pittsburgh horror master’s original.


New Classic

While Hayao Miyazaki has made any number of unassailable classics, it’s a film by his Studio Ghibli Partner Isao Takahata, Pom Poko (GKIDS/Shout Factory), that has a special place in my heart. An ecological fable about tanuki (raccoon-dogs) who relearn their ancient shape-shifting powers in an attempt to keep developers from destroying their forest, the film contains a uniquely Ghibli-esque mix of humor, pathos and outrageous visuals. Maybe not for kids – the male tanuki’s testicles play a key role in the plot – Pom Poko is nonetheless a must-see anime classic. (Also out from Shout/GKIDS this month is Tales from Earthsea, Gorô Miyazaki’s adaptation of the books by Ursula K. LeGuin.)

Also available: Another female filmmaking legend you might not have heard of is cinema pioneer Lois Weber – get to know her vital work with the release of two of her 1916 titles, The Dumb Girl of Portici and Shoes (both from Milestone Films); Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway generate such raw sex appeal in The Thomas Crown Affair (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) that it doesn’t matter that the plot barely makes sense; Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection (Mill Creek Entertainment) offers five feature films and more than 20 hours of TV performances by this legendary comedy duo; and speaking of things the French like, Jean-Luc Godard + Jean-Pierre Gorin: Five Films, 1968-1971 (Arrow Academy) examines one of Godard’s more politically radical moments as a filmmaker, in an edition that comes with a 100-page booklet with new English translations of both artists' writings.

Influential, quotable and still totally creepy, The Silence of the Lambs returns to The Criterion Collection (which originally released the film on laserdisc) with a new 4K restoration; if, like me, you have a soft-spot for 1960s soft-core comedies, check out the anthology film The Oldest Profession (Kino Classics) – featuring a Godard segment! – and Tony Curtis and Monica Vitti in The Chastity Belt (Warner Archive Collection); now that you’ve seen the Netflix reboot, go back to where it all started with the indie kid classic Benji (Mill Creek Entertainment), on Blu-ray for the first time ever.

Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) sees William Katt and Sean Young rescuing a living dinosaur from poachers; Burt Lancaster gets one of his best roles in Birdman of Alcatraz (Olive Films), but it also earned the great Thelma Ritter her sixth and final Oscar nomination; Paul Newman is a swinging detective in two tongue-in-cheek thrillers, Harper and The Drowning Pool (both Warner Archive Collection); acclaimed indie Hell or High Water (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) gets the full 4K treatment.

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. is a ne’er-do-well with eyes for young heiress Loretta Young in the delightfully titled I Like Your Nerve (Warner Archive Collection); in The Incident (Twilight Time), young thugs Martin Sheen and Tony Musante hold a subway car of character actors (including the aforementioned Thelma Ritter) hostage; the Age of Aquarius dawns anew in Milos Forman’s joyous screen adaptation of Hair (Olive Films); Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (both Paramount) get 4K reissues just as the new version hits theaters.

Goodness gracious, Dennis Quaid goes large to play rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis in the biopic Great Balls of Fire! (Olive Films); there are musical shenanigans of an entirely different stripe in Orchestra Rehearsal (Arrow Academy), a later Fellini comedy; and don’t miss Emir Kusturica’s award-winning 1996 comedy Underground (Kino Classics), making its Blu-ray debut.


New TV

If you can’t go through a day without quoting Buddy Cole or the Chicken Lady or Kathy & Cathy, curl up with The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Collection (Mill Creek Entertainment), a box set celebrating one of TV’s wildest and most anarchic sketch shows. The greatest Canadian comedic invasion since SCTV, this landmark series starring Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson was daffy and dada, trashy and cerebral, and a landmark of ’90s TV that hasn’t lost any of its hilarious zip.

Also available: James Franco plays twins in the brilliant The Deuce: The Complete First Season (HBO Home Entertainment), set in the early days of American porno, but Maggie Gyllenhaal steals the show; the British documentary series 100 Years of Horror (Mill Creek Entertainment) goes deep into the genre with clips and interviews any fan will scream for; Lee Van Cleef as a white ninja is one of the least silly things about The Master (Kino Lorber/CBS), but this entertainingly cheeseball series – perhaps best known as the basis of two Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes – has been remastered into hi-def for the first time.

Stockholm lawyer Rebecka Martinsson (Acorn TV) turns sleuth after a shocking murder takes place in her sleepy home town; Lucas Till keeps the improvised gadgets coming in the rebooted MacGyver: Season 1 (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); an odd but fascinating experiment in early TV, The Jackie Gleason Show in Color (Time Life) sees The Great One taking his show to Miami for a kitschy spectacle (including full-color “Honeymooners” sketches).

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