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

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

Jun 14, 2017

New Indie

Some films – the early works of John Waters or David Lynch, for example – defy easy labels like “good,” “bad” or “entertaining.” They want to burrow under your skin and make you uncomfortable. And if they achieve that, they’re successes. Which brings us to The Greasy Stranger (FilmRise). Here’s a movie that wants to drive you up the wall with grotesque visuals and screamy performances, underscored by intentionally discordant music that pokes you in the earhole. It’s annoying as hell, but it’s supposed to be, so it’s kind of a triumph. You should watch it, even it sets your teeth on edge. It’s meant to.

Also available: In the thriller The Shadow Effect (Momentum Pictures, featured above), Cam Gigandet’s dreams hold the key to Jonathan Rhys Meyer’s research; a one-of-a-kind cast (Denis Lavant, Iggy Pop, Beatrice Dalle, Tchéky Karyo) anchors the magical Starlight (MVD Visual); Counting for Thunder (Wolfe Video) sees a middle-aged man coming out to his elderly parents (played by Mariette Hartley and John Heard).

A young girl finds inspiration from Puerto Rican revolutionaries of yore in the award-winning Millie & the Lords (IndiePix Films); a homeless man’s life is changed forever when he meets A Street Cat Named Bob (MVD Visual); just a reminder that one of this year’s biggest hits was a low-budget horror film – if you haven’t already experienced Get Out (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment), check out the Blu-ray, which features an alternate ending.


New Foreign

The great French actress Isabelle Huppert was deservedly praised (including an Oscar nomination) for her fearless work in Elle, but make sure you catch her other great performance from 2016 in Things to Come (IFC Films, featured above). Here she plays a philosophy professor whose life is unraveling around her, both personally and professionally. Faced with career setbacks and a husband who leaves her, Huppert’s character nevertheless persists, and it’s a performance that rapturously covers a broad array of emotions and experience.

Also available: The acclaimed Dheepan (The Criterion Collection) masterfully chronicles a Sri Lankan war veteran making a new life for his family as a refugee in Paris; Oscar-winner The Salesman (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) tells a provocative tale of life and marriage in contemporary Iran.

Three teenage best friends take one last life-changing road trip together in the Dominican import On the Road, Somewhere (IndiePix Films); Jackie Chan returns to action-caper mode in Railroad Tigers (Well Go USA Entertainment); Staying Vertical (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment), director Alain Guiraudie’s follow-up to Stranger by the Lake, is another unsettling examination of sexual adventurism (although this time it’s a dark farce rather than a thriller).



New Documentary

One of the best films in recent years is the provocative and inspiring I Am Not Your Negro (Magnolia Home Entertainment, featured above), a look at the all-too-timely words and thoughts of author and activist James Baldwin. Baldwin himself gets a screenwriting credit on Raoul Peck’s powerful documentary, since every word we hear in the film comes directly out of his mouth or from his writings. (The narration ranks among Samuel L. Jackson’s finest performances.) Absolutely essential viewing.

Also available: Take a trip back to 1980s pop culture with VHS Massacre: Cult Films and the Decline of Physical Media (Troma) and the home-computer doc 8 Bit Generation (Kino Lorber); since All Governments Lie (First Run Features), it’s a good thing we’ve got investigative journalists; baseball fanatics can relive 2016 World Series – The Complete Game 7: Ultimate Edition (Shout Factory/MLB).

The Future of Work and Death (First Run Features) explores what’s next for the human race, and the news isn’t all necessarily good; an art preservationist is dead-set on Saving Banksy (Candy Factory Films) even if it means stopping the demolition of an entire building; doc veterans Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker examine a chimp’s attempt to be legally declared a person in the compelling Unlocking the Cage (First Run Features).

And if you’re a fan of musical theater, you won’t want to miss Shout Factory’s latest entries in the Shout Broadway line: Oklahoma! (starring Hugh Jackman) and the 1999 London revival of Kiss Me, Kate.


New Grindhouse

Got murophobia? Anyone with a fear of rats may have a hard time with the 1970s horror classics Willard and Ben – both out in gorgeous new editions from Scream Factory – but even if you watch between your fingers, these are two vintage chillers that are well worth a look. The great Bruce Davison plays a mild-mannered guy who gets pushed too far by evil boss Ernest Borgnine, who doesn’t realize that Davison’s Willard is close personal pals with a horde of rodents. (Legendary actress Elsa Lanchester turns up as Willard’s mom.) Ben, the leader of the rat pack, returns in the sequel, which, strangely enough, spawned a hit song for young Michael Jackson.

Also available: Yes, the yellowface of Christopher Lee in the title role is pretty outrageous but The Blood of Fu Manchu/The Castle of Fu Manchu (Blue Underground, featured above) makes for an entertainingly sleazy double bill; horror legacy Osgood Perkins (son of Anthony) wowed critics as the director of The Blackcoat’s Daughter (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), starring Emma Roberts and Kiernan Shipka; go Beyond the Gates (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory) into terror with Barbara Crampton in this haunted-VCR-game thriller.

Exposure to gore cinema turns a gentle film technician into Evil Ed (MVD Visual); mummies and more in the digitally restored 1974 cult classic Voodoo Black Exorcist (The Film Detective); it’s Cops vs. Thugs (MVD Visual) in the 1970s yakuza favorite from Kinji Fukasaku.

Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case) gives you Brain Damage (MVD Visual), now in Blu-ray for the very first time; anthology film XX (Magnolia Home Entertainment) serves up four chilling tales spun by female filmmakers; Sonny Chiba becomes the Wolf Guy (MVD Visual) in this manga adaptation that’s never before been available outside of Japan.


New Classic

Comic-book adaptations usually mean spandex and explosions, but there are two very different kinds of wonder women in Ghost World (The Criterion Collection, featured above), Terry Zwigoff’s brilliant screen adaptation of the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes (who co-wrote the screenplay). Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson star as two teens just out of high school but not quite ready to face the bigger world, even though they think otherwise. Blisteringly funny and subtly poignant – and featuring one of Steve Buscemi’s greatest performances, which is saying something – Ghost World is one of the great coming-of-age films ever made, and now it’s getting the deluxe treatment from the folks at Criterion.

Also available: The early-Molly-Ringwald sci-fi epic Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (Mill Creek Entertainment) gets a Blu-ray release but not, alas, a 3D one – if you’ve got a bells-and-whistles TV, and you need a new excuse to put on the glasses, check out the musical Those Redheads from Seattle (Kino Lorber); a new anniversary Blu-ray release of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (both Paramount) is pretty much an offer you can’t refuse; high-school wrestler Matthew Modine and older woman Linda Fiorentino fall for each other in Vision Quest (Warner Archive Collection), and who can blame them when Madonna is serenading them with “Crazy for You”?

If you only know Robert Morse from Mad Men, you need to catch him in the original 1960’s big-biz classic How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (KL Studio Classics); and speaking of cult musicals – also check out Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire: Collector’s Edition (Shout Factory) and Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren in Man of La Mancha (Shout Factory); acclaimed Western remake 3:10 to Yuma (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) looks better than ever in 4K; not that we need fictional political nightmares these days, but no one does it like John Frankenheimer in Seven Days in May (Warner Archive Collection).

The screen version of Evelyn Waugh’s satire The Loved One (Warner Archive Collection) ranks among the most wonderfully eccentric studio releases of the 1960s; Peter Sellers plays a concert pianist who becomes the object of two teen girls’ obsessions in George Roy Hill’s delightful The World of Henry Orient (KL Studio Classics); Michael Mann’s Heat (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) continues to engender enthusiasm after two decades; check out a lesser-known but still vital master of Japanese cinema with Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism (MVD Visual).

One, Two, Three (KL Studio Classics) sees Billy Wilder taking on the Cold War, and it’s one of his (and star James Cagney’s) greatest comedies, even though it tanked on its original release; Geena Davis won an Oscar as a woman who brings emotionally locked-down travel writer William Hurt back to life in The Accidental Tourist (Warner Archive Collection); Saturday Night Fever: 40th Anniversary (Paramount Home Media) proves that this 1970s classic is still stayin’ alive; you’ll never look at Kathleen Turner, Annie or prank phone calls the same way again after experiencing John Waters’s hilarious Serial Mom (Scream Factory).

The Jacques Rivette Collection (MVD Visual) offers some rarely-seen 1970s work from this giant of the French New Wave; Rudolph Valentino was at the height of his silent-screen seductive powers in The Sheik and its sequel Son of the Sheik (both Kino Classics); and if Snatched has left you in the mood for some vintage Goldie Hawn, see her charm the diplomatic world in the political comedy Protocol (Warner Archive Collection)


New TV


Every so often, someone gets the bright idea to remake The Thin Man, but luckily cooler heads prevail. It might seem easy to put a modern-day spin on rich, glamorous private eyes, but it’s rarely worked in a post-1960 context, with the notable exception of Hart to Hart: The Complete Series (Shout Factory). Stefanie Powers and Robert Wagner star as the Harts, whose breezy lifestyle is always being interrupted by a murder or some other shenanigans that only they (with the help of their stalwart butler, Max, played by the gravel-voiced Lionel Stander). This hefty box set features the original pilot and all 110 episodes of the beloved series.

Also available: You might not think you wanted a remake of Beaches (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, featured above), but this one’s directed by indie legend Allison Anders; go back behind bars with Orange Is the New Black: Season Four (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); Sarah Jessica Parker proves there’s life after marriage – and after Sex and the City – with Divorce: The Complete First Season (HBO Home Entertainment); Ice: Season One (eOne) features Jeremy Sisto, Ray Winstone and Donald Sutherland in an exciting look at the seedy underbelly of the diamond trade.

Inside Amy Schumer: Season 4 (Comedy Central/Paramount) keeps the outrageous laughs coming, and if you like your comedy more old-school, Bob Hope Salutes the Troops (Time-Life) features seven vintage TV specials on three discs; British retirees turn to crime in the charming Golden Years while police science takes center stage in Code of a Killer (both RLJ/Acorn).

Do some globe-trotting from your home theater: Wild Africa/Tiny Giants (BBC Home Entertainment) features two great BBC docs in stunning 4K ultra-hi-def, while Martin Clunes’ Islands of Australia (RLJ/Athena) takes us to the seas Down Under; the power struggles get even more intense in Outsiders: Season Two (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); the acclaimed Aussie import Rake, Series 1 (RLJ/Acorn) weaves sex and satire into an offbeat lawyer show.

Finally, it’s TV feminism across the ages: Beverly Garland stars in Decoy (Film Chest Media Group), the first series to focus on a policewoman (and to shoot on location in New York City), while the Oprah Winfrey/Eva DuVernay collaboration Queen Sugar: The Complete First Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) features women directors on every episode of this acclaimed new show.

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