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

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

Aug 11, 2017

A Woman A Part

From indie and foreign films to new grindhouse and classics, here is a curated list of home entertainment recommendations.


New Indie

Are you Team Maggie Siff yet? If not, you’re missing out on one of contemporary film and TV’s most exciting and eclectic actresses. On the heels of her extraordinary work on Mad Men and Billions, and in the sexy indie Concussion – the lesbian one, not the Will Smith one – Siff gets a powerful lead role of her own in A Woman, A Part (Strand Entertainment Home Releasing). It’s a smart exploration of the minefields actresses are forced to navigate in contemporary Hollywood, and Siff (top) is ably backed up a strong ensemble led by John Ortiz and Cara Seymour.

Also available: Speaking of powerhouse actresses, don’t be surprised to see Cynthia Nixon getting some awards-season attention for her moving portrayal of poet Emily Dickinson in Terence Davies’ acclaimed A Quiet Passion (Music Box Films); Terrence Malick hits the Austin music scene in Song to Song (Broad Green Pictures), where Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender cross paths with the likes of Patti Smith and Iggy Pop; The Lost City of Z (Broad Green Pictures) follows a British explorer into a South America that’s far more civilized than he ever could have imagined.

Rami Malek of Mr. Robot stars in Buster’s Mal Heart (Well Go USA Entertainment), a dark comedy about a man on the run; there’s a whole lotta shooting going on in ultra-violent gangster farce Free Fire (Lionsgate), starring Brie Larson and Armie Hammer; two washed-up professional video gamers try to climb back to the top in Game Changers (Candy Factory Films).


New Foreign

This year’s other great film about the Dunkirk rescue, Their Finest (Lionsgate) is a funny and moving look at filmmaking during chaotic times. The wonderful Gemma Arterton stars as an ad copywriter who is pressed into service in 1930s London to help the War Department write propaganda films. Her script about twin sisters who took their father’s fishing boat to Dunkirk becomes a major production, and with it come major production headaches. Bill Nighy and Sam Claflin co-star in one of 2017’s best films of the year so far.

Also available: A suicide-prevention specialist must discover why so many of his patients are killing themselves in the mockumentary Psychoanalysis (Candy Factory Films); in the Berlin Film Festival grand prize–winner Violet (Altered Innocence), teens are forced to confront random violence; I, Olga Hepnarova (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment) spins a haunting tale of repressed sexuality and murder.


New Documentary

If you want some superhero fact to go with your superhero fiction, two new docs should blow your cape up. With Great Power…The Stan Lee Story (Well Go USA Entertainment) covers the life and times of the nonagenarian who has turned out to be one of the 20th century’s most influential storytellers, while Behind the Mask: The Batman — Dead End Story (Candy Factory Films) tells the story of an influential fan film and what befell the people who made it. Both films should keep you busy while you count down the days to Justice League and Thor: Ragnarok.

Also available: The exuberant Alive and Kicking (Magnolia Home Entertainment) traces the history of swing dancing from its roots to its contemporary revival; Kansas vs. Darwin (Kino Lorber) tracks a modern-day Inherit the Wind, as public school officials challenge the teaching of evolution; you’ll think twice about what bag you select at the grocery store after seeing the provocative Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Bullfrog Films).

The Gospel According to Al Green (MVD Visual) tracks a great singer from his success in the world of soul and pop to his religious rebirth and reimagination; a 75-year-old Dutch pastor watches over the spiritual life of a small village in the Pyrenees in the hypnotic La Vie de Jean-Marie (IndiePix Films).


New Grindhouse

After making it big in the United States, martial arts legend Sonny Chiba returned to his native Japan for 1977’s Doberman Cop (Arrow/MVD), an exuberant and funny action epic released just as the cycle of yakuza movies was winding down. In this adaptation of a manga, Chiba plays a fish-out-of-water cop from the countryside who comes to Tokyo to investigate the savage murder of an island girl. Director Kinji Fukasaku mixes American gunplay and Asian hand-to-hand combat (with Chiba doing all his own stunts), and the results are breathtakingly pulpy.

Also available: Ghosts and suicide provide the chills in J-horror classic Pulse (Arrow/MVD); of all the exploitation films that combined sexy ladies and hungry aliens, Species: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory) definitely ranks among the best; Warlock Collection (Lionsgate) features all three of the gloriously silly horror classics from 1989-1999.

The Final Master (Well Go USA Entertainment) must defeat many rivals before he can teach kung fu in 1930s China; talking to strangers on the internet could literally lead you to the Devil’s Domain (MVD Entertainment) in this new horror indie.


New Classic

If your only knowledge of Bob Hope is the old guy telling hacky one-liners on TV specials, you might be shocked to discover how funny he used to be in movies, often playing the vain coward who might or might not get the girl. (Woody Allen has always cited Hope’s onscreen persona as an influence on Allen’s “early, funny” films.) Hope’s shifty lovability is on full display in The Lemon Drop Kid (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), a Damon Runyon adaptation in which Hope opens a home for old ladies that is of course a front for criminal activity – until he has to choose between pleasing the mob or keeping a roof over his tenants’ heads.

Also available: Mike Figgis’ directorial debut Stormy Monday (MVD Visual) features unforgettable performances by Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones, and (in one of his first big-screen roles) Sean Bean; Who’s Crazy? (Kino Classics), long unavailable on home video, features some very 1960s performances by The Living Theater and a classic Ornette Coleman score; Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell and Cher make a powerful combo in the true-life drama Silkwood (Kino Lorber); Sterling Hayden is out for revenge in Terror in a Texas Town (Arrow Academy), which Dalton Trumbo wrote during the blacklist under a pseudonym.


New TV

William Shatner seems determined to put himself into the “problematic fave” category of late, but there’s plenty of 1980s fun to be had with T.J. Hooker: The Complete Series (Shout Factory), in which the Shat, Adrian Zmed, Heather Locklear and James Darren all sport exquisite coifs as hard-working, straight-shooting cops. This 20-disc set contains every single car chase, shoot-out and hair flip.

Also available: The return of a kidnapped woman sets off a whole new investigation in The Missing: Season 2 (Lionsgate); Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) add a cat and mouse to a movie that was already perfectly family-friendly, but go figure; there’s more acclaimed Australian legal dramedy in Rake, Series 2 (Acorn TV); if I’m Dying Up Here has you nostalgic for the days when comics prayed that Johnny would invite them to the couch, take a deep dive into The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends Featuring Steve Martin, Robin Williams & Eddie Murphy (TimeLife).

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