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

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

Jul 12, 2017

New Indie

Your list of the best films of 2017 that you totally missed in theaters may well include Wilson (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), an adaptation of the Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) graphic novel directed by Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins). And while Woody Harrelson is spectacular in the title role of a misanthrope who nonetheless craves human connection, the movie occupies a key position in this year’s Laura Dern-aissance, alongside her notable work on TV in Big Little Lies and Twin Peaks. (She’s also in the upcoming Star Wars movie, which can’t hurt.) Darkly funny yet achingly humane, Wilson provides laughs and squirms in equal doses, and it’s a movie that deserves more love than it got during its brief arthouse run.

Also available: The one-take movie and the rom-com cross paths in the nuptial farce The Wedding Party (Candy Factory Films); speaking of weddings, Table 19 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) sees Anna Kendrick lead an all-star cast as people stuck at the worst corner of a reception; The Ticket (Shout Factory) stars Dan Stevens as a formerly blind man whose new life as a sighted person turns him into a real jerk.

Elle Fanning plays a trans teen in 3 Generations (Anchor Bay Entertainment), hoping that mom Naomi Watts and grandmother Susan Sarandon can get on board for his transition; Prisoner X (RLJ Entertainment) sees a CIA agent and his prisoner literally racing against the clock in a time-travel thriller; festival award-winner Life of Significant Soil (Candy Factory Films) mixes romance and sci-fi.


New Foreign

One of the great opportunities of home video is a chance to give a movie a second look: My original take on T2 Trainspotting (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) was that it was a lazy nostalgia wallow, but enough critics I admire praised the film for how director Danny Boyle and the cast of the original Trainspotting – Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner and Robert Carlyle – were actually puncturing and commenting upon the idea of nostalgia, and how some people get older without necessarily becoming any wiser. So now there’s a chance to reevaluate this acclaimed film, while also checking out interviews and deleted scenes.

Also available: Frantz (Music Box Films) is set after WWI, but it couldn’t be timelier, as it allows François Ozon to make some incisive points about the perils of nationalism; the animated Monster Hunt (MVD Visual) comes to U.S. audiences in a new English dub after breaking box-office records in China; Jeremy Irons and Olga Kurylenko are star-crossed-lovers in Correspondence (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), from director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso).

One man’s midlife crisis explodes in a summertime resort in Greek import Suntan (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment); Jim Broadbent searches for The Sense of an Ending (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) as a man retracing his life decisions, in this adaptation of the acclaimed novel; Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson are a working-class couple who fight against the rise of Hitler in Alone in Berlin (IFC Films).

The Iron Ivan (MVD Visual) tells the story of turn-of-the-century Russian pro wrestler Ivan Poddubny; when Simon Pegg and Monty Python’s Terry Jones team up, Absolutely Anything (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) happens; Cannes award-winner Heli (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment) follows a run-of-the-mill Mexican father who finds himself enmeshed in the drug war; Irish documentary filmmakers get far more than they bargained for from their latest subject in Don’t You Recognize Me? (MVD Visual).


New Documentary

You saw them in Madonna: Truth or Dare, but now the back-up dancers get the spotlight in Strike a Pose (Kino Lorber). Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn, Luis Camacho, Jose Gutierez, Salim Gauwloos, Oliver Crumes and the late Gabriel Trupin brought energy and sex appeal to the Blonde Ambition tour, but behind the scenes, many of them were dealing with being in the closet and grappling with HIV at a time when AIDS was more of a death sentence. It’s a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the tour – and of their lives afterward – and a moving testament to the talent and the strength of these fascinating individuals.

Also available: Two cool public-television docs cover innovations in food -- American Masters: Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft (PBS) – and the history of recorded music -- American Epic: The First Time America Heard Itself (both PBS); Wang Bing’s Chinese import Three Sisters (Icarus Films) tracks the difficult lives of rural children fending for themselves.


New Grindhouse

Legendary Italian director Dario Argento rocked the world with his debut feature, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Arrow/MVD), now available on Blu-ray in a new 4K restoration that features new interviews, commentary, analysis and much more. It’s both a classic example and a redefinition of the venerable Italian horror genre known as “giallo,” and it’s a lavish production that boasts cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and a score by Ennio Morricone. Whether you’re new to the film or a longtime fan, you’ve probably never seen it look this great.

Katee Sackhoff and Lucy Boynton are a mother and daughter who learn the lesson Don’t Knock Twice (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory) the hard way in this urban-folktale horror; genre meister James Gunn’s early script for The Belko Experiment (Fox/Orion) has been turned into this gory dark comedy; slasher meets giallo in the infamous “video nasty” Madhouse (MVD Visual).

Another gem from the Vestron library is the priests-versus-demons saga The Unholy (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); it stars Jean-Claude Can Damme and it’s called Kill ’Em All (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), and that’s all you need to know; festival fave The Autopsy of Jane Doe (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory) stars Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch as father-son coroners who uncover a terrifying mystery.

