Arguably the least-seen on my top 10 list, the drama Short Term 12 (Cinedigm) has a decent shot of finding a larger audience on DVD, thanks mainly to all the other top 10 lists on which it appeared at the end of 2013. Brie Larson gives a game-changing performance as a young woman who oversees a group of troubled teenagers who are wards of the state, although it turns out she has her own issues to overcome.
Shot in a documentary style by director Destin Cretton and featuring a powerful ensemble cast, including John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom) and Keith Stanfield (who, like Larson, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his performance), Short Term 12 is a smart, funny, poignant little film that will sneak up on you. If you missed it in theaters, make sure to catch up.
Also available: Pedro Almodóvar returns to the outrageous comedy of his early films with the bawdy and hilarious I’m So Excited! (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); The Spectacular Now (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) spins a powerful teen love story, bolstered by memorable turns by Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller; if there haven’t been enough Jack Kerouac movies for you in recent years, check out Big Sur (Arc Entertainment), starring Jean-Marc Barr as the tormented Beat author.
Period adventure The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box (RLJ/Image Entertainment) boasts an all-star cast, including Michael Sheen, Lena Headey, Sam Neill and Ioan Gruffudd; a visiting Irish relative complicates an already-crumbling Baltimore family in the Sundance hit I Used to Be Darker (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment); the legendary Taviani Brothers return with Caesar Must Die (Kino Lorber Home Video), about a troupe of prison actors staging Shakespeare’s Roman tragedy; a trio of seventysomethings refuse to grow old gracefully in the comedy Old Goats (Music Box Films).
There’s never been a documentary quite like The Act of Killing (Drafthouse Films), and while the shorter version of the film has garnered critical acclaim (and an Oscar nomination), this new DVD/Blu-ray release gives audiences the opportunity to see the longer (165 minutes) cut that director Joshua Oppenheimer originally screened at the New Directors/New Films Festival at Lincoln Center.
Oppenheimer gives the architects of Indonesia’s bloody genocide of the 1960s the opportunity to tell their own story their own way, and we see these killers reinterpret their lives through the lens of the gangster movies (and even musicals) through which they viewed their own activities. A chilling portrait of evil unchallenged, The Act of Killing is a movie that will haunt you.
Also available: One of several films in recent years that walks laymen through the disaster that has befallen the U.S. economy, Inequality for All (Anchor Bay/Radius-TWC) gives former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich a pulpit from which to explain income inequality in a provocative and enlightening way; Linsanity (Arc Entertainment) follows the journey of unlikely NBA superstar Jeremy Lin; home movies from the White House give us a new and unexpected look at a controversial president in the compelling and witty Our Nixon (Cinedigm).
The Nightmare on Elm Street series gets a thorough and captivating autopsy in Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (RLJ/Image Entertainment), which is lots of fun even if you’re not a Freddy Krueger superfan; the wild world of narcotics dealing and enforcement goes under the microscope in How to Make Money Selling Drugs (Cinedigm/Tribeca Film); and since fracking hasn’t gone anywhere, director Josh Fox created a sequel to his Oscar-nominated doc to further investigate the environmental perils of natural gas extraction in Gasland Part II (Cinedigm).
The release of You’re Next (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) signaled the arrival of Adam Wingard as an exciting voice in horror; this nail-biter upped the ante on the home-invasion movie, leaving audiences gasping as they worked their way through the hairpin turns of the plot. A stellar cast — including Sharni Vinson, Ti West, Joe Swanberg and the legendary Barbara Crampton — made this fresh and funny chiller one to remember.
Also available: What stressed-out Ken Marino thinks is merely an ulcer turns out to be downright demonic in the gastrointestinal horror-comedy Bad Milo! (Magnolia Home Entertainment); Cat People (Shout Factory) sees Paul Schrader taking the 1940s noir classic into a more psychosexual direction (and yes, this is the movie that gave us the David Bowie song that Tarantino repurposed for Inglourious Basterds); Hong Kong master Tsui Hark mixes monsters and martial arts in the entertaining Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (Well Go USA Entertainment).
Boris Karloff makes a most diabolical mad scientist in the unforgettable Die Monster Die! (Shout Factory); Big Ass Spider! (Epic Pictures Group) offers up laughs, thrills, wit and, well, a big-ass spider; the unrated cut of ’80s cult horror fave Night of the Demons (Shout Factory) makes its Blu-ray debut in a new collector’s edition; MTV vixen Tawny Kitaen summons dark forces in Witchboard (Shout Factory); cannibalism comedy Fresh Meat (Cinedigm) costars Kiwi actor Temuera Morrison (Once Were Warriors, the Star Wars prequels); 1950s creature features The Beast of Hollow Mountain and The Neanderthal Man get paired up on a new two-disc set from Shout Factory.
