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

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

Mar 10, 2017

New Indie

I probably should have bought a Powerball ticket after this year’s Academy Awards, because the unthinkable happened. No, not the mistaken announcement of La La Land as the evening’s big winner, but the fact that my favorite film of 2016 actually took the Best Picture Oscar, a confluence of events that never, ever happens. More surprising still was the fact that Moonlight (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) is anything but your usual Oscar bit – it’s a moving tale about being black, gay and poor, made by a filmmaker who cites directors like Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Claire Denis and Wong Kar-Wai as artistic influences.

But the magic of Moonlight is that even a movie that’s elliptical and poetic can still strike a chord with mainstream audiences when made with this level of artistry and empthy. Writer-director Barry Jenkins, working from a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, follows the life story of Chiron from boyhood to his teenage years to young adulthood, surviving an addict mother (Naomie Harris) and the slings and arrows that life sends his way. There is pain here, yes, but also exuberance and passion. If you haven’t seen Moonlight yet, you’re truly missing out on a contemporary classic.

Also available: Fans of the prolific James Franco have their work cut out for them – he’s featured in two new releases, the small-town thriller Burn Country (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and the gay-porn true-crime tale King Cobra (IFC Midnight/Shout Factory); Five Nights in Maine (MVD Visual) features knockout performances by David Oyelowo and Dianne Weist as reluctant in-laws brought together by mutual tragedy.

Tom Ford’s sophomore feature, the Oscar-nominated Nocturnal Animals (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment), reveals the former fashion designer to be an adept storyteller whose skills go beyond showing sad people in nice houses; sadly overlooked by the Academy this year was the smart teen comedy The Edge of Seventeen (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment), featuring a knockout lead turn by Hailee Steinfeld; American Pastoral (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) saw Ewan McGregor making his directorial debut with a Philip Roth adaptation.

Dane DeHaan and Tatiana Maslany have most of the title roles in Two Lovers and a Bear (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), a passionate romance set in the remote Arctic; two college freshmen find love in the gay love story Akron (Wolfe Video); Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt provide the lead voices for the indie animated feature Nerdland (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); a novice nun faces her past in the acclaimed Little Sister (Kino Lorber); a gay man and his childhood best friend reunite under surprising circumstances in the comedy John Apple Jack (Skycorner)


New Foreign

Filmmakers just can’t seem to stay away from the legendary fable about Belle and her bête, and the lavish new Disney live-action musical isn’t the only recent retelling of the story. Vincent Cassel and Léa Seydoux star in Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et La Bête) (Shout Factory), an opulent and lavishly appointed version of this classic love story, from director Christoph Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf).

Also available: A young man confronts the secrets of his family’s past in the acclaimed gay drama Jonathan (Wolfe Video); London Town (IFC Films) stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Joe Strummer in this tale of The Clash’s impact on the burgeoning punk scene; the legendary play Blood Wedding is the source material for The Bride (La Novia) (Strand Entertainment Home Releasing), about a love triangle that leads to tragedy; the visionary and outrageous We Are the Flesh (MVD Visual) has been compared to the boundary-breaking works of directors like Gaspar Noë and Alejandro Jodorowsky.


New Doc

In a less competitive year, it’s quite likely that the internationally acclaimed The Eagle Huntress (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) would have made the Oscars’ final five in the Best Doc category, but now viewers everywhere can see the film for themselves. Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) narrates the tale of Aisholpan, a young Mongolian girl who trains eagles to hunt, despite her society’s rigidity regarding gender roles. Like the recent Hidden Figures, it’s a film that underscores the fact that women can accomplish anything and succeed in any field once they’ve set their mind to it.

Also available: The makers of Winged Migration examine the post–Ice Age forests of Europe in the nature doc Seasons (Music Box Films); blindness and autism won’t stand in the way of one woman’s pursuit of sexual freedom in the surprising, empowering Best and Most Beautiful Things (First Run Features); for the music-minded, there’s a look at a legend with Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) and the pairing of a great singer with a great songwriter in Judy Collins: Love Letter to Sondheim (MVD Visual).


New Grindhouse

Well before winning an Academy Award, Melissa Leo co-starred in the creepy fave Deadtime Stories (Scream Factory), now making its Blu-ray premiere with a hi-def transfer from the original negative. And while some successful actresses don’t usually want to dwell on their early horror work – it’s hard to get much out of Holly Hunter or Jennifer Aniston about The Burning or Leprechaun, respectively – Leo contributes a brand new interview to this release, as do her co-stars Scott Valentine and Cathryn de Prume, one of several extras on this combo pack.

Also available: British zombie-biker classic Psychomania (aka The Death Wheelers) (MVD Visual) features supporting turns from, of all people, George Sanders and Beryl Reid; the post-apocalyptic vampires return in Stake Land II (Dark Sky Films); the Vestron Video Collector’s Series continues with ghoulishly clever cult classic The Gate (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); Natasha Lyonne and Chloë Sevigny star in the twisted Antibirth (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory) yes that’s Joanna Kerns from Growing Pains fighting off a low-budget King Kong in A*P*E (Kino Lorber), now available in all its 3D glory on Blu-ray.


