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

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

Sep 07, 2017

The Lovers

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

New Indie

For a while there, it was looking like the big-screen adult drama was doomed – until someone realized that people over 35 still make up a fairly reliable chunk of the audience that will stop staring at their phone and actually go to a movie theater. And if that means more movies like The Lovers (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), then that’s cause for celebration. Debra Winger and Tracy Letts – a match made in acting heaven – star as a longtime married couple whose sex life gets exciting again when they start cheating on their respective lovers with, who would have guessed it, each other.

Also available: A gay couple take Baby Steps (Gravitas Ventures) toward parenthood, all under the forceful hover of a Dragon-Mom-in-law; Demetri Martin and Kevin Kline play a son and father grappling with grief in the comedy Dean (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); Chuck (Paramount Home Media) features Liev Schreiber in a gritty biopic of the real-life boxer who inspired Rocky.

The Dinner (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) features an impressive ensemble, including Richard Gere, Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, Chloë Sevigny and Rebecca Hall; producer Topher Grace tries desperately to save his show’s Opening Night (Wolfe Video) in a musical comedy that also features Anne Heche and JC Chasez; a German officer and a Jewish woman in hiding find passion in a WWII romance that definitely proves to be The Exception (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).

Bryan Cranston plays a man who sneaks away from his suburban existence in the E.L. Doctorow adaptation Wakefield (Shout Factory/IFC); The Wall (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) is all that’s standing between pinned-down soldiers Aaron Taylor-Johson and John Cena and the Iraqi sniper who wants to kill them both; three brothers find each other again in the mythical make-believe kingdom of their childhood in Oxenfree (Candy Factory Films).


New Foreign

Rachel Weisz stars as My Cousin Rachel (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) in this new adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier bodice-ripper, and since the story is hinged upon the character’s motivations, Weisz’s skill at keeping audiences guessing makes her a perfect fit for the role. She certainly keeps Philip (Sam Claflin) in a whirl, as he pivots from thinking that she killed his benefactor to wanting to marry her. The mysteries keep coming until the very end.

Also available: French director Philippe Garrel explores infidelity amongst a married pair of filmmakers in In the Shadow of Women (Icarus Films); in the Israeli feature Red Leaves (IndiePix Films), an elderly Ethiopian immigrant resists assimilation even as his adult children acclimate to their new home; Mouton (IndiePix Films) takes a documentary-style look at life in a small French town through the eyes of some of its residents.

Troubled teens give each other the support they need online in the Canadian coming-of-age tale Face 2 Face (Candy Factory Films); in A Blast (IndiePix Films), Maria (Angeliki Papoulia, Dogtooth) has a meltdown while Greece tumbles into financial disarray; the murderous legend of Bluebeard (Well Go USA Entertainment) gets a new spin in a new thriller from Korean auteur Lee Soo-youn.


New Documentary

Both a joyous celebration of life and a love letter to newspapers, Obit. (Kino Lorber) takes us behind the scenes at The New York Times’ obituary department. It’s a job that’s anything but morbid, as these talented journalists spring into action and quickly attempt to capture the details and the delights of the lives of the recently departed. It’s a celebration of the hard work of reportage and a reminder of how rich and varied our lives can be.

Also available: Kiki (IFC Films) captures the sensations and joys of New York’s underground ball scene in a way unseen on screen since Paris Is Burning; one of the great American graphic designers gets his due in the informative and evocative Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight (Kino Lorber); celebrate one of cinema’s most influential filmmakers with Chantal Akerman by Chantal Akerman (Icarus Films), a look at the genius director who left us all too soon.

Jordan Brady caps off his trilogy of comedy documentaries with the stirring (and hilarious) I Am Battle Comic (Monterey Media), which follows stand-up legends like George Lopez, Dave Attell, George Wallace and many more to the front lines as they entertain the troops; The Incomparable Rose Hartman (Gravitas Ventures) examines the life and work of the iconic photographer; travel deep into the Mississippi Delta and celebrate a uniquely American musical form in I Am the Blues (Film Movement).

Jane’s Addiction: Alive at Twenty-Five (Cleopatra Entertainment) sees the 90s legends reunite to play some of their biggest hits; director Robert Mugge pays homage to a giant of jazz in the 1986’s Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus (Mug-Shot Productions); Ethiopia hosts some 80 different languages and cultures, but Roaring Abyss (IndiePix Films) shows how the nation’s distinct flavor of jazz ties those people together.


New Grindhouse

Part of the new wave of indie horror that’s been changing the genre over the past few years, The Transfiguration (Strand Entertainment Home Releasing) earned a slot at the Cannes Film Festival before screening around the world. A vampire-obsessed teen begins to blur fantasy and reality in this acclaimed thriller, set in a recognizably gritty New York City.

Also available: Before Guardians of the Galaxy, director James Gunn spooked audiences with cult hit Slither (Scream Factory), making its Blu-ray debut; The Zodiac Killer (AGFA) is more cheeseball/ripped-from-the-headlines than the David Fincher take, but it’s still a fun watch; you can never get enough Re-Animator (Arrow), now available in a two-disc limited edition that includes an unrated director’s cut; there’s a serial killer on the lone prairie in the period chiller Bender (Candy Factory Films), starring Linda Purl and Bruce Davison.

The yakuza roars again in New Battles Without Honor & Humanity (Arrow), Kinji Fukasaku’s trilogy that follows up his classic five-film series; a small-time crook bets his life – literally – in the suspenseful Union Furnace (Metropol Pictures); Jackie Chan reunites with director Stanley Tong (Supercop, Rumble in the Bronx) for the martial-arts comedy Kung Fu Yoga (Well Go USA Entertainment); Effects (AGFA), starring Tom Savini, shows that making a low-budget slasher flick can be absolute murder.

