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

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

May 19, 2017

New Indie

It’s been loved, it’s been hated, it’s been praised, it’s been criticized, it won Best Picture, it didn’t win Best Picture: In the final analysis, though, La La Land (Summit/Lionsgate) is not a film to be ignored. You can nitpick its choices and what it has to say about jazz and whether or not the leads should have been cast in a musical, but there’s no denying that an attempt to mount a large-scale original musical movie (with strong indie roots, no less) qualifies as a daring experiment, no matter what you think of the final outcome. I was dazzled and continue to be enthralled by this sweet and sad movie; it’s a wonderfully heartbreaking musical, and it ranks among the great L.A. movies in the history of this oft-filmed city. Give it a look and make up your own mind.

Also available: Frank Langella stars as an old man taking a road trip to euthanasia in the comedy Youth in Oregon (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), also featuring Billy Crudup, Christina Applegate and Mary Kay Place; Lovesong (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment) charts a friendship that grows amorous before breaking apart, hauntingly performed by Riley Keough and Jena Malone; Sandra Oh and Anne Heche beat the crap out of each other in the bold satire Catfight (Dark Sky Films); the indie comedy Punching Henry (Well Go USA Entertainment) features an impressive ensemble, including Sarah Silverman, Doug Stanhope, Tig Notaro, Clifton Collins Jr. and J.K. Simmons.


New Foreign

You’ve never quite seen a real-time romance like Paris 05:59 Théo & Hugo (Wolfe Video); for one thing, it starts in an underground sex club where our leads get to know each other very well before they even learn each other’s names. But this charming film segues from explicit to intimate, as they spend the wee hours exploring the City of Lights while dealing with a potential health emergency, getting to know each other in waiting rooms and on buses. Smart, sexy and passionate, this lovely French import doesn’t hold anything back.

Also available: The comedy The Mafia Kills Only in Summer (Icarus Films) spans 20 years of Sicilian history, and of one small-town boy’s efforts to win the girl of his dreams; Three (Well Go USA Entertainment), from legendary director Johnnie To, sees a cop, a criminal and a surgeon cross paths in a tense race against the clock; in the waning days of WWII, a Hungarian man puts on a Nazi uniform to find his family in the moving Walking with the Enemy (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment).


New Doc

As politicians demonize our neighbors to the south and bloviate about building a wall, the powerful documentary All of Me (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment) puts a human face on those who risk their lives to cross the Mexican border in the hopes of improving conditions for themselves and their families. As migrants travel on a train known as The Beast, a group of women called the Patronas makes food and tosses it to the helpless each day as the train rushes by, bringing hope and love to circumstances that are utterly dire. It’s a gorgeous and inspirational look at people bringing their best selves to dark times.

Also available: The insect world is ready for its close-up in the eye-popping Microcosmos (Kino Lorber), now available on Blu-ray.


New Grindhouse

A hit at festivals, but barely released theatrically in the United States, the provocative British chiller The Girl with All the Gifts (Lionsgate) takes two narratives you never thought you wanted to see again – the “chosen one” YA heroine and the zombie apocalypse – and breathes fresh life into both. Young Sennia Nanua is the titular child, the first zombie who shows human tendencies and who might signal an end to the crisis. Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton and Paddy Considine lead a terrific ensemble in this smart, exciting genre film.

Also available: Takashi Miike’s Dead or Alive Trilogy (Arrow/MVD) displays the director’s skill at both viscerally outrageous visuals and genuine dramatic impact; the walking tree is the monster in Japanese horror cult classic From Hell It Came (Warner Archive Collection); you’d best watch your step in Chupacabra Territory (Maltauro Entertainment), as four explorers learn the hard way in this found-footage freak-out.

Kenny Lin is the Sword Master (Well Go USA Entertainment) in this remake of the Hong Kong classic Death Duel from producer Tsui Hark; Clarence Williams III is your Cryptkeeper in the legendary horror anthology Tales from the Hood (Scream Factory); House: Two Stories (Arrow/MVD) brings the chills with tongue firmly in cheek as it takes us through a very haunted domicile; Ben Wheatley executive-produced Tank 432 (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory), in which barricaded soldiers and hostages must decide if they’re better off inside the wall or out in the post-apocalypse.


New Classic

Tampopo (The Criterion Collection) will make you hungry for ramen, to be sure, but there’s more on writer-director Juzo Itami’s mind in this brilliantly hilarious comedy. Partially a parody of spaghetti Westerns (it’s definitely got noodles on its mind) but also a loving examination of the human obsession with food, this hilariously episodic film follows a widow who is trained in the art of soup by a nomadic trucker and his comrades. Interspersed throughout are wild and bawdy sketches involving gourmet gangsters, eating lessons and much more. Delicious in every way possible, Tampopo ranks among the great international comedies, and after a long absence from American DVD, this new release looks great and overflows with tasty extras.

