New Indie of the Month
There are any number of reasons for horror buffs to check out Come Out and Play (Flatiron Film Company). For one thing, it’s a remake of the creepy Spanish cult flick Who Can Kill a Child, a pre–Children of the Corn B movie about tourists on an island inhabited entirely by homicidal kids. What also makes Come Out and Play so compelling is its mysterious provenance; it’s directed by someone who goes by the name Makinov, and this filmmaker wears a mask not just in personal appearances and interviews but even on the set as well.
Whatever Makinov is doing, it’s working; this movie was produced by Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna’s production company, and the cast’s adults include Vinessa Shaw (Eyes Wide Shut), Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Damages) and Daniel Gimenéz Cacho (Bad Education). Fans of creepy-kid horror won’t want to miss it.
Also new this month: The disturbing plastic surgery chiller American Mary (XLrator Media); director Majas Milos’s Clip (Artsploitation Films), a teen drama which plays like a Serbian twist on Kids; Alex Karpovsky from HBO’s Girls is a film editor with romantic problems in the quirky Supporting Characters (Cinedigm/Tribeca Film); and I’m one of a very few critics who had anything nice to say about Movie 43 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), so proceed at your own risk. Still, I laughed. I’m not proud of it, but I laughed.
New Classic of the Month
If the notorious Heaven's Gate can get a long-awaited critical reevaluation, it's high time the same consideration be provided to another auteur-driven money loser, Peter Bogdanovich's At Long Last Love (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), which is going directly to Blu-ray without ever having been available on VHS or DVD. On the heel's of the director's salutes to classic drama (The Last Picture Show) and screwball comedy (What's Up Doc?), he tackled the musical with this glitzy, gossamer film jam-packed with great Cole Porter songs.
Since the film starred Cybill Shepherd (the actress for whom Bogdanovich had left his wife Polly Platt) singing and dancing, critics took potshots and audiences stayed away. But the passage of decades has been kind to At Long Last Love -- it may sag a little here and there, but there's so much to enjoy here, from Madeline Kahn's engaging musical comedy agility to the black-white-and-silver color palette that make this film simultaneously in color and in black and white. Burt Reynolds, Eileen Brennan and John Hillerman are tons of fun, and even Shepherd's contributions have their moments of sizzle. You may have always heard of this film discussed as an infamous turkey, but take a look with fresh eyes, and you may find yourself humming along.
Also new this month: Harold Lloyd's landmark comedy Safety Last! (The Criterion Collection) looks better than ever in a new Blu-ray reissue; a lovely hand-drawn animated feature that got somewhat lost in the CG revolution, the hilarious and wistful Lilo & Stitch (Disney) makes its Blu-ray debut; director William Wellman (The Public Enemy, Beau Geste, Nothing Sacred) gets his due in Todd Robinson’s compelling Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (Kino Classics), getting a long-overdue DVD release; it’s always interesting to check out what happens when foreign directors get their shot at a Hollywood movie — Zandy’s Bride (Warner Archive Collection) sees Jan Troell directing Liv Ullmann (who starred in his Oscar-nominated early ’70s flicks The Emigrants and The New Land) and Gene Hackman in an unconventional Western that also features Susan Tyrell, Harry Dean Stanton and Hooterville legend Frank Cady.
Young Ray Winstone battles the system as a rebellious Borstal boy in the acclaimed (and often-banned) Scum (Kino Classics); Barbara Stanwyck leads an all-star cast in corporate gamesmanship in the ensemble drama Executive Suite (Warner Archive Collection); Bette Davis was robbed of an Oscar for her unsentimental portrayal of a cruel, ruthless waitress in the best of several screen adaptations of W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage (Kino Classics); somewhere between In Cold Blood and Baretta, Robert Blake starred in cult fave Electra Glide in Blue (Shout Factory) as a motorcycle cop yearning for a promotion; Things to Come (The Criterion Collection) was always cited by a professor of mine as one of the few “true” science fiction films ever made, and no doubt H.G. Wells — who adapted his own novel and participated directly in the production — would agree; with James Franco and Travis Mathews’ Sundance hit Interior. Leather Bar. making the festival rounds this summer, it’s a perfect time to go back to that film’s source material: William Friedkin’s hypnotic and still-controversial Cruising (Warner Archive Collection).
New Grindhouse of the Month
With each passing year, Bruce Lee attains the kind of postmortem stardom/worship that predecessors like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe achieved. Expect that praise to continue with the release of Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (WHV). The movie itself still holds up after four decades, and this handsome set features a crisp remaster, a new featurette on Lee’s legacy and nifty bits of memorabilia like patches and lobby cards.
Also new this month: Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (Shout Factory) — and really, why not just title it Space Vampires? — has earned both fans and detractors over the years, and the former will be thrilled to pick up this new collector’s edition Blu-ray, featuring several different cuts of the film, new interviews and a choice of commentaries and cover artwork; hats off to The G-String Horror (Apprehensive Films) for offering one of the great cheesy disclaimers of all time: “This motion picture is, itself, a conjuration and a talisman designed with the help of a shaman and a priest for the purpose of allowing a particular spirit stuck on this plane of existence to move on. Parts of the film may be disturbing to some audience members and may induce unpredictable paranormal status. VIEWER DISCRETION STRONGLY ADVISED” You have been warned.
New Documentary of the Month
Fans of Food, Inc. will want to check out A Place at the Table (Magnolia Home Entertainment), a provocative examination of hunger in America. Narrated by Jeff Bridges, the film features testimony from experts like celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, activist Mariana Chilton and policy-maker Marion Nestle about the 50 million Americans (including one in four children) who don’t know where they’ll be getting their next meal. Powerful filmmaking, with the added bonus of a terrific score by T-Bone Burnett and the Civil Wars.
Also new this month: Before you watch Daniel Radcliffe play the Beat poet in this fall’s Kill Your Darlings, brush up on The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg (Cinedigm/Docurama); women in the adult-film industry tell their stories in the frank and confessional Aroused (Ketchup Entertainment); in the gorgeous and hypnotic Vivan Las Antipodas (Cinedigm/Docurama), filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky examines the contrasts between Entre Rios, Argentina and Shanghai, two cities that occupy opposite spots on the globe.
New TV of the Month
When people get all swoony about the 1950s being the “golden age of television,” it’s always worth remembering Howard Stern’s line to Milton Berle about the latter’s competition being a test pattern. Still, there’s plenty of vintage TV that’s legitimately great, and one of my favorite laugh-out-loud shows gets its due with The Jack Benny Program: The Lost Episodes (Shout Factory). This three-disc set features episodes of this legendary series that haven’t been seen for more than 50 years, along with excerpts from Benny’s color-TV specials, interviews with Harry Shearer and with some of Benny’s collaborators, newsreel footage and more.
Also new this month: Plenty of sketch wackiness from MadTV: Season Three (Shout Factory); House of Cards: The Complete First Season (SPHE) allows people without Netflix subscriptions to check out one of the year’s best new dramas; we’re almost at the end of the Walter White saga, and Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season (SPHE) collects the first half of the show’s final season, along with the uncensored bonus scene “Chicks ‘n’ Guns”; love or hate The Newsroom: The Complete First Season (HBO Home Entertainment), there’s no denying that show creator Aaron Sorkin is out to push some buttons in his exploration of TV news; and finally, if you’re a fan of the U.S. version of Wilfred on FX, you’ll definitely want to check out Wilfred: The Complete Original Series (Fabulous Films), featuring the Australian series that started the whole shaggy-dog story.