Phoenix Forgotten (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) delves into the mysterious disappearance of teens who may have had a close encounter of the terminal kind; Corey Yuen produced the old-school martial arts sagas Master of the Drunken Fist: Beggar So and Master of the Shadowless Kick: Wong Kei-ying (both HBO Home Entertainment); long-unavailable horror saga The Slayer (Arrow) gets its first 4K release; The Evil in Us (RLJ Entertainment) sees a new drug turn a group of friends into hungry, hungry cannibals.


New Classic

Gary Oldman’s getting lots of Oscar buzz over his performance as Winston Churchill, so it’s a perfect time to check two great early Oldman performances, courtesy of The Criterion Collection. Punk lives again as Oldman eerily inhabits the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious in the unforgettable Sid & Nancy, and the actor goes skinhead in Mike Leigh’s Meantime, befriending Tim Roth’s on-the-dole character. (Roth and Oldman would memorably team up later in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.)

Also available: It’s all too timely to see Orson Welles as a Nazi hiding in plain sight in the director’s wartime thriller The Stranger (Olive Films); the original cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 reunites for Cinematic Titanic (Shout Factory), brilliantly skewering more of the cinema’s worst; we’ve seen a lot of hit-man movies over the years, but Prizzi’s Honor (Kino Lorber) stands above the crowd, particularly with the sparks between Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner (not to mention Anjelica Huston); he’s better known now for directing than for stand-up, but Bobcat Goldthwait’s behind-the-camera career began with cult fave Shakes the Clown (Mill Creek Entertainment).

One of the loveliest sights the cinema has ever offered is Elizabeth Taylor in that white bathing suit on a Mexican beach in the deliciously overripe screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly, Last Summer (Twilight Time), making its Blu-ray debut; Where the Boys Are (Warner Archive Collection) is both smarter and sexier than its early-60s reputation might suggest, and it’s an intelligent look at boys and girls at play in a supposedly “innocent” era; legendary screen siren Louise Brooks made a rare U.S. film appearance in William Wellman’s powerful Beggars of Life (Kino Lorber); the Trinity Twin Pack (Hen’s Tooth Video) offers two of the hilarious Trinity movies, some of the best of the spaghetti-Western genre.

Ang Lee made his international breakthrough with the acclaimed gay dramedy The Wedding Banquet (Olive Films); get your hakuna matata on with The Lion King: The Circle of Life Edition (Walt Disney Home Entertainment); a master Japanese filmmaker returned to the top of the industry with Seijun Suzuki’s The Taisho Trilogy (Arrow Academy); celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Good, the Bad & the Ugly (Kino Lorber) with a new Blu-ray release of Sergio Leone’s gunslinger classic.

Before it was a sexed-up MTV series, Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf Too (both available in Collector’s Edition releases from Scream Factory) were just goofy, hairy comedies; Robert De Niro stars in Ronin (Arrow), the last great theatrical feature from the legendary John Frankenheimer; New Zealand’s Oscar-nominated Whale Rider (Shout Factory) remains a stirring tale of growing up in the face of obstacles; Fred Williamson stars in Larry Cohen’s 1973 blaxploitation classic Hell Up in Harlem (Olive Films).


New TV

If you were glued to Showtime all summer, then you appreciate just how much we’ve all been missing Twin Peaks for the last 25 years. But of all the shows that have tried to scratch that small-town-with-a-secret itch in the ensuing quarter century, few have done it with the style, suspense and sex of Riverdale: The Complete First Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment). Yes, it’s based on those wholesome Archie Comics characters, but this was a reboot that went dark without drowning in “grim and gritty” clichés. Here’s hoping they can keep up this extraordinary level of quality in the much-anticipated Season Two.

Also available: It’s really tricky to keep those TV superhero universes straight but here goes: Jessica Jones: The Complete First Season and Daredevil: The Complete Second Season (both Marvel/Netflix) bump up against each other in the same New York City, while DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Second Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) is a completely different continuity than Gotham: The Complete Third Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) but might share one with Supergirl: The Complete Second Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment), depending on what dimension they’re in. Is that clear?

And speaking of separate universes, please bear in mind that the zombies on Ash vs. Evil Dead: Season 2 (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) are totally different from the ones on The Walking Dead: The Complete Seventh Season (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), but then you can just replace “zombies” with “politicians” and you sort of have the premise for the hit series Designated Survivor: The Complete First Season (ABC).

Whodunits don’t get much cozier than Murdoch Mysteries, Season 10 (Acorn TV), and sketch TV rarely gets funnier than The Carol Burnett Show: The Best of Harvey Korman (Time Life). Or maybe you get your kicks from those crazy Lifetime biopics, like the newly-released Britney: Ever After (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).

Until the much-anticipated theatrical film opens, fans can turn to My Little Pony Equestria Girls – Magical Movie Night (Shout Kids/Hasbro); and if you miss those sexy, wicked teens, take one final spin with Pretty Little Liars: The Complete Seventh and Final Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment); there’s always the heartwarming family tale 800 Words: Season 2, Part 2 (Acorn TV) if you need your TV adolescents to be less homicidal.

You 90s kids can binge a favorite with The Secret World of Alex Mack: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment); get down and dirty with gold miners on Dominion Creek, Series 2 (Acorn TV) or the pirates of Black Sails: The Complete Fourth Season (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); and finally, the great Dawn French grapples with her ex’s new wife in the tasty Delicious, Series 1 (Acorn TV).

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