New Classic

Director Richard Linklater likes to joke that The Before Trilogy (The Criterion Collection) is the lowest-grossing trilogy in cinema history, but even if this triptych following the relationship of Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, both of whom co-wrote the three films with Linklater) didn’t set the box office on fire, they stand as a mammoth cinematic achievement. Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight follow the couple as they meet, reunite and face the future together, and watching the actors (and the characters) age over the three films no doubt helped inspire Linklater’s Boyhood as well.

These films are captivating and challenging, reminding us of the pleasures and pitfalls of young love while also staring unblinking into the minefields of middle age and beyond. Hawke and Delpy have never been better, and the writing is consistently witty, true and on point. With this gorgeous box set, there’s never been a better time to binge this bittersweet series, and to learn more about their production via the extensive extras.

Also available: With Get Out doing so well in theaters, it’s a perfect time to mark the 50th anniversary of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); the splashy, silly What a Way to Go! (Kino Lorber) sees Shirley MacLaine surviving a series of doomed husbands; MacLaine also shines in the fabulous Postcards from the Edge (Mill Creek Entertainment), a fitting way to honor the memory of both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds; one of the great fast-paced verbal comedies of all time is His Girl Friday (The Criterion Collection), starring a never-better Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (The Criterion Collection) sees the great Pedro Almodóvar at his most deliciously farcical and over-the-top; early disaster epic Deluge (Kino Lorber) subjects the U.S. to earthquakes on one coast and floods on the other; Maurice Pialat’s Police (Olive Films) teams Gerard Depardieu and Sophie Marceau, with a screenplay by Catherine Breillat; legendary tough guys Robert Mitchum and Ken Takakura are on opposite sides of the law in the mob drama The Yakuza (Warner Archive Collection), a breakthrough screenplay for a young Paul Schrader.

Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper make May-December romance look swell in Billy Wilder’s Love in the Afternoon (Warner Archive Collection); Cannon Films’ low-budget remake of King Solomon’s Mines (Olive Films) strands Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone in an entertainingly ridiculous adventure; if Feud has you hungry for Joan Crawford in her prime, don’t miss her Oscar-winning triumph in the noir favorite Mildred Pierce (The Criterion Collection); available on home video for the first tine in North America, Joe Bullet (The Film Detective) is a South African Blaxploitation classic that was banned by the nation’s apartheid government in 1972.

Proof that gay movies don’t have to have “positive portrayals” to be great – Reiner Werner Fassbinder’s savage Fox and His Friends (The Criterion Collection); The General/Three Ages (Kino Lorber) features Buster Keaton in some of his greatest silent comedy epics; Ken Russell’s fizzy, colorful The Boy Friend (Warner Archive Collection) continues to delight (and to confound those who try to contextualize it among his darker works of the era).


New TV

Our president is a man with a limited vocabulary who apparently spends big chunks of his day glued to cable television – what better time for Beavis and Butt-head: The Complete Collection (MTV/Paramount) to be unleashed upon the world? For the first time, Mike Judge’s original hit series is collected in all its glory: the episodes of the TV series include all the music videos, and the box set also features the theatrical film Beavis and Butt-head Do America. There’s even bonus material from their MTV run, including the 1994-1996 “Butt Bowls,” VMA appearances, a Thanksgiving special with Kurt Loder, the original “Frog Baseball” short, and a Comic-Con panel featuring Judge, to name just a few.

Also available: As we continue to pay tribute to the late Mary Tyler Moore, check out the telefilm The Last Best Year (Olive Films), featuring powerful turns from Moore and her co-star Bernadette Peters; Killing Reagan (20th Century Fox/National Geographic) examines another attempted presidential assassination, with Tim Matheson and Cynthia Nixon as Ron and Nancy; a female police detective’s double life threatens to unravel in the suspenseful The Level (RLJ/Acorn).

Nick Nolte earned a Golden Globe nomination for Graves: Season One (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), in which he plays a former POTUS trying to mend the errors of his two terms; when supernatural forces are more than superheroes can handle, it’s Justice League Dark (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) – featuring Swamp Thing, the Demon and John Constantine – to the rescue; the heartwarming period drama A Place to Call Home, Season 4 (RLJ/Acorn) has more stories to tell about life in 1950s Australia.

Grace and Frankie: Season Two (Lionsgate/Skydance) sees Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda firing on all cylinders, as the show gets even funnier and richer in its sophomore outing; Noah Taylor stars in the crime drama Deep Water (RLJ/Acorn), which sees the sins of the past impacting the present; the makers of Banshee return with the addictive (and violent) Quarry: The Complete First Season (HBO Home Entertainment).

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