New: Gay zombies vs. Bette Midler
Bad-boy Canadian filmmaker Bruce La Bruce has previously explored the world of porn (Skin Flick, Super 8 ½) and zombies (Otto, or Up with Dead People), and now he brings those two seemingly disparate genres together in L.A. Zombie (Strand Releasing Home Video; now available), not for viewers who are squeamish about sex or violence, much less the two put together. LaBruce teams up with international adult-film star François Sagat for a film that mixes chills, erotica, and a satirical view of urban gay culture.
For those of you who prefer your gay icons more old-school, there’s Bette Midler: The Showgirl Must Go On (Image Entertainment; available October 4), the Emmy-nominated special that captured Midler’s besequined Las Vegas act, which ran for 300 performances over nearly three years at Caesar’s Palace. Mixing everything from Big Band–era standards to Midler’s own mom-friendly radio hits, The Showgirl belongs in the library of hard-core fans of this one-of-a-kind entertainer.
When we talk about “world cinema” in this country, we are more often than not speaking of films from Europe and Asia, with the occasional South American import tossed in for good measure. So it’s exciting to check out Viva Riva! (Music Box Films Home Entertainment; now available), the first film from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to get a U.S. release. Writer-director Djo Tunda Wa Munga has gotten raves around the globe for his gritty crime drama, set in the underbelly of the Congo’s capital city, Kinshasa.
And speaking of new kinds of black screen images, the documentary White Wash (Virgil Films & Entertainment; available October 4) introduces us to the subculture of black surfers, who’ve remained all but invisible in media representations of the sport. The film explores the history of African-American contributions to surf culture and speaks with an interesting mix of pro surfers (including Kelly Slater), academics, and fans.
Classic: Lions, elephants, and the basement of the Alamo
That “Disney vault” we’re always hearing about seems to have its doors wide open lately — the 3-D theatrical reissue of The Lion King has topped the box-office two weeks running, not bad for what was basically a promotion for the new 3-D Blu-Ray The Lion King: Diamond Edition (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment; available October 4). Just in time for the holidays, this one comes available in a 2-Disc pack (Blu-Ray and standard), a 4-Disc (3-D Blu-Ray, 2-D Blu-Ray, standard, and digital copy) and even a whopping 8-Disc Trilogy, where they throw in two direct-to-DVD sequels.
I’m a bit more trad when it comes to Disney, so I was more psyched about the Dumbo: 70th Anniversary Edition (now available), also available in both Blu-Ray and standard DVD formats. They’ve restored this classic to its original, Walt-approved Technicolor brilliance, which means the “Pink Elephants on Parade” segment is even trippier than ever.
And speaking of mind-bending movies for the whole family, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (Warner Home Video; available October 4) makes its Blu-Ray debut. Sadly, the extras are all hold-overs from the original DVD release, but this movie is such a visual feast from start to finish that you’ll absolutely want to own it in high definition. (Another film from Tim Burton, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, comes out on Blu-Ray on the same day, but I’m totally Team Gene Wilder.)
Buster Keaton, one of the giants of silent comedy, gets some digital love, with his films Go West and Battling Butler (Kino Classics, now available) released in a gorgeous box set, mastered from original 35mm nitrate prints. Keaton fans will plotz over the extras, which include photos, screenplay excerpts, and an hour of audio of Keaton working out a script for the Wagon Train TV show.
One of my favorite groovy 1970s bloodsuckers, The Velvet Vampire, is one of four films featured on “Vampires, Mummies & Monsters” (Shout Factory; now available), a compilation disc featuring goodies from the Roger Corman collection. For one reasonable price, this set also gives you Grotesque, Time Walker, and Lady Frankenstein, all of which will make great video wallpaper at your upcoming Halloween party.
TV: Who loves ya, baby?
Nobody rocked a bald head and a lollipop like Telly Savalas, and if you’ve never checked out his classic cop show, then Kojak: Season Two (Shout Factory; now available) will provide you with all the car chases and brown blazers you can handle. And with an eclectic mix of guest stars that includes Abe Vigoda, Paul Anka, Erik Estrada, Leslie Nielsen, Martin Balsam, Ruth Gordon, and Robert Loggia, this is as ’70s as it gets.
At long last, Queer as Folk: The Complete Collection (Acorn Media; now available) is on DVD in the U.S., and it’s must viewing not only for fans of the Americanized (and less awesome) Showtime remake but also if you’re into Sons of Anarchy (here’s where Charlie Hunnam got his start) or Doctor Who and Torchwood (this is the show that helped turn Russell T. Davies into an international TV juggernaut). This new set has both series of the sexy, funny, and sweet show, as well as more than two hours of brand-new bonus materials, including deleted scenes, interviews, and a featurette (titled, of course, “What the Folk…?”).
After running roughshod over the competition at the Emmys, Modern Family: The Complete Second Season (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment; now available) is ready for its DVD close-up, and Nickelodeon’s Aaahh! Real Monsters: Season One (Shout Factory; available October 4) is just the thing for all those Gen Y-ers who’ve been staying up late to watch reruns of Doug and All That on Teen Nick.