Also available: Once censored by authorities, Josef von Sternberg’s Anatahan (Kino Classics) tells the true story of U.S. sailors and Japanese locals in the final weeks of World War II; Rod Taylor and crew return from Mars to find a devastated Earth in the sci-fi staple World Without End (Warner Archive Collection); an early thriller from the great Claude Chabrol, Ophélia (Olive Films) stars Alida Valli in this Hamlet-inspired family mystery; Ladies of the Jury (Warner Archive Collection) features the great Edna May Oliver in a pre-code courtroom comedy-thriller that feels like a 1930s Legally Blonde.

One of the last silent serials ever produced, the newly-restored The Mysterious Airman (Sprocket Vault) debuts on DVD with seat-of-the-pants aviation footage (and low-budget thrills aplenty) still intact; Luchino Visconti’s Ludwig (Arrow Academy/MVD) stars the director’s muse Helmut Berger as the decadent “mad” king; Ride the High Country (Warner Archive Collection) put Sam Peckinpah on the map as one of the Western’s greatest auteurs; while you’re watching the new Hulu series, catch up with director Volker Scholondorff’s feature film of The Handmaid’s Tale (Shout Factory), starring Natasha Richardson and Robert Duvall.

One of French New Wave giant Jacques Demy’s American movies, the musical The Pied Piper (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) stars pop legend Donovan in the title role, opposite Jack Wild, John Hurt and Roy Kinnear; Nazi soldiers have 36 Hours (Warner Archive Collection) to convince American officer James Garner that the war has ended, so that he’ll divulge secret information; Elio Petri’s dark comedy Property Is No Longer a Theft (Arrow Academy/MVD) is both a tale of economic revenge and another of the director’s blistering social satires; there’s still no crying in baseball as A League of Their Own (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) celebrates its 25th anniversary with a new Blu-ray.

The Mephisto Waltz (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) is aiming at Rosemary’s Baby’s brand of posh horror, but it generates some of its own genuine shocks; before The Waltons, there was Spencer’s Mountain (Warner Archive Collection), both based on Earl Hamner Jr.’s autobiographical novel; 1933’s The Vampire Bat (The Film Detective), starring Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas and Dwight Frye, comes to Blu-ray following a restoration by the UCLA Film & Television Archive; bunnies, jet engines and Sparkle Motion have never been the same since Donnie Darko (MVD), now available in a new 4K restoration.

Francis Coppola’s underrated Rumble Fish (The Criterion Collection) is a gorgeous piece of teen expressionism, and if you’ve never seen it, you’re missing out on a modern classic; the legendary Daughters of the Dust (Cohen Media Group), which inspired a good chunk of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, gets a full restoration for its 25th anniversary, along with a commentary featuring director Julie Dash.

Polish director Walerian Borowczyk’s only film made in his native land, Story of Sin (Arrow Academy/MVD) puts a surreal twist on the crime melodrama – and if you’re a Borowcyzk fan, Olive Films has released four new titles featuring his short films as well as features like Blanche, Theatre of Mr. & Mrs. Kabal and Goto, Isle of Love; Texas oilman James Garner sweeps Wall Street’s Lee Remick off her feet in the frothy comedy The Wheeler Dealers (Warner Archive Collection); the anthology film The World’s Most Beautiful Swindlers (Olive Films) features international filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Ugo Gregoretti and Hiromichi Horikawa.


New TV

Whether it’s because of rights issues or other factors, made-for-TV movies remain very much under-represented on DVD and Blu-ray, with several classics (like Frank Perry’s adaptation of Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory) still unavailable. All the more reason to celebrate the release of a title like The Migrants (CBS/Kino Lorber), an Emmy-nominated film written by playwright Lanford Wilson, adapting the Tennessee Williams story. Cloris Leachman, Ron Howard, Sissy Spacek and Cindy Williams star in this saga of an impoverished Dust Bowl family eking out an existence as migrant farm workers during the Great Depression, and it’s a network prestige item that well deserves another look.

Also available: The Oscar-nominated Australian thriller moves its tale to southern California in Animal Kingdom: The Complete First Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment), featuring Ellen Barkin as the fearsome materfamilias of a crime organization; National Geographic explores our own world’s imperiled environment in Before the Flood and imagines the colonizing of a neighboring planet in Mars (both from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment).

Toby Jones, Andrea Riseborough and Kim Cattrall lead an exceptional cast in the BBC’s acclaimed treatment of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution (RLJ/Acorn); Veep: The Complete Fifth Season (HBO Home Entertainment) proves there’s still room for political satire in a world that would seem to have surpassed mockery; the story of the Asian superstar’s life continues in Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume Two (Well Go USA Entertainment); an Australian family finds a home in a remote area of New Zealand in the acclaimed drama 800 Words, Season 2, Part 1 (RLJ/Acorn).

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