DVD Obscura: The New Indie and International Movies You Need to Watch

DVD Obscura: The New Indie and International Movies You Need to Watch

Feb 10, 2017

New Indie

While great shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad have made it possible for TV’s best dramas to stand alongside great movies, it’s still a bit of a leap for actors to graduate from small-screen to large. For all his acclaim as Don Draper, Jon Hamm hasn’t quite found a film vehicle suited to his talents, and while Mad Men star Bryan Cranston snagged an Oscar nomination last year, his co-star Aaron Paul is also looking for a movie role that best suits him (although he’s killing it on Hulu’s The Path).

Come and Find Me (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) isn’t the culmination of Paul’s quest for big-screen legitimacy, but it gets him a lot closer to his goal than, say, Need for Speed. This new thriller stars Paul as a man whose wife (Annabelle Wallis, Peaky Blinders) suddenly disappears, and as the husband gets deeper into his search, he learns far more about his spouse than he ever expected. Co-starring Zachary Knighton and Garret Dillahunt, this is a snappy little genre piece.

Also available: Kate McKinnon steals another ensemble comedy away from her talented co-stars in Masterminds (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment); two charmingly low-key comedies you might have missed on the LGBT festival circuit, 4th Man Out and Addicted to Fresno (both FilmRise), are back in print; and Tyler Perry’s indefatigable heroine returns in one of her funniest big-screen escapades, Boo! A Madea Halloween (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).


New Foreign

One of the hiccups in the Academy’s Best Foreign Film category is that each nation gets to nominate one, and only one, movie each year. And sometimes, because of politics or other oblique reasons, a country picks the wrong submission. Case in point: South Korea did not enter The Handmaiden (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) for the Oscars, despite the fact that this was one of the best movies to be produced in any nation in 2016.

Park Chan-wook’s lush, lusty and unpredictable adaptation of Sarah Waters’s acclaimed novel Fingersmith moves the action from Victorian England to World War II Korea, with the themes of class deception and sexual secrecy fully intact. During the Japanese occupation, a con artist hires a young woman to help him fleece a rich heiress, but no one is quite who they seem in this sumptuous and erotic tale whose plot twists will constantly surprise you.

Also available: In The Hangman: Shepherds and Butchers (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment), Steve Coogan takes on a rare dramatic role as a lawyer who defends a South African prison guard traumatized from years of witnessing executions; Mexican import The Vessel (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment), executive produced by Terence Malick, stars Martin Sheen as a priest who, years after surviving a deadly tsunami, may be witnessing a miracle.


New Doc

Vintage rock takes center stage in two new and acclaimed documentaries: Jim Jarmusch tracks the rise and fall of The Stooges in Gimme Danger (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), following the Michigan band as they flout convention and help to usher in the punk movement, led by the charismatic Iggy Pop. Iggy also pops up in Danny Says (Magnolia Home Entertainment), another look at the rise of punk through the eyes of Danny Fields, a pioneering figure who’s like the Zelig of rock – he was pals with Warhol, he worked with both The Doors and The Ramones, and he wrote the infamous “we’re more popular than Jesus” interview with John Lennon.

Also available: If you like to thrown on a movie to have something to watch while you’re knitting, then Yarn (Kino Lorber) is totally the movie for you; meet the 84-year-old glacierologist who was the first to link greenhouse gases and global warming in Antarctica: Ice and Sky (Music Box Films).

X Rated (Kino Lorber) salutes the finest in adult cinema – and as with all ranking lists, your choices may vary; a gripping case of true crime, Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (FilmRise) examines four lesbians who were framed and imprisoned, before this movie helped to exonerate them; nominated for a Best Song Oscar, Jim: The James Foley Story (FilmRise) celebrates the journalist who was murdered by ISIS terrorists.


New Grindhouse

As someone old enough to remember when VHS was something new and exciting, it’s been fun to watch the revival of the format, from books devoted to the artwork of those rectangular cassette cases to labels like Lionsgate Home Entertainment paying homage with the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, creating hi-def Blu-ray versions of classic 1980s horror.

They’ve just served up two favorites that haven’t gotten nearly enough love in the ensuing decades: Bob Balaban’s Parents, a savage satire of 1950s suburban conformity viewed through the lens of cannibalism and childhood fears, and Ken Russell’s The Lair of the White Worm, a stylishly campy sex-monster movie with a great ensemble that includes Hugh Grant, Amanda Donohoe, Peter Capaldi, Catherine Oxenberg and Sammi Davis.