Everything was big, bigger, biggest in the 1960s, from grand epics to spectacular roadshow musicals. Even comedies got gargantuan with It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, now lavishly reconstructed and remastered by the Criterion Collection. Boasting a cast that featured practically every living comedian of the era making at least a cameo appearance, this wild and wacky chase picture follows a troupe of greedy connivers out to find a buried treasure.
The treasure that is World gets a stunning new collection for all the world to admire; this new Criterion set features the debut of the 197-minute roadshow version reconstructed by legendary archivist Robert A. Harris, audio commentaries, new documentaries, a collection of Stan Freberg’s radio and TV spots, vintage talk-show appearances and everything else that this classic’s mad, mad, mad, mad fan base would ever want.
Also available: Saturday Night Live didn’t invent the concept of characters leaping from an at-home medium to the big screen — radio stars Fibber McGee and Molly did it almost a century ago in films like Here We Go Again and Heavenly Days, available on a double-feature disc from Warner Archive Collection; Joan Crawford is at her campiest and man-killing-est in the over-the-top and endlessly quotable Queen Bee (Sony Pictures Choice Collection); Nostalghia (Kino Lorber) sees an exiled Andrei Tarkovsky looking back at mother Russia; after Monty Python and the Holy Grail, director Terry Gilliam took another crack at medieval times with the outrageous Jabberwocky (Sony Pictures Choice Collection).
One of the great films about the aftermath of war, The Killing Fields (Warner Home Video) makes its Blu-ray debut in a handsome bookshelf-ready set; British director Terence Davies reconstructs his childhood in WWII-era Britain in the poignant and powerful The Long Day Closes (The Criterion Collection); we should have such problems—Frank Sinatra is torn between Kim Novak and Rita Hayworth in the sexy musical Pal Joey (Sony Pictures Choice Collection); any serious movie collection needs to contain Sunrise (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), F.W. Murnau’s stunningly gorgeous silent love story; action-meister Walter Hill made his bare-knuckled directorial debut with Hard Times (Sony Pictures Choice Collection), starring Charles Bronson and James Coburn; fans of Blake Edwards’ farces won’t want to miss the misadventures of Bruce Willis and Kim Basinger on a Blind Date (RLJ/Image Entertainment); John Barrymore makes a very creepy hero/villain in the silent Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Deluxe Edition (Kino Lorber); before Kate Winslet sunk it, Jason Robards tried to Raise the Titanic (Shout Factory); and Kino Lorber offers up Successive Slidings of Pleasure and Trans-Europ-Express, two provocative titles from French director Alain Robbe-Grillet (screenwriter of Last Year at Marienbad).
Like The Wire (from the same creative team) before it, HBO’s Treme promises to be a binge-watching favorite for years to come. And with Treme: The Complete Edition (HBO Home Entertainment), it’s all ready for you in one convenient collection. An examination of life in New Orleans post-Katrina as seen through the eyes of multiple characters, Treme offers the kind of rich characterizations and local specificity you’d expect, and this box set provides additional insight on the music, food and culture spotlighted throughout the run of the show.
Also available: Maybe you didn’t know you wanted it, but you totally want Joanie Loves Chachi: The Complete Series (CBS/Paramount); granted, Endora’s eye shadow pops more effectively in color, but even in black and white, Elizabeth Montgomery remains TV’s supreme spell caster in Bewitched: Seasons 1 & 2 (Mill Creek Entertainment); the show that began TV’s “difficult men” era gets another compilation with NYPD Blue: Season Five (Shout Factory); one of the 1970s’ most influential shows, in any number of ways, makes it to DVD with Charlie’s Angels: Season 1 (Mill Creek Entertainment); the violently hilarious Bullet in the Face: The Complete Series (Shout Factory), from the creator of Sledge Hammer!, takes us into the most mayhem-packed police force imaginable.
With 30 Rock gone, I vote for the misadventures of the inept spies at ISIS — featured on Archer: The Complete Season Four (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) — as the most consistently hilarious and non sequitur-filled half hour on TV these days; fans of old-school TV movies won’t want to miss the divorced-dudes-on-the-mend dramedy Breaking Up Is Hard to Do or the wife-versus-mistress machinations of Passions, both available from Sony Pictures Choice Collection; we seemingly can’t get enough of Bonnie & Clyde (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), this time played by Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger in a cable original; Larry, Darryl and their other brother Darryl would love for you to check into Newhart: The Complete Second Season (Shout Factory).
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