Legendary director Ringo Lam returns to his Hong Kong action roots with the acclaimed Sky on Fire (Well Go USA Entertainment); Wichita (Candy Factory Films) spins a spooky psychological yarn about a kids-TV director who snaps; an early entry in the virtual-reality horror genre was the legendary The Lawnmower Man (Scream Factory), now featured in a Collector’s Edition that includes a Director’s Cut.


New Classic

We look back at 1980 as the high-water mark for nutty musicals like Xanadu and Can’t Stop the Music, but perhaps the nuttiest of them all is The Apple (Kino Lorber), Cannon Films co-founder Menahem Golan’s exploration of rock music in the future year of 1994, when everything was going to be even more 1970s-ish, with glitter and glam and disco for days. And did I mention that this is a Biblical allegory? It’s a wonderfully insane romp that belongs in the collection of anyone who loves cinema at its most bonkers. (Now can we get a version that restores the long-cut “Creation” number?)

Also available: You know Robert Shaw as a co-star of Jaws, but he’s also the playwright behind The Man in the Glass Booth (Kino Classics), the film adaptation of which features a powerful Maximilian Schell performance; enchant and traumatize your children in hi-def with a beautiful new Blu-ray release of the animated classic Bambi (Walt Disney Home Entertainment); there’s talk of remaking The Cannonball Run, so check out the original coast-to-coast road-race comedy The Gumball Rally (Warner Archive Collection).

The influential noir classic They Live By Night (The Criterion Collection) bolsters Nicholas Ray’s reputation as an essential 20th century American filmmaker; every single screen appearance of Peter Sellers’s iconic Inspector Clouseau is featured in the must-own The Pink Panther Film Collection (Shout Factory); new Blu-ray releases Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (KL Studio Classics) and The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Warner Archive Collection) capture director Sam Peckinpah at, respectively, his grittiest and his most comedic.

Cult favorite Joe Versus the Volcano (Warner Archive Collection) reminds us of the importance of orange soda and buoyant luggage; Cannon Films made a rare foray into Oscar territory with the powerful, thrice-nominated Runaway Train (KL Studio Classics); Juice (Paramount Home Media) reminds us that the death of Tupac Shakur robbed us of not only a hip-hop legend but also a powerful screen actor.

Alfred Hitchcock made features before The Lodger (The Criterion Collection), but this suspense thriller is considered the breakout film where he came into his own as a director; of the wave of post–Dirty Dancing musicals, I’ve always had a soft spot for the sun-drenched Shag: The Movie (Olive Films), featuring charming performances from a great ensemble led by Phoebe Cates and Bridget Fonda; if you only know Gloria Swanson from her latter-day turn in Sunset Blvd., check her out in her sexy prime in Zaza (Kino Lorber).

The Shout Select label continues to offer some fascinating deep cuts on Blu-ray, most recently the cult faves Trespass, Where the Buffalo Roam, Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie and Car Wash (all Shout Factory); Marcel Pagnol’s Marseille Trilogy (The Criterion Collection) offers three films from one of the cinema’s great humanists; the poignant and powerful Running on Empty (Warner Archive Collection) sees director Sidney Lumet and actors River Phoenix, Christine Lahti and Judd Hirsch firing on all circuits; a new 4K release will underscore the visual splendor of the thought-provoking thriller Ex Machina (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)


New TV

Laugh-inAttention must be paid: TV box sets come and go, but few are as exhaustive – or cover a series as influential – as Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Series (Time-Life). Six seasons, 140 remastered episodes (63% of which have never been previously released on home video), hours of extras and a 32-page collector’s book await you as you dig into the zany, groovy, landscape-changing space-age anarchic vaudeville that was Laugh-In. Featuring comedy legends like Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, Allan Sues, Arte Johnson, Ruth Buzzi and Jo Ann Worley, to name just a few, Laugh-In remains one of the fastest, funniest, and most outrageous comedies in the history of TV, and this glorious box does it the justice it deserves.

Also available: The ABC remake of Dirty Dancing (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) divided audiences, but it’s an interesting take on a beloved chestnut; Australia’s answer to Orange Is the New Black continues in Wentworth, Season 3 (RLJ/Acorn); Kuu Kuu Harajuku: Music, Baby! (Shout Kids Factory) sees Gwen Stefani turn into the anime character she’s always wanted to become.

It’s been two decades, and Cartman hasn’t aged a day in the ever-envelope-pushing South Park: The Complete Twentieth Season (Comedy Central Home Entertainment); Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby returns in Midsomer Murders, Series 19, Part 1 (Acorn) to investigate more dastardly doings; Kingdom: Seasons 1 & 2 (Shout Factory) stars Nick Jonas and Frank Grillo in an intense family drama set in the world of MMA.

The acclaimed Irish legal drama Striking Out (Acorn) makes its DVD debut on these shores; Hee-Haw: Pfft! You Was Gone! (Time-Life) features corn-pone humor at its corniest, along with appearances by music legends like Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and Merle Haggard; relive the slacker hilarity of Workaholics: The Complete Series (Comedy Central Home Entertainment) in this comprehensive 15-disc set.

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