Also available: Blaxploitation kung-fu classic The Black Dragon’s Revenge (The Film Detective) makes its Blu-ray debut in a new HD restoration struck from the original 35mm negative; there’s also vengeance to be found in Revenge of the Blood Beast (Il Lago del Satana) (Raro/Kino Lorber), starring cult icon Barbara Steele as a woman possessed by the spirit of an 18th century witch.

“Extreme” isn’t quite the buzzword it was 15 years ago, but xXx: 15th Anniversary Edition (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) celebrates the adrenaline-charged adventures of Vin Diesel, just in time for the sequel; the ghosts are still on the other side of the glass in Collector’s Editions of Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III (both Scream Factory); a mother (played by Zoe Kazan) and daughter on a road trip face the fearsome presence of The Monster (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).


New Classic

Audrey Hepburn may have gotten her start as one of the big screen’s most winsome ingénues in the 1950s, but she spent much of her career demonstrating her extraordinary range, whether playing an unhappy housewife in Two for the Road or, unforgettably, a blind woman who can more than hold her own against home intruders in Wait Until Dark (Warner Archive Collection). Alan Arkin was never quite as fearsome as he was playing the bad hombre out to terrorize our heroine, but Hepburn makes us believe not only that she can’t see but also that she can use the dark to her advantage in this thriller that’s just as nail-biting now as it was 50 years ago.

Also available: Legendary Takashi Miike established himself as a world-class director early on with The Black Society Trilogy (MVD Visual); the dang whale in Pinocchio (Walt Disney Home Entertainment) scared the crap out of me when I was five, and the film retains its unsettling power (those boys who turn into donkeys) to this day; it’s no It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (or Rat Race, for that matter), but there’s fun to be found in the all-star ’80s farce Scavenger Hunt (Kino Lorber Studio Classics).

A gorgeous new Limited Collector’s Edition of The Man Who Fell to Earth (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) pays tribute to one of David Bowie’s greatest screen roles; since your old VHS tape is now probably part of a traveling art installation, why not invest in the 20th anniversary Blu-ray of Lego Batman’s favorite movie, Jerry Maguire (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); Bad Day at Black Rock (Warner Archive Collection) sees Spencer Tracy unearthing deadly secrets in a small town in a film that remains one of Hollywood’s most scathing examinations of McCarthy-era America.

Digitally restored and remastered for its 20th anniversary, the New Queer Cinema classic The Watermelon Woman (First Run Features) was a breakthrough for onscreen representations of LGBT women of color; Judy Holliday is an answering-service operator who falls for client Dean Martin in the fizzy Bells Are Ringing (Warner Archive Collection), in its Blu-ray debut; also premiering on Blu-ray, and it’s about time, is the Mariah Carey camp classic Glitter (Mill Creek Entertainment); the hi-def Ali: Commemorative Edition (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) features a never-before-seen cut of the boxing biopic from director Michael Mann.


New TV

In the art of restoration, there’s nothing like a little improvisation. The reconstructed version of the 1950s A Star Is Born used audio overlays over photographs to recreate lost footage, and the people who rescued Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks (BBC Home Entertainment) went even further, turning a lost six-episode arc into an animated extravaganza. Fans had long wished to see this 1960s adventure, even though the negatives were lost in a 1974 archive purge at the BBC. Using the surviving audio, plus photos and film clips, animators were able to recreate the Doctor’s very first regeneration and his clash with his ongoing robotic foes. (Whovians might also want to pick up the 2016 Christmas Special, Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio, also now available on Blu-ray.)

Also available: The IT Crowd: The Internet Is Coming (MPI Media) offers one more comedic saga starring everyone’s favorite techies; classic comic strips come to live in Peanuts by Schulz: Snoopy Tales (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment); Icabod Crane has more mysteries to solve in Sleepy Hollow: The Complete Third Season (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment).

Anthony LaPaglia joins the cast of The Code, Season 2 (RLJ/Acorn), as the Australian political thriller explores cybercrime and personal liberties in the age of global terrorism; the Gorgeous Ladies of Williamsburg are out to cause more trouble in Broad City: Season 3 (Comedy Central/Paramount); The Story of God with Morgan Freeman: Season 1 (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) asks the big questions, in the voice of the guy who’s played the title role at least twice.

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